FEELING shaken and more than a little stirred by the prospect of creating incredible cocktails? Take inspiration from Johan Svensson (pictured above), mixologist to A-listers, the founder of Drinksfusion and the man credited with bringing more than a dash of drama to your drink.
Memories of roaming the forests of Sweden as a boy, combined with the colours of spring and autumn and flavours of wild berries, have inspired Svensson’s famous creations.
‘My flavour inspiration and the way I mix drinks comes from my childhood,’ he says. ‘I had a childminder who was such a good cook she could make even a boiled potato taste good. I saw her adding different ingredients to food, and years later, I applied the same principal to mixing drinks. I was fascinated in how the addition of one amazing berry and raw flavours can turn a classic cocktail something truly exciting.’
Svensson, whose luxury drinks catering company serves up at venues from Buckingham Palace to the Royal Academy of Arts has launched his own premium take-out boxes showing you how to mix your own — with ingredients as diverse as the elusive Arctic bramble.
‘I look for unusual flavour patterns, like a margarita made with mezcal and flavoured with wild British fennel seeds and French figs from Provence, or foraged blackberries,’ says Svensson, 42, who arrived in the UK in 1998. ‘I work with a lot of foragers in the UK, and exchange fun ideas like using checkerberries, which grow all over the UK – probably even outside your window.’
It was lockdown that prompted Svensson to launch his own bespoke take-out mixology boxes showing you how to mix your own showstoppers like the professionals do. He says: ‘The event world shut down overnight, and I wanted to do something to stop myself climbing the walls. I thought of a bespoke cocktail-creation box, which would turn the art of mixing a cocktail into a unique experience, rather than a means to an end.
‘As a rule of thumb, always have a dry base spirt like gin vodka or whisky, then add your other flavour components. They key is sweetness and acidity. You can sweeten with sugar, honey or your own home-made syrup — there are loads of recipes over Google. Your acidity comes from a vermouth or sherry or aperitif, with a citrus fruit for a dash of sour.’
And when it comes to making your own home cocktails look spectacular, Svensson says: ‘If you’re making a cocktail at home this Christmas, dress it up with dried flowers and herbs.’
One of the biggest mistakes, Svensson warns, is making cocktails too sickly sweet. ‘Be wary of too much sugar. People often taste something with a straw, and they don’t get enough intensity, so they sweeten it, but the customer is going to drink the whole drink, not just a sip. You can always season a drink up, but you can’t take the seasoning away — like adding salt and pepper to a meal you’ve cooked. Making cocktails is creating just as a chef would — but using liquids instead of food. This is more than just a taste sensation you’ll never forget — it’s about creating a whole experience for everyone to enjoy.
Svensson’s top tips for unforgettable cocktails this Christmas
BEST FOR BEING ON TREND — NEGRONI
This has become one of the most popular drinks in the world at the moment, and you can easily modify it and play around with different flavours.
For example, you can replace the gin with tequila or mezcal, or replace the Campari with Cocchi Americano and change the sweet vermouth to a dry to make a white negroni, which is much lighter in style. Or swap the sweet vermouth to an Oloroso sherry for a more festive feel.
You can add prosecco and a bit of soda or pop berries in it, make your Negroni’s stronger or sweeter according to taste, you can change the dilution, drink it on the rocks or swap the three elements around to make them richer and lighter. Traditionally you add a slice of orange for flavour — but I use reindeer moss, dried leaves and fried blossoms for impact. You get a sophisticated drink with a really broad appeal which you can drink on the rocks in a tumbler glass, or opt for a Martini-style glass.
An equal part blend of London dry gin, sweet vermouth and campari or a similar bitter apéritif, stirred over ice and served over large ice cubes or straight up if you prefer.
25ml Campari or a similar bitter apéritif
25ml sweet vermouth, Like Dolin Rouge or Martini Rosso
Orange zest for garnish
Add the gin, vermouth and Campari into a mixing glass or jug filled with cubed ice. Stir for 10-15 seconds until the outside of the glass is frosty.
Strain into a tumbler and add a large ice cube (average 4cm by 4cm), or, if you prefer, strain it into a classic Nick & Nora glass to serve it straight up. Garnish with orange zest.
BEST FOR A DINNER PARTY — MARTINI
In recent years, Martinis have become really over complicated. You can adapt your own by changing to gin or vodka, or adding a splash of sloe gin, or liquor, even a little sweet vermouth for a more Christmassy flavour. When it comes to garnish, it depends on when the Martini is being served. Pre-dinner add a twist of lemon for citrus flavour, or an olive, which is slightly more savoury. Make sure your olive was stored in brine and not oil — as it will float on a film of oil. If you’re serving as an after dinner drink, add a twist of orange or even a splash of dessert wine. If you want it with Christmas pudding, add a sweet vermouth — which creates a great flavour combination with the richness of the fruit.
