Stocking Your Bar: Part 3 Mixers

wpid-0141222_161248.jpgBy this point you should have a basic idea of what kind of alcohol you actually want to drink.  Even if that idea is as simple as “Vodka”.  If you don’t then please see Part I and Part II of this series first.

I have heard stories from friends and customers many times that they “just can’t drink X” because it does something to them either physically or emotionally.  I can understand, having a friend find out the hard way that they are allergic to juniper *after* three gin martinis is an un-fun evening.

Having narrowed the field down from the six or seven major types of alcohol to just one or two is a major accomplishment.  Now comes the harder part.  From here you have to start finding brands that you like and adding mixers to make cocktails.

Finding favorite brands is tough.  The only working method is to go through them one at a time and give them a chance.  Each is going to be a bit different and will have something that appeals to one person over another.  Experience is everything.  This can get expensive quickly if you don’t find one you like early.  You can use my airplane bottle method from part 1 of this series but that won’t work for every brand.

On the other hand, finding mixers and liqueurs is a good deal easier.  Cocktails generally fall into a couple of basic categories.  I choose to break them down into Citrus, cream, fruit, spice/herbal and mocha but this is by no means an industry standard.  Each of these has a couple of flagship products that are accessible to all drinks in that category as well as a few that defy category entirely.

Citrus for example is headed by liquors like Cointreau, Combier, Gran Mariner, limoncello, triple sec and Curacao.  Mocha is led by Kaluha and creme de cacao.  Cream liquors are most commonly associated with Irish cream, or newer liqueurs like rumchata, rumpope and advocaat.  The fruit liqueurs are generally non-citrus such as cherry herring, Parma, or Amaretto.  Spice or herbal liqueurs come from a number of roots but are monastic such as chartreuse, benedictine, kummel or aquavit.

Depending on your preference each of these is a good start for making drinks in the category of your choice.  Having a bottle of each would prepare you for cocktails of almost any stripe.

For example Cointreau or Combier are both examples of Triple-sec a generally clear liqueur made from bitter orange peels.  Triple-sec is the base spirit for classic drinks like the Cosmo and the Margarita.

Application of these mixers to your existing base of spirits, sodas and syrups will give you thousands of quick combinations with little effort and a maximum level of compatibility.  Your best option is to pick an area that you think you want to explore and pick up a smaller bottle of one of the core liqueurs.

As with anything choose flavors that you would pick elsewhere.  Don’t drop money on a chili pepper vodka if spicy foods are not to your liking.  Don’t drink Creme de Cassis if you’re not a big fan of black currant.

Once you’ve got your mixer, your juice and your base spirit a simple 2,1, 1/2 combination is usually enough to get you going.  For every 2 ounces of base spirit add 1 ounce of liqueur and 1/2 ounce of fruit juice.  If that appeals to you somewhat you can work on the proportions until it’s perfect.

What are the different types of Rum?

While all spirits derive their alcoholic content from one form of sugar or another the class of spirits that are made from sugar directly are generally classed as Rum.  In the US the regulations are very very broad in defining what is and isn’t considered rum.  According to the US Tax and Trade Bureau which sets the definitions for spirits in the US, Rum is any “Spirits distilled from the fermented juice of sugar cane, sugar cane syrup, sugar cane molasses or other sugar cane by-products at less than 95% alcohol by volume (190 proof) having the taste, aroma and characteristics generally attributed to rum and bottled at not less than 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof)”.

Beyond that general form there is no sub-type, category or other definition of rum in general.  They do define Rum liqueurs and Flavored rums but the breakout essentially boils down to “It should be primarily rum” and “It should be flavored as listed on the bottle”  so butterscotch flavored rum can’t be flavored with root beer or tuna fish.

What does that mean?  Effectively since none of the terms on your bottle of rum are regulated other than the word “Rum” distillers can say whatever they want about their product and have it stick.

The following terms in rum are unregulated:

White
Gold
Dark
Spiced
Silver
Light
Overproof
Black

 

Cachaca

Stocking Your Bar Part 2: Basics

wpid-received_817805461613150.jpegFor my previous ramblings on how to stock your bar check HERE.

