A Year in Cocktails

The year 2021 went away fairly fast considering most of us are still grappling with resolutions from a year ago. While it seemed to slow things down, it also afforded us time to introspect and revisit interests past.

One such hobby that many people seemed to have been smitten by was making cocktails at home. Okay, there was also sourdough, and let’s not forget that pain-in-the-arm, Dalgona coffee, but mixing fine drinks with a multitude of flavours and a deft sense of balance did manage to catch the fancy of many a home enthusiast. So just in case, this is (or was) on your list of resolutions, here are a few mixed drinks you can try at home. Sure you will need to ammo up the stash before committing to these but it’s “hard work” that’s totally worth it.

Daiquiri: Let’s start simple, with ingredients that are always around the house – sugar, lemons, and ice. That’s what a Daiquiri needs, that, and some white rum. Shake it all up and serve it strained in a cocktail glass. To me a Daiquiri is a great example of how the best of tastes needn’t be complicated and can be concocted with the simplest of ingredients.

Margarita: Similar to a Daiquiri except for two (tiny) differences—replace the white rum with Tequila and the sugar syrup with some Triple Sec. And you are all set to take a trip to Mexico. Personally I much prefer tequila (or Mezcal) to vodka or gin (which, if I may so quip, is just vodka with makeup) so a Margarita to me, in many ways, is like a Daiquiri with Tequila instead of gin. This principle I carry over to many similar drinks – replacing the spirit with Tequila to make it more (or differently) flavourful. Some examples where you may try this swap—Whisky Sour, Gin Rickey, Negroni, Mojito. As long as the flavours don’t clash, please keep experimenting.

Martini: The Martini is a fairly simple recipe, equal parts of gin and dry Vermouth, stirred over ice and served strained into a Martini glass. The ‘Bond version’ requires you to swap the gin with vodka and shake the ingredients rather than just stir them. The difference in taste (apart from the change of spirit) is that shaken Martinis tend to taste a tad thinner as all that vigorous shaking can break down the ice which then melts into the drink. There exist many more variations of this drink – from adding some olive brine (Dirty Martini) to replacing the lemon twist garnish with a pickled onion (Gibson). Change the brand of Vermouth or the ratio (1:1) and again you are putting a twist on the classic. A Martini is perhaps one of the best aperitifs out there and, in spite of the seemingly simple recipe, it can be a very tough drink to get right. For me, it’s the chill factor that’s important. A Martini that is not as cold as the heart of your ex will seem too heavy on alcohol and unsavory. A good one will go down like mother’s milk and make you thirst for another.

Negroni: This drink is equal parts of Campari, red Vermouth and gin, all stirred together with ice before being strained and served up with a twist of orange. It is a potent mix with three types of alcohol, so the stirring is vital to bring in some dilution (by melting some of the ice into the drink). But it’s also meant to be sipped gently before a meal and makes for a banger of an aperitif.

Old Fashioned: For this last one, we go back to where it all began. The first cocktails were nothing but a spirit mixed with some water, sugar and bitters. Later when mixology techniques advanced and became more complex, involving many ingredients and mixing techniques, people would still ask for a cocktail the ‘old fashioned way’ and thus, the cocktail using whiskey (usually a Bourbon) came to be known so. Today, you can make many versions of it but the classic remains a powerful sweet sip. Orange twists to cherries, the garnish can change but the recipe remains the same.