The word “cocktail” may conjure up a picture of pleasant surroundings, subdued lighting, quiet background music, and behind the bar a friendly barman who takes his task of mixing your drink seriously. Or you may imagine yourself beside the pool on sunny tropical island, with a tall glass of exotic fruit juice, liqueur and crushed ice in your hand. Whatever fantasy comes to mind, “cocktail” is the coolest and fantasy drink around at the moment.
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How the cocktail got its name, and by whom it was first created, is a subject of considerable debate. One of theory is that an American barman had a large container in the shape of a cockerel into which he poured leftover drinks. Hard-up customers could buy this cheap mixture, and were served from a tap at the tail, hence a “cocktail”. A different story comes from the time of the American Revolution. A Frenchman, after seeing bottles decorated with cocks’ tails in Betsy’s Tavern near Yorktown, gave the toast “Vive le cocktail” Yet another definition of the word refers to the special way of cutting a horse’s tail – but the connection between a horse’s tail and drinking a rather delicate blend of spirit, liqueur and fruit juice is not clear (Whitaker, & Whitelaw, 2009).
Whatever the origin of the word, the creation of the cocktail can be traced back to the 19th century. One of the first cocktails was the Martini, whose origins come from an 1862 recipe for Martinez. This drink was created at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco for a gold miner returning to his home in Martinez. By 1900 the Martini was known right across the United States and had spread to Europe. The Dry Martini, which was invented in 1910 at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York, became even more famous, and around this time a growing number of basic cocktails emerged and steadily gained in popularity. The cocktail was given a boost when the Prohibition laws were enacted in the United States in 1920, making the manufacture or sale of intoxicating liquor illegal. This led to a healthy black market. With bootleggers such as Al Capone distributing moonshine nationwide. The quality of some of this moon shine was rather dubious and cocktails became very popular in the illegal bars and clubs that sprang up at the time, as a means of disguising its raw taste. Orange Blossom was the original gin and orange drink created at this time, to mask the ghastly flavor of bathtub gin (Hamlin, 2005).
Many of the classic cocktails we know today – Parisian, White Lady, Mayfair – were invented during the Depression in the 1920s. It is interesting to speculate whether the renewed interest in cocktails during 1980s – another period of major recession – is simply coincidence. The champagne and orange juice mixture Buck’s Fizz became hugely popular as a drink for all times of the day, including breakfast, and led the cocktail revival (Hamlin, 2005).
Today, cocktails are as popular as they have ever been, and have become even more flamboyant and exotic. With the easy availability of equipment and the amazing range of spirits, liqueurs and exotic fruit juices from all over the world, there has never been better time to try them out at home.
The names of the drinks themselves are much less of a mystery than the word “cocktail”. Quite a few are named for people. In the famous movie stars Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin were honored by having drinks named after them, and later Marilyn Monroe received a similar accolade. Other famous people who are remembered in this way include Churchill, Rob Roy, Captain Kidd, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Russian writer Pushkin. And a result of a cocktail being named for him. In the 1970s, a Californian surfer drank so much of particular drink that as he found his way out of the bar, he bounced from one wall to the other – hence the name Harvey Wallbanger (Hamlin, 2005).
Place names – often where the cocktail was first invented – are also a popular choice. One of the all-time greats, Singapore Sling, was created at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, while the Savoy Hotel comes from the American bar of the famous London Hotel. New York, Park Avenue, Princeton, Honolulu, Loch Lomond, Tipperary, Kowloon and Amsterdam are all names of classic cocktails (Hamlin, 2005).
Cocktails are sexy drinks, and not surprisingly some of them have sensual names. Between the Sheets is a 1920s recipe that became fashionable again in the 1980s, and has been joined by the seductively-named Sex on the Beach, Lady Killer, Kiss and Tell, and Slow Comfortable Screw.
Many different contraptions are manufactured for the making of cocktails. Some of these are useful, some can be definitely nice to have, and still others are totally and utterly useless. It is up to you to decide exactly what your cocktail equipment should be, but some things are essential (Walton, Olivier, & Farrow, 2009).
First out of the essentials is the cocktail shaker. There are two basic types of shakers available. A European cocktail shaker is usually made out of metal, or glass with a metal top. It is, basically, a container which holds about half a liter, fitted with a top which closes tightly around the upper edges of the container. This top also has a smaller top, usually fitted with a built-in strainer, through which the shaken cocktail is poured. American shakers, however, consist of two cones about the same size. One is often made of glass, and the other is metallic. These cones are held together to form a closed container, and the shaken cocktail is poured from either one. Most American shakers do not have built-in strainers, so if you use an American shaker, using a separate strainer is a good idea.
