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Fat Guy

Bartending guide for the perplexed

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Guys, you've got to help me out here: I completely and utterly suck at mixing drinks.

I didn't grow up in a cocktail-oriented household, and I rarely drink them myself. But I maintain a reasonably inclusive liquor cabinet and if a friend comes over and asks for a mixed drink I make it. And it's always bad.

In response to another question you listed that basic drinks someone should know how to make. I need something much more basic than that: I need to know how to make drinks that my guests won't laugh at.

I should add: once you've formulated the answer you'd give to a normal person, please take a moment to realize that I'm lazy, uncoordinated, forgetful, and a poor listener.

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Gee, I've been reading may of your posted since joining a few weeks ago and am happy to be able to give a little back.

Making a good cocktail or mixed drink is just like making a good saute pan of pasta sauce - have a great pan, use the best ingredients, and keep it simple. That being said:

To me, the 3 most important things to making a good drink are:

An appropriate glass, alot of ice and good booze and mixers.

Also, offer drinks you are comfortable making rather than offering the world.

There are 3 basic glasses which will satisfy your needs:

A short/rocks glass maybe 7-10 oz. These are used for any "rocks" drink or a drinks served with a splash of mixer.

A tall (or my favorite, a double old fashion glass) approx 10-14 oz, I use these for almost everything else (gin/tonics, scotch/soda, cape codder, etc.

and an "up glass"/martini glass.

The next trick to a great cocktail is loading the glass with as much ice as possible. This is the major downfall when I ask for a drink at a friend's home. Also, by loading the glass with ice you will not only make a cold, refreshing drink but you will also almost force yourself to get the proportions correct.

It sounds like you've got your booze all ready to go. Make sure you get good liquor. The cost difference per drink is minimal and your guests will taste the difference. Another important note: buy great mixers! I'm a huge proponent of the 10 oz. bottles of Shweppes mixers (especially the tonic) They make 2 perfect drinks per bottle and are always fresh and zippy.

So, with all this being said begin to make your drinks:

This recipe works for any single liquor/single mixer drink:

1. Fill the glass to capacity with ice.

2. Until you get the hang of it, use a shot glass and pour 2 - 2.5 oz. of booze over the ice.

3. Squeeze in the appropriate garnish (lemon/lime wedge)

4. then top it with the mixer (soda, juices, water, etc.)

It willl come out perfect every time!

Now that you have that there are dozens of great drinks you can offer your guests.

Let me know when you've master these. Making cocktails (martinis/manhattens, etc.) is not much more difficult but it's better not to cloud the issue.

I will, however, give you my recipe for the perfect, fool-proof frozen margarita. It's simple and impressive and will work even if you are truly lazy and forgetful.

1. Fill a sturdy blender with ice.

2. Pour in decent tequila to 1/3 full

3. Pour in 3-4 oz. of triple sec

4. Splash of OJ

5. 1 small can of defrosted limeade.

6. Blend completely and enjoy.

Enjoy,

Brian

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Fat Guy: I seriously think that there's little or no hope for you! Especially if you're forgetful and a poor listener.

There's maybe one thing you could try, though. Go to a bar where you know the bartender makes good drinks, and watch him or her at work. Perhaps you'll get the hang of it visually and be able to recreate the drinks yourself.

When I came to the USA in '73 I didn't have a clue about cocktails, and I did exactly that in order to get my first bartender gig in NY.

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Triple sec over Cointreau or Grand marnier, or, my favorite for margaritas: Mandarine Napoleon? Say it ain't so!

Frozen Limeade over fresh limes and a jolt of simple syrup?

I always add Damiana now, for good measure.

It takes longer, but it's worth it.

Isn't it? :sad:

Oh, wait- I suppose that it's much easier to screw it up, too, eh? :hmmm:

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Actually, I restrained myself from answering last night so Gary would dispense what I consider to be the silver bullet and golden fleece answer to your question, but he didn't say it!

I think he's trying to undermine you.

Here is the answer Gary came up with that I consider genius:

Taste the ingredients.

Don't WORRY about proportions or recipes, just taste the ingredients you want to use and then make a drink with them.

It work with almost anything. Knowing the flavors guides your hand.

--Doc.

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Thanks Doc: That is my usual advise! I was taking it easy, though, since Fat Guy seemed real nervous . . .

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Okay, I'm going to do this. This can't be any more difficult than long division. I'm going to taste carefully, I'm going to find a bartender to observe, and I'm going to get some better glasses. Then again I never actually learned to do long division well.

Can we go back to the part about the glasses? I'm in New York City. Presumably, the right glasses should be easy to come by. Where do I go and exactly what do I buy?

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Mardee says that she's going to address the glassware issue later--probably under the Galssware thread.

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I would also suggest just focusing on a limited number of cocktails (like two or three, one with citrus, one without, one muddled, one not, that sort of thing) and learning to do those well. The lessons you learn from them will carry over to other drinks, and limiting the number you are focused on will steepen the learning curve. Also, it might help to find a willing victim to be a taster.

