Have you ever tried to make a cocktail only to discover that it is way too strong, too watery, or too sweet and have no idea how to fix it? Knowing a few ratios and bar basics will help. Making a great cocktail isn't hard, but it takes a little know-how.
The term "Mixology" seems like something only for those in vests and curled mustaches, buts it's far more approachable than you may think. Most classic cocktails have three components: acid, sugar, and spirit. The ratio to follow is 2:1:1. It is two parts booze, one part sugar, and one part acid. Be sure to measure this, and not eyeball it. The acid in the cocktail is either lemon or lime juice, and the sugar component is simple syrup. The reason for using simple syrup instead of regular sugar or a sugar cube, is because granulated sugar will not dissolve in cold liquid. To make simple syrup, heat one part water, and add to one part sugar and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. No need to go out and purchase it. Keeping this in mind, you can make most cocktails!
For example, a Gimlet is simply two parts gin, one part lime and one part simple syrup, shaken with ice and served "up", or chilled. A Sidecar is two parts brandy, one part lemon and one part simple syrup. A Tom Collins is the same, but with vodka instead of brandy and a splash of soda water!
Here are some of the basics you will need in your home bar. The blackberries and mint are just for fun garnishes.
Once you have a grasp of the ratios down, the next step is the shaker. If you are someone who enjoys drinking shaken cocktails, a shaker is something worth buying. They are generally fairly inexpensive and will last a long time. No need to get fancy here! The trick with using the shaker is, once you put the ice in your shaker and add your drink, start shaking right away and strain right away. You don't want to water down your cocktail.
At this point, you can either serve your drink "up", meaning chilled but not on ice, or on the rocks. If you choose to enjoy your cocktail on the rocks, be sure to use new ice and not the ice you just shook your cocktail with. The ice from the shaker is all broken up and will water your drink much faster.
Now it's time to enjoy your much earned cocktail. If you want to learn more, be sure to join us for Mixology 101 at The Chopping Block at the Merchandise Mart with Mixologist Tim Williams of Pour Souls. We have a class coming up this Thursday, February 9 at 6:30pm and there happen to be a few spots left. Sign up now to become a cocktail master!