Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Strong Cocktails




For well over a century, our culture has had an alluring appeal towards strong stirred cocktails.  It was with this thought in mind that I enrolled in a class at The Astor Center of New York City called, “Martinis, Manhattans And More”, taught by Jenn Smith. 


Strong cocktails are usually stirred for a very good reason:  stirring in ice makes the drink cold and dilutes it without aeration; shaking with ice also makes the drink cold, but in addition, creates air bubbles for a lighter, frothier texture.  Stirring cools, but leaves the drink with a heavier texture; the tongue is coated and the drinks tend to have a higher flavor profile.  Shaking waters down a cocktail.  Water that results from melted ice has a tendency to increase the volume of a cocktail (sometimes by as much as 25%); the water also impacts the smell, taste and balance of a cocktail.  Since spirits have a higher alcohol content than wine, the water from the melted ice can make a cocktail seem less strong. 


Cocktail 1-2

When making a cocktail to be stirred, fill the glass to its top with ice after adding all of the ingredients; you put the ice in last because if you put it in first, it would melt and further dilute the cocktail.  Use a long bar spoon to reach the bottom of the glass; when stirring, be sure to move the entire contents of the glass together.  When stirring, the back portion of the spoon (known as the convex) should be against the glass; the stirring should be quiet – if you hear a clicking sound while stirring, you’re not doing it properly.  The bar spoon should be held much in the same way as if you are holding a pencil to write.  Stir until you see the liquid level rise a bit. 

Cocktail 3-4

In the 1600’s, gin was originally used primarily for medicinal purposes due to its main ingredient of juniper; in particular, it was popularly applied for gastrointestinal illnesses.  The first gins were Dutch with a combination of malt and juniper, giving them a lightly sweet taste that eventually evolved into what we know of as genever.  Old Tom gin started in the 1800’s; this was also quite sweet but considerably less malty and had light citrus notes (primarily lemon).   


Vermouth was later discovered to be useful in mixing cocktails by aromatizing the drinks and is used to fortify neutral spirits.  One of its best qualities as part of a cocktail’s recipe is the fact that it is extremely absorbent when combined with other ingredients.  As a fortified wine, it can have a long shelf life if refrigerated; the word “vermouth” is actually the German word for “wormwood”, one of the main parts of absinthe. Although it started in Germany, Italy made an art of it by using red wine; this produced the “sweet” vermouth known as “rosso”.  By contrast, the French made theirs with white wine, producing what eventually came to be known as “dry” vermouth. 



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