David Rios is not an unfamiliar name for cocktail enthusiasts or those in the business. The Spanish mixologist is exalted for his stellar gin and tonics, and has earned the accolade of being the Diageo’s World Class Bartender of the Year in 2013 and the current ambassador for Tanqueray Rangpur gin. Rios is also the head honcho behind speakeasy-style Jigger Bar in Bilbao, applying his 18 years of experience behind the counter to ensuring guests don’t ever leave unhappy (or fully sober).
As the New Year dawns, we’ve asked Rios to share his cocktail-making expertise and apply it to budding home bartenders gearing up for a big party. To top that, he’s specially composed a punch bowl recipe for our readers — something quick to throw together without compromising on flavour and dimension (totally tailored towards impressing those chi-chi cocktail snobs you might have over).
Lifestyle Asia (LSA): For amateur mixologists who are gearing up to throw a party for New Year’s Eve, what are some essentials they should have in their home bar?
David Rios (DR): The drink most commonly associated with New Year’s Eve is champagne – it is normally drunk at the stroke of midnight. Before and after the celebratory pop though, a good home-bar should have both options and quality. I would start with having a good gin like Tanqueray Rangpur which is easy to mix with tonics and is always a crowd pleaser. To make interesting gin and tonics, a good selection of citrus fruits and spices will cater to a broad range of tastes. Since Singapore has a summery New Year, different to the wintery ones we have in Spain, I cannot think of a better way to finish and start the year than keeping it classy, simple and fresh.
LSA: What are some key things to take note of if you’re creating cocktails for a large group? Any tips for novices?
DR: You need to keep in mind that everyone has different taste preferences, so making a drink which is easy to personalise is key. If you can make a drink with a garnish or flavouring component can be slightly tweaked for each guest, they will surely appreciate and remember the experience. Another tip would be to keep it simple. There are plenty of amazing, classic recipes that don’t require much fiddling. Remember that you don’t need to over complicate yourself.
LSA: You chose gin, vermouth and champagne for the punch bowl. How do these flavours meld with each other?
DR: Gin contains a lot of citrus and botanicals in flavour, which are boosted up by the vermouth. It has a wine base that provides depth and mouthfeel, while the champagne ties and complements all these flavours by bringing the fizz and making the drink extremely refreshing and lively.
LSA: What was your overall inspiration for the punch bowl, and how does it tie in with the mood of New Year’s Eve?
DR: It uses ingredients that I like, and that I would think of when it’s time to celebrate. They are easy to find, complex, fresh and widely available, perfect for any party or celebration.
Sunset Punch (makes 16)
400ml Tanqueray Rangpur or other citrusy gins
160ml La Quintinye Blanc Vermouth or other bitter vermouths
40ml Maraschino liqueur
160ml white grapefruit juice
40ml sugar syrup
400ml champagne or sparkling wine
Cherries, grapefruit or other citrus, cinnamon sticks and mint leaves to garnish
Add all the ingredients into a punch bowl with the champagne last. Add ice, and serve in champagne flutes with a fresh cherry at the bottom of each.