Grey Goose mixologist Joe McCanta's secret cocktail ingredient

Joe McCanta loves a good quote. His favourite (this week) is from Oscar Wilde: "I'm a man of simple tastes. I'm always satisfied with the best."

It's a mantra that serves McCanta well travelling the world as chief mixologist for luxury vodka brand Grey Goose, the spirit of choice for rappers and rock stars.

"Grey Goose only has one filtration and one distillation, so you actually get a lot of flavour even if you're drinking it on the rocks," he says.

"A lot of vodka producers add sugar or glycerine into the vodka, because it's a good way to cheat and make it seem like it's full-bodied, but that's the thing that gives you a headache the next day."

Morning after

Any more party tips from a man who spends almost every night with a martini?

Brown spirits have congeners which add great colour and flavour, he says, but these congeners can wreak havoc on your head. "So drinking white spirits in general can leave you feeling a little bit better the next day than brown spirits."

Another hot tip: take milk thistle extract tablets. "Australia has the best milk thistle extract of anywhere in the world," McCanta says. "Milk thistle is one of these really good herbs for your liver. It protects your liver, so it prevents a hangover."

And another one: everything in moderation. "Including moderation," McCanta laughs.

Secret ingredient

Cocktails and food go hand in hand and McCanta has worked with some of the world's top chefs in his pursuit of the perfect cocktail. Culinary masters such as Alain Ducasse and Jamie Oliver have taught him that you should season your drinks as you would any other dish.


"I like to put salt in almost every drink," McCanta says. "If you ask a chef to make a cocktail, even something simple like a mojito, they're going to put a pinch of salt in it. They would never think of making a soup or a stock without putting seasoning in it. So they think it's crazy that we would make a cocktail without a dash of salt.

"It doesn't have to be super salty, that's the thing, if you put just a pinch of salt in a drink you don't even notice it, but it brightens up the flavours."

McCanta isn't talking about grinding sea salt into your vodka and raspberry. "When I'm making drinks… I do a 20 per cent salt solution, so if it's 100 mls of water, I'd put 20 grams of salt into it, so you make a saline solution. So keep that on the bar and you can just put two dashes of salt water into anything and it's going to create this amazing flavour."

Award-winning parties

If anyone knows how to mix a drink, it's McCanta, who trained to be a jazz musician before moving to London and becoming a top bartender.

For the past five years he's been creating cocktails at the ultimate soiree: Vanity Fair's legendary Oscars after party.

"I design the drinks and I oversee the execution," McCanta explains. "This past year was probably the best one yet after the Moonlight / La La Land controversy. Everyone was on edge ... I do a lot of events, but [The VF party] is the creme de la creme. Every single person is ridiculous.

"Like you go into the loo and come out and you're washing your hands next to Justin Timberlake. And everyone's just super cool, you know. Robert de Niro is over there, Mick Jagger is casually next to you. I was at the bar and a girl brushed up against me to order a drink, and it was Charlize Theron."

Riviera chic

McCanta was in Australia this month to celebrate the release of a new limited-edition Riviera bottle of Grey Goose, launched on the deck of a dazzling superyacht on Sydney Harbour.

Commemorating 20 years of the premium French spirit, the revamped bottle features classic stripes inspired by the Nouvelle Vague and Impressionist brush strokes.

Riviera-themed pop-ups will also be running at several bars this summer, including the Emerson and Captain Baxter in Melbourne and Watson's Bay, Regatta, Pepe's, Zephyr and Mrs Sippy in Sydney.

Remember to take your next cocktail with a grain of salt. 

The writer was a guest of Grey Goose.