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Evolving Cocktails, Part 1 of 2

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Please post your questions here -->> Q&A

This is Part 1 of the lesson, and is continued in Part 2 here

Evolving Cocktails

by Victoria Lynn Vozar (beans)

“The culinary world is exploding with innovations in recipe, ingredient, technique. The bar has to follow suit.” - Dale DeGroff, eGullet Q&A, December 21, 2002

Martini Renaissance

Disclaimer: This discussion is not for the faint of heart, Gin Martini purist! Concepts like a S’Mores Martini may cause uncontrollable shivering tremors! So, beware and be forewarned!

Sometime during the 1970’s and early 1980’s the Martini’s popularity waned to that of an older, conservative, staid crowd. These drinks were customarily served straight up with olives and consisted of either gin or vodka. That began to change around 1986 when Stolichnaya revived the Martini with the release of six flavored vodkas. Absolut was quick to follow. Chic nightclubs and Martini bars flourished in the 1990’s all proudly offering their own signature cocktail menus. Rapid success resulted -- flavor sparked a newly found interest, along with a surge of an ultra-premium spirits category not previously available to the consumer.

Seeking Out Flavor

First, A Few Basics

Flavoring is usually extracted either by infusion, maceration, percolation or distillation. Steeping crushed fruits, spices or herbs makes infusion and maceration similar. Infusion is steeping ingredients and maceration is soaking an ingredient in a liquid, usually alcohol. Flavor and color is directly absorbed from the ingredient. As with brewing coffee, percolation is a process that the liquid trickles through the flavoring ingredient. This process is often repeated throughout a length of time to achieve the desired result. Distillation utilizes a heat process to extract flavoring.

Flavor Creating the New Breed of Martinis

There are several reasons this topic intrigues me. First and foremost, I am thrilled by a growing trend of chefs having a larger role and interest in the design and creation of cocktail menus. Joint collaborations of the barstaff and chefs have produced exciting and uniquely different concepts to creating delicious, refreshing drinks. Chef Roger Ruch, of 1220 and The Terrace (located in the Tides Hotel, in South Beach, Florida) uses lychee fruit or seasonal melon sorbets, frozen onto cinnamon sticks, as popsicles to garnish, chill and add flavor to various tropical Martinis. New exciting flavor combinations of the freshest, seasonal fruits, herbs and spices are combined with spectacular results.

With the expansion of the cocktail flavoring options one cannot help but notice the rapid and increased responsiveness of distillers to produce new flavored vodkas, rums, gins and tequila to keep up with the growing interest. Creative energy has sparked and stretched the boundaries of the tried and true traditional drink recipes and opened up an acceptance of using a wider array of fruit, herb and spice combinations not usually considered in cocktail preparation. Exciting use of fresh, seasonal fruits, juices and/or purées, i.e., Meyer lemons, blood oranges, key limes, mango, lychees, passion fruit, blueberries, etc., are the hottest trends. So, why shouldn’t these be considered for use in a Martini, Daiquiri or Margarita application creating an unusual variation, an interesting new twist on a lovely original classic?

Distillers Providing Flavored Spirits

There are literally thousands of vodkas. These are only a handful of the distilleries that produce flavored vodka, rum, gin and tequila:


