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Mixology Diary https://mixologydiary.com Straight up information on how to mix cocktails Sat, 05 Aug 2017 19:19:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.21 https://mixologydiary.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/cropped-mixology_logo_square_512-32x32.jpg Mixology Diary https://mixologydiary.com 32 32 41110070 Barware Glasses – Getting Started https://mixologydiary.com/barware-glasses-getting-started/ https://mixologydiary.com/barware-glasses-getting-started/#comments Thu, 21 Feb 2013 22:08:10 +0000 http://www.mixologydiary.com/?p=559 I wouldn’t open a bar and serve drinks in any old glass, but my focus is making cocktails at home so I look at it this way: if I have friends over and give them handmade cocktails, they won’t care what the drinks are served in but they will feel happy, impressed and a little […]

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Barware Glasses

I wouldn’t open a bar and serve drinks in any old glass, but my focus is making cocktails at home so I look at it this way: if I have friends over and give them handmade cocktails, they won’t care what the drinks are served in but they will feel happy, impressed and a little special.

If you’re trying to figure out what glasses you might need, maybe what I’ve learned can can help you make a decision. Here are the main types of glasses, divided into four categories:

  • The Givens: those glasses that you probably already have in the kitchen.
  • The Basics: the glasses that you should have before you get started.
  • Next Steps: the glasses that you’ll want to use to make specific drinks the way they were intended.
  • Getting Serious: the glasses that are more specific or rare, but probably fun to have when you need them.

The Givens

Those glasses that you probably already have in the kitchen.

You might have some drinking glasses, coffee mugs, wine glasses, and maybe some beer glasses (pint glasses, pilsner glasses, beer steins) in the kitchen. Go through the next sections and decide if what you have will substitute for anything or if you need to look at adding to your arsenal. I try to use the intended glassware for specific drinks if I have it but I’m not going to be fanatical about it. Also, you should always choose glass over plastic since glass will chill and maintain temperature better.

The wife and I once thought that we should have eight of every dish or glass in case we hosted a dinner party. This practically never happens and having all that glassware just fills up our cabinets. We’ve gone through our kitchen over the years and donated to charity plenty of champagne flutes, margarita glasses and shot glasses that just never got used. For my purposes today, if I want to get a new type of glass, I’ll just buy two. That way I can make a drink for the wife and me and expand from there if we want, without overflowing our cabinets.


The Basics

The glasses that you should have before you get started.

Rocks Glass (a.k.a. Lowball Glass, Old Fashioned Glass, Double Old Fashioned Glass): This short glass is the one that I most associate with cocktails. It’s the one’s you see in the hands of the Rat Pack or Don Draper. It’s for drinking spirits on the rocks (over ice) or neat (just the straight stuff) but also famously known as an Old Fashioned glass because its short height makes it good for muddling the ingredients for Old Fashioned cocktails, which are made right in the glass. The set I have was a wedding gift – far more useful than that electric can opener. I only list the Double Old Fashioned to be inclusive but it’s really just a larger Old Fashioned glass. You may see it referred to as a D.O.F.

rocks glass

Cocktail Glass (includes Martini Glass, Coupe): With all the types of glasses that serve “cocktails,” who knew that there is one type specifically called the Cocktail Glass? This is it. The V-shaped version for serving martinis is called a martini glass by most people but it’s technically still a cocktail glass. Some observations on the martini glass: The wide mouth makes spilling very easy. The shallow bowl makes fishing out olives a snap. The thin stem prevents warming the contents with your hands. The flat angle of the sides reduce the need to tip the head way back for those last drops, which is good for ladies wanting to maintain a refined appearance.

martini glass

The martini glass is an elegant means of drinking even if the sizes of some have grown to ridiculous proportions in recent times. I bring this up because drinks are meant to be enjoyed cold and freshly made. With these 12 oz. martini monsters, by the time someone gets to the end, the flavor it totally different and the temperature is just bleh. I say it’s better to drink a lot of little fresh cocktails than one big stale one.

