Infusing subtle flavours into perfectly crafted drinks is as much an art form as it is a precise science. Deeba Hasan meets the mixologist that got Muscat talking
After the plates were cleared following a luscious Italian lunch at the Shangri La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, the attention turned to master mixologist Cihan Anadologlu, who was in Muscat to introduce guests to the art of making drinks.
Of German-Turkish descent, Cihan specialises in mixing drinks to produce something truly unique and had the honour of creating the official drink of the Oscars in 2014.
I stared in wonder as he theatrically poured Turkish coffee through the air, with the liquid arc landing in a cocktail shaker. He was deep in concentration as he created a Fly to Arabia, one of his signature concoctions.
Everybody waited in anticipation of his next move. With the precision of a skilled juggler, Cihan transferred the Turkish coffee into another glass before mixing it with the drink’s other main ingredient – Italian espresso.
After he had combined the individual elements of the delicious-looking drink, he then poured it into his antique “magic lamp” and held it out for someone to rub. The mixture was then strained into a collection of copper pots, ready for his captivated audience to sample. The result was a masterpiece bursting with flavour and texture, thanks to the grated white chocolate and almonds.
His entry to the trade began at the bottom: polishing glasses at various hotels in New York, where he would watch bartenders as they mixed together different elements to create their trademark beverages. “I used to look at how they worked and after two years of being an apprentice at a five-star hotel, I moved to London to get my certificate in English and also worked there for a while,” he says.
Upon leaving London, Cihan returned to his home in Munich and did his hospitality management training at a popular local luxury hotel. After this, he spent a year working in Hong Kong to further hone his skills. “I love Asian and Japanese culture, the way they treat their customers and their ingredients and technique of bartending.”
Cihan returned home once more and spent several years working as a bar manager for various renowned hotel brands, which he believes allowed his imagination and originality to thrive. “By working at these places and observing, I got creative with the things I did,” he says. “I also worked with Michelin-starred chefs from all over the world, who were happy to help me create some wonderful drinks.”
Travel is a big part of Cihan’s work and he ensures that he adds elements from the local culture of each new country he visits to his work, and Oman is no exception. “I knew that people in Oman love sesame, so I roasted up sesame with olive oil and infused that with the drinks I created here, then I made a date syrup and combined it with the drink; it’s a bestseller now,” Cihan says, proudly.
During his time in the Sultanate, Cihan also used fresh Omani rose water in his drinks to imbue them with a floral scent.
For Cihan, there is so much more to creating a drink than mere refreshment or hydration. He wants those who sample them to taste and feel the flavours, taking in the aroma as well.
Cihan thinks that if you’re aiming for great results, good-quality ingredients are essential. “Using high-quality ingredients, especially if you know how to combine them well, always gives fantastic results. It took me a long time to learn the art of mixing.”
Cihan has a collection of more than 1,000 books related to his profession and claims to have read them all, proving that if you want to be the best, you have to get your head down and study.
Recipe: Fly to Arabia