Duck & Waffle drinks supremo Rich Woods shows us the way to muddling bliss
Are you still proud of yourself when you manage to muddle rum, mint, sugar, lime and soda at home on a Saturday night?
Then we're sorry, but it's time to up your game. The mixed drinks revolution is well and truly here. Sales of the stirred stuff have been up 10% over the past two years, with 52% of women and 35% of men saying they love a cocktail.
"It's all about looking at cocktails with an open mind, and exploring ingredients as you would with cooking and food," he says.
Here's his guide to injecting a spark of delicious creativity into your at-home shaking.
1. Inspiration is everywhere
"Ideas for drinks can come from anywhere," says Rich. "A walk in the park, autumnal colours, the smells of Christmas… one of my most unusual ideas – a blue cheese and chocolate martini – was the result of me arriving home late one night, after falling asleep in a cab.
"I got in and started looking for something to eat, and all I had was a knob of blue cheese and a pack of chocolate Digestives. They were actually pretty good together. So then it was about getting those flavours into a drink."
2. Herbs aren't just for food
"Take gin – there are so many natural botanical flavours in there already, adding herbs make total sense. Stir a G&T with a sprig of rosemary or tarragon for a whole other take on the drink.
"Remember: more than 95% of what we taste is based on aroma, which is why finishing a cocktail with something like mint really enhances your whole enjoyment of it."
3. Get infusing
"Add another dimension to a cocktail with infused spirits. You could take a bottle of gin, pour it into a non-reactive container like an ice-cream tub, then throw in some halved sugar snap peas. Leave to meld for 24 hours, sieve and serve with tonic.
"Another idea is to do something similar with whisky. Again, decant it, then add some halved cherries and leave over night. You get a rich, sweet flavour with your smoky spirit and it's great just over ice. Olives in vodka as the base of a vodka martini work well, too. Of course, all of these are brilliant in a Kilner bottle for gifts."
4. Make the most of your kitchen
"There's no need to spend loads of money on equipment. A large coffee jar is a great shaker, a teaspoon is the same as a bar spoon measure and a tea strainer can be used in place of a proper cocktail one."
5. Remember your five-a-day
"Vegetables in cocktails are nothing new – the Bloody Mary has been around for decades – but they are delicious and a slightly more unusual thing to use.
"From peeled and juiced carrot with tequila to granulated sugar-sprinkled roasted aubergine infused into whisky, there's so much to play with."