If you think cocktails are cool but expensive, a £15,000 one will go right to your head...
Sheffield cocktail meister Frankie Rush is famed for creating an eye-wateringly expensive drink for top jeweller Theo Fennell.
Its contents? Champagne, strawberries and lychees – and a tourmaline cocktail ring as garnish.
“We actually sold one. A chap bought it for his wife” says Frankie, who was working for the cocktail bar at Manchester’s ritzy Harvey Nichols store.
He took the job instead of becoming a primary school teacher and has no regrets; he learned the art of cocktail-making under Jamie Stephenson, then a world champion.
“He taught me how to make all the classics and to create my own, which is a bit like cooking; you use your sense of taste and knowledge of how flavours work together,” says Frankie, now group operations director of a company which owns The Wick At Both Ends on West Street and The Harley on Glossop Road and runs the Tramlines festival.
The laid-back Wick is far removed from glossy cocktail lounge decor. Yet 30 per cent of its trade is cocktails and the menu runs to 50.
“I spent years in those glitzy places; I wanted to serve them in a different environment,” says Frankie.
His inventions contain many a kitchen staple; herbs, balsamic vinegar and breakfast preserves, for instance.
He makes me a Hansel, a warming, sweet and spicy combination which starts with two teaspoons of strawberry jam. Rhubarb liqueur and ginger syrup are added, with Bombay Sapphire gin, cranberry and lemon juice. A fresh pansy sits atop. “I built it around a flavour profile,” he says. “I wanted that gingerbread taste.”
The basic cocktail must contain three ingredients but some of Frankie’s run to seven. “When creating a new drink you have to get the right sweet and sour balance and the right strength,” says the man most proud of a cucumber and elderflower margarita and his Johnnie Be Good, a cooler made from a smoky Johnnie Walker, passion fruit and pineapple.
But things don’t always work out, he admits: “I tried beef stock with rum and rhubarb marmalade. I was the only one who liked it.”
Most customers are women. Men probably shy away from tacky names like Sex On The Beach, he reckons.
The Wicks’ are far wittier.
So are the descriptions: “Think rolling cheese down hills, virgins in meadows and vicars on bikes. As English as Michael Winner,” it says of the £5 Sloe Down Dear.
Cucumber and Elderflower Margarita:
5mm slice of cucumber
35ml Blanco Tequila (or gin)
15ml St Germain Elderflower Liqueur
Juice of 1/2 a lime and 1/4 a lemon
15ml elderflower cordial
Peel, dice and crush the cucumber in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add all other ingredients and fill to the top with cubed ice. Attach the top. Shake well.
Strain through a tea strainer into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a cucumber slice.