by Andrew "the Alchemist"
Elemental Mixology is my approach to mixed drinks. It is based upon understanding the elements present in any drink. This approach was taught to me during my formal culinary education and I have applied it to drinks.
From an elemental point of view, there are six elements and six types of mixed drinks. Each of the elemental genres has its own character and presents a different type of drinking experience. The character and palate of any drink is largely a function of the elements present in the drink, and their relationship and proportion to each other. Some understanding of the effects of various methods of drink creation is advantageous. For example, stirring or shaking ingredients with ice will add a significant amount of the weak element in the form of water melted from the ice.
I have used traditional, pre-prohibition terms as much as possible that match elemental forms.
Elemental Mixology is my own unique approach, and I do not claim that all should follow it. But, I do believe that Elemental Mixology happens to restore much of the old understanding of drinks by their natures. That is lost under the modern approach of looking up drinks alphabetically, memorizing ingredients in de-jiggered amounts, and then learning to repeat the folklore of each drink – which will undoubtedly be called a ‘cocktail,’ regardless of its actual culinary nature.
There are seven elements in Elemental Mixology.
I. AROMATIC – Spices, Herbs, Zest, Bitters, Perfumes (such as orange blossom water).
II. SOUR – Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, Cranberry Juice (when pure and unsweetened), Vinegar.
III. SWEET – Sugar, Simple Sugar Syrup, Honey, Maple Syrup, Grenadine (pomegranate syrup), Raspberry Syrup, other Flavored Syrups.
IV. STRONG – All alcoholic beverage products except bitters. Strong products that are sweet can also act as the sweet element in some drinks.
V. WEAK – Flat Water, Plain Soda, Fancy Soda, Brewed Coffee, Brewed Tea.
VI. SUCCULENT – Fruit or vegetable juice that is considered fit for drinking without needing sweetening. The succulent element can also act as the
weak element in some drinks.
VII. THICK – Milk, Cream, Whole Eggs, Egg White, Egg Yolk, Condensed Milk, Coconut Cream. Milk can also act as the weak element in some drinks.
PLAIN & FANCY DRINKS
Any drink can be said to be either plain or fancy. The word ‘fancy’ may obviously be used in a number of ways. Jerry Thomas, in 1862, seems to have thought of the word ‘fancy’ mostly in reference to added garniture or fancy presentation. In contrast, George Kappeler, in 1895, always presents the word ‘fancy’ in reference to a drink that is sweetened with an ingredient that also has flavor beyond that of plain sugar, such as a liqueur. Kappeler’s ‘plain’ versions are always only sweetened with sugar or sugar syrup, if at all. This is evident when one compares his Brandy Cocktail with his Fancy Brandy Cocktail. Whenever Thomas and Kappeler do not agree, I tend to favor Kappeler.
In Elemental Mixology, a drink is considered plain if it is unsweetened or sweetened only by plain sugar or unflavored sugar syrup.
In Elemental Mixology, a drink is considered fancy if it is at least partially-sweetened by a nectar, flavored syrup, liqueur, fortified wine or aromatized wine. That is to say that fancy drinks are modified by an ingredient that is at least somewhat sweet and additionally-flavorful. Using Kappeler’s sense of the word ‘fancy,’ we can be even more precise by using the following distinctions:
Nectaredly-fancy – the drink shall be at least partially-sweetened by a modifying nectar (such as honey, maple syrup or agave nectar) or a modifying flavored syrup (such as grenadine, orgeat syrup or raspberry syrup).
Liqueuredly-fancy – the drink shall be at least partially-sweetened by a modifying liqueur.
Fortifiedly-fancy – the drink shall be at least partially-sweetened by a modifying fortified wine (such as Port wine, Sherry wine or Madeira wine).
Aromatizedly-fancy – the drink shall be at least partially-sweetened by a modifying aromatized wine (such as vermouth or quina).
Aqueously-fancy – the drink shall be at least partially-sweetened by a sweet, flavored, water-based beverage product, such as fancy soda (ie. cola-flavored soda or soft ginger ale).
These terms may seem a little verbally-clumsy to some, but there are no better or more-traditional terms that I know of to make these distinctions.
Drinks of any genre may be plain or fancy. The Rye Whiskey Cocktail is plain, while the Manhattan Cocktail could be described as an aromatizedly-fancy adaptation of it. Drinks may also be fancy in more than one way. For example, the Long Island Iced-tea is an aqueously-and-liqueuredly-fancy punch.
ELEMENTAL GENRES OF DRINKS
There is one genre for un-mixed drinks and six for mixed drinks.
THOROUGHBREDS – all drinks of unmixed alcoholic beverage products.
