The Monkey On My Shoulder
Mixologist, bar chef, cocktailian, mixicologist, so many things to call someone who mixes fine drinks in a bar, but for 26-year-old, award winning William Grant & Sons Regional Portfolio Ambassador, Zachary Connor de Git, he still likes to call himself “a bartender.”
Mixologists are often dubbed as the chemists behind the drinks, while the bartender is your magician behind the bar who whips up more than a dozen drinks a night to keep the customers happy. Though a lot of people will argue on the labels, neither is better than the other because there are a lot of skill sets involved in being any of the two. “For me it was never about cocktails,” explains Zach, while I choke on my drink thinking “Whuuut? Not the drinks?!” He continues, “I fell in love with the service side of things, more so the drinks. It’s the whole package; when you walk into a bar, the bartender says hi to you and you engage with him and you have a personal – well not too personal that you tell them your romantic life and everything – but the best way to get a good drink is to connect with your bartender and tell him what you feel and what you like to drink, how shitty your day has been or how amazing your day has been.”
I guess when it comes to libation, it’s more the experience, the surroundings, and the people you meet that make every sip worth drinking. It makes sense now why Zach has been chosen as the ambassador for the funky and young brand Monkey Shoulder. Monkey Shoulder is a combination of three Speyside Single Malts – Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie. They call the brand “approachable” with “a cheeky disregard for tradition.” Just read the name “Monkey Shoulder,” – even the bottle is designed to look more contemporary than the other whiskies in the market.
At a recent Master Class held in Smith Butcher and Grill Room, Zach faced a number of newbies and aficionados who want to learn the art of mixing cocktails and tasting the cool brand Monkey Shoulder. While some whisky tasting and mixology classes feel stiff and downright boring, Zach made everyone feel comfortable, laughing even, while learning the stories and basics about whisky and mixing a cocktail. He says, “There shouldn’t be any rules in drinking whisky! It should just be fun!”
Monkey Shoulder tastes good on its own but best when mixed as cocktail especially with recipes that highlight its notes. The nose smells of sweet marmalade, creamy vanilla, and hints of spices. On your palate it tastes fruity, with a little honey and a hint of butterscotch and finishes with woody oak and wisps of peppermint. Interesting, right? The liquid even becomes more fascinating when mixed with the right ingredients for a cold glass of cocktail.
To start the Master Class, Zach taught us to make a Mamie Taylor, a quirky name for adding together 40 ml of Monkey Shoulder, 80 ml of ginger ale and lime wedge. It tastes like a refreshing drink for a hot day. Then he moved on to the fun Morning Glory Fizz, and anything with egg white on cocktail, I’m more than willing to try, so I went behind the bar to mix my first glass: 50 ml of Monkey Shoulder, 25 ml lemon juice, 20 ml simple syrup, 1 dash of Absinthe (in my case I think it spilled a little more than that, lol) and 15 ml of egg white. Now as Zach instructed, the key to mixing this drink is to dry shake first, as hard as you can to blend all the ingredients together, then add ice and shake it again until the shaker is chilled and cold to the touch. I loved how the Absinthe made the drink aromatic and refreshing to the nose, the texture is creamy and wakes up the palate. His last recipe is a warm yet strong cocktail called Rob Roy. It’s simple, just mix 50 ml of Monkey Shoulder with 25 ml Vermouth, and add two dashes of Angostura Bitters. Simple recipe, but the taste punches and makes you feel warm as it finishes down your throat.
The class was all smiles and giggles with all the cocktails circling around the bar. I couldn’t help but challenge Zach, “So can you make me a smoky cocktail? As in literally smoking while it’s served.” He laughed and said, “Hmm... now I’m intimidated!” but he obliged nevertheless. Using Monkey Shoulder as the base, he put out the world’s most heavily peated single malt Octomore, then mixed it with Chartreuse liqueur, Mancino Vermouth, and smoked the glass with a smoking gun. I feel my mouth watering now just writing about it, it was so good, he called it “Smoke ‘em when you got ‘em.”
The Master Class ended with a good old game of Cards of Humanity. I felt like I was in a college party after a mixology class while Zach passed around shots of whisky for everyone to partake. Fun, carefree, no rules indeed.
Smith Butcher and Grill Room often holds The Craft Takeover's Master Class or whisky tasting with International brands and the world's top bartenders. Visit their Facebook page Smith Butcher and Grill Room to get updates. The restaurant is located at ACI Building, 147 H.V. Dela Costa Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City.
Photos of Mamie Taylor, Rob Roy, the editor, and Felle Lim together with Zachary Connor is courtesy of Sarie Santiago