Before we can start making cocktails we need to know about the 3 basic ways that drinks are made. They are built, they are stirred, or they are shaken. I want you to think about what you remember about the last cocktail that you had. There are obvious things like color, taste, the type of glass it was served in, or the way that it was garnished, but I want to ask you some very specific questions. Was your cocktail clear or cloudy, maybe even a little bit foamy on top? Was it smooth or could you taste some texture, like air bubbles? Was it carbonated, more like soda? Was it served ice cold or was it only slightly chilled? The answers to these questions tell me everything I need to know about how the drink was made. For this week we’re going to focus on cocktails that are built right in the glass they’re going to be served in.
Built drinks typically contain very few ingredients. Let’s take an Old-Fashioned for example. It consists of bourbon, sugar or simple syrup, a splash of water, some bitters, and a usually a cherry and citrus peel garnish. Or how about a Gin and Tonic? Here we’re talking about gin, tonic water, and a citrus or herbal garnish. These are drinks that are also crystal clear; you really shouldn’t see any cloudiness. They should both be very smooth, except for the little bit of carbonation that comes from the tonic water. And finally, they are chilled but not necessarily ice cold.
When I build a drink, I place my ice in the glass first, and then add the remaining ingredients. I like to use big ice cubes for drinks that are built in short glasses. They look prettier and they don’t melt down as quickly, but we’ll talk more about ice later this week. Once everything is in the glass, it’s time to stir. I usually use a glass swizzle stick, but a metal stirring spoon will work too and so will a straw. I don’t overstir; 5-6 times slowly around the glass is usually good. I then add my garnish as a final step.
Follow up with me tomorrow and Wednesday, when I’ll be covering the recipes for an Old-Fashioned and a Gin and Tonic.