Dateline: 1764. England's King George seeks to make some extra cash by passing The Revenue Act which places heavy taxes on Madeira, America's favorite alcoholic beverage. Crafty colonists fight back by convening in taverns to create a new country as well as mixed up concoctions called cocktails after the French word coquetel, which means "mixed-up concoctions". Within a century, American barmen create hundreds of juleps, toddies, fizzes, sours, and slings including the daiquiri in Cuba, the mint julep in Kentucky—or maybe Maryland—and the martini in either California or New York depending on who you ask.
Kentucky / Maryland
California / New York
1920 brings The Volstead Act and Prohibition. Alcohol becomes illegal and drinking becomes more popular than ever. Only now instead of drinking in bars, most Americans drink their cocktails, especially those based on bathtub gin, at home. After a couple of World Wars, vodka invades the party, making many high-octane, low-character drinks available to all.
Down with Drinks
Red Scours Vodka
The cocktail finally hits rock-bottom in the 1970's, when dazed dancers quelched [sic] their disco infernos with sickly sweet umbrella drinks. Thankfully, retro-hipsters of the 90's discover Sinatra and martinis, and a cocktail renaissance begins.
If you've dropped by your neighborhood bar or tavern, you'll no doubt notice that the boys and girls working behind the bar use a lot of hardware. Happily, I say unto you—most of it—you just don't need. First and foremost, you are going to need glasses. Now there are probably 14 or 15 different types of cocktail glasses, but you only really need four. Two stemmed; two non-stemmed.
|We'll start with the Old-Fashioned glass, and the Highball glass, which is also called a Collins glass. Now these glasses were named for specific drinks to go inside of them. But you can use them for anything that is going to be served on the rocks, that is, with ice.||
|You will also require the services of two pieces of stemware: the Cocktail glass and the Champagne flute. Now these aren't just stemmed to look cool in your hand. They're stemmed because the drinks that are going to go inside of them will not be served on the rocks. And if you were to just hold them in a regular glass, the heat from your hand would heat up the drink and that's a bad thing.||
Now it is not unusual to see Cocktail glasses or Martini glasses in sizes up to 12 ounces. I think that is just too gosh darn big. A six-ouncer like this is very civilized and serving a drink that size, I think, makes you a more responsible host. Next thing you are going to need, ice.
[AB is in the freezer and is chipping away at a big block of ice] The number one rule in Cocktail Town is you can never have too much ice. That's
because it functions not only as software but as hardware. Sure, it makes
things cold. But it also provides very good agitation when set in motion. Kind
of like the little steel ball bearing inside the can of spray paint. Of course,
when alcohol hits it, it starts to melt, and the little bit of water that melts
off of it helps the other ingredients to meld and flavor. Now, since flavor is a
pretty big deal when it comes to ice, I usually like to freeze bottled water or
filtered water in ice cube trays and then move that to zip-top bags and keep
those in my freezer so they won't get funky-tasting.
Now, when I'm going to have a really big party, I'll either pick up a bag of ice at the local grocery store, or two, or three, or four. Or I'll just go old-school and chip away at the old 30-pound block, Sharon Stone-style. But remember, you can never have too much. [goes to town on the ice]. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
Ice blocks used to be harvested from frozen ponds with hand axes and saws.
Three more pieces of required hardware. Now, proper proportions are crucial to cocktail concoction. But you know, typical measuring spoons are really kind of tough to handle. So barkeeps do their dosing with a jigger/pony combo. Now the jigger side holds an ounce and a half while the pony holds a mere ounce: which, of course, is an eighth of a cup, or two tablespoons, or six teaspoons, or 16 drams, don't you know.
Next on the list, a shaker. You're going to be tempted to buy something that looks like this. After all, it's cute, it's got recipes on the side. But these things have lots of troubles. The lids usually either stick and when you open them, everything flies out all over the place, or they leak. Of course, the built-in strainer is very very small. Real bartenders don't use these. What they do use is called a Boston shaker which is nothing more than a couple of metal cups, generally one that is about 28 ounces, and another that's 16. The good stuff goes in here [points to the larger cup], you clamp this [smaller cup] on, thusly, hold, and shake your heart out. Then if you're skilled, you can just break the seal and strain the drink out, thusly. A very effective system. And of course, it's a multitasker. You could do salad dressing like that if you wanted to.
