Elemental Mixology: Five Real Cocktails with Staying-Power

on 28/09/10 at 12:39 pm


Most mixed drinks aren’t true cocktails.  That’s okay – a drink shouldn’t have to be called a ‘cocktail’ for it to be a thing of delight to the drinker, and of pride to the bartender.  But be careful!  Middle-class attitude will resist anything that it perceives is an attempt to rob it of the terms it has adopted in its quest for sophistication.  Watch what happens when you tell a common bartender or drinker that their mixed drink is not a true cocktail!  They will interpret it to mean something like, “Your drink is no good.”

But, as someone interested in the elemental natures of the various types of drinks, I will put that concern aside.

A true cocktail is a drink made by sweetening an alcoholic base, diluting it, and bittering it.  If such a drink is also uncluttered by other types of ingredients, the bitters will smooth out the burn of the alcohol – but leave the base liquor relatively-unmolested enough to present the dominant flavor in the drink.

This is why pre-prohibition recipes for the Brandy Crusta Cocktail and the Bronx Cocktail only contain a few drops of the citrus juice.  William Boothby, in the introduction to the cocktail section of his 1908 book, ‘World’s Drinks,’ wrote:

“The idea of making any liquor into a cocktail was conceived only for the purpose of removing the sharp, raw taste peculiar to all plain liquors.  Therefore it is not necessary to use a combination of cordials, essences or lemon juice as some ‘bar creatures’ do, but by adhering strictly to the herein contained directions you will be enabled to serve these famous American decoctions in as fine style as the highest salaried mixologist in the land.”

{Full story by Andrew “the Alchemist”}

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