Creating Your Own Signature Cocktail: Here's a Few Tips on How to Do It
Who hasn’t wanted to walk up to the bar and say “Martini. Shaken, not stirred”? The notion of having a signature cocktail that’s identified only with you is a powerful one and one that writers have used for decades to create memorable characters. Signature cocktails can take the form of a unique recipe or a particular method of preparation ala James Bond’s martini or it can derive its individuality from the vessel it’s served in, like the copper mugs of the Moscow Mule. The good news is that you don’t have to be Ian Fleming or Ernest Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald to create your own signature cocktail. It’s actually easier than you think and there is one surefire way to approach it.
Do a Cover Version
More hit songs than you can count owe their success to an earlier version written and performed by someone else. Taking someone else’s idea and making it your own is an approach as old as the human race and one that works just as well with cocktails as it does with pop songs. In fact, if you are really dedicated to the notion of creating a signature cocktail either for yourself, your bar or for some special occasion there is no easier, better way than riffing on someone else’s creation.
For instance; if you want to create a martini of your own all you need to do is swap out one of the ingredients - say the vermouth - for something else - say Lillet Blanc. In fact, one of the simplest but most enduring variations of the classic martini came about when someone had the mad idea of dropping a couple of spoonfuls of olive brine into the drink. With one simple motion the now infamous dirty martini was born. Today, an increasingly popular way of creating a signature cocktail is to do a variation on the Moscow Mule. As a result there are now dozens of regional and holiday-based variants on the original cocktail and its Moscow Mule mugs out there with new ones seemingly popping up on an almost weekly basis. So go get yourself some copper mugs and have at it. The possible variations are almost endless.
Keep in mind too that variations on established classics don’t necessarily need to feature different ingredients. Sometimes all you need to do is tweak the quantities. For instance - sticking with our martini theme - instead of swapping out the vermouth for Lillet Blanc just increase the amount of vermouth. Or, for your Moscow Mule variant, double the amount of vodka and reduce the amount of ginger beer.
Establishing a Few Ground Rules
Regardless of whether you decide to create your signature cocktail by doing a variation on a theme or by starting entirely from scratch you’ll need to keep some basics of mixology in mind to ensure your efforts don’t descend into chaos. Here are few ground rules to keep up front:
- Not just any old ice will do - The ice you probably use in your cocktails at home is likely different in character than what you’ll get in a cocktail at a fancy-pants lounge. Why? Because you use tap water and they don’t. The ice they’re using was either made by them using pure spring water or purchased from a company that uses spring water or water that’s been filtered and boiled. As such it doesn’t have all the additives the city includes in tap water to make it drinkable.
- Enough with the ingredients already! - Some novice cocktail creators, bless their hearts, approach a recipe as though it were an opportunity to finally use all those liqueurs that have been gathering dust behind their home bar for years as well as the entire contents of the fruit drawer in the fridge. The fact is however, that like most things the best cocktail recipes are simple. Typically no more than 3 ingredients. You can stretch things to 5 ingredients if you really have to but that should be the outer limit. There’s no good that can come from pushing this particular envelope any further than that. Keep in mind too that the foundation spirit in your cocktail shouldn’t exceed about 1 ½ ounces.
- Shaken or Stirred? Is there really a difference? - The great debate about whether a martini tastes better shaken or stirred - or if, in fact, there is actually any difference at all - is one that has intrigued mixologist from time immemorial. Science has even taken a shot at trying to answer the question and the only difference they could find was that shaken martinis tend to have more antioxidants than stirred martinis. Is that going to make a difference in taste? Probably not. As a general rule though you’ll want to shake cocktails that contain fruit juices and stir everything else, including straight cocktails like the martini.
A Word About Tools
You won’t have much success creating your own signature cocktail if you don’t have the proper tools at hand with which to experiment and create. So here is a list of requisite bar tools to invest in:
- A jigger or other bar measure
- A cocktail shaker
- A juicer of some sort
- A strainer
- A Muddler
- A mixing spoon
In addition, a cocktail needs to be delivered in the proper vessel so make sure you acquire some martini glasses, copper mugs, shot glasses, cocktail glasses, highball glasses, copper cups and any other cocktail vessels you can get your hands on.
And that’s it. These things are all widely available and are not going to break your bank. So spend a few bucks and get the right tools for the job. Your tastebuds will thank you.
Creating a signature cocktail of your own is largely a matter of using someone else’s creation as a point of departure and imbuing it with your own personal touches. Keep the above tips in mind and you’re sure to come up with an outstanding signature cocktail of your own.