OAXACA DRINKS RECIPES

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HOW TO MAKE COCKTAILS AND MIXED DRINKS - NYT COOKING



How to Make Cocktails and Mixed Drinks - NYT Cooking image

There's an art to crafting a classic cocktail. Robert Simonson shows you the basics.

Provided by Robert Simonson

Steps:

  • It doesn’t take a great many bottles to build a bar capable of tackling most of the classic cocktail formulas. But, to begin with, you’ll just need a bottle each of gin, vodka, light rum, tequila, bourbon, rye, blended Scotch, brandy, dry white vermouth, sweet red vermouth, a few essential liqueurs and a handful of bitters. As you grow most ambitious, you can always add to your stock. Making simple syrup is, yes, simple, and you should keep it on hand too.The gin should be a classic London dry brand, a style of gin which is suited for martinis, gin and tonics and other classic gin drinks. (If you enjoy a Tom Collins or Martinez, however, the sweeter Old Tom gins are more appropriate.) The tequila should be 100 percent agave, not the cheaper “mixto” products, which blend a minimum of 51 percent agave with other sugars. For the bourbon and rye, buy something 90 proof or more and aged at least four years (“bonded” whiskey, which must be 100 proof, is even better); you’ll get more kick and flavor out of your drinks. The process by which bourbon and rye are aged in new, charred oak barrels lends the liquid much of its flavor and all of its color. The more age (but only up to a point), the more character.Blended Scotch is called for more often in cocktails than single malts, whose strong flavors can be difficult to mix with. You’ll want light rum around primarily for daiquiris. Taste a few until you find one that suits you. (If you’re a buff of tiki drinks like the mai tai, you’ll want to look into some dark rums.) With brandy cocktails, it’s Cognac you want, and a good one (which is not the same as an expensive one). The small difference in taste between vodkas is lost in cocktails. A fancy bottle with a fancy price won’t make much difference. Economize. Sweet and dry vermouths vary remarkably in flavor. Most of the leading brands are acceptable, but you’ll want to try a variety in your martini and manhattan before you settle on one. More important to remember is to store your vermouth in the fridge one it has been opened. Vermouth will spoil. It will last about a month. For this reason, it’s smart to buy the small 375-milliliter bottles.Both orange liqueur (curacao, triple sec, Cointreau and Grand Marnier are all members of this large category) and maraschino liqueur (not to be confused with the liquid that surrounds bottled maraschino cherries) are required in a number of important cocktails. Certain liqueurs are so original in their flavors that they are categories unto themselves, which no other brand can replace. These included Campari (needed for a Negroni), Benedictine (Bobby Burns) and Chartreuse (Last Word).Bitters are composed of a proprietary blend of spices, herbs and other plants that have been infused, usually in spirits, and sometimes aged. Highly concentrated, bitters work in drinks the way spices do in food. They are also, in historical terms, the ingredient that makes a cocktail a cocktail. The most famous brand is Angostura. It is the one bitters your bar cannot be without. The other two crucial bitters are Peychaud’s (used in a Sazerac) and orange bitters, of which there are many varieties.Sugar is called for in many cocktails, both new and classic. While plain sugar can certainly be used to make these drinks, simple syrup — which is nothing more than sugar water — often leads to a better integration of ingredients and consistency of texture, with no stray granules lingering at the bottom of the glass.To make simple syrup, simmer equal parts sugar and water over a low flame until the sugar has dissolved. Then let the solution cool. It will keep for a week. Store it in the fridge in a sealed container.If you’re in a hurry, shake the sugar and water in a sealed container until the sugar disappears. For a richer syrup, try two parts sugar to one part water. This will lend a greater viscosity to the cocktail. Demerara and turbinado sugars can also be used for a richer, deeper flavor.
