It was not that long ago that I was like many casual drinkers out there. There was no complexity in my attempts to get smashed as quickly as possible and I was guilty of drinking some things that these days make me cringe.
An argument I’ve had with a friend of mine is what constitutes a cocktail. The original definition read something along the lines of “spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.”
Specific enough for my tastes but that defines the classic cocktail, back when people knew a sling from a gimlet. Today the waters have been muddied to the point that the dictionary says “an iced drink of wine or distilled liquor mixed with flavoring ingredients.” About the only thing that definition excludes is beer and cider. Anything else could reasonably rolled into the realm of “flavoring ingredients.”
I’ve stated my position is that anything that uses a soda as the primary carrier in the drink isn’t really a cocktail. The point of refutation in that argument is the Cuba Libre which does all kinds of things to the cocktail world.
So I’ve performed a strategic retreat and I present to you here the most basic “cocktail” in common consumption for each of the most common forms of hard liquor.
For this most plain of liquors we have two options.
1. The Screwdriver – 1 part Vodka and 2 parts Orange juice.
2. Vodka Cranberry – 1 part Vodka to 2 Parts Cranberry Juice
Vodka is a neutral spirit, when done well it should present no burn either forward or afterwards. In either of these drinks the dry and sour components in the citric acid are there to try to smooth out a cheaper vodka. The cheaper the vodka the more juice you add.
The floral bouquet of gin is one of the most complex scents in the liquor world. A gin basket can contain dozens of ingredients each distinctly detectable in a well made liquor.
1. The Martini – 1.5 oz Gin to 0.5 oz Dry Vermouth
2. Gin and Tonic – the most basic of all, Gin and a quinine containing tonic water mixed in ratios of about 2:3
There are a lot of different kinds of rum. Too many to recount in this piece I’m afraid but we include here the current swing in rum drinks.
1. Rum and Coke – just like it sounds 1.5 oz rum to an 8 oz can of cola.
2. Scurvy Pirate – 1.5 oz Rum, Ginger Ale
As complex a spirit as tequila is, it seldom mixes well with a lot of the more classic ideas of cocktails and tends to shun bitters and floral arrangements in favor of fruit and citrus.
1. Tequila Slammer – 1.5 oz Tequila, 7-up, Squirt or Mt. Dew. This one is tricky as the drink is served with some room left in the glass. You hold your hand over the top of the glass and slam it quickly on the bar to release the carbonation then drink it quickly before it foams over the top of the glass.
Tune in next time with drinking basics as we show you the evolution of tastes from the very basic to the complex as we upgrade the screwdriver.