Cocktail Basics: Techniques
Rimming a Glass
Bartenders often coat only half of the rim of a glass so there’s a choice of sides to sip from.
1. Spread a few tablespoonfuls of salt (preferably kosher), sugar or other powdered or very finely crushed ingredient on a small plate.
2. Moisten the outer rim of the glass with a citrus-fruit wedge, water or a syrup or colorful liquid like pomegranate juice. Then roll the outer rim of the glass on the plate until lightly coated.
3. Hold the glass upside down and tap to release any excess.
Making a Twist
A twist adds concentrated citrus flavor from the peel’s essential oils.
To make and use a standard twist
1. Use a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler to cut a thin, oval, quarter-size disk of the peel, avoiding the pith (the white spongy part).
2. Gently grasp the outer edges skin side down between the thumb and two fingers and pinch the twist over the drink.
3. Rub the peel around the rim of the glass, then drop it into the drink.
To make a spiral-cut twist
1. Use a channel knife to cut a 3-inch-long piece of peel with some of the pith intact (this helps the spiral hold its shape). It’s best to cut the twist over the glass so the essential oils from the peel fall into the drink.
2. Wrap the twist around a chopstick and tighten at both ends to create a curlicue shape.
Flaming a Twist
Flaming a lemon or orange twist caramelizes the zest’s essential oils.
1. Cut a thin, oval, quarter-size piece of peel with a bit of the pith intact.
2. Gently grasp the outer edges skin side down between the thumb and two fingers and hold the twist about 4 inches over the cocktail.
3. Hold a lit match over the drink an inch away from the twist—don’t let the flame touch the peel—then pinch the edges of the twist sharply so that the citrus oil falls through the flame and into the drink.
Cocktails made with eggs should be shaken well to emulsify them. Double shaking ensures the drink won’t be overdiluted.
1. Add all ingredients—except ice or carbonated beverages—to the shaker and shake for 10 seconds (this is known as “dry shaking”).
2. Add the ice to the shaker, then shake the drink again.
Drinks made with muddled fruit or herbs are often double-strained to remove tiny particles, so the cocktail is crystal clear.
1. Set a fine strainer over a serving glass.
2. Prepare the drink in a shaker or pint glass. Set a Hawthorne or julep strainer on top, then pour the drink through both strainers into the serving glass.
Perfect Ice Cubes
Ice is key to a great drink. For serving most drinks, the bigger the pieces, the better. Large chunks of ice melt more slowly, and dilute drinks less. Detail-obsessed bars like Heaven’s Dog in San Francisco cut ice from large blocks; Brooklyn’s Clover Club uses molds to make ice cylinders that just fit inside a rocks glass. The exception to the big-ice rule: the crushed ice in juleps and swizzled drinks. Besides melting quickly, which dilutes potent drinks, crushed ice also adds an appealing frost to glasses. Cracked ice is used principally for stirring. It helps to cool down a drink more quickly than stirring with standard-size ice cubes.
To make big chunks of ice for punch bowls
Pour water into a large, shallow plastic container and freeze. To unmold, warm the bottom of the container in hot water.
To make extra-large ice cubes for rocks glasses
Use a slightly smaller glass as a mold. To unmold, run warm water over the outside of the glass to slide the ice cube out. Or make a large block of ice in a loaf pan and use an ice pick to break off chunks the size you want.
To make crushed ice
Cover cubes in a clean kitchen towel and pound with a hammer or rolling pin.
To make cracked ice
Place a square ice cube in the palm of your hand and tap it three times with the back of a bar spoon, tapping a different side of the cube each time.
To make clear cubes
Fill ice trays with hot filtered water.
For perfectly square cubes
Use Tovolo’s flexible silicone Perfect Cube ice trays (surlatable.com).
Bartenders are “smacking” herbs: slapping them between their palms over a drink to release essential oils—and, of course, to add drama to the spectator experience.