Monday, May 23, 2016

Cocktail Bartending Tips and Tricks

I'm back, I have been a busy man creating courses and delivering a lot of in house customer service programs with different groups but mainly with those fantastic registered clubs around the country which is no excuse for not blogging more but hey, that's my excuse. 

An area that has become a prominent and extremely profitable part of the modern bar scene is cocktails. I hear you say "they never went away Bill". I know but bars are really doing some great things today and my liver has been getting a bit of exercise of late trying to keep up with the trends. 

If you are planning on expanding your cocktail list or starting one up then the few tips below will be a good introduction. 
Further blogs on types of cocktails and how much to charge will be following on later.

Just like cooking, mixing cocktails is not particularly difficult but does demand attention to detail. Use the tips below to ensure a great cocktail each and every time.

1. Cocktail recipe
Always read a cocktail recipe through to the end before starting so that you will not be surprised along the way.

2. Measurements
All recipes use the ‘shot’ measurement so that you can instantly see the proportions of each ingredient compared to the next. 
This is essential for understanding the recipe. In fact, a ‘shot’ can be any amount you like. Just make sure you stick to the proportions stated in the recipe and the cocktail will taste the same every time. The traditional shot measurement of 1 shot = 30 ml.

3. Juices
ALWAYS use freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice. There simply is no substitute. Roll the fruit before juicing to maximise the amount of juice and remember to double-strain cocktails containing fresh juice or you will never get the fruit pulp off your glass.

4. Ice
Use good quality ice cubes. They should be large, cold, hard, solid and dry and stored in a drainable container so that the melt water can be evacuated. The more ice you pack together, the less it will melt!
Crushed ice is ice that has been processed through a crusher or made by placing ice cubes in a tea towel and hitting them with a sturdy spoon or the bottom of a steel pan.

5. Pre-chilled glassware
Fill a glass with ice cubes and water and leave to stand while preparing the drink. Pour away the ice and water before straining the cocktail into the glass. You can also place the glass in the fridge for an hour or in the freezer for half an hour to chill it.

6. Thick sugar syrup (2:1)
To make thick sugar syrup, dissolve 2 cups of white sugar completely into 1 cup of hot water. Double sieve the syrup and keep it sealed in the fridge. It will keep indefinitely.

Equipment Required
For those of us that want to tackle the cocktail world with gusto and imagination we need the right equipment to look professional. Here are the basic things that aren't electric. A blender (not shown here) is also an essential piece of equipment.    

Bartending like baking is full of recipes, with the key to a perfect cocktail being the balance of flavours. Using a jigger to measure the ingredient guarantees this, the top 30ml and the bottom 15ml.


The shaker, synonymous with cocktail making and an essential.

1.   The Boston shaker – super popular, consists of a glass and a metal tin. The glass makes it easy to see what exactly you are putting inside, but can require a firm hand to separate it from its metal counterpart.

2.  The Three Piece shaker. Its built in strainer means you rarely get anything unwanted in your cocktail glass.

3.  The Koriko Japanese shaker - both pieces are completely metal so it resembles more of the Boston shaker. It’s ideal for reaching lower temperatures for drinks like Sours or Fizzes & a safer option to the Boston as the metal tins don’t break.

Most popular are the Julep strainer (back image) and the Hawthorne (front image).The Julep is the oldest style of strainer, usually used when straining stirred drinks, whereas the Hawthorne tends to be a favourite amongst bartenders due to the metal spring preventing unwanted fruit and herbs ending up in your drink.

Primarily used for stirring cocktails & assisting in obtaining various garnishes from jars.
There is a huge range to choose from, long, teardrop, trident, metal, gold, silver, bronze…etc.
Most importantly one end should be able to hold around 5ml of liquid with a long enough handle. 

LEMON SQUEEZER (aka the Mexican Elbow)
Now, this is a piece of equipment that once you start using it you can’t live without. Any drink that requires citrus juice, make sure you have your Mexican pal at hand.

MUDDLE (the green handle, main photo top)
Usually used to bruise fresh herbs, mush soft fruits or to break something hard (ginger root or dried herbs).

Every well-made cocktail is presented with a beautiful garnish, usually made by a small bar knife approx. 10cm long ideally with a serrated blade (so you’re less likely to lose a finger).

Now it's time to start creating or sourcing some great cocktail recipes but remember to keep the list pretty simple to start and expand it as your team gets their skills up. 

Happy mixing, Bill