Many took up drinking as a hobby during the pandemic, but for the amateur mixologist, it’s all about quality over quaffing.
Lise Farynowski has been interested in the art of cocktails for more than a decade. Craft cocktails typically refer to drinks that include fresh ingredients, homemade syrups and small batch spirits (no margarita mix!). They are made with an attention to creating complex new flavour profiles, but also reviving to the well-worn ones. While Farynowski had always made a point of researching and visiting top-rated bars when travelling, her home practice was sparked by an otherwise humdrum Cosmopolitan recipe, the only one that matched the current ingredients in her kitchen. Instead of store-bought cranberry juice, she used her own hand-picked and juiced lowbush cranberries. That cranberry juice was the clincher.
“I’d had my share of Cosmos when I was out, but I was never really struck with the drink. With my fresh cranberry juice, I finally got it. My obsession with craft cocktails started in that moment.”
Craft cocktails are not just about taste, though. Drinks frequently acknowledge a particular culture, history, context, or figure. For Farynowski, exploring history through spirits is a compelling aspect of cocktail culture.
“The more interesting part of alcohol is knowing your ingredients. So it’s not just knowing that, for example, it’s a rum-based drink, but which type of rum. Is it Spanish? Is it French? Is it English? There’s that whole history of colonization and development associated with rum and its place in history.”
To be clear, a mixologist is not necessarily a drinker. On the contrary, the less you drink, the better the drink has to be because it has to be worth consuming. In fact, Farynowski spends more time learning about cocktails than actually mixing, which is reserved for weekends.
“It’s an enormous volume to learn. I limit cocktails to the weekend, but I try to do one cocktail thing every day, whether it’s listen to at least part of a podcast, or read one of my books, or memorize a recipe, or do some studying for whatever course I’m doing.”
Yes, you can go to cocktail school! Farynowski has been doing a series of courses through an online hospitality training hub called Ananas Academy. With the pandemic, Farynowski’s focus has been on technique and refinement. Quarantine provided her with enough time to learn about clarified milk punch, a centuries-old technique of mixing spirits with ingredients such as tea or spices (sometimes even bacon), then adding milk. As you can imagine, the milk curdles. When strained, the milk takes with it any solids or impurities, leaving behind all the flavour in a perfectly clear liquid.
Not travelling has also meant certain ingredients have not been accessible, though Farynowski is pleased with Whitehorse’s new cocktail store (“an impressive collection of bitters”). She has adapted to the local context in her mixing.
“Refining classic recipes to suit the local environment is my current challenge, or I might make some variation of a drink based on what I have in my liquor cabinet.”
Farynowski continues to experiment with flavours and history, though. “My latest project was, if I had to make a cocktail for Eleanor of Aquitaine, what would it be?” Let’s take a trip with her to 12th century England to find out …
- 2 oz sour cherry juice (100 per cent pure, no sugar added)
- 1/2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 oz violet syrup (like Giffards)
- 1/2 tsp chilli seeds
- 8 mint leaves
- Pinch of salt
- Assemble all in cocktail shaker.
Add ice to top and shake for 10-20 seconds.
- Double strain into a chilled coupe glass. Top with 1 oz soda water and a sprig of mint.