Sunday, December 3, 2006

A detailed introduction on cocktails

The origin of the cocktail is obscure but we do know that it was first made popular in America and from there, as drinking habits grew more sophisticated, its popularity spread throughout the world.
The number of cocktail recipes available is virtually limitless and a creative bartender can find endless inspiration for really original drinks at any time. This book aims to simplify cocktail mixing for those who like to entertain at home and to teach the basics of mixing cocktails so that the enthusiast will then want to experiment and even devise new cocktails.

What is a Cocktail?’

Vive le cocktail’ toasted a Frenchman in Betsy’s Tavern near Yorktown during the American Revolution after seeing bottles decorated with cocks’ tails. He was probably thinking more about the chicken he was eating than the drink but this is the American version of how the name ’cock- tail’ originated. Another definition of the word cocktail refers to the special way of cutting a horse’s tail. However, the connection between a horse’s tail and drinking a rather delicate blend of spirit, liquor and fruit juice has us baffled.
The word ’cocktail’, when put in front of the word ’bar’ in any of our hotels or eateries, should cultivate thoughts of pleasant surroundings, quiet background music, (sometimes even a pianist) and subdued lighting, and behind the bar the cocktail barman (or bartender). This man (and it is frequently a woman) who provides not only good spirits, but a ready smile, a friendly word, a sympathetic ear and even a shoulder to cry upon, also has that little extra knowledge about drinks and their mixing than anyone else. He takes his task of mixing your drink most seriously as he realises that he has a standard to maintain.
A cocktail is in fact a drink consisting of two or more ingredients, stirred or shaken, as a short or long drink as required. It has been said that the first cocktail was a martini but this cannot be proved, but we can take it with an olive or a twist of lemon – not a pinch of salt!
For the ’mixologist’, or the host at home mixing his own concoction, there are two set rules: All clear drinks, i.e. those not containing fruit juice, cream or milk, must be stirred with ice, e.g. Martinis and Manhattans.Those drinks containing fruit juices and cream, etc. must be shaken either by hand or with an electric blender to acquire a perfect blend, e.g. Brandy Alexander.

Further Tips for Successful Drink Mixing

If possible pour your cocktails into chilled glasses for a warm cocktail is undrinkable. Chill the glasses either in the refrigerator or by putting three cubes of ice in the glass while you are mixing the drink and then discarding these ice cubes just before serving the drink. Equipment for chilling glasses is also available in retail stores.
Almost all drinks taste better when served ice cold; therefore have plenty of clear, clean ice on hand when you entertain. The ice should be shaved, cracked or in cubes. Ice should always be placed in the mixing glass, shaker or glass before liquor is added for this chills the drink quickly and thoroughly.
If only cubed ice is available place the ice in a tea towel and hit it with a mallet on a hard surface to obtain cracked ice. Do not use a glass bottle for crushing ice.
Wherever possible use fresh lemon or orange juice in a drink. However, concentrated juice is almost as good. Keep slices of orange, lemon or lime fresh, by covering with a damp cloth and placing them in the refrigerator.
When cutting lemon, orange or lime peel, never include the white membrane of the rind. Shave off only the coloured surface peel in strips about 13 to 20 millimetres (1/2 to 3/4 inches) wide.
Don’t fill the shaker so full that there is no room for shaking. Use a short, sharp shaking action (do not rock) when mixing cocktails.
Cocktails should be drunk as soon as possible after serving.
Be sure that your glasses are clean and polished and have no chips or cracks.
Always handle glasses by the stem or base.
Cherry or peel is always added to the cocktail after it has been shaken or mixed.
Where a twist of orange or lemon peel is stated, the oil of the peel should be squeezed on top of the cocktail and the peel then drink, unless otherwise requested.Always bear in mind that bad mixing and bad presentation will ruin any cocktail or mixed drink no matter how good the recipe or the ingredient.

Setting up Your Own Bar

One of the most important assets the home entertainer can have is a bar and the necessary equipment for mixing and serving drinks. This bar can vary from the elaborate to the very complete room set aside as a bar to a table or traymobile being used for this purpose beside a swimming pool or you have the time, patience and skill, you can make your own bar, if not then you can purchase a bar from any of the large department or furniture stores.
There are many types of bars but they mainly fall into three categories – mobile or portable semi-permanent and permanent.

The mobile bar

This bar can be moved from place to place which enables you to entertain in such areas as the patio, barbecue and swimming pool at the same time; for it allows you to move, as a whole unit, your equipment, glasses and spirits, etc. to the area from which you wish to serve. The main draw- back to this type of bar is the black to this type of bar is the lack of washing facilities for glasses.
There are many variations of the mobile bar and a popular one is the small imitation keg which opens out showing the provision for glasses and a few bottles within.