There’s also the cocktail glass that seems to be having a comeback – the coupe. It’s basically the same idea as a martini glass but the sides round out a bit to form a bowl with a more vertical rim. Because of the shape, coupes make sloshing alcohol a little more difficult. Coupes are generally diminutive, holding a responsible amount which prevents the drawbacks of those giant martini glasses mentioned earlier. Personally, I prefer the look of a coupe. They are versatile because they can pull duty for martinis, manhattans, brandy alexanders, champagne (their original purpose) and more if needed. Coupes can also charm drinkers who aren’t accustomed to their classy retro vibe. Look up some vintage coupes on eBay and see how beautiful they can be.

coupe

When a recipe calls for a cocktail glass, either the martini or coupe will do. The typical cocktail glass is between 4 and 8 oz. See my next post on my where I got my first cocktail glasses.

Highball Glass: This is the tall version of the lowball *smacks forehead with palm* meant for drinks with more ice or larger non-alcoholic portions of mixers. I haven’t bought any special “highball” glasses. I just use my regular household glass drink tumblers. I can’t imagine an official highball glass would serve me any better. The other thing about highballs is they hold larger drinks that have ingredients like fresh juice, soda water or fresh herbs. I’ve found that I don’t always have these things on hand so I usually make simpler cocktails that use the ingredients found in my liquor cabinet. In other words, unless I plan ahead, I don’t have a lot of need for the highball glass. Still, I’m putting it under the basics because it can be used for most of the larger drinks I’d like to make, including bloody marys, collins, long island iced teas, hurricanes, mojitos, even blended drinks like piña coladas.

highball glass

Shot Glass: I was tempted to put shot glasses in the “Next Steps” section but I imagine that this is probably the most common specialty glass that anyone would have in their home. I’m not really into shots yet and if I decide to take a slug of something, I’d probably just put it in a rocks glass. However, I found a great image of shots on Tumblr that shows tons of recipes I’ll be eager to try once I build up my inventory of ingredients. I already own four shot glasses.

shot glass


Next Steps

The glasses that you’ll want to use to make specific drinks the way they were intended.

Collins Glass: The collins glass is most similar to the highball glass in shape and size but the collins is taller, thinner, more cylindrical and holds more liquid. The vertical sides of the collins glass prolong the bubbly action of the carbonation in soda water, the major ingredient of its namesake, the Tom Collins. Five months in and I just bought two collins glasses. I waited because I’ve found plenty of other non-collins drinks to make up to now. In a pinch the highball glass should work just fine but I finally wanted to make a collins in a real collins glass.

collins glass

Irish Coffee Glass: If you have coffee mugs, you can survive without these. If you like cute little stemmed glassware that when filled with coffee, whisky and whipped cream make you want to dance a jig, you might want to check these out. I bought four for a small Christmas party but they were never used. Still, I’m glad to own them. They will be good for an Irish Coffee, hot toddy, or mulled cider.

Irish coffee glass

Champagne Flute: Apparently the coupe (mentioned above) was designed for champagne too but the vertical sides of the flute keep the bubbly bubblin’ longer. I’ve never been a champagne fan but two drinks I’m interested in trying that require a champagne flute are the French 75 and the Bellini. The mimosa is also an obvious choice. Since we purged our set of champagne flutes a couple years ago, I’m on the lookout for an inexpensive pair.

champagne flute


Getting Serious

The glasses that are more specific or rare, but probably fun to have when you need them.

Copper Mug: For me, this was an early purchase. As I said in my first post, I love a good Moscow mule and the way to serve one is in a copper mug. It has something to do with the slight metallic taste the copper imparts. I don’t even know if any other drink calls for a copper cup but I don’t care. I love owning one.

copper mug

Brandy Snifter: I don’t know much about these and I don’t have one, mostly because I am a total brandy newb. What I do know is that the bowl of the glass is meant to be cradled in the hand to warm the contents. Also, the shape of the smaller opening traps the aromas in the glass for when you stick your nose in there for a drink. Maybe I’ll get one this year.

brandy snifter

Cordial Glass: At the finish of a meal or the end of the night when everyone relaxes and the stemmed mini glasses called cordials are filled and handed out, everyone just feels special. Through the cordial, there’s a connection to the homeland whether it’s through the grappa of Italy, the port of Portugal, or the aquavit of Scandinavia. Cordials are specific, ancient, and fun. Oddly enough, cordials make men feel manly and women feel courtly. The wife just bought a set of 8. (She’s liking this cocktail hobby of mine. Woo-hoo!)

