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Mixology 101

I'm normally a beer and wine guy, occasionally I'll take a nip from my annual bottle of single malt during the colder months. Aside from the rare margarita, bloody mary, banana daquiri or martini, that's as far as my mixing skills go. I'd like to step it up a notch and learn a couple classic + seasonal "gourmet" cocktails. Can anyone point me in the direction of some great resources web or print to learn this? Any favorite mixes you'd like to share?

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  1. Negroni-I like those. That's a place to start!

    1. I would start with either of the following two books:

      - Gary Reagan's "The Joy of Mixology"
      - Dale DeGroff's "The Craft of the Cocktail"

      ... with a very slight preference toward the former because I prefer Reagan's versions of certain drinks over DeGroff's. But both books are a great reference for basic technique, ingredients, and a number of quality classic drinks.

      1 Reply
      1. Book-wise, I thought Art of the Bar was pretty good - the recipes and photos are good, but there's also some helpful background on bartending techniques, ingredients, etc. There's respect for some classics, but they also put their own spin on certain things, and have some froofier drinks with fancypants ingredients. A lot of the recipes call for things you may not have laying around, though.

        The Regan book is pretty helpful for basic methods and standard recipes. It also has some interesting "family trees" of cocktails, showing various drinks which have a common ancestor.

        Lots of good material online, too, including some videos - check out some of the Jamie Boudreau ones (http://www.smallscreennetwork.com/sho... - check out the "Ice" "Stirring" and "Shaking" ones in particular). They're pretty short, but after watching them a time or two, you should have a pretty good sense about how to do these things.

        I would start with the classics, because they're classics for a reason, and most other drinks are just variations on these themes. I would get the ingredients you need for these drinks, and try making them over and over until you're pretty confident. Then you can start branching out. Examples:

        Old Fashioned
        Sazerac (lots of bad recipes around; I suggest reading http://www.jeffreymorgenthaler.com/20...
        Martini (or its forerunner, the Martinez)
        Whisky Sour (try both with and without egg)
        Negroni (later, you can try variations like the old pal, new pal)

        You should be able to get by at the beginning with:
        Rye Whisky
        Gin (Plymouth is probably the most general-purpose)
        Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica Formula or Dolin); keep cool, get the smallest size you can, and replace every couple months if you don't use it up
        Dry Vermouth (small bottles, replace even more frequently; skip it if you don't use it)
        Herbsaint Original or Absinthe (for the Sazerac)
        Angostura and Peychauds Bitters

        + homemade simple syrup, homemade brandied cherries if you have time, and lots of fresh citrus

        I probably sound like a broken record, but I can't recommend Cocktail Kingdom highly enough for barware - get yourself a good quality barspoon (I like the Japanese ones) and heavy mixing glass, as well as a metal shaker tin / mixing glass or cheater tin set (boston shaker). These and some big ice cube trays should take you far. They've got some great classic cocktail book reproductions as well.

        1. You might find a drink you like and learn to make it and variations well. For example, I made a lot of Caipirinhas and Batidas (flavored Caipirinhas) before I got sucked into the cocktail nerd thing a few months ago. A bottle of cachaca, maybe a variant or two (Pama is very popular in my house, as is Cassis and ginger), some limes and simple syrup (or just sugar) make a lot of variations. A straight-up Caipirinha with minimal sugar is quite bracing and strong. One with Cassis and less sugar is quite girlie. Or make it with fresh watermelon water. Or a bit of left-over syrup from the Thanksgiving cranberries. I'm not saying you should do this particular drink, but I found being able to make just a few drinks plus a lot of variations suits my guests.

          If you're mixing for yourself (rather than guests), follow your palette. For example, I love Campari. Campari and Soda with Lime. Scotch neat. Gin Martini with an olive. Gin, Campari, and Soda if want. I could be pretty happy for a long time with just those 4 bottles.

          Alas, I've fallen prey to the cocktail bug, and my liquor cabinet has expanded twice and is already overfull. The fridge has so many bottles in it, there' barely room for food it seems.

          1. As someone whose career is all about spirits and cocktails I feel that if you're going to get one cocktail recipe book, then get the latest edition of Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide (2009 edition or later), the one edited by Jim Meehan. Jim, manager of PDT in NYC the worlds top cocktail bar 2009, winner of 2009 top US Bartender, and editor of the Food & Wine cocktail book series, rewrote the Mr. Boston book from top to bottom, went over every single recipe and tweaked them into shape, and got around 100 of the top bartenders and mixologists to submit recipes. The book has great info for both the beginner and true cocktailians. The first chapters are all about bar basics, and the classic cocktails. Then it goes on to list more than 1500 top cocktail recipes, both classics going back to the mid-19th century, right up to present day hits. I keep a copy next to my desk, and another in my traveling bar kit.

            I agree with what will47 and davissqpro say as well. There are several shows on the small screen network and I think all three spirits/cocktails ones are worth watching. http://www.smallscreennetwork.com/

            Also there are some great cocktail bloggers out there. World-wide there are around 30 who really know their stuff, but dozens more who have some good stuff to say. Check out this site, and look at the blog list on the lower right. Dr. Bamboo has put together links to tons of sites.

            1. Thanks for the tips guys. Mr Boston and Joy of Mixology sound like good starting points. I'm gonna need to get a shaker-I think the Boston shaker type is what I want. I used to have a cheap stainless cobbler type that was ok, but often got stuck. Will47 your shortlist of supplies was helpful. I have really limited space in my tiny apartment kitchen-especially with my cooking hobby-so I like the idea of little bottles-quite literally a mini bar : ) I noticed the other day my neighborhood liquor store had a wide range of quality spirits in smaller sizes.

