Joined: 24 Sep 2004 Posts: 443 Location: Paris, France
Posted: Sun Feb 01, 2009 11:38 am Post subject: FEB '09 DISCUSSION: Do You Mix Your Own Cocktails?
As I'm sure you've noticed, the art of mixing cocktails, a.k.a. mixology, is going through a renaissance of sorts. Cocktail bars are sprouting up everywhere, and more and more people are taking an interest in mixing cocktails at home.
Is this something you do? Did someone show you the ropes or did you just teach yourself? On what sort of occasion do you usually serve them? Do you follow recipes or make up your own? And do you have a favorite to share?
I myself am quite curious about mixology and I very much enjoy a well-crafted cocktail, but I have little experience mixing my own -- apart from the odd Bloody Mary or Tequila Sunrise -- so I would welcome your tips for beginners, about special gear and starter kit in particular.
Last edited by clotilde on Sun Mar 01, 2009 12:26 pm; edited 2 times in total
Joined: 01 Feb 2009 Posts: 1 Location: New York City
Posted: Sun Feb 01, 2009 6:41 pm Post subject: Mixology basics
As the author of several cocktail books (including Vintage Cocktails, Cocktail Hour, and Cocktails A-Go-Go), I can assure you that mixing a good cocktail isn't all that difficult. First the gear -- all you really need is a shaker (metal, please -- it keeps drinks colder), strainer, and shot glass marked for measuring. Other things you already have (long stirring spoon, cutting board, paring knife, zester) or you can acquire them as needed.
Now, the mixing. First, get a good book and follow the recipes exactingly. For my books, I tracked down the original recipes and the stories behind the classic cocktails, but there are plenty of other good mixology guides out there, such as those by Dale de Groff. Besides recipes, look for a book that explains the basic techniques -- float, muddle, shake, strain, and stir. (If anyone is interested, I can describe these in a later post.)
For the same reasons you use good wine and good vinegar in cooking, buy the best ingredients you can afford -- adding mixes and garnishes won't compensate for bad-tasting liquor. After this, the most important ingredients are speed and cold. Have everything (garnishes, equipment, ice, etc.) ready, and make sure both ingredients and glasses are thoroughly chilled. Mix just as many cocktails as will be drunk immediately -- a "pitcher of martinis" may sound good, but when cocktails sit the ingredients begin to separate, and the drinks grow warm or become diluted by melting ice.
If you don't have duplicates of equipment, wash and dry everything -- shaker, measuring glasses and spoons, etc. -- between drinks. The last coktail of the evening should be as carefully made as the first.
This is really all there is to it. Cheers! _________________ Suze
Posted: Sun Feb 01, 2009 6:50 pm Post subject: cocktails/mixology
I started (along with friends to drink with!) a sort of revival of the cocktail hour about seven years ago and haven't stopped really...it's a wonderful moment of the day (early evening) to stop, relax, unwind, chat with friends and enjoy the pleasures of whatever cocktail takes our fancy. A martini is always popular as is a cosmopolitan or a sidecar but there is no end to the combinations and someone is always coming up with a new suggestion. Many food magazines feature cocktail recipes, (I love the Australian Gourmet Traveller) so I like to try out a new one from time to time. I bought a metal (very important to ensure cocktail is ICY cold) cocktail shaker from IKEA, some very pretty martini shaped glasses and a small measure and apart from lots of ice and the necessary ingredients, there's really no need for any other special equipment in my opinion. Santé et bonheur!
Joined: 01 Feb 2009 Posts: 2 Location: Los Angeles
Posted: Sun Feb 01, 2009 10:15 pm Post subject:
Yes, I love to mix cocktails at home and have been doing so for about 7 or 8 years. I'm mostly self-taught but I do have a friend who's taught me a few things. He is passionate about it, to the point where he'll drive an hour to buy a certain type of passionfruit to make his own passionfruit syrup. I'm not quite that dedicated, but I do enjoy it. I started off small, just buying flavored mixers to shake up with vodka, then started appreciating the nuances of using pure, high-quality ingredients at home. Too many mixes have corn syrup in them here in the US, and there is of course much more purity of flavor when you create your own drinks using fresh fruit juices rather than mixes, and I've gone beyond vodka, which I still like but I find rum and tequila more complex and interesting-tasting.
I agree with Pettacom that Dale DeGroff's books are good - I've learned a lot from his book The Craft of the Cocktail. Yes, a metal shaker is a must, and be sure to always have lots of ice. If you make a disappointing drink, you want to have enough ice to immediately make another type of drink and remove the memory of that bad drink from your mouth.