Most of us are still going to need an actual strainer, though. You're probably familiar with this one. I played with it when I was a kid. It was in my parent's bar set. And it still appears in just about every bar set that you register for when you get married and that sort of thing. It's called a Hawthorne strainer, and the problem is, is that little things like mint leaves easily catch in this spring. It's not very efficient, so I like what's called a Julep strainer. This is a Julep strainer. It looks like a very very small colander, and it is indeed a multitasker. You could use it for straining really small portions of pasta.
That's it. All of the three things that you must have.
The Bloody Mary is named after England's Queen Mary,
remembered for her bloody persecution of Protestants.
GUEST: James Bond
When mixologists concoct a new cocktail, they often think in terms of bases,
modifiers, and accents. The goal is to create a kind of chord [a harmonious chord sounds]. That's right, a harmonious chord. The first note—the root of
the chord—is provided by the base. And the base is usually a spirit: bourbon,
tequila, vodka, gin, what have you. Sometimes it's a wine. But whatever it is,
it's there to provide the base of the chord. We'll say, middle C [tone sounds].
Nice. I mean, it's a good tone. But one-note, a chord does not make. For that, we require a second player to sing harmony, and that is usually what is called a modifier or a mixer. Now this is a gigantic category of devices here. We could have a seltzer, fortified wines like vermouth, juices, flavored syrups, colas, you name it. And sometimes a drink is just a two-note chord. [two note chord sounds] And if it is, it's called a highball. For instance, scotch and soda is a highball: two-notes. [two note chord sounds] Rum and coke, two notes. [two note chord sounds]
Gin and tonic [two note chord sounds]... no, actually, gin and tonic is three notes. [three note chord sounds] It is gin, tonic, and an accent in the form of a little bit of lime juice. Now accents, using accents, is where a bartender can really show his or her stuff. These are generally subtle amounts of very powerful ingredients. Citrus would certainly be a good example, aromatic bitters, complex flavored liqueurs, all provide, well in many cases, the defining characteristic of a drink.
Now sometimes there are three-note chords, sometimes there are two, sometimes there are more. For instance, here is what a margarita sounds like [a chord sounds]. Uhh, slow gin fizz [another chord sounds]. That's pretty cool. Sidecar [another chord sounds]. Wow, this is fun. But you kind of get the point. The fewer notes, the more complicated the drink, oddly enough. For instance, if you were to take one little olive, an accent, and drop it into a certain proportion of vermouth, which is a mixer, and gin, a base, you would have something called a martini.
And of course, being a male, born in the 60's, I can't think martini without thinking of him.
AB: Good evening, Mr. ...
JAMES BOND: Bond. James Bond.
AB: Well, Mr. Bond, James Bond, what'll you have to drink?
JB: Vodka martini. Shaken, not stirred.
AB: Of course.
Step one when mixing any cocktail that is going to be served straight up—that
is, not on the rocks—is to chill this glass. Nothing can suck the life out of a
warm cocktail faster than a warm glass. Now you can either keep these stashed in
your freezer, or you can just add a little ice and let it sit on the side while
you do your mixing.
Now I know that Mr. Bond there requested vodka, but I really do believe that a real martini is always built upon gin. Now for you vodka lovers out there that say that you don't like gin, consider this: gin is vodka with herbs and juniper added. They're made from the same grains, at least most of the time, and via the same processes. So give the real stuff a try.
Now, when martini lovers fight, and they do occasionally fight, it's usually about the proportions of the main ingredients, gin and vermouth. One hundred and twenty years ago when this drink was invented—about 120 years ago—it wasn't unusual to see recipes call for two parts of gin and one part of sweet, or Italian vermouth. And that rendered a very very sweet drink. The pendulum headed the other way, eventually. For instance, Winston Churchill was known to refer to the perfect martini as pouring a glass full of cold gin, and looking at a bottle of vermouth. I think that's a wee bit on the dry side. My method is pretty dry, but not anywhere near that dry. And the actual amounts are tied into the method itself. So here's how I like to do it.
Take the bottom part of your Boston shaker or any large vessel—if you were making a bunch of these, in fact, you would be using a pitcher of some type—and fill that with about a cup of ice. There. Now grab your measuring device, and pour yourself half a pony, that's half an ounce, of vermouth—and I am indeed using a French dry vermouth here—and slosh.