cordial glass

Whiskey Sour Glass: This one is so under the radar, I only discovered it as I was writing this article. I will be exploring the foundations of cocktails and sours are one of the pillars so I’ll consider a sour glass or two if I can even find any. Looking at the shape, I’d think a champagne flute could stand in for now. I’ll look into this more when I get there.

whiskey sour glass

Nick & Nora: This is a cocktail glass and should be found under the Cocktail Glass in “The Basics,” but it is a far less common type of glass so I’m including it here. Its name refers to the main characters in The Thin Man movie and book series from the 1930s, created by Dashiell Hammett. The design is like a mini elongated goblet or a tulip, and it’s fine for serving martinis, manhattans, or Rob Roys.

Nick and Nora

As a matter of fact, I first heard about the Nick & Nora in this video on YouTube for how to make a Rob Roy:

Bonus diversion: here are some of great moments from The Thin Man films. I highly recommend catching them when they show up on TCM.

There are more glasses to explore but from what I’ve learned, this list will cover all the basic needs. If I feel the need to add more to my collection, I’ll write about those in future posts as I get them. Here’s the lineup again so you don’t have to scroll to the top (click for larger version):

Barware Glasses

How about you? Which glasses do you absolutely need to make cocktails? What are the “specialty” glasses in your collection? Anything to add or correct, please say so in the comments!

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First Bar Tool Purchases – Cocktail Strainer https://mixologydiary.com/first-bar-tool-purchases-cocktail-strainer/ https://mixologydiary.com/first-bar-tool-purchases-cocktail-strainer/#comments Wed, 13 Feb 2013 16:54:23 +0000 http://www.mixologydiary.com/?p=455 My First Bar Tool Purchases series continues with the strainer. Here are links to the first two parts on cocktail shakers and jiggers. In your kitchen you’ll probably have stand-ins for tools like spoons, knives, something to muddle, etc. so once you have at least the cocktail shaker, jigger and strainer, you’re good to go! […]

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My First Bar Tool Purchases series continues with the strainer. Here are links to the first two parts on cocktail shakers and jiggers. In your kitchen you’ll probably have stand-ins for tools like spoons, knives, something to muddle, etc. so once you have at least the cocktail shaker, jigger and strainer, you’re good to go!

3. Strainer (Hawthorne type)

The other tools make sense: a jigger is a type of measuring cup and the cocktail shaker is the place where everything gets mixed together. Then you get to the funny shaped thing with the spring coil and holes in it – the strainer. The strainer is probably the strangest looking of the bar tools to a newcomer but once you get one in hand and set it on a mixing tin, it all starts to make sense. It just snaps into place thanks to the spring that makes it fit snugly and the little “arms” hold it on the edge of the tin.

Many cocktails are meant to be served “up,” which means shaken with ice and then strained into an empty glass. Think martinis, manhattans, negronis. The point of straining is to keep all the big pieces of ice, fruit, herbs, etc. out of your drink. (With that in mind, it’s strange how many times I’ve been served martinis with tons of icy bits floating around. Apparently many bartenders don’t worry about it.)

The last piece of my initial BevMo purchase, along with the previously mentioned shaker and jigger, was this Epic Cocktail Strainer. Epic refers to the brand name and not its qualifications.

hawthorne-strainer

Hawthorne Strainer (BevMo link)

The two types of strainers are Hawthorne and julep strainers. The one shown and described above is a Hawthorne. These are used when you shake a drink. Juleps are much simpler spoon shaped tools, used to strain a drink when it has been stirred. Here’s an image of a julep strainer.

julep-strainer

Julep Strainer

I didn’t have a julep strainer when I made my first martinis (which were stirred) and the Hawthorne strainer worked just fine. What I don’t know yet is whether the two are used for each situation because of tradition or actual utility. If I find out, I’ll let you know. If you know, please clue me in.

By the way, if you’re wondering like I did why it’s called a Hawthorne strainer, read this article.

