Conversations

Take a Gin Trip with Mixologist Kath Cornista

May 3, 2020

Admit it, when it comes to drinking around the occasionally swanky Metro Manila, which now glows partially from the light of neon bar signs in practically every side street, it has become difficult to overlook the man behind the bar. Especially as we are being excessively fed with food knowledge thanks to our very omniscient source of information—Instagram—we now pay keen attention to the gentleman about to serve the evening’s poison; his list of credentials shuffling through our heads as if preparing for an interview. BUT, in this case, the person in front is a woman. With 16 years of experience under her belt, Kathryn Eckstein-Cornista is a veteran in the art of mixology.

Can you tell us about that moment when you realized you wanted to be a mixologist?

So a lot of times, the guests would come in, and all I knew was to open beer bottles and that really frustrated me. That’s when I decided to really study and I bought a lot of books. I even enrolled myself in the Philippine Bartender’s Association but unfortunately they disbanded. But they had courses where they actually send you to cruise ships where we learned things like proper pouring techniques which eventually landed me a job in Japan, where [my] love of mixology was born.

Japan’s always fun! What was your experience there like?

I was working part-time in this place called Gas Panic. They actually have a lot of locations [but] I worked in one in Yokohama for two months before I asked if I could be transferred to Tokyo. Actually, in one month in Yokohama, I went into one of those really small Izakaya places, a bar. It only sat something like five people inside. I asked for a classic martini and it was almost like a tea ceremony. Bartending to them is not about chatting with the guests, it’s really the artistry that they have—how it’s poured, how it’s shaken, how the zest of the lemon is squeezed. . . I was like, that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.

I usually end up spilling my deepest, darkest secrets to the bartender. I’m sure you’ve had your share of bar stories.

I have lots. There are a lot of touching moments like when I met this one guy who was traveling with his friends. He was from South Africa. He came back to my bar without his friends and ordered a drink and said, ‘You know you’re the first person I’m going to tell this to, but I’m coming out.’ I was like, ‘Why me, of all people?’ And he said, ‘You seem so approachable and I don’t know how to go about it. I don’t know how to tell my friends or my family.’ This is something that will stick to me. Even as a bartender in Turkey, I was educated about silly things I didn’t know like that Canada had a navy or an army.

So what are your thoughts about the local drinking scene?

It’s about time things picked up here!

What’s your staple drink?

I work with cocktails all the time so I like to take a break. Beer is my favorite. I just love it. It’s also iconic because when you’ve had a long night of bartending and you get together with your colleagues and you just grab a couple from the fridge and sit in the corner or on the sidewalk or before you go home. Now that I’m married and I have kid, I like to drink a nice wine so I’m slowly getting into wine these days, but beer, especially my being half German. . . I love my beer.

Gin is picking up now, is that right? What are your thoughts on that?

There are just so many amazing and lovely gins out there and they all have their own unique flavors and herbal notes to them. If you were to introduce high-quality gin in the market maybe about five years ago, you would not get many orders from the guests. But things have changed and, just a few days ago, a gin bar opened up. So I think the taste is there, especially not only among the Filipinos but the expats as well. They’re learning to appreciate gin more.

Today on Pepper.ph, we asked Kath to play around with gin in our kitchen. She prepared a Last Word for us, plus two quirky and original spins on the classic.

The Last Word

“Here is the classic cocktail I am drawing inspiration from which comes from the prohibition-era called ‘The Last Word’. I’ve been on a gin trip lately since the trend is also catching on in Manila. The Last Word is herbal in taste, containing two exotic ingredients that work harmoniously together.”

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You will need:

3/4 oz Gin (works best Tanqueray 10, but we used Hendrick’s for this recipe)
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
3/4 oz Maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz Lime juice or lime cordial

Shaken. Can be served straight up or on the rocks.

Sweet Nothings

“This next cocktail was inspired by The Last Word and its use of gin and Maraschino Liqueur. Honestly, I’m not a fan of the famous cherry liqueur but I think it rounds off nicely in this cocktail that I call ‘Sweet Nothings’. This is the sweeter side of using gin and my farewell whisper to the summer.”

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You will need:

Hendrick’s Gin
Blackberry syrup
Maraschino liqueur
Lemon juice
Rosemary Tea
Lime peel
Fresh mint

Shaken and poured over ice.

The DILL-icious

“So I was inspired by the Green Chartreuse (which is a vegetable liqueur) to create a savory cocktail. I personally love savory cocktails and I don’t think us Pinoys drink enough of them. I hope this cocktail inspires them to give it a try, especially since the rainy season has arrived! There’s nothing like sipping a drink that’s a little salty and whets your appetite for a nice hot meal when it’s raining outside. It’s also perfect for Sunday brunch with some friends, especially after a crazy night of drinking.”

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You will need:

Hendrick’s Gin
Green Chartreuse
Dill pickle brine
Lemon bitters
Fresh dill

Shaken and served over ice. Garnished with a Lemon Rosette and some cocktail onions.

What do you think about the gin trend slowly making its way to Metro Manila? Which of the gin-based drinks by Kath are you most excited try? Sound off with a comment below!

Mikka Wee Mikka Wee

Mikka Wee is former editor of Pepper.ph and was part of the team until she got whisked away to Singapore in 2016 where she worked in advertising and eventually found herself back in the food industry. She currently does marketing work for two popular Singaporean dessert brands and is a weekly columnist for The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s lifestyle brand, Preen.ph. She has always been crazy about travel, food, and her dog Rocket.

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One response to “Take a Gin Trip with Mixologist Kath Cornista”

  1. Volts Sanchez says:

    Hendricks. Yes, good gin. It doesn’t provide a drinking experience as all-compassing as that of gin bulag, but good nonetheless 😉

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