I hate long division and nearly flunked my maths one year because of it, but I've managed cocktails just fine.

regards,

trillium

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Steven, it's not like you're entirely without cocktail resources. Given that you have a cocktail practically every time you come over to my house, a tour through the Regan's good books might be the thing to do. We might even be able to break a certain someone out of her vodka gimlet orthodoxy. :wink:

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That would be my advice as well (focusing on a limited number of drinks as Trillium suggested). When I decided to learn how to make cocktails (instead of just drinking them), I bought a book, invested in some ingredients and equipment, and picked one drink a week to work on. I started out by measuring very carefully, then tinkering with the proportions if I thought it was necessary. Then (provided that I liked the drink enough to keep making it), I worked on being able to "free pour" the amounts reliably. By that time, the drink was internalized, and I moved on to the next one.

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I would also suggest just focusing on a limited number of cocktails (like two or three, one with citrus, one without, one muddled, one not, that sort of thing) and learning to do those well. The lessons you learn from them will carry over to other drinks, and limiting the number you are focused on will steepen the learning curve. Also, it might help to find a willing victim to be a taster.

I hate long division and nearly flunked my maths one year because of it, but I've managed cocktails just fine.

regards,

trillium

I'm happy to be a victim for you to practice on. Next time I'm in New York that is :biggrin:

By then, you should have the whole cocktail method figured out :raz:

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That's totally the way to go, I agree Janet.

Interesting that you feel it is important to work on free pouring. I realize this is a valuable skill for a working bartender, but as an somewhat advanced amateur I never thought it would have much value to me. I've always been happy to measure my ingredients (and adjust for taste when using variable ingredients like fresh citrus, etc.).

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Well, I only concentrated on it for a very few drinks that I really liked, so I knew I'd be making them a lot. Not that I can't (and don't) measure much of the time, but it's sort of nice to just be able to pour a drink and have it turn out right.

But you're right -- free pouring is not necessary in the least. It will, however, make one look (and feel) more confident, and I thought Steven might want that.

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I'm a big advocate of freepouring, especially for professional bartenders. I think it looks better to the customer, gives a bartender a chance to show some style, and allows the bartender to "feel" his or her way through a drink. Freepouring does have setbacks, but it's far too long a discussion to open up here. (Unless Audrey wants to weigh in here!)

There are some drinks, though, that I always measure, just because I know that exact proportions are very important in certain cocktails. I measure ingredients for Margaritas (3 tequila, 2 Cointreau, 1 lime juice), Negronis (= amounts gin, Campari, sweet vermouth), and the Blood and Sand (equal amounts scotch, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy, and orange juice).

As an aside, the Blood and Sand can also be made as a tall drink if you use lots more orange juice, and this is a good drink to serve at Brunch for people who don't like Bloody Marys, etc.

I should also add that many top-notch professionals (Audrey among them) taste each and every cocktail (by dipping a straw into the drink while it's still in the shaker, and capturing a few drops to drizzle on the tongue), and adjust the ingredients if they deem it necessary. I LOVE this concept. What chef would serve a sauce without tasting it and adjusting seasonings first?

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I'm a big advocate of freepouring, especially for professional bartenders.  I think it looks better to the customer, gives a bartender a chance to show some style, and allows the bartender to "feel" his or her way through a drink.  Freepouring does have setbacks, but it's far too long a discussion to open up here.  (Unless Audrey wants to weigh in here!)

There is much grace in it as well.

Sure open up this can of worms! This professional bartender would be thrilled. :smile:


Edited by beans (log)

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As luck would have it, I underwent some dentistry yesterday and am definitely going to be having a couple of cocktails this afternoon. Any suggestions? I've got tonic and club soda (in individual glass bottles), Rose's lime, Grenadine, plenty of ice, several brands of vodka, Bombay Sapphire gin and regular Bombay gin, representatives of each of the major species of whiskey, several rums from crap to Appleton 12-year, Cointreau, Drambuie, Kalhua, Amaretto, Ouzo, and a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff.

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I have limes, oranges, grapefruits, grapes, and pears in stock. No lemons in da house at this time.

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Also, looking through the cabinet, have Martini & Rossi extra dry vermouth and about 5 different species of brandy. Also Limoncello, a couple of types of Toroni syrups (pomegranate, peach), and something called Amarula. I have Champagne as well but would rather not open a bottle for these purposes.

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Dude, I don't even know what bitters are. Which doesn't mean I don't have them. What does the bottle say or look like?

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Okey dokey! Let's try a cross between a gin Gimlet and a gin rickey!

Taste the gin, warm, by itself.

Taste a squeeze of lime juice.

Rinse your mouth and taste some Rose's.

Now -I- think you can make this!

Double rock glass. Rocks, not too many. Pour in some gin, it is your base.

Based on the flavors and strengths you encountered from it, the lime juice and the Rose's, add what feels right to the gin. Swizzle! Add a jolt of soda water. Swizzle more! Add a lime wedge.

I think it'll be good.

Edit: Add more ice if need be.

--Doc.


Edited by drcocktail (log)

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I'll jump in here, because Doc just described my drink of choice for years. Regular. The Sapphire doesn't have enough juniper to stand up to all the lime.

Edit: Never mind. We're trying to teach you to mix for yourself. Taste them both and decide. If you choose the Sapphire, you're wrong, but that's okay.


Edited by JAZ (log)

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