The key to delicious cocktails is balance. In early 19th century definitions, cocktails are said to comprise four elements: spirits, sugar, water and bitters. Classic cocktails like the Sazerac, Old Fashioned and Manhattan draw from this essential structure. Many other amazing drinks emerge from the same general principles: create simple concoctions that use high quality ingredients and balance sweet with bitter.
When making cocktails, a solid understanding your ingredients is essential. Know your spirits, yes, but also the qualities of your non-alcoholic ingredients and how they all play off one another.
If you’re just launching into your own bartending experiments at home, we suggest beginning with a classic cocktail and starting to play. For example, here is one ripe for deconstruction:
- 1 1/2 oz Victoria Gin
- 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz simple syrup
- sparkling wine
Shake gin, lemon juice and syrup with ice. Strain into a champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine.
Beautiful as is. But why not use grapefruit juice instead of lemon juice? Or maple syrup instead of simple syrup? Or use Oaken Gin instead of the classic Victoria Gin? Or use soda instead of sparkling wine? As you play, you may find you need to adjust the quantities a little. Some grapefruits are sweeter than others, after all.
Be brave and taste as you mix. We like to use straws as pipettes to sample as we go. Too sweet or bland? Add bitters. Too bitter? Add more sweet. Trust your palate.
Of course, it helps to have a handful of ingredients to play with. Here are some suggestions for inspiration.
How did it go? We would love to hear about your experiments. Get in touch!