What NOT to do when making cocktails

Sometimes you can learn as much about how TO do something by learning what NOT to do. So this got us thinking, what are the telltale signs we spot when someone’s not an experienced professional? We’ve interviewed many bartenders for jobs over the years, and within seconds you can tell if someone has stretched the truth of what their experience behind the bar is.

Much of this comes down to the speed and fluidity of doing something thousands of times. Pouring from a bottle, using a jigger, stirring, shaking or knife skills. However, what we’re going to look at here are those more obvious moments of, “Oh no, why would you do that?!”

To be clear, there are multiple techniques or processes that will get you to the right end result. Over years of bartending, you become aware that there are more ways to do things than the first way you were trained. You work with different experts and you start to form opinions over which selection of techniques and processes you think are best. Then, as you become the one doing the training, you get to choose how your team will function and produce the recipes in your bar.

With that in mind, we’re going to avoid any personal preferences and go straight to the facts and science of what not to do, and why not, when making cocktails.

1. Never add ice to a cocktail shaker or mixing glass before the ingredients.

Why? As the ice sits there it’s going to start melting. This water will then collect in the tin or glass and be added to your drink. Of course, we WANT water added to a cocktail for balance when we shake or stir, but we also want to have a very tight control over how much water we add. The best way to do this is to always add your ingredients first, then, when you are ready, add the ice and shake or stir away. 

This also means that if you get distracted, the phone rings there’s no risk of ruining your drink. So, always wait until you are completely ready, then add your ice and go for it.

2. Never serve a drink without tasting it first

Why? If you ever watch someone make a drink for you and they put it in front of you without testing it, you know that they have no idea if the drink they have just served you is well balanced and delicious. They just assume that it is. When you’re making drinks there should be a level of anxiety on you that means that you never put a drink in front of someone before you have taste tested it. Ok, maybe you don’t need to test everyone’s beer, but you know what we mean! This is also why batched cocktails are so good for parties. 

You only have to taste test once, when you make the batch, to know that every drink being served is perfect!

3. Never shake a cocktail half-arsed

Why? Because shaking isn’t a performative ritual that you go through just because it says so. Shaking has a huge impact on your cocktail. Sure, it makes it cold and adds water to unlock the flavours of the ingredients, but it also forces air into the drink to change its texture. Imagine an Espresso Martini without that gloriously rich white foam on its top. Miserable! When you watch top level bartenders shaking cocktails, it’s done with feeling! So put your back into it!

4. Never half-fill a glass with ice.

The colder the ice is, the slower it’ll melt. This, very simply means that, if you fill a glass or tin with ice you quickly make that container and its contents very cold. The colder it is, the slower the ice will melt. 

To be fair, this is often a mistake made by home bartenders simply because ice is sometimes in short supply. To help you with this, we include an estimate of how much ice you’ll need for each recipe on a calculator. If you want to know how much ice you need for multiple recipes and multiple people, you can simply create an account and we’ll be able to help you with that! 

You always need more ice than you think. For when you just want to mix one or two drinks at home, our top tip is to store your shakers in the fridge filled with filtered water. That way you’ll always have ice that you can crack into pieces and use to shake or stir with, without eating into whatever ice you have in there for serving with. 

5. Never churn, stir.

If shaking needs to be done aggressively, then stirring is all about smoothness and flow. This is achieved by holding your spoon (or chopstick or whatever else you prefer to stir with) delicately with your finger tips, not stiffly in your hand or palm.This delicate grip allows you to nimbly move your fingers to allow your spoon to rotate as you take the spoon around the circumference of the mixing glass. This light grip and dexterity allows the ice to rotate in the glass as a single piece, rather than churning together the pieces of ice in a noisy, chaotic battle.

Although the worst that could happen are extra ice chips in your drink, if you churn your drinks ice is going to bounce out of your mixing glass, not only creating a mess but also a huge distraction when all you should be concentrating on is finding that perfect point of dilution. Check out the videos for the Dry Martini or Negroni to see how smooth the process of stirring should be. 

As always, don’t forget to show us what you made by tagging us!
@Candra_Drinks  #MakeBetterDrinks  #CandraDrinks

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