  • Absolut: (Sweden) Citron, Kurant, Mandarin, Peppar, Vanilla
  • Absolwent: (Poland) Banana, Citron, Morela (peach)
  • Absynt Vodka (Poland) flavored with Absinthe and herb extracts
  • Canel Vanilla Vodka (Sweden)
  • Charbay: (United States-Napa Valley, California) Blood Orange, Key Lime, Meyer Lemon, Ruby Red Grapefruit
  • Citronu Citron (Latvia)
  • Cytrynowka Lemon (Poland)
  • Czarna Porzeczka Blackcurrant (Poland)
  • Danzka: (Denmark) Blackcurrant, Grapefruit, Lemon Citrus
  • Dobra: (Poland) Dobra Clear Orange, Clear Peach
  • Dzervenu Cranberry (Poland)
  • Finlandia: (Finland) Lime and Cranberry; once had Pineapple, but was discontinued
  • Goldenbärr Chocolate Vodka (Ukrainian)
  • Goldwasser Herbs (Poland)
  • Gordon’s: (United States) Citrus, Orange, Pepper, Wild Berry
  • Grey Goose: (France) Le Citron, L’Orange; Vanilla soon to be released
  • Hetman: (Ukraine) Apple, Blackcurrant, Cherry, Cranberry, Gorilka Touch of Honey
  • Hangar 1: (United States) “Budda’s Hand” Citron, Kaffir Lime, Mandarin Blossom
  • Impuls: (Poland) Clear Cherry, Clear Honey, Clear Melon, Clear Pineapple
  • Jonogu Red Currant (Latvia)
  • Ketel One: (Netherlands) Citroen
  • Kosher Passover Slvovitz Plum (Poland)
  • Krupnik Honey (Poland)
  • Kubanskaya Touch of Honey (Russia)
  • Lanique: (Poland) Grass Bison, Rose Petal
  • Likier Rozany Rose Petal (Poland)
  • Okhotnuichaya Hunters Spicey (Russia)
  • Pieprzowka Pepper (Poland)
  • Polska: (Poland) Wisniowa Cherry, Ziotowa Herbs, Zubrowa Bison
  • Polstar: (Iceland) Cranberry, Cucumber, Sitrona
  • Puschkin: (Germany) Red Sweet Orange, Timewarp Caffine
  • Rose Petal Rose (Poland)
  • Shotz Flavoured Vodka: (I couldn’t find a country of origin for this one) Black Jack, Blueberry, Cherry Lips, Chocolate and Mint, Orange and Chilli, Passion Fruit Orange and Lemon, Strawberry Cream, Tiramisu
  • Skyy: (United States) Berry (raspberry, blue berry and blackberry), Citrus (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit and tangerine), Spiced (cinnamon, clove and nutmeg), Vanilla
  • Sliwowica Plum (Poland)
  • Smirnoff: (United States) Citrus Twist, Orange Twist, Raspberry Twist , Vanilla Twist
  • Sofskaya: (France) Blackcurrant, Lemon
  • Soplica Dry Fruits (Poland)
  • Starka Fruity (Poland)
  • Stolichnaya: (Russia) Cranberi, Citros, Ohranj, Persik (peach), Razberi, Strasberi, Vanil; once had Pertsokva (pepper), Limonnaya and Zinamon but are hard to find, if not discontinued
  • Three Olives: (England) Cherry, Raspberry, Vanilla
  • Upenu Blackcurrant (Latvia)
  • Van Gogh: (Holland) Wild Appel, Dutch Chocolate, Vanilla, Raspberry, Oranje, Citroen, Pineapple
  • Vox: (Netherlands) Coming soon -- a berry flavour (can’t remember if it was blackberry or raspberry)
  • Wishna Cherry (Poland)
  • Wisniak: (Poland) Cordial Cherry, Liqueur Cherry
  • Wisniowka Cherry (Poland)
  • Wyborowa: (Poland) Lemon, Melon, Orange, Peach, Pepper, Pineapple
  • Zlota Jesien Calvados Apple (Poland)
  • Zone: (Italy) Banana, Lemon, Melon, Peach, Tangerine
  • Zubrowka Bison (Poland)

Rum (Not including the numerous spiced rums)

  • Bacardi: (Puerto Rico) Coco, Limón, O, Razz, Vanilla
  • Cabana Boy: (Virgin Islands) Banana, Banana Strawberry, Citrus, Coconut, Orange, Pineapple Coconut, Raspberry, Strawberry Kiwi, Vanilla Spice, Wild Cherry
  • Captain Morgan’s: Parrot Bay (coconut)
  • Cruzan: (Virgin Islands) Banana, Citrus, Coconut, Mango, Orange, Pineapple, Vanilla
  • Kuya Fusion Rum: (United States) golden rums combined with spices and citrus
  • Malibu: (Carribean rum produced in Canada) Coconut


  • Seagram’s: (United States) Grapefruit Twisted and Lime Twisted


  • La Pinta Pomegranate Tequila (Mexico)

Creating a Cocktail Based On Flavor

Flavored liquor tickles the creative and talented bartender’s fancy. My European cohorts are fashioning and serving up very exciting flavor combinations of herbal and spiced infusions to coordinate with various flavored syrups and purées. The results are nothing short of a well-constructed cocktail that is satisfyingly spectacular. These marvelous drinks are entering into a very decided non-sweet, almost savory category of cocktails. Innovative/creative European bartenders are looking to classic cuisine’s tried and true flavorful combinations -- i.e., herbal infusions served along with tomato and pepper purées for inspiration. Also prevalent are Thai influences of hot peppers, lemon grass and ginger as well as the usual love affair with loads of fresh, seasonal berries and the sublime tropical fruits such as mangos, papayas, lychees and passion fruit. Even homemade flavored sugars (usually vanilla) and soft, sweet brown sugar appears in cocktail preparation recipes. These professionals are the best at what they do -- again, all from scratch and made with the best, seasonal and freshest ingredients to order!