              1 Reply
              1. re: fishFromLand

                check out this article that Gary wrote a few weeks ago. A great primer for new bartenders.

              2. I too recommend the Joy of Mixology. His organization of drinks by family is very helpful in finding similar drinks that you might like. The limited number of drinks is, for me, a great advantage. I have a terrible memory and (not being a pro) having only a reasonable number of drinks to read and consider is helpful. In other books, I've opened it up and just had to turn page-after-page trying to find something appealing. The names mean nothing if you don't know the ingredients.

                Try thebostonshaker.com. He's local to me so I'm biased, but he's a really good guy with good equipment and supplies to sell. Good selection of books, too.

                1. Gents just an update, $100 later I give you my mini bar....Kicking back and enjoying my first Old Fashioned via Shawn Soole's video from smallscreennetwork-so good-tastes like at least a $12 drink (nyc prices anyway). This is a dangerous new hobby I've gotten into! Had to go to at least 6 places until I found the bitters. Still need to find some rye + a muddler might be nice. Also no one please wack me with a bar spoon for asking : )....any recommends for some decent boutique or grocery maraschino cherries? I like a manly drink as much as the next guy, but also am cursed with a sweet tooth.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: fishFromLand

                    Oh yeah, one more question....Bitters-need to refrigerate or no?

                    1. re: fishFromLand

                      Congrats on your bar.

                      No refrigeration needed for bitters.

                      See this thread about cherries: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/652611

                      1. re: sku

                        Thanks sku. Ohhhh nooo!!!, I didn't need to see StriperGuys homemade cherry recipe. WIll definitely be rolling my own cherries at some point-dunno what kind of cherries you can get right now. I think whole foods usually has them. Greenmarkets usually don't have em until July or so I think.

                    2. re: fishFromLand

                      If you can find the Luxardo cherries, they are very good, but $15-20 a jar. (It has a LOT of cherries in it.) Or if you see Roland sour cherries in the International section of a market, pour out the juice (save it) and fill with a mix of vermouth and whiskey/rye.

                      1. re: fishFromLand

                        I don't love the Luxardo ones; despite the fact that cherries aren't in season, we suck it up and buy the Chilean ones and brandy them ourselves.

                        The method we use is roughly the one from Art of the Bar (though I think their proportions are off - their recipe is supposedly for 6 lb of cherries, but I find that a half-recipe is about right for 2 lb.

                        http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/2009/... links to a rough approximation of the recipe. I pit the cherries but then leave the stems and pits in the jar. Make extra, because they go faster than you think (and they're great warmed on top of ice-cream type things).

                      2. I refrigerate my bitters, but I can't prove it's necessary or even helpful. I figure that it takes me a looooong time to go through a bottle, and refrigeration may slow down the oxidation and aging process. As I've bought more bitters, vermouths, sherries, etc, I've started keeping them all in the fridge under hand-pump vacuum. Spoilage is a serious issue for us home cocktail makers. We just don't go through stuff fast enough, especially if you start amassing a large liquor collection. II would love to find people in my area (Arlington, MA) who'd like to split bottles of stuff. My Luxardo Maraschino is going to last a long time. My Creme de Violette could be divided among 5 or 10 people and still leave me enough for my needs.

                        I haven't tried the Luxardo cherries that people like (but are expensive). I use jarred baking cherries, like the Dark Morello Cherries in light syrup (from Germany) that Trader Joe's sells ($2.29). It's a big jar and they don't keep forever, but they have a good flavor, the syrup can be used in some cocktails or kiddie mocktails, and I let the kids eat up the jar when it seems like it's starting to push the freshness limit.

                        I have also used dried cherries rehydrated in your choice of spirit. I use Bourbon, since they usually end up in a Manhattan or Manhattan-family drink. They don't have the color, bu they are very tasty and last forever.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: EvergreenDan

                          I bet those Trader Joe's Morello chrries would be great if you poured out half the juice and replaced with vermouth/whiskey/brandy. And would keep for ages in the fridge.

                          Bitters don't really have oxidation issues and don't have to be kept in the fridge, but if you have room, why not. Of course the vermouths, aperitifs, and digestifs should be refrigerated.

                          1. re: EvergreenDan

                            I have put the Trade Joe cherries in Bourbon and they taste great, but they little kids get drowsy. It's actually a fantastic idea, and I'm going to do it right now.

                            My bottle of Angostura was made in the last millennium. (I'm new to this cocktail nerd thing and previously only used them for Manhattans and in seltzer.) Maybe when it's almost gone, I should A/B with a fresh bottle.

                            You're alarming me about the aperitifs and digestifs, though. I keep Lillet in the fridge (duh). St Germain, too. But are you saying that Amari (Ramazzotti, Averna, Meletti, or even Campari, Aperol, and Cynar) and other non-wine based libations need to need to be refrigerated? If so, I'm in trouble....

                            1. re: EvergreenDan

                              I travel to Seattle a lot and buy bing cherries from a place called Chukar in the Pike Place Market--really, really, really great dried cherries (also available online). I've soaked them in Cognac, maraschino liqueur, rum, and rye. Best batch so far was some Cognac-soaked cherries moved out of the Cognac after several weeks and into the liquid remaining from a previous maraschino soak. The texture does leave a little something to be desired--kind of mushy and springy compared with the Luxardo cherries--but the flavor is awesome. And the liquid that remains after you're done with the cherries is like Heering turned up to 11. Tasty stuff!

                              I believe that liqueurs with > 30% ABV shouldn't need refrigeration, but it's quite possible that I made that number up.