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Mixed Drink Cocktail


 Tending Bar: Mixing Cocktails

Strictly speaking, any alcoholic beverage which combines two or more ingredients is a cocktail. In practice, the phrase cocktail refers to a specific class of drinks. These drinks are either served chilled in stemmed cocktail glasses without ice or else are served in lowball glasses with moderate ice. It is this sort of cocktails that we will teach you how to mix here.

Cocktails come in three varieties:

Stirred cocktails on the rocks:
On-the-rocks drinks can be made either right in a lowball glass with ice, or stirred in a shaker and then strained into a glass with fresh ice. Although the first method is faster, we prefer the second method because it is more of a performance.

To build a cocktail on the rocks, begin by filling your shaker about two-thirds full of ice.  If you aren't certain how to pour exact measures, the three best techniques for pouring are explained in our article on measuring alcohol. Pour in your mixer and alcohol, and stir the alcohol with the straight end of your bar spoon.  The reason that you stir with the straight end is so that you won't spill ice cubes.

Now, take your strainer and fit it into the top of your shaker. Although the strainer looks very complex, its design is very simple. The strainer will prevent the ice cubes from pouring out with the drink, and the wiry coil makes it easier to fit it into the shaker. Once you've fit your strainer into the top of the glass, pour the beverage into a rocks glass full of fresh ice.  Garnish the cocktail as appropriate.  If you're interested, more information about garnishes is available

Stirred cocktails straight up:
Building a stirred cocktail straight up is very similar to building a stirred cocktail on the rocks.  

As with the stirred cocktail on the rocks, begin by filling a shaker two-thirds full of ice and add your ingredients. The first difference is a subtle one - since you won't be pouring the drink into a glass with ice, it is important that you give the contents time to chill with the ice. To expedite this, stir the cocktail with the straight end of your bar spoon for several seconds before affixing the strainer.  Once the strainer is affixed, strain the drink into a cocktail glass and garnish appropriately.  

Shaken cocktails:
Shaking a cocktail elicits the delight of your guests when done properly, but we recommend that beginning bartenders be wary of spilling the beverage while shaking it.

Begin by filling your shaker two-thirds full of ice and add the ingredients of the shaken cocktail.

Place the stainless steel shell over the top of the shaker and press down on the shell to make a seal between the two. Then, firmly grab both the top and the bottom of the shaker and shake it up and down. The steel shell should contract when the ice makes it cold, so the seal will become quite strong.  If, at this point, you want to get fancy in your shaking, the seal should allow it.

You now need to break the seal. Look for the frost line on the shell and tap the shell with the heel of your hand at this line. If you've struck properly, there should be an audible crack as the frozen seal breaks and the shell comes loose.

Now, turn the shaker glass and shell over together and pull the glass out of the shell, and strain the beverage out of the shell into a stemmed glass. Shaken cocktails will almost always call for a stemmed glass, as they will keep the hand of the drinker from warming the drink.

Finally, be sure to clean out the shaker. The best way to do this is to add some water to the shaker, shake and strain it out, and then wipe out the inside of the shaker.

Next steps:  

This article is the fifth article in a ten article series designed to transform people new to drink mixing into competent bartenders.  Click for the next article in the series, Tips from the Professional Bartender.

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