It’s time to take the plunge and start making some creative cocktails at home. Discovering cocktails leads you down the same path as learning about sex:
*Infatuation: you throw vodka and rum into everything, pretend your are Capt. Morgan and drink with wild abandon.
*Experimentation: oh, gin is good; scotch is interesting, what happens when I add some bitters to the mix!
*Regrets: I went home with who?? I’ll never drink tequila again.
*Getting selective: no more dark Latin rums after 10:00 pm
*You are a Player: you know what you like, you control the situation. Your cocktails are complex, interesting and you know when to walk away.
And just like sex, you build up your repertoire of satisfying moves. Adding a garnish, finessing with bitters, whiffs of exotic flavors, all make for an enhanced cocktail experience. You fall in love with the classics and understand why you can keep going back and never get tired of them; just like your mate.
Ease into the home bar slowly as you learn what you like and don’t like. Start grasping the fundamentals of balance: sour to sweet, sweet to bitter, strong to weak. Learn when to shake (anything with citrus), and when to stir, and when to break the rules. Make room in your freezer and clear a shelf in the cabinet, because it’s exactly like when your significant other started staying over all the time..they need some dedicated space of their own. Bottles, tools, ice, and nice cold glasses all need to be treated with respect.
To get you started, here are a seleciton of gin cocktails that will fast forward you into Player status in no time.
Do not make that “I don’t like gin” face! Gin is vodka infused with flavors. Get out of your rut and go taste some gin. Some of our fav’s are Hendricks that has a whiff of cucumber crispness, or a newcomer Death’s Door, or Bulldog. Each one has a unique botanical flavor. Vodka is like drinking water, nice, but why not go bigger?
I’ve talked about these cocktails before, but these are go-to cocktails around our house so I know they are tried, true, and delicious libations.
And what makes a cocktail a ‘craft’ cocktail, you ask? Attention to ingredients, just like you do with your cooking.
There are a few cocktails tips that you need to know before you start shaking.
1) Cold is your friend. Our recommended method, is to agitate by shake or stir, rest for 45-60 seconds, and agitate again. Keep your glasses, your bar tools, your hootch in the freezer, if you can.
2) Measure, don’t eyeball. Even if you don’t have a nifty jigger, use one small glass as your unit of measure.
3) More than 2 cocktails and you will be useless the next day. You are responsible for your actions.
Start with the Italian national cocktail: Negroni.
1 part gin
1 part Campari
1 part Sweet Vermouth
Stir, serve on the rocks and garnish with an orange wedge.
The Americano variation: replace the gin with sparkling water. Lighter, still delicious.
The Sbagliato: (it means mistake in Italian) replace the gin with Prosecco. Perfect in the summer, actually perfect anytime you have some open Prosecco around.
Now watch what happens when you swap out the Campari for Sweet Vermouth, you have a Martinez. The bitter element is gone, the vermouth turns the drink a whiskey color, and the palate embraces the complexity.
2 oz gin
1 oz Sweet Red Vermouth
1/4 oz Triple Sec or Cointreau
Dash Orange Bitters
The Avatrix is a variation on a classic Aviation…light, lemony, with an elderflower sweetness. The Aviatrix comes directly from the talented mixologist Katie Loeb in Philadelphia. In fact, I’ll credit Katie with being the person who made me realize that there is more to life than a good glass of wine.
2 oz gin
1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz St. Germaine
Shake, rest, shake, serve
Maraschino Liqueur is not the cherry juice from those dyed, icky cherries! It’s a rich, profound liqueur made from the marasca cherry.
St. Germaine is an elderflower liqueur that is sweet and marvelous.
A classic Aviation has Creme de Violette liqueur instead of the St. Germain, but to be honest, that violette stuff is a lot like chewing on a bag of old Sen-Sen that your grandmother kept in her pocketbook.
Then there is the French Pearl, created by Audrey Saunders. With it’s tasty cousin, the Italian Pearl, invented by us in Montone, because limes are nearly impossible to come by and it’s OK to substitute. Substitution is the love child of desire and necessity.
2 parts gin (Plymouth Gin is preferred)
3/4 part freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 part simple syrup
1 mint sprig, lightly muddled
Shake, rest, shake and pour.
Simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water. We make it up in batches and keep it in the fridge.
Muddling means lightly crushing the fresh mint in the bottom of the cocktail shaker. The classic beginner mistake: muddling the hell out of the mint. This causes two problems: the mint becomes bitter and you wind up with little tiny green bits of mint stuck your teeth. Then you spend the next few minutes compulsively licking your teeth because you’re sipping partner has green bits stuck to his teeth and you don’t want to mention it because it will totally ruin the mood, so you keep wiping your teeth hoping he’ll get the hint.
The Italian pearl uses lemon juice and Pastis or Sambuca in place of the Pernod.
Pomeranian is a true craft-tail because you need to make your own grenadine syrup. Relax, it’s equal parts unsweetened pomegranate juice and simple syrup with a little dash of vodka or gin to keep it from going fermented.
2 oz gin
1/2 oz lime juice, fresh squeezed, but you know that
1/2 oz St. Germaine
1/2 oz fresh grenadine syrup
Shake, rest, serve. It’s a beautiful color; just the right shade for cocktails around holiday time! In fact, Jeff invented this lovely crowd pleaser one Christmas night a few years back.
And speaking of holidays, our next post well be some good New Year’s Eve libations. Merry & a Happy, indeed!