The Frog’s Hollow Saloon bartender is serving up theatrics, refreshment and more.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve begun to see the next generation of creative and passionate bartenders staking their claims to great drinks. One of the names that regularly pops up is this one: Martin McConnell.
Martin has landed in the top 10 of the 2023 Patrón Perfectionists cocktail competition for a second time this year, with his drink, the Neapolitan Way.
Below, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, Martin talks about his love for Naples, steps us through his recipe, and explains just what a gazzosa is.
Sam Bygrave: Tell us about your drink, what’s the name of the drink and what’s the big idea behind it?
Martin McConnell: This one’s called The Neapolitan Way. The idea for this round was to link the Paloma to your favourite city. So I just — very luckily — did a little Euro whip-round in summer, as you do.
Just a little whip around.
Yeah, just as you do. That was really fun. My girlfriend and I went across to Italy and Naples was a real standout. My serve was introducing little bits and bobs of what we saw there, and bringing that into that whole Paloma DNA.
What is it about Naples that you really like? Why were you drawn to that idea?
It was a really interesting hustle and bustle. And we were in the Spanish Quarter, I’d read it was a super authentic look at Italian life. And we’d gone from Rome straight into Naples. And it was just like, wow, this is insane. Like super tight alleys, you’ve got all the Vespers going past you, street vendors. It’s like an explosive kind of shock to the system of everything.
That was a real standout and the food and the drinks are amazing as well.
Can you walk us through the recipe for us? What have you got in this drink?
So obviously Patrón Reposado. Then you had to make a cordial, that was the base. So I did a fig and grapefruit Vincotto. Vincotto is like a classic Italian style agrodolce. It’s like a sweet and sour syrup. And then soda water, made that a little bit more fizzy than normal at 60 PSI.
Topped that with a bergamot granita. So bergamot is an Italian citrus. And then as a bit of a fun kind of side piece as well, it was served with a grapefruit and Earl Grey gazzosa. Gazzosa is just an Italian word for soda. But in Naples, they do this funny little thing, which is on their water stands they have, fresh lemon juice, a little bit of soda, and then bicarb soda. And then it like explodes and erupts and you have to do this slide backwards and drink it, and it becomes this really funny little ritual that’s kind of a like a refreshment and an aperitivo and the whole shebang.
You strike me as a curious kind of person, someone who’s trying to work things out.
Or you just like puzzles?
Oh, mate, I’ve got a Sudoku book lately. Good fun, very good fun. Yeah, I enjoy the challenge of [making drinks for comps] and meeting people and, yeah, seeing how other people approach the similar task is always good, yeah.
Why do you do what you do? What gets you out of bed every morning and gets you into the bar?
I enjoy interacting with people. I think if you are working in any kind of service industry and you didn’t say that off the bat, you’d probably be doing the wrong thing. That’s the main thing — I enjoy interacting with people and I like being creative and it’s a pretty unique opportunity to do those two things together.
The Neapolitan Way
- 40ml PATRÓN Reposado
- 45lml grapefruit & fig vincotto
- 50ml soda at 60psi
Built in glass, add cubed ice, then top with shaved bergamot granita cap.
Serve with a grapefruit and Earl Grey gazzosa.
For the grapefruit and early grey gazzosa:
- 30ml Freshly Squeezed Grapefruit Juice
- 5ml Earl Grey Tea Syrup
- 30ml Sparkling Mineral Water
- Half teaspoon of Bicarbonate Soda
Build all ingredients in small cup, and just before consuming, add the bicarb soda into the drink. Consume prontissimo!
For the earl grey tea syrup:
- 2 Earl Grey Tea Bags
- 250ml Boiling Water
- 250g Caster Sugar
Steep tea bags in boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove bags and add caster sugar. Stir, bottle and refrigerate.
For the bergamot granita:
- 30ml Bergamot Juice
- 500ml Water
- 30g Caster Sugar
Add all ingredients in a rectangular container and place in the freezer. Allow to fully freeze (24-48 hours), and use your raspador (Mexican ice shaver) to shave the ice. Store in freezer.