Tips to becoming the mixologist at your next party
Making a drink is like making a cake: It takes some mixing, requires just the right ingredients and if you don’t follow the recipe your friends will end up spitting it out.
The Daily Sentinel’s Web Content Editor Richie Ann Ashcraft and I can make cake. A drink, though? That was another story.
Knowing nothing about mixology beyond how to stick vodka, ice and 7-Up in a glass (voila!) was becoming a problem for us. We wanted to impress party guests and our husbands by knowing how to whip up a decent cocktail. But looking at drink recipes online that called for everything from Aperol to Zubrowka and every bitter, berry and liqueur in-between was discouraging.
Richie was adventurous and tried some of these multi-ingredient recipes but, she admitted, they never came out right.
So we decided to enlist the expertise of Michelle Nelson, a bartender at Mesa Theater and Lounge, 538 Main St., to teach us the basics and a few drink recipes for our next bash.
First lesson: measuring.
The size of a shot varies by bartender, from a fluid ounce and a quarter to a fluid ounce and a half of liquid (a half shot, depending on who you ask, can be 1/2 ounce, 3/4 ounce or a long fraction in-between). A jigger measures a shot on one side and a half shot on the other.
Not measuring alcohol while preparing a drink is about as dumb as making cookies by dumping equal parts sugar and flour into a bowl. Various measurements help offset or accent elements of the other ingredients. These are all things I did not know and good reasons why people buy drinks from Nelson, not me.
More helpful tips from Nelson:
1. Placing ice and soda water in a martini glass to chill it before you dump that concoction and put in the real stuff is a great way to keep a martini cool.
2. If a recipe looks daunting, substitutions are allowed. Try agave instead of simple syrup. No Cointreau in the liquor cabinet? Try Triple Sec. Chambord too pricey for one recipe? Try Raspberry Schnapps.
3. The difference between top-shelf alcohol and the alcohol that goes into a well drink tends to dissipate once you mix in juice or soda. But some people insist there is a difference. Start at the bottom and work your way up if you’re not sure what brand you like.
4. When shaking a martini, shake it until your hand almost feels frosted to the tin, glass or whatever material of shaker you’re using. A strainer top looks nice, but placing a glass upside down over the shaker allows you to really shake the cocktail to perfection.
Girded with these tips and the three recipes below that we tried ourselves and miraculously succeeded at making taste delicious, hopefully you, too, will be able to make your own party cocktails the next time you entertain.
Why not give it a try on New Year’s Eve? Champagne is for amateurs.SEXY ALLIGATOR