Daily Archives: April 28, 2016

Cocktails Liquor

Unless you are a student, at a music festival or have been recently dumped, then there really is no excuse just to fling a spirit or two in a glass, add an optional mixer and call it a cocktail.  If you are passionate about gastronomy – really passionate – then the art of bartending should be akin to creating a wonderful plate of food, and you wouldn’t cut corners there, would you?


♣ Use the proper tools

To effectively make any kind of cocktail, an arsenal of bartending equipment is needed. Most of this is fairly cheap and readily available. A decent shaker is a must; a Boston-based shaker is more versatile than a 3-peice ‘capped’ shaker, but can be more challenging to use. If you opt for a Boston, go for half glass, half can.  Boston cans require strainers; hence a decent Hawthorn strainer is a must. A fine strainer (like a mini-sieve) is necessary for many drinks so the bartender can filter out fruit bits, flecks of ice and other debris that can otherwise spoil a perfectly crisp, clear cocktail.

Consider investing in a decent measure or jigger; one with straight sides ensures greater accuracy if you measure out quarter / half shots.  A bar spoon enables laying ingredients and makes stirring drinks a lot easier.  A muddler (like a pestle) enables the bartender to crush and bruise fruits and herbs in the shaker, and a paring knife and chopping board are essential. Consider buying a special glass cleaning cloth to keep glassware looking like new. All the above equipment can be bought for no more than £50 / $80 for the lot.

♣ Keep the fridge stocked up

Having a wide range of mixers to hand is just as important as a disparate selection of fantastic spirits and liquors. Most mixers can keep for a very long time, such as fresh fruit juices, honey, sodas / softs and sugar syrup.  Basic essentials include the ‘big’ juices such as lemon, lime, orange, apple, pineapple, pink grapefruit and cranberry. Ginger ale, cola, lemonade, tonic and soda water are also important.

♣ Use the right glasses

The glass makes the drink and never forget it!  Despite this, building (and maintaining) a classy glass selection can get expensive but the bare essentials should include short (‘old fashioned’), highballs, shot glasses, wine glasses and martini glasses. It is definitely also worth looking at slings, toddy glasses and hurricanes. Always look after your glassware; clean it separately from plates and other kitchen stuff, polish it and never stand them upside down as the lips will become damaged.

Only muddle fruits using your Boston glass as other glassware will not stand up to the pressure needed to pummel ingredients. Chilling glasses (see later on) is very important but be aware that rapidly increasing / decreasing the temperature of a glass may cause it to shatter, swiftly turning your cocktail party into a traumatic trip to A&E.

♣ Use shakers with caution

Boston Shakers give a better result but are more difficult to use; seal them with a thud of your wrist and release them with a tap to the side of the tin. Always keep them pointed away from guests when shaking, and keep the glass half pointing down just in case they shatter.  With any kind of shaker, keep two hands on it as these things can open by surprise.

Finally, don’t overfill a shaker as the drink will not mix properly and will likely leak everywhere. A standard 70cl Boston tin will hold about 8 measures of liquid; ice will take up the rest; anymore is too full.


♣ Skimp on quality

Quality spirits are so important as they tend to be smoother, much easier to mix and balance a drink, but also never underestimate the importance of good quality mixers. Freshly squeezed orange juice, pressed apple juice, fresh fruits and homemade sugar syrup are vital to making a great quality cocktail.  You will taste the difference!

♣ Underestimate the importance of ice.

Ice is as vital an ingredient as you are ever going to get in cocktails. Firstly, it is a great idea to pre-chill glasses in the freezer.

When serving a drink over ice, fill the whole glass with ice. When shaking or stirring a drink over ice, use a lot; usually, half a Boston can will do it. Good quality ice must be chunky and almost ‘sticky’ to touch. Never use the same ice twice, even if making the same drink twice in a row.

