Drinks, food, Interviews

q&a with the twankey bar mixologist melrick harrison

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This is the first in a series of upcoming features on drinks and lifestyle news by House and Leisure's art director and 'concierge', Ian Martin. I chat to mixologist, Melrick Harrison, who’s taken over the lead of the well-known The Twankey Bar, at Taj Hotel in Cape Town.

what drew you to mixology

It was the love of serving guests with drinks unique to them. The satisfaction on their faces pleased me so much that I could not get enough of it.

what is the most exciting trend happening in mixology right now?

Wow there are lots but I will name a few from the top of my head: Low ABV cocktails, Vermouth is nowadays being swopped for sherry. Fruits are being swopped for vegetables hence more green and healthy drinks - lets not forget the beetroot craze. Smoking ingredients by using a smoking gun, wood chips, infusing lapsang souchong tea, liquid smoke and many others forms. Being sustainable will always be a trend in bars where every ingredient can be used in many ways and many times. Most of Cape Town bars have been saving water, when using ice, the dishwashers, pre-batching cocktails and so forth.

what is your favourite (booze brand) cocktail to make? walk us through the drink recipe, and tell us why you love it.

Personally I prefer tequila and the brand I am liking so far is Espolon Reposado. So to answer your question, a sours based cocktail, I would kind of say that it is the pure embodiment of the modern cocktail scene. It has a bit of everything that brings the spirit to life. Some sweet, sour and bitter flavours, texture - there’s nothing wrong with a little spritz for aroma and an of infuse ingredients as you see fit to the spirit of choice.

what are the most important tools of a cocktail making connoisseur?

Tin on tin shaker, jigger, Hawthorne strainer, fine strainer, muddler bar spoon and of course confidence in your abilities.

what is the most unusual ingredient you've ever used in a drink?

I once juiced the cactus leaf of a prickly pear tree. Never succeeded with the idea I had in mind but it was extremely fun to play with. It was very blobby, very green and over powered all my ingredients. I am not giving up on this idea.

what are you aiming for conceptually with the The Twankey Bar?

I would like to make it a more hospitality industry forward bar, where guests come in and walk out as if they have learned something.

how would you describe the experience at your bar in three words?

Professional, interactive and creative

what cocktail do you make at home for yourself and why?

Two things actually, either an old fashioned or sours, there is always a lot of new ingredients to discover in the kitchen so I play around every chance I get for pure enjoyment. I recently won a whole lot of KWV brandy, so game on I guess...

if you had to choose just one, what is the absolute cant-miss cocktail on your menu right now?

The whales Bones, this cocktail has been there before my time at the Twankey Bar. Its so simple to make and I feel that it's an ingenious idea. The way I see it is, that it's a huge twist on the classic cocktail Negroni. You can't say that it is a Negroni because none of the ingredients are in this cocktail. The whales bones is made up of Tequila, Aperol and sherry.