Monday, 24 October 2011

Climbing The Cocktail Ladder

If any bartender tells you they started off drinking Manhattans and Dry Martinis, chances are they're lying.  At the top of the cocktail food chain, both of these drinks present a dry and potent taste.  The first time I made a Manhattan was shorty after turning 19 (legal drinking age in Canada).  I stirred up 2 ounces crown royal, 1 ounce sweet vermouth, 2 dahes of angustora and garnished with a cherry.  The potency of this tipple was far to over powering for my plate.  To compensate for such a strong drink, I topped it up with ginger ale and dubbed it a "Bronx" (I still find this hilarious and ironic to this day).  I have no shame in admitting that my first cocktail I enjoy included vodka, apple liqueur, melon liqueur, lemon and pineapple juice.  A far cry from the approach of today's cocktails of fresh and home made ingredients.

It is easy to forget that not everyone you encounter enjoys the same drinks as you.  While you may adore your newest creation of fernet, chartreuse and zirbenz, to put it frankly, it is an acquired taste.  I have arranged a five tier system of cocktails.  In every tier are several different styles of drinks.  All of which carry one thing in common, their intensity of alcohol.  Also taken into account is the powerful flavors of certain liqueurs and amaros.  Campari my be relativity low in alcohol, but it does take an experienced palate to appreciate its bitter flavor.  Each tier will highlight two cocktails with full recipes as well as the steps to make each cocktails.  In addition, a list of five cocktails is included for you to explore as you please.  I plan on expanding these lists in future blog posts.

Level 1

Level 1 is -for the most part- the least complicated of all tiers.  Consisting mostly of highball style drinks, level 1 consists of light drink that everyone can enjoy.

Dark & Stormy
- 2 oz Dark Rum
- 0.25 oz Lime Juice
- Ginger Beer

- Add rum and lime juice to collins glass
- Fill with cracked ice and top with ginger beer
- Gently stir to mix ingredients
- Garnish with a lime wheel and straw

The Dark & stormy is a example of a great highball.  All three ingredients work in perfect harmony.  Try switching the rum for a mild blended scotch, this makes for a cocktail called a "Mamie Taylor".

Ramos Gin Fizz
- 2 oz Gin
- 0.5 oz Lime Juice
- 0.5 oz Lemon Juice
- 0.5 oz Half & Half Cream
- 0.5 oz Simple Syrup
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 6 Drops Orange Flower Water
- 1 Egg White

- Add egg white and cream to mixing tin
- Add all remaining ingredients to separate mixing glass
- Pour together indigents
- Froth with a cappuccino frothier for approximately 1 minute
- Add cubed ice and shake!
- Keep shaking
- Keep shaking
- Strain into a collins glass or stem-less wine glass
- Top with Soda water

Ramos Gin Fizz

The Ramos Gin Fizz is a bartender's worst nightmare.  Original accounts of this drink call for 15 minutes of shaking!  The use of a cappuccino frothier helps speed this process along.  Two minutes of shaking will suffice.  This is the most complicated recipe and method to making a classic cocktail you will ever come across.  It only gets easier from here.

I have bumped the gin content in this drink up to 2 ounces (original calls for 1.5 ounces).  That is just my personal preference so feel free to adjust as you see fit.

Additional Level 1 Cocktails
- Gin & Tonic
- Fernet & Cola
- El Diabolo
- Tom Collins
- Pimm's Cup

Level 2

The frozen fruit concoctions of most drinking establishments would fall into the level 2 category.  Here are a few level 2 drinks with a bit more sophistication than what you will find at your local Earl's.

Gin Basil Smash
- 2 oz Gin
- 0.75 oz Lime Juice
- 0.75 oz Simple Syrup
- 8 - 10 Basil Leaves

- Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker
- Add ice and shake hard to break up basil
- Double Strain into ice-filled rocks glass
- Garnish with fresh sprig of basil

The Gin Basil Smash has gained massive popularity since its inception in 2008 at the Le Lion Bar in Hamburg.  A creation of bartender Jorg Meyer, the Gin Basil Smash is a wonderfully refreshing drink.

