Make Cocktails at Home

Learn Mixology – in your own home!

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Make Cocktails at Home

Understanding Your Ingredients

Get to know what you’re putting in your mouth

Now that you have the core cocktail making skills you need to make a good drink it’s time to get up to speed on the next important part – the ingredients. Afterall, if you want to make great tasting cocktails of your own it’s essential you understand exactly what you’re playing with.

Start off by brushing up on the fundamentals behind how alcohol is made with an introduction to distillation and fermentation.

The Easy Guide to Alcohol part one – Fermentation, Distillation and Spirits

Next, dive into the sweeter side with a look at how your favourite liqueurs are made.

The Easy Guide to Alcohol part two – Liqueurs

We follow this up with an introduction to that most versatile of citrus fruits, the lime.

Easy Guide to Lime Juice – Fresh Lime, Roses Cordial and the Gimlet

Now you can tell the difference between a spirit and a liqueur , how they taste, how they are produced, and also when and why we should use fresh citrus. Great! Let’s put this knowledge to use in the next guide  as we breakdown a cocktail into it’s separate components.

Cocktails Deconstructed

Make some drinks!

With a core knowledge of the key techniques and the ingredients needed to make a decent drink it’s time for you to start experimenting with recipes of your own! Feel free to let me know how you go by leaving a comment below, I’m very interested to see what you can come up with.

/David

How to stir cocktails at Make Cocktails at Home

Brush Up On Your Core Cocktail Making Skills

Ready to brush up on your skills?

To make truly great tasting cocktails it’s important to understand both the reasons and the mechanics behind how they are made. Although it may sometimes seem like it, (good) bartenders do not just reach for the shaker every time they make a drink – they use the right tool for the right job, at the right time.

Start by having a quick look at the different types of bar equipement you’ll be using.

Essential Home Bar Equipment

 

Now that you have an idea about the equipment, it’s time to  answer the age old question – shaken or stirred?

Have a look at the different mixing methods and when you should use them.

Mixing Cocktails 101 – The Methods – Overview

 

And the Individual methods

Mixing Cocktails 101 – The Methods – Build

Mixing Cocktails 101 – How to stir a cocktail

And of course, the all important

Mixing Cocktails 101 – The Methods – Shake and Strain

 

Revision time – Easy Guide to Alcohol part two – Liqueurs

Have you ever wondered what that bottle of Cointreau on your shelf is actually made of? Understanding liqueurs as ingredients (such as Cointreau) will help you make better drinks – if you haven’t already then check out Easy Guide to Alcohol Part Two – Liqueurs

How to stir cocktails at Make Cocktails at Home

Mixing Cocktails 101 – How to stir a cocktail

The proper way to stir a cocktail

 

For more info about bar equipment check out the ‘Essential Equipment for your home bar’ blog post

Time for the next post in my series on mixing methods, and today we’re going to take a look at stirring, or stirred,  cocktails.

I’ve previously covered shaking, an aggressive action we use when we need to mix ingredients that that differ greatly in consistency (mixing spirits, juices and syrups together for example), but what if we are using simpler ingredients?

If we are simply mixing two types of clear alcohol together (such as gin and vermouth) then the aggressive nature of shaking  is really more than we need- it  will ruin the appearance of the drink by making it cloudy,  and the small chips of ice that break off during the shaking action can also add often unwanted dilution to the drink.

Instead, we’re going to treat this cocktail with respect – be gentle, and stir.

Technique

You will need:

  • Mixing glass (part of your shaker set)
  • Bar spoon

Take your (clean) mixing glass and fill it with (clean) ice.

Using a measure for accuracy pour in the ingredients from your cocktail – for example if you are making a Martini, pour in measured amounts of gin and vermouth.

Now you have the ingredients in the ice it’s ready to mix.

 

 

It’s time to grab your bar spoon. Ever wondered why it was so long? Well, wonder no more – the extra length lets us get right to the bottom of a mixing glass to the precious, precious alcohol.

Carefully push the ‘spoon’ end of your barspoon down the side of the glass right down bottom, holding the base of the mixing glass steady with one hand.  Stir the spoon around in a gentle circular motion making sure that the ice and liquid  move around almost silently – we want a smooth mixing action, we’re not trying to smash the spoon through the ice.

Continue stirring until the drink is mixed – you may read ridiculous things in fancy guides like “stir clockwise 27 times” but really the mount you need to stir will depend on how fast you are stirring, and in general it will probably take around 30 seconds. The most important thing to remember is that we are stirring for a reason – we want to make the ingredients mix and the drink temperature nice and cold – so we will be finished when we have accomplished these two goals.

Mixed and cold, it’s time to move the drink into our glass. Grab your Hawthorne strain (or a Julep strainer if you have one), fit it over the top of your mixing glass and carefully pour your cocktail into it’s new home.

 

Done.  Now be a good bartender – rinse your equipment – and then take a seat, relax, and enjoy your beautiful stirred cocktail.

 

/ dave

Deconstructing the Cocktail

Cocktails Deconstructed

Deconstructing the Cocktail

 

Making great cocktails is a balancing act; using the right levels of sweetness, sourness or bitterness, or adding flavour while still allowing the character of the base spirit to show through is not always easy and requires an intimate understanding of the ingredients involved.

Deconstructing a cocktail, where we take a drink and break it down into its separate components, can help us look at how each ingredient is being used and how it influences the cocktail, and also makes it easy for us to see the trends and patterns in different drink recipes.

