Go to the word's best bars and the once unusual addition of a drop of saline solution into a cocktail shaker or a splash of brine from a heavy-handed Martini garnish have now blossomed into full-blown umami affairs. You'll find that mushroom infusions, clarified tomato punches, sesame oil drips, shiso, miso, dashi and seaweed are not uncommon ingredients anymore.
Not only are there more bars showcasing savoury-led drinks than ever before, it’s a trend that some experts have suggested is set to grow even further.
It’s easy to see why too. Modern bartenders take a far more culinary approach to their work and the lines between professionals in the kitchen and those ‘behind the stick’ is blurrier than it ever has been. That’s before you consider the way venues look more holistically at a guest’s experience and integrate the food and drink into one coherent offering.
Dirty Martinis are in, blue-cheese-stuffed olives are soaring as a side snack. Bloody Mary’s even, the world’s most passé drink and a preserve of the older millennial Brunch-time gathering has stopped getting the eye-roll it once did, and new twists are becoming popular with a younger generation.
It’s not just booze either - vinegar and apple cider-based shrubs along with fermented sparkling drinks are the natural No & Low cocktail offsprings of the Kombucha and Keffir generation.
One thing is for sure – the rise in popularity (or at least awareness) means more enthusiasts are interested to dabble their way into the savoury flavour spectrum at home.
And we’re here for it. To help, this month we’re dedicating ourselves to a salty quest and exploring the subject of savoury and all of its possibilities.
How will we be covering the subject?
What is Umami?
Umami has a rich, savoury and sometimes salty taste that is unique and distinct from other flavours. What began as a Japanese term that describes the savoury sensations found in the likes of soy sauce, mushrooms and cured meats has become a flavour group in and of itself.
But how does that apply to spirits and how can you bring it into your cocktails at home? We’ll be taking a deep dive by familiarising ourselves with the term, the ingredients and pairings that can add an aromatic edge to your drinks. Umami Cocktails
Custom Brines & Fat Washes
You may have seen the term, but ever wanted to know more about what a fat wash is? What does it mean, how is it done and most importantly, why bother doing fat washing spirits and cocktails? In parallel, customising brines is one of the easiest ways to build extra depth and herbaceous complexity into a drink - yet most don't bother.
We did and in these two articles we’ve tackled two of the least sexy terms to de-mystify both and show how, with a little technique and a better understanding, you can harness them to create spectacular savoury drinks in your own kitchen. Fat Washed Cocktails // Build Your Own Brine
The "plus ones" of the cocktail world
No, we don’t mean the way we have to attend almost all product launches and swanky spirit events. And no, we’re still not jealous about those who are actually invited, ours was in the post… We’re sure of it.
We’re talking the Sangrita, the Boilermaker and the Pickleback - the shot on the side, the chaser and the often-savoury friend that accompanies the star of the show. These extras tend to be forgotten about when drinking at home but these hardworking sidekicks make for easy pairings for spirits enthusiasts to savour at home. Savoury Chasers to sip on
Saline solutions and salt rims
What does salt do to drinks? Chefs can’t imagine a world without salt in their dishes, and many bars have used a sparing saline drop or two over the years. Should you be doing this in your cocktails at home? And if so, is it better to add a drop into the mix or just dust a rim around a glass?
We’ll float across these briny waters in search of a solution. Maybe with just as many puns too, but eventually we'll land on how you can make a great cocktail rim, customise your mix to match your drink and answer whether you should bother in the first place. Salted Rims & Saline Solutions
A look at naturally savoury spirits
Last but not least - some spirits are more savoury than others. For those looking for an easy way into the flavour realm but apprehensive about trying different cocktails, one of the great ways to do so is to swap your usual for something belonging to another category. Say, Scotch for Mezcal or Gin for Tequila.
We’ll explore the categories that have naturally herbal notes and a “funky” edge – be it from base material, fermentation or botanical heat and what you can substitute them in for.
We’ll also round up a few brands that do all the hard work for you and bring the idea of savoury into the bottle, from Maritime gins, salt infused vodka and cross-over infusions that spark the umami sensations in your mouth.
We you enjoy the savoury theme to our February content!
You can follow us on Insta to stay up-to-date with the latest articles as they drop, and we’ll be returning here to link each in one handy place.