Standard and Irreducible Elements: Strong + Strong
Key Element: Strong
Ensembles are made by modifying alcoholic products only with other alcoholic products. They are sometimes garnished and occasionally sweetened, but never diluted. Diluting an ensemble will probably yield a sling-like drink.
The experience of drinking an ensemble should present the interplay between different alcoholic products.
Standard Elements: Aromatic + Sweet + Strong + Weak
Irreducible Elements: Sweet + Strong + Weak.
Other Occasional Element(s): Sour (accent), Succulent (accent)
Key Element: Strong
Pivotal Element: Aromatic
Slings are made of the strong element that is sweetened, diluted, and aromatized. Early slings often contained more of the weak element than the strong. With modern under-proof spirits, slings should generally be made with less of the weak element than the strong.
The experience of drinking a sling should present mainly the alcoholic product(s) it is made of, moderately sweetened, diluted to open the flavor, and aromatized to lessen the sensation of any harshness coming from the ethanol.
→ A. Juleps are herbed slings.
→ B. Traditional-form Slings are spiced slings.
→ C. Toddies are zested slings.
→ D. Cocktails are bittered slings.
→ → 1. Traditional-form Cocktails
→ → 2. Crustas are cocktails accented with a little juice (sour or succulent). Originally, a Crusta would have always been a liqueuredly-fancy cocktail accented with a little lemon juice that was garnished with the pared peel of half a lemon and sugar ‘crusted’ on the rim.
I have chosen to call all true cocktails that are accented with a little juice ‘Crustas.’ This will surely bother many mixologists and bar-tenders. It bothers me a little bit, too. But, there is no other traditional term that can generally apply to this elemental variant of the cocktail, and I grew weary of referring to them as “juice-accented cocktails.” With the punchward-drift that has occurred since prohibition, many modern recipes add enough lemon juice to turn the Crusta into a punch.
Standard Elements: Aromatic + Sweet + Strong + Thick
Irreducible Elements: Sweet + Strong + Thick
Other Occasional Element(s): Weak (usually in the form of method dilution)
Key Element: Thick
Pivotal Element: Thick
Possets are made of the strong element that is thickened, sweetened, and often aromatized. When a Posset is served cold it will also be weakened by method-dilution or ice.
The experience of drinking a posset should present the alcoholic product(s) it is made of, noticeably-thickened, sweetened, and perhaps aromatized for complexity of flavor.
→ A. Traditional-form Possets are dairy-thickened possets.
→ B. Flips are egg-thickened possets.
→ C. Eggnogs are egg-&-dairy-thickened possets.
→ D. Batidas are condensed-milk-or-fruit-cream-thickened possets (that are usually blended with ice).
Standard Elements: Aromatic + Sour + Sweet + Strong + Weak
Irreducible Elements: Sour + Sweet + Strong + Weak
Other Occasional Element(s): Thick (acting to thicken), Thick (milk acting as weak), Succulent (acting as weak)
Key Element: Sour
Pivotal Element: Weak
Punches are made of the strong element that is soured (usually with lemon or lime juice), sweetened, diluted, and often aromatized. The weak element in a punch should not dominate the drink. A punch should harmonize its elements without letting any of them dominate the drink. The old British proportions for punch were “one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak.” The traditional American proportions for punch is “two of sour, one of sweet, four of strong, three of weak.” Since modern spirits are under-proof and modern tastes are accepting of tartness, the traditional American proportions are the best starting point when making any punch, by the single serving or by the bowl.
The experience of drinking a punch should present a harmonious combination of its elements: sour balanced with sweet, strong balanced with weak, and perhaps aromatized for complexity of flavor.
Punch-ward drift: since about the time of prohibition, there has been considerable punch-ward drift. Mixed drinks that were originally made with only an accent of the sour element have been turned into drinks that are punches, elementally-speaking. For example, the Brandy Crusta which was originally made with only “a little” or a few “drops of” lemon juice are presented in modern books as containing half a fluid-ounce, or more, of the sour juice. Also, many drinks, like the Singapore ‘Sling’ (sic), Daiquiri, Sidecar, Margarita and Cosmopolitan were created with enough of the sour element to be punches – even though their creators undoubtedly thought of them as ‘slings’ or ‘cocktails.’ While this can be seen as a common lack of consideration-of (and intimacy-with) the elemental natures of various types of drinks, it can also be seen as a testament to the unwavering popularity of punch.
→ A. Aqueous Punches are diluted with water (or water-based beverages), and usually service and/or method ice.
→ → 1. Traditional-form Punches are diluted with added water (or water-based beverages), and method and/or service ice.
