In a way, our cocktail bases evolved from our frozen cocktail range in the sense that we wanted to expand on our mission to help folks serve inventive and imaginative cocktails quickly and consistently. Although, this time we were able to offer that without the need for an expensive frozen drinks machine that might only be used 3 months of the year.
The First of Many
The first cocktail base we produced from our emerging range was the Tangled Roots blend. This was named after a bar I saw at Boomtown Festival, and it always stuck with me and brought to mind the clusters of ginger root that we peel and juice for this blend.
The blend is composed of handmade ginger syrup & lemon juice (to the ratio of 56% ginger vs 44% lemon).
Having played with the blend behind the bar, I knew that it was highly versatile and could sit at the heart of a variety of inventive cocktails. In its infancy however, I used the blend to promote just one drink that I thought was really awesome and deserved to be known outside of The Hawksmoor, where I was still working as a bartender at that time. That drink is of course Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew created by Pete Jeary. It’s described on The Hawksmoor menu as being “a mix between handmade ginger beer and a turbo-shandy with gin”. It’s a delicious and really inventive cocktail. After speaking to both Will Beckett (Hawksmoor co-founder) and Pete himself, I gained the clarity of conscience I needed to go out and promote a drink that Pete had invented, and that the Hawksmoor has created a cult following for.
The frozen cocktails kept me busy in the summer, but I had a little more free time the rest of the year when I was working at The Hawksmoor, to test the notion that this drink made with our base blend could become more widespread.
Trial and Error
I’d drop in to venues, sometimes up to 12 per day, and offer to make the bar manager a drink. Out would come our Tangled Roots blend with my blender, a bottle of gin and some London Pride. The venue supplied the ice and a glass. I already knew this was an outstanding drink, and it was always well received. We trialled the offering at a range of venues and when it worked, it became a best-selling cocktail. Number 90 was a great success story for this but very often, I spent the best part of £500 on commercial Vitamix blenders supplied to venues that didn’t sell enough of the drink to make this scalable, or attractive overall. Many of those blenders went missing, and this waste of precious business cash bugs me still to this day!
The mistake I perhaps made, was putting all of our eggs into one basket with the one drink, and trying to bring that drink to a wider audience. It therefore became more about the drink, as opposed to the blend. I embraced this because ultimately it IS about the final drink and potential drinks that can stem from the blend; but I pigeon holed the blend and presented it in such a way that nobody played with the blend, made it their own, or indeed created anything for their own venues.
A Change of Approach
To my mind, the easiest and most versatile mixed drinks from the cocktail history books are “sour” cocktails. A “sour” cocktail contains a base spirit, lime or lemon, and a sweetening agent. In the Joy of Mixology, Gary Regan tells us that when Jerry Thomas detailed sours in 1862, he was making them with a base spirit, sugar, water, a quarter of lemon (we assume he squeezed it) and another “small piece of lemon, the juice of which must be pressed into the glass”.
100 years of cocktail evolution since has shown us that this structure can be the foundation of many great cocktails. Knowing this, combined with our own expertise, skill and understanding of spirits and flavours, has led us to expand this product range and we will continue to do so because we love what we’re seeing.
The Difference Between the Two
Our frozen cocktail solution is a lot more “off the shelf” in the sense that we give the machines to bar operators, often without a rental charge where enough volume is involved. Our blends are added to the machine and the bartender adds a bottle or more of spirit. The machine freezes down the mix resulting in a delicious frozen cocktail, effectively on tap.
With our cocktail bases, there is still a cocktail to be prepared, one (or a few) at a time. In this way, the craftmanship of the cocktail is shared between us (in the Icely Done kitchen – preparing the cocktail base), and the bartender preparing the eventual cocktail. Our cocktail bases are therefore not a finished cocktail in the bottle. They are the foundation of MANY delicious cocktails, crucially that can be served quickly and consistently. They are a leg-up, a helping hand and a solid foundation on to which to build amazing drinks. This is possible because the “sour” family of cocktails provides a base on to which creatively minded bartenders can really innovate. Citrus juice, sugar, fruit and sometimes spice is the starting point of many remarkable cocktails, and we’ve had a lot of fun preparing blends that we’ve approached in this way.
Here are some of the flavours we’ve played with so far, all of which start with a base of citrus and sugar:
Rhubarb & Strawberry
Tangled Roots (Ginger & Lemon)
Strawberry & Cucumber
Pomegranate & Spiced Pear (seasonal offering)
Spiced Clementine (seasonal offering)
Our intention is to work with event and fixed bar operators that share our “thirst for the remarkable”, and who are committed to serving delicious and inventive and remarkable cocktails that can be served quickly, consistently and without fuss. That leaves the vast majority of the marketplace on the table but that’s fine because life is too short to dilute your values and what you believe in.
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