Sunday 3 July 2011

Foolproof Cocktails

I don't often go out to drink for two simple reasons, one I have a massive home bar and two, it costs too much.  On the rare occasion I am out and about, I find it hard to get a quality drink without going to one of Victoria's high end cocktail lounges.  Although I love going to these lounges to sit at the bar and talk cocktails with someone who shares my same passion, not all my friends have the same idea of fun.  Most of the time It will be a pub or if I find my self in an unlucky enough situation, a night club.  Most Pubs here have great beer selections due to Victoria's superb array of craft breweries but I just now find my self becoming accustom to the taste of beer.  This of course makes my choice of drinks very limiting, especially considering how spoiled I am at home.  Can't order a Martini or Manhattan because none of these establishments know how to care for their vermouth.  Last time I ordered an Old Fashioned at a high volume bar it was shaken with mint as well as god knows what.  At this point my choices are few and usually end up in me ordering a Gin and Tonic.  Which typically ends in disappointment due to overly sweet tonic water.

Fortunately, there seems to be this list of cocktails that all bartenders know but wish they could forget.  Such as sex on the beach, godfather, grass hopper, harvey wallbanger etc.  This should be taken advantage of.  Add one additional ingredient or swapping vodka for gin could turn one of these subpar cocktails to splendid.  A favorite example of mine is the Rusty Nail.  A simple combination of blended scotch, Drambuie and usually garnished with a fluorescent maraschino cherry.  In this state it's a pretty boring drink but with a simple modification it can really be an enjoyable tipple.  Also try this stupid simple variation on a Harvey Wallbanger.

Rusty Nail (Modified)
- 1.75 oz Blended Scotch
- 0.25 oz Drambuie
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- Garnish With an Orange Wedge

A flask of a quality spirit can always come in hand.
Harvey Wallbanger (Modified)
- 1.5 oz White Rum
- 0.5 oz Galliano
- Top with Orange juice

You shouldn't have a problem getting your Rusty Nail or Wallbanger exactly like above.  Almost all bar will have a bottle of Angostura even if they never stir up a Manhattan.  You may be wondering, "why the orange wedge?"  To make your own orange twist of course.  Peel the skin and pith away from the rest of the orange.  Express the oils of your makeshift twist over top your drink and drop it in, discarding the rest of the orange.

The one ingredient that I most dearly miss when I go out to imbibe is fresh squeezed juice.  Unless it is coming out of a plastic constrainer or a bar gun you'd think you're pretty much out of luck.  But one thing that every bar does have is lemon and lime wedges sitting in a garnish tray waiting to be jammed down the neck of a crappy beer.  Although not perfect, it is your best substitute for fresh pressed juice.  Simply ask your (hopefully) friendly bartender to muddle your fruit of choice at the bottom on a shaker tin.  Followed by liquor, mixes and ice.  Ask him kindly to give it a good hard shake and strain into a glass with fresh ice.  Try one of the following:

Pegu Club
- 1.5 oz Gin
- 0.5 oz Cointreau (or Triple Sec)
- 0.75 oz Lime Juice (Roughly 1/2 - 3/4 whole lime)
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

A Pub Pegu Club.  Not perfect but still delicious, 

- 1.5 oz French Brandy
- 0.5 oz Cointreau (or Triple Sec)
- 0.75 - 1 oz Lemon Juice (Roughly 1/2 - 3/4 of a lemon)

Don't bother asking for the either of the two cocktails above by name.  Both are older then any bartender working behind the wood today and unless ordered at a establishment with a reputable cocktail program you'll probably just get a confused look from the bartender in return.  You'll have to order it as so, "Could I get three parts brandy, one part triple sec and a handful of muddled lemon wedges, shaken and strained in a rocks glass please?".

Ordering any kind of special request drink (especially one that involves muddling) in a high volume bar that doesn't specialize in cocktails will not make you a bartender's best friend.  So do the right thing and tip well!  Especially the first time you order, it will ensure that bartender will be a lot more avid in making your next libation.

Now, obviously it would be an absolute nightmare to try to order anything more complicated then a Jager Bomb at a nightclub where you have to yell into the bartender's ear to get a drink.  My solution, just order a quality spirit on ice.  For you scotch enthusiasts such as myself it shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg because of the low demand for scotch at an establishment that is playing Lady Gaga at 100 decibels.  I happened to order a double Glenlivet 12 year old on the rocks just this past weekend and was pleasantly surprised to pay only $11, not exceedingly cheap but not expensive either.

Wherever you happened to be enjoying your self, make sure you get exactly what you pay for.  With sure high mark ups on alcohol, any reputable establishment -whether they specialize in beer, wine, food or cocktails- should be able to provide you with your tipple of choice without any difficulty.  Now with that being said, do not be surprised when your Ramos Gin Fizz isn't as delicious as you excepted it to be when ordered at your local Applebee's.


  1. Just curious, but where in Victoria do you get your Angostura Bitters?

  2. You get get them at most of the smaller grocery stores, such as The market on Yates (or milestream), fairways and thrifty's foods. Vintage Spirits at the Hotel Rialto at the corner of pandora and douglas should have them along with a couple other bitters.