→ → 2. Fizzes are diluted with charged water and method ice (but not service ice) and are often thickened.
→ → 3. Swizzles are only diluted with crushed service ice.
→ → 4. Fixes are only diluted with method ice and service ice.
→ → 5. Sours are only diluted with method ice, and are occasionally thickened.
→ B. Milk Punches are diluted with milk, service and/or method ice, and occasionally charged water.
→ C. Juice Punches are diluted with succulent juice, method and/or service ice, and occasionally charged water.
Standard and Irreducible Elements: Strong + Weak
Other Occasional Element(s): Aromatic, Sweet, Sour (acting as accent), Succulent (acting as accent),
Thick (milk acting as weak), Succulent (acting as weak)
Key Element: Weak
Pivotal Element: Weak (or other element acting as weak)
Grogs are made of the strong element, used to flavor and fortify at least twice as much of the weak element.
The experience of drinking a grog should present the weak element (or other so-acting element) as dominant, being only flavored and fortified with the strong element.
→ A. Traditional-form Grogs are made with flat water, and originally contained no ice.
→ B. Hot Grogs are made with hot, flat water (or water-based beverages), and are sweetened and aromatized. Originally made as hot slings and hot toddies in the days of proof or over-proof spirits, these drinks can be thought of as grogs when made with modern, under-proof spirits.
→ C. Coolers (and Highballs) are made with charged water, or charged water-based beverages, and service ice. Highballs are coolers with only twice as much of the weak element as the strong. The highball name is borrowed from the old railroad highball signal, which the traditional single lump of ice imitated by floating to the top as the drink was made.
→ → 1. Traditional-form Coolers & Highballs
→ → 2. Rickeys & Bucks are juice-accented (sour or succulent) coolers. Rickeys are weakened by plain soda and bucks are weakened by fancy soda.
→ D. Milkballs are made with milk as the weak element, generally in highball proportions.
→ → 1. Old-fashioned Milk Shakes are milkballs made by shaking the drink with ice. They are often sweetened and aromatized.
→ → 1. Puffs are essentially old-fashioned milk shakes that are also charged with plain soda or fancy soda.
→ E. Juiceballs are made with succulent juice as the weak element, generally in highball proportions.
Standard Elements: Strong + Succulent + Weak (usually in the form of method dilution)
Irreducible Elements: Strong + Succulent
Key Element: Succulent
Succulents are made of the strong element mixed with an equal-or-lesser amount of the succulent element, usually involving ice.
The experience of drinking a succulent should present the alcoholic product(s) it is made of, flavored and moderately-weakened with succulent juice.
Succulent-ward drift: since about the time of prohibition, there has been some succulent-ward drift. Mixed drinks that were originally made with only an accent of the succulent element have been turned into drinks that are succulents, elementally-speaking. For example, the Bronx Cocktail was presented in 1908 as being made with bitters and only “about a baspoonful of orange juice.” It is presented in modern books as containing a full fluid-ounce, or more, of the orange juice – and without bitters. This yields a drink with a noticeably different nature than the original. Many drinks, like the Blood & Sand, the Harlem and the Orange Blossom were created just before (or during) prohibition with enough of the succulent element for the succulents to be seen emerging at that time as a genre – even though the creators of those drinks undoubtedly thought of them as ‘cocktails.’ The emergence of the succulents can be seen as taking advantage of modern distribution of various types of fruit to all areas of the industrialized world.
→ A. Old-Fashioned Fruit Smashes contain the juice of smashed solid fruit (or vegetable), and will often be served in crushed service ice.
→ B. Modern Succulents contain the ready juice of fruit (or vegetable), may be sweetened, and usually contain dilution from method ice.
Spirits are those products usually being as close to pure distillate as can be purchased. In the U.S.A., use of the words ‘spirit’ or ‘spirits’ is normally restricted to those liquors that contain little-or-no added flavoring or sweetening and that are not diluted to any point below 8o° (80 proof, or 40% alcohol-by-volume). This restriction does not apply to flavored spirits, which may contain considerable added flavoring (but no appreciable sweetening), and may be diluted to 70°.
Primary spirits – spirits that traditionally have their flavor unchanged by anything other than water-dilution and the wood they may have been aged in.
Primary spirits of wine – spirits distilled from wine. In the sense of alcoholic products, ‘wine’ is an Anglicization of the Latin word uinum., itself a Latinization of the Greek word oinos. In English, when the word ‘wine’ is used alone, it shall always mean fermented grapes. When using the word ‘wine’ to refer to other fermented fruits, the type must be specified – such as apple wine (a.k.a. cider), pear wine (a.k.a. perry), plum wine, and so-on. Primary spirits of wine are those spirits that are distilled from wine of any type – and that traditionally have their flavor un-changed by anything other than water-dilution and the wood they may have been aged in. Brandywine (meaning ‘burnt wine’ and usually shortened to just ‘brandy’), Cognac brandy(wine), Armagnac brandy(wine), apple brandy (including that from Calvados and ‘straight’ applejack), kirschwasser and grappa are all primary spirits of wine.
