Here’s the beauty in three ingredient drinks (and how to wring complexity from them)

Get Shay Chamberlain's in-season riff on the Gimlet.


Bartenders can win an all-expenses trip to McLaren Vale, complete with helicopter rides and more, by registering for the Step Into The Never Never cocktail competition — click here for more info.

Doing the simple thing doesn’t mean it’s easy. Cocktails today are quite advanced: avant-garde concepts, with ferments, savoury ingredients, carbonation rigs and acid adjusters now part of the bartender toolkit. There’s a whole lab of gear and some intricate technique to be found in modern cocktailing.

But then again, some of the most popular drinks — the ones we find in bars in our cities and towns and across the globe — are considerably simpler in construction, cocktailing in its purest form, and often including just a trio of ingredients.

“Three ingredient cocktails, they’re the ones we’re still drinking hundreds of years after [they were created],” says Shay Chamberlain. “We’re still going to be drinking them. Negronis, Martinis, some of the greats came about that way.”

Shay is the brand ambassador for Never never Distilling Co. (you may remember her from such stories as this one on making a perfect G&T) and she worked the bar at Bulletin Place in Sydney during the height of its award-winning, world-beating run. The bar was a regular fixture of the World’s 50 Best Bars list in its time, and the reason why is that they pioneered a distinctly Australian style of both hospitality, but cocktails too. The drinks were about fresh fruit flavour and quality spirits, the menu changing for each service depending on what was best at the markets that week.

Which is all to say that Shay knows a thing or two about creating complex and satisfying cocktails from simple formulations.

Shay shares her tips for a top three ingredient cocktail. Video: Boothby

In the video here, Shay pulls together a riff on the Gimlet, with some fresh, in-season mandarin providing the inspiration. She presses a a quarter of a mandarin - peel still on — in a shaker tin and adds 15ml of sugar syrup for an instant citrus cordial, 50ml of Never Never Distilling Co. Triple Juniper Gin, 20ml lemon juice, and shakes it all up with some ice, creating a complex drink from a reasonably simple process (and deliciousness along the way).

Where does that complexity come from? Shay is working with the ingredients rather than against them. There’s bitterness from the pith and oils from the skin of the mandarin; the lemon juice bumps up the acid which is often lacking in ripe mandarins. And of course, there’s the complexity from the gin itself.

It’s an approach worth studying for anyone entering this year’s Step Into The Never Never Cocktail Competition, as creating a three ingredient cocktail is one half of the brief.

“What we want to do is, we’re encouraging and pushing you and challenging you to be creative with less ingredients,” Shay says.

“Obviously the gin is going to be the star. But you can really [create] complexity with fewer ingredients and strike that balance there rather than, you know, pushing boundaries and doing crazy, technical cocktails. You can still do [that] if you want to — it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better drink.”

Get the recipe below and check out the video for more advice from Shay.

Bartenders can win an all-expenses trip to McLaren Vale, complete with helicopter rides and more, by registering for the Step Into The Never Never cocktail competition — click here for more info.

Registrations for Step Into The Never Never are open now and close June 28th. The competition consists of two challenges: the first, The Gin For Your Tonic, challenges you to create a gin and tonic or sonic serve that best showcases Triple Juniper, Ginache or Oyster Shell Gin.

The second challenge, Cause A Stir, challenges you to create a three ingredient cocktail with Triple Juniper Gin, Ginache, or Oyster Shell Gin. Get the full competition details here.

Shay's mandarin riff on the Gimlet. Photo: Boothby
Shay's mandarin riff on the Gimlet. Photo: Boothby

Mandarin Gimlet


  1. 50ml Never Never Distilling Co. Triple Juniper Gin
  2. 20ml lemon juice
  3. 1 mandarin quarter (peel on)
  4. 15ml sugar syrup


  1. Press the mandarin with the sugar syrup to make a cordial in the tin.
  2. Add the lemon juice and gin.
  3. Shake all ingredients hard with ice until frosty.
  4. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a mandarin segment.
Breaking down the way to a perfect Gin & Tonic with Shay Chamberlain
How to get it right when so many get it wrong.
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