 

Breaking it down

Many well constructed cocktails can be broken down into their core components which fit somewhere within the following five categories:

 

Base Spirit –> Sour/Bitter –> Sweetener –> Flavour -> Lengthener

 

Bombay Sapphire

Base Spirit

Vodka, gin, whisky or similar

As the name suggests, the Base spirit provides the bulk of the alcohol (usually) and, depending on the type of spirit used, can also provide the base flavour. Dark spirits (such as whiskeys or rums aged in oak barrels) can provide a lot more flavour compared to the cleaner, more neutral spirits (vodka, white rum or similar).

 

Aromatic Bitters

Sour/Bitters

Lemon or lime juice, aromatic bitters or similar

Sourness and bitterness, while very different tastes, are both used to further flavour and balance cocktails. Sour flavours tend to come from acidic citrus juices while bitter flavours may come from bitter aperitifs, such as Campari, or through the use of aromatic bitters such as Angustora or Reagans Orange bitters.

 

Sugar Syrup

Sweetener

Sugar syrup, sugar cube, liqueurs or similar

A sweetener is usually added to balance the sour/bitter component of the drink (we’ll cover balance in full in a later post as it’s an important concept). The most common sweetener is sugar which we find in crystal form, dissolved in a syrup, or in a liqueur but other sweeteners like honey can also be used.

Mozart Chocolate Liqueur

Flavour

Orange flavour in Triple Sec liqueur, the raspberries in a raspberry Daiquiri

In this case we are referring to the ingredient that is providing the most prominent added flavour to the cocktail, whether that is from a fruit or vegetable, syrup, mixer (such as Coca Cola) or from a liqueur. The flavour may be used complimentary to the base spirit (such as dark rum + chocolate flavour) or more heavily (when used with relatively plain base spirits like vodka).

 

Pepsi Max

Lengthener

Soda water, orange juice, tonic etc

Often used to soften a cocktail and make it easier to drink the lengthener can also (depending on the ingredient) contribute to the overall flavour. While we usually think of lengtheners as mixers such as juice or soda, the water dilution from ice in a stirred or shaken cocktail also provide a lengthening effect. Used carelessly this component can often overpower or drown the other flavours in the cocktail (so be extra careful).

 

Worth Remembering

Not every cocktail uses every component, and like any general rule that covers a large topic you can find examples that don’t seem to fit at all. However you should generally be able to use this formula to break down a cocktail into its individual parts which can help us see where the particular flavours and tastes are coming from, and most importantly, how we can play with them. Breaking down the cocktail should also give us a pretty good indication of what the final drink will taste like.

 

Let’s deconstruct a classic cocktail to give you a real example of how we can do this.

 

Example:  Margarita

 

The Margarita is a classic cocktail consisting of Tequila, Lime Juice and Triple Sec.

If we deconstruct the Margarita we get:

 

Base Spirit: Blanco Tequila (a light Mexican spirit distilled from fermented Agave)

Sour: Lime juice – contains citric acid which will provide a sour taste.

Sweetener: Triple Sec – Triple sec is an orange liqueur and liqueurs contain added sugar; it is this sugar that will give us the sweetener to balance the sour lime juice in this cocktail.

Flavour: Triple Sec again, this time providing a flavour of orange to the cocktail.

Lengthener: This drink is often served in a cocktail glass so it doesn’t have a legenther such as soda or orange juice, however if properly prepared it will be shaken hard which will add a small amount of ice shards and water which will add dilution (which we want) and also add some length to the cocktail.

From this deconstruction we would expect a cocktail that is relatively light and acidic in flavour (from the white Tequila and lime juice), but balanced with a hint of sweetness and orange flavour coming through from the Triple Sec.

 

Let’s try another.

 

Example: Sidecar

The Sidecar is another classic, made from Brandy, lemon juice and Triple Sec.

 

Base Spirit: Brandy (a distilled spirit usually made from grapes and often barrel aged, Cognac is a well known variety from France. Tends to be a darker spirit with rich flavours)

Sour: Lemon juice

Sweetener: Triple Sec (a liqueur, contains sugar)

Flavour: Triple Sec (a liqueur with an orange flavour)

Lengthener: Small amount of water through dilution of ice

By breaking down the cocktail we can see that the Sidecar shares ingredients with the previous Margarita – in fact both cocktails are members of the sour family and are a a mix of base spirit, sour and Orange liqueur.

Side by Side:

Margarita                   SideCar

Blanco Tequila                      Brandy (Cognac)

Lime Juice                     Lemon Juice

Triple Sec                        Triple Sec

 

We can see that the flavour of the Sidecar should be relatively similar to that of the Margarita; they both contain a sour citrus and Triple Sec, and the biggest difference in this case is going to come from the change of base spirit from the light Tequila to the heavier Brandy.

From Here

 

Deconstructing makes it easier for us to both make new cocktails and play around with existing ones. Try deconstructing some cocktail recipes you find on this site or around the web and see if you can figure out the flavour profile before you make the drink.

If you feel more experimental, why not try and follow the formula to create your own cocktails. Think of different combinations of flavours that could fit within the Base spirit -> Sour/Bitter -> Sweetener -> Flavour -> Lengthener formula and create something of your own.

 

Give deconstructing a try and let me know how it goes.

// Dave

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