To benefit from these trendsetters, and given the various options available to introduce and enjoy new flavors in cocktails, consider the following:

  • Flavored Spirits:
    Flavored liquors are fun and easy to make. Combine the fruit, spice or herb of choice with the liquor of choice. Neutral vodkas and clear rums work best, although using complementary ingredients with bourbon whiskey, like vanilla or mint, works quite well too. Also using fresh fruits with brandy creates a subtle and sophisticated liqueur.
    Similar to putting up fruit preserves, use fruits at their peak season for maximum flavor and sweetness. To flavor, gently crush berries or cut fruit into small pieces to expose more important surface contact area resulting in a more intense flavor. Steep for approximately three days, or longer (taste test!) at room temperature. When using citrus fruits, avoid the pith and only use the zest. The white inner peel (pith) will impart a distinct undesirable bitterness in taste. Due to the high alcoholic content, generally it is advised to discard the used fruit, unless of course you’re up for adventure…. I understand that it is a nice accompaniment to a bowl of ice cream! However, you may find some of the color has leached out and the fruit becomes an unattractive whitish gray. To sweeten a tart berry: (entirely optional and to taste) use sugar, honey, simple syrup or an exceptionally sweet fruit combination (raspberry and mango).


<span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>

This is my recent raspberry vodka infusion before it is racked (filtered) off into the original vodka bottle. It's hard to see the sediment, but it's there!</span>

  • Fruit Juice(s) and Fruit Purées:
    Fruit juices and purées follow the same golden rule of fresh is always best. The results of using a sour mix made from scratch and squeezing fresh citrus makes the effort all very worthwhile.
  • Infused/Steeped Simple Syrups (Gomme):
    The fresh is always best saying is also true of creating a flavor-infused simple syrup. Think about some ginger, lemongrass, spice or herb combinations. However, if convenience is a priority, a store bought brand (i.e., the “coffee” syrups produced by Monin or Toriani) will work as well.


  • Homemade, Flavored Sodas and Seltzers:
    Creating homemade sodas and seltzers are yet another unique and creative way to flavor a cocktail. Using a soda siphon makes the carbonation of a homemade mixture fun and very easy to do; and as a huge bonus, you control what goes into it, making it fresher and perhaps healthier than a store bought alternative. Use various combinations of flavored syrups and fruit juices for a desired taste.
  • Liqueurs:
    The sky is the limit with liqueurs, both homemade and commercially produced.

In conclusion, homemade has many advantages: variations are endless, are custom tailored and suited to your own taste, satiates creative urges, possibly less expensive and of higher quality than the commercially produced store bought brands. This presents numerous options! For example, take ginger, a great cocktail flavoring agent -- it can be steeped into vodka, steeped into simple syrup, the syrup could be carbonated with a soda siphon, (as an alternative to store bought commercially produced ginger ale) or use Canton Ginger Liqueur.

Sweet Cocktail Trends

Many of the newer breeds of Martinis are the dessert and candy like inspired beverages. With the popular sweet tooth and creativity of the mixologist it is no surprise restaurant/bar customers have grown accustomed to enjoying their desserts in the form of a cocktail. These cocktail desserts in a glass sell quite well as they have universal appeal for the flavor and attractive presentation.

This begins is my approach to constructing cocktails. I look for a combination in various flavors for a desired particular taste. The Absolut vodka website advises well-constructed cocktails begin with a base flavor, a secondary flavor and an accent. The base provides the foundation and full bodied undertone that comes with every sip. I could not agree more! Specifically, my interests of the new breed of Martinis are a combination of flavor, appearance and presentation. This is entirely my preference and opinion, I look to a cocktail as a beautifully crafted, sparkling jewel to enjoy and savor languidly.

Appearances Are Everything

Beautiful gemstones catch one’s eye and hold their attention. I have always been fascinated and captivated by bright tourmaline pinks, intoxicating tanzanite purples, gorgeous aquamarine blues, seductive garnet or ruby reds and stunning emerald greens. And who can ignore a sparkling, crystal clear, firey diamond? These are the drinks that fall into the “pretty” category and use glistening, luminous color to make their mark in popularity. They are flavorful, translucent and shimmering gorgeously in the hands of the cool and hip cocktail hour crowd.

So, with the various routes of adding flavored/infused liquor, steeped simple syrup, fruit juices and/or liqueur, let’s examine this while constructing a Cosmo by flavor or by color:

  • Ordinary: Absolut Citron, Cointreau, cranberry juice and lime juice; or
  • Flavored: Finlandia Cranberry, Absolut Citron, Cointreau and lime juice; or

(Both of these create an undesirable pink color for all of those pink hating gentlemen who still enjoy the drink, I offer you a solution to your dilemma!)

  • Colorless: Absolut Citron, Cointreau, white cranberry and lime juices -- garnished with a craisin (may be cloudy, but at least it isn’t pink!)

The Newest Cocktails

These exciting drinks are popping up on many Martini bar menus, making the menu fun to read while you consider which cocktail to order! Within the Dessert Martini category, I have seen some featured within the restaurant dining room’s Dessert Entrée menu. On an interesting bartending note, many cocktails are comprised of the most unlikely of ingredients making startling combinations that are sure to surprise you. Who would guess that a neutral vodka and hazelnut liqueur when combined with a hint of lemon tastes like chocolate cake? (* Denotes recipe is included).

