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Let’s Get Small

July 10, 2009

Making cocktails requires a lot of ice.  I am always amazed at how much ice I go through when I am mixing up drinks.  An entire tray of cubes can easily be consumed by two cocktails in the Fussy household.

After all, ice goes into the glasses, with a little bit of water as well, to chill them down.  And additional ice goes into the mixing tin.  After everything is said and done, even more fresh ice may be added to the drink as well.

Some drinks get shaken.  Other drinks get stirred.  There is a difference, and you should know it.  If you don’t you can read all about it here.

And these days there is a lot being done with using different ice for different jobs.  My favorite example is the one very large glass-shaped ice cube used to cool down a short drink without much dilution.

But one goes through all of these orchestrations to satisfy one cardinal truth: cocktails should be cold.

Sure, there is the odd exception.  I’d argue for the Rusty Nail and Pink Gin as room temperature preparations, although some would say otherwise.  And then there are all of the drinks that are actually served hot, or even on fire.  But I tend to speak in generalizations.  Work with me here.

If in general cocktails should be cold, it goes to follow that cocktails should be small.

One doesn’t go through all of the work to get a cocktail cold, just to let it warm up again.  And if the drink you are holding in your hand is loaded with ice, it’s a ticking time bomb until it turns into a watery mess.

Yes, I suppose you could take a large cocktail, and drink it fast.  But then you are not really extracting all of the pleasure from it, are you?  It becomes a task, a chore.  And in general, when the cocktails are large, they tend to be made with inferior ingredients, like the dreaded prefabricated sour mix.

This topic does not get covered as widely as the portion sizes of chain restaurants and the fattening up of America.  But it is part and parcel of the same mindset.  When something comes in a significant quantity, even if it’s relatively expensive, it feels like a good value to some people.

The Cheesecake Factory is enemy number one in this regard, both in their food and beverage program (although I understand they now offer small plates – and I look forward to trying them soon).  Don’t ask what I was doing there, but when confronted with a specialty cocktail list of ridiculously sweet concoctions, I had an epiphany.  I’d order the Mai Tai.

First, I like the Mai Tai.  I drank them at the Formosa in Los Angeles before it exploded into what it is today.  I drank them at the original Trader Vic’s.  When I had a well-stocked bar that included orgeat syrup, I made them at home.

Second, I thought if I was in a place that specialized in ridiculous drinks, I should go with the flow, and get the Mai Tai.

It was a big mistake.  And it was a big drink.  The thing was tall, in a clear glass that was shaped like a hollowed-out piece of bamboo.  It was filled with the same large flat ice cubes that came in the water glasses.  And it was completely out of balance.

For a drink that large, the original recipe would likely call for three whole limes.  The waitress kindly brought me a plate of lime segments, and after squeezing them all into the bamboo glass, I was finally left with something close to drinkable, if still far from good.

If you are inclined to make one at home, I’ll submit this recipe:
2 ounces of dark rum
½ ounce of Cointreau
½ ounce of orgeat syrup
¼ ounce of simple syrup
The juice of a whole lime

Shake with ice, and pour over a glass filled with fresh shaved ice.

This is large enough for anyone.  And if you want more, feel free to make yourself another.  I won’t judge.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2009 11:41 am

    I could get down with a tall glass of mai tai… or really any kind of tiki drink.

    Ugh, also not a fan of pre-made mixes, especially when they are so easy to make. Even ahead of time.

  2. phairhead permalink
    July 13, 2009 9:00 pm

    White Russians should be served FREEZING cold and shaken.

    I once got a ridiculously large coctail at Koto and wanted to crawl underneath the table and die. Never again!

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