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Proper Chilled Cocktail Temperatures


Chris Amirault
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What with all the discussions about properly stirring your cocktails, thermal conductivity of different mixing containers, hard shaking, cocktails that change or improve as they warm up, and so on, I keep wondering about ideal temperatures for stirred and shaken cocktails. (Not hot buttereds or frozens here.)

Accounting for variations different drinks, how cold is too cold? Not cold enough? Just right? This is a perfect opportunity to play social scientist and quantify inherently subjective data. I want numbers, dammit!

Chris Amirault

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What with all the discussions about properly stirring your cocktails, thermal conductivity of different mixing containers, hard shaking, cocktails that change or improve as they warm up, and so on, I keep wondering about ideal temperatures for stirred and shaken cocktails. (Not hot buttereds or frozens here.) 

Accounting for variations different drinks, how cold is too cold? Not cold enough? Just right? This is a perfect opportunity to play social scientist and quantify inherently subjective data. I want numbers, dammit!

I have a digital instant read thermometer. (not a fancy thermopen, but it's like a dial type. but digital)

And plenty of booze

and some fresh limes

and an ice maker that keeps the ice bin in the freezer full.

and a digital camera.

THIS is some science I can get behind.

:cool:

Edited by jsmeeker (log)

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Just made a modified Slope:

2 1/2 oz Wild Turkey 101 Rye

3/4 oz Carpano Antica

1/4 oz Apry

Dash Hess house bitters

Stirred, cooked for just over a minute while I made an orange twist, and poured: 25F. It's got that silky smooth mouthfeel and balance from the stirring, and as it warms up in my mouth it reveals the sweetness of the Apry and the sting of the rye.

I'd say that's a good temp, neither too cold or warm -- and the one minute cook was good for dilution. I just made another one exactly the same way, and the finished drink is now in the freezer, to see what happens when it gets much colder.

At 15F, the first thing I noticed is the unpleasant viscousness: it went from silky to clotted. In addition, as expected, the flavors are muted, leaving mainly just sugar without apricot from the Apry and bite without flavor from the rye. It's nearly impossible to pick up the bitters or the spice from the vermouth. Trying to swirl it around my mouth to warm it up didn't help much, and it's not the most pleasant thing to be doing with a cocktail.

In short: it's way too cold.

ET fix typo and then give the report on the second drink -- ca

Edited by chrisamirault (log)

Chris Amirault

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For my stirred cocktail, I whipped up a Negroni

1.5 ounces gin

1.5 ounces sweet vermouth

1.5 ounces Campari.

I measured the ingredients one by one into a room temperature mixing glass filled about half way with plain, normal ice from the ice maker in my freezer. I stirred it for maybe 30 seconds, I would guess. Really, kind of what felt right. Like I typically do. Here is the temp, taken right after I finished stirring. (I let the thermometer sit for about 15 seconds before snapping the pic

gallery_31660_5572_17636.jpg

The drink "cooked" some more as I dug around for my strainer and pulled out a cocktail glass from the fridge. By the time I poured it, it dropped down to 28 degrees.

This temp seems about right to me. But I have no idea if it's "ideal". I used up the last of the vermouth making this, so I can't make a second round that's colder.

Next up, a shaken cocktail. Gotta think what to make. (need to use up some limes I have)

Time for the shaken coctkail

A Pegu Club

.5 ounces lime juice

1 ounce Cointreau

1.5 ounces gin

dash of Angostura bitters

dash of Fee's Orange bitters.

All ingredients into mixing glass with ice. Cap with the metal half of the Boston shaker. Shake until my hands got really cold. 20 -25 seconds, I suppose. I poured it back into the glass to make it easier to read an photograph the thermometer.

gallery_31660_5572_84.jpg

Colder than the Negroni. And this seem to be a good temp for this drink. At least, it seems right to me.

Edited by jsmeeker (log)

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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The key to measuring temp in cocktails is the needfor said cocktail to be in the glass they will be served in and the tip of the digital therm. should not be touching ice or glass.

Edited by Alchemist (log)

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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The key to measuring temp in cocktails is the needfor said cocktail to be in the glass they will be served in and the tip of the digital therm. should not be touching ice or glass.

hmm.. Noted.. I did temp my negroni that way after pouring it into the glass. That's how I got the slightly cooler 28 degrees. But I didn't post it because the pic looked "ugly" with my hand in the way, holding the thermometer.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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hmm.. Noted.. I did temp my negroni that way after pouring it into the glass.  That's how I got the slightly cooler 28 degrees.    But I didn't post it because the pic looked "ugly" with my hand in the way, holding the thermometer.