Have Your Dessert and Drink It Too:

These are the cocktails that sound and are as yummy to eat as they are to drink!

*Carrot Cake, *Cherry Cheesecake, Chocolate Cake, *Chocolate Chip Cookie Martini, *Chocolate Eclair Martini, *Crème Brûlée Martini, *Espresso Martini, *Jello Martini, *Key Lime Pie Martini, *New York Egg Cream, *Oatmeal Cookie, *Pineapple Upside Down Cake, *Pumpkin Pie, Root Beer Martini, *S’Mores Martini, Strawberry Shortcake, *Tiramisu Martini

Candy Inspired:

Some of these reach back to nostalgic childhood favorites.

*Almond Joy, *Bit-O-Honey, *Bubble Gum, *Butterfinger, Candied Apple, Caramel Apple, Creamsicle Martini, *Good-n-Plenty, *Jolly Rancher, Lifesaver, *Milk Chocolate Martini, *Mounds Martini, *Snickers Martini, Sour Apple Martini, Swedish Fish, *Tootsie Roll Martini, *Turtle Martini


These cocktails are the colorful, sparkling jewels sure to catch your eye.

*Key Lime Martini, *Lavender Orchid Martini, Cosmopolitan, Turquoise Blue, Sour Apple Martini, *Violet Martini, Washington Apple Martini


Combine creative imagination with a sense of humor.

Vampire Proof Martini (using olives stuffed with garlic), *Chocolate Chimp/Dirty Banana (A single monkey from the Barrel of Monkeys toys hanging off the edge as garnish), *Las Vegas Martini (sparkling 24kt gold leaf flakes and a single playing card)


This is creativity overload, and perhaps when it has gone awry.

Tequila-tini: a Margarita; Hangover-tini: a Bloody Mary


These are the creations of my European friends and are my current interest and fascination -- some are chef inspired while others are the tried and true classic food and flavor pairings. Make friends with and dust off your muddler!

*Apricot Caipirinha, *Basil Grandé, *Blueberry Smash, *Blueberry Sour, *Citric Acid, *Emerald Martini, *Japanese Mary, *Lemonpap Martini, *Lymoncello Martini, *Opium Martini, *Oriental Red, *Strawberry and Basil Martini, *Strawberry Mojito, *Strawberry and Rose Petal Martini, *Tea Rose Daiquiri, *Thai-tanic Martini, *Warsaw Pakt, *Wild Jasmine Daiquiri

Fusion/Champagne Cocktails:

While the Champagne Cocktail is not new, something old has become again new. Here are a few cocktails -- using chardonnay, champagne, sake or ginger beer.

*Berry Nice, *Blackberry Violet Champagne Cocktail, *Papa Doble, *Raspberry Champagne Cocktail, *Russian Spring Punch, *Sake-tini, *Zentini

Frozen/Tropical Types:

Having fun with your blender. Take a classic such as the Daiquiri or the Margarita and change it to suit a different, seasonal favorite fruit. You’ll be glad you did.

All American (layered one third of each: Strawberry Daiquiri, Pina Colada and Blue Hawaiian); Various coladas (adding different liqueurs, purées, syrups - mango, lychee, peach, passion fruit), Daiquiris (ditto), Margaritas (honeydew, watermelon)

Shots with a Process:

For the occasion when celebratory fun sneaks up and calls upon a jovial group of adventurous friends.

*Sex with an Alligator, *Blow Job, *Irish Car Bombs

Simple Rocks:

These are still classics, but some of them are quite popular in some locales, wildly “new” to others. Give consideration to taking a classic and adding a twist of your favorite seasonal fruit/purée.

Caipirhina/Caipiroska/Caipirissima, the mighty Mojito inspired *Blueberry Smash, Basil Mojito, fruit Caipirinhas (kiwi, strawberry, mango, banana, pineapple, pear)

Consider Margarita variants:

  • “Windex” – Substituting Blue Curaçao for the Triple Sec,
  • “Golden” subbing Grand Marnier, and adding Cointreau, a small splash of orange juice and the traditional lime juice,
  • Choosing a Golden Margarita “up” with gold tequila, Cointreau, Grand Marnier and a dash of fresh lime juice), or
  • Change the fruit to any of the following delicious combinations: Ruby Red (grapefruit juice), Blackberry-Lime, Raspberry-Orange, Papaya-Guava-Coconut, Watermelon-Strawberry; Pomegranate.

Bartender’s Notes: The shooting star of the flavors for new Martinis: Apple.



Garnish accessorizes the cocktail and in some cases, actually makes the drink (think of the classic Old Fashioned). In fact, a Gibson would not be a Gibson without the cocktail onion. Garnish may even be considered as a condiment. Just like with your hot dog or burger, condiments add to the overall taste. Also, proper garnish demonstrates a careful attention to details, which is something your guests would enjoy. It is that one last finishing touch that is noticed if it is forgotten.

