Shaken Not Stirred By The Luxury Channel

We asked William Sitwell, the editor-in-chief of Waitrose Food Illustrated, to explore the art of the cocktail….


Where did you go to learn about cocktails?

I went to Quo Vadis, recently rehabbed by those most exciting restaurateurs Sam and Eddy Hart. I had a lesson from Paul Mant, their top mixologist, in making the perfect martini.

What did Paul teach you about the perfect martini?

He showed me the correct quantities of ingredients and how you have to taste it as you make it. Also, how to get the dilution right from the water melted from the ice — they freeze their ice twice. But most importantly, it’s stirred, not shaken.

What is your favourite cocktail?

I don’t have a favourite, but I don’t like a sticky and complicated cocktail. I do love a bellini with fresh peach juice and chilled Champagne. The house aperitif at Quo Vadis is tart and sweet, and full of summery flavour: Cointreau, freshly-squeezed clementine juice, and topped with cava.

There seems to have been a return to the art of cocktail-making in the last few years. Why do you think that is?

The trend in cocktails mirrors the trend in food – for example, sourcing fresh ingredients, using fresh peaches instead of tinned juice. The same as a great chef, a barman will find great ingredients. There is a massive interest in where vodka and gin is coming from too.

If you had to, would you choose either the best ingredients or the best bartender?

I think they both are important, and speed is also key. I can’t hang around. And you want a small, restricted cocktail menu, same as huge menus in restaurants are quite passé. You want a guarantee the ingredients are fresh, and the drinks are strong and to the point.