Through mixology, we can travel thousands of miles without leaving the comfort of our own homes. The art of mixology bridges the gap between cultures, allowing us to appreciate and celebrate the diversity of our world through the universal language of cocktails.
Sipping a fantastic cocktail can be a vacation in and of itself but when you find that perfect mix of bitters and sweet overseas, well then you are truly transported into another culture.
Cocktails don’t need to be fancy to catch the local vibe and personality of a place. I found four wonderful haunts and their signature cocktails in Melbourne, Singapore, Guatemala City, and Port of Spain, Trinidad. Each cocktail is very unique and each comes with its own story and wonderful memories of my trip abroad, a place where I was transformed by smell, sight, and taste into another world.
A look at famous bars and mixologists from different countries
One of the most fascinating aspects of the influence of globalization on mixology is the way it has opened doors to a vast array of unique and exotic ingredients. From Japanese yuzu and Thai lemongrass to Mexican mezcal and Brazilian cachaça, bartenders now have access to a diverse palette of flavors that can be incorporated into their creations. These ingredients add depth, complexity, and a sense of adventure to traditional cocktail recipes, allowing mixologists to push the boundaries of creativity and offer their patrons truly memorable drinking experiences.
When it comes to mixology, different countries have their own unique approaches and famous bars that have made a significant impact on the cocktail scene. Let’s take a journey around the world and explore some renowned bars and mixologists that have left their mark.
Bar High Five – Tokyo
Venturing further east, we find ourselves in Japan, renowned for its meticulous attention to detail and exquisite craftsmanship. Here, we discover the artistry of the Japanese Highball. This elegant cocktail features a base of whisky, typically Japanese whisky, combined with sparkling water and served over ice. The Japanese Highball showcases the simplicity and refinement for which Japanese culture is celebrated.
Tokyo’s High Five bar has gained international acclaim for its masterful mixology. Owned by renowned bartender Hidetsugu Ueno, this intimate space offers a personalized experience where each cocktail is carefully crafted to suit the individual preferences of the guests.
The Dead Rabbit – New York City, NY
Known for its inventive cocktails and historical ambiance, The Dead Rabbit in New York City has been recognized as one of the best bars in the world. This multi-level establishment boasts a menu inspired by 19th-century recipes and techniques, offering a taste of old New York with a modern twist.
The Savoy – London, UK
Situated in the heart of London, The Savoy has been a prestigious destination for cocktail enthusiasts since the late 19th century. The American Bar within the hotel is renowned for its classic cocktails and has hosted world-class mixologists who have perfected their craft over the years.
Borsch, Vodka, and Tears – Melbourne, Australia
Isn’t every breakfast better with a Bloody Mary after? B, V & T is based on an old Crakow cellar bar and serves two different types of Borsch – Russian and Polish. I ordered the Russian version, my favorite, and then watched a master at work create a meal in a glass known as Bloody Mary.
I felt very cool sitting in this place, watching the traffic and vintage punk-style walk by. Melbourne is a melting pot after all and it seemed very apropos to slurp Russian soup, sip American Bloodys, and observe Australian life.
SubAstor – São Paulo
Moving to the enchanting land of Brazil, we encounter the Caipirinha, a cocktail that epitomizes the vibrant and festive spirit of this South American country. Made with cachaca, a sugarcane spirit, muddled limes, and sugar, the Caipirinha is a zesty and invigorating drink that transports you to the lively streets of Rio de Janeiro.
Located in São Paulo, SubAstor is a vibrant bar that celebrates the rich cocktail culture of Brazil. Focused on using local ingredients and flavors, the talented mixologists at SubAstor create unique concoctions that showcase the country’s diverse and colorful spirit.
Bar Stories – Singapore
Tucked upstairs from a cafe and set in a vintage fifties furniture store by day, Bar Stories is a fantastic find on Little Arab Street in Singapore. This bar uses every inch of the small space allotted for its liquid creations and the young craftsmen have everything from chicken broth to fresh lavender at their fingertips.
Walking in, I found a seat at the bar and was told that there is no menu. “What are you in the mood for?” my Mixologist asked. I was hot and tired yet I wanted something with a kick. He immediately went to work and I forgot about my fatigue as I watched him smell different ingredients, deciding what to add and what to discard, furiously pulling things from the shelves. The cocktail placed in front of me took a good ten minutes to make but was truly a work of art.
Vodka with spice, sweet but savory, and on top was a snow cone of shaved ice with freshly sliced ginger and mint blended in. I took one sip and was instantly refreshed and awake. Glancing around the bar/showroom I saw similar looks of bliss on patron’s faces. We were all lucky to have found this place and experience the talent of our Bar Stories saviors.
Baxter Inn – Sydney, AU
Tucked away in an underground location in Sydney, The Baxter Inn is a whiskey lover’s paradise. With an extensive collection of over 800 whiskies from around the world, this bar has become a must-visit for those seeking a taste of the finest spirits in a cozy and relaxed setting.
El Portal – Guatemala City
Discovering a forgotten city is a joy when traveling. Zona 1 in Guate, as they affectionately call Guatemala City, is the oldest part of the city and had fallen to ruin and crime until recently. Now it is experiencing a resurgence and all the colonial architecture is being appreciated again, along with unique stores and bars.
