© Denzil Green
A Cocktail is a mixed alcoholic beverage.
Almost any mixed drink with alcohol in it is now classed as a Cocktail. It can be warm or cold, sweet or dry, and be served in the morning, afternoon or evening.
Cocktails are made in portions measured as "shots."
A British shot is 1 1/2 tablespoons (25 ml.) American shots are a bit more generous -- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) It doesn't matter which shot measure you use in a drinks recipe, as long as you use the same measure for the whole recipe.
In inventing your own cocktails, the rule of thumb is generally 1 part of the main alcohol to 4 parts mixer.
Another rule of thumb in mixing a cocktail is, if a cocktail is pure alcohol, such as a Martini or a Manhattan, it's stirred. If it's alcohol diluted with something else, such as juice, fizzy water, pop, etc, it's shaken. This binds the ingredients better.
Always use both hands to hold the shaker, top and bottom. Ice in the shaker should definitely move around in the shaker, from its top to its bottom. You shake until the outside of shaker gets quite cold. Metal is better than plastic for detecting this.
Stirring keeps the alcohol stronger in drinks. In a Martini, for instance, shaking it with the ice would cause a lot more of the water in the ice to get into the drink.
In stirring a cocktail mixture with ice, you stir gently but insistently until the outside of the pitcher gets cold, then you serve.
Up until bitters were declassified as healthful, almost all cocktails had a dash of bitters in them.
Literature & Lore
"The glances over cocktails
That seem to be so sweet
Don't seem quite so amorous
Over Shredded Wheat." -- Frank Muir (English humourist. 5 February 1920 - 2 January 1998)
"But after the (ed: First World) war the new fantastic development of jazz music and the steps that went with it, became, in the contemporary phrase, 'all the rage." (ed: in Britain.) Cocktails were also accepted, though they went directly against British upper-class tradition, the chief ingredients being gin and vermouth. Gin had for two centuries been considered a very lower-class drink indeed, and vermouth, like absinthe, was dangerously Parisian. Only wines or 'fruit cups'had been drunk on social occasions before the war; with whisky reserved for sporting uses. Punch printed many a joke against cocktails..." -- Graves, Robert and Alan Hodge. The long week end: a social history of Great Britain, 1918-1939. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 1994.
In 1806, the word "cocktails" appeared in writing in a publication called the "Balance and Columbian Repository", published in Hudson, New York. It was described as a composition of spirits with sugar, water and bitters. In 1862, the world appeared in "How to Mix Drinks, or The Bon-Vivant's Companion", by Jerry Thomas (1825-1885.) The book contains 236 recipes for mixed drinks, but Thomas referred to just 10 of them as cocktails.
McGee, Harold. To Enhance Flavor, Just Add Water. New York Times. 27 July 2010.
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