Our columnist samples four different cocktails made with four unique spirits.

One of the best things about writing this column is exploring the vast variety of spirits from around the world, and tasting the unique differences in each category. Whether it’s rum, vodka, gin, whisky, brandy or tequila, there’s such a great variety of flavours, styles and complexity among them, and I’ve learned that sometimes a vodka isn’t just a vodka – and gin can taste like cucumbers.

Take, for instance, the portfolio of William Grant & Sons. They’re probably best known for their whisky portfolio, which includes single malts Glenfiddich and The Balvenie, and the blended Grant’s, but the company has also branched out into other spirit categories.

At a media event at specialty cocktail bar Omakase + Appreciate, William Grant & Sons regional portfolio ambassador Zachary Connor de Git made four cocktails using four unique spirits from their portfolio – Monkey Shoulder Triple Malt Whisky, Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum, Hendrick’s Gin, and Reyka Vodka.

What’s so special about these spirits? One’s an Icelandic vodka, another’s a cucumber-infused gin, one’s a spiced rum dedicated to a legendary tattoo artist, and there’s a whisky that’s blended from three different single malt whiskies. Making cocktails from spirits with qualities like these requires extra care and skill, and Connor de Git is the perfect bartender to execute them.

Born in Australia and based in Singapore, Connor de Git began his career at age 17 at O’Dowd’s Irish Pub in Rockhampton, Australia. He went on to work in some of Australia’s most esteemed bars including Black Pearl and Gingerboy in Melbourne. At Gingerboy, he was nominated for 2010 Bartender Of The Year by Australian Bartender magazine.

In 2013, Connor de Git represented Singapore at the Diageo World Class competition and went on to be the first bartender in Singapore to win the Mediterranean Mastery 2013 title – a subset of Diageo World Class competition that calls for competitors to consider the Mediterranean region and its influence on cocktail culture.

Hendrick’s Maid (Hendrick’s Gin)

Hendrick’s Gin is a gin infused with cucumber and rose petals (plus other botanicals). The gentle quality of the gin calls for more care in making a cocktail. The Hendrick’s Maid cocktail is a twist on the Old Maid classic that uses pretty much the same recipe, down to the cucumber.

“I chose this because the drink really accentuates the cucumber in the Hendrick’s Gin,” Connor de Git says.

Sure enough, the refreshingly cool cucumber note does stand out wonderfully, making for a smoother and better balanced drink compared to an Old Maid using a normal juniper-heavy gin.

50ml Hendricks gin
20ml lime juice
20ml sugar syrup
3 slices cucumber

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake well with ice, allowing cucumber to break up. Fine strain over fresh ice and garnish with more cucumber.

Icelandic Daisy (Reyka Vodka)

Reyka Vodka is a handcrafted Icelandic vodka made using resources found only in Iceland – arctic spring water that runs through a 4,000-year-old lava field, filtered through lava rock, and made in a distillery powered by geothermal energy from volcanoes. The result is a clean, pure vodka that’s surprisingly crisp and fresh, with a hint of spring water sweetness on the palate.

The Icelandic Daisy is another twist on an old classic, the Daisy cocktail, which consists of any base spirit, simple syrup, a sweet liqueur, and lemon or lime juice.

“A margarita is a type of Daisy cocktail, too,” Connor de Git says.

The Icelandic Daisy is a drink that highlights the pure clarity of its base spirit, while balancing the sweetness of the Chartreuse and the sourness of the lemon juice perfectly, while the herbal notes and bitters bring out the more subtle flavours of the vodka.

40ml Reyka Vodka
20ml Yellow Chartreuse
20ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine the ingredients into a shaker and shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled coupette and garnish with lemon zest.

Malt Jockey (Monkey Shoulder Triple Malt)

According to the Monkey Shoulder website, the term “monkey shoulder” refers to a condition that maltmen sometimes picked up when working long shifts, turning the barley by hand. This caused their arms to hang down like a monkey’s.

Calling themselves the world’s first “triple malt”, Monkey Shoulder is a blend of single malts from three different Speyside distilleries, with nary a drop of grain whisky (the official term for this sort of blend is “blended malt”). While it’s a decent whisky to have on its own or on the rocks (with hints of citrus orange, vanilla and spices), I rather preferred it when Connor de Git whipped up this Malt Jockey cocktail, one of the official recipes listed on the website.

Tasting like a classic Old Fashioned with chocolate, it was a full and rich cocktail that blended the whisky’s orange and vanilla notes perfectly with the chocolate bitters and orange zest, for a “super simple, super tasty” cocktail, according to Connor de Git.

50ml Monkey Shoulder
25ml sweet vermouth
7.5ml maraschino liqueur
2-3 dashes chocolate bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass, add cold dry ice and stir. Once dilution is reached, strain into a martini/coupette glass, and then zest and garnish with a twist of orange peel.

Vic & Norman (Sailor Jerry’s Rum)

“Sailor Jerry” is the nickname of prominent American tattoo artist Norman Keith Collins. In 1999, two of his protégés, Ed Hardy and Mike Malone, started a clothing company called Sailor Jerry Limited and created a spiced rum in honour of Collins, who spent half his life as a sailor.

Called a “straight-up, no-nonsense rum” by its creators, Sailor Jerry’s Rum is crafted from a selection of rums distilled in the Caribbean, and infused with a variety of spices and flavours, including vanilla and cinnamon.

The vanilla and cinnamon are the most prominent flavours in Sailor Jerry’s Rum, heavy on the nose as well as the palate. It’s a little dry at the end though, but on the plus side, it has a nice and long finish with a vanilla/toffee sweetness that lingers on wonderfully.

Connor de Git’s Vic And Norman is a “cross between a Trinidad sour and a Mai Tai”, and is a drink he came up with to bring out the spice flavours in the rum. It stays true to the tiki origins of the mai tai and the Carribean spirit of the rum, with the orgeat syrup, triple sec and lime giving it a very tropical feel while accentuating the vanilla and cinnamon spices in the rum.

40ml Sailor Jerry
10ml Cointreau
20ml lime
10ml housemade orgeat or orgeat syrup
5ml rich gomme or 10ml sugar syrup
5ml Angostura Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker, shake well, and strain over ice. Garnish as “tiki” as you want.