Bartending 102 – Summer School
So by now you should have your bar tools and some base spirits hopefully. Maybe you’re thinking, what do I do now? Lets get to making some cocktails. Pick up a classic cocktail book, look up your favorite recipe or talk to your best bartender who is now officially your drinking time psychiatrist.
There are a lot of classic and basic cocktails any home bartender can do. They will usually only consist of 3 to 4 ingredients. The most simple ingredients are a base (your alcohol/spirit), sugar, water and bitters. That’s an old-fashioned right there.
When to shake and when to stir
If you’re going for any spirit only drink, remember to stir. For instance, you want to make a Manhattan. Use 2 oz. Rye Whiskey, 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth and a few dashes of Angostura bitters. By stirring, you let all of the flavors integrate themselves into the drink, but you also keep the cocktail bright and brilliant. The flavors come alive without the addition of ice chips watering down each sip. You should be able to taste the different layers of flavors in your drink.
Stirring a Gin Martini with a little Vermouth keeps the depth and complexity of the drink. Floral notes, juniper and citrus will still pop at every sip and smell. That’s part of the enjoyment and experience of drinking a well crafted cocktail.
The same goes for mixed drinks. Any cocktail involving citrus, eggs or syrups, please shake with ice. Say you’re making a Last Word. This consists of equal portions Gin, Lime Juice, Maraschino (no not the red stuff) and Green Chartreuse. You’re getting the proper amount of dilution from the ice and you’re integrating all the spirits, lifters and citrus in the right proportions. By doing this, you’re ensuring you won’t get a mouthful of simple syrup or a full egg white.
Now in my personal opinion, you can over or under shake your cocktails. Too much ice and you’ll kill the original flavor of your spirit. To little ice and it might taste like you’re taking a shooter. Ice is one of those tools or ingredients if you will that can perfect a cocktail.
For example you’re stirring a Gin Martini, but decide to stir it for 2 minutes because you want it extremely cold. By adding that extra water from dilution, the original aroma and some of the flavor of your beautiful Gin will be missing. If you really want your cocktail extremely cold, try pre-chilling your Martini glasses and your mixing glasses.
Some people absolutely love ice chips in their cocktails because they think it’s that much colder, but if you have a bunch of ice floating in your Cosmopolitan or Corpse Reviver #2 you’re going to be sucking down some water with it as well. An easy fix is to just use a fine strainer to double strain your drinks after you shake them. They’ll still be cold, but sans ice chips.
The only place where I can think of it acceptable to have ice chips in a drink is either a bruised Vodka Martini or a Swizzle (which I’ll dive into some other time). You can shake a Vodka Martini because it all ready has all of the botanicals distilled out of it. That’s why you see “Distilled 5-1000 times” on the bottle.
Now if you want water with your cocktails, ask for glass of water to accompany your drink.