FESTIVE VERSPER MARTINI
A seasonal twist on the Bond classic, shaking a blend of gin and vodka, Lillet Blanc and a touch of sweet Madeira wine, served straight up and garnished with orange zest.
60ml London dry gin
15ml Lillet Blanc
10ml Sweet Madeira wine
Orange zest for garnish
Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add cubed ice and shake for 10-15 seconds until the shaker is frosty.
Double strain by using the regular strainer in your cocktail shaker and holding a fine mesh strainer over your glass. Pour the drink into a martini glass.
Pinch a large piece of orange zest over the drink, releasing the oils, then drop it into the cocktail.
BEST FOR BUDGETS — PUNCH
This year, more than ever, there’s some great supermarket gins and vodkas to keep the costs down. The most budget-friendly drink of all is a classic punch. You can finish off whatever you have in your drinks cabinet, add a well-priced rum or gin and a light dry white wine or sweet white wine. Serve it in a bowl, and it looks beautiful. This is also a great drink for ease, and allows everyone to be served quickly. Have fun with your punch. It can taste beautiful using Earl Grey tea or honey to sweeten.
WINTER WINE PUNCH
An classic ‘punch style’ blend of Riesling wine, damson gin, dry vermouth, Benedictine liqueur and Earl Grey tea, sweetened with winter spiced honey and seasoned with wormwood, winter spices and bitter orange, served over ice cubes.
INGREDIENTS FOR 25 SERVES
250ml London dry gin
250ml damson gin (you can use sloe gin as well)
250ml dry vermouth
200ml Benedictine liqueur
700ml Riesling wine (or any other full flavoured white wine)
1,5 litre medium strength Early Grey tea
200-300ml spiced honey syrup, sweeten to taste
2ml orange bitters in each drink to taste
TO MAKE SPICED HONEY SYRUP
Mix 125ml hot water with 250g light honey, Borage is ideal.
Add 1 cinnamon stick, 1/2 star anise, 4x cloves, 1/4 a nutmeg, 1/2 vanilla pod, 5g fresh ginger.
Let it infuse overnight at room temperature.
Strain the spices off and it’s ready to use.
TO MAKE PUNCH
Pour all ingredients into a punch bowl, garnish with dehydrated citrus and fresh blossom, use a ladle to transfer into glasses with ice.
BEST FOR CHRISTMAS MORNING — BUCK’S FIZZ
Homes across the land will be waking to a traditional mixture of fizz and orange juice on December 25. But give yours a kick this year, by using a sloe gin base, topped with champagne or prosecco. Instead of orange juice, squeeze fresh clementines, and season lightly with Christmas spices. Top it off with shiny bright pomegranate seeds for a truly festive effect.
POMEGRANATE BUCK’S FIZZ
A winter take on the classic Buck’s Fizz, using fresh clementine and pomegranate juice, charged with champagne and seasoned with winter spiced infused honey.
1x one whole squeezed clementine (25-35ml fresh clementine juice)
15ml fresh pomegranate juice
5-10ml spiced honey syrup, sweeten to taste
125ml Champagne to top
Garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds and a mint leaf
BEST FOR HAIR OF THE DOG – BLOODY MARIA
An ice cool Coca Cola on a hangover morning is fantastic, because it replaces the loss of salt and sugar. As far as hair of the dog goes, I think a Bloody Mary in the morning is a great stabiliser — although I like a Bloody Maria, which is where you swap the traditional vodka and tomato juice with tequila or mezcal, a dash of sherry and a squeeze of half a lemon. You can even add a teaspoon of horseradish cream for an unexpected kick.
A savoury flavour blend of Alipús San Baltazar mezcal from Oaxaca, tomato juice, seasoned with fresh coriander, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, celery salt, horseradish, sea-salt and cracked pepper, finished with a touch of Manzanilla sherry. This is a delicious drink with the savour tomato, spiced and smoky mezcal, balanced with the dry sherry.
30ml Alipús San Baltazar Mezcal
20ml Manzanilla sherry
125ml tomato juice
15-20ml fresh lemon juice
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 coriander leaf
1/2 tbsp horseradish cream to taste
1 pinch celery salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with cubed ice.
Shake gently so it does not dilute too much and strain into a 35cl hiball glass filled with cubed ice.
Garnish with a lemon wedge, a cucumber spear, jalapeño slices and fresh coriander leaf
■ Drinksfusion.com have introduced a range of luxury cocktail boxes to gift this Christmas.