Inspiration for cocktail competitions comes in many interesting guises but we’ve yet to come across anyone who cites Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ as the source for a refreshing new take on the gin and tonic. Until we spoke to Lee Morris from Dandelyan in London. The Tralfamadorian Literature is his entry for the Bombay Sapphire World’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition. Here he explains how and, most importantly, why…
What was it about the brief that appealed to you?
I guess the lack of rigid rules or a constrictive brief. When a brand allows you complete creative control over their product that’s when you invariably see some special creations.
When and where did you experience your first gin and tonic?
It’s hard to pinpoint the first one but I doubt it was a moment that will belong to the ages. Most likely it occurred as an unenlightened teenager and I probably thought it was bitter and gross. Luckily I’ve seen the error of my ways since then…
What’s your definition of the classic gin and tonic?
The great thing about a gin and tonic, and I suspect one of the reasons why it’s become such a staple in history, is it’s universal replicability. It’s hard to ruin so long as you use decent ingredients and serve it long with a slice of citrus.
And how do you describe your reimagined recipe?
My reimagined recipe aims to challenge people’s expectations of a gin and tonic, particularly with regards to texture and mouthfeel. When most people hear ‘gin and tonic’ they have a set idea in their mind of what that means, i.e. long, refreshing and carbonated, whereas my serve is divided into three parts, each showcasing different and contrasting textures to what is normally expected from a classic gin and tonic. These textures are helped along with bespoke ingredients inspired by each of the botanicals used to make Bombay Sapphire.
What was the inspiration behind your drink?
Strangely enough I drew inspiration from the Kurt Vonnegut novel Slaughterhouse Five. Specifically the alien race he calls Tralfamadorians. The novel is based on the author’s own experiences of witnessing the firebombing of Dresden during the second world war and it follows the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, through these events and his life afterwards (although in a non-linear fashion). The Tralfamadorians abduct Pilgrim later in his life and hold him in a zoo at which point they explain the way they experience literature;
“We Tralfamadorians read them [symbols] all at once, not one after the other. There isn’t any particular relationship between the messages except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful, surprising and deep”
It occurred to me that Bombay Sapphire can be interpreted as a work of Tralfamadorian Literature in this case. Each of the botanicals seem to have no relation to one another other than the fact the author (Ivano/Nick) has chosen them carefully but when seen (or tasted) all at once produce an image of life that is ‘beautiful, surprising and deep’. To echo this, each of the botanicals in Bombay Sapphire are reflected somewhere in the three sections of the whole serve. The reasoning for the three parts are also evident in this. Each representing one of the ‘messages’ that produce the whole.
Who would you like to see drinking it?
I guess anyone that was interested. Obviously I’m under no illusions of this serve becoming a household favourite, being quickly knocked up in the kitchen during house parties etc, but as a tasting experience it is fairly unique. I’d love to have anyone that has an interest in challenging their expectations giving it a try.
One of the entry requirements was to submit an aerial shot/illustration of your cocktail, how much of an impact did this have on your recipe?
The visual aspect of creating a drink is always a great motivation for me. A drink has to look great as well as taste amazing so balancing these two aspects is a great part of the challenge. The idea behind the ariel photographs, specifically, is fantastic.
State which order the inspiration for your cocktail came to you: (a) name of cocktail; (b) image of your cocktail; (c) recipe
C, A, B
What’s the one ingredient that makes your Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic unique?
There are a few special ingredients littered about my serve but one I am particularly pleased with is my Bittered Orgeat syrup, silky almond laced with bitter, woody angelica root.
The theme of the competition is Find Sublime, what does this expression mean to you?
It’s about finding motivation and meaning. You can create a drink for any brand, for any competition but this means discovering what is truly special and unique about Bombay Sapphire and building an exceptional story with/around it.
Complete the following: Bombay Sapphire is…
A world class product made by passionate and talented individuals. Their approach toward maintaining the immediate environment around their distillery is also truly inspirational.