It's All in the Mix!

By Clark Trim with Colonial Wines and Spirits

Being a great home mixologist is not as simple and straight-forward as it used to be. Gone are the days when you could count on serving just a gin and tonic; rum and coke; or Bourbon and water. Sure, these classics are still popular but, today, your guests are more likely to ask for a Nigroni or French 75.  

Don’t worry, mixology is not rocket science or bio-chemistry. Being a successful home mixologist should be fun and easy.

Here are some of the basics.

BASIC BAR TOOLS

Shaker.  A regular, 3-piece stainless steel shaker is perfect.  Stainless steel is durable, safe and, if used correctly, makes drinks colder than a glass or plastic shaker.

Strainer.  While the 3-piece shaker comes with a strainer it’s often slow and not as effective.  A better option is one that fits over the bottom of your shaker.

Long-Handle Spoon.  The bartender's stirring spoon has a long spiraled handle for easy fast stirring.  A long handled iced tea spoon will work as well.

Muddler.  You can’t make an Old Fashioned or a Mojito without one.  They are simply a long piece of round shaped wood or stainless steel with the business end used to muddle (crush) fruits and herbs in the shaker.  

To effectively muddle, liquid must be added. Refer to your recipe for the proper amount.  Too much is just as bad as too little.  Muddling is a process that takes practice.

Jiggers/Measuring Spoons.  In mixology, as in cooking, proper measurements are very important. 

Jiggers can be glass or stainless steel. I recommend the following double sizes:

  • 2 ounces and 1 ounce
  • 1 ½ ounce and ¾ ounce
  • 1 ounce and ½ ounce

I recommend four sizes of measuring spoons:

  • Tablespoon which equals ½ ounce  
  • ½ tablespoon which equals ¼ ounce  
  • Teaspoon which equals 1/6 ounce
  • ½ teaspoon which equals 1/12 ounce

Ice Bag and Mallet.  This is a very simple but most important part of your mixology tool chest.  These are used to “CRACK” ice.  Cracked ice chills much more effectively than cubed ice.  

GARNISH AND PREP TOOLS

All mixologists should have the following kitchen accessories handy.

  • Paring Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Vegetable Peeler
  • Juicer
  • Strainer

GLASSWARE

A selection of quality glassware is essential.  Here is a recommended list of the minimum required glasses.

Highball.  Tall and slender, sometimes a bit flared, these are workhorse bar glasses.  They are used for Bloody Mary, Gin and Tonic, and many classic cocktails. Usually in 12 ounces size, they are versatile and look great with a straw and garnish.

Old Fashioned.  Short and squatty with a thick bottom, and are also called High-Ball glasses. They hold from six to ten ounce drinks that are usually “on the rocks.” 

Martini.  The traditionalists enjoy the flare-sided glasses that hold around six ounces.

Wine.  I prefer stemmed wine glasses.  Although there are glasses for every varietal, I recommend a well-made lightweight, general purpose glass for everyday use.  One size works, especially for beginners; but it’s nice to have a larger size bowl for reds and a smaller size bowl for whites.  

Champagne Flute.  Whether serving the celebrated wines of Champagne, or Sparkling Wine from any region of the world, it should be served in a Champagne Flute.  They are also great for serving a large variety of Sparkling Wine Cocktails.

MIXOLOGY TIPS

Should I shake or stir?

Shaking is required when you are mixing a drink with fresh squeezed or frozen fruit juices, cream or egg whites. The vigorous shaking bonds the alcohol to all components of the cocktail. Shaking will result in light texture with tiny air bubbles.

Stirring is the proper technique when only spirits or no opaque ingredients are in the recipe. The result will be a clear, velvety presentation.  

Use Ice wisely.  No one wants a watered down drink.  Add ingredients to your shaker first; then add ice. Shake or stir and strain into a chilled glass, or glass with NEW ice, as is appropriate.  

Create Balance.  You can check the balance of a cocktail before serving.  

Follow these easy steps.  

  1. Take a straw, cover the top with your finger and insert the straw into the bottom of the drink
  2. Remove the straw from the glass
  3. Taste the cocktail from the bottom end of the straw by releasing your finger on the top
  4. Decide if the cocktail needs adjustment: too weak, sour, sweet, watered down  

If the cocktail is too sweet, add a spoon of lemon or lime juice.  Too sour, add simple syrup.  Too strong, add water or soda.  Too weak, you can try to add more spirit, but I recommend you start over.