There is a Delicious Cocktail for Every Taste
Want to give it a try?
Subject yourself to a boozy experiment by trying one cocktail that falls under each specific taste category. (Sounds so terrible, we know.) Notice how the flavor evolves on your tongue. Then try another cocktail, and repeat. See how fun this is?
Sweet: Mai Tai
Remember the ’80s? Shoulder pads and sweet cocktails abounded. And it’s not too hard to see why those were so popular—well, the cocktails, at least. Even kids know that sweet things are easy to eat and drink in excess. The sweet tooth is a real phenomenon, people. Eventually Alabama Slammers and pre-made “sour” mix receded, and the drink world mostly returned to balanced cocktails like the Mai Tai and refined ingredients like infused simple syrups and orgeat. Overly sweet cocktails still exist, but it’s much easier to find a (sweet) middle ground.
Salt is a brilliant tool in the right hands. An excessive amount of the stuff, however, is a hazard to the taste buds. The genius who thought to add a salt rim to the Margarita may be long forgotten, but the practice caught on like wildfire for a reason. A hit of salt at the beginning of the drink is the start of cocktail bliss, eventually blending seamlessly with the liquid in the glass. Though the Margarita features a classic sour formula, the rim gives it enough of salty kick to shock the system in the best possible way.
Italian bitter liqueurs have wedged out their own space in the cocktail kingdom. With distinct flavorings like artichoke and gentian root, they’re not exactly what inexperienced palates lean towards when sidling up to the bar. Cocktails like the Negroni, though, are meant to make these biting low-ABV liqueurs more accessible to all drinkers. With equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari—the bitter component—the Negroni serves as an aperitif, aka something to whet your appetite before a big meal. Many spirits, like cognac and Scotch, and other bitter liqueurs fall into the digestif category, almost like medicine, to help the painful full belly syndrome.
Never was there a cocktail more practical than the humble Gimlet. Invented as a way to treat sailors’ scurvy during the 1800s, this sour cocktail started out as a combination of Rose’s Lime Juice and gin (to make the bottled juice’s sour taste palatable). Though it no longer serves such a burning medical need, the drink lives on. Some people (this author included) like a Gimlet with a touch too much lime. There’s nothing like an ultra-citrusy shock to the tongue—remember WarHeads?
Umami: Mediterranean Mary
If you’ve ever had olive tapenade or mushrooms in your drink, well, congratulations. You know how to enjoy an umami cocktail. If not, you should. The Bloody Mary is the perfect starting point for creating the ultimate savory elixir. It’s already got tomatoes, salt, pepper and a variety of other spices. This version adds olive tapenade, celery salt and hot sauce to the tomato juice, as well as a measure of dry sherry to complement the traditional vodka.