Even measuring appropriately, I do wonder how you determine whether the temp is "right" -- have you tried cooling it way down, then sampling it every couple minutes as it warms up, to evaluate the effects of temperature change? We need tables! And figures! What kinda science is this, anyway?! :smile:

Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

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Also, take visual note of your ice in both cases. Should you have finely cracked the stirred ice, creating more surface area, your drink would have gotten a lot colder in that 30 seconds of stirring. When shaking with the freezer ice, you're not only adding bubbles, you're also breaking it apart and adding more surface area to do all that thermal equilibrium business -- Mr. Kinsey has written extensively about the process.

This is generally why your stir/shake times vary depending on the size of ice used. Larger ice, generally a longer stir/shake. Smaller, less time needed.

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The key to measuring temp in cocktails is the needfor said cocktail to be in the glass they will be served in and the tip of the digital therm. should not be touching ice or glass.

This will depend on your thermometer -- most of them don't actually have the sensor in the tip, so it makes no difference where the tip is. What's important is that the probe is at least an inch into the drink -- that's usually where the sensor is. But you're right that you can get very different readings depending on where the sensor is.

Also, take visual note of your ice in both cases.  Should you have finely cracked the stirred ice, creating more surface area, your drink would have gotten a lot colder in that 30 seconds of stirring.  When shaking with the freezer ice, you're not only adding bubbles, you're also breaking it apart and adding more surface area to do all that thermal equilibrium business -- Mr. Kinsey has written extensively about the process.

This is generally why your stir/shake times vary depending on the size of ice used.  Larger ice, generally a longer stir/shake.  Smaller, less time needed.

But we're not talking about ice size or shape or the length of time it takes to chill a drink. We're talking about the optimal serving temperature. So shaking/stirring time isn't really relevant.

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But we're not talking about ice size or shape or the length of time it takes to chill a drink. We're talking about the optimal serving temperature. So shaking/stirring time isn't really relevant.

Yes indeed. Serves me right for not paying attention. Sorry about that.

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A scientific way to do this would be to eliminate the variable of dilution. Otherwise the cooler versions are likely to have more water in them.

Work out how much water is needed for the perfect balanced cocktail, add that as a liquid ingredient. Then cool a large sample of the mix down in the freezer and sample continuously as it warms up.

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Work out how much water is needed for the perfect balanced cocktail, add that as a liquid ingredient. Then cool a large sample of the mix down in the freezer and sample continuously as it warms up.

Go for it!

Meanwhile, I'm just trying to stick a thermometer into drinks as I prepare them. Tonight, a Bennett Cocktail, which, shaken for about 20 seconds, reached a fine drinking temperature. I measured: again, 25F. I'm not making the case for perfection here. But there's gotta be some reasons for why these drinks all seem to be in the mid-20s. Below freezing but above tongue-numb.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Just measured my latest cocktail (in the "Drinks!" thread) using an instant-read. 22 F, after being stirred with cracked ice. As an experiment, I used freezer-chilled gin and refrigerated Cocchi Aperitivo Americano and diluted with fridge-temp water instead using room-temperature spirits and allowing to sit.

To be honest, I wish all drinks were served at this temperature, but it's highly impractical to demand in the bar-service context.

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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To be honest, I wish all drinks were served at this temperature, but it's highly impractical to demand in the bar-service context

Poppycock!!! It is your god given right to have cocktails be balanced and the proper temperature in bar-service context.

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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Poppycock!!! It is your god given right to have cocktails be balanced and the proper temperature in bar-service context.

:biggrin:

I'll make sure to call ahead next time I come to Chicago and specify which ingredients I'd like stuck in the freezer/fridge... :wink:

Seriously, I'm really quite happy with the service temperature and balance of cocktails at my favorite local establishments! It's just realizing how fiddling with the temperature can change a drink. (As a converse, there's no way that I can match Brian's shaking technique at D&Co, or the hardness/size of the big ice at M&H, so it sort of all evens out...)

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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Poppycock!!! It is your god given right to have cocktails be balanced and the proper temperature in bar-service context.

:biggrin:

I'll make sure to call ahead next time I come to Chicago and specify which ingredients I'd like stuck in the freezer/fridge... :wink:

Seriously, I'm really quite happy with the service temperature and balance of cocktails at my favorite local establishments! It's just realizing how fiddling with the temperature can change a drink. (As a converse, there's no way that I can match Brian's shaking technique at D&Co, or the hardness/size of the big ice at M&H, so it sort of all evens out...)

