Friday, April 06, 2012

Creative Bartending




As someone who can only mix a drink based on what my bartending bible Mr. Boston tells me to do, I felt that I was long overdue in getting a bit experimental. But where and how to start inventing my own cocktails? Fortunately, The Astor Center of New York City recently held a class taught by April Wachtel called “Beyond Bartending 101: Techniques And Tips For The Creative Process”.

After beginning the evening by serving us a Negroni, Wachtel said that the key to creating your own cocktail is balance. Among the keys to a balanced cocktail include the following characteristics:

  • Aroma –Aroma can influence your senses by as much as 80% with respect to what you think you’re drinking. A good example would be the Negroni; with one of the ingredients being the notoriously bitter Campari, a key element to serving the drink is to toss in either an orange peel or wedge –when you smell the sweetness of the orange, it immediately distracts you from the bitter component of the drink.
  • Taste – Do you want your cocktail taste sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami (savory)? This decision will inform what ingredients you use.
  • Texture – What kind of texture do you want your drink to be? It can be thick and creamy like a Mudslide or light and refreshing like a Gin & Tonic.
  • Temperature – How you make the cocktail is as important as what you use to make your cocktail. As a result, the temperature of your drink should be appropriate to your ingredients and what you’re trying to serve.
  • Astringency – A certain amount of harshness should be in the drink to keep it from being overly sweet. This could come from either the base spirit or a modifier.
  • Ratios – Ratios are important because they define how boozy you want your drink. If boozier is better, then the ratio of your base spirit to other ingredients should be high; a good rule of thumb is that if you want a boozy drink, then the ratio should either be 2:1 or 2: ½ : ½ , depending on the number of ingredients. If you want it less boozy, then the ratio should probably be something like 1 ½ : ¾ : ¾ . For juicy or sweet, the ratio should be 1 ½ : 1 or 1 ½ : ½ . Note that when there are more than two ingredients, the above ratios given are in the order of Base Spirit:Sweet Ingredient:Sour Ingredient/Modifier.
  • Ingredients – The most important ingredient, of course, is picking which base spirit you will use. This will completely influence how the cocktail is experienced. For example, with vodka being something of a neutral – tasting spirit, the alcohol may be masked by the other ingredients; gin, on the other hand, will add some kind of a flowery flavor due to the botanicals used in its production.

Don’t forget: when playing Mad Scientist at your home bar, you should name whatever cocktail you invent; this can either be done at the very outset or you can wait until the end – just remember to make sure to give it a name of some kind!


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