I do follow recipes to the letter. So many bars don't measure their cocktail ingredients, which can make for a disappointing cocktail due to unreliable proportions. I'm still learning but I'll probably start trying to invent my own recipes at some point.
Also, if you get into making rum cocktails, it's worthwhile to invest in several types of rum. I used to wonder "Why should I buy 3 different types of rum for one drink?" but they really all do taste different and blended together, the subtleties of flavor make for a wonderfully complex drink. And don't buy Bacardi! I know it's very popular (at least over here) but it lacks flavor compared to other rums. Cruzan rum from St. Croix, for instance, costs about the same or a bit less than Bacardi and has much more flavor.
I'd love to know more about drink trends in Paris - maybe that's something you'd like to tell us about? À votre santé!
Joined: 01 Feb 2009 Posts: 2 Location: Los Angeles
Posted: Sun Feb 01, 2009 10:28 pm Post subject:
Oh, Clotilde, I didn't answer your question about what sort of occasions do we serve cocktails. For me, any occasion will do - a promotion at work, a friend's birthday, we're alive, it's Tuesday... If I have a friend over for dinner, I usually start with a cocktail. When going out to dinner, if we meet up at my place, I'll usually serve friends a mixed drink of some sort before we go out. It's fun and festive and especially with the economy the way it is, it saves a bit of money on having an aperitif at a restaurant (but of course I always have wine with my meal).
And here is one of one of my favorite drink recipes, from Dale DeGroff:
1 1/2oz gin
1/2oz Peter Herring Cherry Heering
2oz pineapple juice
1 dash Angsostura bitters
1/4oz grenadine (homemade)
1/2oz lime juice
orange slice and maraschino cherry, for garnish
Shake all ingredients except the club soda with ice, and strain into a highball glass. Fill mostly full with ice, and top with the club soda. Garnish.
A lot of ingredients, to be sure, but it's an amazing drink.
More simple, and possibly with ingredients you have at home, is the sidecar. Here is Paris' Harry's Bar's recipe:
1 1/2 oz. Brandy
1/2 oz. Triple Sec
1/2 oz. Lemon or Lime Juice
Combine all the ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.
Joined: 09 Apr 2005 Posts: 85 Location: Berkeley, CA
Posted: Sun Feb 01, 2009 11:53 pm Post subject:
Mixing is great fun, and a lot like cooking and baking in terms of combining flavors. I started out by combining things that seemed like they would taste good together (citrus liquors with orange juice, coffee liquors with milk, etc) but have moved toward also using recipes, and toward preferring much less sweet drinks. Like many others, I've lately tended toward more classical/historical drinks, and I've gotten into more sophisticated alcohol - scotch/whiskey, vermouth, cognac, bitters.
Incidentally, Imbibe is a great book for cocktail history and recipes (though they tend toward the classic/historical). The Wall Street Journal, of all places, often has good articles and recipes about both wine and cocktails.
Out of curiosity, what are people's current favorite liquors or drinks? Mine is Carpano Antica, a red vermouth that's great both mixed and on the rocks.
Although this is liver detox month for me (and sassyway!) this is certainly an entertaining topic! And once again Clotilde you've hit something that has brought out some interesting new contributors. Nice to see and hear from you folk!
I'm a lover of the simple dry, gin martini, straight up, with olives (which is perhaps why I require a liver detox month) but have recently discovered (or rediscovered) the Manhattan. I tend to shy away from drinks that are too sweet and like them crisp and cold. For Martinis I also prefer the non aromatic rougher old style gins such as Beefeater or Gordons (and if it has chocolate in it--IT IS NOT A MARTINI). I'm also partial to the Bloody Caesar but find one is enough as they are quite filling. And I had a Mojito last summer that may convert me to mojito madness should warm weather ever reappear in my pristine clime. _________________ Vivant Linguae Mortuae!!
Posted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 9:32 pm Post subject: Coctails
As it is with everything in the kitchen, attention to details; top quality ingredients, the correct glasses, and lots of fresh ice is so important.
Taking simple extra steps, like adding a fresh garnish, using an attractive stirrer, or elegant glass, will enhance even basic cocktails (and your reputation). And don't save the best for guests. Even when I mix for Mary Beth and myself, I take the extra steps.
While most of the US drinks whiskey, brandy has been the traditional spirit of choice in Wisconsin. Recently I've begun looking for those labeled VSOP or, for special occasions, a nice cognac.
Clear spirits, especially tequilla and vodka have become increased in popularity in the past decade. Recently a local distillery has begun producing a small batch vodka with a good reputation. As I try to support local artisans, my next purchase will be from them.
One of my favorite summer drinks is a frozen strawberry margarita with berries hand-picked from a local grower. I've found that individually frozen berries make a great substitue for ice cubes.
