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December 15, 2009 / kormanmatthew

Round of Drinks

Whiskey, vodka, gin, vermouth and a series of mistakes

As a final dash towards the end of the Fall 2009 college semester, I felt that I should at least go out with some style. Regular readers (irony here, if any) know that my affection towards the art of the cocktail has been growing stronger over the past several months. But, my weekly efforts contained little more than a single concoction that I had already had a taste for. So, using all that I have (or hoped that I have learned) about the drink-world I’m gonna try my own collection. Round of drinks for everyone.

But, before anything is said or done – know that I am of the legal drinking age. What I’m about to do is only advised for those that wish to try a variety of drinks in their own home – particularly those of an age where they have been able to experience much variety.

First, lets aim for some simple yet contemporary – The Martini. I often reference the excellent work of Esquire Magazine and their online drink catalog and cocktail expert David Wondrich, and this recipe remained no different. The martini, in the words of many, has been analyzed and described far more than any other cocktail. The drink’s origins, according to Wondrich arrived sometime in the late 1800’s, but its exact origins are traced back to around 1900, before prohibition was enacted in the United States.

At first, the martini consisted of a slightly rougher ratio for the taste buds; two ounces of dry gin to one ounce dry vermouth. Since then the ratio has been gone a little wider (as has the content of pretty much all aged cocktails). Famed New York City bartender Albert Trummer‘s recipe for a simple one, is as follows:

Ingredients –

(4) ounces of gin (Beefeater, or Bombay is preferred); (1) ounce vermouth; (1) Spanish olive; ice.

  • Fill a martini shaker with cracked ice and an ounce of vermouth. Stir the contents briefly.
  • Strain the contents out. Strain gin out and stir drink for around 10 seconds.
  • Serve in a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a Spanish olive.

Martini in a drinking glass. Cheap and classy at the same time.

The taste is essentially aged, and very dry. Often the classic variant of the martini is criticized, for well, it’s pure bitter and alcohol induced taste. But, when taken in its pure form, the dry martini is jarring in a way that would make those with weak stomachs cringe. Its allure and symbol evoke a style of simplicity and fortitude, making it stand among the cocktails in a bold, often misunderstood light. But to those who enjoy it, it’s pure enchantment in a glass.

The next try in the short-winded attempt at conquering the amateur section of bar tending school is a drink with a little more flavor behind it; the Whiskey Sour.

A more contemporary and dulled taste, the whiskey sour offers a more pleasant variety to those whose range is more, lets say, impaired. The recipe often does not follow the ordinary routes, so mixing it up is advised.

Whiskey sour

Ingredients –

(2) ounces whiskey (using Tullamore Dew); (3) ounces lemon or lime juice; (1) teaspoon of sugar; sour mix (optional).

  • Shake all ingredients with cracked ice.
  • Strain into a chilled glass.
  • Garnish with a maraschino cherry, orange or whatever fruit you like.

Sour indeed. The drink, which Wondrich refers to as “the cocktail in its undershirt,” is more flavorful, fun and fuzzy drink that seems to have more cause for a party than pure personal joy. This is not a detriment for the drink’s overall appeal, however. It’s easy to like and, more importantly, to fool around with the recipe. Different varieties of fruit juices and tastes can be added, and no peculiar alcohol is terribly necessary. There are several different varieties of the sour drink; rum sours, scotch sours, vodka sours – there are really no proposed limits for what should be in a sour. Just drink and have fun with it.

For our third drink in our short line, I’ll try my hands at a Cliquet. Cliquet is a French term that means “clicky thing.” But the drink is more suited in the style of an Old-fashioned. Obviously when I decided to aim for these recipes, I was looking for ordinary ingredients in college fridges, and when the cliquet recipe called for only whiskey, orange juice and rum, I had to jump in.

Ingredients –

(1 – 1 1/2) ounces of whiskey, rye preferred; orange juice; (1) teaspoon of rum

  • Mix all ingredients together in a small chilled glass with ice.

The cliquet, because of the orange blend, comes off as a tangy cream with the slight sting of whiskey, which can be a welcomed feeling to some and an off-putting one to others. But hell, most of the world’s cocktails have that same effect. If there ever were to be an early day drink, as much as the idea of it seems to connotate something, I don’t know, a poor decision. It’s very healthy, yes, with plenty of orange juice (if you add such an amount), and has a smoothness that fits in a lunch-time scenario.

Lastly, I’d like to go a simpler route and stick some of the ingredients I’ve already touched on; gin and orange juice. An Orange Blossom is impossibly simplistic, served in a cocktail glass with just equal parts gin and orange juice. Again, anything in a college student’s fridge would work here.

Reading the finer details here, you’d realize I’m describing simply “Gin &’ juice,” ala the hit 1992 single from Snoop Dogg. At this point, with the volume of attempts I’ve taken in, simplicity has become key.

Ingredients –

(1 1/2) ounces of gin; (1 1/2) ounces of orange juice.

  • Mix gin and orange juice
  • Serve in a chilled martini glass.

Orange Blossom, try again.

Well, this one turned out arguably bad – too much gin. Basically I made orange gin in a glass, which may be fine for some people but it wasn’t what I was aiming for. No smoothness, lots of punch and a very small amount of joy came out of my rendition of an orange blossom which I’d like nothing more than to forget.

So, four drinks down, among the several hundred I hope to learn and master in the oncoming years. Some success and some failure occurred in my self-made Round of Drinks project, but overall I’m more than satisfied with what I’ve experienced. The tastes of these cocktails, however, doesn’t precede me alone. Truly the test and vigilance of these tastes lasts among the true patrons of the “art,” as it is so deemed. And this “art,” for all its variants and reasons, has truly become an art over the last century.

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