Let’s face it, everyone has a favorite drink. Even if you’re a novice to alcohol, you can recognize what tastes good to you, and what flavors you’d rather avoid. Though certain palettes can be developed over time, it takes a little experimenting and just a hint of risk-taking. When you encounter a perfectly crafted cocktail, you may not even notice the subtle elements involved in creating the taste of excellence.
It’s easy to mix liquor and juice or liqueurs, but how can you create an unforgettable beverage experience at home? When it comes down to it, many details shape your perception and enjoyment of a drink. From aesthetic reasons to matters of quality and temperature control, here are 6 ways to elevate your favorite drink, and make the perfect cocktail at home.
Choose Your Glass
Contrary to popular belief, the type of glass used for a cocktail isn’t selected just for its visual appeal. Glass choice is much more practical than that, and is based on a variety of factors including bouquet, liquid volume, and temperature control. Flutes are used for champagne to sustain the effervescence of the drink, while martini glasses are chosen for their wide brims and therefore increased fragrance. Selecting the correct glass will not only make it look more sophisticated, but will also enhance the temperature, scent, and overall flavor of your drink.
To use ice, or not to use ice- that is the question. For many cocktails that require champagne, ice should be avoided to prevent dilution and the flattening of the signature bubbles. Some drinks, like paper planes, should be shaken over ice and then strained to create the perfect temperature. That being said, a large majority of drinks benefit from the chilling effect and pleasing look of ice cubes. When it comes to cube creation, size is an important factor. For low-volume drinks, particularly liquor-heavy ones, try larger ice cubes to fill the glass even when you’re only using fewer than three ounces of liquid.
Select the Best Spirits
A poor craftsman blames his materials, but in the case of making a drink, the quality of your ingredients can make or break a drink. With things like juices and sparkling waters, it is typically easy to identify a high-quality product. For things like spirits, it can be a little more challenging. However, there are advantages to doing your spirit research, and you could find your next great whisky in the process. Selecting the highest quality liquor for your drink can be a confusing process, so comparing reviews and getting informed is a great way to staunch curiosity and embark on your drink discovery.
Ever wonder why bartenders stir rather than shaking a drink? The mixing method will change drink per drink based on the type of liquor the recipe requires, the amount of agitation required, and the suggested serving temperature. James Bond is seen as a real trendsetter for his “shaken not stirred” request because his typical drink is a vesper martini- a cocktail crafted with gin. Experienced bartenders know that gin doesn’t do well when shaken, as its top notes dissipate when agitated. Bond may look cool, but when trying to finetune your favorite cocktail you should always make sure you are mixing your ingredients properly to get the best taste possible.
The best kind of drink is a unique one, and that’s why there is ample room for creativity in drink creation. Love a classic cocktail but prefer a different type of spirit? Want to add a spicy or sweet flavor to your typical drink order? When crafting a drink, the sky is the limit! Adding fresh juices, or incorporating unusual infusions to the base of your drink will take it from humdrum to revelatory in seconds, and provide for a deliciously fresh experience.
The last thing to touch your drink before you get your hands on it is a garnish. Though garnish is technically optional, it can be the small touch a beverage needs to tie together the different flavor profiles. Additionally, garnishes can add depth, sweetness, bitterness, tang, or a fun textural element to a drink. This will not only make the cocktail taste better than usual, but it will also stimulate the visual senses. Visual presentation greatly affects the enjoyment of any consumable, so garnishes are instrumental to taking your drink to the next level.
Crafting the perfect cocktail isn’t rocket science, but it does require some finesse. By playing around with things like the temperature, look, and mouthfeel of your drink you can create something truly masterful. What is easiest isn’t always best, and by putting in a little extra effort you can easily elevate your favorite drink to match or surpass the fanciest bar in your neighborhood. With the 6 tips mentioned above, any drink will dazzle your taste buds as well as your aesthetic sensibilities, “wow” friends at a dinner party, or simply brighten your day.