If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks.
A signature cocktail is a lot like your own John Hancock—it leaves an indelible mark. Whether defined by its ingredients, taste, color, or garnish, a one-of-a-kind cocktail is a great way to kick off a party with a statement about its tone and purpose. But how does one go about composing the perfect signature drink? Mix yourself a Pink Ink Cocktail and take note. Jonathan Pogash, a nationally renowned mixologist whose original recipes can be sipped in trendy bars and restaurants across America, is sharing his secrets for drafting up a signature cocktail that will underscore your next fête with a flourish.
At The Salonniere, we believe that every party should have a signature cocktail. Why do you think they’re important?
They add a unique and memorable touch to a party. They’re also engaging and promote discussion, which is a great way to help people connect while socializing.
Photo: Style Me Pretty
Where should people start when they’re thinking about creating a signature cocktail for a party?
Think about the party’s theme. Color is important, too. And of course consider your guest of honor and if he or she has an interesting story to tell. When I’m creating cocktails for clients, I always ask them about their likes, dislikes, and personality traits so I can uncover some interesting facts that I can translate into a cocktail.
What are your best tips for creating a signature cocktail for a summertime party?
Keep it simple—don’t over-complicate your recipes. Always use fresh ingredients. Make your own juices and sour mix. And batch your drinks ahead of time to make serving them as easy and stress-free as possible.
Photo: Love Luxe Life
Is there a certain formula that you recommend people follow for creating a signature cocktail?
A specialty cocktail should have no more than four or five ingredients. Begin with a base spirit like vodka or gin. Then add a modifier like a flavored liqueur and a fruit juice and/or a mixer of some kind. And top it off with a statement-making garnish. Don’t forget the little touches, like a drop of bitters or a twist of lemon or lime rubbed around the edge of the glass and dropped into the drink.
What’s the most important thing to remember when creating your own cocktail?
It should have a balance of flavors. Use equal parts of sweet and sour and alcoholic and non-alcoholic components. Keep tweaking the recipe until the taste is right where you want it.
What do you recommend for garnishes?
I like to use fresh herbs from the garden and edible flowers during the summer months and dried fruits during the wintertime.
Are there certain spirits, like vodka, that you recommend for the base spirit because they’re more universally liked?
Vodka is the most neutral spirit, but I like to turn people on to other white spirits like gin and rum. For those accustomed to smoky spirits, Mezcal is wonderful, but it is an acquired taste. The most important thing is to stay away from low-quality spirits. For example, always use 100% blue agave tequila, never mixto tequilas.
Photo: Birmingham Mail
Tell us about one of the more memorable signature cocktails you created for a client?
Recently we were hired to create a signature cocktail for a client’s 50th birthday party. We created a special Old Fashioned with hickory smoke and chocolate mole bitters. It was delicious. The showmanship that went into preparing and mixing it made it a key party moment, too.
What are some hot trends in cocktails right now that we may want to consider as we create our own signature cocktails?
There are two big trends in cocktails: drinks made with smoky ingredients and drinks made using aquafaba, a vegan protein that foams up like an egg white.
Do you have a signature cocktail that you serve at your parties?
All the drinks I create are unique to the parties I host. But, generally speaking, when I’m hosting a party, I like to do specialty punches because they’re easy to batch and taste great.
Photo: Martha Stewart
The Salonniere’s Tips for Creating and Serving Your Signature Cocktail
• Give the drink a name to communicate the party’s theme.
• Offer your signature cocktail to guests as soon as they arrive to set the party’s tone.
• If you’re pressed for time, simply turn your favorite cocktail into a signature drink by adding a fun garnish and renaming it for the night.
• If you’re using a bartender or caterer, taste-test the cocktail after it’s been mixed to make sure it’s to your liking, and let your servers know what’s in the drink in case people ask.
This Story’s Welcome Cocktail
This story’s “welcome cocktail” is comprised of these two classic ingredients:
Photo: Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth
Quote: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)