- interview by Sara Gorelick
Sara spoke with Manuel Terron, the Global Brand Ambassador for Midori. Manuel was at Tales of the Cocktail showcasing Midori with fresh juices at the Midori Farmer's Market at the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Manuel is a leading bartender from Australia and has worked in the industry for over 25 years. He has worked all over the world, educating fellow bartenders and is also the Group Bars Manager for The Keystone Group in Australia.
Can you explain your role with Midori?
In my role as Midori Global Brand Ambassador, I follow my passion for mixology by traveling the world creating cocktails and teaching others about Midori, sharing my knowledge with accounts and mentoring bartenders on how to utilize this balanced, refreshing melon liqueur and more.
What is the cocktail culture like in Australia?
Fortunately the cocktail culture in Australia is thriving, as can be seen from the international acclaim many of the bars and bartenders are receiving, especially in the last five years. One of the key factors to the growth of cocktails in the country has come from overseas bartenders that have moved here or locals who have returned with experience and knowledge. Another would be the vast selection of fresh ingredients available seasonally that cover so many different cuisines, a reflection of the country's multi-culturalism.
Who are your biggest influences?
I can honestly say that my early years in the business were more influenced by early TV chefs like Paul Bocuse or Keith Floyd, who would enjoy wine while filming. Along with my mum, they instilled a love of food, flavor, textures and balance that I found came to fruition in a more immediate forum of mixology.
What do you like best about Midori? How does it stand out from other liqueurs?
Midori stands out from other liqueurs first and foremost because of the natural, quality melon taste it brings to any cocktail. Its signature fresh melon flavor actually comes from two different premium Japanese melons (Musk Melon and Japanese Cantaloupe). This, along with the touch of premium French brandy in every bottle, creates a liqueur that possesses a rich aroma and superior mixability. Its versatility is also a key component in what sets it apart from other liqueurs. It brings out the best qualities in spirits like vodka, gin and rum and even dark spirits like bourbons and whiskeys.
You have had quite a career, what are some of the highlights?
There have been quite a few highlights. Probably the one that I love to tell is the night I got to take care of Stevie Wonder and his entourage. At one point he asked me who was playing Jazz, so I told him about our in-house trio and promptly headed towards the bar then suddenly heard a very recognizable harmonica playing with the band. Stevie had decided to do an impromptu jam session with the band... amazing experience for everybody there.
What do you see trending in the Australian cocktail scene, and what do you think will be the next big thing?
Classics have become quite a mainstay in the Australian scene just like the rest of the world with developed cocktail cultures, where drinks like the Negroni and Old Fashioned have become quite common. The next big move I think will come from using fresh ingredients, combinations of freshly pressed juices and herbs with a focus on beneficial qualities. Taking advantage of the vibrancy from fresh pressed apple juice or stunning color and texture from beetroot. Juicers are making their way into many cocktail focused bars and now even cold press juicers are the next big flavor driven option.
What is your favorite way to drink Midori?
There is one drink that I love to make at seminars, which I really created exclusively around the style of cocktail I prefer, strong and neat. The Midtown Muse combines Yamazaki whiskey, Midori and vanilla liqueur with a few dashes of Angostura bitters stirred down and served up in a chilled cocktail glass with a flamed orange zest. It's elegant yet emphasizes the intensity of the whiskey, exudes delicate melon richness without being sweet and has spiced tones but ends with a long, clean finish.
You've been working behind the bar for 25 years, what are some of the biggest changes you've seen?
The biggest change that has affected the whole bartending world has probably been the perception of the job. Bartending is now a career again, and is a respected trade. The expectations of customers has increased, creating the need for the level of expertise to rise. The move to classic drinks and referencing antiquated information has given the industry a solid foundation on which to build a global movement that grows in leaps and bounds. It now seems difficult to just be passing through this business without taking some stock in the need to learn a decent repertoire of cocktails and have that bar sensibility at play that allows you to be a cocktail bartender.
How do you encourage consumers to drink Midori?
I encourage consumers to really explore the versatility and mixability of the liquid in new and interesting ways. It mixes so well with such a wide array of spirits that there's a Midori cocktail out there to suit virtually every palate. I recommend consumers try it with their go-to spirit of choice along with their favorite fresh pressed juice to create an easy to make, unique and refreshing cocktail perfectly suited to the flavors they already love, but enhanced with fresh melon flavor.