Updated: Apr 21
This week’s blog is all about a brief introduction and overview about understanding the framework of making cocktails, in anticipation of a more detailed look over the next six weeks. For reasons that will become clear by the end of this post I will also explain the weird title of this post!
If you don’t already know, I have been videoing a personal weekly cocktail recipe for the last seven weeks During this time, I have become increasingly fascinated by the subject of cocktail and I am keen to “understand“ what makes a good cocktail. To this end, I have read and accessed much information and over the last few weeks and in doing so my eyes have been opened to a fascinating subject.
I will be delighted to introduce you to some of the sources I have accessed, this information being generated by some very clever, knowledgable and talented people who have undoubtedly trailblazer into the subject and I am simply following (and writing) in admiration.
How to be easily overwhelmed…?
In the anticipation of opening up the Aviator Gin Bar and in order to showcase the versatility of the gins that we make at the Herbal Gin Company, the weekly cocktail video idea was generated and I found myself having to learn about a subject I knew very little about, very quickly.
My relationship with cocktails up until recently wasn’t the closest. In particular, it was probably limited to a single cocktail on a night out before relying on “old faithfuls“ for the rest of the evening. Of course I knew about Singapore Slings, Daiquiris and Mojitos, but that was where my knowledge stopped. I had no idea what made up any of these cocktails. All of these books I was looking at had lists and lists and lists of different drinks.
To try these cocktails at home proved expensive if not difficult. All of them had recipes with specific ingredients that were often expensive and such recipes were pretty prescriptive - any deviation from the recipe appeared to run the risk of being blackballed by the “Secret Cocktail Society” if they ever found out.
Then there was the means of trying to remember all of these cocktails. In my medical career, exams were a part of life. In order to pass, I quickly learned that “parrot fashion” recall was never a good option for me. Not only were the facts usually forgotten within days but it was easy to become disheartened by not remembering a full list, soon leading to a feeling of dejection. I then also didn’t feel that I owned the information - I quickly felt controlled by the parrot fashion learning rather owning and understanding the information.
This soon proved true for my cocktail research. It dawned on me that I needed to understand the subject to allow me to learn it.
The skeleton of knowledge…
So, how was I to make it a creative process that gave me a grasp of the fundamentals, an understanding of the individual components and at the same time was fun, rewarding and practical with long-term benefits for the aviator gin bar.
The more I read, the more I understood that it was important for me not to pretend to be something that I was not.
Whilst I am an experienced doctor and I also feel confident with distilling gin after many hundreds of hours of reading, learning and soaking up information from the clever gin people we have met on our journey, I am certainly not an experienced, let alone qualified mixologist.
So that’s when I decided to find a skeleton that I could build upon to create a living knowledge.
The inspiration came from reading a book called Death & Co - written by a group of people who set up a fantastic bar in New York (and more thereafter - reference to follow). There are lots of other options out there I’m sure - but this one made sense to me. A real ‘eureka moment’!
These clever people describe 6 basic templates that make up the collection of drinks we call call cocktails. Just six - surely not - I hear you say……
My Daiquiri Should Help Flip Omelettes…..
What do you mean? We all have ways of remembering lists. Medical school quickly taught me the need to find quick ways to learn a skeleton on which to build my facts….such as the mnemonic for the eight bones of the wrist
“Some Lovers Try Positions That They Cannot Handle”
S = Scaphoid
L = Lunate
T = Triquetrum
P = Pisiform
T = Trapezium
T = Trapezoid
C = Capitate
H = Hamate
And so it was for the 6 groups of cocktails….
My Daiquiri Should Help Flip Omelettes….
M = Martini
D = Daiquiri (doh)
S = Sidecar
H = highball
F = Flip (doh)
O = Old Fashioned
And here’s the individual characteristics behind the skeletons
M = Martini = Gin, Vermouth, Garnish (lemon or olive)
D = Daiquiri = Spirit, Sweetness, Citrus
S = Sidecar = Spirit, Liqueur, Citrus
H = highball = Spirit, Sparkling liquid
F = Flip = Spirit, Sugar, Whole egg
O = Old Fashioned = Spirit, Sugar, Bitters
It’s as simple as that. Then, by seeing how people have adapted to make the more recognisable names and subsections of these 6 options - the fun will begin! I shall explain more next week.
Here’s to the next 6 weeks of exploring cocktails.