Cocktails Must Look and Taste Good

Garnish and presentation are of much consideration when creating the elusive signature cocktail. Bar managers know a lovely, well-presented drink can create tremendous customer interest. Take these two beauties as examples -- created by The Washington Plaza’s wp international: The Goldfinger Martini, constructed of Stolichnaya Gold vodka and garnished with 24 karat gold flakes, or the $100 President Martini -- really two 10-ounce martinis made of small batch, Lithuanian rye vodka (I think it’s The President’s Vodka brand) served in Cartier crystal upon a Tiffany’s silver platter and accompanied with one ounce Osetra Caviar, toast points and all of the fixings for luxurious canapés.

Here’s some garnish for thought, but don’t be limited by it: use some imagination!


Thin cucumber slice, daikon (Sake-tini), dill pickle spear, pickled green bean, pickled mushrooms, gari, celery stalk, jalapeno pepper, olives, cocktail onions, fresh sugar cane (for a Mojito)


<span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>

Top: Thin cucumber slices; Bottom: Decoratively cut daikon.</span>


Carambola, berries, pineapple, lemons, limes, oranges, cherries, cranberries; a coconut shaving, puréed fruit ice cubes

Spices and Herbs:

Cloves, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, basil, cilantro/coriander, mint leaves

Stuff of Substance:

A piece of beef jerky, shrimp (add either to a Bloody Mary for fun)

Just for Looks:

These are all in playful fun and for decoration. Who wouldn’t enjoy a Pina Colada or Mai Tai with the requisite little bright paper umbrella? This can also be taken to another level, as I have located one supplier of a non-toxic re-freezable gel based, sealed, battery operated illuminating, colorful “litecube” that does both light up and cools your cocktail. Here are others for thought:

  • A single playing card (Vegas Martini), unusual picks, additional straw(s) stuck at an angle into a thick frozen tropical drink, edible flowers (orchid, rose petals, jasmine blossom); a single piece from a Barrel of Monkeys (a funny child’s toy/game).
  • Just for Looks food-wise -- Why not apply a pastry decoration approach and try “marbling” contrasting syrup, or sprinkling crumbs/powder?



Chocolate chips, turtles, truffles, gummy candy shapes, Oreo cookies (whole or crumbs)


Granulated sugars (flavored, or tinted with food coloring), powdered sugar (Daiquiris), brown sugar (Crème Brûlée Martini), salts (tinted with food coloring works here too, and flavored, i.e., celery salt), syrups (chocolate, caramel)


Whipped Cream:

After dinner coffee drinks are garnished with whipped cream swirled around a stabilizing stir stick straw, topped with a maraschino cherry and an additional stir stick. Whipped Cream is also a unique finishing touch on a “Blow Job” shot.


This one is a bona fide luscious show stopper. Try using frozen fruit purée on cinnamon sticks to form flavorful and chilly popsicles as a swizzle stick in your cocktail.

What about some adult fun by using a little bit of Jello? Preset your guests’ glasses with a little Lime Vodka Jello in the bottom of their cocktail glasses, when they arrive and cocktail hour begins, top with a chilled shot mixture of lime flavored vodka and orange liqueur. Serve with sundae spoons.

The Garnish Basics


<span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>

The usual suspects. Olives, Celery "Trees," Cocktail Onions, Oranges, Lemons, Limes and Cherries</span>


<span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>

The skewered.</span>


I prefer the Queens. They are easy to stuff. They should always remain in their own brine. (I’ve worked with those that strain them out of the jar and leave them to sit in the garnish tray, only to find them wrinkled, collapsed and possibly spoiled.)

These can now be purchased stuffed with blue cheese (Warning! Yummy but leaves an unsightly oil slick in your cocktail); garlic, anchovies, or almonds. I tend to stuff my own to order and guest preference. The Türi vodka website suggests using large black olives stuffed with red caviar for a Türi Baltic Sea Martini Cocktail.

Olive Brine:

Adds a saltiness that softens the gin or vodka’s hard edge.

Cocktail Onions:

These are crisp little white pickled onions and can be found in small jars as “Tipsy Onions” where the brine has been replaced with vermouth. When shopping around for these, take a moment to note the sodium content as some can be salty/bitter while others are sweet and crunchy.

Maraschino Cherries:

Be forewarned! These will stain your cuticles for several days! These are used in “flags.”

Citrus: Lemons, Limes and Oranges.

Various Cuts:

Wheels/Half Wheels: Used most often on sweet drinks, i.e., tropicals. These can be made with any citrus fruit. Beautiful when cut neatly. Lemons and limes: One-quarter of an inch width is recommended; Oranges: Usually three-eighths of an inch thick slices.

