Libations

By Paul Nelson

– The Jagged Word has done it again, we went out and got ourselves our very own bartender! Cheers! –

I have been invited to provide the Jagged Mafia with a weekly cocktail recipe. The fact that I’m an ordained minister as well as a licensed bartender should explain my interpretation of the Biblical stance on alcohol. It should also indicate my level of trust in pension plans and Social Security, but hey, that’s really another blog post all together. In the realm of distilled alcoholic beverages, my exegesis is: God made them possible. Let’s enjoy them responsibly.

Are you nervous about making your own drinks at home?  Are you wondering whether you should leave such matters to the experts at Denny’s? The following exhaustive questionnaire should help you discern the proper response:

  • Do you have glasses and spoons in your house?
  • Are you able to keep liquor, drain cleaners and depilatories away from your children and other people who don’t have legitimate business with them?
  • Do you now, or have you ever in the past, had an addiction problem with drugs or alcohol?

If you answered yes to the BOTH of the first two questions AND no to the second, you’ll be fine. If you answered no to EITHER of the first questions AND/OR yes to the third question, you should find something else to read instead of my entries. Maybe re-read one of Bob’s (he needs the clicks). It’s not a personal issue either for you or for me—don’t make it one. If you’re still on board, here are some basic guidelines I will use for my time with you here:

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  1. Be reasonable. If you want to go out and buy a bunch of clever tools, devices, special glasses and fashionable aprons that say “Kiss the Bartender,” knock yourself out. But I’m not going to suggest that you do so (nor am I going to kiss you), and I don’t have helpful recommendations in these areas. I believe home bartending should, by and large, utilize typical household devices and not cost you an arm and a leg to enjoy.
  2. Really, be reasonable. Economics isn’t the only issue; the cost/benefit ratio of effort to actual enjoyment in drinking is important. If boutique artisan cocktails made with the latest infused spirits and your own home-grown shrubs are your thing, more power to you! Strike a comfortable balance between effort expended and enjoyment received. I will keep it simple here while also advocating that same sassy, can-do American spirit which has been impressing folks since de Tocqueville.
  3. Know your boundaries. I prefer to make my drinks strong. Know what works for you and the folks you’re serving. Bartending is an art more than a science, and you’re always encouraged to modify ratios and proportions to suit the tastes of you and the people you’re serving.
  4. Balance favorites vs. experiments. A good bartender has a stable of tried and true favorites (for herself as well as for her friends & family) that can be put together with little prep. At the same time, expanding your palette is fun! But recognize that, to make a broader and more diverse assortment of drinks. your costs go up. So, again, be reasonable.

There are a ton of online and mobile tools to help you along the way (beware that cocktail drink names can be risqué, to say the least!).  I use a web-based database called webtender.com to do research, but there are plenty of others. I use a mobile app called Mr. Bartender. I also have a handful of bartending recipe books. Feel free to share your recommendations in these areas! Ask questions when you’ve got ‘em, and I’ll share more specifics as we go.

Now, where to begin? It seems rude to talk about providing you with a drink recipe and then make you wait a week for the first one, so let’s start extremely simple.

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Cocktails are a combination of one or more liquors (usually) and then one or more mixers—a non-alcoholic liquid ingredient (primarily) that provides color, scent, flavor, and sometimes even texture to a drink. They also dilute the alcohol in the drink. The mixers that most people are familiar with are sodas. More specifically, colas. And even more specifically, Coca Cola, because Pepsi stinks. Two of the most popular liquor options with Coke are whiskey and rum. However, you can also use tequila (one of my personal favorites).

In general, a good rule of thumb is roughly 1 oz. of liquor in a drink. I tend to go higher than this, but if you order a soda-based drink at a bar, 1 oz. is generally what you’ll get—a glass filled with ice, an ounce of whiskey or rum, topped with cola. The more cola you put in, the less you taste the liquor.  Start with about a 3-4 oz. of cola (1/4–1/3 of a can) and adjust from there. Typically, you put the liquor in first and then the mixer, otherwise the first few sips of the drink are going to be overwhelmingly strong and the rest of the drink will be rather weak. Give it a few stirs to mix the alcohol and the cola better and then serve.

I’ll get more detailed about this in the future, but mix together a shot of whiskey or rum and a few ounces of cola over ice. Simple but satisfying, which is what your first cocktail should be! At this point, purists might argue that it shouldn’t really count as a cocktail because there are only two ingredients instead of three or more. But you likely don’t want to keep drinking with those folks. Or if you do, make them buy.

Until next time, enjoy!

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