Basics of Cocktail Making and Cocktail Making Equipment
What is a Cocktail?
When it comes to cocktail making, you’ll need to know a few basic things. All cocktails have two or three elements. The base is usually a spirit, although it can occasionally be some sort of wine. The main flavouring modifies the base and brings out the aroma. Commonly used flavourings include vermouth, fruit juices, wine and also eggs and cream. The special flavouring enhances the flavour and often adds colour— Grenadine is a typical example. Thus, in a Maiden’s Blush, for instance, the base is gin, the main flavouring is Pernod and the special flavouring is Grenadine.
All cocktails should be served very cold. Ice is used in the mixing (see below) but it is also worth chilling glasses and other equipment.
There are two basic techniques for cocktail making — shaking and stirring. Shaking produces a cloudy appearance and a colder cocktail than stirring.
Put cracked or cubed ice in the shaker before adding the other ingredients. Support the base with one hand and hold the top with the other. Shake briskly. As Harry Craddock of the Savoy Hotel remarks, ‘Shake the shaker as hard as you can: don’t just rock it: you are trying to wake it up, not send it to sleep!’. When the outside of the shaker begins to sweat, this indicates that the cocktail is sufficiently chilled and it should be served immediately.
This is usually done in a mixing glass, although occasionally a cocktail may be mixed in the glass in which it is to be served. A mixing glass is simply a jug with a pouring lip and a minimum capacity of 600 m1/1 pint.
Put cracked or cubed ice in the glass before adding the other ingredients. Stir with a long-handled spoon until the outside of the glass begins to sweat. This indicates that the cocktail is sufficiently chilled and it should be served immediately.
Other techniques Some cocktails, especially those made with fresh fruit or eggs, can be made in an electric blender. Use cracked rather than cubed ice and do not add any effervescent ingredients, such as soda water, until the very end of the mixing. Do not operate the blender for more than a few seconds or the ice will melt and dilute the cocktail.
Using an electric blender, although an abomination to purists, is quick and easy. It is particularly helpful for frothy cocktails, especially if you are beginning to suffer from barman’s elbow as a result of too much shaking. Obviously, cocktails normally made in a mixing glass should not be made in a blender.
Some cocktails call for a technique called floating, whereby one of the ingredients is added at the end of the cocktail and is not mixed in. This is usually a spirit or cream. The Galliano in a Harvey Wallbanger is one example. To do this, hold a spoon against the side of the glass and slowly pour the spirit or cream over it.
Stocking the Cocktail Bar
It is not necessary to buy up the entire stock in your local wine merchants but you will require a good basic selection if you want to be able to produce a range of cocktails.
Remember that a cocktail will not disguise poor quality ingredients.
Basic Stock for Your Cocktail Bar
This list provides most of the ingredients for a well-stocked bar, but, of course, makes no allowance for personal taste. If you cannot bear the taste of rum, for example, then you might prefer to leave buying some until a later date. After all, you will probably have friends who cannot resist a Pina Colada or Cuba Libre.
Whisky — ideally a selection of Scotch, Irish, Bourbon and Canadian Vodka Rum — ideally a bottle each of dark and light Brandy Cointreau or Curacao Crème de Menthe
Crème de Cacao
Vermouth — sweet and dry Wines — a selection of still and sparkling wines, port and sherry Grenadine
More Advanced Cocktails
As you become more experienced and more knowledgeable about cocktails, you might like to extend your stock to include the following:
Chartreuse — green and yellow Drambuie Fruit brandies — apricot, cherry, Calvados Pernod Galliano
Liqueurs — choose ones you like to drink on their own as well as in cocktails to avoid bankruptcy