Just as Diane has her prop collecting obsession, I have my own vice. Well, more like a double vice since most toss drinking into that classification. I am mildly bedeviled by making cocktails.
There is something exquisitely alluring in what has become a combination of ritual and swagger. A little James Bond, a dash of Esquire, and a jigger of Hemingway done up over ice. It may be a vice, but it is a savvy one for a man to have.
As far as my own style and ritual to cocktails, I aim to take care of the details without getting crazy about it. I care not about the newest and funkiest cocktail creations. Give me the classics added with a few sensible modern twists. I’m not going to infuse a batch of simple syrup with lavender or smoke for a cocktail I may make when the full moon happens to land on a Tuesday. But I do want someone to have one of our margaritas, sours or Sidecars, take a sip without any sense of great expectations, and then stop and stare in appreciation.
I want you to have one of my cocktails and be ruined for life knowing that unless you are somewhere that truly cares about its cocktails, you’ll never have another cocktail of that kind quite as good. Sometimes, nowhere near as good.
There is nothing secret or special about how I make cocktails. Like I said, I just take care of the details. Never being fully satisfied or full of my own knowledge, I am always learning or trying to be better at the things I love. Two years ago, I thought I made a mean blood orange margarita, as any guest to the house would concur, but compared to what I make today, they are not even in the same league. How is it better? The little details.
My biggest leap in cocktail making came after reading the book, Bitters. Once I started using bitters regularly in cocktails, any cocktail made without them seemed to lack depth. Combine that with using garden fresh citrus, now we’ve got a cocktail to light up the eyes.
The garden fresh citrus isn’t just for the romantic notion that homegrown it better. ‘Cause face it, sometimes homegrown is better, and other times “not so much”. Oh no, homegrown citrus is all about the oils in the rind. There are amazing flavor in those oils, however it unfortunately doesn’t take long after picking for those oils in the zest to be lost forever. But if you can get the fruit shortly after being plucked from the tree… Baby! After squeezing them, the oils release to the surface and completely saturate the outside of the rind. It is just one of those little details.
Other little details I do? Freezing my glasses. There is a shelf in our freezer solely dedicated to chilling a variety of cocktail glasses. A great cocktail should be very well chilled, and a frosty glass is ever so helpful. And I’m a little nutty about my ice. Between the three different sized round ice cube molds, two different square silicone ice cube molds, and the f*^&-ing swankest thing ever, a tray that makes clear ice blocks, I am obsessive with my ice. Its sexy and is has a star role in a good cocktail. Forget the swirly garnish to be tossed out of the way, give me a crackin’ piece of ice.
Finally, finish the cocktail in a glass that has some character. Whether that is from an old-fashioned glass made from recycled glass to a throwback champagne bowl, serve up that proper cocktail in a glass worthy. While Diane is scrounging the thrift shops and antique stores for bowls and boards, I’m hunting for cool cocktail glasses. Don’t tell Diane but I’m hunting for the boards too, they’re swank.
That’s it. A little obsessive, but hopefully haven’t crossed the line to crazy. Bitters, good fruit, ice, and glass. The details to a great cocktail without pushing the line into becoming a “mixologist”.
Here’s my re-make on our previous blood orange margarita after discovering the magic of bitters. We use a homemade tangerine bitter, but just about any orange bitters on the market are a great addition the the cocktail shaker’s concoctions.
Yield: 2 cocktails
Total Time: 5 min
See the post for more cocktail details. Make sure to get the freshest blood oranges you can, and toss a rind or two into the shaker when mixing. Depending on the sweetness of the blood orange juice, you may need to slightly adjust the amount of simple syrup in the margarita recipe.
Note 1: A basic simple syrup is a 1:1 ratio of sugar dissolved in water. example- One cup sugar dissolved in one cup of water. We usually make larger batches and keep on hand in the refrigerator.