A long running argument among my friends is what actually constitutes a cocktail.  The line has been fairly drawn by me at three ingredients and by at least one of my more vocal companions at two.  Under his rule the rum & coke would qualify as a cocktail but under mine the screwdriver would not.  The bar has not been solidified but is constantly in flux.  What remains is that when you boil most cocktails down they are a mixture of a high proof spirit, some lower proof liquor or liqueur and a syrup, juice or soda.

This means that after you have found your base spirit the next portion of the process is finding your mixers.  Because the liqueur section is slightly more difficult and sometimes unnecessary (re: screwdriver, rum and coke, Jack and Ginger) the form of your basic fillers becomes a more important portion of keeping a well stocked bar.

 

Sodas

To start with I want to tackle sodas.  The single most vile and beautiful thing that you can add to your drink is in the form of sugar and carbonated water.  Just like with a base spirit the end result all depends on quality and what you’re willing to put into making your drink.  For the most simple drinks a mini-fridge full of small cans of major label sodas is more than enough.  The smaller size means that you can make one or two drinks without having to worry that an entire 2 liter bottle is going to go to waste before you can get to the rest of it.

If you want to upgrade a step from there, the number of premium bottled sodas has exploded in recent years with everything from Reeds premium ginger beer to high quality organic tonic waters like Q Tonic.  Keeping a six pack or two on hand is easy and fun.

On a half step laterally is the soda stream fountain.  I was given one of these as a gift and can say with authority that it pays for itself in fridge space and flexibility.  The reason this is a half step is that many of the syrups available are made with basic low cost ingredients and not more flavorful premium items.   If you own a soda stream you can take the next step by having the ability to make your own sodas from syrup concentrates which obviates the problems inherent in the store bought syrups.  This also allows you to make things that are not as common in store bought syrups such as porter syrup, Ginger Syrup and Tonic Syrup.

 Syrups

A syrup is generally a high sugar liquid.  The sugar content can come from anything be it honey, agave nectar, or fructose from fruit juice.  These are generally non-alcoholic and are added like a concentrate in small amounts.  Some well known ones include Grenadine (pomegranate syrup), chocolate syrup, Orzha (Almond Syrup), and Simple Syrup which is just sugar water.  Syrups are painfully easy to buy.  Torrani has made a line of both full sugar and sugar free syrups for years with a flavor line that runs into the dozens.  A quick trip to Cash and Carry shows 2-3 other semi-generic brands with similar offerings.

Syrups are also hellishly simple to make, with the verity of sweeteners available in bulk you could quite easily make a dragonfruit and saffron syrup with an agave nectar base if your tastes ran that direction.  With a minor addition of an ounce or two of vodka the syrups will keep in the fridge for weeks.

Sourmix2Juices

Fruit juices are one of *the* most common additives to cocktails.  Starting with Lemon and lime juices and following onward to orange, pineapple, grapefruit and from there to non-citrus juices like apple or cranberry.  Much like the sodas there are ample retail options for many of these juices, but fresh juices are often best where possible and so having limes or lemons to squeeze yourself is great.  Oranges are a bit more difficult as the juices can be bitter without any outward sign, this is why it is best to get oranges in season and to test them before you run an entire pitcher of juice.

Having a selection of fresh juices on hand is key to flavorful cocktails.

Gracious Thanks to Diana C. for the bar photo at the head of this post.

Stocking Your Bar: Part 1

mybar

To the average drinker not a great amount of thought goes into the content or composition of the liquor cupboard.  When spirits are needed spirits are purchased, and after a number of parties, dinner parties, superbowls and new years have gone by one might be left with an aging bottle of ouzo, a half empty jug of pina colada mix and some aborted homemade Limoncello.

It is only when one has the desire for a cocktail that the barren nature of the collection becomes evident.

But where to start?  What to buy?  How much should one purchase to be reasonably comfortable?

