We talk to online cocktail curator @theamateurmixologist about how he went from home bartender to Instagram extraordinaire thanks to his perfectly crafted cocktails.
A lack of bartending experience was never going to deter Matt Hollidge – otherwise known as @theamateurmixologist – from pursuing his passion for crafting creative cocktails. “It all started with learning to make the perfect G&T around five years ago,” he says. “I learnt about gin and botanicals, which led me to buy some bitters, some vermouth, and so on – because I love playing with flavours.”
AN ENTERPRISING EDUCATION
Matt’s self-taught approach saw him seek out ways to expand his cocktail repertoire and, having gained the confidence to share his creations on social media, he quickly became a firm favourite for cocktail inspiration on Instagram thanks to his signature style.
“I started posting pictures of my cocktails on social media, and quickly realised that I had to use sight as a way to delight because my followers wouldn’t be able to taste or smell what I was serving up.”
That’s why every square of Matt’s Instagram feed lets the drink take centre stage. He says: “I decided to make the drink the star of every shot and the garnish is such an integral part of that. It’s something that will grab your eye as you’re thumbing through photos and would amaze if you were served it in person.”
And so began an extraordinary journey of discovery that led Matt to where his is today – awarded Home Bartender of the Year in 2019. Scrolling through Matt’s creations is like wandering through an art gallery. And while some of his most ambitious drinks might be tricky to replicate, you can start to add flavour and flair to your cocktails by growing your own garnishes to introduce a pop of colour to your glass. Like Matt, take inspiration from natural botanicals and craft your garnishes into sculptural statements whilst also adding a fragrant burst.
“I’m renowned for impossibly balancing objects on the rims of coupés, which is fun but has also seen me lose a few dearly departed items of glassware. I look for inspiration everywhere, but the majority of the time I just play. I suggest you grab a fruit or vegetable and imagine what shapes and forms you could craft out of it!”
SHARING HIS CRAFT
Although Matt’s built a reputation on crafting conceptual cocktails and sensationally sculptural garnishes, he always strives to come up with accessible recipes that are easy for budding home bartenders to follow. That’s why we’ve partnered with him to share how he perfects his Sipsmith serves, in celebration of our partnership with The Championships, Wimbledon. The result is a series of our classic sips – the Negroni, Gin Rickey, Martini, French 75 and G&T, all with an extravagant garnish to take his serve to the next level (just as the professionals do on court at Wimbledon.)
When asked if he has any advice for aspiring amateur mixologists, he says: “Learn the flavours of your ingredients and treat cocktailing like you would cooking a good meal. Craft and combine the ingredients, experiment and play until you understand the combinations and can riff on those basic principles. When you know the sweet almond-ness (is that a word?) of orgeat syrup, you can pair it in a gin sour with Sipsmith Zesty Orange Gin, because you know that marzipan goes well with Christmas cake, which is packed with orange peel. Then, as you dive deeper, pick out botanicals from the rest of the Sipsmith range and pair those with notes in specific vermouths for that perfect Martini or sensational Negroni.”
One things for sure – Matt’s going to keep experimenting, innovating and pushing the boundaries of craftsmanship – as he says: “If we’re using Wimbledon-speak, then I’m very much the wildcard of the tournament.”
All photography credit: Matt Hollidge @theamateurmixologist