  • How to Cut Wheels: Place fruit so that ends are left to right and cut cross wise. Make one small slit in each wheel so that garnish may fit onto the lip of the glass. Discard ends.


evolvingcocktails9_DCE.jpg<span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>

The wheel has a slit cut into it to rest upon the rim of the glass. Make sure fruit is firm. Also, note the shapely Hurricane glass.</span>

  • How to Cut Half Wheels: Slice fruit in half lengthwise. With tip of knife, score a small slit lengthwise on each half. Turn fruit flat side down and cut one-quarter inch slices (lemons and limes) or three-eighths inch slices (oranges), horizontally. Discard ends.





    • How to Make a Flag: Take one half-wheel orange slice and a cocktail sword pick and wrap the orange slice around maraschino cherry, stringing each end, through the cherry, onto the pick.






      Also, this is another option for a flag garnish. Skewer the maraschino cherry and push the sword through the orange half wheel. Artistically and gracefully balance on the side of the glass.


Squeezes: These tend to be mostly lemons or limes used in drinks to round out the overall cocktail by adding that little bit of fresh fruit juice. Lime squeezes are essential to the Gin and Tonic.

  • How to Cut Squeezes: Place fruit so that the ends are left to right and cut into half, lengthwise. Place flat side down on to the cutting board and proceed to slice each half lengthwise once again, and then across, horizontally into six, quarter inch-slices (depending upon overall size of fruit).





Ice Tea Lemon Wedges: These are out of preference, I generally do not use these.

  • How to Cut Lemon Wedges: Place fruit so that the ends are left to right and cut in half lengthwise. Turn each half over and make a shallow horizontal slit. Place fruit flat/slit side down, and depending upon the lemon’s width cut the halves lengthwise into half, again, or into thirds (making 4 or 6 wedges per lemon, depending upon its size).






Twists: These are strips of zest that are twisted to bring out the flavorful and fragrant essential oil that brightens the cocktail it graces.

  • How to Make Twists: Best way to make long, flexible twists -- use whole wheel lemon slices and carefully cut away white bitter pith and fruit. Twist, curl around a straw or tie into a decorative knot if desired.




  • Using a channel knife, gently press the pointed sided into the surface of the fruit and rotate slowly, applying a consistent amount of pressure to avoid thin spots, to the desired length.



An Obscure Twist: The Horse’s Neck. This is one continuous, spiral zest of an entire lemon. It “stretches” to the very end, so to speak.

Rimming: Using a colorful and attractive rimming type of garnish is easy to create and also adds great taste. This is often done with sugar, salt, cookie or cracker crumbs.

  • How to Rim a Cocktail Glass Using Plates: This can be accomplished with a couple of appetizer/bread plates. One plate is for the simple syrup or Rose’s lime juice (if you use that product) and the other is filled with your rimming substance, i.e., salt.


    Dip the rims of your glassware in succession from the sticky to the salty (do not double dip, one good swirl of each is sufficient) place glassware upright and allow to dry.




Whipped Cream: This is the crowning touch to a lovely after dinner coffee drink. The whipped cream garnish is a tad over the top, but why not? After all it is dessert!

  • How to Garnish with Whipped Cream: Lay a short, plastic stir stick across the top of the coffee filled, preheated, footed, glass mug. This stir stick will add a structural support for the soft and melting whipped cream and heavy maraschino cherry over the top of the piping hot coffee.


    In a swirling motion squirt the whipped cream to desired height; drizzle liqueur in a zigzag fashion, if applicable.


    Top with a maraschino cherry and place an additional stir stick, in an upright manner, into the coffee.


Bartender’s Notes: What sparks my interest in garnish is the use of candied violets, gold leaf flakes and fashioning spun sugar for Crème Brûlée (I’m still working on that).

Hmmm. Crème Brûlée Martini garnish: a brown sugar rimmed cocktail glass, a decoratively marbled caramel syrup design or a spun sugar creation?

Bar Equipment

”A naked bar makes for a bumbling bartender.” - Jane Parker Resnick, Author

Tools are important. Without them, even a simple drink can become complicated. Make barware purchase decisions from a need/want/drink preference perspective, all are optional! Enjoy Martinis? Then the cocktail shaker, strainer and possibly a Martini pitcher should be considered if you wish to make them for yourself and guests! Enjoy a frozen Daiquiri or Margarita? The blender and long bar spoon are serious considerations!

Whatever your desired poison, there are a few basics you may already have within your own kitchen.