Primary spirits of beer – spirits distilled from beer. Beer is fermented grain. When the word ‘beer’ is used alone, it will always mean the modern, hopped product that is usually fermented from barley. Beer is an ancient beverage. For most of its history it contained no hops and was not carbonated. When the word ‘beer’ is used alone in labeling, it can be assumed to be hopped barley beer. Commercial wheat beer is also hopped. Sake is an un-hopped, un-carbonated rice beer. Even though it is just beer, strictly-and-historically-speaking, unhopped beer used in distillation is usually called ‘distiller’s beer’ to differentiate it. Primary spirits of beer are those spirits that are distilled from beer of any type – and that traditionally have their flavor un-changed by anything other than water-dilution and the wood they may have been aged in. All whiskies are primary spirits of beer – even whiskies that are made by blending one spirit of beer with other spirits of beer.
Primary spirits of toddy – spirits distilled from toddy. In the sense of alcoholic products, ‘toddy’ is an Anglicization of the Hindi word tari. It is the fermented nectar of the coconut palm blossom. When the word ‘toddy’ is used alone (and not in the sense of type of mixed drink by the same name), it shall always mean tari. When using the word ‘toddy’ to refer to other fermented nectars, the type must be specified – such as molasses toddy, sugarcane toddy, agave toddy, maple toddy, and so-on. Primary spirits of toddy are those spirits that are distilled from toddy of any type – and that traditionally have their flavor un-changed by anything other than water-dilution and the wood they may have been aged in. Ceylon arrack, Batavia arrack (even though it is fermented with a little rice), Thai arrack (even though it is fermented with a little rice - Mekhong™ is one brand), rum (traditional and light), cachaça, agricole rum and mezcal (including that from Tequila) are all primary spirits of toddy.
Secondary spirits – spirits that have been made by usually by maceration of flavoring material in neutral spirits and then secondarily-distilling flavorful spirits from them. Genever, gin, aquavit, absinthe, arak from the Near East (including that from Lebanon, Greek ouzo and Turkish raki), and all liquor from Germany called ‘geist,’ are secondary spirits. Cheaply-made compound gin and compound absinthe are not secondary spirits, as their flavors are merely added without any secondary distillation. They should be avoided.
Neutral spirits – spirits that have had their flavor reduced by multiple, neutral distillations. Vodka is a neutral spirit.
Cut spirits – spirits of one type cut with a greater amount of (usually-neutral) spirits of another type. Blended applejack is a cut spirit.
Flavored spirits – spirits of any type compounded with flavoring additives, but no additional sweetening. Flavored vodka, flavored rum and flavored whiskey are all flavored spirits. So-called ‘flavored brandy’ is virtually always liqueur and not a flavored spirit.
Cut-and-flavored spirits – cut spirits that are also flavored. Inlander rum (such as that made by Stroh™) is a cut-and-flavored spirit.
Liqueurs are those products made by sweetening (and often flavoring) spirits. In the U.S.A., use of the word ‘liqueur’ is normally restricted to those liquors that contain at least 2.5% sugar syrup (by weight in the finished product). Most liqueurs contain considerably-more sugar syrup than 2.5%. Many liqueur makers decline to offer details about what type of liqueur they produce or the methods they use. This is an attempt to promote pure brand identification. I believe that mixologists should have a more intimate understanding of the products they use than is engendered by thinking in brands.
Primary liqueurs – liqueurs made by sweetening primary spirits, but without adding any other flavoring. Some primary liqueurs of wine spirits have their flavor enhanced by some of the same type of fruit that was fermented and distilled to make their spirit base. Maraschino liqueur and several other European fruit liqueurs are primary liqueurs.
Secondary liqueurs – liqueurs made by sweetening secondary spirits. Curaçao liqueur (both traditional and triple-sec forms – being a sweetened secondary spirit of macerated orange peel), Cointreau™ (triple-sec Curaçao) liqueur, Chartreuse™ liqueur, Galliano™ liqueur, and pastis liqueur are all secondary liqueurs.
Flavored primary spirit liqueurs – liqueurs made by flavoring and sweetening primary spirits. Flavored primary spirit liqueurs must present flavor from their base spirit. Avoid flavored primary spirit liqueurs that are bottled below 60° – as there will be little, if any, flavor from the base spirit evident.