El Portal is located in an alley off of Paseo Mejor across from the famous Guatemala Cathedral church. Che Guevara used to enjoy his leisure time there and it hasn’t changed a bit since then. Regardless of the daylight outside, the minute people walk inside El Portal it is instantly dark, a permanent happy hour, enhanced by dark wood furniture and Marimba music.
The balcony above hosts live music many days of the week and the cheap but delicious aperitivos are plentiful. After touring the city’s historical treasures slip into this hidden gem and order a Michelada. All the bartenders there make excellent drinks and this is the nation’s signature cocktail. Beer, tomato juice, salt, lime, hot sauce. Simple and brilliant. I will never drink one again without thinking of El Portal and my architectural and art tour of Guatemala City.
Angostura Bitters Distillery – Port of Spain
After a tour of the infamous Angostura Bitters Distillery, I was honored to meet the winner of the Global Cocktail Challenge, Daniyel Jones. Even more amazing was that he made me his award-winning Jolle Dame cocktail using Angostura Bitters. He is more than just a Mixologist – charming, handsome, and magical, he puts love into each drink he makes.
Trinis swear by their Angostura Bitters, the recipe is top secret and has never been released, and many Trinis say their food recipes wouldn’t be as tasty without this simple addition. The same seems to go for their cocktails.
The Jolle Dame cocktail was certainly an experience to observe as well as to taste. First, Jones uses a torch and burns cinnamon until it is smoking. He then captures the smoke inside cocktail glasses so his drink is infused with its burnt flavor. Then the fun begins. White rum with vanilla notes, ginger-infused simple syrup, lime juice, fresh pineapple, and the very important two dashes of Angostura Bitters. Garnished with a rose petal and the romance is complete.
Impossible to recreate at home, I only need to see the picture to feel transposed to the tropical island, warm breezes surrounding me, a Jolle Dame mere moments away.
Tips for creating your own culturally-inspired cocktails at home
Creating your own culturally-inspired cocktails at home can be an exciting and creative way to explore mixology while adding a touch of global flavor to your drinks. Here are some tips to help you embark on this delightful journey of crafting unique and culturally-inspired cocktails right in the comfort of your own home bar.
Research and gather inspiration
Start by researching different cultures and their traditional beverages. Look for ingredients, flavors, and techniques that are commonly used in their cocktails. Dive into the rich history and traditions behind these drinks, and let them inspire you to create your own unique concoctions.
Source authentic ingredients
To truly capture the essence of a cultural cocktail, it’s important to use authentic ingredients whenever possible. Visit local specialty stores or international markets to find unique spirits, liqueurs, fruits, herbs, and spices that are commonly used in the culture you’re exploring. This will ensure that your cocktails have an authentic and true-to-origin taste.
Experiment with flavors and ingredients
Don’t be afraid to mix and match flavors from different cultures. Combine traditional ingredients in new and exciting ways to create innovative and culturally-inspired cocktails. For example, you could infuse a classic margarita with the flavors of Thai cuisine by adding lemongrass and ginger to the mix.
Pay attention to presentation
In addition to the flavors, the presentation of your culturally-inspired cocktails plays a crucial role in creating a memorable experience. Research traditional garnishes, glassware, and serving styles associated with the culture you’re exploring. Incorporate these elements into your cocktail presentation to elevate the overall experience and visually transport your guests to the culture you’re celebrating.
Once you’ve perfected your culturally-inspired cocktail creations, invite friends and loved ones to join you in this global exploration of mixology. Host a themed cocktail party where everyone can enjoy and appreciate the flavors and stories behind each drink. Encourage conversations about the cultures you’ve explored and share the knowledge you’ve gained along the way.
Traditional cocktail recipes from around the world
Embarking on a journey to explore mixology across cultures will not only introduce you to new flavors and techniques but also allow you to appreciate the rich heritage and traditions associated with each cocktail. From tropical paradises to ancient civilizations, the world is a treasure trove of unique and tantalizing concoctions.
Let’s start our global mixology adventure with a traditional cocktail recipe from Mexico – the Margarita. Originating in the 1930s, this iconic drink is a perfect blend of tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur, served in a salt-rimmed glass. The Margarita embodies the vibrant and lively spirit of Mexican culture, making it a go-to choice for parties and celebrations.
Traveling across the Atlantic, we arrive in Cuba, the birthplace of the refreshing Mojito. This classic cocktail combines rum, freshly squeezed lime juice, sugar, mint leaves, and soda water, creating a delightful balance of sweet, sour, and minty flavors. The Mojito’s origins date back to the 16th century, where it was enjoyed by pirates and sailors, and today, it continues to be a beloved drink worldwide.
These traditional cocktail recipes from around the world offer a glimpse into the diverse and captivating world of mixology. Whether you’re sipping a Margarita in Mexico, a Mojito in Cuba, a Japanese Highball in Japan, or a Caipirinha in Brazil, each sip tells a story and connects you to the cultural heritage of the drink’s origin. So, raise your glass and embark on a global mixology adventure, one sip at a time.