Once you’ve shaken the drink and opened the shaker, pop the strainer over the opening of the tin. As you grab the tin put your index finger over the strainer to hold it in place. Pour into a glass. See the following illustration:
straining-a-cocktail
At around $4 it’s not a big expense and I don’t anticipate running across super high-end “Cadillac” strainers that will rock my world. This strainer does the trick and I haven’t felt the need to look for more options – yet. If I get another mixing tin that has a different size opening, I may need a second. I’ll also look at some with tighter spring coils. People mention that a tighter coil is better at sifting out little shards of ice. Not having any other strainers to make a comparison, I’d still say this one isn’t tight but there IS a workaround…

Bonus: Rare Hawthorne Strainer Tip

speakeasycocktails

Speakeasy Cocktails (iTunes link)

I think I learned this from Jim Meehan’s fantastic iOS app Speakeasy Cocktails and found it interesting that I hadn’t seen this advice anywhere else before. When the strainer is set in the tin, you can push it toward the spring on the pouring edge to make the seal tighter. This front section is called the gate and it’s an effective way to hold back the chunks. Just by pushing with your finger you can adjust how much you close the gate and how much you strain out. Use the gate with moderation though, because I’ve found pushing it too far can slow the flow of liquid to a trickle, turning the strainer into a stopper. Try it and you’ll see.

I’ll talk more about julep strainers in an upcoming post.

If you have a favorite Hawthorne strainer, I’d love to hear what it is. If you have other ideas to add, leave a comment below!

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First Bar Tool Purchases – Jigger https://mixologydiary.com/first-bar-tool-purchases-jigger/ https://mixologydiary.com/first-bar-tool-purchases-jigger/#respond Fri, 08 Feb 2013 16:47:38 +0000 http://www.mixologydiary.com/?p=404 I covered shakers in my first of this series of posts on stocking the tools for a home bar. The next tool is a jigger. 2. Jigger You’ve probably seen bartenders work without measuring tools. They use pouring spouts to control the flow, flip the bottle over the cup and count to themselves to determine […]

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I covered shakers in my first of this series of posts on stocking the tools for a home bar. The next tool is a jigger.

2. Jigger

You’ve probably seen bartenders work without measuring tools. They use pouring spouts to control the flow, flip the bottle over the cup and count to themselves to determine how much they’ve poured. I suppose that could be accurate with hundreds of hours of practice but it’s not a goal of mine to learn. Apparently it’s fast, but not so accurate. I don’t intend to work in a bar, so speed is not an issue that I need solved by this method. I’ve also seen some bartenders eyeball their pours like this guy:

I’m guessing he has memorized how much liquid matched the etchings on the mixing glass.

What is a jigger? Jiggers are tools meant for accurately measuring ingredients in a drink. Until I can do it by eye or counting, which will probably be never, I’ll be measuring with a jigger.

As with my shaker, I couldn’t wait so I picked up my first little jigger at BevMo. Strangely, they only had the one when I was in the store. (Again with the not-so-well-stocked tool selection at a liquor store.)

This is the jigger I bought:

Epic Double Jigger

Epic Double Jigger (BevMo link)

When I opened it, I was struck by how cheap it felt. Super light and thin metal, two cups somehow stuck together by glue or a spot weld. They were even a little off kilter. But who cares, right? It’s just a little thing to measure liquid. But when you think about it, you’ll be holding a jigger as much as anything else when making drinks, so it should feel right. This one didn’t inspire confidence.

My inexperience was the next obstacle. I didn’t know how much this jigger measured! It didn’t say on the package and there are no markings on the jigger, inside or out. So I filled it with water and poured the contents into a tiny measuring cup. It held 3/4 oz. in the small side and 1 3/4 oz. in the big side. I’m no expert, but these seem like pretty lame measurements. Most of the recipes I see call for 1oz. or 2 oz. pours, standard. How the hell am I supposed to do that with this? It makes no sense to me. It reminds me of those math puzzles from my childhood. Two pours from one side gets 1 1/2 oz., two from the other yields 3 1/2 oz., and one from each side makes 2 1/2 oz. Getting a 1/2 oz. or 1/4 oz. measurement from this is akin to untying the Gordian Knot. If someone has the logic to make this useful, I’d love to hear it.

