World Cocktail Day and World Whisky Day are just around the corner on May 13 and May 20 respectively. While decades ago the two events may not have had much in common, whisky has entered a new era of appreciation.
Cocktail sales have been booming in Australia since lockdowns ended, as consumers seek affordable luxuries in the on-premise. Meanwhile, global exports of Scotch Whisky surpassed £6billion for the first time in 2022. Fuelling that growth is an increasing appetite for whisky cocktails and highballs.
The spirit has moved beyond being something that must be stuffily sipped. As Punch notes: “Despite the unwavering beliefs of certain cigar-smoking, sporting gentlemen, Scotch is made for drinking how you like it. For some, that means topping it with soda, like Coke or ginger ale; for others, it means adding a hefty measure of water; for others still, it might mean mixing it in a cocktail.”
Award-winning Australian bartender Tim Philips-Johansson has more than 20 years’ experience in the industry. The Melbourne native founded Bulletin Place, a four-time Australian cocktail bar of the year and five-time World’s Best 50 Bars entrant. He was also the Diageo World Class Global Winner in 2012.
Now, as Johnnie Walker’s Global Brand Ambassador, Philips-Johansson is on a mission to inspire consumers to enjoy Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky and he says whisky cocktails play an important role in that journey.
Drinks Digest asked him for his tips on everything from emerging trends to his favour drams and cocktails.
What are the hottest trends emerging in cocktails in 2023?
It is less of a trend and more of a movement – bartenders are giving much more credence to the quality of every ingredient that goes in their drinks. This manifests in the quality of the spirits they choose, the provenance of their ingredients and the utilisation of every part of that ingredient.
Conscious consumption means consumers and bartenders are premiumising their cocktail offerings with the aim of helping consumers drink less, but drink better.
Whisky is becoming increasingly popular as an ingredient in cocktails – what are your tips for using it successfully?
I truly believe no spirit offers more versatility than blended Scotch Whisky, and Johnnie Walker Black Label in cocktails is a particularly good example of this. The natural range of flavour that is evident in blended Scotch allows bartenders to create serves contrasting peat, spice and malt character, whilst giving them the opportunity to elevate floral, fresh and maritime character in drinks.
My suggestion is to think outside the box and experiment with blended Scotch in classic cocktails that would normally call for American whiskey. Drinks like a Julep, an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan.
You’ll be shocked at how versatile and delicious these simple tweaks can be.
But make sure to have fun! Scotch is for everyone. One person’s ‘dark plum’ is another’s ‘autumnal fig’. Flavour notes are subjective, so have fun with the flavours of the whisky. The spirit category of Scotch is one of the few in which calling a spirit, ‘iodine-y’ can be virtuous. Get creative as there are no wrong answers.
What is your favourite Johnnie Walker whisky sip as a dram and which one do you prefer in cocktail?
It depends on who’s paying, but the rarest sight in my house is generally a full bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label. Johnnie Walker whiskies are designed to be versatile and we love people to enjoy them in whichever way they want but Black Label is always my go-to for neat, cocktails or highball moments.
The amazing flavours can be enjoyed in so many different ways and we love seeing people experimenting with our whiskies.
How is the Australian whisky consumer evolving?
Thank goodness it’s not just an old white dude’s thing anymore. Today’s Scotch drinker is anyone with a mouth of legal age. Scotch is made to be enjoyed. Whether that’s in a cocktail, highball or simply neat.
Today’s consumers – in Australia and around the world – are having fun with playing with temperature, flavoured ice, bold cocktails and effervescent highballs. The world is your oyster!