The semi-permanent bar

This type of bar tends to be a feature of the room, e.g. a cocktail cabinet, whereas a portable bar is easily hidden from view. An advantage of the semi-permanent bar is that you are able to attractively and conveniently display your equipment and glasses and even the range of spirits you have available. But keep in mind when positioning this bar that it must be as close as practicable to washing facilities.

The permanent bar
This bar forms an integral part of the interior decoration and design of a room. It can be set up so that everything is readily accessible to the person serving drinks. In this bar, if finance is available, you can really let your head go by installing a sink with hot and cold water, refrigerator and all number of ’non-essential’ bar luxuries. And on this bar your equipment and spirits can be displayed at best advantage. To be really eye-catching and effective this bar must be a showpiece in the room. Ideally the front of the bar should be illuminated by indirect lighting as should the area behind the bar, Lighting plays a most important part in the usefulness and appearance of the bar but it should be subdued. As well, the lighting, if properly, will enhance the interior of the room in which the bar is situated.


Shelves of glass on the wall behind the bar look attractive. To support the shelves, use metal strips with brackets which fit at various intervals into these trips. These can be purchased in various colours from most hardware stores. This type of shelving can be adjusted for displaying glasses or bottles, and it provides an ideal place for showing off fine glassware, spirits and other items.
If you decide to build your own bar, bear in mind that the height of the bar should be comfortable for a person to sit at with his drink resting on the top of the bar. Between 1 metre and 1.2 metres (3 feet and 3 feet 6 inches) is best and enables you to use an ordinary kitchen stool as a bar stool. Bar stools can be expensive but a handy- man with a flair for upholstery can take a piece of foam covered with vinyl and transform a kitchen stool into an attractive bar stool.

Bar Equipment

The following basic equipment should be acquired: cocktail shaker (most popular is the ’Boston’; or ’American’ or ’Standard’), or if you have a blender better still; mixing glass and spoon; spirit measures 15 ml and 30 ml (1/2 and 1 ounce); ice bucket and tongs; ’Hawthorn’ strainer; corkscrew; can opener; bottle opener; fruit squeezer; fruit knife and board which can double as a cheese board,” swizzle sticks; tooth- picks; coasters; serviettes; soda syphon; salt and pepper; nutmeg; cinnamon; a cloth for drying glasses; bottle stoppers for recorking carbonated drinks; oranges; lemons; maraschino cherries; olives and cocktail onions; straws.

Basic Bottle Stock Required to Serve Standard Cocktails

Scotch whiskyAustralian whiskyBourbon whiskeyEye whiskyBrandy (many excellentAustralian brands)CognacGinVodkaTequilaWhite rumDark rumDry and sweet vermouthGrenadineAngostura bitters and orange bitters
Liqueurs (cordials)AdvokaatCherry brandyCreme de CacaoCreme de mentheCointreauDrambuieGallianoGrand MarnierTia Maria
There are many other liqueurs available so check the glossary for taste preferences and then buy accordingly.
MixersSoda waterDry ginger aleColaLemonade or 7-upBitter lemonTonic waterMineral waterOrange juiceLemon juiceLime juicePineapple juiceTomato juice

Glasses for the Bar

Glass is a hard, brittle and usually transparent substance made by fusing silica, an alkali, and a base. Legend ascribes its invention to the Phoenicians and the general manufacturing process has varied little from the days of ancient Egypt to modern Europe. The champagne glass (as we know it in Australia) has an interesting history. In the eighteenth century King Louis XVI considered Marie Antoinette such a creature of beauty that a glass should be designed to cover her breast and thus the champagne glass was born. A further stipulation was that only the wine of France was to be drunk from this shaped glass. This type of champagne glass is no longer used in Europe because its width allows the gas to escape causing the champagne to go flat in a short time. The tulip- type glass is popularly used by champagne drinkers today, for its length helps retain gas in champagne for a much longer period.
Glassware is more flexible for the home entertainer than it is for the professional bartender. For example, a tulip glass can be used as a sour glass or a highball glass can be used as a Zombie glass. A well equipped bar needs the following types of glasses: a shot glass (used for straight spirit with- out ice; it is most commonly used in the United States for ’Boilermakers’); a 30ml (1 fl oz) liqueur glass; a 90-120 ml (3-4 fl oz) sherry glass; a 150 ml (5 fl oz) stemmed wine glass; a 210ml (7floz) stemmed wine glass; a whisky glass (sizes vary); a cocktail glass (these are usually 90ml or 3 fl oz); a 180 ml (6 fl oz) old-fashioned glass; a 180 ml (6 fl oz) champagne glass; a 300 ml (10 fl oz) high- ball glass; beer glass and a brandy balloon or snifter.
Whether your glassware is costly crystal or less expensive ware from the supermarket take great care of it. Wash each glass separately in reason- ably hot water, rinse, and then dry with a clean, lint-free glass-cloth while the glass is still warm from the water. Glasses should be aired before they are returned to their shelves. Handle glasses by the stem or base so they retain their high polish for later use.