But doesn't putting ingredients in the freezer change the dilution? With freezer chilled gin, aren't you getting a drink that may not be diluted enough?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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If you look at the OP you will see that he says: "22 F, after being stirred with cracked ice. As an experiment, I used freezer-chilled gin and refrigerated Cocchi Aperitivo Americano and diluted with fridge-temp water instead using room-temperature spirits and allowing to sit."

It's not clear to me that the gin was entirely freezer temperature or not. But 22F certainly doesn't strike me as being too cold.

Different temperatures may be better or worse for certain drinks. I remember Audrey's Falling Leaves cocktail is one we have observed to be better after it has a chance to warm up a bit. On the other hand, it's hard for me to imagine a stiff Martini that's "too cold" -- "not sufficiently diluted" (which is a common problem when the gin is from the freezer), yes, but that's a different aspect of the drink.

Here's the thing about temperature and cocktails -- It's a bit like salt: You can always "add" a little heat after the cocktail is mixed just by waiting, but it's never going to get any colder than it is when it's poured into your glass.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

--

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Unless you pour it into a frozen glass. Sasha and I found that a frozen glass will drop the temp 3 or four degrees in a hot second, On the flip side, you can have a perfectly chilled cocktail and then ruin it by straining it into a room temp glass, or worse one right out of a hot sink or dishwasher. Thus is the importance of chilled glassware.

Toby

Edited to add something I forgot.

Edited by Alchemist (log)

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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Work out how much water is needed for the perfect balanced cocktail, add that as a liquid ingredient. Then cool a large sample of the mix down in the freezer and sample continuously as it warms up.

Go for it!

Meanwhile, I'm just trying to stick a thermometer into drinks as I prepare them. Tonight, a Bennett Cocktail, which, shaken for about 20 seconds, reached a fine drinking temperature. I measured: again, 25F. I'm not making the case for perfection here. But there's gotta be some reasons for why these drinks all seem to be in the mid-20s. Below freezing but above tongue-numb.

That's what my first set of pictures was about. Just trying to get a baseline for how cold my drinks were (a stirred one and a shaken one). Now, the next step is to try to make them COLDER. I could use your technique of sticking it in the freezer after preparing it. I have also had the idea of a second shake with fresh ice. Strain out the drink to one half of the shaker. toss the ice. add more. Shake again.

Do people think different drinks are better served at different temps? Cold tends to dull the tastebuds. But cold can also be refreshing...

More experimenting is in order. :cool:

Chris... what did you think of the Bennet Cocktail? I made one for the first time last weekend looking to use up some limes by making something I had not had before.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Unless you pour it into a frozen glass.  Sasha and I found that a frozen glass will drop the temp 3 or four degrees in a hot second,  On the flip side, you can have a perfectly chilled cocktail and then ruin it by straining it into a room temp glass, or worse one right out of a hot sink or dishwasher. Thus is the importance of chilled glassware.

Now *that's* interesting, Toby. So a cocktail can be rendered *colder* by straining into a frozen glass? Guess that's hard to measure (by the time you've removed the ice to check drink temp before straining into frozen glass, it's probably already warmed up).

So, interestingly enough, my Apricot Bonnie Prince is actually not as good at 25 F. (Just did it with room-temp spirits stirred in frozen mixing glass with cracked ice, let stand 10 sec, strained into frozen cocktail glass. End temp 25 F, 27 F before letting stand.) I guess the temperature bands can be important in this context.

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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It’s not that hard to measure. Say you have your thermometer in your mixing glass. Sure it’s touching the bottom of the glass, and yes it is bumping against some ice. But the key is it is primed, it will not have to be brought down from room temp. When you pour your cocktail into the frozen glass watch the temp plummet.

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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It makes perfect sense that a frozen glass would make the drink even colder. The same thermodynamics work in that context that work when you mix a drink in a chilled mixing glass: Assuming that the glass is colder than the drink being poured into it, there will be some transfer of thermal energy from the drink to the glass. We generally chill glasses to make sure that there is no thermal transfer in the opposite direction (from the glass to the drink) but any time the glass and the drink are at different temperatures, there will be some transfer of thermal energy. Note that the effect Toby is describing works only with a frozen glass, which will be at around -18C -- when the glass is chilled using the traditional ice and water method, it's unlikely it even reaches 0C (in this case you are simply mitigating the warming effect of thermal transfer from the glass to the drink to the greatest extent possible when starting with a room temperature glass).

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