Cocktail masterclasses at Harvey Nichols, Leeds

PUBLISHED: 19:49 09 December 2015 | UPDATED: 19:49 09 December 2015

Bartender Ben Stayman in the Fourth Floor Restaurant bar at  Harvey Nichols, Leeds

Bartender Ben Stayman in the Fourth Floor Restaurant bar at Harvey Nichols, Leeds


If there was ever a drink created to make you feel special it has to be the cocktail and there seems to be one for every occasion with almost every sparkling ingredient. ‘Cocktails have changed so much in the past few years,’ said Ben Stayman, bartender at the Fourth Floor Restaurant at Harvey Nichols, Leeds. Ask him what’s new and the list could run and run. ‘Cocktails have changed and evolved so much,’ said Ben. ‘There are so many combinations and twists on old classics, old favourites. Everyone enjoys a cocktail today, not just an exclusive few. I think it is because people know so much more, they are better educated about food and drink in general.’

Ben uses a fine strainer as he prepares a ChrismopolitanBen uses a fine strainer as he prepares a Chrismopolitan

It’s this thirst for knowledge (forgive the unintended pun) that persuaded Harvey Nichols to introduce cocktail masterclasses which explore the basic rules of cocktail making, ingredient combinations and demonstrate how to make and shake signature cocktails. Their food market on the fourth floor also has a choice of beginners’ kits and cocktail making equipment. And don’t hesitate to ask the store experts for help when choosing the best spirit for your cocktail.

I did remember to ask Ben the difference between a cocktail that is shaken and one that is stirred. His explanation went something like this (although a candy cane garnish did turn my head at the time so this could be slightly awry): stirring is ideal for delicate cocktails, breaks less ice and so the drink is less diluted. Shaking is best for mixing heavier cocktail ingredients and will break more ice adding more water to balance the drink. I think that makes sense but a masterclass could be in order. Meanwhile here are some recipes to try at home along with top tips from assistant manager Audrey Colombet. Cheers!

A final stir for Cointreau Pear and Cinnamon FizzA final stir for Cointreau Pear and Cinnamon Fizz

Top tips for cocktail making at home

Use your senses

Sight: Invest in good cocktail glasses such as martini glasses. The first impression is always the lasting one. Be sure to make good use of your garnish.

Smell: Incorporate a garnish into your cocktail, like we have with the cinnamon stick. This enhances the experience and adds another dimension to the drink. We always twist above the drink and wipe the side of the glass with orange, lemon or lime zest to incorporate the oils naturally present in the fruits.

Taste: A good balance is key (except when the cocktail is meant to be sour). The acidity (lemon or lime juice) should match the sweetness (sugar syrup, liqueurs) Vodka and whiskey tend to work well will lemon Gin, tequila and rum work well with lime

Always buy good quality spirits and liqueurs and don’t hesitate to ask for help to select the best spirit for your cocktail.

Make your own syrups

Be creative with your cocktails and make your own syrups

To make gingerbread syrup combine 250ml water, 500g sugar, 50g fresh chopped ginger, two-three sticks of cinnamon and two vanilla pods in a saucepan. Make sure the pan is not too small or the mixture might bubble over. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Fine strain the syrup into a bottle and store in the fridge.

Use the same method for the following syrups:

For vanilla syrup add a vanilla pod to your mix (you can also add this to coffees).

For Christmas-style syrup add cinnamon, cloves and orange peel.

Hangover remedies

Had too many marvellous cocktails? Try this remedy full of goodness and vitamins and guaranteed to ease that hangover

Hangover solver

Mix grapefruit juice, fresh lemon juice, grenadine and soda water

Shake in a mixer vigorously

Pour into a tall glass over ice

Super Juice

Mix pomegranate juice, jasmine tea, lavender syrup

Shake in a mixer vigorously

Pour into a tall glass over ice

For more information about Harvey Nichols cocktail menu and future cocktail masterclasses go to

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