During Mace on Tour, Nico de Soto, co-owner and executive bartender at Mace NYC was behind the bar at PS40 in Sydney serving his travel-inspired, spice-driven cocktails. We caught up with Nico to learn about Mace and how he devises the spice-inspired cocktail list.
The menu at Mace is an original collection of twelve drinks. Each cocktail is named after a spice which is depicted in a colourful illustration along with a flavour profile descriptor, preparation method and spice origin.
But don’t expect the cocktails to taste exactly like their namesakes. For example, Curry Leaves may be inspired by India but it is a stirred drink with coconut fat-washed rum, Cynar, sweet vermouth, curry leaf bitters, cooked sous vide with pandan leaves.
When it comes to devising the cocktails, Nico chooses the concept first, working with a flavour combination then bringing the spice into the mix. “I rarely choose the spice first,” Nico de Soto explains. The flavours are inspired by his extensive travels around the world. He has visited over 71 countries and turns that inspiration into a unique drink and flavour concept.
“I try to bring those flavours into a drink. On our menu, there is only one type of spirit per drink. So there won’t be two aquavit or two gins. I’ve got to a point where I don’t really do a simple drink any more. I always feel lazy if I use a traditional syrup and that is horrible because before, there would always be one or two drinks and now I really have to work harder but that’s a good thing.”
He has worked with several unusual ingredients and cites Roquefort bitters, amaranth bitters, tobacco extract, mushroom, shiitake and porcini among others. “I’m now using chick pea water. But it can be more vegetal like snap peas.”
Of the most unusual drinks on the menu is Sage, a vodka-based twist on a Dirty Martini. He uses sage-infused vodka, shiitake mushroom brine instead of olive brine, sherry infused with moss in place of vermouth, reindeer lichen, birch water, oak and edible moss. “I wanted to bring all the wood out of the drink.”
From his extensive and enviable travels, Nico shares the cocktail trends he’s encountered. “Right now, and I love it, it’s the clarified milk punch. I started doing it in 2010 and I do not know why no one was following me. Now in every bar, not so much here [Sydney] but especially in France and New York, it’s on trend. Lower alcohol is another trend and you can see that at This Must Be the Place. Carbonated cocktails and batched cocktail are also popular. Mezcal is quite trendy.”
As for the next trend we can expect, “I think Aquavit will be next”.
More on the Mace X PS40 cocktails here.
Photo by Cocktails & Bars taken at PS40 Sydney – © Copyright: All rights reserved.