  • Kitchen multi-taskers: (Yes, I adore Alton Brown!) Long handled wooden spoon, zester, grater, paring knife, citrus reamer, cutting board, wooden rolling pin (the end can muddle quite nicely, as does the back of a wooden spoon).
  • For Constructing the Cocktail:
      Jigger -- This is either made of stainless steel or glass and is used to measure the amount of alcohol in cocktail preparation. They vary by increment and are most helpful, however measuring spoons can work (see Bar Reference below). Often the thimble-like cap on a cocktail shaker will be marked for measuring liquid ounces. Also, check the small cylinder-like removable top of your blender lid. Often this is marked for easy liquid ounce measuring as well. The most common size of the jigger is 1 1/2 ounces on one end and 1/2 ounce on the other.
      Shaker -- The Boston styled shaker is comprised of a stainless steel “tin” and a pint sized glass. In some sets, the pint glass is marked for measurement and has a convenient rubber gasket for a secure fit and seal when shaking. These tins come in 16 and 28-ounce sizes. The three part, stainless steel shaker consists of a mixing “tin” a lid with built in strainer and a thimble shaped cap. Often this cap is marked for easy measurement of liquid ounces. The mixing tin portion of the three part cocktail shaker is usually found in a mini 16-ounce size and a regular 30-ounce size. Some cocktail shakers also have four parts: a mixing tin, a strainer cover, a small cap and a liquid measuring cap that snugly fits over the cap.


    <span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>

    Left to Right: Jigger, Mixing Tin, Pint/Mixing Glass, "Cobbler" 3 part Cocktail Shaker</span>


    <span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>

    Three "mini" cocktail shakers and one regular sized cocktail shaker (far right).</span>


    <span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>

    Detail of a four part cocktail shaker.</span>

      Hawthorne Strainer -- This is stainless steel and fits over the mouth of the mixing tin and is used to prevent ice from entering a cocktail glass, i.e., when straining a Martini into the cocktail glass from the cocktail shaker.
      Julep Strainer -- This is used to strain cocktails while blocking the fruit and/or herbs.
      Beer Bottle Opener -- No kitchen should be without this tool.
      Bar Spoon -- This has been called the “giraffe of spoons”! It is a long handled, stainless steel spoon used to stir such drinks as Martinis or Manhattans when they are prepared in a mixing glass or pitcher. Also most helpful when extracting frozen blender drinks from the blender pitcher. Trivia tip: it is twisted to assist in creating the layered effect while making pousse-cafés.
      Muddler -- Usually made of wood, but I’ve seen a few plastic ones, and it is used to crush herbs or fruit, for example, an Old Fashioned or Mojito. (Think mortar and pestle).


    <span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>

    Top, left to right: Julep Strainer, Can Opener/Bottle Opener, two flat die cut Bottle Openers (one is rubberized); Bottom, left to right: Hawthorne Strainer, Garnish Cutting Board, Paring Knife, Channel Knife/Zester, (lemon!) wooden Muddler, and lastly, a Barspoon</span>

      Citrus Juicer or Reamer -- This is used to extract fresh juice. This effort does wonders for taste appreciation when making cocktails with fresh fruit juice.


      Blender -- A variable speed appliance to create frozen ice cream based or tropical cocktails. Horsepower is everything.


    • For Serving -- Coasters/beverage napkins, stir sticks, picks. These can be fun shapes, themed (Luau, classic cocktails/very Deco, Holiday or Picnic inspired), and colorful.


    • Basic Wine Service:
      Wine Opener -- These come in various sizes, shapes and styles. There are counter mounted (best for a bar), a lever style called “The Rabbit” and a two pronged extractor that are not pictured. The lever styled models make opening wine very easy. The two-pronged extractor releases pressure within the bottle. (Beware, a fine, miniscule stream of wine may on occasion squirt out onto your clothing, linens and/or carpeting. I know. I wore the stain proudly throughout the remainder of one party). Also not pictured, is one that uses air pressure to remove the cork. Pocket Styles are usually that little plastic and metal corkscrew that you screw into the cork and pull hard. More work than I care to expend when opening a bottle of wine, but it will do the trick given no other option. This one has a tendency to be too short for some of those long white wine corks. Other pocket sorts are the hinged winged opener (top row, right) and the basic Waiter’s “wine key” (both on the bottom row). The Waiter’s wine key also provides a foil-cutting knife. The Winged Corkscrew (pictured top, center) is popular, and fairly easy to use. It also serves double duty as a beer bottle opener. Work with the style you are most comfortable with, but have an extra back up on hand that’s easy for travel!


    <span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>

    Top, left to right: pocket opener, Winged Corkscrew, Hinge Winged Opener; Bottom: two Waiter's Wine "Key" Openers</span>

      Wine Bucket/Chiller -- Made of either stainless steel, glass, marble or porous clay. The stainless steel type can double as a champagne cooler and is large enough to be filled with ice to keep the bottle chilled. Marble ones are snug cylinder shaped devices that chill quickly in the refrigerator. The exterior glazed with interior unglazed porous clay/ceramic type of wine chiller work best if submerged in cold water and then chilled.
      Champagne Bucket -- These are beautiful and come in every shape and size. A bonus is to have one on a stand so that the champagne bucket rests carefully balanced on top and at the perfect dining room table height.