My first martini should have been a triumph. The martini itself was fine but making it was a pain in the ass thanks to that flimsy, unmarked and unconventionally sized jigger. In truth, I resorted to measuring with that tiny measuring cup, which is apparently the go to jigger for many people. Here it is in case you’re interested. The OXO Mini Measuring Cup:

OXO Mini Measuring Cup

OXO Mini Measuring Cup (Amazon link)

I decided to immediately find a replacement for my first jigger and to limit my choices to something that looked more traditional, plus I didn’t want to appropriate my wife’s kitchen tools until I really needed to. That would put a quick damper on her support of my new potentially expensive hobby.

After watching a bunch of bartending videos on Youtube, I noticed a particular jigger kept popping up. (These guys hardly ever tell you what they are using, which is part of why I’m blogging my findings.) After a quick Google image search I saw that it is the OXO SteeL Double Jigger.

OXO Steel Double Jigger

OXO Steel Double Jigger (Amazon link)

I ordered it on Amazon. Amazon Prime is one of the best things ever. I don’t even care how much it costs per year because I can get anything I want in two days!

The OXO could hardly arrive soon enough because I wanted to make a few more drinks. No matter how many times I used that damned first jigger, I could NEVER remember what it measured. Every time I had to measure out some water only to be reminded of what an asinine size it was. I was tempted to write on it with a Sharpie but I knew its days were numbered — two to be exact.

The OXO arrived and it is a thing of beauty. Solid. Weighty. An ergonomic rubber grip befitting the Good Grips brand. And best of all for me, it has measurements printed inside the cups! Not only are the volumes convenient measurements of 1 and 1 1/2 oz. but they have sub-markings of 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, and 3/4 oz. too! All in one tool. This thing covers it all. I like it so much, I’m tempted to buy another just to have TWO. But THAT would feel redundant because one is so perfect! Besides, a man can only measure one pour at a time.

The one jigger I might be looking for in the future is a large one for doing 2 oz. pours. Not that I need one because I just measure two of the 1 oz. pours, but it looks so resolute when I see someone fill up one of those big suckers and toss it all into the mix. Just look at this bad boy:

Jigger - 2 oz.

Jigger – 2 oz. (Amazon link)

As for technique, I’m still finding my way but in the future I’ll talk about different ways to pour with a jigger. I’m still in the mode of “just get it all in the glass and not on the counter.”

What’s your go to jigger? How many jiggers do you have and why? Share your experience in the comments below!

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First Bar Tool Purchases – Cocktail Shaker https://mixologydiary.com/first-bar-tool-purchases-cocktail-shaker/ https://mixologydiary.com/first-bar-tool-purchases-cocktail-shaker/#respond Thu, 07 Feb 2013 05:03:42 +0000 http://www.mixologydiary.com/?p=413 Fifteen years ago I received a bar set as a wedding gift. It had all these tools stuck into one ice bucket with a smiley-faced mixer and some other strange looking tools. I had no idea what to do with it, except to put ice in the bucket. After it collected dust for a few […]

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Click to see on Amazon

Fifteen years ago I received a bar set as a wedding gift. It had all these tools stuck into one ice bucket with a smiley-faced mixer and some other strange looking tools. I had no idea what to do with it, except to put ice in the bucket. After it collected dust for a few years we donated it to Goodwill. Looking back, it wasn’t a bad set, but I probably would have replaced it by now, knowing what I know today. You can see in the image that it had an ice bucket, jigger, bottle opener, tongs, stirrer, bar knife, and strainer. Not exactly what I would start out with and not cheap, either!

Well what did I start with, then? I knew I needed a few key things and in this series of posts I’ll cover the basics.

1. Cocktail shaker

Click to see on Amazon

It’s obvious what a cocktail shaker is for. You put ingredients in, usually with ice, and you shake it all until it’s cold. Then you strain it into a glass.

I didn’t know much about shakers except there are three kinds. (See them in the slideshow at the end of this post.)

  • The Boston shaker: two cups, one metal and one glass, that fit together (pictured on the left)
  • The cobbler shaker: those metal three piece deals with the built in strainer and cap
  • The French shaker: two metal cups that fit together without the built in strainer. Less common in the U.S. but maybe they’re all over France, given the name.

