By Dan Hoagland, Bar Manager Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant
(photography courtesy of: Troy Lilly)
1. Use the proper amount of alcohol
You may think that you are doing your guest a favor by adding more alcohol than is called for in any specific cocktail, but really, you are doing the cocktail a gross injustice by throwing off its balance. The favor you thought you were doing has rendered the cocktail undrinkable strong. Make the drink correctly, and your effort will be rewarded.
2. Listen to your guest
If a guest tells you that they are not a fan of tequila, don’t reply, “Oh you’re not? Let me change your mind!” All relationships are founded on trust, so trust your guest’s tastes, stay within their guidelines, and you will do just fine.
3. Include the garnish
Sometimes the Garnish is overlooked, but why? It is an important part of the drink, both as an eye-catching addition that dresses up your drink as well as an essential ingredient. The correct garnish is great for rimming the glass to give a hint of flavor on the first sip, or to give it a twist to release the oils and add natural bitters. You can also use the garnish and its oils to flame the cocktail, caramelize its oils and of course add the visual appeal of a flame. Lastly, garnish can be a snack before or after finishing the cocktail. Garnish goes a long way.
4. Use the correct form of ice
Never forget the importance of ice! Some drinks call for crushed, others for large cubes, or small cubes, large spheres, etc. Why are there so many different choices? Because each form works differently in their specific cocktail. The ice cools the cocktail, dilutes the drink differently depending on its shape, and works as a balancing agent that gives the cocktail its best flavor. Less ice does not make for a better drink, rather it can cause a drink to warm quickly and its drinkability is spoiled.
5. Respect the ice
This is pretty simple. If your ice is old or frost bitten, do yourself a favor and stay away from it. Why? Because ice absorbs and then imparts flavors that can spoil your cocktail. Who would want to ruin all of that delicious alcohol because of the ice? Keep your ice fresh, and you, your guests, and your cocktails will all smile in unison.
6. Don’t over use or over muddle your herbs
All drinks require balance to make them palatable. In that balanced equation is how you muddle any herbs, and how much of them you use. Over muddle and you are no longer just releasing the essential oils but crushing the herb and making it overly bitter. Add too many herbs and your drink becomes more of a garden than a cocktail. You don’t want your guest wondering if they are eating a salad instead of drinking a cocktail, right?
7. Use the correct glassware
All glassware serves a specific purpose. Their shape and design are made specifically according to the type of beverage you are serving, especially when it comes to cocktails. The wide opening of martini glasses best release the bouquet of the alcohol. Snifters are meant to keep the scent in the glass and are held by the palm to warm the contents and release its aroma. Seeing cocktails in the wrong glassware throws off the whole balance. Know your glassware, and it will make a big difference in the long run!
8. Don’t forget the bitters when bitters are called for
What is a Manhattan without Angustura? Or a Sazerac without Peychauds? Or a Bourbon Spice Rack without the Lavender and Cardamom? They would all be drinks that are thrown off because the balance of the bitters is missing. Bitters add a level of flavor that the drink requires; forget them and you might as well just forget the cocktail. It will not be remembered for what it should have been, only what it wasn’t, and nothing wants to be remembered that way. Especially the Bartender.
9. Show your love for the Cocktail and you shall be rewarded
Don’t just take the guests order, turn your back, make the cocktail, and then hand it to them. That is just too damn boring. And what about making a cocktail is boring? Nothing that I can think of. If you build a cocktail in front of the guest it gives you the opportunity to explain what is going into the cocktail, and show your passion for what you are doing, which will translate into the execution of the drink. Your guest will notice your effort, and everyone wins!
10. Always use a fresh glass
If a glass has lipstick, fingerprints, pulp, foam, and has been handled so much that you can no longer see through to the other side, that should be your first clue that a new glass is in order! Glassware is part of your artwork. You wouldn’t hang the Mona Lisa with a thumbtack; it needs its frame, and glassware is the cocktail’s frame!