Flavored brandy liqueurs – liqueurs made by flavoring and sweetening brandywine. The best flavored brandy liqueurs are made from wood-aged brandywine. Cheap flavored brandy liqueurs are made from new, un-aged brandywine. Grand Marnier™ (orange-flavored), Cointreau™ Noir (orange-flavored), Marie Brizard™ Apry (apricot-flavored), and Bénédictine™ (proprietary) are all flavored brandy liqueurs
Flavored whisk(e)y liqueurs – liqueurs made by flavoring and sweetening whisk(e)y. Drambuie™ and various flavored Bourbon liqueurs are all flavored whisk(e)y liqueurs.
Flavored rum liqueurs – liqueurs made by flavoring and sweetening rum. Creole shrubb is a flavored new agricole rum liqueur that is so light in rum flavor that it makes for a good substitute for premium traditional Curaçao liqueur.
Ratafia liqueurs – liqueurs made by macerating material in spirits and then sweetening them. Macerations to make most ratafia liqueurs usually contain some aromatic material. Ratafia liqueurs may be made from either primary spirits or neutral spirits – with the flavor of the macerated material being most important. If there is any flavor from the spirit base, it must harmonize with, rather than dominate, the flavor of the macerated material. Therefore, ratafia liqueurs are often bottled at low proof, even when based of flavorful spirits. A few ratafia liqueurs are also creamed.
Heering™ (cherry ratafia – made with the aromatic cherry stones present), amaretto (apricot stone ratafia), Irish cream liqueur (low proof – the whiskey base subtly harmonizes with the aromatics), Saint Germain™ (elderflower ratafia), Domaine de Canton™ (ginger ratafia), falernum (spice, nut & lime ratafia), and limoncello (lemon peel ratafia) are all ratafia liqueurs.
Flavored neutral spirit liqueurs – liqueurs made by flavoring and sweetening neutral spirits.
Crème liqueurs – flavored neutral spirit liqueurs that are heavily-sweetened. In France, crème liqueurs must contain at least 40% sugar syrup. In general, it is advisable to purchase crème liqueurs from France over the cheaper American versions. Crème liqueurs are usually fairly-low proof – from 30° to 50°. This is due to the high amount of sugar syrup in them and is perfectly acceptable since there is no underlying flavor from the neutral spirit to be sought. Flavors of crème liqueurs include cassis (black currant), mûre (blackberry), pêche (peach), menthe (mint), cacao (cocoa), café (coffee – Kahlua™ is one brand), melon (Midori™), and anise (crème d’anis or anisette liqueur).
Huile liqueurs – flavored neutral spirit liqueurs that are less-sweetened than crème liqueurs. No liqueurs that I know of are labeled as ‘huile de’ at present. But, this type of liqueur, identifiable from nineteenth century sources, is still around. Some bottling of this type of liqueur will be labeled with ‘schnapps’ or other words. Huile liqueurs are bottled at slightly-higher proof than crème liqueurs. Berentzen™ Apfel Korn is a liqueur that might once have been called ‘huile de pomme’ (apple) liqueur. Malibu™ coconut is so low in proof that it does not present the flavor I would expect from a flavored rum liqueur, so I think of it as a ‘huile de noix de coco liqueur’ for mixological purposes.
Schnapps liqueurs – flavored neutral spirit liqueurs that are less-sweetened than crème liqueurs, but bottled at the same proofs as for spirits. The German word schnaps just means spirits, in the alcoholic sense. German schnaps may be either primary liqueurs or secondary liqueurs, but usually have noticeable flavor other than that found in brandy, whisk(e)y or rum. I believe that when large numbers of Germans immigrated to the U.S.A., they created demand for ‘schnaps’ that the American liquor industry satisfied by making flavored, high-proof liqueurs. The word ‘schnapps’ in the U.S.A. seems to have vague legal definition, and so many liqueurs are sold as ‘schnapps’ that are relatively low-proof. Low-proof ‘schnapps’ liqueurs should probably be avoided. Goldschlager (cinnamon-flavored), 99™ Peaches, 99™ Apples, and Rumpelminze™ (peppermint-flavored) are all traditional-proof ‘schnapps’ liqueurs.
Fortified wines are made by fortifying wine with a spirit – usually raw or new brandy. Fortification usually takes place during fermentation, which kills the yeast and halts fermentation before it is complete. Because they contain distilled ethanol, fortified wines can be seen as liquor, even though they are often used as normal wines.
