The norm-breaker cocktail — an avant-garde incorporation of ingredients.


  • It was another “research” night in Gastown, & my company had just ditched me & called an early night. Now, we had been to multiple bars in the area & had had a cocktail or two at each establishment. So, it wasn’t a surprise when I caught myself stumbling a little farther than I had intended to.
  • As I perused the area, I found myself gravitating towards the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel entrance, as I had remembered that I had The Lobby Lounge on my bar list not long before. I looked to my right & immediately found myself attracted to the spacious concept & found the seat closest to the bar station.
  • I ran my usual routine of asking the bartender of their favourites & asked them to make me a cocktail of their choice — only telling them that a strong, flavourful nightcap is what I was looking for. And, the only thing I remember about the spirit-forward cocktail was that it tasted like casked spirit w/ coffee infusion.

Formulating The Fluid

  • People who know me know that I am titillated by an arbitrary or circumspect sense of challenge. And, to find the frame of the nightcap I had just had was the highlight of the following weeks. So, I began to diligently deliberate to devise the design of a delectable drink.
  • I started w/ a strong-proof bourbon — Booker’s — to step up to the task & bring warmth to the drink.
  • Now, I had to amp up the flavour profile, doing justice to my own ask. I reached for the most rebellious ingredient in this cocktail — Spiced Rum. Bourbon & Rum?! I know, but bear with me! It gets better.
  • Now, as arbitrary as the choice may have been, the addition of an amaro seemed intuitive, as we give the fusion of bourbon & spiced rum a companion to spar with, as this cocktail aims to engage the palate.
  • The next step was easy — in fact, I had an inkling of this ingredient even during the inception — to find the best way to imbibe the concoction with a coffee infusion — that was perceived in the cocktail drunk. I could have used Kahlua, but fresh espresso would bring a full-fledged flavour, so that’s what it was.
  • Now, if you wanted to, you could take the paint off your walls w/ this high-octane mix. To make it more palatable, I needed a residual sweetener, so I opted for the purest form of sugar source — a syrup made from sugarcane jaggery, which I call Rustic Syrup.

The Sweetener: Simple Syrup Is Not So Simple!

We all know it, & perhaps some of us have made it — simple syrup. The definitions vary from — the mainstream — a 1:1 ratio of the sugar of choice & water to — as some mixologists make them — x:1 ratio of the sugar of choice & water, reserving the use of the term rich only for flavour-infused syrups.

The Problem w/ Rich Syrups:

  • The resulting recipe-revamp: Now, it is true that richer syrups — containing higher than 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio — are relatively more shelf-stable. And, a 3:1 syrup won’t even need to be refrigerated as the environment is too toxic for bacterial growth. But, most of us have adopted the 1:1 formula, so most sources cater to that formula when laying out their recipes.
  • Why I don’t advocate syrups higher than a 2:1 ratio: A syrup that high in sugar content yields viscosity that isn’t conducive to the accurate delivery of the syrup in a cocktail. The only way to get around that is to always use the syrup first, washing it off the jigger with the other ingredients, but that may not be feasible when speed-bartending is employed.
  • The moisture problem: I’ve been culpable of the culinary crime (as it affects every cocktail it goes in) of making inconsistent simple syrups, especially when making multiple batches or using different ingredients. How does it transpire? Enter the accomplice — moisture, if not an outright, lush layer of water at the base of the measuring cup or the mixing glass. As we’re relying on our sight to gauge the sugar content, it becomes more likely to make inconsistent syrups — attributing to the moisture problem & other margins of error.

The Solution:

Volume vs. Weight: All of the problems above are solved by making a 1:1 syrup by weight w/ hot water — not by boiling. The 1:1 ratio helps the syrup measurements in recipes stay relatively close to their original measurements in the recipes & prevents the syrup from sticking to the jigger. And, making it by weight helps eliminate virtually all the human & apparatus errors. I’ve done the math, and the 1:1 syrup by weight turns out to be ~18% sweeter than that made by volume. So, multiplying the syrup — by volume — measurements by ~0.8 would give you the amount of syrup you should use.

Countering Coffee’s Calefaction

Hot espresso will dilute the drink faster. Chill the espresso beforehand; if not possible, half the stir-time.



Autodidactic polyglot; avant-garde mixologist; communication specialist; contemporary stoic; minimalist; & nat.-sci. enthusiast. 86network.com/pro/nyckkochhar.

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Nyck Kochhar

Autodidactic polyglot; avant-garde mixologist; communication specialist; contemporary stoic; minimalist; & nat.-sci. enthusiast. 86network.com/pro/nyckkochhar.