Quora Answer: What are the best sources for cocktail recipes (online or book form)?

This is another in a series recapping answers that I’ve given to various cocktail questions on Quora. This answer covers some liqueurs most people may not be familiar with that are useful for making interesting cocktails.

The question: What are the best sources for cocktail recipes (online or book form)?

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Quora Answer: What are some of the most unusual cocktails?

This is another in a series recapping answers that I’ve given to various cocktail questions on Quora. This answer covers some liqueurs most people may not be familiar with that are useful for making interesting cocktails.

The question: What are some of the most unusual cocktails?

There are a ton of options to put here, and I think the answer is heavily dependent on how deep you are in the cocktail scene already.  The original asker mentions the Mojito and Long Island Ice Tea, which suggests relatively basic knowledge of the cocktail scene and a desire to learn about things that can be easily made in most normal bars.  To cover this group and people with more experience, I’ve divided my suggestions into a couple tiers.

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Quora Answer: How do I make a cocktail?

This is another in a series recapping answers that I’ve given to various cocktail questions on Quora. This answer covers some liqueurs most people may not be familiar with that are useful for making interesting cocktails.

The question: How do I make a cocktail?

Making a cocktail is a pretty basic process, but there are definitely some things that you can do to make your mixed drinks stand above those mixed by a total novice.

  • Always measure – you can use a jigger (a small measuring device, often with a concial shape) or just a small measuring cup. Professionals often learn to free pour, but keep in mind that they’re using devices like mental timing or liquid levels in the glass to get fairly exact measured pours.
  • Use quality ingredients – squeeze your juices from fresh fruit, don’t leave your vermouth and other wine-like ingredients in the fridge for months, and buy good liquor.
  • Mix with ice – Nearly all cocktails should be cold when served, and the use of ice while shaking or stirring will both cool down the drink to a reasonable temperature and dilute the mixture somewhat. Most recipes rely on this dilution to achieve the desired flavor profile…otherwise you’ll end up with way too much heat on the tongue.
  • Shake or Stir – A general rule is that you should shake anything containing juice, cream, or egg. Anything with entirely alcohol components (e.g. spirit, vermouth, bitters drinks like the Manhattan and Martini) should be stirred. These aren’t hard and fast rules however. Stirring will usually leave the drink with a pleasingly clear appearance, which is why most people say to stir martinis. Shaking is essential for cream and egg drinks to get adequate mixing. Drinks that use egg should be given a “dry shake,” which means shaking the ingredients first without ice before subsequently adding ice and shaking again. Drinks that use both egg and cream need to be shaken for an extended period of time to ensure proper emulsification (e.g., the Ramos Gin Fizz).
  • Strain – It is typically best to not serve the drink with the ice that it was mixed in, because this ice has already begun to melt and will be reduced in size (and possibly crushed when shaking) and will melt much more quickly than fresh ice. Thus, the best practice is to strain the drink out of the glass that it was mixed in, leaving the old ice behind, into a new glass with new ice (if ice is called for). If you muddle anything in your drink, you should also use a fine strainer to make sure none of the solid pieces from the muddled fruit or herbs end up in the final drink.
  • Serve in a cold glass – It is good practice to pre-cool your glasses before serving so that your cocktail stays colder longer and any ice melts less quickly. This can be done by storing your cocktail glasses in a fridge/freezer, or putting ice and water into the serving glass before beginning to mix the drink.  The ice and water in the serving glass is then poured out before straining the cocktail into the glass (obviously).
  • Use the appropriate glass – This is less important compared to most of the other rules. A tall, thin glass should be used for drinks that contain carbonated ingredients like ginger beer or club soda. This minimizes the surface area at the top of the glass so that the drink will stay carbonated longer.  Old-fashioned glasses or tumblers are often used for spirit forward drinks without carbonation that require ice in the glass. Stem glasses are used when you are not leaving ice in the drink.
  • Garnish – In many cases, the garnish is an important flavor element in a cocktail. If a fruit twist is called for, it must be added.  When creating a twist, it is important to squeeze some of the essential oils from the fruit peel over the drink to get these flavor components into the drink.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and having the right tools is also important, but with just this you should be well on your way to making a great cocktail.

Quora Answer: What are some out-of-the-ordinary liqueurs and/or aperitifs that are useful in a lot of cocktails?

This is my first post in a series recapping answers that I’ve given to various cocktail questions on Quora. This answer covers some liqueurs most people may not be familiar with that are useful for making interesting cocktails.

The question: What are some out-of-the-ordinary liqueurs and/or aperitifs that are useful in a lot of cocktails?

Here’s a list in roughly the order I would buy them:

Maraschino Liqueur – This is a staple in many classic cocktails.  Luxardo is the standard brand, and comes in a fairly iconic bottle with a wicker wrapping. Sweet with a floral aromatic scent.

Campari – Needed to make the Negroni, Americano, Boulevardier, and a variety of other classic cocktails. It starts sweet and then becomes quite bitter, but the bitterness can be cut by a variety of other ingredients, especially orange flavors. I’ve heard it said that you need to drink Campari three times before you’ll like it, but it’s great once you get over that initial hurdle.

Chartreuse – This is an herbal liquer made by French monks. It is sweet, but not overly so, and has an excellent herbal flavor.  There are both yellow (80 proof) and green (110 proof) varieties, with the green having a stronger flavor. A little on the expensive side at roughly $50 a bottle, but worth it.  One of my favorite cocktails is a variant of the Sidecar called the Champs de Elysees, which uses yellow chartreuse in addition to the normal brandy, cointreau, and lemon juice. The Last Word is another popular cocktail that uses chartreuse.  If you can only buy one thing on this list, buy chartreuse (probably the yellow, as the green can be dangerous).

Creme de Violette – Tastes like you might guess from the name. A key ingredient in classic cocktails such as the Aviation and the Blue Moon. Not as useful as the above three liqueurs in my opinion, but nice to have on hand.

St. Germain – An elderflower liqueur that has become popular in the last five years. Has a pleasantly sweet taste that pairs well with almost anything. I think it’s too popular at the moment, which is why I don’t have it higher on the list.

Aperol – Related to Campari (above), but sweeter and not as bitter. Aperol is often used as a substitute for Campari in variants of the Negroni, for example, and may be even be mixed with Campari to offset some of Campari’s stronger flavors.

Fernet – An italian amaro with a very unique and complex flavor that is definitely an acquired taste. Cocktail snobs order this straight in bars, but there are many great cocktail options. You can see an interesting list here: Cocktails: What’s the best cocktail containing Fernet Branca?. Fernet Branca is the most common variety, but Luxardo also makes a version that’s available in the US.

There are a bunch more that I haven’t listed here for brevity: Benedictine, Cynar, Galliano, Ramazzotti, Pimms, etc.

Don’t forget to also buy orange bitters, if you don’t have them.