Sherry wine – fortified wine from the area of Jerez, Spain. Sherry wines ranges from very dry to very sweet. Fino and manzanilla Sherries are very dry and light in flavor, making them good as aperitifs. Oloroso seco Sherry is dry, but richer enough flavor – which makes it good for mixing while controlling sweetness by adding sugar or not. Pedro Ximénez Sherry is very sweet and very rich in flavor – and is mostly used as a cordial, or occasionally as digestif.
Port wine – fortified wine from the Douro river area of Portugal. Port wines are all sweet, their varieties differentiated by aging and presence of lack of sediment in the bottle. Ruby Port is good for mixing, with the ‘reserve’ variety being considered better. White Port is also good for mixing. Vintage Port is good as a complex cordial. Late-bottled vintage Port, crusted Port and tawny Port are all considered inferior to a good vintage Port, but may have their merits.
Madeira wine – fortified wine from the Portuguese island of Madeira. Madeira wines range from very dry to sweet. Sercial Madeira is very dry and somewhat light in flavor. Verdelho Madeira is somewhat dry, but richer in flavor than sercial – which makes it good for mixing while controlling sweetness by adding sugar or not. Rainwater Madeira is not ideal, but may be used for mixing if verdelho is not available. Bual Madeira is sweet enough to be used as a cordial. Malmsey Madeira is very sweet and rich, and is used almost exclusively as a cordial – it was used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Aromatized wine is made by fortifying wine with a maceration of aromatic material in neutral spirit (or new brandy).
Vermouth – white wine fortified with a maceration of aromatic material in neutral spirit (or new brandy) that contains some wormwood. Vermouth is an old German word for ‘wormwood.’
Sweet vermouth – vermouth that is sweetened with caramelized sugar. Even though it is mostly brown, sweet vermouth is called rosso (‘red’) in Italian and rouge (red’) in French. Sweet vermouth was formerly called ‘Italian vermouth.’
Medium vermouth – vermouth that is sweetened with un-caramelized sugar. It is called bianco (‘white’) in Italian and blanc (‘white’) in French.
Dry vermouth – vermouth that is not sweetened, or only minimally-sweetened, relying mostly on the sweetness of the wine used to make it. Dry vermouth was formerly called ‘French vermouth.’
Quina – red or white wine fortified with a maceration of aromatic material in neutral spirit (or new brandy) that contains some cinchona. Cinchona is the source of quinine.
Rouge quina – quina made of red wine. Dubonnet™ Rouge and Lillet™ Rouge are rouge quinas.
Blanc quina – quina made of white wine. Dubonnet Blanc™ and Lillet™ Blanc are blanc quinas.
Bitters are traditionally made by maceration of aromatic material in spirits. They are also sometimes made by blending the maceration with an infusion (in water) of similar aromatic materials.
Additive bitters – bitters that should contain no sweetening, are often relatively high-proof – and that are meant to be used in small amounts.
Aromatic additive bitters – additive bitters made of proprietary blends of aromatic material. Angostura™ Aromatic, Boker’s™, Fee’s™ Aromatic, and Peychaud’s™ are all aromatic additive bitters
Other additive bitters include; orange (peel), lemon (peel), peach (stone), cherry (stone), cacao (cocoa bean), rhubarb and celery.
Grand bitters – bitters that usually contain some sweetening, are often relatively low-proof – and that are meant to be used in larger amounts, or as thoroughbreds. Grand bitters are usually proprietary. Aperol™, Averna™, Calisaya™, Campari™, Cynar™, Becherovka™, Jägermeister™, Picon™ Bierre (bitters for beer), Picon™ Club, Torani™ Amer (the best substitute for no-longer-produced old-formula Picon™ Amer), Zwack™ Unicum, and any brand of fernet branca (Fratelli™ being the most common) are all grand bitters.
SOME BASIC TERMINOLOGY:
Aperitif – a beverage drunk to stimulate appetite. Aromatized wines and grand bitters make excellent thoroughbred aperitifs. Some mixed drinks are also good aperitifs.
Cordial – a beverage drunk as dessert or part of it. Cordials are usually sweet. The fact that many liqueurs may be used unmixed as cordials could be the reason why the word ‘cordial’ is taken to be synonymous for ‘liqueur’ in the U.S.A. Even some mixed drinks make excellent cordials.
Digestif – a beverage drunk aid digestion or settle the stomach after a meal. Brandy and some bitters are thought to be good thoroughbred digestifs. Some mixed drinks are also thought to have digestif properties.
Dirty – an instruction to a two barspoons, or more, of olive brine to a pre-method drink.
Down – a drink, mixed or not, that is served in a tumbler.
Dry – lack of sweetness, or less-sweet.
Fancy – a drink that is at least partially-sweetened by a modifying ingredient that is both sweet and presents additional flavor.
