In the week of World Cocktail Day, we’re sharing an interview with Cunard’s Head Mixologist, Claudia Carrozzi. The high-priestess of potent tipples is behind the infusions responsible for many an evening in the Commodore Club, not to mention the hazy heads that tend to follow. She also made history last month as the first ever female President of the UK Bartenders Guild, meaning nobody is better positioned to help you decide which cocktail to opt for first when Cunard set sail again in a matter of weeks.
How are things in the cocktail world?
I believe we’re enjoying the best cocktail era in the history of bartending. Between the 1970s and 1990s, quality was sacrificed for quantity and showy presentation. I call it the dark age of the cocktail! Now there’s much more focus on the quality and balance of the ingredients, as well as beautiful and considered presentation.
So, what has caused this revival?
The demand has changed, along with the customer’s expectations. We have a much more sophisticated palate now, and expect quality and authenticity.
There’s a new respect for the old recipes and lost techniques which, thanks to bar historians and the availability of vintage cocktail books (often found via the internet), can be researched and rediscovered.
What makes these drinks so appealing now?
While the latest trends are undoubtedly influenced by these old recipes, many are being updated with a twist of spirit infusions, in-house fermentations, handcrafted syrups, flavoured waters and so on. It’s created a sort of magical fusion between culinary skills and bartender techniques. This is ‘craft’ cocktail-making at its best.
Any stars of the bar?
One of the most exciting developments has been the gin renaissance. The spirit has a botanical base, such as juniper, which makes it extremely versatile. Most historic cocktail recipes are actually gin-based, sometimes mixed with fortified wines, vermouths and bittersweets – liqueurs made with herbs.
What’s new for non-alcoholic cocktails?
There’s a growing interest in low-alcohol or alcohol-free drinks, and the launch of quality non-alcoholic spirits, such as Seedlip, means that non-drinkers are no longer restricted by a cocktail choice made primarily from sugary fruit or dairy products.
Now, bartenders can create fabulous recipes following a logical cocktail structure, which is as complex, elegant and unique as their alcoholic counterparts. The Cunard Bee-Dazzled cocktail, which uses Seedlip Spice 94 is a great example of this.
While we’re taking inspiration from the past to create many exciting blends, as responsible bartenders our attention must be firmly on the long term too, not least when it comes to sustainability. Cunard takes this responsibility seriously, and in all our bars on board that is very much in evidence.
We source ingredients for our drinks responsibly, comply with the ships’ very strict recycling policy, and have moved away from plastic straws and so on, to create outstanding drinks while helping to care for our planet.