Tag - cocktail

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Selecting a Cocktail Kit for Christmas Giving
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SideBlog: How to Make a White Russian
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More From the Drink and Engineering Geeks Nexus
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Mixology Monday: Tiki — The Missionary’s Downfall

Selecting a Cocktail Kit for Christmas Giving

cocktail kit stirring glass
Source: iStock Photo

Every blogger does a “bar setup” or “cocktail kit” post for Christmas, or just general, giving information. I want to try to do one this year, but in a way that is little more flexible than the usual. I’m inspired to write this for a friend who wants to give his son, who is graduating from college and is becoming interested in cocktails, a gift of a cocktail setup. The kid is an automotive engineer, and his father describes his mindset as “You use the correct, high-quality, specialty tool for the job, and use the best materials to construct your product with.” I think this is a very useful metaphor for mixing drinks, and I’ll employ it in discussing how to construct a cocktail kit for yourself or the up and comer in your life.

Mixing Vessels

Most people who ask how to assemble a cocktail kit start with, “I’ll need a shaker, then what else?” But mixing vessels are too big a question to just skip over so blithely. If you are just starting out mixing drinks, your needs in mixing vessels will be different from an experienced home drink maker’s, which will be different from a professional bartender’s.
Shaken or stirred bar kit choices
First, there are two very different mixing tasks that the cocktail maker will perform throughout his life: shaking and stirring. And we need the right tool for the right job, remember? We’ll start with shaking. There are two basic categories of cocktail shakers.

  • Boston Shakers: These are the two piece shakers consisting of a metal vessel (the “tin”) and a pint glass or second metal tin that fit together. These are what you will see the majority of professional bartenders using. They have the virtue of being cheap, easy to clean, and very, very fast. But the Boston is hard to learn to use, and may need other equipment to use it properly. If your gift recipient majored in Eastern Polynesian Studies or the like, you might want to get him or her the Boston so he or she can learn an actual marketable skill, and be able to move out of your house. But for the beginner who doesn’t need a bartending job, I’d recommend the three-piece Cobbler shaker.
  • Cobblers: These are the shakers you usually see people like Frank Sinatra or William Powell using in the movies. They are usually three pieces: a tin, a lid with built-in strainer, and a cap. In a pinch, the cobbler is the only mixing vessel you need, as you could stir in the tin, then strain with the lid. A good Cobbler is dead easy to use, suave and debonaire to employ, and will look good just sitting on the shelf. But they are not so easy to clean, nor very fast and efficient if you have to make lots of different drinks. And a bad cobbler is a nightmare to use. Quality matters in a cobbler. If yours is badly made, it may leak all over the place, or just as bad, it may be impossible to open and get your freshly created drink out without first jumping around and struggling with the lid like a frustrated monkey in a behavioral lab. Cobblers can also be ruinously expensive.


Whichever type you get, keep in mind that materials matter. Get only top quality stainless steel. If you give a Boston, be sure the pint glass is tempered. Most importantly, do not get an insulated or double wall vessel of any kind. It may seem a good idea to protect your hands from the cold, but being able to feel the temperature of what your mixing through your fingers is as important to making a good drink as a well-tuned suspension is to racing a car.
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SideBlog: How to Make a White Russian

How to make a White Russian. Um, I am compelled to note that she doesn’t measure her portions…. What kind of mixologist is she?
Oh… that kind!

More From the Drink and Engineering Geeks Nexus


While I have a cocktail shaking machine already, I never use it. It is nowhere near awesome enough to overcome the fact that using it is more work you save.

But this baby, I’d use. I’d have to build an extension to my back bar, but it would be totally worth it.

Incidentally, if you haven’t clicked the video, it is actually a lot better shaker than it looks. When you shake, just bouncing the shaker straight up and down doesn’t do a very good job and if you are doing it by hand makes you look like a colleague of Conan’s bear. On initial inspection, it looks like this shaker just goes up and down, but it is much more elegant and stylish than that.

All it needs is a quick-release and insertion mechanism and you could build a steampunk-themed classic cocktail bar around it. People would come.

Mixology Monday: Tiki — The Missionary’s Downfall

Missionary's Downfall
Now this is a Tiki Drink.

It is Mixology Monday again, the sixty-fourth such extravaganza to take over the interwebz. I am hosting said blog carnival once again. It has been Tiki Month all month here at the Pegu Blog, and the theme for this month’s MxMo is…. Tiki!!!

Purely a coincidence.
Really!

Be sure to come back in about 24 hours or so to check out the round up of all the participants this time out. Now, let us move on to my own offering.

I’ve concentrated this month on drinks that have awesome names, but I’ve saved this one for MxMo. The name Missionary’s Downfall is almost perfectly evocative of all that is Tiki. It’s colorful. It’s kinda pagan. It’s a little dark and mysterious. And it is kinda suggestive of sex, though not of the Guilt-Free variety. It’s a name impossible to forget.

But while there are a number of Tiki drinks with memorable names, not all are great drinks. This one is fabulous, however. The exact proportions of this recipe are all over the map, depending on where you find it. This is how I make it, adapted from the Tiki+ app. (Interestingly, the Bum’s recipe that is in Grog Log, is significantly different, even though Tiki+ lists that book as the source.)

MISSIONARY’S DOWNFALL

  • 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. apricot brandy
  • 1 oz. honey mix*
  • 1 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse Silver or other white rum
  • 1 1/2 oz fresh pineapple juice
  • 10-20 mint leaves
  • 6 oz. small or crushed ice

Combine in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Pour into a large cocktail glass and garnish with a sprig of young mint, planted upright in the center.

*HONEY MIX

  • 1 part honey
  • 1 part water

Combine in a small sauce pan and bring just to a boil. Cool and bottle for future use.
Make more of this than you think need for just this drink. Honey mix is versatile stuff!

Most other Missionary’s Downfall recipes call for peach brandy. I use apricot because my apricot brandy is much higher quality than my peach, and because I prefer how it works in this cocktail.

You’ll notice that the Missionary’s Downfall is much lower in alcohol than many Tiki drinks. Interestingly, it doesn’t taste particularly mild. What it does taste like is delicious. The drink does extremely well what good Tiki does best—offer a wide array of soft and exotic flavors that don’t trample each other, letting each come to the fore sometime throughout each sip. (Bad Tiki, incidentally, does the opposite.)
But because this drink does such a good job of balancing the flavors and making each apparent, you really need to not shortcut any of them. Make sure your juices are fresh. Use good mint.
Most importantly, don’t substitute other sweeteners for the honey mix. Similarly, don’t try to just use pure honey and try to blend it in. It won’t cooperate. If you try, you will end up with a layer of sticky goo trapping some of your mint leaves on the bottom of your blender below the blades, and not enough honey flavor and texture in your cocktail.

Garbage in, garbage out with this drink. But good stuff in, ambrosia out, in my opinion. It is light, delicious, and goes down easy.

I’ll leave you with the following as background music for the rest of your Mixology Monday: Tiki reading pleasure. It’s a song called Missionary’s Downfall by a band called Planet Smashers. They are supposedly classified as a “Third Wave Ska” band, whatever that is. To me, they sound like an upbeat early 80’s New Wave outfit, singing about Tiki drinks. Here’s the lyrics. Here’s a link to the album, Mighty, on iTunes. and here’s the YouTube video, embedded for your listening pleasure:

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