Gin Basil Smash

Whisky Sour
- 2 oz Whisky (Personal preference)
- 0.75 - 1 oz Lemon Juice (To taste)
- 0.5 oz Simple syrup
- 1 Dash Angostura Bitters
- 1 Egg White

- Add egg white to mixing tin
- Add all remaining ingredients
- Dry shake
- Add ice and shake
- Double strain into chilled rocks glass

The Whisky Sour falls under the category of a "Sour" style drink, 4 parts spirit, 2 parts sour, 1 part sweet.  Most cocktails that I consider to be a level 2 drink tend to follow this DNA.  Another more well know example of a sour is the Daiquiri.  Try experimenting with different flavor combinations with these measurements to discover some great cocktails of your own.

The whisky sour is one of those cocktails that may need a bit of adjustment in one department or another.  Some do really like their whisky sours on the sour side, others a bit sweet.  My self, I like it somewhere in the middle.  The type of whisky you choose can also makes a big difference, and you may have to adjust your citrus and sugar accordingly.

Additional Level 2 Cocktails
- Pisco Sour
- Daiquiri
- Cosmopolitan
- Clover Club
- Mojito

Level 3

Most drinks you will encounter are to be what I consider a level 3 intensity.  The Margarita, Sidecar, Pegu Club etc.  Level 3 sees the addition of some of the more unusual liqueurs and spirits. Below is a selection of some lesser know cocktails that can be easily made and enjoyed.

20th Century 
- 1.5 oz Gin
- 0.75 oz Lillet Blanc
- 0.5 oz Creme De Cacao
- 0.75 oz Lemon Juice

- Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker
- Add ice and shake
- Double Strain into chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with lemon twist

20th Century 

- 2 oz Dark Rum
- 0.25 oz Simple Syrup
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- 0.5 oz Apple Juice

- Add rum, bitters and simple syrup to ice-filled rocks glass
- Gently stir for 20 seconds
- Top with ice and float Apple juice atop of cocktail

Additional Level 3 Cocktails
- Last Word
- Trader Vic's Mai tai
- Knicker Bocker

Level 4

- 2oz Sweet Vermouth
- 1 oz Old Tom Gin
- 1 Barspoon Maraschino Liqueur
- 1 Dash Angostura Bitters 

- Add all ingredients into mixing glass
- Add ice and stir
- Strain into chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with lemon or orange zest

The Martinez sits on the fence of level 3 and 4.  While an abundant amount of vermouth makes for a cocktail relatively low in booze, it is the taste of the vermouth its self that may take some getting use to.  Those who do not like wine will find this cocktail a bit of a challenge to enjoy.

- 1 oz Gin
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 1 oz Campari

- Add all ingredients to mixing glass
- Add ice and stir
- Strain into either a chilled cocktail glass or ice filled rocks glass (Personal preference)
- Flame orange zest to garnish

The negroni has to be once of the most well know cocktails.  All cocktail geeks and bartenders adore this cocktail, but we also all enjoy this cocktail differently.  Some enjoy it on the rocks while others enjoy it up.  Some prefer a lemon while others prefer an orange zest.  And not everyone enjoys their negroni in equal parts gin, vermouth and campari.  Feel free to adjust the ingredient's proportions to your liking. 

Additional Level 4 Cocktails
- Mint Julep
- Brandy Crusta
- Boulevardier
- East Indian Cocktail
- Honeymoon Cocktail

Level 5

Level 5 is the zenith of cocktails.  Consisting entirely of stirred, potent cocktails, these drinks are not for the faint of heart.  While Mr. Bond may have glorified the Martini as a drink that can be drunk by the liter, these are definitely sipping cocktails.

- 2 oz Rye Whisky
- 0.5 oz Fernet Branca 
- 0.25 oz Rich Simple Syrup
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

- Add all ingredients to mixing glass
- Add ice and stir
- Strain into chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with orange zest


- 1.5 oz Gin
- 0.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 0.25 oz Benedictine
- 2 Dashes Orange Bitters

- Add all ingredients to mixing glass
- Add ice and stir
- Strain into chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with orange zest

Addition Level 5 Drinks
- Sazerac
- Manhattan
- Old-Fashioned
- Hanky-Panky
- Vesper

This list merely serves as a guide line to those looking to explore additional cocktails that suit their taste.  No cocktails within a level will be the exact same potency, but will feel free to adjust the ingredients to suit what you enjoy.  Let that be a rule for all drinks as well.  Don't let anyone tell you how you should enjoy a cocktail.  Whether you like your Martinis 2:1 or 8:1, don't let anyone else's cocktail snobbery let you enjoy your drink the way you like it.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Mackenzie - solid post and a very good call for those to get a first Negroni was regrettable, but oh how times have changed