Tempered Spirits

Homemade Cocktails — Experiments, Critiques & Travels

Cocktail Advice

Learning About Cocktails

When you drink a cocktail, it’s good to know a little bit about its history, the tales and myths surrounding it, what other drinks it’s related to, and to ascertain what the bartender was thinking (to some extent, anyway) when he or she mixed it. All this info enriches the experience of drinking a good cocktail. Some people simply want to have a great drink (or get hammered) and don’t particularly care about all of the backstage work and thought going on, and that’s OK… chances are they’re not reading this blog!

The only two ways you can learn about mixing drinks are, 1) to visit lots of bars, bug the bartenders to death, and drink a lot of cocktails, and 2) to read a lot about cocktails in books and on blogs, then mix them yourself…then bug the bartenders to death.

Method 1 — Visiting Bars

I’m picky about bars, and I really don’t visit them that often because it’s expensive (says the man with the booze and glassware collection) and I don’t live near any that serve great cocktails. Given these facts, I’m excited when I visit one that I end up liking. I prefer quiet places with a touch of sophistication, knowledge, and caring management; i.e. not dive bars, and not “frat” bars. To each his own.

If you’re looking to have a good time with friends, visit during busy hours — hopefully not so busy that you’re ignored or you have to wait a long time for a drink. This is extraordinarily tricky on weekends and Friday nights. If you want to talk to the bartenders, visit during the day (assuming the bar’s open during the day) or early in the evening (5 o’clock) on weeknights. If you show that you’re knowledgeable or curious about the drinks and ingredients, you can strike up a good conversation and learn some tricks of the trade — and usually get free samples! (No, it won’t be a full shot, just a sip — ask questions like, “You make the ginger beer in-house? Is it fermented? Wow, that’s an interesting spice in there, what is it?” etc.)

Method 2 — Reading & Surfing

See The Library.

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