♣ Act like Tom Cruise (unless you can)

No-one likes a show off… and there really is no reason to throw bottles around or toss shakers in the air unless a) you are really good at it or b) you work at TGI Fridays. Messing around with bottles and glass is obviously not the safest thing to do in the world so use caution. On the same note, try not to mix drinks when you are drunk.  For obvious reasons.

♣ Free-pour

OK, so using measures is a bit of a hassle, but sticking to using them (rather than just guess-timating how much hooch goes in a drink) has two distinct advantages; firstly, the cocktails will be better-made and well-balanced.  Secondly, you won’t get all of your guests smashed after the first round, which is usually frowned upon in most social circles.

♣ Final Thoughts…

Commit to the cause!  If you are serious about creating your own bar; do it properly. On face value, doing everything as mentioned above is not cheap but consider building your bar bit by bit, a month at a time. By far and away the biggest expense will be ingredients and the most commonly used are the base spirits such as rum and vodka. Shop around for these as they can be found cheap in many stores. Keep these basics stocked up and treat yourself to lesser used ingredients every now and then and you will find that you will have respectable bar in no time!  Mixers and fruits are not too difficult to keep stoked up and treated well, glassware can last for years.

So have fun, drink well, play safe and enjoy!

Apple Cider Cocktail Recipes

No autumn celebration is complete without the sweet, rich scent of hot apple cider. More nutritious than hot chocolate, apple cider is the perfect complement to crisp fall weather, roaring bonfires and hayrides. It also comes in two versions: kid-friendly and adults-only. If you want to make sure not to mix these two up, you can always set up a small wet bar and let the grown-ups add their own flair. Setting out suggested recipes helps prevent faux pas and wasted cider.

Heating the Cider:

Unlike other traditional cocktails, cider cocktails are usually hot. Keep your cider at a steady temperature by pouring it into a crockpot. This way, you can enjoy your evening without worrying about the cider bubbling over, getting cold or boiling away.

Crockpot cider also allows for slow infusion of many kinds of flavors. Orange slices, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks are just a few of the flavors that go well with cider and several types of liquor.

Simple Cider and Whiskey:

Cider and whiskey is one of the easiest cider cocktails to put together. Smooth, good-quality whiskey tastes best because it doesn’t add any acidity or roughness to the flavor of the cider. Light-colored Irish whiskey is one of my personal favorites.

The process is simple. Just ladle some hot cider into a glass or ceramic mug and pour in about a shot of whiskey. If you’re really cold, you can add a second shot, but any more than that will overpower the flavor of the cider. If you want more whiskey than that, just drink it neat, sans cider.

Flavored Brandy:

Brandy comes in many fruit flavors, including apple and pear. Combining these two flavors with a little orange zest and some cloves makes for a bone-warming cocktail you won’t soon forget…or stop drinking. You may also just use either apple or pear brandy if you like simple flavors.

Stay away from summer-flavored brandies, like blackberry and cherry, for your apple cider. These brandies can be very sweet and can make for cloying cocktails.

Rum and Bourbon:

Dark rums and bourbons combine better with apple cider than do the lighter versions. The heavier, richer flavors of the dark liquors combine with the cider to create a taste that is unmistakably autumnal. Bourbon combines especially well with orange bitters, cloves and nutmeg.

You may add spices to a rum cocktail, as well, or simply use a spiced or flavored rum. Vanilla rum gives apple cider a special soft, sweet note that pleases the nose as well as the palate. If you must use light rum, try a smooth, unflavored variety that will combine with the cider without ruining the taste.

Cold Cocktails:

Even through the chill of autumn and winter, some still prefer their cocktails cold. You may use any of the above sections to create a cold cider cocktail or create something entirely new. An autumn mimosa could include cider in place of orange juice. Replacing half of the cranberry juice in a vodka cranberry with cider gives it a distinctly Thanksgiving flavor.

When experimenting with apple cider cocktails, it’s important to balance the sweetness of the cider against the burn and bitterness of your chosen alcohol. Start by adding the liquor to the cider, instead of the other way around, and you have a base for an endless variety of apple-flavored cocktails.