The opening scenario to any party either formal or otherwise is the flair and flourish of crafting a cocktail. With two centuries of history, there has grown an art to the making a great tasting, easy to handle, good looking cocktail, here we will show you all you need to know.
Creating cocktails or any other mixer drink is like anything else in life. You can throw it together and hope for the best or you can carefully craft it. Which ever method you use will show up in the final product. So take your time and learn some of the terms you will be coming into contact with
Built drinks – also known as “poured” drinks – are the world’s most common.
The Build technique is the oldest technique and has no real effect on the drink it produces. The ingredients are poured into the glass in which they will be served, usually leaving a 5mm “window” space so that guests don’t spill the drink as they drink it.
Building a drink is suitable for cocktails with juices or carbonated mixers, but NOT suitable for drinks with citrus juices or Sweet ‘n’ Sour. Juices and Sweet ‘n’ Sour should be shaken (see how to shake a drink) in order to produce a nice foamy head, which adds significantly to the appearance of the drink.
Build (Pour) & Stir
The ingredients are poured into the glass in which they will be served, usually leaving a 5mm “window” space so that guests don’t spill the drink as they drink it. Then the drink is stirred with a long twist-stemmed bar spoon at least six times (6 complete 360° rotations).
Simple built drinks are called high-balls, named after a train signalling technique that meant the beginning of the evening and therefore time to have a drink!
Stir A Drink
Stirring is the second oldest drink making technique. Neglected for some time, it is again becoming popular. It works like this: the ingredients are poured into a shaker or Boston mixing glass full of ice and stirred with a long twist-stemmed bar spoon at least six times (6 complete 360° rotations). The drink is then strained out – leaving the “used” ice behind – and poured into an empty cocktail glass to within 5mm of the top of the glass and served straight up.
Some drinks are stirred with ice and strained over ice, like the Bloody Mary. Stirring produces a chilled drink that is not too diluted by the ice – around 10% depending on how long the drink is stirred. It is the preferred method of making classic straight up drinks like the gin Martini. James Bond had it wrong!
Shake A Drink
Shaking, the fourth-oldest technique, became very popular from the 1930s on-wards, when the cocktail shaker was a symbol of a carefree society.
There are two types of shaker, and both are usually stainless steel: the traditional three-part shaker with a built-in strainer , and the modern two-part shaker, where one half is the shaker and the other half is a Boston mixing glass or smaller shaker. With the two-part shaker it is necessary to use a separate strainer.
Shaken drinks are made in the following way: the ingredients are poured into a shaker full of ice and the shaker is sealed with a smaller shaker, the top two sections of the shaker or a Boston glass; the contents are then shaken until the outside of the shaker frosts. Afterwards, and depending on the type of drink, the drink is strained into an empty cocktail glass, an empty shorter glass, or a tall glass full of ice.
Shaken drinks served straight up can be poured to within 1cm of the top of the cocktail glass, and when served in shorter glasses or tall drink glasses, to within 2 to 5mm of the top.
Shaking can dilute a drink by up to 25%, and mixes the ingredients very well, giving a nice foamy head to the cocktail when the mixture contains juices.
Carbonated ingredients should NOT be shaken: they will cause the shaker to explode!
Blend A Drink
A newcomer on the technique front, blended drinks rose to popularity in the 1960s and 70s with fruit flavoured versions of the margarita and the Strawberry Daiquiri becoming universal phenomena.
With blending, the ingredients are poured into a blender cup with ice and then placed on the electric blender base unit, which is then turned on. The steel blades inside the blender cup ensure that the drink is blended to a smooth, thick consistency. The thoroughly blended mixture is then poured into an empty frozen drink glass – preferably stemmed so that the customer’s hand doesn’t warm the drink overly much. A perfect consistency is reached when a straw can stand up in the middle of the drink. Blended drinks can be poured right to within 5mm of the top of the glass.
Blending dilutes drinks by up to 40%, so blended drinks require very strongly flavoured ingredients to create a good final drink. Blenders affect the taste of a drink completely, creating a drink that would be impossible to make in any other way: pureed fruit can combined with ice cream, creating such dreamy cocktails as the Strawberry Margarita or Strawberry Shortcake.
The key to a great blended drink is knowing how much ice and liquid to put in. It is better to underestimate, because you can always add more liquid to make the drink just fluid enough so that it can be poured; too much liquid however, will ruin a blended drink.
Measure A Drink
The easiest way to ruin a great drink is NOT to use the proper amount of spirits or mixers. There are several ways to ensure you pour just the right amount.
Measures, also known as jiggers, are very useful for accurate drink making. Common amounts are 15ml (1/2 oz), 30ml (1 oz) and 50ml (1 1/2 oz)and the best are stainless steel, straight-sided, and government-stamped. Double-headed conical-shape measures are popular, but are more difficult to pour accurately because of their shape.
A pour-spout is a small plastic or rubber/metal tool that fits onto a liquor bottle neck and provides better pour control than if you poured right from an open bottle. The most accurate are made of a rubber cork that fits into the bottle and a metal spout that fits into the cork.
To get the feel of the pour-spout, try practicing with a water filled bottle.
This is the crushing of ingredients such as fruit and herbs with a pestle or the back end of a bar spoon. This is a fantastic way of extracting as much flavour as possible from the fresh ingredients
This is the method of floating one liquid on top of another without mixing them. Use the flat end of the bar spoon to control the flow if necessary. For a successful layered drink it is necessary to understand the ingredients density. The denser the liquid the heavier it is, so it goes to the bottom, while the lighter one goes to the top. How do you tell which one is the heavier (densest) The liquids that have more sugar are the densest and the ones with a higher alcohol content are the lightest.
Create A Hot Drink
Hot drinks are usually a combination of two techniques: Built and Stirred. The ingredients – which usually include hot coffee, tea or chocolate – are poured into the glass they will be served in, stirred, and served.
Most hot drinks are layered with whipped cream, right up to within 5mm of the top of the glass, and this means that, in some cases, sugar has to be added to the drink to increase it’s density to the point that the cream will float on top of it.
As a general rule, hot drinks containing unsweetened liquor require added sugar and hot drinks containing liqueurs do not. This is because – legally – a liqueur contains between 100 and 250 grams of sugar per litre as a minimum, thus removing the need for any added sweetness.
Most hot drinks are made in special “toddy” or hot drink glasses which are short-stemmed and heat-tested, but if you have to make a hot drink in a regular glass, first place a metal spoon in the glass. This will help conduct excess heat away from the glass, making it less likely the glass will break.