Remember Talisker’s maritime-inspired Race to Skye competition? Well, this year the single malt Scotch whisky distillery’s annual cocktail challenge has transcended the tumultuous Skye shoreline to encompass Britain’s fields, forests, and farmer’s markets. Here, brand ambassador Jason Clark shared tips for crafting a drink inspired by the wilderness…
If there’s one thing the Isle of Skye’s only distillery excels at, it’s crafting a bold, smoky, spicy, maritime dram. And if there’s one thing the UK’s bartenders know how to do, it’s make a damn fine cocktail with the stuff. So, it’s with great anticipation that we welcome back Talisker’s bartender training programme and competition for a third year. And this time, it’s evolved.
To spread this fine news, Talisker brand ambassador and double World Class Global Finalist Jason Clark has embarked on a UK-wide tour of 16 seaside locations and other cities to chat about the brand’s history, production and characteristics, and share a few Wild Spirit cocktail techniques. Oh, and he’s doing the whole thing in a Talisker Land Rover Highland Defender – camping in each location and documenting his journey along the way.
After his tour is over, bartenders across the UK will be invited to submit a Talisker Wild Spirit serve and add it to the menu in their bar for eight weeks to be in with the chance of bagging a Talisker Wild Spirit adventure for themselves and two of their colleagues. We’re a curious bunch, so we decided to sneak into Clark’s first session, which was hosted in London-based subterranean whisky den Black Rock. Here’s what we learned about crafting cocktails with a touch of Wild Spirit…
- Test your palate
Experiment with “seasonal, natural flavours that are different to the classic flavours you find in a bar”, Clark suggests. Things like different mushroom varieties, toasted nuts, pine needles, olives, beetroot, tomato, different blossoms and flowers, salt, different types of honey, different types of apples, pears, weeds, roots, cured meats, samphire, rhubarb, figs, nettles, tangerines, stone fruits, dandelion, and seaweed varieties.
- Consider homegrown
“These flavours may be grown in your garden or on your windowsill,” Clark suggests – indeed, garden centres sell all-in-one kits for mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and various herbs. Otherwise, “they might be foraged from a local park or coastline, they might be purchased from a local farmers market, or even from the supermarket,” he adds.
- Forage with care
Our neighbourhoods, parks, reserves, and coastline are all abundant with forageable produce, you just need to know what you’re looking at, suggests Clark. However, “you need to know that the area you’re sourcing from is natural, clean and safe,” he says. For example, don’t pick blackberries from a graveyard, a dog park, or an industrial area.
- Utilise the ingredients
If you forage something, and simple use it as a garnish or muddle it in the drink, you’re missing a trick. “It’s going to be gone in a day or three,” says Clark. “But if you look at ways of preserving it, you can use it on an ongoing basis for, potentially, the remainder of the season.” Syrups, infusions, shrubs, bitters, tinctures, pickling and cooking all bring out flavour in different ways. “You could do something as simple as infusing ginger bitters with magnolia flowers,” he adds.
- Give it a fancy name
When someone opens a menu and sees the name of a cocktail, it instantly creates a mental image, says Clark. Think: Winter Waves, Spring Orchard, Shackleton Toddy, Highland Fire, Campfire Tales, and so on. Take it a step further by creating a little story about that as well.
Foraging not your forte? Here are three pre-approved Talisker cocktails you can whip up from the comfort of your own home…
Ingredients: 50ml Talisker (10 Year Old, Skye or Storm), 30ml lemon juice, 1 egg white, 15ml honey syrup, 3 dashes celery bitters
Glass: Old fashioned or tumbler
Garnish: Fennel or samphire
Method: Shake and double strain then garnish.
Campfire Hot Chocolate
Ingredients: 50ml Talisker (10 Year Old, Skye or Storm), 50ml boiling water, 45g dark chocolate (60%), 150ml milk (dairy or oat), 10ml golden syrup
Garnish: Toasted marshmallow and spice dust
Method: Mix chocolate with water and stir. Add other ingredients and steam on a coffee machine milk wand. Pour into mug and garnish.
Ingredients: 50ml Talisker (10 Year Old, Storm, or Port Ruighe), 10ml ginger liqueur, 15ml heather honey syrup, 25ml lemon juice, 25ml apple juice, 100ml boiling water
Garnish: Cinnamon-spiced honeycomb
Method: Build in a pre-heated mug and garnish.
The Talisker Wild Spirit Whisky Tour will run until 20 April. To see the full schedule and sign up, bartenders should visit https://taliskerwildspirit.events.idloom.com.