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Getting Crafty

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Getting Crafty
Photo by Rush Jagoe

All across the country bars are becoming speakeasies and bartenders are turning into alchemists. And while it will always be appropriate to order your favorite spirit neat or on the rocks, or fall back to your trusty G&T, it’s becoming increasingly common to order craft cocktails, each comprised of a hefty list of artisanal ingredients. The act of creating a cocktail has been heightened to an art form, and there are a few caveats that go along with this art. The right tools are instrumental to making your own drinks at home. Stephanie Burt supplies us with a few pointers, and Cocktail Club’s Jon Calo shares a great recipe that makes dipping our toes into the world of craft cocktails.

The Art of the Drink

  1. Proper Glass / Respect the spirits and use the glass made for each one—the drink will actually taste better. For example, a highball glass is short to hold ice, but not too much ice, against the drink. And it’s short because highballs are supposed to be strong. Not everything needs to go in those martini glasses you got for a present, no matter how funky you think they are.
  2. Proper Ingredients / Good in equals good out. You don’t expect Velveeta to be “real cheese” do you? So you shouldn’t expect that fluorescent-colored sugar water to be “real” lime juice. Look for quality products with natural ingredients. All of these bartenders have a garden of their own and often start there for inspiration.
  3. Temperature / This is a big category with considerations of room temperature vs. warm vs. ice, etc. Warm concoctions go in warmed glassware; cold concoctions go in chilled glassware. And some things are best room temperature. Then there’s the consideration of up vs. on the rocks—and if rocks, crushed, square, or one large cube. Hint: start with a classic preparation that you love and try to get it just right.
  4. Balance / If you start with sweet, think about sour. If you have heavy ingredients, consider light ones. Garnishes are made to be used in the drink, not sit on the rim while you consume it, and in the craft cocktail, the addition of the garnish is the final piece in the garnish puzzle.