Measures, also known as jiggers, are also essential. Jiggers are most often made of metal, but glass jiggers are common, as well. The standard measurements of a jigger can vary widely, depending on where you are. In the recipes in the following articles, I will use a standard jigger of 30ml (appx. 1 fl oz).
In addition to the equipment mentioned above, you will find that things like these are nice to have, as well: Ice bucket, jugs, electric blender, bowls, etc. You should also have access to ordinary kitchenware, such as knives, corkscrews, chopping board, etc. You will also need stirrers (also known as swizzle sticks), straws, toothpicks, serviettes and cloths.
Cocktail glasses come in four different basic types (Hamlin, 2005):
- First, there are the glasses known as rocks glasses, also known as tumblers. These glasses are usually short and broad glasses, with straight or slightly sloping sides. They normally hold about 125ml and are used for spirits with ice, fruit juices and short drinks.
- Second, there is the highball glass. These glasses are usually of medium width, and are tall with straight or slightly sloping sides. They normally hold between 200 and 300ml and are used for long drinks with ice.
- Third, the champagne glasses, are of two different kind. The most common, the champagne flute, is a tall and narrow glass with a stem. Champagne flutes have thin-glassed sides, and the long, tapering sides can curve both inward and outward. A champagne flute holds approximately 150ml. The second type of champagne glass is the less-known champagne saucer. The champagne saucer is a broad and shallow glass with a stem. The broadness and shallowness of the glass make the champagne loose its fizz quickly, and the glass is therefore less popular than it once was. It is still, however, in use, and such cocktails as the Margarita use exclusively such glasses.
- Fourth is the group known as cocktail glasses. These are the classic cocktail glasses; stemmed and with sharply sloping sides, making it Y-shaped when seen from the side. The classic cocktail glass holds about 90ml and is best suited for short, strong drinks.
In addition to these glasses, some drinks, such as the Pina Colada, have special glasses. Unless you are really serious about mixing your cocktails, you don’t really need to buy such glasses. Use glasses you already have instead. There are also other glasses available that will work just fine with cocktails. Use your imagination, but remember that plastic glasses (or shakers, jugs, mixing glasses, or other such equipment for that matter) should never be used with cocktails, as it will make the cocktail taste of plastic. A cocktail is supposed to have a refreshing taste, not to taste like the inside of a used plastic bag.
It is worth mastering the techniques for preparation of good-looking drinks. The following pages give you precise directions for some of the essential procedures. Some of tricks and techniques that you should know as follow (Walton et al., 2009);
1/2 oz. of liquor is equal to 1 count, assuming you are using a pourer on your bottles. To measure 1 1/2 oz. of liquor, count “1001…1002…1003” as you are pouring. After a while, you should be able to do it by eye.
To make highballs, fill glass two-thirds full of ice before adding liquor. Always pour liquor in before the mixer. Do not stir drinks containing carbonated mixers.
To make cocktails, lowballs, and other shaken or stirred drinks, fill shaker half-full of ice. For lowballs, fill the glass about half-full of ice before pouring drink.
Most shaken drinks which contain light cream can also be made as blended drinks, substituting vanilla ice cream for the light cream.
To make blended drinks, first fill blender half-full of ice. If necessary, add more ice as you are blending.
Always keep fruit juices and other mixers refrigerated.
In fruit drinks, e.g. strawberry margaritas, always use fresh fruit, not frozen.
Always use an ice scoop and not the glass itself. Tiny slivers of glass always chip off when dipped into an ice well and your glasses become unclear after a while.
If you accidentally break a glass near ice, always throw away all the ice. When glass shatters, pieces go everywhere. You really don’t want pieces of glass in your drink.
Never take a hot glass and add ice into it. This can cause the glass to shatter due to thermal shock. Be careful about this.
Mechanical shock occurs when you clank two glass together. One of the glasses will almost always break.
If you carry the glasses by the stem or the base you avoid fingerprints where people drink from, and you will have more support carrying the glass.