A myriad of sources will try to sell you on what the fully stocked bar resembles and how many of their advertiser’s products you should keep on the shelf.  Some people do a passable job of getting some of the point across.  The one that inspired me to do a better job of explaining my philosophy was Doug at everydaydrinkers.com.  He starts to ramble a bit after the first couple of minutes but he does give a basic goal.  You should stock your bar with things *YOU* like to drink.

Where he starts to go wrong is to put the search for what you like to drink into the hands of a novice.  If you don’t know how to stock your bar you can spend a long time in the wilderness of flavors before you find the one or two go-to drinks that you personally enjoy.

Worse yet, you may find some drinks that you think you like.  But having had much experience in bartending, might never be able to reproduce a drink you had once in a bar.   Sort of a Dunning-Kruger for cocktails, not knowing what you like you can’t figure out what to buy to figure out what you like.

I think in this feature I’m going to answer the question of how to understand what you want to drink, and how to get the widest exposure to different kinds of alcohol flavors without having to put a lot of money into bottles up front.

To that end my first recommendation is: airline bottles.  The 50ml size bottle dates back a long way before the airplane.  Cognac distributors have been making 50ml size bottles of their product for tasting since the early 1800’s.

These bottles offer you just over an ounce and a half of product.  Generally enough for most any cocktail you could want, and for some mixers enough for two or three drinks.  This is something of a bargain in most cases.  Consider that a normal bottle is 750ml at about $20+ per bottle.  That works out to about two and a half cents a ml or about 1.33 for a 50ml bottle.  Most of the bottles I’ve purchased clock in at anywhere from $1-3, which means you can pick up a half dozen for less than what you pay for a full bottle of one spirit.

Not every distiller or distributor is going to offer this size of bottle, and worse still a lot of stores don’t carry a very big selection of them.  The ones they do carry tend to be from bigger companies with recognizable names.

For instance I found a 50ml of Grand Marnier at the place down the block for a buck fifty.  Tasting this can tell you if you’re ready for barrel aged spirits or if you should stick to bols triple sec.  Instead of dropping $43.00 on a full 750ml bottle of Grand marnier and being stuck with most of a bottle you didn’t like.

This can also be a way to try out boondoggles like Glazed donut vodka or the new Jack Daniels honey whiskey.  Sure it sounds interesting, but once you have it on the tongue who knows if it’s going to be sweet, cloying, metallic or artificial.

They also tend to be perfect for camping, travel or picnics.  I have a 50ml of Clear Creek Kirshwasser that I refill for some of my limeade projects when I need something to fit into my travel case and inside of a shaker.

This still doesn’t solve the problem of what to drink, but at least you’re not putting all your money into a few risky bottles at the outset.

If you’re wondering that’s a picture of my own bar selection from a couple of months back.  Left to right you have Brandy, vodka, gins, whiskey, bitters.  At the back, some spice liqueurs, chocolates, coffees, followed by fruit liqueurs, and syrups.  And yes if you look at the bottom right you can see four 50ml bottles.  Jack Daniel’s Honey Whiskey, St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur, Grand Marnier and Cointreau.

The cointreau was for a project, the Grand Marnier is for an article about the differences between triple sec, grand marnier and curacao.  The jack is a boondoggle and the St. Germaine was because I’ve been burned on overly floral concoctions before and I wasn’t about to invest in a big fancy bottle of eau de toilette.

For reference the St. Germaine is fantastic stuff and deserves a much longer article which I will do justice at some point.

Basic Drinking: Moscow Mule

moscow muleFollowing up on my post about Core Drinks.

This evening we present the Moscow Mule.  A drink with a fine pedigree and a well known history.  The president and owners of Cock ‘n Bull Ginger Beer and  G.F. Heublein Brothers, Inc.

Heublein may not sound like a name to remember now but in the 40’s they were famous as the company that brought vodka to the american palate when they acquired all rights to the Smirnoff brand.  They are also responsible for the US distribution of other noteworthy brands like Don Q, Jose Cuervo and Guinness Stout.

