Is your cocktail lost in translation? It’s time to keep it real says Hayley Dixon

Hayley Dixon, tequila specialist for Proximo Australia. Photo: Reece McMillan.

Anyone who has ever tried to do their own tax return, or assemble flat-packed furniture, will know that life is confusing enough already. The last thing punters need is a bartender making life even more confusing with a drink that needs its own decoder.

Hayley Dixon, Proximo Australia’s Tequila Specialist, who has been slinging drinks on the bar scene since she was legally able to, practices what she preaches; making simple, seasonal drinks with intention behind every ingredient. “Add correct temperature and attention to dilution and you have yourself a perfect drink,” she says.

And simplicity is one of the trends that she’s loving when it comes to cocktail menus. “Recently I’ve seen more and more bars listing flavours, instead of in-depth descriptions of each element. It makes for a much more pleasant drinking experience,” she says.

Dixon reiterates that drinks should be more about what the customer wants rather than the extremes of the technical ability of the bar.

Platano Sucio
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Platano Sucio

  1. Pre-batch all the ingredients together in a container, pour in milk and leave overnight to clarify and separate.
  2. Strain out the milk and serve in a double rocks glass over block ice.
  3. Garnish with candied banana and a rum float.

While there has also been a lot of buzz lately around low ABV and healthier serves, Dixon is loving the new, richer flavours popping up on cocktail menus around the country.

“At our recent 1800 Tequila House Swaps, I saw more decadence,” she says. “Each of the teams showcased just how versatile tequila can be, especially when you just want to indulge a little.

“One of the teams served up a Batanga with an ice-cream float, another produced an Orange-coco-frappachino, and we even got creaming soda topped Palomas.” 

Dixon also says the 1980s are back in a big way, and not just Tiger sneakers and Bananarama. Previously uncool classic 80s drinks are regularly appearing on bar menus.

“I have seen multiple twists on the Grasshopper, Tequila Sunrise, Long Island, Pina Colada and anything blue. In fact, the bluer the better,” she laughs. “And with the techniques, equipment and bartender skill around today, I’m totally OK with heading back a few decades.” 

El Cucaracha
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El Cucaracha

  1. Freeze a coupe glass.
  2. Run chocolate sauce down one side of the glass and return to the freezer.
  3. Shake all ingredients together, then double strain into the garnished, frozen coupe.

With Mexico’s Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) almost upon us, these 80s cocktails make an ideal accompaniment, especially those featuring tequila.   

And when it comes to tequila, Dixon really knows her stuff. “Jose Cuervo operates as the largest tequila company in the world, so we don’t fall into that ‘small artisanal’ category that a lot of the smaller bars around Australia look for,” she says. “We don’t chase that image or try to be something we are not, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have exceptional tequilas in our portfolio. 

“Gran Centenario, Jose Cuervo Platino and Jose Cuervo Reserva De La Familia are some of the most highly regarded and awarded tequilas in the world, and rightfully so,” she adds.

“The big one though is our Jose Cuervo Tradicional. It is increasingly becoming a favourite in masterclasses and I love blind tasting it with bartenders up against their current speed rail pour because nine times out of 10, it wins. It’s crisp, clean and herbaceous and a true example of a well-made lowland tequila.”

And what will Dixon’s tipple be when celebrating Day of the Dead? These simple tweaks on 80s classics.

Sunset Strip
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Sunset Strip

  1. Press one side of a chilled highball glass in to freeze-dried raspberry powder and set aside.
  2. Shake all ingredients, except the soda, with ice.
  3. Strain into the prepared highball and top with soda.
  4. Garnish with a preserved cherry.
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