As a compliment to my Food Porn
thread I thought it would be a nice edition to do one
on cocktails as well.
Every great meal should begin with some sort of adult beverage, whether it is a glass of beer, wine or something a little bit fancier such as a
Cocktails have been around since the 1700’s and were initially used to mask the flavor and aroma of poorly made alcohol. Even though we no longer
drink them for that reason the basic recipe is still the same; a base liquor or spirit, a mixer/modifier and typically a sweetener. The addition of
bitters as a lifting or binding agent is still used in many cocktails and harkens back to drinks made the ‘old fashioned’ way which is where the
drink of the same name, the Old Fashioned, takes its name.
Home cocktail making does not have to be a cumbersome process. While it is more exacting than cooking, where a pinch more or less of something, does
not overly impact the finished process, building a cocktail is more similar to baking which will see you measuring out more precise amounts of
spirits, mixers, sweeteners and bitters. The first things you will need are some pretty standard tools.
The Japanese, while the cocktail languished here in the 1970’s and early 80’s, were cornering the market on new and highly useful tools, first
among these are their Yarai (pronounced Yar-ray) glasses. This heavy-bottomed mixing vessel allows you to stir and properly chill your drink. You will
also need a metal stirrer to pair with this. Only purchase single piece stirrers and not the welded type which break rather quickly:
This set up is ideal for stirred drinks and allows you the opportunity to control the dilution of the drink much more precisely than other methods of
preparation. In addition, for shaken drinks, you will need some form of shaker. Most professional bars use a Boston or 18-28 style shaker which is
usually a pint glass and a stainless tin or two differing size stainless tins respectively. For home use I tend to go with what is called a cobbler
shaker. This is a three-part shaker with a built in strainer and removable top for pouring. I have several different sizes depending on the type of
cocktail I am making:
Additional tools you will need are a jigger (I prefer OXO’s clear jigger with ¼ ounce measurements), a Hawthorne strainer, muddler and a cone
strainer for double straining fine particulate from your drinks:
A decent set of glasses are also a good investment to show off your expertly prepared adult beverages. There are two types, the first is stemmed
barware. They are, clockwise from bottom left; a Nick and Nora glass, Martini, Port and Coupe:
The other is non-stemmed and are, again clockwise from bottom left; rocks or Old Fashioned glass, Highball glass, Fizz glass and Fancy Fizz glass:
It also helps to have an offering of typical beer glasses; pilsner, pint and a goblet-style. You certainly do not need to have this array of glassware
if you do not want to but they do make the drinks taste and look better. If you want to keep it simpler go with a Martini or coupe glass and the
largest rocks glass you can locate.
Next up is the most important part, the ingredients. Always go with the best quality ingredients you can afford. Very few items I will be listing are
above $30-40 dollars and many are much less expensive. When a recipe calls for fruit juice, zest or peels always use fresh ingredients, frozen or
canned fruit juices are far too sweet and will adversely affect the flavor. Bitters do not spoil so you can purchase a few different types and keep
them for years. I like to have on hand small bottles of seltzer for mixing so I do not need to open a larger bottle.
For your liquor assortment you should always have a couple of styles of gin, bourbon/rye/whiskey, rum and tequila. Having a decent selection of beer,
wine, prosecco/champagne and various other liqueurs will also add to your arsenal of recipes. I will include the brands/types that I use in each of my
recipes in case you want to track them down. One spirit you will not see in practically all of my recipes as vodka, it really has no place in both
classic and contemporary cocktails. There are so many incredible spirits out there to try that one that comes with no flavor is not really going to do
much to add to the overall complexity of the drink’s characteristics. Sorry vodka drinkers, this thread is not for you unless you want to try
Another consideration is ice. Most home ice machines make decent ice for cocktails despite what you may have heard. I make tray ice for mixing, which
is about 1 ½ inches square, and also make large spherical and cube-shaped pieces for the finished product since they melt slower and look more
appealing in the glass.
makes an inexpensive set of both shapes that I use to produce a stockpile prior to guests coming over.
For bitters most store bought ones are fine, I have often tried to tell the difference between the higher end bitters that can run $20+ per bottle and
the ones available at your local supermarket and liquor store for $8. Either works. I recommend having Peychaud’s, Angostura and Orange bitters as
these are the most commonly used. There are other, more unusual types but you can always experiment with them once you get used to the mainstays.
Another handy thing to have is simple syrup. This can be prepared ahead of time and kept for about a week if need be when you use the standard 1:1
recipe of sugar to water. Larger proportions of sugar will make the syrup last longer but keep in mind that it will affect the finished product. I try
to do my ratios by weight and not volume so a small kitchen scale works well for this. If you feel adventurous and can track down demerara sugar as
this makes the best simple syrup for cocktails. It is similar to sugar in the raw but with larger crystals and has a mild molasses flavor to the
Now that we have the basic requirements out of the way the next step is building a drink. Beginners are encouraged to start with the least expensive
ingredients first so if you add to much to your tumbler or mixing glass you can always start over without wasting your liquor.
I will give recipes for both shaken and stirred drinks. When it is stirred the assumption is that you will fill the mixing glass 2/3rds full with ice
and add your ingredients. If it is shaken you will fill the bottom or large part of the shaker about half way with ice. Occasionally a recipe calls
for ‘short shaking’. This is used to whip ingredients in the shaker to add body prior to adding more ice to completely chill the cocktail. Short
shaking is typically done with three or so cubes and shaken for about 20 seconds to emulsify the drink.
I like to prepare seasonal cocktails so I will try to vary them depending on the weather and the time of the year. There is nothing better than making
drink with fresh ingredients you just picked in the warmer weather or having something spicy and bracing when the weather turns cold.
The first up is the granddaddy of all cocktails, the Sazerac.
edit on 14-4-2016 by AugustusMasonicus because: networkdude once thought he had beer but it turned out to be Natty Ice.