What is a Cocktail?
Drinks akin to cocktails first appeared sometime during the 16th century, but cocktails, as we know and use the term, was first introduced by American bartenders in the 1920ies.
The reason the cocktail made it big in the happy '20ies, was the prohibition, when producing and imbibing of alcohol was made illegal. As good as all spirits available was of a rather dubious quality and tasted accordingly. Thus, the bartenders, accommodating as always, started to mix the spirits with various fruit juices and other flavorings to make it more palatable. Later, the cocktail lost its popularity most places, the United States being the main exception.
The last few years, however, the cocktail has reclaimed lost ground everywhere, especially in southern Europe and other places that are full of tourists. Cocktails usually consist of three different 'classes' of ingredients.
Many different contraptions are manufactured for the making of cocktails. Some of these are useful, some can be definitely nice to have, and still others are totally and utterly useless. It is up to you to decide exactly what your cocktail equipment should be, but some things are essential.
First out of the essentials is the cocktail shaker. There are two basic types of shakers available. A European cocktail shaker is usually made out of metal, or glass with a metal top. It is, basically, a container which holds about half a liter, fitted with a top which closes tightly around the upper edges of the container. This top also has a smaller top, usually fitted with a built-in strainer, through which the shaken cocktail is poured. American shakers, however, consist of two cones about the same size. One is often often made of glass, and the other is metallic. These cones are held together to form a closed container, and the shaken cocktail is poured from either one. Most American shakers do not have built-in strainers, so if you use an American shaker, using a separate strainer is a good idea.
Measures, also known as jiggers, are also essential. Jiggers are most often made of metal, but glass jiggers are common, as well. The standard measurements of a jigger can vary widely, depending on where you are. In the recipes in the following articles, I will use a standard jigger of 30ml (appx. 1 fl oz).
In addition to the equipment mentioned above, you will find that things like these are nice to have, as well: Ice bucket, jugs, electric blender, bowls, etc. You should also have access to ordinary kitchenware, such as knives, corkscrews, chopping board, etc. You will also need stirrers (also known as swizzle sticks), straws, toothpicks, serviettes and cloths.
GlassesCocktail glasses come in four different basic types:
In addition to these glasses, some drinks, such as the Pina Colada, have special glasses. Unless you are really serious about mixing your cocktails, you don't really need to buy such glasses. Use glasses you already have instead. There are also other glasses available that will work just fine with cocktails. Use your imagination, but remember that plastic glasses (or shakers, jugs, mixing glasses, or other such equipment for that matter) should NEVER be used with cocktails, as it will make the cocktail taste of plastic. A cocktail is supposed to have a refreshing taste, not to taste like the inside of a used plastic bag.
Mixing a CocktailNot all cocktails are made in the same manner. Just as the ingredients may vary, there are several ways in which to mix a cocktail. The most frequently used methods are the following:
Almost all cocktails are decorated in one way or another, most often with some kind of fruit, but no matter the exact decoration, cocktail sticks are almost always invaluable. Cocktail sticks come in two types; Wooden and plastic. Wooden sticks are most often used, and are suited for just about any kind of cocktail, but they cannot be reused. Plastic sticks, however, should be carefully used, as they tend to give the cocktail a slightly artificial appearance. Unlike wooden sticks, plastic ones can be reused, but should be carefully washed and boiled first.
Cocktail sticks are, whatever the type, used for spearing slices of fruit, cherries, and just about anything else you care to decorate your cocktails with. Straws are also essential and go well with highballs. Straws should not be reused. The traditional cocktail garnish is, however, the red Maraschino cherries. These are used in just about any kind of cocktail, and are now also available in green, yellow and blue. In addition to this, slices of fruit, strips of orange or lemon peel, mint twigs, etc. can also be used.
One often used method of decorating cocktails is that which is called frosting. Frosting leaves an edge of sugar, salt, cocoa, or any other fine powder, on the rim of the glass. There are several ways to frost glasses, and one of the most frequently used of them is this: Rub the rim of the glass with a slice of orange or lemon, then submerge the rim in sugar or salt (or any other powder), just so that it lines the top of the rim. Other methods use egg white or other substances for 'gluing' the powder to the glass. For a more colorful frosting, use small drops of food coloring in the powder. With some cocktails, such as the Margarita, frosting is a 'standard' decoration.
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