Creative Cocktails At Home

Create delicious cocktails at home with master Mixologist Mattia Poletti

From Manhattans to Mojitos, Mai Tais to Martinis, cocktails are the most versatile, pleasing and ever-popular drink on the menu. TOAST talks to expert bartender and cocktail creator Mattia Poletti about his love for mixing and muddling, and gets his top tips on creating your very own cocktails at home...

Cocktail. Funny word, isn’t it? Moving swiftly on before I make a childish innuendo – did you know that origins of the word are still to this day something of a mystery? 

There are of course several theories floating around, and the one widely considered most likely takes us all the way back to America in the early 19th century, when tavern keepers stored their spirits in casks. When the casks got near empty the dregs, or tailings as they were known then, would be all mixed together in one barrel and sold at a reduced price. The contents would then be poured from the cask spout, which was referred to as the cock, so patrons wanting this cheaper concoction would therefore come in and ask for ‘cock tailings.’

So there you have it. Luckily, the cocktail experience of today is a little more finessed and whether it’s pre dinner, post dinner or simply FOR dinner (ahem) – cocktails are a gloriously versatile treat and more popular than ever the UK.

Although having said that, there are few greater disappointments in life than a BAD cocktail, but luckily at the Olympic Studios in South West London you don’t need to worry about that. The man behind not only the bar but also many of the mouth watering mélanges on the menu is Mattia Poletti who, like many Italians, is wonderfully passionate about what he does.

“While I was doing my bartender course I literally fell in love with making drinks!” Mattia explains.

“For me it was, and still is, about taking different ingredients that maybe individually don’t taste great, and mixing them all together to create something delicious. It’s like magic! I really believe that one nice cocktail can change your day, and make it better.

And I couldn’t agree more - especially if it’s one of Mattia’s creations.  

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After perfecting the art of mixology Mattia has been working at the Olympic for nearly two years; the building itself was once the Olympic Sound Studios, where the likes of likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Who and some band called The Rolling Stones all recorded some of their biggest hits. Now, it is a beautiful, boutique 2-screen cinema, and Mattia splits his time behind the bar between the member’s club upstairs, and the super stylish bar and café/restaurant downstairs. 

The cocktail menu across both floors is innovative, unique and quite frankly delicious, and many of the tempting choices are thanks to Mattia’s endless creativity and boundless enthusiasm.

“I’d say the most popular at the moment is either ‘The Garden Berry Fizz', created by the bar manager Ben Clark, made with gin, raspberries, elderflower, mint and lemon, topped with champagne, or the ‘Margarithyme’, created by me…!” he laughs, “which is an an infusion of chilli, thyme and tequila mixed with pineapple juice.”

This, sounds like an extraordinary and very tempting combination of fresh and interesting flavours and considerably more exciting than your straightforward G&T – but just where does Mattia get his inspiration for these exotic concoctions?

“In my opinion a good bartender takes inspiration from everywhere, from everything around him; a smell, a fruit’s flavour, a vegetable that you’ve always avoided since when you were kid! And then you take all these things, mix them with a spirit and a juice, and just see what happens!!”

So with the Christmas countdown officially on, there is still time to get experimenting and have that delicious cocktail creation nailed by the time you throw your first festive do. Cocktails do always feel like a treat, and delighting your guests with your very own concoction not only demonstrates creativity and effort guaranteed to impress, but it can also be a very fun and rewarding experience too.  

“Making cocktails is always great at a party” explains Mattia. “I think it’s a kind of magic, mixing different ingredients to make something that makes people happy. My greatest satisfaction is when people enjoy what I’m doing - that’s where my passion comes from!”

So, if all this talk of creating cocktails has left you feel inspired (not to mention thirsty), then read on for Mattia’s tops tips for creating your very own cocktail magic at home...

Mattia’s Top Tips for Getting Creative with your Cocktails 

  • Do your research – For inspiration it’s important for a bartender to go and see what different cocktail bars have in their menu, so try different drinks and different places, think about the ingredients that you like and then you can start to build your own cocktail  
  • Keep it simple Don’t mix more than 6 ingredients together, you might ruin it!
  • Think Seasonally – At this time of year think about autumn/winter fruits like pears, blood oranges and grapefruits, and all those dark berries as well. Experiment with pumpkin, chestnut and chocolate, if you like. You want dark colours and intense flavours, and maybe a bit of spice too. And always check the weather outside - if it’s sunny then don't make Hot Toddies!
  • When entertaining – Cocktails are great for parties. I would recommend 2 cocktails per guest, maybe 3 if the cocktail is not too strong!  My Pink Panther is a good one for entertaining  – you can see the recipe over on TheEdit!
  • Think about your guest – When choosing a cocktail think about who you are going to be making it for, and think about what they might like to drink.  
  • Presentation is key - The presentation is half of the job! And if the drink is good too, then jackpot! Match the glass to who is drinking it - I would choose a nice coupette or martini glass for a woman and maybe a tumbler or a highball for a man.
  • Great garnish The garnish is not random, it should be something that reminds you what’s inside the Drink, in order to intensify its flavour - like a mint sprig on the top of a Mojito. Keep it simple!
  • Smile! As I said before, I think it’s a kind of magic, mixing different ingredients to make something that makes people happy! So enjoy it, and mix your cocktails with a smile!

Olympic Cocjtails

Mattia Poletti is a bartender at Olympic Studios, 117-123 Church Rd, London SW13 9HL. A venue perfect for an evening cocktail, film or private event.