This month’s Mixology Monday, hosted by the fabulous broads at LUPEC Boston, asks a question that is of genuine importance: Given someone who has never had a cocktail before (tragic, I know), what would you offer them as their first? You never get a second chance at a first impression, after all.
Let me guess.
You suggest a Pegu!
No. No I don’t, Ms. Smarty-Pants. And for all you who know me and were waiting for me to suggest the One True Cocktail, don’t be silly. For the gin-virgin cocktail drinker, I absolutely suggest the Pegu as a perfect gateway, but that’s another question.
What’s at stake here? You don’t want to offer something so bland or sweet as to leave them with the impression that cocktails are just another form of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, one you have to mix yourself. You want to give them an idea of the depth and sophistication there is to be had in the cocktail world, thus we’ll discard such offerings as White Russians or Strawberry Daiquiris.
On the other hand, let’s be honest. A lot of the favorite drinks we love around here in the cocktailosphere are a bit… sophisticated for a first time drinker. Just as you wouldn’t take someone to King Lear for their first play, you aren’t going to want to spring a Corpse Reviver #2, a Negroni, an Aviation, or even a Pegu on a neophyte.
Let’s answer three basic questions about what our entry level drug should be like.
I’ll start with the base spirit. I’d stay away from gin or whatever variety of whisk(e)y. These may be the kings of booze, providing the most depth and interest, but they have strong flavors what are all, to one extent or another,
acquired tastes. Likewise, I’d avoid any specialty liquors, such as tequila, pisco, cachaça, ouzo, etc. That leaves us with vodka and rum. In fact, the case could be made that the best of all possible introductory cocktails would be either a well-made Cuba Libré, or a similarly executed Screwdriver. But either of those would would be too easy for for a MxMo post, and besides, I’d want someone’s first cocktail to be served in a cocktail glass, not a highball. I’m going to go with vodka because it has the fewest negative connotations (to the non-connoisseur), and because it is the blankest of slates.
The next thing is the personality of the drink. Attitude is the core of cocktails and the cocktail mindset, folks. A first cocktail should be evocative for the drinker. It should be publicly cool, and secretly a little silly. Most of all, the neophyte needs a decent chance of having
always wanted one of those. So my advice is to go with a well-known, iconic drink. This eliminates otherwise excellent possibilities like the Moscow Mule.
Lastly, is our hypothetical drinker a man or a woman? This last is obviously not about the drink, but the drinker. And yes, it lets me cheat LUPEC’s question by offering two answers. Sue me. It also gives me a chance to get on my old, familiar hobby horse about Broads versus Chicks. The differences are myriad, but for this post, I’ll focus on broads as women who are more robust in their tastes. A chick given a binary choice will always hew to the option perceived as more
feminine. A broad will choose based on her personal taste. There is a similar dichotomy with men, but for once it’s more complex than for women. It’s also less likely to come into play here so I’ll save you the time right now.
Thank you, Dr. Doug.
Where’d you get your degree again?
Shut up. The point is to offer two choices, both vodka-based, both well-known to Americans (at least) of all drinking types, one appealing to the bright and lively, the other to the darkly cool. When made properly, both are darn fine drinks. Neither is terribly complex, but both give a hint of the magic mixology can produce. And both will provide a lesson in the importance of skill and quality ingredients in making cocktails; said lesson will be learned later, the first time your new cocktailian orders one of these at an airport bar….
OK, get on with it.
Oh, very well. The offerings shall be: The Vodka Martini and the Cosmopolitan.
Appeal to the guys, and the brassier of broads, with the old-school James Bond cocktail.
- 2 oz. Grey Goose or Belvedere vodka (You may use any quality vodka that comes in an impressive frosted art glass bottle.)
- scant 1/2 oz. dry vermouth (Don’t go Monty here. Use the vermouth.)
- 1 drop Angustora Bitters (Just a whisper. Bitters is a risk for a first time cocktail drinker, but I think it’s worth it.)
Shake hard and long to both throughly chill and dilute the drink, strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a long lemon peel, unless your drinker is an avid olive fan.
Appeal to the chicks, and your most beta of males, with Carrie’s concoction.
- 3 oz. similar vodka (Why three, when the Martini had only two? It’s a chick drink. Chicks expect to get hammered on one of these. And you, yes you know which of you out there I’m talking to, want her hammered. Bad boy (or girl). Oh, and three parts make the proportions come out better.
- 1 oz. Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail (I specify a brand to ensure the sweetness comes out right.
- 1/2 oz. Cointreau (Triple sec is for that airport bar lesson I mentioned)
- 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice, or at least good bottled juice. (Rose’s is likewise for the Flight Line in O’Hare)
Shake long but gently and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a nice wheel of lime.
Whichever you make for your neophyte, make the same for yourself. Then, for the second round, make them the same, but make yourself a more advanced product like a Pegu, a Manhattan or even a Pisco Sour. Watch their face as they eye your drink and start to get an idea of the vastly greater variety hereabouts than in the world of Bud versus Guinness….