Knives are just as important behind the home bar as they are in the kitchen. Good knives, carefully kept honed and sharp, are crucial tools in making cocktails and other fine libations. Today we'll run down the necessities of bar cutlery.
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Today begins a series on barware basics. I'll tell you what pieces I think are essential for the home bartender, but I'll also look at tools that are nice to have but perhaps not necessary. To start, let's consider shakers and spoons, two of the most important tools used to make cocktails.
One of the best ways to learn about spirits is to taste, taste, taste. When you taste a flight of bourbons, for example, you have the chance to pit the spirits against each other, and learn more about the bourbon category by exploring the differences between individual bottlings.
The purpose of the rinse is to impart the taste of a strongly flavored ingredient to a cocktail, without that ingredient overpowering the rest of the drink. The Sazerac is probably the best-known cocktail to feature a rinse, with its traditional wash of absinthe (or pastis, in the decades before absinthe's return to the United States).
Last week, we dipped into a little bitters history. Today we'll look at the two champions of the bitters field: Angostura and Peychaud's.
Bitters originally were formulated by physicians (or quacks posing as such) in the 1700s and sold as medicinal tonics. The idea was to take herbs and spices, preserve them in alcohol, and market them as a remedy for circulation or digestion disorders. By 1806, the word cocktail was already in use to describe a mix of spirits, water, sugar, and bitters.
Ice plays a crucial role in cocktail making. Not only does it chill a drink, but it also releases water into the cocktail, binding the ingredients, smoothing out the flavor, and taking the edge off the base spirit. Home bartenders have a bit of an advantage over many professionals: freezer ice.
Have you ever looked at the array of glassware available at, say, your local Crate & Barrel? The variety can seem overwhelming, even to a veteran boozer like me. No need to stress out, though. Here's our guide to the basic types of glasses that you actually need for your home bar.
The flamed orange twist ranks among the most spectacular techniques in a bartender's bag of tricks. At a crowded bar, a quick burst of flame always turns heads and sparks conversation, but it's no less an exhibition at home, when you're serving a cocktail to a guest. Today, I conclude my a-peel-ing miniseries on citrus-twist garnishes by showing you how.
As cocktail garnishes go, the citrus twist may be easy to demonstrate and simple to understand, but it deserves its place in the cocktailian's basic toolkit for two important reasons: aroma, primarily, but also flavor.
To strain a cocktail, you'll need a strainer, naturally, and a couple of types are available. Traditionally, the julep strainer is used when straining a cocktail from a mixing glass, and the Hawthorne when straining from a mixing tin. The reason is simple: The julep strainer fits a mixing glass better than a Hawthorne does, and the Hawthorne's a better fit than a julep when using a tin.
Now that you've mastered stirring, you're ready to move on to the other way to mix a cocktail: shaking. Here's my guide to technique (and all the supplies you need.)
We'll start off with stirring. After all, little else can happen to a drink until you've mixed it, and stirring is the technique at the heart of many of our most long-lived cocktails.
Not everyone at your party will be drinking alcohol, even if it's a kids-free event. Providing booze-free drinks for your guests is just good hosting. One fun way to impress your guests is with house-made sodas.
The first time I hosted a cocktail party, I spent most of my time preparing cocktails to order. The drinks were great, but it prevented me from having much fun. Making batches of drinks in advance is a much better idea—all it takes is a little math.
So, you're planning a cocktail party? Commendable, friend, commendable. Careful planning and a few tips should help relieve the stress you're undoubtedly starting to feel. Let's start with the essentials: glassware, liquor, mixers, and ice.