When it comes to making cocktails, Rohan Massie believes that this is one craft that luckily is ever-evolving and built on a firm foundation of creativity.
“There are all these different inspirations and creative techniques that I think will never stop evolving,” he said.
Massie is the co-owner of the bar Rude Boy in Hobart, Tasmania and he is also the Oceania representative in next month’s Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge Finals in Trinidad & Tobago.
“I still saw myself as a little Tassie guy on a national scene that perhaps didn’t really have the experience to be doing something like this,” he said of his recent regional win. “I mean it was obviously through a lot of hard work and perseverance that I got to that national final but winning wasn’t something I expected.
“But it was a pretty amazing moment. I was left a bit gobsmacked for the rest of the night.”
Although it might seem contradictory to be making tropical drinks in the colder climate of Tasmania, Massie says that the bar scene in the state is quickly evolving, mainly through the tourist boom. “We have a lot of smaller bars opposed to volume bars, so the focus is very much on creating great drinks and great service.
Massie won the Oceania finals with his two cocktails, Doctor’s Orders, which he describes as light, fresh and aromatic, and Hidden Perfection, which is much more complex and savoury (recipes below).
He describes the inspiration for Doctor’s Orders as coming from the need to find simple flavours that when combined, went hand-in-hand, as it needed to be able to be replicated anywhere in the world. “When I was looking at Angostura 5 year old particularly,” he explained, “I saw those great banana notes and wanted to build flavours around them. Bananas and strawberries go really well.
“And then those clove and anise notes of the basil pairing beautifully with them, while the mandarin lengthens and provides those florals. So it fits into a tiki format with perhaps flavours that possibly weren’t available at that stage”.
And then with Hidden Perfection, Massie wanted to create something that was a bit more complex, both in flavour and technique. “I came across sweet was a Heston Blumenthal flavour combination of banana and parsley. The top notes in Amaro di Angostura, cherry liqueur-ish and cinnamon and all those to me go with banana.
“So then to incorporate some techniques into that, I made banana water and fermented that out to make a sort of sparkling wine. And highlighting the earthy tones of the Amaro di Angostura is a beetroot soda which is sweetened with a touch of lactose and glucose to give it both texture and a creamy sort of mouthfeel. And then tying all that together with the Angostura Orange Bitters.”
While the cocktail he presents at the global finals is now set in stone, he believes that his greatest challenge will be refining his presentation skills. Although he says that he is going to approach the finals like a job interview, Massie believes that he is lucky that Angostura has such variety in its portfolio.
“With Angostura, you’re not just working with a single spirit as you are with many other brands. You have the rums but you also have the Amaro and the Bitters, so there is such a varied range of ingredients and inspirations.
“Coming from a rum bar environment, I really felt there was a natural affinity,” said Massie. “I wouldn’t describe Rude Boy as Tiki but rather as having a more tropical theme. We are a lot lighter and more open. I would say that our cocktails list tends to sway more towards the Cuban style; it tends to be fruitful, without the huge flare of tiki drinks.”
Hopefully, that feeling of openness is what they will be looking for as Massie competes on the world stage against eight other global regions next month.
50ml Angostura® 5-Year-Old Rum
10 basil leaves
20ml strawberry cordial
40ml mandarin juice
30ml coconut milk
5ml fresh lime juice
2 dashes ANGOSTURA® orange bitters
Add all ingredients to shaker. Top with cubed ice. Short shake for 5 seconds. Double strain over crushed ice in pearl diver glass.
Garnish with fresh basil sprigs and freeze-dried mandarin segments
The original inspiration for this creation was based on a conversation about simplicity and technique I had at old mate’s place in Sydney. This cocktail was designed to have all the things I want in a rum cocktail; freshness, texture and balance. Using simple flavours creatively paired and classic technique can produce cocktails that tick all the boxes without the need for a centrifuge, a rotavapor or any other fancy bar equipment. Cocktails like these are the ones that anyone can produce around the world, these are the cocktails that stand the test of time.
30ml Amaro di Angostura®
60ml banana wine
20ml beetroot soda
2 dashes parsley tincture
2 dashes ANGOSTURA® orange bitters
Keep all ingredients in the fridge except for bitters and tincture. Combine ingredients in Pinot Noir wine glass over ice sphere Stir briefly
Garnish with dehydrated beetroot crisp
Dr Siegert (founder of Angostura) took ingredients that people didn’t necessarily understand from a flavour perspective and created what would become one of the most widely used cocktail ingredients in the world. This cocktail is the product of a wide-ranging search for weird and wonderful flavour pairings and being able to tailor and develop these to blend with Amaro di Angostura®.