The first and most important secret to crafting perfectly balanced cocktails begins with the mother of all secrets: keep it simple!
Some of the best cocktails in the world have no more that 3-4 ingredients. However, what they do have in common, is a focus on the quality of the components, rather than a long ingredient list.
My second secret to perfect concoction creation is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money building a home bar. The real key to mixing impressive cocktails is all about how you use the products you have on hand.
The Essentials List
In order to create a basic home bar to work with, I recommend the following, which I consider to be the essentials:
- Mid to Top Self Vodka such as Kettle One or Absolut
- A Craft Gin; with a complex array of botanicals
- Sweet/Rosso Vermouth
- White Rum like Flor de Caña or Bacardi
- Herradura Tequila Reposado
- Whiskey; I’m partial to a Blended Scotch and/or an American Honey Bourbon
- Massenez Crème de Violettes
- Mastiha Liqueur
- Orange Bitters
The next essential component of crafting killer cocktails is king ice cubes. You can purchase king ice cube trays on Dan Murphy or most specialty spirit retailers. Before using any ice, however, take care to insure that they are fresh and don’t have freezer burn or odours which will adversely affect the cocktail’s taste.
In terms of essential equipment, you don’t actually need too much. A Boston shaker, a double ended jigger with 30ml and 15ml pours and some plastic straws for taking test samples are the key pieces of equipment to have in your home bar set up.
For your solid ingredients, only use fresh herbs and garnishes, remove any seeds from your citrus and use organic pasteurised egg whites if you’re making an amaretto or whiskey sour.
The Secret Ratio
A rule of thumb I use to create a classic vermouth cocktail that is remarkably delicious and consistent, is the ¾, 1 ½ & ½ ratio which works like this…
¾ of a shot of Sweet/Red Vermouth
1 ½ of a shot of Any Spirit of Choice (Tequila, Vodka, Gin, Whisky etc…)
½ of a shot of Any Sweet Liqueur
Experiment with this ratio by substituting your favourite Spirits, Vermouths and Liqueurs! You will be surprise how robust this rule is and how many different types of cocktails you can conjure up. With this fool proof ratio, you get the fun of playing around with different flavours and the balance always remains intact. Once all the ingredients have been combined in your shaker, add a few ice cubes and give it a vigorous shake for about 20 seconds. Let it sit in the ice cubes for another 20 seconds, then strain and serve in a cocktail glass with the garnish of your choosing.
My favourite of this ratio has to be the “Princess Rossa”; spicy, subtly sweet, with a smooth vanilla and citrus base. Named after the mother drink, Montenegro, which was first created for Princess Elena of Montenegro.
The Princess Rossa
The Perfect Princess Rossa is as follows:
¾ of a shot of Cinzano Rosso or Arancita Rosso
1 ½ of a shot of Montenegro Amaro
½ of a shot of Mastiha Liqueur
Another secret for creating signature cocktails, is to try to focus on pairings that aren’t so similar. Most botanicals or fruits in the same family share many of the same essential oils and your drink will come out tasting a little one sided if you use parings that are too closely related. For example, adding an Anise Liqueur with a fennel based Spirit will give you a double dose of Anethol, the oil in this family of herbs, and can be a bit overwhelming.
Unusual parings like Violet Flower (Massenez) and Citrus, Bitter Gentian (Campari) and White Sparkling Wine, Coconut and Rhubarb and Chocolate and Cinnamon, work really well when paired together.
My last secret to crafting perfectly balanced cocktails is to venture out and try your own flavour combinations! If you stick to the rules above, you will have a solid foundation for exploration that will result in fun and creative concoctions that are sure to create a buzz for your budding mixologist talents!
Enjoy! And happy mixing!