5 Cocktail Making Tricks from a Pro

By Dan Dunn |

© Alanna Hale

Jeffrey Morgenthaler is an award-winning bartender at one of America’s most renowned craft cocktail joints, Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon. He’s also an accomplished writer, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Playboy and the Wall Street Journal. His new tome, The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique (Chronicle Books) is the first bartending manual focused entirely on the essential cocktail making methodology.

We asked Morgenthaler for some tips on how to make drinks like the pros.

1) Cause a stir

One of the basic rules of mixology is that anything clear gets stirred; if it ain’t clear, shake it. The former seems easy enough, right? Not so, says Morgenthaler: “It takes a lot of practice to become proficient with a bar spoon, and most nonprofessionals have a difficult time getting it right.” A simple solution for the bar spoon–challenged is to use a plastic chopstick for exactly 30 seconds. No more, no less. But whatever you do, don’t try to stir and chew gum at the same time. You might hurt yourself.

2) You’re crushing it, dude!

So you love a good mint julep, but can’t afford one of those fancy freezers that pulverizes frozen water. You can get perfectly crushed ice like they have in the fancy craft cocktail bars using a Cuisinart. All you have to do, says Morgenthaler, is “Fill your food processor with ice cubes, pulse, pulse, pulse, and before you know it, you’ve got beautiful, granular, fluffy crushed ice.” If you don’t have a Cuisinart, well, you should probably quit drinking and get a job.

3) Whip it good

Wanna top that cocktail with some creamy deliciousness? Um, yeah, you do. Especially when it’s as easy as filling a Mason jar halfway with whipping cream and shaking it like a Polaroid. No need for messy whisks or bowls, and your cream is already in the dispensing vessel. Just shake until your cream has increased in volume by about half. Then pour it onto that Irish Coffee or boozy Manhattan Float or whatever blows your hair back. How sweet it is.

4) Do the twist

To get a robust piece of citrus zest, use a Y-shape vegetable peeler, then trim up the sides and ends of the strip with a paring knife. There are two options when it comes to getting the peel into the drink. You can curl the peel around the inside of an empty glass and slowly fill with ice, while maintaining the peel’s placement with your handy chopstick or, if you’re feeling cocky, you can carefully work it between the cocktail and the side of the glass with a bar spoon.

5) Keep it simple

Most recipes for simple syrup call for mixing identical volumes of sugar and water, but Morgenthaler employs a different method. “For me, it’s all about balance, and to achieve the desired balance in simple syrup I measure the parts by weight rather than volume.” Will you need a kitchen scale for this? Yes, you will. Is it worth it? I don’t know—do you want to argue with the guy who just taught you the easiest way to stir a drink? We consulted a team of scientists by the way, and they confirmed that sugar does indeed weigh slightly less than water. They also posited that Morgenthaler, like most geniuses, may be slightly obsessive-compulsive.

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