Cocktails 101 – What do you need?
“Shaken or stirred?” a question dating back half a century to the days when every home entertainer possessed at least one cocktail shaker, and a very well-stocked bar. The last few years have witnessed the resurrection of the cocktail – along with all its associated paraphernalia. The revival has been accompanied by an enthusiastic interest in the composition of the concoctions themselves, and this book aims to provide the answers to the questions asked by anyone wishing to try their hand at cocktail-mixing.
You will need
Most of the equipment used by the cocktail bartender can be improvised from basic kitchen tools. It is, however, worth investing in a simple stainless-steel cocktail shaker – although you can use a wide-mouthed fruit juice bottle with a screw-top lid. A mixing glass or a plain glass jug with a two pint capacity is needed to make any drink which requires stirring with ice. The stirrer is ideally a long-handled barspoon and the drink, once chilled is poured through a cocktail or “Hawthorne” strainer. Any of the more exotic concoctions – particularly those mad with fresh fruit – as well as drinks which incorporate eggs or cream are best made in an electric blender. Most cocktail bars use heavy duty blenders designed for breaking up ice cubes, but the household blender works more efficiently if the ice is crushed before it is blended.
A refrigerator is essential – a warm cocktail is nasty. Keep the freezer compartment filled with ice trays and, where possible, use ice straight from the freezer. Otherwise store the ice in a well-insulated ice bucket.
All cocktails should be carefully measured, and as long as the measure remains constant throughout a recipe, the drink will have the correct flavor and consistency. A sharp fruit knife and a shopping board should be available for slicing garnishes and making twists of citrus peel, and a lemon squeezer will be needed to extract lemon. lime and orange juices. You will increase the yield of citrus juice by soaking the fruit in hot water for a few minutes before squeezing it.
There are numerous other tools of the trade which are fun to collect, but armed with the equipment listed above, you should be able to mix any cocktail.
Almost any receptacle, from a brandy balloon to a pineapple shell, can be made to work effectively, provided that it is convincingly presented. As a rough guideline, however choose stemmed glasses for cocktails which are not served on ice as they will stay cool longer, and tumblers or highball glasses for rocks drinks. Short cocktails look their best in traditional triangular cocktail glasses, while goblet styles are generally used for drink incorporating egg yolks.
All cocktails are served very cold and it makes a tremendous difference if the glasses have been chilled. Ideally, the glasses should stand in the refrigerator for an hour or two before needed, but a scoop of ice placed in the glass, and left there while the drink is being prepared, will chill it very efficiently.
A Garnish should enhance a drink without disguising it. It can be anything from a creamy-white orchid floating on an exotic frappeed concoction , to a stuffed green olive, speared on a cocktail stick and submerged in a classic Dry Martini.
Slices of lemon, orange and lime are the most frequently used garnishes, along with cocktail cherries which, incidentally, look prettier threaded on colored cocktail sticks than merely dropped into the drink. Let your imagination run riot when garnishing tropical cocktails, for truly beautiful creations can be dreamed up using exotic fruits like pineapple, mango or kiwi fruit.
One stylish method of decoration uses the fruit to reflect the ingredients of the drink – apricot wedges on the rim of the Apricot Sour glass, strawberries in a Strawberry Dawn or slices of peach with a Peach Daiquiri. Never go overboard, however, or the drink will look like a fruit salad.
Savoury garnishes include pearl onions, cucumber slices and silvers of the dark green skin, celery sticks, stuffed olives and sprigs of fresh mint. Celery salt and paprika are sometimes sprinkled over the finished drink before serving. A pretty way to enhance a sweet cocktail is to frost the rim of the glass with sugar. First dip the rim into a saucer of egg white and then into one of finely granulated sugar. A pink frosting can be achieved by substituting grenadine for egg white.
A margarita is usually served in a salt-frosted glass. To salt the rim, hold the glass upside down and run a wedge of lime or lemon around it. Dip it in a saucer of salt and shake off the excess. Label sugar and salt clearly!
Cream and egg mixtures are flattered by a light dusting of freshly grated nutmeg or powdered cinnamon, while blanched almonds and crystallized stem ginger are both unusual and appealing when used with a little flair. Tropical cocktails look extra-special if frivolous extravagances such as colored paper parasols are added, and straws come in all sorts of colors, shapes and sizes, and it is worth having a good selection. Never overdress a drink as it simply looks silly, but tantalize both the eye and the plate you will have a successful cocktail.
How to Measure
Provided that the measure used is consistent throughout any one recipe, the drink will have the correct flavor, texture and color. Our recipes on Partypingo have ingredients as ratios which means that any measure, from a teaspoon to an cup can be used effectively, depending on the size of, or number of drinks required.
How to Shake
If a recipe indicates that a drink is to be shaken, put the ingredients together with plenty of ice into the shaker and shake rapidly, with a vertical movement, until the outside of the shaker is frosty. Always strain unless specifically directed otherwise. NEVER shake fizzy ingredients – they are always added afterwards.
How to blend
Blend the ingredients stated with the recommended amount of crushed ice, and for only a few seconds or the drink becomes weak and watery.
How to make ‘Gomme’ Syrup
Dissolve a cup of white sugar in a cup of water by slowly bringing them to the boil and simmering for a couple of minutes. When cool, decant the sugar syrup into a bottle, label it and store in a refrigerator.
How to extract Citrus Juice
Fresh fruit juice is infinitely better than bottled or canned, and to extract as much juice as possible from the fruit. soak for a few minutes in hot water before squeezing.
Using Egg White
Egg white does not alter the flavor of a drink, it simply enhances its appearance, and only needs to be used in very small quantities. Separate one or two egg whites into a jug and literally ‘cut’ them with a sharp knife. This will prevent the whole lot slipping into the shaker when you only want a dash. (Keeps for two days if stored, covered, in a refrigerator.)
Floating a Liqueur
To float a liqueur, simply pour the liqueur into a dessert spoon, hold the bowl of the spoon just above the drink and gently tip it so that the liqueur slips slowly onto the surface.
How to make a Twist of Peel
Using a very sharp knife, shave off strips of the colored part of the peel leaving behind the white pith. Twist a strip of peel over the surface of the drink, which will release a fine spray of essential oil into the glass. Then drop the twist into the cocktail.
How to Serve
Always hold the glass by the stem or the base to avoid fingerprints and unnecessary warming of the drink. Never fill the glass to the brim, and remember to leave room for a garnish if one is to be used.
How to make crushed ice
Wrap ice cubes in a clean, dry tea towel and bash with a mallet.