    <span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>

    Various wine/champagne chillers. Note: Bottom right corner is a stainless steel Champagne Stopper.</span>

    • Extras
      The following items are very optional, but you may find they become helpful and valued gadgets depending upon your interests.
      Bar Mat -- A long rubbery/plastic strip with a reservoir to collect excess or splashed liquids when constructing cocktails. These are exceptionally handy, however it depends how often you make cocktails or if you have full working home bar.


      Store n Pourers -- Are large plastic containers that have a long “neck,” pour spout and a cap that screws onto the top of the container portion. It allows for easy storage of excess juices; place the flat screw top on prior to replacing it into the refrigerator. The pour top makes pouring fruit juices easier than from a large jug of Ocean Spray Cranberry. These come in pint, quart, half gallon and gallon sized containers. (The Store n Pourers we use have long since lost their pour spouts and lower compartment threaded/screw on lids!)


      Pourers (stainless steel v. plastic v. pausi pours v. screened v. hinged) -- These are either stainless steel or plastic and allow measuring liquor easier; and, well, looks cool. The “pausi pourers” are designed to pour a specific amount of liquor over a predetermined amount of time, however these are often inaccurate in timing and in handling the various densities of differing liquors. Personally, I find these frustrating. Screened, plastic pourers are a nice convenience and an excellent hindrance when fruit flies or pesky yellow jackets wish to get into the bottle and enjoy your booze. The hinged pourers, if found, are not worth the effort. They are stainless steel with a little hinged flap that covers the opening spout of the pourer. Often these clog with the sticky and sugary liquors causing havoc with splattering and spillage.


    <span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>

    Left to Right: Plastic Free Pourer, Pausi Pour, Stainless Steel Speed Pourer</span>

      Ice Utensils -- Tongs, bucket, scoop, pick, mallet always helpful.


      Small Designated Garnish Cutting Board and Paring Knife -- This is quite useful and handy. Oneida has come out with a sleekly designed line of sturdy home barware made of stainless steel. There is a coordinating small plastic cutting board that has a hole for easy hanging to promote air-drying and colorful rubber coated ends to assist in preventing slippage while cutting garnish. These are ideal, attractive and functional.
      Salt and Sugar Rimmer -- A tiered, multi compartment plastic caddy that assists in a rim garnish for glassware. Because this is made out of plastic it is more gentle treatment of your glassware than using a couple of small plates, so depending on how much the Margarita with salt is a staple within your household, it may be a worthwhile investment. On a tidiness note: Often the liquid substance used for the sponge disk, usually soaked with Rose’s Lime Juice, is forgotten during clean up and becomes a disgusting, sticky or hard mess, depending how much time transpires between uses. Don’t forget it is there!


      Seltzer Bottle/Soda Siphon -- These are great, but are an investment. The best are usually those that are made of stainless steel with a brass head and a lifetime warranty. A carbon dioxide charger cartridge injects carbonation as it dispenses liquid from its carafe.
      Funnel -- You never know when it will be useful!


      Glass Pitcher -- Perfect for a batch of Sangria or Margaritas. Tall thin ones are great for stirring up Martinis and Manhattans.
      Foil Cutter -- These slice through the foil seal on bottles of wine and liquor creating a single, clean edge.
      Wine Drip Collar -- This rests near the upper portion of a red wine bottle to absorb any that may drips. These will help protect both tablecloths and carpeting alike!
      Wine Bottle Cradle -- This serves as a decorative rest for the wine bottle. These are both fun and decorative.
      Wine Bottle Coaster -- This protects delicate linens from stains and gives the bottle a place to rest upon the dining room table. Coasters are both practical and an attractive complement to a table setting.
      Wine Decanter -- This is a must for the oenophile with a vintage wine collection. It allows fine wine to breathe before being served.
      Wine Decanting Funnel -- These are usually made of glass and aid in removing sediment and bringing oxygen into the wine as it is decanted.
      Wine Cellar -- Another must for the avid wine collector to maintain the proper humidity and temperature for long term storage and aging of vintage wine.
      Wine Vacuum/Air Removal Pump -- A small hand pump with rubber fitted stopper that will pump out taste destroying air from the remainder of an opened bottle of wine. It will delay oxidation for up to two weeks.
      Champagne Stopper -- This has two hinges and a fitted rubber gasket that snaps over the opened champagne bottle to assist in preserving the carbonation. This works fairly satisfactorily if the champagne is to be consumed within 24 hours.

    Some Bar Reference

    1 Tablespoon = 3/8 to 1/2 ounce

    Jigger (most) 1 1/2 ounces = 4 Tablespoons

    1 Liter of alcohol (33.8 ounces) equals

    • Twenty Two 1 1/2-ounce drinks
    • Twenty Seven 1 1/4-ounce drinks

    750 ml bottle (25.35 ounces) equals

    • Sixteen 1 1/2-ounce drinks
    • Nineteen 1 1/4-ounce drinks


    This has been Part 1 of the lesson, and is continued in Part 2 here

    Please post your questions here -->> Q&A

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