Up until now, my essentials collection has been based very much around fashion essentials, the kind of garments and accessories that build a gentleman’s wardrobe to last beyond trends. However, as we decided in early 2015, there is more to being a gentleman than lapel flowers and well laced brogues. A gentleman needs to be worldly and well traveled, he needs to know his way around the kitchen and most importantly, he needs to have a good repertoire of cocktails that he can call on when the night (or day) requires it.
Now, we all know the old adage about having the right tool for the job and this is no exception, second to the ingredients the right cocktail tools are paramount to getting your drinks perfect. After all, cocktails date back as far as the 17th and 18th century, so really it’s not just about mixing vodka with whatever fruit juice or fizzy beverage you have lying around, but rather a tried and tested combination of flavours mixed and chilled in a specific way to provide that delicious “tastes like more” feeling.
Before I wright these posts I always like to research them extensively so that I can at least seem like I know what Im talking about, and this has been by far the most difficult. The story of the cocktail seems to be one shrouded in mystery, everything from the origin of the word ‘cock tail’ to the origin of the actual mixed drink revolution seems to be up for debate, the Americans claim they started the movement while the brits claim they passed it on to the Americans. I love this excerpt from an article in the daily telegraph that details the history of the cocktail “But exactly what, beyond the ice, is so American about a drink of British gin and Italian or French vermouth mixed by an Irish or German immigrant?”. As far as the origin of the name goes, there are no less than 10 stories my favourite (and that which appears to make the most sense) is the fact that it was customary to dock the tail of a mixed breed horse in the 19th century causing the tail to stand up like a cocks tail, the horses were mixed, the drinks were mixed – BOOM – Cocktails.
So, over the next few weeks, months, years (depending on when I run out of drinks / stop blogging) I’ll be bringing you some classic drinks and how to make them, so you’re gonna need the right tools for the job, and here they are:
The first think you need to know is wether your drink is shaken or stirred – yes, that right, it’s a real thing. The only problem is, that Mr Bond was wrong, or at least ordering his drinks in bad taste, a martini is always stirred rather than shaken.
The premiss of the 2 different methods depends on what kind of drink you are making and what you expect the outcome to be. Shaking will often result in a cloudy drink (said to bruise the spirits) while stirring will result in a drink that maintains the clarity of the original liquor. Both methods though are quite simply used to mix as well as chill the ingredients before serving.
The cocktail shaker seems to date back as far at 7000BC, maybe not as a fancy cocktail shaker, but as a device used for mixing, it really only took on it’s modern day form around the late 1800’s when a bartender put 2 glasses together to shake a drink between them inventing what is today called the Boston shaker. The shaker above is called a cobbler shaker it’s a three-piece cocktail shaker that has tapers at the top and ends with a built-in strainer and includes a cap. The cap can often be used as a measure for spirits or other liquids.
As far as the mixing glass goes – I have nada! I literally can not find one article on it’s history or origin. It stands to reason though that it probably evolved from a normal glass into its fancy modern day form.
This tool, the barspoon, is used in conjunction with the stirring glass and quite obviously is used to stir the drink inside the glass. The twisted handle is said to make it easier to spin the spoon (one of the methods of stirring). The other end of the spoon can vary quite a bit in anything from a muddler (we’ll get to that in ‘cocktail sets 2.0’) to a thermometer or in this case a trident fork used for adding garnish to your drinks.
So what do you do, once your drink has been shaken or stirred? Well, as it is often done over ice you want to strain it leaving the ice behind allowing the chilled liquid deliciousness to tell it’s story.
Above are 2 different strainers, traditionally used in different applications, but not necessarily. The most common is the Hawthorne strainer, recognisable by it’s spring around the edge used to create a snug fit in the metal part of the Boston shaker or cobbler shaker when a finer strain is required.
The julep strainer is traditionally used in a mixing glass, fitting snugly into the glass and being held in place by your hand.
This, quite simply is your measuring tool with one measure being twice as large as the other. Making the perfect cocktail is all about dosage and the correct proportion of ingredients, it really isn’t a splash of this and a dash of that. You’ll also find that cocktail recipes are often given in units or parts, rather then actual measurements making it easier to prepare one drink for a number of people.
And, thats it for now people. We’re going to be going down this cocktail exploration path together, should be fun right? I know the burning question on everyones mind is, okay, well, where did you get the beautiful gold and copper stuff above then? It was an amazing chistmas gift from better half Elzaan, the secret to their origin though, much like the word cocktail, remains unknown.
Okay. Stay fancy.