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The World’s Best Cocktail Recipes – Made Easy

Balthazar London’s head bartender offers five sophisticated ways to give your party added fizz

  • The bar at Balthazar London. All photographs by Mr Niklas Hallen

Mr Brian Silva is the Caravaggio of cocktails. A master of the classics, he was born in Massachusetts, and cut his teeth at the Colonnade Hotel in Boston. After moving to the UK in the late 1980s, he spent 25 years working at the capital’s most storied bars, including Home House, The Connaught hotel and Rules, after which he was poached by Mr Keith McNally, who made him head bartender of Balthazar in London – the first international outpost of the scene-y New York brasserie.

Known as the bartenders’ bartender, he eschews ephemeral fads and fashions of cocktail making and has instead spent his career perfecting classic American mixed drinks. “Making the perfect drink is like creating the perfect storm,” he says. “You need all the right ingredients and you need to put them together in exactly the right proportion.” The right proportion for Mr Silva is usually a 2:1:1 ratio mix – the classic Sidecar and Collins formula.

In advance of the party season, Mr Silva has released a book, Mixing In The Right Circles, detailing his carefully honed recipes. We asked him for five failsafe options to please everyone. Serve one, or all, of these recipes and you are sure to have a very merry crowd, not to mention a very classy party.

“Dick Bradsell, the legendary London bartender at The Atlantic Bar & Grill, apparently invented this cocktail for Kate Moss. Dick was one of the first British bartenders to cotton on to the classic American way of making cocktails, rather than all the sweet stuff that was mostly sold in Britain in the 1990s. I remember back then, cranberry juice was seen as exotic over here! My version is a bit different from Dick’s. The usual recipe has Kahlua, espresso and vodka, but as you can see mine has more ingredients than that. The vanilla is really important as it gives sweetness and complexity, which you balance out with regular vodka. I then add Galliano Ristretto as it complements the coffee. The real key to my cocktail – the key to every cocktail, in fact – is layering. You want everything balanced out.”

Ingredients

• 195ml Wyborowa vodka
• 195ml Cariel vanilla vodka

• 325ml Galliano Ristretto
• 50ml gomme
• 50ml espresso per cocktail

• 3-4 drops Cynar per cocktail

Method

Add all the ingredients (except the espresso and Cynar) to a suitable bottle – 75cl is a good size. Seal and lightly shake to blend. For each cocktail, add 50ml of the mix to a shaker filled with ice. Add 50ml cold espresso to the shaker. Shake hard to blend and froth up. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Put 3-4 drops of Cynar on to the froth and serve.

“The negroni has been the cocktail of the moment for a while now. It’s easy to see why – it is so versatile and brilliant for parties. I make it in batches and pour it over ice at my own parties. The standard recipe uses equal parts gin, Campari and Martini Rosso, but I don’t use that. My recipe is more gin-led. I take out 10ml of the Martini Rosso and add 10ml more of the gin. By taking some of the vermouth out of the equation, you lighten the drink up. It sounds odd, but it tastes less alcoholic this way. Vermouth suffers from the same problem as sherry – it can be cloying, so you have to be careful on quantity. Also take care how much you stir it. The more you mix, the more diluted it becomes, so taste as you go.”

Ingredients

• 35ml Beefeater gin
• 25ml Campari

• 15ml Martini Rosso 

Method

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir to mix the spirits. Strain into an old fashioned glass over ice cubes.

“I think dirty martinis are just that. If a barman is taking olives from the brine with his fingers all day, the brine isn’t going to stay clean. That’s why I use olives instead to give flavour. I take a queen olive, de-stone it, crush it up and add to the vermouth, then double strain it, which means the flavour stays but the bits don’t. It is the cleanest dirty drink you’ll find. I started doing it like this when I worked at Home House members’ club in 1999. But I’d keep a bit of brine separate for topping up at the end.”

Ingredients

•    2 olives (plus 2 for garnish)
•    Up to 5ml dash of olive brine (depending how dirty you want it) 


•    60ml Absolut Elyx vodka

•    10ml vermouth blend

Method

Cut the olives around the stone using a small sharp knife. Add to the cocktail shaker with the brine and muddle. Add the vodka, vermouth and a lot of ice. Shake to chill and balance the mixture. Double strain the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass. 

“This is a particular party favourite. It is so easy to make. It is what I call a classic rum-led 2:1:1 cocktail, which is, to my mind, the perfect proportion for a mixed drink. Combine all the ingredients in advance, then pour over crushed ice. The really important thing is to use fresh ice in the glass, which prevents the drink separating and spoiling. If you don’t like it frozen, mix the ingredients and then pour over ice cubes, and serve straight up, garnished with lime.”

Ingredients

60ml Bacardi rum

• 25ml lime juice

• 25ml gomme

• 10ml dark or amber rum 

Method

Add all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with crushed ice. Shake hard. Strain into an old fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Top with a spoonful of dark or amber rum. If you prefer a strawberry daiquiri, add 15ml strawberry liqueur (fraise) and two crushed strawberries along with 10ml gomme. Shake hard with crushed ice and pour the entire contents into an old fashioned glass. Don’t strain.

“This is my version of the classic Venetian spritz. The measures are vaguely similar, though the ingredients are different. The idea first came to me last year when I was making lots of cocktails with vermouth and other fortified drinks. I tried pink pepper gin and thought that would work well with the Cocchi Rosa, which is a type of fortified wine I like. I built it from there, combining the layers of flavour, until I had this pre-dinner drink that is both nice and long and also has a slight bitterness. If you don’t have Cocchi, try Kina Lillet instead, which should work just as well.”

Ingredients

•    50ml Cocchi Rosa 

•    10ml Audemus pink pepper gin 

•    10ml lemon juice 

•    35ml Blanquette de Limoux or sparkling wine
•    Soda water (to serve)

Method

Add all the ingredients (except for the Blanquette and soda water) into a shaker filed with ice. Shake and strain into a highball glass filled with crushed ice. Add the Blanquette and top up with soda water.

Mixing In The Right Circles by Mr Brian Silva is out now

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