Many different contraptions are manufactured for the making of cocktails. Some
of these are useful, some can be definitely nice to have, and still others are
totally and utterly useless. It is up to you to decide exactly what your cocktail
equipment should be, but some things are essential.
First out of the essentials is the cocktail shaker. There are two basic types
of shakers available. A European cocktail shaker is usually made out of metal,
or glass with a metal top. It is, basically, a container which holds about half
a liter, fitted with a top which closes tightly around the upper edges of the
container. This top also has a smaller top, usually fitted with a built-in strainer,
through which the shaken cocktail is poured. American shakers, however, consist
of two cones about the same size. One is often often made of glass, and the other
is metallic. These cones are held together to form a closed container, and the
shaken cocktail is poured from either one. Most American shakers do not have built-in
strainers, so if you use an American shaker, using a separate strainer is a good
Measures, also known as jiggers, are also essential. Jiggers are most often
made of metal, but glass jiggers are common, as well. The standard measurements
of a jigger can vary widely, depending on where you are. In the recipes in the
following articles, I will use a standard jigger of 30ml (appx. 1 fl oz).
In addition to the equipment mentioned above, you will find that things like
these are nice to have, as well: Ice bucket, jugs, electric blender, bowls, etc.
You should also have access to ordinary kitchenware, such as knives, corkscrews,
chopping board, etc. You will also need stirrers (also known as swizzle sticks),
straws, toothpicks, serviettes and cloths.
Cocktail glasses come in four different basic types:
First, there are the glasses known as rocks glasses, also known as tumblers. These
glasses are usually short and broad glasses, with straight or slightly sloping
sides. They normally hold about 125ml and are used for spirits with ice, fruit
juices and short drinks.
Second, there is the highball glass. These glasses are usually of medium width,
and are tall with straight or slightly sloping sides. They normally hold between
200 and 300ml and are used for long drinks with ice.
Third, the champagne glasses, are of two different kind. The most common, the
champagne flute, is a tall and narrow glass with a stem. Champagne flutes have
thin-glassed sides, and the long, tapering sides can curve both inward and outward.
A champagne flute holds approximately 150ml. The second type of champagne glass
is the less-known champagne saucer. The champagne saucer is a broad and shallow
glass with a stem. The broadness and shallowness of the glass make the champagne
loose its fizz quickly, and the glass is therefore less popular than it once was.
It is still, however, in use, and such cocktails as the Margarita use exclusively
Fourth is the group known as cocktail glasses. These are the classic cocktail
glasses; stemmed and with sharply sloping sides, making it Y-shaped when seen
from the side. The classic cocktail glass holds about 90ml and is best suited
for short, strong drinks.
In addition to these glasses, some drinks, such as the Pina Colada, have special
glasses. Unless you are really serious about mixing your cocktails, you don't
really need to buy such glasses. Use glasses you already have instead. There are
also other glasses available that will work just fine with cocktails. Use your
imagination, but remember that plastic glasses (or shakers, jugs, mixing glasses,
or other such equipment for that matter) should NEVER be used with cocktails,
as it will make the cocktail taste of plastic. A cocktail is supposed to have
a refreshing taste, not to taste like the inside of a used plastic bag.
Mixing a Cocktail
Not all cocktails are made in the same manner. Just as the ingredients may vary,
there are several ways in which to mix a cocktail. The most frequently used methods
are the following:
Shaking: The cocktail is mixed by hand in a cocktail shaker. The shaker is first
filled three quarters with ice, preferably cubes, as crushed ice will tend to
melt and dilute the cocktail. The ingredients are then poured on top of the ice,
in order of alcohol content (highest first). When shaking a cocktail, hold the
shaker in both hands, one hand on the top and the other supporting the base of
the shaker, and shake vigorously. When water has begun condensing on the outside
of the shaker, the cocktail is sufficiently chilled, and the cocktail should immediately
be strained into the glass. In general, shaking creates a colder cocktail than
stirring does, but also a more cloudy one.
Stirring: The cocktail is stirred with a glass or metal rod in a mixing glass,
before the cocktail is strained into a glass. As with shaking, crushed ice should
not be used, and water condensing on the outside shows that the cocktail is finished.