Giving a Party and Enjoying It

Hospitality has two essential components: a sincere and congenial host and good preparation. Always keep your kitchen cupboard well-stocked in case of unexpected guests and make sure your bar contains a fair supply of drinks.
Once you have organized your main supplies of food and refreshments take even have a prepared list) to make sure your have everything you are likely to need. In the bar you should have two glasses per guest, serving trays, water jugs, soda syphon, bar tools, knife and board for cutting on, fruit juice, oranges, lemons, cucumber, pickled onions, maraschino cherries, mint, cloths, a sponge for mopping up, and an abundance of party ice.

Guide to liquor requirements

There is no way to calculate exactly but working on the assumption that you serve 30 ml (1 oz) of spirit per drink, a 750 ml (26 fl oz) bottle will produce 26 drinks. Aperitifs are an exception and call for 60 to 90 ml (2 to 3 fl oz) per drink. The average cocktail glass contains 90 ml (3 fl oz) of liquid which comprise spirit or liqueur (cordial) and the basic ingredients of fruit juices or cream. Your needs will vary depending on the size of the drinks (if you value your carpet never fill the glass to the top) and the mood of your guests. It is wise to be overstocked as one very well-known toast implies: ’One bottle for the four us! Thank God there are no more of us!’ Always allow 2 glasses per person for each type of drink served.

Basic drink stock

The following is a guide to basic stock required, but if you know your guests’ preferences, this can be adjusted.
Scotch and/or a blended whisky; vodka; gin; rum; brandy; dry and sweet vermouth; sherry or Dubonnet; red and white wine (economically in obtained in flagons or casks), liqueurs and of course beer.
Soft drinks should include soda water, dry ginger, tonic water, bitter lemon, lemonade, your favourite cola, orange and lemon squash, mineral water and do not forget a bottle of bitters.
Juices, either fresh or frozen should include tomato, orange, lemon, pineapple, and lime.
Garnishes to have on hand are lemons, oranges, cherries and olives.

Helpful hints for the bartender-host

Carbonated beverages should be the last ingredient added to a drink.
A good tip if you are planning drinks containing sugar – make up in advance a sugar syrup containing 1 cup of sugar added to 1 cup of water. Bring to the boil and simmer until sugar is dissolved. This can be bottled and refrigerated and will keep indefinitely. It cuts down the barman’s job of trying to dissolve sugar in drinks.
As with food or snacks, prepare the bar in advance. Fruit juices should be squeezed and oranges and lemon which are required for garnishing should be sliced fairly thick, about 6 mm (1/4 inch) as they do not curl or drop. When cutting peel for a twist, take only the coloured rind, not the pulp as it is bitter. Pre-cut fruit into slices and twists and they will keep fresh if covered by a damp cloth or plastic wrap and refrigerated.
If the washing machine is handy to the kitchen, it can be good place to store ice as it keeps cold and avoids the mess caused when it melts.
Do not forget the teetotallers at the party, and have a choice of non-alcoholic drinks available for them.
So with good preparation beforehand, congenial company, well-mixed drinks and attractively presented dishes you will be a relaxed host and your party will be well on its way to success


Measurements for all drink recipes are given in metric, with their imperial equivalent in parentheses. A dash is equal to 1/6 of a teaspoon (or the equivalent to a flick of the wrist) but add the amount to suit individual tastes; 1 teaspoon = 5 ml (1/6 fl oz); 1 tablespoon = 18 ml (3/5 fl oz); 1 jigger = 30ml (1 fl oz); 1 gill = 150ml (5 fl oz or 1/4 pint); 1 pint = 600 ml (20 fl oz) = 10 to 12 servings. Unless stated otherwise the quantity in each recipe is for one drink.
The standard 750ml bottle has a slightly greater capacity than its imperial equivalent of 26 fl oz. The imperial equivalent of a 375 ml bottle is 13 fl oz; and the imperial equivalent of a 1.5 litre bottle is 40 fl oz.
For bar sales, the half-nip measures 15ml (1/2 fl oz); the nip measures 30 ml (1 fl oz).

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