It can be overwhelming as you begin to dive into the vast world of cocktails. Where to begin? Is it worth the hassle? Am I doing something wrong? There are hundreds of questions and even more opinions.
Amid all of these questions, there are a few universal misconceptions that I'd like to dispel. Below are five common myths that you don't have to worry about anymore, so mix up a drink and enjoy!
01 of 05
Cocktails are Hard to Mix
This is the biggest misconception in the cocktail world and, while there are many drinks that are somewhat difficult, the majority are very easy to create.
The best examples here are the Margarita and the Daiquiri. These two drinks (as they were originally designed) have been mystified in a cloud of difficulty. A lot of this has to do with the over-marketed (often too sweet) ready-to-drink versions found in every liquor store that claim a great cocktail is just a matter of opening the bottle.... Yet, if you break each of these cocktails down, you will find that you need just three ingredients for each and from there it is simply pour, shake, strain. Done! A fresh, superior drink is in your glass using your preferred spirits.
Once you have the basic bar tools (even just a good cocktail shaker) and the ability to shake, stir, and strain (each very easy tasks), the world of cocktails opens up. You will find that mixing your own drinks is not only easy and quick, but fun and worth the little effort required.
02 of 05
You Should Like Every Cocktail
Do you enjoy all the food you eat? Every beer you open? Probably not and nothing says that you have to enjoy every cocktail either, even if it is supposed to be the 'best ever.'
We all have different taste and some prefer certain flavors or styles of drinks over others. Some drinkers are very picky, while others are open to anything that comes their way. And yet, just because we are open to it, doesn't mean that every drink is going to be to our liking.
Also, there are many cocktails... that are considered 'great' - the Martini, for one - but that doesn't mean that everyone is going to love them. In fact, everyone who has tried one probably has an opinion about the Martini - whether it's worth all the hype or not and, if it is, how to make it. Taste is subjective and that is the number one rule in the drink world.
If you like it, drink it. If you don't, then it's time to move on. There are plenty of cocktail recipes out there, so keep trying.
03 of 05
You Should Never Mix with Top Shelf Spirits
Phooey! If you have it and you like it, mix it.
Remember that many cocktails rely heavily on the base spirit and that is going to determine the quality of the entire drink. Therefore, it only makes sense to use a vodka, gin, rum, tequila, etc. that you really enjoy. These are the foundations of your drink and there is no reason to degrade the entire thing right from the start.
Cost is the biggest factor in this myth. Many drinkers simply do not want to use their $40 bottle of vodka for a Cosmopolit...an or enjoy their $60 bourbon straight and feel it is a waste to mix it, even in something as congenial as a Manhattan.
However, if you think about it, you're actually doubling the value of that pour of liquor because you are adding volume via the other ingredients. This prolongs your enjoyment and enhances your overall experience of your favorite spirits.
On the other hand, that $10 liter of vodka may be a great cost savings up front, but your drinks will suffer as well. If your decision is based solely on cost, drink less of the good stuff (your body will thank you in the end).
Sure, keep the really high-end stuff for straight sipping, but don't let its dollar value be the only factor that keeps you from enjoying it in a cocktail. You have it, use it!
04 of 05
Ice Is Just Ice
The most used ingredient in the bar is...? ICE!
Think about it, unless you are mixing a hot drink, almost every glass you fill from your bar requires ice. Ice not only chills your drinks, but it adds to the dilution which brings many drinks into balance, softening the spirits and marrying the flavors. In blended cocktails, it is even more essential because it becomes the drink.
Does that mean that you need to go out and pay top dollar for some 'artisanal' ice? Not at all! You can improve... your own ice by simply filling your ice trays with distilled water rather than tap and tossing out ice that has been in the freezer for a week or more.
At the bar, you have no control over the quality of your ice. The good news is that many bars and restaurants are realizing that ice quality does matter and are taking steps to improve the ice they serve.
This argument just covers the quality of ice. Ice is not as simple as that, though, and there are many more factors to consider when it comes to ice in your drinks... The Importance of Ice.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Soda Doesn't Matter
While we are on the subject of under-rated ingredients, let's talk about soda.
Today's soda industry is huge and there are a lot of choices available to consumers. However, all soda is not the same and some create superior drinks.
Case in point, the simple Gin & Tonic... It is an easy drink and difficult to screw up. You have a great gin - say Tanqueray No. 10 - and some nice, clear ice in your glass. Which tonic will you choose? A plastic-bottled, mass-produced, over-syruped tonic or... would you prefer a hand-crafted, perfectly balanced tonic water that won't go flat half way through the drink?
I know my choice because I've tasted the difference and I encourage everyone who enjoys these simple highballs to explore the lesser-known soda brands, particularly those that were created for cocktails like Fever-Tree and Q Drinks.
It only makes sense that if every other element in your drink is top-shelf, your soda should follow suit.