FOOD & WINE

Joseph Boroski's bespoke cocktails open doors to different worlds

Mixologists are creating a range of innovative concoctions tailored to appeal to the taste buds of each individual

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 1:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 2:00pm

Perching on the edge of my seat in Hong Kong’s new go-to bar, J. Boroski, I say:  “I want a drink inspired by Macau.”

The bar’s co-owner and “mixultant”, Joseph Boroski, whips together a cocktail which represents his experience and feelings towards the city. 

What is placed before me is Boroski’s spin on the classic Martinez, the precursor to the Martini.

“I am inspired by Macau’s heritage and history,” he says, as he explains that he chose a drink “rooted in classics” to represent the once-colonial city. His rendition of the Martinez is given a new twist with a touch of lavender, adding a “lively floral element”, and a burnt cinnamon stick for depth. The final creation is a decidedly subtle but complex, well-balanced drink.

For Boroski, this is what defines Macau – a city rooted in history which has since been transformed and has taken on a new life; a city defined by rich elegance and a “desire for the best”. 

My personalised cocktail is no special treatment at J. Boroski, where there is no standard drink menu. Instead, patrons are offered a cocktail concierge service, whereby they are asked whether they have a drink in mind, and if not, whether they would prefer something spirit-based, showcasing the spirit, or something more floral, where the spirit is complemented by freshly-made in-house cordials, juices and ingredients.

Such personalisation gives patrons the ultimate luxury: a drink tailored to their taste buds at that particular moment in time.  At an initial glance, this approach might be seen to appeal most to those with more sophisticated palettes, who can vocalise which spirits appeal most to them. But it is also very much an approach that appeals to those who wish to experiment, and to discover which flavour profiles sing to them.

Boroski and his team are often asked to create concoctions that are visual showstoppers. These drinks lie on the other end of the spectrum, and generally appeal to patrons who prefer to let their eyes and (especially in today’s age of Instagram and social media) cameras feast first on them.

At Jerry Maguire in Hong Kong, cocktails are created using dessert-making techniques. For example, their Alice in Wonderland drink features spun sugar, gold leaf and a handmade “JM” meringue mushroom.

Award-winning mixologist and bar consultant Antonio Lai says of this trend: “People say outer beauty captures the eyes when inner beauty captures the heart, and interestingly, it applies to cocktails too.”

Lai adds: “Wow-factors are often found in the cocktails’ visual appeal, such as with the use of smoke achieved through ingredients being minute-frozen with liquid nitrogen, torched wood chips, and even fancy glassware.”

Suraj Gurung, mixologist at Hong Kong’s Stockton agrees: “The décor and garnish has to make sense no matter the size, and going bigger doesn’t necessarily always mean better.”

What makes sense is determined, first and foremost, by the taste and balance of each individual drink.

“Balance is very important. No one wants to drink a very sweet or very sour drink. After you figure out the sweet and sour balance, [then we] pay attention to our other senses,” says Gurung, who notes that we also drink and eat “through eyes, nose, and even ears too”.

Lai cites his signature Earl Grey Caviar Martini as an example: “For instance, the wobbly peak of foam topping does not only carry a visual impact but a multisensory one, with the light fragrance of Earl Grey tea.”

“As for our Lavender Meringue Pie cocktail, torching the marshmallow foam not only adds to visual impact of the preparation process but also delivers a delightfully satisfying ‘crackle’ effect to the top of a crème brulée”.

Lai’s aforementioned creations also tap into our other senses. However, not all drinks benefit from such a magic touch.

“Classic cocktails for example do not demand elaborate garnishes, they are kept looking minimalistic,” says Stockton’s Surung. “You don’t want to cheapen your cocktail with gimmicky garnishes.”

Whichever direction the trends move in, the industry veterans agree on one thing.

“We create dramatic and spectacular drinks for a reason – to offer an experience rather than just a drink,” Lai says. “How does a mixologist draw the line between art and gimmick? It depends on what the mixologist would like the guests to get. Overt focus on self and ego leads to a ‘show’ without much ‘substance’. The key is humility and sensibility – ensuring that every action is for a reason.”

 

Mood making

Go on a journey with these spectacular cocktails – without having to leave Macau.

Ginful Paradise at the Ritz-Carlton Macau

What sets the Ginful Paradise apart is the specially-created Ginful scent that guests can spray into the cocktail for an added boost of aromatic intensity.

 

Wing Lei Royale at Wing Lei Bar, Wynn Palace

Fresh berries are combined with local Macanese spices to create a champagne cocktail with the right kick.

French Blonde at ABA BAR, MGM Macau

The drink features Lillet Blanc, a classic French apéritif wine from Podensac, a small village south of Bordeaux. It is hoped that the drink coupled with the ambience will whisk you away to France.