Why The Commonwealth Might Be The Most Complex Cocktail Ever

Walk into Glasgow's Kelvingrove Cafe, and you might see Malcolm "Mal" Spence standing at the bar. Kelvingrove Cafe is the kind of place that cuts ice with tools from the 1930s (via The Skinny), so it should come as no surprise that Spence is known for simple, classic three-ingredient drinks. But the recipe that has caught the attention of bartenders, journalists, and students around the world is anything but traditional.

Ranked as one of the world's most complicated cocktails, the Commonwealth was made specifically for the 2014 Commonwealth Games (per Liquor). As told to Tasting Table, Spence was approached with a unique request: create a cocktail with ingredients representing each participating team. That's 71 teams from 71 countries – and 71 ingredients that should fit neatly into one glass.

"How do you balance a drink like that? You can't," Spence said. It was a logistical challenge; ingredients had to be brought from countries around the world and the recipe needed to taste good. Plus, what if several customers ordered this drink at once?

A drink with a very big twist

While researching each country and which products could be sourced or sent to Scotland, Spence realized he would need to collect several ingredients from each destination. In case of any unforeseen mishaps or supply issues, Spence wanted to be prepared. For places without native fruits or herbs, Spence looked to national dishes and recipes for inspiration. "I went through over 300 different ingredients before finding the final perfect blend," Spence told Bar Magazine.

Chives from Kenya, Ghanian taro, Canadian loganberry, Malaysian galangal, Tongan avocado, and Fijian kava root all made the cut (for the full list, check out The Drinks Business). Spence then steeped the final ingredients in grain neutral spirits to make bitters, added local whisky, and mixed in shrubs from Scottish plants and herbs to produce... a three-ingredient cocktail.

If you can't make it to Kelvingrove Cafe, a simpler recipe is recorded by Bar Magazine: muddle mango and rambutan; add 50ml blended Scotch whisky, 20ml dandelion and burdock cordial, 25ml lemon juice, and shake with ice. Consider it part of the experience if you have to search for any of the ingredients.