Friday, 18 November 2011

Mixology and Home Bartending for Beginners: Methods of Mixing

Well it about time that everyone who has been following this mini-series of blog posts finally learns how to actually make a drink.  So far we have covered, tools of the trade, stocking your home bar and the various non-alcoholic ingredients.  Now that you have your tools, booze, and mixes, we will learn the basic methods of mixing.

There are three basic methods to making drinks: building, stirring and shaking.

Building is the most simple of techniques.  The biggest factor to consider when making a built cocktail is the type of ice you use.  The type of ice you use depends on three factors, alcoholic strength of the cocktails, level of desired dilution, and desired temperature.  With out going into the full details (which can be found in an early post here), ice with a large surface area (eg. crushed ice) will give more dilution and thus chill a drink more sufficiently.  The opposite applying for ice with a small surface area (eg. cube ice).

To make a built drink, simply add your base ingredients (spirits citric, syrups), then add your ice, top -if necessary- with addition carbonated ingredients (eg. soda, ginger beer).  Last, stir gently and garnish.  Here are two cocktails that utilize the technique of building.

Tom Collins
- 2 oz Gin
- 0.75 oz Lemon Juice
- 0.75 oz Simple Syrup
- Soda Water

- Add  Gin, lemon and simple syrup to collins glass
- Fill glass with cracked ice*
- Top with soda water
- Gently stir and garnish with a lemon zest** and straw

* Cracked ice is simply cubed ice that has been cracked into smaller pieces.  This can easily be done with your bar spoon by giving a cube of ice a swift smack.  For more on ice visit my last post for beginners, Ingredients.

** using a potato peeler, peel length wise a long strip of lemon.  Express oils over top of cocktail.  Clean up edges with a pairing knife and drop zest in glass.

- 2 oz White Rum
- 0.75 oz Lime Juice
- 0.75 oz Simple Syrup
- 8 - 10 Mint Leaves
- Soda Water

- Add mint leaves to bottle of collins glass
- Very Gently, muddle mint to extract the oils from the leaves
- Add white rum, lime and simple syrup
- Fill glass half full with crushed ice and churn mixture
- Fill glass full with crushed ice
- Top with a splash of soda water
- Garnish with a massive sprig of mint, lime wheel and straw

The Mojito is one of the most bastardized cocktail around.  Here are some dos and don't of the Mojito.

DO: Use only fresh lime juice
DO: Use crushed ice
DO: Served this cocktail in a tall glass

DO NOT: Muddle the mint into a paste
DO NOT: Shake a Mojito.
DO NOT: Drown the cocktail with soda water

It is a general rule that we stir drinks consisting only of clear ingredients (eg; spirits, bitters, syrups).  So your Martinis Manhattens, Sazeracs etc. are all stirred drinks.  There are several reasons as to why we stir a cocktails: presentation, texture, temperature and dilution.

It is a common saying that we eat with our eats.  That saying also applies to how we imbibe.  Take a look at the two pictures below.  To the left is a stirred Manhattan, and to the right is a Manhattan that has been shaken.  The stirred Manhattan will be perfectly clear, and the shaken Manhattan cocktail will have a slight haze.  Try this experiment at home for your self, you'll notice a major difference in look and mouth feel.

- 2 oz American Rye Whisky
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

- Add all ingredients to mixing glass
- Add ice and stir for 30 seconds
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with an orange zest

If you were to taste the two side by side, the stirred cocktail has a silky texture, while the shaken cocktail is a bit more heavy in the mouth.  Shaking aerates the cocktail, resulting in a drastically difference mouth fell, which may be undesirable.

Pre-Prohibition Martini
- 2 oz Gin
- 1 oz Dry Vermouth 
- 1 Dash of Orange Bitters

- Add all ingredients to mixing glass
- Add ice and stir for 30 seconds
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with an lemon zest

Remember, keep your vermouth refrigerated!  If the level of the bottle reduces enough that you can transfer it into a smaller bottle, do so.  The less air in the bottle, the longer the vermouth will last.

While presentation and texture may come down to preference, dilution is the primary factor in why we stir.  Stirring is much less of a violent act than shaking, and thus dilutes the drink less.  One thing to remember is dilution = chilling.  A stirred drink will not be nearly as cold as the same drink that has been shaken.  It would take 2 minutes of stirring to achieve the level of dilution and chill that 15 seconds of shaking will achieve.

More information on the science of dilution and chilling can be found at Dave Arnold's blog

Shaking is using for drinks containing fruit juice, cream, eggs, or any other ingredients that need to be thoroughly mixed into a drink.  You may stir drinks that contain fruit juice, (Never egg or cream!)  but the drink will not achieve the same consistency, texture and temperature that may be desired from a shaken drink.

Here are two drinks that should always be shaken:

Whisky Sour
- 2 oz Whisky (Your Preference)
- 1 oz Lemon Juice
- 0.5 oz Simple Syrup
- 1 Dash Angostura Bitters
- Egg White

- First add egg white to cocktail shaker. (In case you break the yolk or drop the shell in the shaker, you don't ruin the entire drink)
- Add all remaining ingredients to cocktail shaker
- Dry shake *
- Add cubed ice to shaker
- Shake for 15 seconds
- Double strain into chilled rocks glass **

* Dry Shake: A dry shake is a technique used for cocktails containing egg.  By adding the spring from a hawthorn strainer into the cocktail shaker (without adding ice), shake the cocktail for 10 seconds to whisk the egg white.  Then remove the spring and add ice.  Continue shaking as you would with any other cocktail.

**Double Strain: Use a tea strainer (aka, fine mesh strainer) to strain out any additional ice, bits of fruit, or any other undesirable debris.  This results in a drink with a smoother texture.  99% of all drinks I shake are double strained.  An sufficient alternative to double straining is pressing the gate of the hawthorn strainer closer to the edge of the shaker tin.  I use this technique for straining a Ramos Gin Fizz, which is the one shaken cocktail I do not double strain.

Brandy Alexander
- 1.5 oz Cognac
- 0.5 oz Creme de Cacao
- 1 oz Half & Half

- Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker
- Add cubed ice to cocktail shaker
- Shake 15 seconds
- Double strain into chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with fresh grated nutmeg

If you are just discovering your love for cocktails and you still have questions in regards to any material, please do ask.  Additionally, if anyone has any suggestions for material that may be useful to cover in a future addition of Mixology and Home Bartending For Beginners, your input is greatly appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

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