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Cold Cocktails

May 13, 2011

This may not make sense to anyone living in more temperate climates. But I’m finally ready for cocktails that are shaken or stirred with ice. Now I recognize that this describes most cocktails. But drinks like pink gin, gin and it, and the rusty nail are staples of my winter repertoire mainly because they can be consumed at room temperature.

Mrs. Fussy even goes so far as to drink her Manhattans that way.

On one hand that is unthinkable, but then remember this: the winters here get so cold that no amount of furnace heat or layers of clothing can warm the frozen core of one’s being. Seriously, it gets really cold. And it’s cold for a long, long time. It’s not just a figure of speech to say that it chills you to the bone.

My own personal thaw started about a month ago on an unseasonably warm day, when I sat on a park bench and just soaked up the sun’s radiance. But now I’m fully defrosted, and I’m ready for my favorite cocktails.

Here’s a primer.

Ice matters. For the love of all that is good and holy, use fresh ice. Fresh ice? Well, some people leave ice sitting in their freezer for far too long. Don’t know if yours is fresh? Put an ice cube in a glass and let it melt. Now drink it. If it tastes nasty, your ice isn’t fresh. Dump it all out, and make new ice.

Use decent booze. I’m not going to insist that you use the best of the best of everything. That’s madness. But if you can step up a couple of bucks and avoid the rotgut at the liquor store, your cocktails will be notably better. After all, one of the primary purposes of the modern cocktail was to make nasty booze more palatable.

Use fresh juices. Get yourself a citrus squeezer. It makes quick work of lemons and limes. Bottled citrus is insipid stuff. So are store bought mixers. And I forbid you from even considering sour mix. Many of these things are a cinch to make, so if I ever hear that you bought simple syrup at the store, I’m going to smack you. Do you need to juice your own pomegranates? No, that’s crazy too. But I would highly recommend using store bought pomegranate juice to make your own grenadine. Even the premium Fee Brothers grenadine isn’t worth your time.

Get creative with syrups. If you want to add panache to your drinks, infuse simple syrup with things around the house. Black peppercorns, ginger, allspice, fresh or dried herbs, citrus peels, tamarind pods, or whatever inspires you. Putting a twist on a classic recipe has a much higher likelihood of success than trying to add a bit of this and some of that in the hopes of creating a new and superdelicious cocktail.

Don’t forget the bitters. Aromatic bitters are to cocktails what salt and pepper are to food. They season the drink, and really tie it together. It may sound like nonsense, but it’s true. Just try making two Manhattans, one with and one without bitters, and taste them blindly. You’ll notice how much difference two drops of bitters can make in a 3½-ounce drink.

Know when to stir and when to shake. Shake if your drink involves citrus juices or egg whites. Otherwise stir. If you are shaking a classic Martini, you are doing it wrong. And if you are adding something with bubbles, those go in at the end, after the other ingredients have already been stirred or shaken.

Taste the drink and correct for seasoning. A great cocktail is about balance. If it is too sweet add some more acid. If it’s too acidic add some more sweet. If the booze gets lost, add a bit more. If it needs additional complexity, add another drop of bitters. Every brand of booze is different, and responds differently with mixers. So don’t be alarmed if your preferred proportions for a Manhattan produce a sweeter drink when working with a new vermouth. Just add a bit more rye, and file that knowledge away for next time.

As for me, I’m just as excited as a kid in a candy store. It’s warm and I can start mixing drinks. I’ve already made my first batch of simple syrup. Don’t tell Mrs. Fussy, but I plan to make tamarind syrup too My citrus squeezer is out, and I’m enjoying some bracingly tart margaritas, just the way I like them.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2011 9:36 am

    I like margaritas so much that I find I don’t even care to try other cocktails in the summer. Which is silly, I know. What do you think I should try to tempt me away from my standard?

  2. ashallann permalink
    May 13, 2011 9:46 am

    Ahhh, I’ll be shaking away my fuzzy navels before you know it! Thanks for the ice tip, hate nasty ice but this is such a simple testing solution!

  3. May 13, 2011 10:41 am

    Thanks again for the mention. The thing I like about aguas ans syrups is that you can just as easily make a nice virgin drink with them as a boozy one.

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