Sometimes when I’m starting in on a hobby, I just want to see products in person so I impatiently go to a few local stores. The link here is from Amazon but I got the same shaker at my local BevMo! store. Strangely, I’ve found that most stores that primarily sell liquor don’t have a very good selection of barware. They have just enough to get you going, but options are scarce. It must not be worth their time to stock a good variety of liquor and tools. You could go to a Crate & Barrel or Williams Sonoma but their selection will be even more limited and far more expensive.

Something else I noticed is that the cobbler shaker is the most common one I saw in stores. This type always seems like a lot of trouble to me, with the cap and three pieces – I just like the simplicity of the Boston shaker. In the future I’ll try a cobbler and I may fall in love, but for now, I’m a Boston man.

So I bought this one at BevMo!. It was about $19. I was happy to have it and I thought the rubber ring around the glass might help a beginner like me get a good seal and not throw alcohol all over my kitchen. It also has recipes for various drinks printed on the side. Not knowing any better, I figured having those couldn’t hurt.

How well does it work? It’s been good for starting out. I’ve completely ignored the recipes printed on it. After the second time I used the shaker the rubber ring around the glass came off while I was washing it and was hard to get back on, so I left it off and eventually threw it away. I never see real bartenders use a glass with rubber on it, so why should I? Without the ring, it performed just as well, maybe even better. (One time I was using it with the rubber and some liquid came out onto my hands while shaking, but not since. It could have easily been my fault.) The glass itself is a little narrow inside, so if I want to stir a drink to mix, it seems a bit tight. I’ll need to report back when I’ve tried other glasses for that. I’m looking to get a dedicated mixing glass for stirring, but I’m holding off on that purchase for now since I have plenty of things I can stir a drink in.

Cocktail Shaker Slideshow (hover for details):

What do you recommend? What is your cocktail shaker of choice and why? Leave your feedback in the comments.

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Top 6 Interesting Facts About Alcohol I Learned from BarSmarts https://mixologydiary.com/6interesting-facts-alcohol-barsmarts/ https://mixologydiary.com/6interesting-facts-alcohol-barsmarts/#respond Mon, 28 Jan 2013 15:37:52 +0000 http://www.mixologydiary.com/?p=397 As I mentioned in my first post, taking the BarSmarts Wired course was a revelation. Here are the top six things that I didn’t know before the course. 1. All spirits come from beer or wine. First is fermentation. Put grains and yeast in a jar and over time it will ferment, making beer. Put […]

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As I mentioned in my first post, taking the BarSmarts Wired course was a revelation. Here are the top six things that I didn’t know before the course.

1. All spirits come from beer or wine.

First is fermentation. Put grains and yeast in a jar and over time it will ferment, making beer. Put grapes or fruit in a jar and over time it will ferment, making wine. This is the most basic explanation of fermentation, and I won’t guarantee the quality of drink this will make. Both of these are types of alcohol, obviously.

Second, take the beer or wine and distill it, meaning concentrate it in a still to remove impurities and you have high alcohol spirits. What you started with during fermentation – grains, grapes, potatoes, sugar cane, pears, agave, etc. – will determine what kind of alcohol you end [glossary_exclude]up[/glossary_exclude] with when you distill it.

It never occurred to me that the distillation doesn’t make alcohol. You need the fermented liquid (beer or wine) first and then concentrate the alcohol in that through distillation.

2. All distillations (could) lead to vodka.

By definition, vodka is a distilled spirit that has no color, flavor or odor. In other words, it has been distilled so much that all impurities, or congeners, have been removed. What this means is that if you distill any alcohol enough, you can remove all of the color, flavor and odors and be left with…vodka! Vodka is nothing more than what’s called a “neutral spirit,” meaning that its alcohol content is around 195 proof. (Water is added to this for bottling, resulting in a spirit that is around 80 proof. Speaking of proof…

3. Proof is how much alcohol is in a spirit.

This one is easy. Proof is the alcohol percentage, doubled. In the vodka example above, 80 proof means that the liquid in the bottle is 40% alcohol. On my shelf right now, the highest proof spirit I have is Wild Turkey 101. It’s 101 proof, so it is 50.5% alcohol.

