Drink - Shane Watson wants hers stirred, not shaken
The only answer to a cocktail confidence problem is to call in the pros
The current issue of Vogue carries a recipe for a Mojito on its trend pages. Apparently, summer 2005 is going to be cocktailtastic, and all a girl needs, besides her cork wedges, is a glass brimming with something exotic. Still, I think I'm right in saying that most of us have a bit of a block when it comes to making cocktails ourselves. We've got the three-piece shaker, even the odd Martini glass, but we are intimidated by the prospect of mixing anything more surprising than a vodka and tonic - however simple the recipe.
The only answer to this cocktail confidence problem is to call in the pros. IPBartenders (www.ipbartenders.com; 020 8962 2752) is a cocktail consultancy firm offering cocktail-making classes - half a day for £700 per group, with a maximum of ten people. For that, you get the works from the best in the business. Ben Reed, my bartender trainer, has 11 books to his name and was head bartender at the Met when it was the bar du jour. Plus, and this is important, he looks the part.
During my session I was taught everything a girl needs to know about bringing cocktails home - starting with how to make your own sugar syrup (one litre of water, a kilo of sugar, boil it up in a pan and then keep it in the fridge in a bottle). All you need, besides sugar syrup, is a bottle of your favourite spirit, limes for souring, whatever flavours you fancy, and a cocktail shaker. The rest is down to confidence, and a bit of respect. It became clear, as I was taught how to make the perfect Martini and the ultimate daiquiri, that I have always failed because I rushed the process, cut corners (when the recipe says muscovado, that don't mean demerara) and made a very rough stab at the quantities, usually with the lights out. By the time I'd been taken through various recipes, and taught how to hold my shaker with pride, I was convinced of the benefits of taking your mixology seriously and getting the balance just right.
Reed's top cocktail tips include chilling your glasses in the fridge, making ice with mineral water (sounds excessive, but if you're making a Martini, do you really want that hint of chlorine under the vermouth?) and investing in something called Funkin, a fantastic ready-made fruit puree available at posh supermarkets (peach Funkin plus Prosecco equals a Bellini, surely the simplest result cocktail of all time). Another tip is to stir, not shake your Martini - shaking dilutes the base alcohol with tiny fragments of ice - and to invest in miniatures of Noilly Prat, because vermouth goes off in less than a month. Bombay Sapphire is the gin of choice for these boys and Appleton V/X is the rum. I could go on, but really it's the hands-on experience that makes the difference between vaguely getting the cocktail buzz and considering going professional.