The Basics of Making a Proper Cocktail
Types of cocktails:
Cocktails can be separated into two main categories:
- Short drinks typically contain between 6 to 12 cl. of liquids and tend to be consumed as a digestive drinks. These Short Drinks are strong and contain a lot of alcohol.
- Long drinks typically contain between 12 and 25 cl. of fluids and can be enjoyed as aperitif or as a thirst quenching daytime beverage, as they are less strong than the short drinks.
Professional bartenders will divide the cocktail families much further and will use words like: collins, fizzes and flips, all of which will be discusses elsewhere on this site.
Although, in principle, all combinations are possible and the number of cocktail recipes is therefore nearing on infinite, there are some basic rules that need to be observed:
- Combining 2 "bad" products can never come to a positive result.
- Neither a short drink nor a long drink should contain more than 7 cl. of alcohol.
- Never combine 2 types of "eau-de-vie" in one cocktail recipe. Never mix grain based spirits (gin, vodka, whisky) with a wine based spirit (cognac).
- Dairy products like milk, cream and eggs do not combine well with fruit juices.
- always follow the order of the cocktail recipe
- It is wise not to mix more than 5 different ingredients.
- By the glass: pour every ingredient directly into the glass and serve the cocktail after stirring it thoroughly. This technique is not efficient when serving a group of customers the same cocktail. In that situation we advise to use mixing glass or cup.
- In a mixing glass or cup you can make more of the same recipe for several people which you can later cool by pouring it over ice cubes and stirring strong for no more than 10 seconds.
- in a cocktail shaker: pour the ingredients over ice cubes. Close the shaker and shake it for about 10 seconds, after which you pour the mix into the glasses, using a strainer so that the ice will remain in the shaker. In a shaker it is more easier for the ingredients to blend resulting in a true emulsion. Sometimes an electronic mixer / blender can be used to grind the ice cubes.
In most cases the amount of the ingredients in shown in parts, so that you can the number of cocktails with the number of people. The originality, and therefore the quality, of a cocktail heavily depends on mixing the proportions correctly. This is why professional bartenders hardly every use a half-measure goblet: they stick to the proportional mix of the drinks and other ingredients. For the less experienced or amateur bartenders among us it is always possible to measure in centiliters. A 7cl short drink with 3 ingredients A, B and C could, for instance, look like: A 1/10 x 7 cl = 0.7 cl (which would be rounded up to 1 cl), B 3/10 x 7 cl = 2.1 cl (rounded down to 2 cl.) and C 6/10 x 0.7 cl. =4.2 cl. (rounded down to 4 cl.) totaling to a 7cl cocktail. This method works for most recipes (both short drinks and long drinks) as most cocktails contain only 7cl. of alcohol. The long drinks will just be topped of with champagne, tonic or soda water. For recipes that use only one spirit, 4 cl. is the standard.
- Twisting: Giving orange- or lemon-skins a short twist or squeeze over the cocktail. Depending on the type and taste of the cocktail you can add the skin to the mix, after twisting it.
- Cooling: Placing the cocktail glass in a refrigerator for several hours or by placing a few ice cubes in the glass and rolling them around the glass for a few minutes. Remember to remove all of the residual water before adding the cocktail.
- Rimming: moisturizing the rim of the glass with lemon- or lime juice and dipping the rim into regular or colored sugar, or salt, and twisting it until the rim is evenly covered.
- Blending: Some drinks require the use of a blender. One should always blend the ice separately before adding the other ingredients and the liquids should be added last.
- straining: After mixing or stirring the ingredients in a shaker, a strainer is required to keep the ice cubes from falling into the glass. Nowadays most cocktail shakers come with a build-in strainer. Remember not to use shaved or crushed ice, if you intend to use a strainer for serving.
Ice is the basis of almost all cocktails. Nearly every recipe calls for ice to be used to chill the cocktail.
The ice should as cold and as dry as possible, to prevent water from mixing with the cocktail too much. Ice cubes should always be taken directly from a freezer or kept in an isotherm ice bucket. When utilizing a shaker or a mixing glass, try to execute all the required steps as quick as possible so that the melting of the ice will be minimal. Use demineralized water, or low minerals water like evian, to make the clearest and cleanest ice cubes.
Crushed or shaven ice, which can be made by machines or by smashing ice cubes that are wrapped in a bar towel or other cloth, give faster cooling but also melt more quick, so only use shaved or crushed ice for long drinks.