In 1941 when Jack Morgan shipped his first train load of Cock ‘n Bull ginger beer to the east coast he celebrated in the bar at the Chatham Hotel.  Alongside him were John G. Martin of Heublein and Rudolph Kunett president of Smirnoff.

We can only credit divine providence (and a large quantity of Kunett’s product) with the resulting cocktail.

1.5 oz vodka
0.5 oz lime juice (half a lime)
8 oz Ginger Beer

Pour into glass, give a shot stir so as not to release all the bubbles and drop the spent half lime into the glass.

For some reason these are traditionally served in a small, handled copper mug.  The reasons for this are unclear and lacking this unique barware I’m forced to rely on my Working Glass for such a large drink.

Flavor wise I think you’re going to see a lot of difference based on the kind of Ginger beer you choose.  Cock n’ Bull, the original brand that started the drink is very much alive.  It’s cloudy, rich and spicy.  You can find it in grocery stores, liquor stores and even online.  You might also want to try Fever Tree or Reeds which comes in an Original and and Extra Ginger version.  Reeds is generally around.  I’ve seen it in a number of grocery stores. Fever tree tends to be a bit more select and while I’ve seen some of their products in stores you can’t count on the full line.

I made this one with a cock n bull and I have to say that it has some serious bite.  It’s not sharp like fresh ginger but it does have the burn and the spice of the true root.  The recipe on the side of the bottle is the one I’ve given above, but as I said this takes a larger glass seeing as you’ve got about 10 oz of drink there compared to the 6-8 you normally have in most cocktails.

Some of the versions of this have the ratio a bit closer to even.  2 parts vodka to 3 parts ginger beer.  Given that mix you’d get.

1 oz vodka
0.5 oz lime juice
1.5 oz ginger beer.

A bit short but if you’re using a smaller mug then a 3-4 oz drink goes a bit quicker and you can refill a bit more often.

Mr. Bartender gives a recipe of:

2 oz Vodka
2 oz Lime Juice
8 oz Ginger beer

I think in this case they’re simply upping the lime juice to compensate for the excess of ginger beer. It’s a similar ratio as above you’re just putting 4 times as much ginger beer and lime.  A much lighter drink that you might otherwise want.

This is not a drink that goes quickly.  The volume of flavor between ginger and lime is enough to give you time to pause between sips.  They don’t mesh but they do blend pretty well and being as a good vodka will disappear once it hits any sort of mixer you’re not tasting anything alcohol related on this one.

Mudder’s Milk Part 5: Big Damn Heroes

To Recap:
Mudders Milk 1 : Where I aim to misbehave
Mudders Milk 2: Mighty fine shindig
Mudders Milk 3: Too Pretty to Die
Mudders Milk 4: Coming to a middle

I think this is going to be our final installment.  With enough experimentation I’ve gotten this to the point where it can be reproduced consistently every time.

Start with 1/3 cup of rolled oatmeal.  Using a food processor blend the oats until you’ve got the whole thing to a flour like consistency.

You can do as much as you want and keep it in a storage container but 1/3 cup is about as much as you need for a single serving.

Put the oat flour into a small resealable container with slightly more than 1/3 cup of water.   Add to the mix about a tablespoon of cinnamon, fresh grated nutmeg, and ground allspice.  Mix the oats well and place the sealed container in the fridge overnight.

While the oats are soaking we prep the apples.  Take a whole apple, peel, core and dice finely.  To the apples add a similar amount of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.  Add about a tablespoon of granulated sugar to the mix and then a small amount of water.  Place the whole into a pot and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Once the apples are good and soft you strain the results and put the apples through a food mill, chinoise or strainer.

I usually do up three apples at a time and keep the results in another container.

Once you have the cold soak and the apples done you can basically do this any time you want.

To the 1/3 cup oats I drain off any excess water and give it a good stir.  Add about two spoonfuls of apple and a good pinch of brown sugar and put it in the microwave for about 15-30 seconds.  Stir the results and spoon it into a glass.  Add 1.5 oz of coole swan irish cream and 1 oz of spiced rum.

For the rum I am currently using Eastside Distilling’s Spiced rum which uses the same kind of spice mix as their holiday spice liqueur and has a wonderful spicy flavor.

