The secret of successful mixology lies in well-chosen spirits, freshly squeezed juices, just-crushed herbs and - crucially - the skilful deployment of the tricks and techniques of the bartender's trade.
As with cooking and architecture, when it comes to mixing drinks, sometimes less really is more and, although expert bartenders always like to experiment with new and unusual ingredients, nothing beats a wellmade classic. There are about half a dozen basic methods for combining cocktail ingredients, and it helps to know the pros and cons, as well as the best way of performing each.
BUILDING , LAYERING and FLOATING
Another important skill that the bartender must acquire is in the art of layering, which requires greater concentration, precision and a steadier hand. To make layered shooters or pousse café drinks, you generally pour the heaviest liquid first, working through to the lightest. However, the real trick is the technique.
Either touch the top of the drink with a long-handled bar spoon and pour the liquid slowly over the back of it to disperse it across the top of the ingredients already in the glass, or pour the liquid down the twisted stem that many professional bar spoons have. Hold the spoon's flat disc just above the drink. A little practice helps perfect both these relatively challenging methods. Floating is usually the term used to describe adding the top layer.
Building a cocktail is the technical term for the simple task of pouring all the ingredients, one by one, over ice, into the glass in which the cocktail will be served. You might then stir them briefly
This is the most flamboyant method of making a cocktail - the one that James Bond prefers for his Martinis and which added a bit of rocket fuel to Tom Cruise's career. Apart from socalled flair bartending' - otherwise known as showing off - shaking is good for chilling drinks and diluting them to just the right degree.
First, the shaker should be filled to the three quarter level with ice cubes. (Never use crushed ice as it melts and makes the drink watery.) The ingredients are then poured over the ice and shaken briskly for about 10 seconds, with the shaker gripped firmly in both hands,
The cocktail is sufficiently chilled and ready to pour when condensation appears on the exterior of the shaker.
Strain the drink into a glass, leaving the ice behind in the shaker
While it allows greater contact between cocktail and ice, and thus produces a colder drink than mere stirring, shaking also results in cloudier cocktails. It breaks tiny shards off the ice cubes, which then float in the liquid. The method also produces numerous tiny bubbles, which are great for drinks such as Margaritas.
However, opinion over Martinis remains divided. Some connoisseurs claim that shaking the gin can bruise' it and make it taste more bitter Others counter that shaking dissolves the vermouth better. leaving it less oily. Even formal scientific studies comparing shaken and stirred Martinis have failed to settle the debate, so it remains a matter of personal preference.
Stirring is the purist's choice, the mixology method that aims to retain the strength of the spirit. By carefully using a glass or metal rod (swizzle stick), or even a long-handledbo spoon, you can avoid chipping the ice cubes and making the cocktail watery, Crushed ice is an absolute no-no here. Drinks should be gently stirred in a mixing glass or the bottom half of a Boston shaker. As soon as condensation appears on the outside of the glass or shaker, the drink should be strained into a glass. Because the goal is a strong drink, some expert bartenders argue that those cocktails containing just spirits and liqueurs - in other words no fruit juices - should always be stirred.
In mixology muddling isn't about confusion. Increasingly popular in bartending circles, it means to mash fruit or herbs to release their flavours and it's done with a wooden peste like implement called a muddler. The end used to crush ingredients is thicker and rounded; the opposite end, which is skinnier, is employed in stirring. Some also compare muddlers to rolling pins. The technique is to press down with a twisting action. Sometimes, a small amount of liquid will be added to facilitate muddling, but the majority of it is usually poured in later. Common muddled drinks include Caipirinhas (limes and sugar). Mojitos (mint leaves, sugar and soda) and Old-fashioneds (bitters and sugar syrup).
Electric blenders will mix ingredients that otherwise do not easily combine, so they are frequently employed when mixing alcohol with both fruit and fruit juice or alcohol with creamy ingredients. Strawberry Daiquiris and Pina Coladas are popular blended cocktails. As all the
usual rules on ice are reversed in the
blender and you do use crushed ice, it's also used for so-called frozen cocktail versions, such as Frozen Margaritas. The cocktail should be blended until it's smooth, but be. careful not to overdo it. The crushed ice should also be added sparingly.
Good ice makes for good cocktails,
Use fitered or still mineral water with a low mineral content. Ordinary tap water contains all sorts of additives and while they are harmless, they do impart a flavour and will taint your ice.
If you want to make a very cold drink, fill the glass with ice, using large, solid lumps rather than small, fiodly ones. However, bear in mind that as the ice melts it will start to dilute your drink, so drink up relatively quickly or the taste will be impaired.
Marecipe calls for cracked ice you can buy this by the bag or make it yourself, by filling a plastic bag with cubes, covering it with a towel and then hitting it gently with a rolling pin.
you want crushed ice then either buy it from an off-licence or specialist
licence or specialist
ice supplier - or bag the ice as before and hit it harder.
Ordinary ice cubes are cloudy. This haziness is partly due to the additives but it's also caused by tiny fractures, formed when the water freezes. If you want to make clear cubes - and it's a classy touch - use filtered or still mineral water. Boil it, to release any dissolved gases, cool it and pour it into an ice cube tray. As soon as the top of the cube has formed, puncture it. This will give the water inside a space to expand into, so it won't haze.
Once you've gone to the trouble of making good ice, don't run it by running the top of the tray under the tap to release it. Either flex the tray carefully or run water on to the underside of the tray. Never handle ice. Always use tongs, so you don't transfer residues from your fingers.