Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tools

Bar spoons, mixing glasses, and shakers.These three instruments are going to be your new best friends come time for making delicious cocktails. Let's start with shakers. They look like this, or this, or this. Those are the three major ones you'll find any bar. The two first shakers will consist of a large tin cup, and either a smaller tin cup or a 16oz mixing glass. The large and small tin combo is known as a two-piece shaker. The large tin and glass combo is known as a Boston Shaker (even though it's not really affiliated with Boston in any historical manner). They both act the same essentially: you build the ingredients in either the small tin or mixing glass, then add ice, then cover with the larger tin. The third shaker is known as a Cobbler Shaker and works the same way but is a three-piece shaker with a built in strainer. Some notes about shaking: I recommend always shaking with two hands so you can shake harder and faster without losing control of the shaker. Always shake away from the people at the bar and shake with the smaller end facing you, just in case something goes wrong the mess will be on you and not them. And never shake carbonated liquids like soda or sparkling wine. Check this video out: [video].

Now for mixing glasses and bar spoons. These will be used to stir cocktails. Some cocktails, like Martinis, Manhattans, Negronis and the Martinez are stirred instead of shaken. The general rule of thumb is, if the cocktail is comprised of all alcoholic spirits (i.e. Gin plus Dry Vermouth to make a martini), then you stir. If it's got juices and other non-alcoholic mixers and syrups or cordials, then you shake in order to better mix the denser ingredients together. Of course a guest can always request a martini shaken instead of stirred or a manhattan can be "bruised" (another term for shaken) upon request, but if it isn't requested, you stir it. Stirring will take practice just like shaking will. You'll find your technique eventually but the idea is to use very fluid wrist movement and your stirring arm should remain immobile. Most barspoons [image] have a spiral neck to help spin in between your fingers so you don't have to crank your hand in large rotations like you would if you were using a large mixing spoon. The idea is to keep the convex part of the spoon (the back of the spoon) against the inner wall of the mixing glass as it makes several revolutions within the glass. Like this: [video]. When stirring drinks, it's important to stir for at least 30 seconds. This is required for the proper amount of dilution. Stirring isn't as rough as thrashing around liquids and ice cubes in a shaker so to get the proper amount of water into the cocktail, you need to stir for a longer time.

Strainers.
There are a few strainers you should familiarize yourself with before you head behind the bar. The Hawthorne strainer [image], the Julep strainer [image] and the Tea Strainer (sometimes referred to as a mesh strainer or fine strainer) [image].  They each, of course, perform the same function: The allow the liquid to pass while preventing ice and other debris from passing. They just have differing applications. The Hawthorne strainer is perfect for straining out of your shaker. It sits nicely over the large tin, and the spring rolls into the inside of the tin or glass to filter the ice as the liquid is being poured. The prongs on the sides will stabilize it against the lip of the shaker or glass. If you are shaking a drink that is being served "straight up", or without any ice, you will need to use the fine strainer in conjunction with the Hawthorne strainer to keep all the ice shards out of the cocktail as the hawthorne doesn't keep out the finer, smaller chips of ice. The Julep strainer is a bowl shaped, one piece strainer that is used mostly when straining from the mixing glass. The convex part of the strainer will face upward, and the tail will over hang off the back of mixing glass. Bonus tip: If you want to remain true to the classic method, keep the bar spoon in the mixing glass while you strain.

Muddlers, Jiggers and Pour Spouts.
The next set of tools are somewhat self explanatory. Muddlers are used to press fresh ingredients like lime wedges, mint leaves and kumquats into your shaker/glass. Cocktails like the Mojito and the Caipirinha call for muddling their ingredients. The point of muddling is to extract and combine the juices and aromas of the ingredients to better mix them with the alcohol and other ingredients. It's important to know the difference between muddling and crushing though. A mint leave will produce a wonderful aroma and flavor when pressed but if you crush and break apart a mint leave it turns bitter and ruins a drink. Just remember your aren't grinding or pulverizing the ingredients, just pressing. Jiggers look like this [image]. They are tools for measuring your pours. I like my jiggers to be 1:2 ratio (i.e. .5 ounce/1 ounce, .75 ounce/1.5 ounce, 1 ounce/2 ounce). A lot of people have the misconception that when a bartender uses a jigger, it means he or she is too inexperienced to free pour. That's nonsense. Jiggers ensure consistency and accuracy. Professional bartenders all around the world use jiggers to make sure the cocktail is made perfectly. You wouldn't expect a chef to measure in cups and tablespoons and teaspoons with out measuring tools would you? Pour spouts are little spouts you put on your bottles to help the pouring process. It creates an even, steady flow of liquid so you can easily measure and stop the pour without making a mess. Ever try pouring alcohol without a pour spout into a little jigger? If you aren't very careful it all comes rushing out at once and you spill. Pour spouts prevent that. But even pouring take practice. When pouring, make sure you end the pour without "rooster tailing" all over the bar or spill mat.

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