Cocktail Review

On the ‘Rack

The Curious History of an Early Spirit

It went like this, but wasn’t. Some four thousand years ago in Mespotamia, the perfumers at the court of King Zimrilim created a technique to separate the essential oils of precious woods and flowers from the woods and flowers themselves in order to embalm their dead. Originally, this probably involved soaking flower petals in warm water and capturing the fragrant oils that rose to the surface. What they called this method is lost, but other cultures refined their work into the art and science now known as distillation.

»

The Gimlet

“that which I have seene most fruitful is sower [sour] oranges and lemons . . . I wish that some learned man would write of it [scurvy], for it is the plague of the sea, and the spoyle of mariners.”
— Sir Richard Hawkins, 1590

A gimlet is a small hand drill, meant (back when things were still sealed in barrels) to drill a hole in a barrel and let whatever was put inside out. A gimlet pierces things, and so people with a sharp gaze were “gimlet-eyed”. A Gimlet also pierces.

»

In Search of the Singapore Sling

Let’s get some known facts out of the way first, shall we? The Singapore Sling was probably invented some time between 1913 and 1915 by Ngiam Tong Boon, who worked at the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. It certainly had gin. And ice. It may have had “cherry brandy” (by which we mean a cherry liqueur ... or perhaps not) and Benedictine. It may have also had lime juice, lemon juice, pineapple juice, grenadine, sloe gin, crème de cassis, orange bitters and/or the all-mysterious “bitters”.

»

The Flight of the Negroni

The Negroni is indomitable. Attack it with skewed ratios, and it rallies. Violate the ingredients, and it stubbornly persists. I can’t think of another drink that you can screw up so thoroughly and still enjoy the result.

This history of the Negroni is disputed, but probably dates to 1919, where the Americano was stiffened by substituting gin for the soda water. Regardless of exactly who created the drink and when, the Negroni is the King of bitter cocktails. If you spy a bottle of Campari on the backbar, the bartender probably knows how to make a Negroni.

»

The Margarita, or An Earthy Mystery

Americans drink a lot of Margaritas. While the Margarita makes up eighteen percent of the mixed drinks ordered in the United States, tequila represents only six percent of the domestic spirits market. Unfortunately, we drink a lot of bad Margaritas too. Neon colored, super-sweet, artificially flavored, poorly made, cheap ingredient, frozen-slushy Margaritas surely account for most of those eighteen percent.

»

Advanced Craft Cocktail Theory: Steal this Cocktail

Perhaps one of the most difficult skills an aspiring cocktail maker can grasp is inspiration. Inspiration is the culmination of knowledge, skill and passion, and it only comes about through an understanding of ingredients, technique, and cocktail theory. There’s nothing more exciting and terrifying than standing in front of a bar with an empty glass and combining ingredients in a new and innovative way to make a satisfying cocktail. Therefore, you should be encouraged to steal from those that came before.

»

Advanced Craft Cocktail Theory: Context

We’ve spent a long time in this series talking about how. How the basic building blocks of flavor combine in appealing ways. How to maximize or minimize aroma in a drink. How to change the texture of a cocktail and how those ingredients work. All of these things are quite important in order to make a craft cocktail, but are completely unhelpful in deciding when to make a craft cocktail, or what might be an appropriate drink to make in a particular situation. Gathering important information and utilizing it to narrow the available cocktail choices deals with context.

»

Advanced Craft Cocktail Theory: Texture

In my previous set of articles I’ve already talked about the effect sugar, acidity, alcohol and bitterness has on the texture of a cocktail. This article will examine other sources of texture, mainly dairy, eggs, and carbonation.

»

Advanced Craft Cocktail Theory: Aroma and Flavor

To all of you who survived my first set of articles dealing with theories of craft cocktail construction, I say congratulations. Now the hard work begins. While it’s nice to have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of how and why certain craft cocktails work and others do not, there’s a lot more ground to cover in the service of better cocktails.

»

Craft Cocktail Making: Theory and Structure of Alcohol

Now we get down to the important part of craft cocktail making. In our previous installments, we described the role that acidity, sugar and bitterness play in balancing and harmonizing a cocktail. Each component can work either separately, or in various combinations to produce something worth drinking.

»
Syndicate content