The brains behind London experiential cocktail bar the Social Company, where drinkers get an augmented reality show with their drinks, has given up his biggest secrets to creating an award-winning cocktail.
Speaking to Great British Pub Awards Spirits Pub of the Year finalists at an exclusive Diageo masterclass day this week (7 August), Jones unpacked the little-known tricks bartenders need to know when competing in national and international competitions.
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“When you’re making a drink, you’ve always got to think of what makes something balanced,” said Jones.
“Then you’ve got to think about what you can bring to it to enhance or lift it. [In bartending] we’re always looking at classics, but think how you can develop them.”
The classics usually have up to four ingredients and they have mass appeal, which is why they have been around for decades, he added.
‘Not going to have mass appeal’
“Consider this when making drinks, if you make something bespoke [to a specific taste profile], then it’s not going to have mass appeal,” he added.
“But if you are making something for a competition, then you may want to make something specifically for someone’s palate – like if you know what the judges’ really like.
“You always need to think what a drink is going to be and where it’s going to go. You always need to make it so people will like it.”
When it comes to balancing flavours in a cocktail, there are two key points to consider, Jones explained.
The first is smell or aroma and the second is taste, both equally important elements of the perfect drink, he asserted.
“Mouthfeel is also crucial and within this we have sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami – it’s the five taste sensations,” said Jones.
“When you’re trying to balance a drink, you’re trying to balance it on the tongue and not the nose. On the tongue, you need to work with sweet and sour or bitter and sweet.
‘Three ingredients or 23’
“Ultimately, you need to decide whether you’re going to create a drink using three ingredients or 23, but you need to make sure they all work together.”
While taste is the main purpose of a drink, smell also has an important role to play, he added.
The olfactory nerve connects to the brain and is powerful in allowing consumers to link smells with memories, said Jones.
“Smell is linked to the memory, so when the aroma comes off a drink it is really important because it can take people to a place or remind them of something.”
Jones, who will compete in Mexico for the overall World Class title later this month, won the Great British round with his Rumours Brew beer cocktail.
The drink contains Johnnie Walker Gold Label, Banane du Brésil liqueur (banana liqueur), Ancho Reyes Verde liqueur, lime juice, pineapple juice and Hitachino Japanese Red Rice beer, but a white beer can be used instead.