3 years ago

Crossover cocktails: Twist and Shout

Do you want to know more about what a crossover is? Are you ready to twist and make your clients shout? Learn with Simon Kistenfeger, Global Brand Ambassador of Altos.

n terms of beverages, I’d define crossover as giving your standard cocktail a fun twist. This often involves the integration of various regional, national, and international ingredients, as well as variations in the preparation—either looking for synergies within the drink or taking it in the complete opposite direction.

"Basically you put an enjoyable spin on your classic. This can range from a couple of bitters to adding a touch of local, seasonal fruits, herbs or vegetables".

It is a fusion of different cultures. There are no proper rules as long as it tastes good. The art of the crossover style is to understand the common ingredients of a country’s culture and to combine these typical elements together in new ways. 

My favorite spirits are without a doubt from Latin America. I have had many a love affair with pisco, cachaca, and of course: tequila! It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to create these spirits. 

Tequila: the best option for crossover cocktails

Today, we will focus on crossover cocktails made with tequila, and you’ll see why it is such a great option for crossovers. 

Long story short: Tequila and cocktails truly buddy up. Sipping a good tequila straight in a sexy snifter glass is a truly delightful experience; but if you find the right tequila cocktail, it’s hard to go back to any other way of drinking it.

I am lucky enough to have had the chance to travel and experience different bar cultures in more than 80 countries. I have seen a certain harmony that using tequila can bring to many drinks. 

“Tequila drinks are appearing on more and more drink menus around the world for a reason. I do say they are an essential part of the bar world.

Guests have become educated about 100% agave spirits, which helps the industry in terms of focusing on quality brands. Replacing the main spirit in your classic cocktail with tequila will give your drink a new finish if you choose the right product.

Amazing twists offering a surprise finish

Basil Smash cocktail + Tommy’s Margarita = Tommy’s Basil Smash

One of my favorite fusions is made by combining the refreshing Basil Smash cocktail invented by Jörg Meyer from Germany and the Tommy’s Margarita, created by none other than Mr. Julio Bermejo. I would not necessarily replace a white spirit with an aged one. That’s why we replace the traditional gin of the Basil Smash with a Highland tequila (which is a bit sweeter and more citrus forward, allowing the herb to shine in the drink). We also switch the sugar syrup for agave syrup and end up with an unbeatable combination. The result is a great homage to these two industry legends, so we call it Tommy’s Basil Smash.

Can you make a cocktail with mint but not a mojito?

Crossover is something we bartenders do during almost every shift when a guest requests a special, customized, drink. We begin by asking what style of drink the guest likes, which spirit, or what their favorite cocktails are. Often we get answers like: “Can you make me something with mint but not a mojito?” In that case, a simple crossover twist could be the answer. Try replacing the rum with tequila. Maybe add a dash of chili bitter to highlight the Mexican touch. Voilà: you have a tasty crossover cocktail.

Homemade Sparkling White Wine Sangria with Peaches and Raspberries

Here’s another idea: If you are hosting an outdoor party, an easy way to entertain guests would be offering a sangria, which is actually my go-to drink for warm weather.

This is a great option for a smooth evening without the hassle and hustle of shaking drinks all the time. Just put a big chunk of ice in a pitcher and add this beautiful combination of ingredients for a white sangria: 

“Combine Altos tequila, a fruity white wine, peach liqueur, agave syrup, some tasty season fruit, grape juice, ginger ale and soda water. This easy drink will keep tour guests asking for more! It's sunshine in every sip!

Classic cocktails with an unexpected finish

I am a fan of classic cocktails. Sure, we want to be innovative but we often forget our roots in the form of classic drinks. They are simple, tasty, and uncomplicated. Why not just vary the finish? 

Tart citrus fruits pair amazingly well with the fresher Highland tequilas, for example. Or use a valley tequila in a Negroni. Further, you could infuse the tequila with hibiscus to really showcase the typical elements of Mexico. You will be amazed by how one or two simple steps can really enhance your drinks.

Better Together, a twist of French 75  

Of course, more elaborate twists are possible in the world of crossover drinks as well. Have a look at one of my creations, which I named Better Together.

The idea was to combine ingredients from different countries into one of my favorite “good mood” drinks.  It is a twist on the delicious French 75. I combined ALTOS reposado, a touch of Aperol, a homemade vanilla, Earl Grey tea syrup, fresh lemon juice, and topped it with champagne.

I have served this drink all over the world during different guest bartending gigs and the results are always the same. It is a mood enhancer and often my guests stay all night at the bar where we serve it, even if their original plan was to have just one quick drink. 

Simon’s personal guidelines on crossover cocktails 

1. Don‘t overdo it—balance is key. 

2. Travel often. I get my inspiration from traveling and visiting markets and museums, and attending the concerts of local artists. 

3. One of my secrets when doing crossovers is to use spices in tiny quantities. It can take your cocktail from tasty to phenomenal. 

4. Create opposites in the taste.

5. Try understanding the cuisine and culture of individual countries, recognizing typical elements and then re-combining them behind the bar. A prerequisite for this is to make contact with as many locals as possible.

6. Don’t be afraid. Experiment with many different combinations, such as tequila instead of neutral spirits. Everything is allowed, as long it tastes good. Flavor–and your guest’s experience, of course–is first. 

7. Search your surroundings for the best local fruits. Use them proudly.