Garnish – to add an ingredient that is used mostly accent or decorate an otherwise finished dish or drink.
Garniture – anything that is used to garnish with (like furniture is used to furnish with).
Goblet – a drinking vessel that has a stem.
Liqueur – liquor that is sold containing at least 2.5% sugar syrup (by weight in the finished product).
Liquor – a beverage product(s) containing any appreciable amount of distilled ethanol.
Neat – a single, unmixed beverage product served at about room temperature.
Method – any of the major methods for combining or modifying drinks.
Method ice – ice that is in the volume of about one-half of a fluid ounce. Ice in this size has agreater relative surface area than service ice. This allows for more effective chilling and dilution when applying method, such as stirring or shaking.
Misted – a drink, otherwise-mixed or not, that is served with crushed ice in it.
On the rocks – a drink, otherwise-mixed or not, that is served with service ice in it.
Plain – a drink that is either unsweetened, or sweetened with plain sugar or simple sugar syrup.
Prohibition – in the U.S.A., the period of time when the Volstead Act was in effect. This was from the beginning of 1920 to nearly the end of 1933. Prohibition is commonly blamed for a decline in mixology and the art of American bartending. This is somewhat true. But, in my opinion, the decline actually started around 1910-1914. That is when American bar books first appeared listing various types of drinks with the common feature of being served ‘up’ alphabetically under the heading of ‘cocktails.’ I believe that this was an image-driven – much like the modern practice of calling every drink served in the conical cocktail goblet a ‘Martini.’
Service ice – ice that is cubed and in the volume of one fluid-ounce (also having one-inch sides), or larger.
Spirit – liquor that is sold at 80° (40% alcohol-by volume) or higher, that is either unsweetened or only slightly-sweetened. Flavored spirits may be sold at 70° (35% alcohol-by-volume).
Straight (as a labeling term) – a term that (in the U.S.A.) means a spirit that is not blended with another neutral spirit, and that has been aged in contact with wood for at least two years.
Straight (as a service term) – a single beverage product served chilled. In lay speech, ‘straight’ is also used to mean ‘neat.’
Straight-down – a combination of the meanings associated with ‘straight’ (as a service term) and ‘down.’
Straight-up – a combination of the meanings associated with ‘straight’ (as a service term) and ‘up.’ In lay speech, ‘straight-up’ is also used to mean simply ‘up.’
Tablet ice – a very common size and shape of ice that is not ideal for mixed drinks. Tablet ice used as service ice will make for watery drinks. Tablet ice is somewhat acceptable for use as method ice.
Tumbler – a drinking vessel that has no stem and rests on a flat of beveled base.
Up – a drink, mixed or not, that is served in a goblet.
Vessel – the vessel that a drink is served in, and drunk from.
BASIC PORTIONS – THE CUP, THE GILL, THE JIGGER:
In traditional, pre-prohibition, American bartending, any mixed drink should be made from the same amount of alcoholic product that would be served if un-mixed.
The traditional portion of beer is the cup, or 8 fluid-ounces.
The traditional portion of wine is the gill, or 4 fluid-ounces.
The majority of mixed drinks, however, are based on liquor, for which the traditional portion is the jigger, or 2 fluid-ounces. The device used to measure this amount, or parts thereof, is also called a jigger. The following quotations indicate the pre-prohibition meaning of the word jigger.
George Kappeler – Modern American Drinks – 1895: “A jigger is a measure used for measuring liquors when mixing drinks; it holds two ounces. A pony holds half a jigger.”
Cuyler Reynolds – The Banquet Book – 1902: “Jigger. — The contents are equivalent to 2 ounces”
C.W. Williamson – The History of Western Ohio and Auglaize County – 1905: “The quantity varied from a jigger (two ounces) to sixteen jiggers per day, and the contractor who offered the greatest number of jiggers per day was able to secure the largest number of hands.” [This excerpt is from the portion of the book covering the construction of the Erie canal]
The American fluid-ounce is virtually-equal to 30 milliliters. Thus the traditional American jigger is virtually-equal to 60 milliliters.
When making a single-portion mixed drink with multiple liquors according to pre-prohibition practice, their total volume should still be 2 fluid-ounces. This allows for advantageous selection of service glassware, along with familiarity and control over proportions of alcoholic-to-non-alcoholic ingredients.
Sometime during or after prohibition, the art of proportioning multiple liquors within the 2 fl-oz. jigger was largely-abandoned and mostly-lost. I think that it should be restored. Unless sheer inebriation or the maintenance of alcoholism is the goal, 2 fl-oz. of liquor will contain plenty of alcohol for one mixed drink. This traditional amount also presents enough volume for mixing liquors in just about any desired proportion.