Blending: An electric blender is used to mix fruit juices, alcohol, fruit, etc.
Blending is an excellent way of mixing ingredients which do not blend easily in
any other way. Blend the cocktail till it has reached a smooth consistency. If
the recipe requires ice, add crushed ice last, but be careful not to add too much,
as the cocktail may be watered down. Blending is a much disputed method of mixing
a cocktail, and in general, blending should be avoided unless the recipe demands
Building: When building a cocktail, the ingredients are poured into the glass
in which the cocktail will be served. Usually, the ingredients are floated on
top of each other, but occasionally, a swizzle stick is put in the glass, allowing
the ingredients to be mixed.
Almost all cocktails are decorated in one way or another, most often with some
kind of fruit, but no matter the exact decoration, cocktail sticks are almost
always invaluable. Cocktail sticks come in two types; Wooden and plastic. Wooden
sticks are most often used, and are suited for just about any kind of cocktail,
but they cannot be reused. Plastic sticks, however, should be carefully used,
as they tend to give the cocktail a slightly artificial appearance. Unlike wooden
sticks, plastic ones can be reused, but should be carefully washed and boiled
Cocktail sticks are, whatever the type, used for spearing slices of fruit,
cherries, and just about anything else you care to decorate your cocktails with.
Straws are also essential and go well with highballs. Straws should not be reused.
The traditional cocktail garnish is, however, the red Maraschino cherries. These
are used in just about any kind of cocktail, and are now also available in green,
yellow and blue. In addition to this, slices of fruit, strips of orange or lemon
peel, mint twigs, etc. can also be used.
One often used method of decorating cocktails is that which is called frosting.
Frosting leaves an edge of sugar, salt, cocoa, or any other fine powder, on the
rim of the glass. There are several ways to frost glasses, and one of the most
frequently used of them is this: Rub the rim of the glass with a slice of orange
or lemon, then submerge the rim in sugar or salt (or any other powder), just so
that it lines the top of the rim. Other methods use egg white or other substances
for 'gluing' the powder to the glass. For a more colorful frosting, use small
drops of food coloring in the powder. With some cocktails, such as the Margarita,
frosting is a 'standard' decoration.
When using a cocktail shaker there is one golden rule to remember. Always put
the ice in the shaker first, and the liquor last. This is to ensure that all ingredients
are properly chilled by the ice when they are poured over the ice, and by adding
the liquor last you reduce the chance of dilution.
A drink that is stirred instead of shaken will retain its clarity and be free
of ice chips. Drinks based on clear liquors, like a Martini, should always be
stirred and not shaken (don't listen to James Bond when he order his Martini "shaken,
When stirring a cocktail you should stir it enough to mix the ingredients, but
not stir it too much. If you stir too much the ice will begin to dilute the liquor.
A general rule is that 10-15 stirs will be sufficient for proper mixing.
A drink containing carbonated beverage(s) should be stirred gently and briefly
to retain the sparkle.
Instead of stirring, you can shake the drink. This will mix the ingredients more
than stirring, but will also result in a less clear drink. Drinks that contain
ingredients that are hard to mix, such as cream, fruit juices and eggs, should
be shaken vigorously to ensure that the ingredients has been well mixed.
Use an electric blender to mix fresh fruit, liquor, juices and ice instead of
using a shaker. Not too popular everywhere, but perfect for making frozen cocktails
or to blend ingredients that are otherwise impossible to mix.
The purpose of floating is to keep each ingredients in the drink in separate layers
that do not mix with the others. This will create a drink with separate layers,
and this is why floating often is referred to as layering.
The easiest way to float one liquor on top of another is to use a demitasse spoon,
holding it over or in the glass and slowly trickle the ingredient over the back
of the spoon.
Muddling is a simple mashing technique for grinding herbs, such as mint, smooth
in the bottom of a glass. You can use a wooden muddler that you buy in a bar supply
store or buy a bar spoon with a muddler on the end. It crushes the herbs, much
as the back of a soup spoon might, without scaring the glass.
To frost a glass, first dip it in water and then put it in the freezer for half
an hour or so. Also note that metal and silver mugs and cups will frost better