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Feb 5, 2012 12:26 PM

Starting to dive into the world of cocktails

We always liked cocktails as part of a nice dinner but just recently started to make our own ones to learn more about the basics of cocktails and the different flavors of the ingredients. One of the first ones was a Tom Collins. What are your first basic ones you made when you started making cocktails ?

Full post and photos: http://twofoodiesonejourney.blogspot....

One interesting discussion about critics, might it be for food, music, art, one often can find in blogs or newspapers circles around the question how much in depth knowledge do they need to be respected critics. There is little doubt that nearly everybody can recognize and enjoy a great meal, painting or piece of music but does it also encompass a deeper understanding of it ? Is it necessary to play an instrument to truly appreciate a musical composition or have an interest in cooking to really enjoy great dinners ? For us the interest in cooking and restaurants always went hand in hand and both benefited from each other. Cooking all the time at home really gives us a good understanding about techniques, flavors, ingredients and how they work together in any kind of dish whereas restaurant visits show us what is possible in the professional culinary world which again also influences how we cook at home. Over the years it also pushed us to try new things at home like charcuterie and cheese making as we wanted to replicate those creations we enjoyed at many places.

If somebody reads our blog on a regular basis it will be quite obvious that we often enjoy to start our dinners with a cocktail before we even start to look on the menu. And we also often end up winding down the night after a relaxed dinner with a late night cocktail at a nearby bar. But over time we also realized that different than when we read a regular restaurant menu where just glancing over the ingredient list gives us a good idea about the flavors of the final dish, reading a cocktail menu was quite different and that we lacked the knowledge about many of the spirits. So what better way to learn about and diving into the world of cocktails than by starting to build up our own cocktail bar and start making our own cocktails at home. One of the very first cocktails we tried was a Tom Collins.

The Tom Collins cocktail has a long history as it was first mentioned by Jerry Thomas, “the father of American mixology”, in 1876 and is a drink similar to the Gin Fizz with the difference of a larger amount of lemon juice, essentially making the Tom Collins a gin with sparkling lemonade. Originally a Tom Collins was made with Holland gin but by the end of the 19th century Old Tom gin (which some believe also accounts for the name of the cocktail), a lightly sweetened version of gin was used, whereas today a dry gin is preferred. Tom Collins is an ideal drink to get used to the floral, herbaceous flavor of gin as the inclusion of sugar and lemon tends to smooth out those flavor components. The Tom Collins with its proximity to lemonade is predestinated as a refreshing summer drink.

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  1. Harvey Wallbanger - Some liqueurs are just made for one drink

    Full post and photos: http://twofoodiesonejourney.blogspot....

    It is always very interesting to visit cocktail bars or read one of the cocktail books like “Joy of Mixology” and to be initially surprised by the sheer amount of diverse cocktail recipes. When you start diving into the world of cocktails one expects a rather limited number of cocktails. At the beginning it appears as if there are only a few hard liquors like gin, vodka, bourbon or tequila and some additives like bitters or syrups and those can only be combined in a limited fashion. But it doesn’t take long to realize that for example one gin doesn’t taste the same as another gin and that there are numerous bitters and syrups with different flavor profiles. Similar to the market driven cuisine of restaurants more and more mixologists also create market driven cocktails with house-made bitters and other additives which opens up a large world of unique ingredients for all kinds of cocktails. And so instead of a rather limited number of possible cocktails the vast amount of different ingredients appear more like a huge matrix of possible combinations and a near infinite number of cocktails.

    Despite a large number of possible combinations and the “everything goes with everything” attitude there are still some liqueurs which seem to exist for just one specific cocktail. Galliano is a liqueur originally created in 1896 in Livorno, Italy and named after an Italian army officer who became famous during the first Italo-Ethiopian war. Galliano has a quite large number of ingredients ranging from star anise, vanilla to ginger, juniper, lavender and citrus. Neutral grain spirit is first infused with these herbs and then vanilla before finally mixed with water and sugar. This yields a liqueur which has a strong sweet anise flavor with some more subtle vanilla and herbal notes. Even though there is more than just one Galliano containing cocktail known everybody associates this liqueur with the Harvey Wallbanger.

    As with every famous cocktail name there are many different stories about the origin of the name. Starting from the legend that mixologist Donato Antone created this drink at his Blackwatch Bar to cheer up a surfer called Harvey after a lost competition and after a few of the drinks the surfer collided with the wall. Another variation claims that the drink was invented on a party by Bill Doner and that a guest later banged his head against the wall and blamed it on the drink. Perhaps the most boring but at the same time most likely one is that the name is the idea of the Galliano marketing team when challenged to come up with the cocktail which showcases the liqueur. This simple cocktail indeed nicely emphasizes the herbal character of the Galliano as the vodka and the orange juice stay more in the background. The Harvey Wallbanger is a good cocktail to slowly sip in the evening after a long day as it is refreshing but at the same time has some complexity by the Galliano.

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