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Paykoc's Guide to Basic Cocktail Techniques

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Mixing a cocktail seems like a pretty simple process: just select your liquor, select your ingredients and dump them all together in a glass. While there are a few cocktails that don’t call for much more than that they are in the distinct minority. Most cocktails require a comprehensive knowledge liquors/liqueurs, an understanding how they work with and off of other ingredients, knowing when to shake and when to stir and how to find a balance that enables the taste sensations you want to generate. You won’t become the world’s greatest bartender by simply reading this one article but you should be able to obtain a knowledge base you can build on.

What’s in Your Cocktail Glass or Copper Mugs?

Just as Michelangelo had to learn the proper techniques to paint the Sistine Chapel you need to learn the proper techniques involved in creating a true cocktail. Below we’ll explain the most common terms and then we’ll go through the process of creating a true cocktail.

  • Liquor or Liqueur? - Liquor is an alcoholic beverage (spirit) such as vodka, whiskey, gin or rum. Every cocktail has a base liquor that the rest of the drink is composed around. Liqueurs on the other hand are liquors that have been sweetened with various flavors and are typically used to complement the base liquor.
  • Layering - Each liqueur has its own weight and some recipes call for taking advantage of this by floating a liqueur on top of the cocktail or sinking it to the bottom. The liqueur with the least alcohol in it will be the heaviest and the one with the most alcohol will be the lightest.
  • Simple Syrup - Simple syrup is little more than an ultra-saturated mixture of sugar and water that is added to some cocktails to take the edge off and heighten the fruity flavor. Simple syrup can be bought premade or made at home.
  • Shaken or Stirred? - Cocktails made exclusively of spirits need to be stirred in order to mix properly. Exactly how much stirring is required for different liquor combinations is something only experience can teach you. Shaking on the other hand is typically called for when a cocktail contains fruit juices, cream or eggs.
  • Blending- When a recipe calls for blending it’s calling for the use of an electric blender to create a smooth amalgam of (usually) fruity ingredients. Ingredients that won’t break down simply by shaking. In some cases your recipe will call for ice to be placed in a blender.
  • Muddling - Muddling is the process of crushing certain ingredients such as mint garnishes or some fruits in order to maximize their flavor potential. It’s typically done with a pestle though the back of a bar spoon can be used instead.
  • Salting the Rim - Some cocktails call for the rim of the glass to be salted. This is done by turning the glass upside down onto a wedge of lemon, lime or other fruit. Once the rim is wet with the sticky fruit juice it is pressed down into a plate of salt and turned a bit to achieve an even look.
  • Straining - Some cocktail recipes call for straining. Most shakers come with strainers but when a drink calls for straining you have to make sure you use ice cubes and not crushed ice, which will either make it through the strainer or simply clog it up.
  • Straight Up - A drink is considered to be served “straight up” when it has been chilled, had the ice strained out and is served in a chilled cocktail glass.
  • Frosting - Some cocktails call for the glass to have a frosted appearance when served. This is typically achieved by putting the glass in the freezer for a time or submerging it in ice.
  • On the Rocks - Any liquor served from the bottle over ice in a glass is considered ‘on the rocks’.

So now that we have a better idea of common cocktails terms and their meanings let’s go through the basic process of creating a true cocktail.

  • Don’t think too much - Most cocktails can be broken down into three components: the spirit, the mixing technique and whether ice is involved or not. Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be by overthinking the process.
  • Always use the right vessel - If you’re making a martini serve it in a martini glass. And if you’re making a Moscow Mule or one if its many variants always use copper mugs. If you don’t have any Moscow Mule mugs you can get them from our secure online store.
  • Start with the mixers - In most cases you’ll want to add the other ingredients before your expensive spirits. If a cocktail requires you to add the liquor first it will say so in the recipe and make sure you follow the instructions.
  • Seek balance - Cocktail recipes are like food recipes: they’re intended to achieve a balance of ingredients to create a certain taste sensation. Most drinks seek a balance between sweet and sour ingredients and use different ends to that means.
  • Don’t shake when you should stir - You’re not going to shake your Moscow Mule before pouring it into your copper mugs. You’ll stir it lightly once everything has been added to the mug. Likewise you’re not going to stir a margarita or other fruity drink. How you shake or stir is also important. Don’t over shake or under-stir your cocktail unless you want a tasteless mess.
  • Don’t use discount liquor - You get what you pay for when it comes to cocktails. Discount booze will produce discount taste while brand name spirits will put a smile on the faces of your guests. But don’t go overboard. Remember that the highest quality liquors are largely intended to be appreciated on their own.

Mixing the perfect cocktail is a matter of using the right ingredients, mixing them the right way and making sure you serve them in the right vessel, such as copper mugs. Use the above tips to elevate your cocktail game this outdoor season.

Paykoc Copper Mugs

Copper Mugs

Check out our wide selection of premium copper mugs in all the sizes, styles, and quantities you can imagine. Custom engraving or embossing also available.

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