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When Rocks? When Up?


Chris Amirault
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After a long day and looking toward another, I made a double Biffy Cocktail tonight. Normally, preparing a single drink, I would have strained it into a cocktail glass and served it up. However, I was going to nurse it for a while, so I chose rocks. (Specifically, I prepared the drink by shaking with ice and straining it into a frozen rocks glass with crushed ice in it.)

It got me to thinking: what criteria do people use for serving drinks up or on the rocks? I often find myself violating certain directions: I think that the Art of Choke, for example, should be served up, along with several tiki drinks that lose their complexity as ice melts; like Gary Regan, I always build my Negronis over rocks. However, trying to figure out why I do what gets confusing fast.

What rules are there? What rules do you follow? When does whim grab you?

Chris Amirault

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I think when you look at the classical context, the presence or absence of ice in the serving glass correlates with how fast the drinker is expected to consume the beverage; ice is left in the glass for a slow, sipper, it is strained out for a quick bracer. On some level this might could be construed that at least for cocktails/aperitifs, the ideal method is to serve them 'up', at least as far as the mindset of Titans of old goes. I serve very few cocktails on the rocks as a matter of course, only those that could be considered canonically served that way (Old-Fashioned, etc), which I think is mostly for drinks that will sort of evolve in some interesting/pleasing way as the ice melts. For my own taste, the Negroni does not fit this category but to each his own of course. For most cocktails, I prefer to make them very small (2-2.5 oz pre-shake/stir) and finish them quickly.

Now crushed ice is another matter entirely and I actually think that crushed ice when used properly is a brilliant method. I think it works best for single serving punches that are strongly alchoholic and often very sweet-looking on paper. The crushed ice makes them dilute enough and cold enough at a single stroke to be enjoyable. There are some drinks that should only be served on crushed ice. Most others should never be served that way. Very few, imo, can go either way.

But of course, as always, drink it how you like it. These are opinions, nothing more.

-Andy

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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What rules are there?

Ask the person you're making the drink for! Other than that, there's no rules.

I've made Martinis/Manhattans/Negronis/Daiquiris/Margaritas/etc. both on the rocks and straight up.

I do have personal preferences for each of these drinks, and there are obvious historical factors as well, however that doesn't make it right nor wrong should a person wish to drink it over ice or not.

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