Cocktails – Why you should rediscover them.
Cocktails are schizophrenic. Dressing up cheaply, with too much makeup, they dress in cream and large pieces of fruit, they are sweet but deadly this way. They hang out at hotel and beach bars, in the Costa’s of this world, unashamedly luring in the young with cheap thrills. Bizarrely, they then slip into something more demure, stripping back to wear little black dress glasses, elegant and honest. When this happens, you can find them talking politely in the best bars of Europe.
Gross generalisation, but you get my point, they seem to be one thing, or the other, with nothing in between. We pushed them out of the door, somewhere in the late 1950’s, and have not let them back in, where they could be good friends with vino and beer. What did they do wrong?
I love cocktails, in every costume they wear. As a young bar Manager, I persuaded my brother to run a small bar at the end of our servery one night, to promote them. The night was a memorable one, perhaps I will tell that story another time. Every book I have read on cocktails always gives a brief history of how the cocktail was born. None of them are the same! America stakes it’s claim. Ask any American, they will tell you, in no uncertain terms, that the cocktail was an entirely American invention. But exactly what, beyond the ice, is so American about a drink of British gin and Italian or French vermouth mixed by an Irish or German immigrant? The evidence mounts in favour of the cocktail having far more British roots than previously thought.
The books also call for a long list of bar equipment and eight or more different glass shapes. The average person does not always have all the ingredients immediately to hand and a bottle of grog is more expensive than a bottle of wine. STOP RIGHT THERE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
- Equipment. I have a couple of shakers – from charity shops- an old rolling pin I use to muddle, and I use normal spoons.
- Glasses. It is all about the size of the drink, rather than etiquette. A delicate martini should be savoured, not gulped down, and would get lost in a large glass. A pina colada, needs something bigger, to hold its fluffy volume. It is about presentation, not taste. I am rather obsessed with collecting glasses from charity shops and so have amassed a cupboard full of them very cheaply. However, cocktails taste just as good from a standard wine glass.
- Cost. A bottle of wine, at say $10, will yield 5 glasses, so $2.00 a glass. A 1.0L bottle of white rum, at $40 (I buy on special for less or trade my points in for liquor vouchers, is that bad?) will yield 30 nips, so $1.12 each. By the time you add another nip of something and a mixer, it’s all square. Math is not my strong point, but it looks like drinking cocktails does not have to be more expensive. The secret is, when you have a little extra in the pocket, buy a bottle of something. Also, friends are quite happy to give me that odd bottle of Galliano they have left over from Christmas, in exchange for a bottle of wine. Oh, maybe not now.
So, now all the excuses are out of the way, I will ask again, why don’t we let cocktails back in? Guys, I guess there is that whole ‘dandy’ image. In ordering an Aperitif, you are likely to be kicked out of the beer drinking circle of men. How ironic then, that the very manly Romans were great cocktail drinkers, although it did involve turps. The hardened cowboys too, as a respite from exploring the frontiers, sipped on a mixed drink or two, or four.
I guess the straws, cherries and umbrellas are akin to cushions on a made bed, for a man. Not necessary and in the way, but if you make a mixed drink at home, leave that stuff out and do not tell your mates. It is just a small step up from an acceptable G & T.
I hold up the cocktail shaker and say let them in, because they are clever, tasty, easy on the eye, and make the taking of alcohol a special event. A little jewel to hang on the end of your work week. Hosting a cocktail party does not mean you have to speak posh, wear tight fitting clothes and make small things on plates, although you can, I’ll come. You can supersize your cocktails. Oh yes, we did.
Go forth and shake, pour, strain, build, layer, float or muddle your way through those forgotten guys lurking in a dark place somewhere. Let there be light. Anyone can open a bottle of wine.
I will be posting all my favourite cocktails, starting with the must drink Cosmopolitan. Can’t wait to drink it.