If you're looking forward to making some spring cocktails, meet Jacques Bezuidenhout, Bartender Ambassador for Tequila Partida! Jacques has some great advice to share. As a spirits advisor to Kimpton Hotels Group, Jacques is an expert on using premium spirits and organic products.
Spring Cocktails with Jacques Bezuidenhout
A Little Background
LoveToKnow (LTK): What exactly is a spirits advisor, and what do you do in that role?
Jacques Bezuidenhout (JB): At the Kimpton Hotels, I help them focus their bars within their concepts. So, I help them choose the spirits for their back bars as well as create their cocktail lists and train their bartenders.
LTK: Please tell us a little bit about your background as a bartender and mixologist.
JB: I really started bartending when I moved to London around 15 years ago. That is where I started paying attention to the craft of the cocktail and all the beautiful spirits on the back bar. The back bar is the area behind the bar where you display the spirits and the glassware. I worked in a restaurant bar in London called The Avenue. When I moved to San Francisco, I worked in an Irish bar called the Irish Bank, and from there it was the Starlight Room, Pesce and Azul. Finally, I opened Tres Agaves.
LTK: What are a couple of your all time favorite cocktail recipes?
JB: Here are two of my favorites.
La Perla (Winner of the Sherries of Spain Cocktail Contest in New York in November 2005)
- 1 1/2 ounces of Partida Reposado
- 1 1/2 ounces of Domecq Manzanilla Sherry
- 3/4 ounce of Mathilde Pear Liqueur
Stir all of the ingredients with ice, and strain them into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish the beverage with a lemon twist.
- 1 1/2 ounces of Partida Reposado
- 1 1/2 ounces of Guinness draft
- 1/2 ounces of Tawny Port
- 1/4 ounces of agave nectar (Cut the agave nectar with equal parts water.)
- Dash of Angostura Bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice, and strain the drink into a chilled wine glass or small pint glass without ice. Garnish it with some grated or ground cinnamon powder.
Guinness note: I take a pint of Guinness beforehand and stir it up with a bar spoon for about 30 seconds. This removes some of the carbon dioxide.
LTK: What do you see as some of the hottest trends for cocktails this spring?
JB: The trend is still towards market fresh cocktails. It is great to support your local farmer's market and select fresh product from local farmers when it's in season. Try strawberries, pineapple, mangoes and apricots. Apricots work nicely with Reposado tequila. Just blend the apricots after removing the pits. Strawberries work nicely with a little muddled basil and gin. Blend up some fresh pineapple pieces to make juice, and this works very well with gin, blanco tequila and some rums. Try a little spice with your mangoes, like jalapeno, and that will make a refreshing twist on a Margarita.
LTK: What are some quick and easy spring cocktails that the at-home bartender can make?
JB: The Margarita is obviously one of my favorites, especially using agave nectar. The Pimm's Cup is also wonderful. Here's my personal spin on that recipe.
- 1 1/4 ounces of Partida Blanco
- .3/4 ounce Pimm's
- Ginger beer
In a highball glass, build the ingredients with ice, and then finish with ginger beer. Stir the drink lightly to mix. Have fun with the garnish, and add sliced strawberries, cucumbers, limes and oranges throughout the glass. Place a nice big mint sprig on top.
LTK: Which supplies should home bartenders keep on hand to be able to create spring cocktails in a pinch?
JB: They should have a good selection of white spirits, like blanco tequila, gin, rum and vodka. Then they should just head to the market the morning of the party to see what looks fresh and inspiring. Also a bottle of St. Germain always comes in handy for spring or summer cocktails.
LTK: We've been hearing a lot about organic products lately. How can we incorporate these products into our cocktails?
JB: Just take a look at what is in season, and try to match those organic fruits with your favorite spirit. I think the best way to go about this is to taste everything and think about what connection it makes to some of your favorite spirits. A lot of great cocktails are the product of trial and error. Throw your ingredients in a glass and give them a try; try a different direction if the first doesn't work.
LTK: What advice do you have for someone interested in making spring cocktails that are a little healthier?
JB: Less is always best. Don't try to add a bunch of different ingredients. Try to stay with three or four different ingredients, and always use quality spirits and fresh produce.
Half the fun is in experimenting with cocktails in the kitchen. If at first you don't succeed, try again and try a different twist. Don't be intimidated by it all. Also, taste everything. Don't just stay within your own brands safety zone. Go and explore different brands by buying mini bottles so you can taste them side by side. You may be surprised to find a new favorite.
LoveToKnow Cocktails would like to thank Jacques Bezuidenhout for taking time from his busy schedule to provide spring cocktail advice. We wish him continued success in his endeavors.