Stir up the whole mix to get it good and smooth, then drink to your heart’s content.

What I love about this is that most of the work can be done in advance and can be portioned out into single servings without any problems.  It only takes a minor amount of heat, or none at all if you’re camping hard.  With a small amount of well sealed camping storage you can have breakfast drinking for several days ready to go.

To answer a question from my last post I did make an attempt to do this with with apple butter.

The big difference between the apples I’ve been using and apple butter is about a half cup of sugar.  The consistency is about the same but when you boil the apples down for an extra couple of hours the spices get a lot stronger.  The result is a thicker, much sweeter product.

Two spoonfuls of apple butter was just too much.  The result was cloying and too sweet by far.  Maybe without the brown sugar it would have been ok or with less apple butter but I can say that the effort needed to make apple butter was not worth it for the drink.  The extra hours of stewing and the effort of putting apples through a strainer were more work than really needed.

Using store bought apple butter could be a good alternative but I think cost wise the apples would be cheaper and give a perfectly excellent result.

Double Simple Syrup in Practice – Fitzgerald Cocktail

fitzgeraldIn looking for a simple cocktail to showcase some of my new syrups I happened upon an old classic.

The Fitzgerald is a classic cocktail in every sense.

1.5 oz Gin
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Simple Syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

The combination of sugar, bitters, citrus and spirit is effortless and allows your primary spirit to really shine.  If you’re not a big crazy gin drinker, the double simple syrup that I created a couple of days back is an excellent way to ease yourself into some drinks you might not otherwise be sure of liking.

Double Simple syrup is simple syrup with a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water instead of the 1:1 normally used.  This can actually be extended to 3:1 if you dare but anything beyond that and you’re getting into candy making country which is beyond the ken of this lowly cocktail scribe.

The richness of the syrup is strong, and I think you could scale back a bit on it if you wanted to play with the ingredient mix a bit.  Upping the citrus will lose some of the more delicate flavors in your gin, but cutting back on the sweetness will change the cocktail without getting in the way of the flavors.

It is slightly thicker than normal simple syrup but this isn’t really evident once it’s in the drink.

I garnished mine with a few of the maraschino cherries I made a few weeks back.  They’re still kicking and the extra flavors at the end were a nice touch.

Drink Upgrades: The Screwdriver

Following up my article on Basic Drinking, I present to you a basic guide on how to you can upgrade a very basic drink into any of a variety of  complex cocktails.

The screwdriver is one of the most basic of drinks.  Vodka and Orange juice in some proportion.  The drink is so simple that unless you’re actually tending bar even the proportions hardly matter.

This is basic orange juice.  Approximately 8 ounces.Orange Juice

From this simple citrus you can expand outwards in an almost infinite number of directions.

For our purposes the screw driver requires only that we add vodka.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screwdriver

 

After 1.5 oz of vodka and a quick stir you have a screwdriver.  Quick morning pick me up, easygoing non-soda party drink etc.

For a slight upgrade there are a plethora of flavored vodkas on the market that can give this a kick into another direction.  A personal favorite is Whipped Cream Vodka which turns OJ into a creamcicle in pretty short order.  Raspberry, cherry, and even glazed donut vodka could also give you a nice turn on this level.

Harvey WallbangerThis picture doesn’t really do the Harvey Wallbanger justice.  A basic screwdriver with a float of about half an ounce of Galliano on top.

Galliano has a lot of flavor and when you float it, it becomes the first thing into your mouth.  You’re going to get anise, bitter, vanilla and a number of other things.  If that’s not your bag, then I would suggest adding it with the vodka and giving it a good stir.  You’re not going to notice the delicate flavors much in so much OJ, which might require you to drop the Oj down to 4 ounces or less if you want to get a good idea of the flavors.

At this point you’re looking at three ingredients.  Two of them as common as oxygen and one almost unknown.

If you’re looking for a variant here you could substitute anything with a strong herbal flavor.  Herbsaint, Benedictine, or Chartreuse would be good substitutes.  Alternately you could start looking at amaros things like Campari, Aperol, or Maraschino.