Back in about 1980 I bought "Playboy's Host and Bar Book" and it has served me well ever since. I don't mix a lot of cocktails but I like having the recipes available when I get a notion. _________________ I never met a braise I didn't like.
Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:46 am Post subject: cocktails
I always look forward to mixing my own cocktails and plan parties around it. I started off many years ago with a basic bartending recipe book but have improvised over the years by adding my own touches based on things I like or cocktails I've had while out. Now I love to take the basic cocktail and add special touches. I have a lime tree in my backyard that is used half for cooking and baking and the other half for adding to my cocktails.
Joined: 01 Oct 2004 Posts: 256 Location: Richmond, VA, usa
Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 4:08 pm Post subject:
my drink of choice during the summer (aside from mojitos) is the RED ROOSTER.......a new orleans thing.....combo of orange juice, cranberry juice and vodka (or, as I have come to prefer....tequila....in which case it should become a roosta mexicano i suppose) we even have a "red rooster club" of a few of us die hard rooster lovers....the best thing is that u freeze a bin of these & are rewarded with a slushy concoction that's addictive & cooling on a hot summer day....
so all u aussies out there who r now having summer.....get crowin.....RRRRRRRR _________________ Make me half the person my dog thinks I am.
Well I know Pesto Man likes a Martini, 'cos his signature says so!
I love a gin and tonic with Bombay Sapphire gin, the best G&T I have ever had used it and now I won't have any other gin in it. A Sea Breeze on a summer day for the tartness of the grapefruit. But when it's grey and cold it has to be a well-balanced Whisky Sour like Philip Marlowe talks about in The Long Goodbye.
I don't usually mix my own tho', I know mixology is an art and as an art historian, I'm noooo artist. _________________ Confusion comes fitted as standard.
Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 10:33 pm Post subject: Cocktails in Chicago
This is a serious subject, and deserves a serious response. Well, you won't get one from me. That being said, the seasons of the Windy City demand great care in cocktail selection. In the depth of winter, a Manhattan is the perfect accompaniment to a book in front of the fire before dinner. We like Makers Mark (2 parts), sweet vermouth (1/2 part), a dash of angostura bitters, a marishino cherry with a half teaspoon of cherry juice, over PLENTY of ice. But some like Canadian rye whiskey instead of Markers Mark, and some like more vermouth. In the summer, we've gotten mighty fond of mojitos, made with 2 parts of light rum, the juice of half a lime, club soda and---most important of all-fresh mint from my mint farm (a large outdoor tub that we restart every spring). I take perhaps 30 mint leaves, wash them, and then CRUSH them with a pestle in a mortar with two tablespoons of super fine sugar until I have a green thick paste. I mix the rum with the mint paste in a small plastic container, and allow a 30 minute infusion (unless I'm desperate for a drink). After 30 minutes, I strain the rum through a fine sieve into a glass container, press the mint paste with the pestle to make sure I have ALL of the rum, and portion the rum into glasses filled with ice before adding the lime and the club soda. If I'm making more than one drink, which would be always, I'll double or triple the recipe but generally never use more than 40 mint leaves and 3 tablespoons of sugar even if it's a triple recipe. It's a fine feeling to sit out in the late summer sunshine, gazing at the wildlife, and holding a mojito, with its emerald green color reminding you of what the economy used to be like. _________________ The goal is to fit it all in.
Ah, Chicago Bear, I was hoping this topic just might pull you out with a few words of wisdom! Yes indeed the Manhattan here in Canada is most commonly made with Rye Whiskey and not the veritable Maker's Mark Bourbon. Your mojito sounds like a drink for the gods and if lucky I shall descend from Olympus this summer and follow your fine instructions. I have a mint patch as well which self starts each spring and with which I battle to keep it constrained to the garden! (my Grandfather Rimmer cut the first clipping of this mint from the gardens of Oakalla Prison over 50 years ago and it has continued in the family for all that time and in 3 provinces--like cockroaches I suggest mint will survive a nuclear holocaust) _________________ Vivant Linguae Mortuae!!
I think mixing your own drinks is a natural extension of cooking. However, it leads to the same problem as learning to cook well: it becomes much harder to stomach the industrially made, artificially-flavored mixes that most bars use in their drinks. When you find out how simple it is to make a real Margarita (shake equal parts of tequila, orange liquor, and fresh lime juice with ice)-and how good it tastes, you wonder why anyone would use anything else.
Lately I've been drinking a variation on the ginger-ale and whiskey theme. I shake together 2 oz. of rye whiskey, 1 - 2 oz. ginger flavored simple syrup, and a dash of bitters. Strain into a short glass with ice, and top with a little seltzer. I've named this a Ginger Blessing.
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