Gone are the days of strict rules for drinking spirits. When once it may have been considered sacrilege to use a premium spirit in a cocktail, today it’s a movement that shows no signs of slowing down, with many a famed distillery actively encouraging such sipping. While it’s a trend across the board, in SA there’s been a particular shift towards highball cocktails and long serves, as they’re otherwise known.
Courvoisier brand ambassador and mixologist George Hunter, explains why he thinks this is the case and gives some tips and tricks to perfecting this pour at home.
According to Hunter, the growing trend is one that is both particularly suited to and also driven by the SA market – with our palate for cold, refreshing cocktails that tend to be less spirit-forward than neat pours or shorter-style drinks.
“In general, South Africans like longer more refreshing cocktails, especially when it comes to the more classic styles – such as the Courvoisier Gala. Whether fruity or otherwise it generally appeals to our palates,” says Hunter.
He believes this is in large part owing to both our climate and drinking culture. Not only are the longer serves often more refreshing than their shorter counterparts – and well suited to our balmy SA summers – but the longer serves also usually make for easier drinking and longer enjoyment.
It’s a move that he’s noticed across the board. While vodka and gin have always had their flags staked firmly in highball territory – think vodka, lime & sodas and gin and tonics - there has been a rise in the popularity of dark spirits in these styles of cocktails in the past few years. No longer burdened by the notion that a spirit is to be enjoyed a certain way (and only that way), people are starting to embrace the way that cocktails can actually showcase and enhance the liquid itself.
Courvoisier, he says, has lovely floral, easy-drinking notes to it which lends itself to a long serve. It’s this base spirit character Hunter begins with when he creates a new highball cocktail. For him, it’s all about showcasing the spirit, rather than hiding or losing it amongst the other ingredients – figuring out what works best for each particular alcohol. The Courvoisier French Twist for example, complements the Cognac’s floral notes with components of sweetness and citrus before being topped up with soda.
If you’re looking to try your hand at shaking, mixing or stirring your own iteration of a long serve, the mixologists advice is short and sweet: “Make it easy, don’t complicate it and use fresh, good quality ingredients.”
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* This article was paid for by Courvoisier.