4. There are two categories of spirits.

This one is simple too. There are white spirits and brown spirits. White spirits come straight from the still and have little coloring, hence the term “white.” Vodka, gin, sake and certain rums and tequilas are white spirits. Brown spirits are aged in oak barrels and are generally, well, more brown in color. Whiskey, brandy and certain rums and tequilas are brown spirits.

5. Aging in oak barrels is what gives most spirits their character.

If you think oak barrels were just for wine, think again. Rum, tequila, cognac, and all varieties of whisk(e)y (see #6) spend some time in oak barrels. The longer the time, the more the spirit changes. The oak can impart traits that we know as buttery, caramel, smoky, vanilla, and spicy. Some spirits spend a little time in barrels: silver tequila for no more than two months. Other spirits can be aged for years: Scotch whisky must legally age for three years, minimum, but when you see those 12, 18, 21 year bottles (and higher!) you start to understand how long that drink has been preparing to meet your lips.

6. Is it whisky or whiskey? Yes.

There’s Scotch whisky (otherwise known as scotch), Irish whiskey, Canadian whisky, Japanese whisky, and American whiskey. Within the American whiskey family you’ll find bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, and rye! They are all related, all made differently, and all governed by specific laws that qualify them into each category. Someone could spend a lifetime appreciating all the varieties of whiskey. Some people spell it “whisk(e)y” with the e in parenthesis to be all inclusive, but I’ll be sticking with whiskey for simplicity, unless I’m talking about one type in particular. More on whiskey coming soon.

So how did I do? I’m starting to learn this stuff but if you know better, let me know your thoughts on this list in the comments!

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Why Blog About Cocktails and Mixing Drinks? https://mixologydiary.com/blog-about-cocktails-drinks/ https://mixologydiary.com/blog-about-cocktails-drinks/#comments Mon, 28 Jan 2013 02:45:29 +0000 http://www.mixologydiary.com/?p=388 Ever order a drink and then the bartender/server responds with a question that makes you realize that you’re already in way too deep? “Would you like that up?” “Do you want that with a twist?” “Would you like that with a water back?” Simple questions, but if you don’t know what they mean, you might […]

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Ever order a drink and then the bartender/server responds with a question that makes you realize that you’re already in way too deep?

“Would you like that up?”

“Do you want that with a twist?”

“Would you like that with a water back?”

Simple questions, but if you don’t know what they mean, you might as well order a glass of milk and ask for directions to the kiddie table. At least this is how I felt more times than I’d like to remember. Without knowing the finer details of finer drinks I found myself playing it safe to avoid the sudden onset stammering of drinkus-idiotus. Instead, I’d just order something I knew I liked, like a beer. A nice, safe, boring beer. (Now, there’s nothing wrong with beer. I love beer! But when a beautifully stocked bar is glimmering at you, beer seems like a wasted opportunity.)

I’ve always loved margaritas and in Southern California they are in abundance. For times when I was feeling frisky I’d order a vodka martini and get it “dirty” so it tasted like something – olives, mostly – and it looked like I knew what I wanted. For a few years I drank cosmopolitans. Cosmos! Oh, the shame. Thankfully, this was before Sex and the City but I still cringe a little when I look back on all those sweet pretty in pink drinks. Then I moved to the Moscow mule, but at the time I only knew one place to get it right (served in a copper cup) but then that place went out of business. Dasvidaniya, baby.

My journey into the land of drinkdom was slow, even non-existent for a while. All along, I felt like I was trudging through the muck, like Bogart in the African Queen, while those who knew a thing or two about drinks were living it up on the Lido Deck of the Love Boat, just out of my view. They had Isaac Washington and I had Rose Sayer.

 

 

 

There’s something mysterious about mixed drinks, or cocktails. Even the word cocktail brings and air of sophistication to getting hammered off your ass but that’s not what they are all about. Cocktails are surrounded by ceremony, tradition, and a certain alchemy that when applied correctly can produce something far greater than the sum of their parts.

I knew this to be true and my inner Godfather was slapping me and shouting “Act like a man!” Something had to be done.