  • Part of the fun, and some of the beauty, of serving cocktails is that every drink has a proper vessel. Some are so ingrained in drinking culture that they have taken on the name of the drink they typically hold (the Martini glass, the Collins glass). Here is what you’ll need.Above, from left: coupe, Collins (or highball) glass, rocks glass and another coupe. Coupes are for drinks that are served “up” (that is, in a stemmed glass and not over ice). Avoid the iconic, jumbo-size martini glasses. Four-, five- or six-ounce coupes are more than big enough and perform their function with more elegance and moderation. Rocks glasses, also known as old-fashioned glasses, are used for any drink served “on the rocks” — that is, over ice — such as an old-fashioned, but also for strong drinks that aren’t, such as the sazerac. These should be six to eight ounces. The so-called “double old-fashioned” glass is 12 to 15 ounces. Tall, thin Collins glasses, also known as highballs, are required for many light-bodied drinks that are “served long,” such as the Pimm’s Cup and, yes, the Tom Collins. They hold anywhere from 10 to 16 ounces. A chilled glass always contributes to the excellence and enjoyment of a cocktail. For those who think ahead, place the glass in the fridge 15 minutes before you intend to use it. This lends an attractive frost to the glass. A quicker method is to fill the glass with ice, or ice water, and let it sit for a minute while you prepare the drink.
  • Nearly every cocktail of note is brought into being by either stirring the contents over ice in a mixing glass or shaking them with ice in a cocktail shaker, and then straining it into a waiting cocktail glass. Here’s how to do it right.Shaking is called for when a drink contain either citrus, dairy or eggs (e.g., a daiquiri, Ramos gin fizz or Pisco sour) and a bit more vigor is required to mix its ingredients.To shake a cocktail, combine the ingredients and ice in a mixing glass. Place a metal shaking tin atop the glass at a slight angle and hit the top of the tin with the heel of your palm. This should create a tight seal. Turn the shaker over so that the glass is facing you. (This will prevent you from spilling on anyone but yourself should the seal break while you are shaking.) With one hand on the bottom of tin and the other on the bottom of the glass, shaking rigorously in an up and down fashion. (Cocktail shakes vary. In time, you’ll figure out the one that works best for you.)Stirring is for drinks composed of nothing more than beverage alcohol (martinis, manhattans, etc.). To stir a cocktail, simply combine the ingredients and ice in a mixing glass and, using a bar spoon, held loosely between thumb and your first two forefingers, stir the mixture in a fluid, circular fashion until chilled and properly diluted, about 30 seconds.
  • Garnishes are the cocktail equivalent of the hat that completes the outfit. They lend color, wit and, very often and most crucially, a taste accent to a drink. They’re not to be underestimated.The garnish to any cocktail isn’t a frivolous decorative afterthought, but an integral part of the drink. This is particularly true of citrus twists, wheels or wedges, be they from lemons, limes, oranges or grapefruit. Such twists lend a brightness to a cocktail. Cutting a proper twist requires some agility and a bit of practice. Begin with a clean, washed piece of fruit with an attractive color and a fair amount of surface area. Take a Y-peeler and start at the top of the fruit and pull toward you at a diagonal. This will render a long, wide twist, which you can either leave as is (a large twist looks particularly attraction in an old-fashioned or martini) or cut down to the dimensions you prefer. Be careful not to sink the peeler in too deep, to avoid a twist with too much bitter pith attached. For a lemon, lime or orange wheel, cut a section roughly 1/4 inch thick from the center of the fruit. These are usually either perched on the edge of the glass, via a small cut in the side of the wheel, or floated on the surface of the drink. To create a citrus-cherry “flag,” often used to garnish sours like the whiskey sour or Tom Collins, fold a citrus wheel or half-wheel around a cherry and fix the two together with a toothpick. A wedge of lemon or lime is the same size and shape you might cut to adorn or spritz over a piece of fish. As for cocktail cherries, use homemade if possible, or a quality brand like Luxardo. Do not use the bright red specimens you might see on top of an ice cream sundae. For olives and cocktail onions, avoid the mass-produced store brands. There are a few “craft” cocktail olives and onions now on the market, which are marginally better. But, if you really wanted to do your drink a favor, pickle your own olives and onions. It’ll take you all of a half-hour, and you’ll thank yourself with every sip.

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