I’m guessing you're reading this page because you’re already an accomplished cocktail mixer and are interested in the fineries of the art or you've just read Cocktail shaking basics and were intrigued to see what more there is to know. Either way there’s more to shaking than you’d think.
Three-piece shakers are also called ‘Standard' or 'Cobbler' shakers, they comprise of three sections: 1) Flat-bottomed, conical base or 'can' 2) Built-in strainer mid-section 3) Top cap or lid which seals the shaker
Since cocktails left their disco-era style to the 1990s and grew up into the sophisticated drinks we know and love, a trend developed towards ageing cocktails - premixing components, then resting and marrying them for periods of time before serving them.
Also known as a Boston or French Shaker, two-piece shakers tend to be preferred by professional bartenders (Japanese and other East Asian bartenders excepted). We recommend two-piece shakers with a capacity of at least one pint.
Swizzles are sour style drinks with a similar composition to a punch that, distinctively, must be churned with a swizzle stick. They are usually served in a tall Collins or sling glass, and always with crushed rather than cubed ice. Due to originating from the Caribbean, swizzles tend to be rum-based but the name defines the mixing method rather than the ingredients.
Commercially produced vanilla-flavoured vodkas tend to have more of a cream-of-soda rather than genuine vanilla flavour. Many also have added sugar so can be a tad sweet. As an alternative to vanilla-flavoured vodka I recommend making your own vanilla-infused vodka. Vanilla is one of the most straight-forward and reliably good home-infusions.
It was in 2004 after receiving a 1920s bottle of Dubonnet that I first decided to age a series of classic cocktails in small barrels with different proportions. I had been amazed how good the 1920s Dubonnet tasted - the residual air in the bottle had both matured and mellowed the flavours.
Pre-batched cocktails served on draught using technology originally developed to dispense beer and wine allow consistently good drinks to be dispensed incredibly quickly. Draught cocktails at their best are batched at the bar using fresh ingredients rather than being a way of serving ready-to-serve brands on draught rather from a bottle or can.
Made famous by the Benton’s Old Fashioned, created by Don Lee at PDT in New York City, which uses bourbon flavoured by smoky bacon fat, fat-washing is a method of flavouring any spirit with a variety of fatty foods including meats, fish, cheeses and butter.
Most cocktails that are shaken and served ‘straight-up’ (without ice) benefit from an additional 'fine strain' over and above the standard strain to remove small fragments of fruit and fine flecks of ice which rise to the surface so spoiling the appearance of a drink.
Foams can be applied to the surface of a cocktail, the aroma and flavour of which usually contrast with that of the drink beneath, so adding complexity. These foams are made by a chemical reaction between protein and nitrous oxide (N2O). The most convenient way of dispensing foam is from cream-whippers (also known as cream siphons, whipping siphons or just siphons).
First synthesised by the philosopher and chemist Joseph Priestley in 1772, nitrous oxide (E942) is commonly known as laughing gas and is a colourless non-flammable gas with a pleasant, slightly sweet smell. Its nickname refers to the stimulating effects of inhaling it, which include spontaneous laughter, slight hallucinations and an analgesic effect.
As the name suggests this method of mixing a cocktail is achieved by pouring the ingredients from one vessel to another, ideally pouring from one vessel held aloft to the other vessel held as low as possible below.
Out of the five basic tastes, sweet, sour, bitter, salt and umami, salt is perhaps the rarest to be found lurking in our drinks. Indeed salty liquid seems counterintuitive, yet this incredible flavour enhancer has just as much room in the back bar as it does on your dining room table.
Perversely the hard-shake is not hard, it’s gentle; although this choreographed shake is hard to master. Invented by Japanese bartender, Kazuo Uyeda, the hard-shake is a stylised way of shaking a cocktail intended to drive the ice inside around the shaker rather than simply back and forth crashing into either end.
The team at the Artesian bar, at the Langham Hotel, are world renowned for their experiments in cocktail creation. From barrel, glass and clay pot ageing to gimmicks involving aromas, incense smoke and mirrors, Simone Caporale and Alex Kratena have tried it all. So when they started looking around for the next evolution in cocktails and bartending they were forced to comb the depths of history.
Stirring and shaking obviously result in the various ingredients being mixed together, but both actions also cool and dilute the cocktail being mixed. The key difference between the two mixing methods is that the violent action of shaking achieves the same results quicker. The same degree of cooling and dilution can be achieved with 15 to 20 seconds of shaking as 90 to 120 seconds of stirring.
Alcohols ability to draw out flavoursome substances from herbs and spices by infusion and then preserve those flavours has been used since the Middle Ages – originally by monks to produce potions with perceived health benefits – water of life. Today infusion/maceration is used to flavour spirits.
The terms ‘ignite’, ‘flame’ or ‘flambé’ mean that a drink should be set alight. Please exercise extreme care when setting fire to drinks. Be particularly careful not to knock over a lit drink and never attempt to carry a drink which is still alight. Before drinking, cover the glass so as to suffocate the flame and be aware that the rim of the glass may be hot.
A plentiful supply of fresh ice is essential to making good cocktails. When buying bagged ice, avoid the hollow, tubular kind and thin wafers. Instead, look for large, solid cubes of ice. We recommend a Kold Draft (kold-draft.com) or Hoshizaki (hoshizaki.com ) ice machine to produce large (inch/25mm square) solid cubes.
Muddling means pummelling fruits, herbs and/or spices with a muddler (a blunt tool similar to a pestle) so as to crush them and release their flavour. You can also use a rolling pin. Just as you would use a pestle and mortar, push down on the muddler with a twisting action.
As the name suggests, layered drinks include layers of different ingredients, often with contrasting colours. This effect is achieved by carefully pouring each ingredient into the glass so that it floats on its predecessor.
When a cocktail recipe calls for you to ‘blend with ice’, place all ingredients and ice into a blender and blend until a smooth, even consistency is achieved. Ideally, you should use crushed ice, as this lessens wear on the blender. Place liquid ingredients in the blender first, adding the ice last. If you have a variable speed blender, always start slowly and build up speed.
Sometimes also referred to as the ‘Cuban Roll’ after the origin of this method of mixing, ‘rolling’ offers more dilution and aeration than simply stirring, but is more gentle than shaking. It is achieved by simply pouring the ingredients from one container to another.
When straining a shaken drink, a Hawthorn strainer tends to be used, but when straining a stirred drink it is traditional to use a Julep strainer. Both designs of strainer allow the liquid to be poured from the shaker/mixing glass while retaining the spent ice.
Garnishes are used to decorate cocktails and are often anchored to the rim of the glass. You’ll find more about garnishes and how to prepare them in the ‘Cocktail’ area of this website but here under ‘Beer, Wine & Spirits’ we have listed a number of commercially available products used for garnishing cocktails such as jarred cherries and coloured salt.