How is the best of the best determined? Let’s take a cocktail for example. The definition of a cocktail (wait I need to look this up) is “an alcoholic drink consisting of a spirit or several spirits mixed with other ingredients, such as fruit juice, lemonade, or cream”. Isn’t it nice that Coke or Pepsi was not included in that list of "other ingredients"? I think so.
Do I claim to be an expert on cocktails? Absolutely not! Do I enjoy trying new cocktails to see what great concoctions mixologist come up with? Well who doesn’t, (mother please don’t answer that one, I know we had that conversation already 😊). By the dictionary’s standard a cocktail is a beverage that is mixed with a spirit or several spirits. In the past, I thought my favorite cocktail was whiskey neat, but now after reading the definition, that is not classified as a cocktail. So sad.
I recently heard a term the other day, it was “two-part cocktail”. I felt ignorant but I had to ask what was a “two-part cocktail”? You can find them, they exist in some run-down dives that carry the 4Js (Jim, Jack, Johnny and Jose). Mix that whiskey/bourbon with a Coke and guess what you have a two-part cocktail. Not that I don’t know my cocktails, but who makes a two-part cocktail in today’s society. A long time ago I was told that if you pay $40+ for a whiskey, why in the world would you mask the flavor with a Coke. Does that mean that Jim, Jack and Johnny are bad tasting, absolutely not, but I think it was the easiest way for many to be able to drink whiskey in the 80s and 90s and that is a two-part cocktail.
Back to the question at hand, what makes a great cocktail? Who has the authority to determine what makes a great cocktail. There is no one, you get to decide! That is the best answer I have heard all day. Now some of the names for cocktails are a little bizarre and I am not sure why people choose to down grade the cocktail or the spirit. A good example that I just saw on a website was a “Blow Job”. Can we just assume that a guy was not getting any at home andhad to find a way to drown his sorrows, so he created this concoction to make himself feel better. That is the story I am going to stick with. I am sure that this is a great drink/shot and is probably enjoyed by many but I am sorry I will not be ordering a “Blow Job” in my future.
What about the classics. A Manhattan, a martini, an old fashioned. They role off the tongue like butter. My favorite as most of you know is the old fashioned. I have seen this cocktail done a number of different ways but what makes it the “right way”? Technically there isn’t one that I am aware of. However, I do cringe when I see bartenders crush (muddle) an orange and cherry in my drink. By doing that you just took up 2 ounces of my cocktail with a beaten piece of fruit. NO muddling! I prefer simple syrup in my cocktail over the crushed sugar cube, either way you will get some sugar water in your system, so to each their own. Bitters are important. Most don’t think so, but the wrong bitters could make or break your cocktail. There are so many flavors to choose from too. Side note: At one time, I was on a HUGE plum bitters kick (thanks Montana) for my old fashioned. Then of course you have the whiskey/bourbon and I am a BIG whiskey/bourbon fan.
I am always intrigued when I ask people what spirit they use to make an old fashioned. Some choose Tin Cup then make it Smokey and add candied bacon (to hide the flavor maybe, I am not sure). Some choose a bourbon like Markers Mark, now in my personal opinion a bourbon (being made with so much corn) is already sweet enough. If you are looking for a super sweet drink apply your favorite bourbon. My go to, well since you asked.. it is a good rye whiskey. Doesn’t have to be a fancy rye, but a rye with a peppery finish that stands up against the sweetness of a simple syrup and balances for a great cocktail. The right bitters pulls the drink together and the garnish of a Luxardo cherry is just what it needs. Another side note: Some mixologists like to use a good orange bitters for the cocktail and treat the glass by rubbing an orange peel on the rim of the glass. Pretty fancy if you ask me, but it definitely makes that orange flavor pop. There are lots of ways to change up a classic to make it fit your palates desires, so take your best shot.
As for other cocktails, I leave that to the mixologist’s imagination. Fruit smashes, Manhattans, sours, martinis, mules, the possibilities truly are endless and very tasty. One of my favorite cocktails I had recently was a Whiskey Sour (Prohibition Style) from the Whisk€y Bar in Fort Collins, CO. When I asked our fabulous mixologist Sam, what makes it prohibition style? He said, “more whiskey”! Now that is my kind of cocktail.
Views, thoughts, comments and experiences are all mine, which includes all of the grammar/spelling errors. I do not claim to be an English major only needed an outlet to share my experiences.