Not all cocktails are made in the same manner. Just as the ingredients may vary, there are several ways in which to mix a cocktail. The most frequently used methods are the following (Walton et al., 2009):
- Mixing; When using a cocktail shaker there is one golden rule to remember. Always put the ice in the shaker first, and the liquor last. This is to ensure that all ingredients are properly chilled by the ice when they are poured over the ice, and by adding the liquor last you reduce the chance of dilution.
- Stirring; A drink that is stirred instead of shaken will retain its clarity and be free of ice chips. Drinks based on clear liquors, like a Martini, should always be stirred and not shaken (don’t listen to James Bond when he order his Martini “shaken, not stirred”).When stirring a cocktail you should stir it enough to mix the ingredients, but not stir it too much. If you stir too much the ice will begin to dilute the liquor. A general rule is that 10-15 stirs will be sufficient for proper mixing. A drink containing carbonated beverage(s) should be stirred gently and briefly to retain the sparkle.
- Shaking; Instead of stirring, you can shake the drink. This will mix the ingredients more than stirring, but will also result in a less clear drink. Drinks that contain ingredients that are hard to mix, such as cream, fruit juices and eggs, should be shaken vigorously to ensure that the ingredients has been well mixed.
- Blending; Use an electric blender to mix fresh fruit, liquor, juices and ice instead of using a shaker. Not too popular everywhere, but perfect for making frozen cocktails or to blend ingredients that are otherwise impossible to mix.
- Floating; The purpose of floating is to keep each ingredients in the drink in separate layers that do not mix with the others. This will create a drink with separate layers, and this is why floating often is referred to as layering. The easiest way to float one liquor on top of another is to use a demitasse spoon, holding it over or in the glass and slowly trickle the ingredient over the back of the spoon.
- Muddling; Muddling is a simple mashing technique for grinding herbs, such as mint, smooth in the bottom of a glass. You can use a wooden muddler that you buy in a bar supply store or buy a bar spoon with a muddler on the end. It crushes the herbs, much as the back of a soup spoon might, without scaring the glass.
- Frosting; To frost a glass, first dip it in water and then put it in the freezer for half an hour or so. Also note that metal and silver mugs and cups will frost better than glasses.
Almost all cocktails are decorated in one way or another, most often with some kind of fruit, but no matter the exact decoration, cocktail sticks are almost always invaluable. Cocktail sticks come in two types; Wooden and plastic. Wooden sticks are most often used, and are suited for just about any kind of cocktail, but they cannot be reused. Plastic sticks, however, should be carefully used, as they tend to give the cocktail a slightly artificial appearance. Unlike wooden sticks, plastic ones can be reused, but should be carefully washed and boiled first (Whitaker et al., 2009).
Cocktail sticks are, whatever the type, used for spearing slices of fruit, cherries, and just about anything else you care to decorate your cocktails with. Straws are also essential and go well with highballs. Straws should not be reused. The traditional cocktail garnish is, however, the red Maraschino cherries. These are used in just about any kind of cocktail, and are now also available in green, yellow and blue. In addition to this, slices of fruit, strips of orange or lemon peel, mint twigs, etc. can also be used (Whitaker et al., 2009).
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One often used method of decorating cocktails is that which is called frosting. Frosting leaves an edge of sugar, salt, cocoa, or any other fine powder, on the rim of the glass. There are several ways to frost glasses, and one of the most frequently used of them is this: Rub the rim of the glass with a slice of orange or lemon, then submerge the rim in sugar or salt (or any other powder), just so that it lines the top of the rim. Other methods use egg white or other substances for ‘gluing’ the powder to the glass. For a more colorful frosting, use small drops of food coloring in the powder. With some cocktails, such as the Margarita, frosting is a ‘standard’ decoration (Whitaker et al., 2009).
Nowadays, with the increase in the number and popularity of mixed drinks of all kinds, cocktails include both wine-based and non-alcoholic mixed drinks, Wine concoctions, whether called cups, punches or cocktails, are refreshing, easy to make, and can be very varied. The most luxurious are those based on champagne, of which the most famous is Buck’s Fizz, a mixture of two-thirds champagne to one-third orange juice. Champagne Cocktail, a slightly stronger drink, was first made in the 19th century – its origins are uncertain, but one story is that a prominent member of the English court was the first to discover its delights.
More popular than ever nowadays, cocktails without alcohol can be just as tantalizing in appearance and taste as their alcoholic equivalents. As well as fruits, juices and syrups, these can be created using lemonade, ginger ale, tonic and soda water, coffee and tea.
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