Our ask the mixologists series explores the fascinating world of cocktail making with interviews to those who know best: the mixologists.
As part of our Ask the mixologists edition, we have a chat with Michael Rottger, Supervisor at The Pen and Pencil bar in Manchester.
How did you get into the drinks business and what’s the best of it?
Like most people in the industry, I didn't plan on becoming a bartender. It started as a part time job while I was studying at University and once I graduated I took on a full time role and progressed. The best thing about the drinks industry is the community. Each city has a Facebook page for bartenders where they help you find work, promote brands, promote competitions and arrange brand tastings. If you walk into a bar and someone recognises you as being in the industry, you're automatically mates, there's automatic respect for someone who works in a bar.
What is your favourite cocktail of all times?
I've got a soft spot for the classics, the Blood and Sand's, the Martinez's; but my favourite cocktail is the Boulevardier.
What is your ‘magic’ ingredient when cocktail making?
I wouldn't say I have a magic ingredient but my favourite ingredient is sweet vermouth which is used in many classic cocktails such as Manhattan's and Negroni's.
What pieces of advice would you give to people who want to get into the cocktail making at home?
Many bars have Cocktail Masterclasses which aim to provide the public with practical knowledge on how to create cocktails in a fun and informative environment. I can't recommend these enough as you can use that new knowledge to create cocktails at home. I'd have to say that the most important piece of advice that I can give is to have fun with it and not to take it too seriously.
What cocktail trend/s are you excited about?
The current cocktail trend is the use of gin in cocktails due to its light and fresh flavour which is great on that warm sunny day that we have every now and then. I'm looking forward to the move from gin to warmer spirits like rum in the coming seasons.
Any trick for an impressive homemade garnish for your drink?
Less is more. The worst thing you can do is to overshadow the drink with 7 different pieces of fruit. The garnish should reflect the cocktail; if you've used pineapple juice – a pineapple wedge and leaf will look great. If you used lemon or lime juice, throw a wedge on top. Of course, you can also be more extravagant and make a boat out of some cocktail sticks and orange peel (my personal favourite). If you put a crushed ice cap on the top of your drink, the garnish will have a much sturdier surface to sit upon.
Could you improvise a cocktail for Freixenet?
Sure, here I go with the Freixenet Southside Fizz:
• Hand full of fresh mint leaves
• 50ml Rutte Dry Gin
• 25ml Lemon Juice
• 12.5ml Gomme (sugar syrup)
• Freixenet Cordon Negro top.