The simplest way to jigger two liquors into a single-portion mixed drink is to use a pony [1 fl-oz. | 30 ml.] of each, which yields a drink that can be described as ‘one-to-one.’ Many pre-prohibition drink books indicate this proportion for any drink made of two liquors. For modern tastes, other proportions can be more desirable.
For a ‘two-to-one’ drink, 1-1/3 fl-oz. [40 ml.] of the base liquor should be modified with 2/3 fl-oz. [20 ml.] of another liquor.
For a ‘three-to-one’ drink, 1-1/2 fl-oz. [45 ml.] of the base liquor should be modified with 1/2 fl-oz. [15 ml.] of another liquor.
For a ‘five-to-one’ drink, 1-2/3 fl-oz. [50 ml.] of the base liquor should be modified with 1/3 fl-oz. [10 ml.] of another liquor.
For a ‘seven-to-one’ drink, 1-3/4 fl-oz. [52.5 ml.] of the base liquor should be modified with 1/4 fl-oz. [7.5 ml.] of another liquor.
When making a drink with equal parts of three liquors, 2/3 fl-oz. [20 ml.] of each is appropriate.
Many other variations are possible and often desirable. Some drinks are made of 1 fl-oz. [30 ml.] of the base liquor modified by 1/2 fl-oz. [15 ml.] each of two modifying liquors. Other drinks are made of 1/2 fl-oz. [15 ml.] each of four liquors.
When adjusting proportions between spirits and sweeter liquors (such as liqueurs, fortified wines or aromatized wines) within in the traditional jigger, one must be aware that the sweetness of the finished drink can be greatly affected. Many ‘one-to-one’ or ‘two-to-one’ drinks are not additionally sweetened with sugar or syrup, while some ‘seven-to-one’ drinks are.
When a liquor is added to a drink in any amount of less than 1/4 fl-oz., its function is usually more as accent than modifier, and need not be measured as part of the 2 fl-oz. jigger.
There are a number of named techniques used to compose mixed drinks.
BUILD – the ingredients are poured or deposited directly into the vessel that the drink will be served in. Building is acceptable when the ingredients of a drink will readily-mix as they are poured and when chilling, dilution and aeration are not important – or when the amount of chill and dilution that will come from service ice is sufficient. Building a drink is also best when the ingredients should remain is separate layers.
MUDDLE (or TRITURATE) – some ingredients are broken down with a wooden muddler (a.k.a. sling stick, toddy stick) so that they will readily mix with other ingredients.
STIR – the ingredients are poured or deposited into a mixing glass, where they will be stirred, usually with ice. When stirred with method ice, a drink will be mixed, chilled and diluted – but not noticeably-aerated. Stirring is best when aeration is not wanted and a fairly clear drink is desirable. Maximum chill is achieved by continuously stirring a drink with method ice for about one-minute-and-forty-five-seconds. After that, the drink will not get any colder.
CHURN (OR SWIZZLE) – the ingredients are churned, swizzled or rapidly stirred, usually with crushed ice. When churned with crushed ice, a drink with be mixed, chilled and diluted, and moderately-aerated. Churning is best when a drink should be rapidly chilled, but less aerated than with shaking and less incorporated with the ice than with blending.
SHAKE – the ingredients are poured or deposited into a mixing tin, where they will be shaken, usually with ice. When shaken with method ice, a drink will be mixed, chilled, diluted, and aerated. Shaking is best when aeration or emulsification is wanted and a cloudy drink is acceptible. Maximum chill is achieved by vigorously shaking a drink with method ice for about fifteen seconds. After that, the drink will not get noticeably colder, but will become increasingly-aerated.
TOSS – the ingredients are poured, or tossed, between two tumblers or cups to mix and moderately-aerate. Tossing can be done with ice to chill, or without ice to avoid chilling. Once a common method, tossing is now rare.
ROLL – the ingredients are poured or deposited into a mixing tin, where they will be ‘rolled’ by turning the sealed mixing gently end over end a few times, with or without ice. Rolling is best when ingredients should be mixed, but not aerated. Rolling also helps maintain the texture or charge of some ingredients and may be considered the mixological equivalent of culinary ‘folding.’
BLEND – the ingredients are poured or deposited into a mechanical blender, where they will be blended, usually with crushed ice. When blended with crushed ice, a drink will be mixed, chilled, diluted and aerated. Maximum chill is achieved quickly in a mechanical blender and much of the crushed ice remains frozen, so that the drink itself will be very cold when served, and will remain cold. Blending is best when a very cold drink is wanted in which a large amount of still-frozen crushed ice is acceptable.