 

 

I have one bartending book (which I’ll get to in a later post) but learning to make drinks from a book is hard. They never explain the details. They just give recipes and expect you’ll work everything out. I toyed with the idea of taking a bartending course. I live in Los Angeles so finding one in a city with so many bars isn’t an issue. Time is a definite consideration for me since I have a more-than-full-time job in the animation industry. I had considered taking a vacation to do a week-long course in Burbank but after doing as much research as I could, it seemed very heavy on the day to day skills of working behind a bar – register, up-selling, making six drinks at a time – and the drinks seemed like the cookie-cutter type you my get from a hired bartender at a banquet or other mass public event. They promised to teach 150 drinks in a week. That’s not what I am looking for and I don’t want to work behind a bar. Here’s their promo video, cued up at the salient point.

 

 

Forget the singles bars, sign me up for bartending school! Why don’t they let those poor slobs in the background get a word in?

Wanting to understand the basics of what drinks are all about, I started reading a few blogs. The problem with most booze blogs is that they assume you know what the hell they are talking about. As I said before, I don’t know much, so it was slow going as I stopped to do Google searches on terms I didn’t quite get. After a while, I caught on to some things, but it was all so unapproachable for me somehow and I didn’t know where to start, what to buy, what to drink.

Then on The N.A.D.E.R blog, Lindsay Nader mentioned that she took a course with BarSmarts. I looked them up and they were doing a promotion all Summer, offering their online bartending course for free. I checked it out, made sure it wasn’t some elaborate scam and signed up. It was wonderful. It’s a four part course that teaches the background and makeup of all the major spirits, an overview of the history of cocktails and those who made their mark behind a bar, the techniques and tools of a barman, and finally the top 25 drinks every bartender should know. I’m almost most impressed that they saved the drink mixing for the end. Each part of the course must be passed to take the next, so in this order they guarantee you’ll come away with knowing more than how to memorize recipes and count while you pour. The course had to be completed within 60 days but I don’t know if this is how the payed course runs.

 

 

They encourage you to download all the course materials which consist of a written “workbook” for each course and quicktime videos of the instructors teaching the live course they offer in New York. The videos only seem to be a small percentage of the time spent in the live class, but they are still very informative and interesting. The teachers are also clearly fanatics when it comes to all aspects of bartending and their enthusiasm shows. When it’s not free, the course is about $80, I think. If you can’t make it to a live class near you, then I’d say it’s definitely worth the time and money. For me it was just what I needed because it began at the beginning (actually in prehistoric times) and built my understanding from there. From my limited experience, what they are teaching is relevant to current trends while staying grounded in classic drink making, which coincidentally is the current trend. And cosmos don’t even make their Top 25 – phew!

One teensy thing that I could gripe about: BarSmarts is owned by Pernod Ricard USA, distributors of Absolut Vodka, Jameson Irish Whiskey and Beefeater Gin, to name a few. All great brands, but be prepared that when a drink recipe calls for gin, they indicate their brand. At first I just thought they really liked Beefeater until I wised up to their game. This isn’t across the board, as they DO mention other labels where appropriate, especially when delving into specific spirit types.

 

 

I’ve learned that I am drawn to the classic cocktails that you find on menus of fine wood paneled bars: martini, negroni, Tom Collins, old-fashioned, whiskey sour, Manhattan, sidecar. (I’ve only tried three of these!) These are the classics and they are still going strong. They have histories and reasons for why they are made a certain way and they all, along with others, serve as the foundation of whatever drinks may come our way in the future.

I figured that I can’t be the only person in the world who is so dense they don’t know one end of a muddler from the other, so here I am, sharing what I learn with you. I’ll experiment, make drinks, make mistakes and let you know what I find. In the short time that I’ve been reading up on drinks, I’ve noticed that opinions are just as strong as the drinks. Everyone seems to know what they like and they want to tell you their way, which is the right way. I get that and I’ll appreciate any advice my fellow imbibers want to throw my may. I’ll take it in and pay it forward by letting everyone know how it works out for me.

Let’s belly up to the bar and wet our whistles!

How about you? How did you start your education in mixology? Please share your story in the comments below!

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