Zesty cocktails, flickering candles, and a hit of chilli. Millie and Lana visit an underground mixology masterclass…
Mixology Group held an exclusive masterclass in the cellars of the Old Ship Hotel. Title Sussex’s very own Millie and Lana went and picked up some cocktail tips and tricks from the Hove based cocktail masters.
Hosted by Mixology master Myles Cunliffe, the group were treated to three cocktails, two of which Myles guided them through the making of. All to the backdrop of the Old Ship Hotel’s historic and intriguing cellar suite.
Lana and Millie share all.
Read about SoberStars, Mixology Group’s alcohol-free classes
What experience cocktail making had you both had before going into this?
L – A little. I used to work at a pub in town, but I only ever made an Aperol Spritz or a Negroni which are quite simple to make. That being said, me and my housemates quite often make amaretto sours together and I’ve had a crack at a pina colada before. I also watch a lot of cocktail videos on TikTok so I was familiar with all the equipment.
M – I had no experience really, other than recipes I had found and tried (unsuccessfully) online. I would definitely call myself a beginner. One of my best friends is a bartender so I have often watched him smash out some lovely drinks, but never been very good at it myself.
What drinks did you make?
M – We made the mixology special ‘Myzo’, which was absolutely lovely. It had an elderflower and vanilla taste, which is such a complimentary combination. It was sweet but with a hint of chili, which I didn’t think I would be keen on, but it was a pleasant surprise. We also made a bramble cocktail, which was the perfect sweet cocktail, with a hint of berries and gin.
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What was your first impression going into the cellars?
L – It was quite creepy at first. Millie and I made our way down, and at first it felt like we were somewhere we didn’t belong because the staircase is at the back and sort of looks like it’s a staff only area of the hotel, after walking through the very traditional plush looking lobby. But once we got down it felt like you had crossed into another realm. It felt very intimate – probably because the ceilings are so low! And oddly cosy, which I wasn’t expecting to feel in a cellar. I thought the stripped brick walls would make it feel quite cold but it was the opposite.
M – The cellars are definitely a hidden gem. When we walked into the hotel, we didn’t really know what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised, to say the least. The room was lit up with candles and it really brought the whole place to life, it was a gorgeous place to make cocktails. A setting a probably wouldn’t have picked before experiencing it myself, but would highly recommend it now.
Which of the drinks would you make if you were on a big night out?
L – Probably the Moscow Mule. I definitely have all the ingredients at home for it already. It’s quite simple to make too. If I’m on a big night out I just want ease rather than shaking and stirring ingredients. On more of a chilled night, maybe dinner and drinks with friends, I’d definitely have a go at making something more sophisticated like the MyZo.
M – I think if I were to go on a big night out, I would make myself the Bramble cocktail. I found it quite easy to make, and I would save the MyZo for a fancier night in, a simple recipe that will impress anyone drinking it. To be honest, I wouldn’t complain about either one, they were both easy to make and really yummy.
What tips and tricks did you learn that you’ll take home with you?
L – We learnt to bash the side of the shaker on the condensation line to release the seal between the two cups which I thought was good to know. I mean, to be honest I probably won’t take that home with me since the shaker we have at home has a lid rather than two cups. But we did learn that to make a balanced cocktail it should be 1 measure of sugar (syrup or cordial), 1 measure of sour (lemon, lime), and 2 measures of alcohol. So that formula is good to remember because then you should be able to whip up a nice drink with whatever ingredients you’ve got kicking about.
M – I learned that you can use pretty much anything with a lid as a cocktail shaker. Personally, I don’t have a cocktail shaker at home, so I’ll use a jar with a screw-on lid to shake them. Apparently, it works quite well! He also said to always use a measure, I think we all assume we can rely on our eyes to measure our ingredients, but does it ever really work? It certainly doesn’t for me.
Which drink surprised you the most?
L – Definitely the MyZo, it had chilli in it and I would almost never order a drink with chillies if I saw it on a cocktail menu. However, I really loved it! I’m usually a sweet and fruity kind of cocktail gal but the chilli with the lemon worked very well.
M – I have to say I loved the chili in the MyZo! I would say to be careful with the amount you put in, I only had a little bit because I’m not very brave but I will be putting a hint of chili in cocktails from now on.
Did you find the mixology harder than you expected?
L – I did struggle to bash the cocktail shaker apart, so I guess that was the most difficult part, and just like pouring the drink out. You have to hold the strainer firmly over the cup, so the ice doesn’t spill out and I had to use two hands to do that. But overall, no, I wouldn’t say it was hard, but I can understand how it takes a lot of practice to finesse the skill.
M – It was a lot easier than I expected! Once you have the ingredients in front of you it was just about mixing them. I would say once you’ve made a couple or a few, you notice the pattern in all the drinks. A lot of the measurements are the same, just with different ingredients. Though I wouldn’t consider myself an expert by any means.
For you, what was the most notable thing about the experience?
L – I think it has to be the cellars. I loved the drinks, but just being in such a historic and unique space really made it for me. Equal parts spooky yet comfortable.
M – For me, it was the company. Myles and Zoe were gracious hosts, and I learnt a lot from the experience. Having great teachers makes all the difference.
Half a lemon
25ml elderflower cordial
50ml Vanilla vodka
2 Slices of chilli
Half a lemon
25ml simple syrup
50ml Brighton Gin
Dash of Crème de mûre