CHOOSE YOUR BASE NOTE
Making a drink is similar to making a perfume. When you smell a scent, it has to have several layers. Once the alcohol evaporates, what are you left with?
Most perfumes started with a solid base note. So start tasting different spirits and try to figure out which one you want to start with as your base mix for the drink. Once you decide keep in mind that you’re the choice of your base spirits flavor will always remain in the cocktail.
Once you have decided on your base liquor (also note that you can always have two alcohols in your base) the sweet and tart elements become your canvas for creativity. A tart element could be something like freshly squeezed lime or grapefruit juice and a sweet element could include simple syrup, agave, a (lower ABV/alcohol by volume) liqueur and plenty of less concentrated sweet options such as orange juice. With this framework in mind, the mix-and-match possibilities are endless.
The difference between decent drinks and amazing drinks is often the length of their flavor, how long it sits in your mouth, fascinating your mind once it leaves your tongue. By making the sweet and tart parts complementary to your base flavor, you will expand on the cocktails experience. This is why many top mixologists enjoy using dark brown spirits as their base-flavor for their creations. Whiskeys tend to have more complementary flavors than tequila or vodka.
CONSRUCT GLUE WITH COMPLEXITY
Once you have completed your 2:1:1 cocktail, the next step is adding aromatics. The simplest way to do this is to include a couple of drops of bitters—a minuscule amount of liquid that won’t mess with the balance of your ratio.
Technically, in the history of the classic cocktail world, a cocktail is not considered a true cocktail unless it contained bitters. The true original formula of a cocktail was to simply just add alcohol, bitters and sugar. If you didn’tadd bitters you could definitely taste something missing. They added this final kind of balance that brought everything together—like the glue.
However bitters are not your only solution. You can add complex glue quickly is through a wash on the inside of the glass with something like absinthe. Or you could also use a hydrosol, which is a distillate of herbs or flowers extracted into water or oil. Rosewater is an example of a hydrosol.
Now that you know all off the ingredients to make a cocktail, be careful not to lose control. Most of
my cocktails consist of only five ingredients. Beyond that, the flavors can become muddled.
Your cocktail at this point should taste pretty amazing. But what if it’s just too boozy? or not completely satisfying?
Soda water or even some champagne with some citric acid or a little extra simple syrup usually help to complete the balance. I tend to add soda water to 80% of my cocktails to give it that bubbly and refreshing edge that is missing.
Remember to keep in mind that eyeballing for speed is never a great option for your measurements once you have them figured out. Cocktail making is similar to baking, you need to make sure all of your ingredients are correct to achieve perfection.