You could also go with flavors that really complement the orange, Triple sec, Grand Mariner, Ginger Liqueur or Curacao.

 

 

 

Once you’ve got a handle on flavors it’s a pretty simple matter to start blending similar ingredients into a more tasty whole.

The Graduate From humble beginnings the screwdriver gets mouthfeel, tart notes, astringency, sweeter notes and bitter licorice flavors and becomes The Graduate.

Mudder’s Milk Part 4: Coming to a Middle

To Recap:  Mudders Milk 1  In which we set our sails to distraction

Mudders Milk 2 In which we fail and learn that having to eat your mistakes can still be damn tasty.

Mudders Milk 3: Where we try Cold Soaking

Welcome back everyone to my attempt to create a drinkable oatmeal cocktail.  In our previous episode we tried cold soaking the oatmeal with some very good results.  Suggestions were made as to how to proceed and we present the results.

premud 1

Using a small blender I took about 3/4 of a cup of rolled oats and powdered them.  I was expecting something a bit more like steel cut oats but instead wound up with something more like oat flour.

premud2

I fouled the next step.  Normally with cold oats you only need a small amount of liquid to get the whole thing going since none of it is going to boil off.  I could have done a half cup to 3/4 cup of milk but being out of milk at the time I instead used water and didn’t bother to check my notes and used 1.5 cups of water.

premud3

The result was thin and after a stir looked pretty smooth.  I placed the container in the fridge overnight and prayed that I wouldn’t have to start over.

Mudder's Milk4-1In the morning the container had separated putting a small quantity of cloudy water on top of the layer of oatmeal.  I poured this off and was left with what you see above in the first photo.  The texture is pretty good, the smell and flavor are about a hundred times better than the baby oatmeal I tried and this looks like it’s going to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stage 2 is apples.  All previous attempts have resulted in apples with a slightly chunky texture that is not ideal for drinking.

Mudder's Milk4-2Mudder's Milk4-3

We start by peeling and coring.  Then dice them into small mostly uniform pieces.

Mudder's Milk4-4

Add a little baker’s sugar so the apples will sweat and about an ounce of water to get them started.  Next season with ground cinnamon and grated fresh nutmeg.

After a little time I added another ounce of water to help them soften and stir periodically to keep them from sticking.

After a good 10-15 minutes the apples were still not very soft and I’m starting to think that I need a different approach to them.  So I pulled them off the stove and into a solid bowl for a good muddling with my Oxo Steel Muddler.  I like this thing a lot, Wood makes me edgy about flavor carry over and the thing eventually wearing out and putting splinters in my drinks.  I don’t have a good history with wooden kitchen implements so this muddler feels good being both solid metal in the rod and plastic on the head for cleaning.

It made pretty short work of the apples but at the end they were still pretty solid.  Another approach is definitely needed.

Mudder's Milk4-5

 

I added the muddled apples and the oatmeal back into the pot for a little heating and blending.  At this point I made mistake number two which was to forget to season the oatmeal.  This stuff is bland, bland bland when it’s plain and for this drink I need something that is going to help mask the alcohol.  The seasoning on the apples hasn’t been able to carry the day before and this time was no exception.

This part only took about 2-3 minutes and if you’re prepping this stuff for camping or events this is the point at which you can do you run out of pre-prep.  All the previous steps can be done hours in advance and set aside.

Mudder's Milk4-6

 

Once the mixture was warm enough that cold booze wasn’t going to make the effort pointless I spooned the now somewhat more solid oatmeal into a parfait glass.  This is about 4-6 tablespoons.

Mudder's Milk4-7

 

For this attempt we’re going to use some Silver Bacardi Rum and a bottle of dirt cheap Emmet’s Irish Cream.  I would use Coole swan for this in the end but I’m not going to waste the good stuff on an unsure outcome.  You might ask, why rum?  The original effort for this came from a discussion with a lovely pirate girl and so I’m using rum in an effort to keep at least the sousant of piratical flavor.

