The Cocktail Apprentice
Disclaimer: Before you read this, have a drink.
Imagine. "Thinking Out Loud" by the Mr. Sheeran is playing on the radio as you gaze into your lover's eyes over the rim of a well-balanced cocktail. That is my Sunday evening right now. I am playing with my fledgling knowledge, but I am in the same quandary as most. I don't know much about spirits, cocktails, or even what the Prohibition did to America beyond reversing freedoms and rights by a couple decades.
So why am I writing a blog about the wizardry of the bar tender? Because office skills of course! Never knock office skills. They get you the best jobs in the best of places. I recently was hired by Napa Valley Distillery. As a new hire, I have started to become educated under the tutelage of the masters, Arthur, Ian, Paul... Pretty much everyone here knows more than me. Hence, my title as the Cocktail Apprentice. So, while I am trying to develop this concept, I've discovered there's two major categories that, while the basics overlap, we will probably tackle in different posts. After today of course. Today, we gab!
We have to not be afraid to ask the questions, even the basic ones! There are no stupid questions. Knowledge is power, and the power we are entrusted with is to choose what our enjoyment is! Here's some questions I have had, maybe you have had them too.
Do you ever walk into a bar and fall back to the same ole same ole? Does Sex and the City still dictate your Friday night cocktail? Are you stuck in a college rut of fast shots and lack of balance... I am referring to the cocktail's symmetry and not the DUI test. (as always, I will stress drinking responsibly)* What about that budget adage to order beer or wine when you go out for a drink or two? Why is that considered advice? Is it because we get ripped off for ordering an adult beverage and it tastes like a juice box in our kids lunch? It’s aggravating and frustrating to pay $10-15 for a glorified fruit punch that doesn’t even leave that nice relaxed feeling. Are mixed drinks simply pocket padding for restaurants? Why do we, should we, even bother?
What about having friends over? Are we cursed to only serving blended margaritas and spiked punch for all of our house parties? My dilemma was that I had these amazingly crafted sprits by NVD (I thought this even before they signed my paycheck) AND I don't know what to do with them! I tried them straight at the tasting room, I have the recipes they send with the quarterly shipment and then what? They sit there and look pretty? I didn't want to end up like my mother and have bottles of booze in my pantry from the 3 decades previously.
So where do we start? I can be an impatient sort and thought that the best way to start is to begin with the most gratifying: making a drink.
So, this lovely Sunday night, I started the dive into experimentations and flirting with science of taste. Even before I indulged in alcoholic beverages, I knew what a cosmopolitan was; I thought that this would be a good start. I pulled out the vodka, but realized I was missing a vital ingredient. After a quick jaunt to BevMo and grabbing a bottle that said it was a natural cranberry & key lime mixer, I could finally get started. I followed the recipe on the back of the cranberry bottle.
Shake with ice, strain/pour. Garnish with lime wedge.
I poured it into my grandmother’s vintage cocktail glass, and because cocktails used to be smaller in her day, I had too much, so I split it with my husband. He and I both took a sip and made faces. The ratio of 2:1 wasn’t working for us, so 2nd lesson is improvise! I looked up the cosmo in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. It highlighted one missing ingredient. Orange liqueur...
3oz Mixer 2.5oz Vodka 0.5oz Orange Liqueur
Take lime wedge garnish, partially slice in half, run the slit around the rim of the glass. Leave as a garnish.
Shake with ice, strain/pour. (see image above)
It was so much better! The orange liqueur brought out something different in the cranberry, and the little extra vodka cut the sweetness of the juice. The initial tartness of the lime juice on the rim also helped out in the balancing. It was bliss. Definitely something I will make again on a hot summer night.
Three lessons of today:
1.) Have the basics
3.) Trust your palate.
All three of these lessons are inherently intertwined. I can’t wait to explore this more!
So that wraps up my inaugural post. It’s way too much fun to write up a blog like this. Feel free to critique or comment!
Until next time,
*Napa Valley Distillery always recommends drinking responsibly.