Mudder's Milk4-8

 

1 oz of Silver Rum
1.5 oz of Irish Cream

Stir well in the glass and you should wind up with something like this:

Mudder's Milk4-9

 

Flavor: Harsh on the alcohol side.  This could be too much rum or just cheap irish cream that is the problem but it does make me think that I haven’t given enough thought to the kinds of alcohol I’m using in this.  The oatmeal is fine and the apples are tasty.

Texture: The oatmeal is perfect.  No clumps until right at the end when I’d let the glass settle a bit and even then it wasn’t big enough to stop drinking.  The apples were still huge and did require chewing.

Problems: Oatmeal was bland.  I need to season on both the apples AND oatmeal and sweeten with some brown sugar before I add the apples.

Apples were still huge: I’m thinking either putting them through a food mill, blender, or stewing them in more liquid rather than sort of poaching them like I have been doing.  Applesauce seems like a good idea for some reason but I have a feeling that it won’t work out as well as what I have been doing.  They need to be softer and mushy but not liquid.

Boozey: With both rum and bad irish cream this was a hit in the mouth every drink.  The irish cream is a for sure but using something like coole swan is going to help.  Less rum, this is an AM drink and doesn’t need that much of a hit.  I’m also thinking of something a bit more flavorful like barenjager, which is a honey liqueur and is very creamy and might help with the need for less sugar.

 

Drinking Basics: Core Drinks

It was not that long ago that I was like many casual drinkers out there.  There was no complexity in my attempts to get smashed as quickly as possible and I was guilty of drinking some things that these days make me cringe.

An argument I’ve had with a friend of mine is what constitutes a cocktail.  The original definition read something along the lines of “spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.”

Specific enough for my tastes but that defines the classic cocktail, back when people knew a sling from a gimlet.  Today the waters have been muddied to the point that the dictionary says “an iced drink of wine or distilled liquor mixed with flavoring ingredients.”  About the only thing that definition excludes is beer and cider.  Anything else could reasonably rolled into the realm of “flavoring ingredients.”

I’ve stated my position is that anything that uses a soda as the primary carrier in the drink isn’t really a cocktail.  The point of refutation in that argument is the Cuba Libre which does all kinds of things to the cocktail world.

So I’ve performed a strategic retreat and I present to you here the most basic “cocktail” in common consumption for each of the most common forms of hard liquor.

Vodka

For this most plain of liquors we have two options.
1. The Screwdriver – 1 part Vodka and 2 parts Orange juice.
2. Vodka Cranberry – 1 part Vodka to 2 Parts Cranberry Juice

Vodka is a neutral spirit, when done well it should present no burn either forward or afterwards.  In either of these drinks the dry and sour components in the citric acid are there to try to smooth out a cheaper vodka.  The cheaper the vodka the more juice you add.

Gin

The floral bouquet of gin is one of the most complex scents in the liquor world.  A gin basket can contain dozens of ingredients each distinctly detectable in a well made liquor.
1. The Martini – 1.5 oz Gin to 0.5 oz Dry Vermouth
2. Gin and Tonic – the most basic of all, Gin and a quinine containing tonic water mixed in ratios of about 2:3

Rum

There are a lot of different kinds of rum.  Too many to recount in this piece I’m afraid but we include here the current swing in rum drinks.
1. Rum and Coke – just like it sounds 1.5 oz rum to an 8 oz can of cola.
2. Scurvy Pirate – 1.5 oz Rum, Ginger Ale

Tequila

As complex a spirit as tequila is, it seldom mixes well with a lot of the more classic ideas of cocktails and tends to shun bitters and floral arrangements in favor of fruit and citrus.
1. Tequila Slammer – 1.5 oz Tequila, 7-up, Squirt or Mt. Dew.  This one is tricky as the drink is served with some room left in the glass.  You hold your hand over the top of the glass and slam it quickly on the bar to release the carbonation then drink it quickly before it foams over the top of the glass.

Tune in next time with drinking basics as we show you the evolution of tastes from the very basic to the complex as we upgrade the screwdriver.