1 Cup Crushed Ice
1/2 Ounce Dry Vermouth
Now what I'm trying to do here is basically coat the ice cubes with vermouth. No reason to put on the lid. There's not that much in there. There. Grab your strainer, and pour out any of the vermouth you can get out. That's right. Several seconds of vermouth down the drain. Whatever sticks to the ice is all that is going to go into the drink.
Now for the gin. We will go with 2.5 ounces of gin. We're looking for a total drink volume of about three ounces here, so that is a pony, which I have here. You don't have to fill it to the absolute top. There you go. And we will also add to that, one jigger, which of course, is 1.5 ounces. There we go. Perfect.
|2 1/2 Ounces Gin|
Now I know that Mr. Bond asked for his drink to be shaken. But you know, when it
comes to clear ingredients that are going to be served straight up and that mix
easily, I'd rather stir. If there was foggy or murky ingredients, I'd probably
give them a shake. Or if there were ingredients that were hard to mix together,
I would definitely shake them. But there's another reason I want to stir
instead of shaking here. Shaking chills a drink far, far colder than stirring,
and gin is an aromatic and it really starts to lose some of its aromatic
qualities once it drops below 30. So I think that this is definitely the way to
Now, we will dump our ice [that was in the martini glass to cool it]. And before we pour this stuff [the gin] into this thing [the now empty glass], we will place our olive. That way, the martini actually gets to blend a little bit with the brine, and that's an important step. So we will add our strainer, and [pours]. There we go. It should be about three ounces. We don't want it to be all the way to the top, or it'll be too gosh darn hard to drink. There we go. I'd say that looks pretty good. Let's see what Mr. Bond thinks.
A martini containing equal portions of both sweet
and dry vermouth is referred to as "perfect".
AB: Mr. Bond, enjoy your martini, sir.
JB: I will.
Now if we had substituted a black olive for the green olive, we'd have a Buckeye. If we had used cocktail onions, we'd have a Gibson. A shot of scotch and that would turn that into a Smoky Martini, and a few drops of the brine from the olive jar would give us a Dirty Martini. I occasionally like to sneak in a few flakes of smoked sea salt. That kind of gives me a kind of Dirty Smoky Martini.
AB: How is it, sir.
JB: Perfect. What's your secret?
JB: You must be joking.
AB: I never joke about my work, 007. [pushes an "Eject button and 007 goes flying from his stool]
Well, a heroic departure. Speaking of heroes, I'm reminded of Frederick Henry, Hemmingway's hero in A Farewell to Arms, who says of drinking martinis, "I had never tasted anything so cool and clean. They made me feel civilized." I like that. Of course, thinking of Hemmingway makes me think of Cuba and thinking of Cuba makes me think of rum.
When Christopher Columbus brought sugar cane to Hispaniola on his second trip to the New World in 1493, the grass did very well indeed. Soon, sugar refineries were popping up everywhere. Now since these operations were relatively inefficient, there was plenty of molasses left over containing lots of sugar ... fermentable sugar. It didn't take long for someone to figure out that by inviting the right kind of yeast to the party, a strong liquor could be produced from these molasses which locals called Kilda.
A. B. BROWN
THE RIGHT KIND OF YEAST
GUEST: Deb Duchon, Nutritional Anthropologist
And so sugar cane begat rum, and rum begat the infamous Slave Triangle.
DD: No, it didn't. Most of the molasses from the West Indies ended up in rum distilleries in New England.
AB: Okay, Africa to West Indies, West Indies to Boston. That's still a triangle.
DD: But most of the African slaves were forced to work on plantations in the South. So why would they be making rum in New England to buy slaves?
AB: Okay, so maybe it was the slave polygon, or parallelogram. I don't know, it was nasty business. Anthropology lady, what are you drinking?
DD: I'll have a daiquiri, a real daiquiri. And don't bring me one of those neon sissified slushies either.
AB: One of Hemmingway's favorites coming right up.
1.5 ounces of liquor contains about the same amount of
alcohol as 6 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer.
|Like the martini, a daiquiri is a three-note chord that is very easy to play incorrectly. It is a drink served straight up, so you're going to want to chill either a champagne flute or a cocktail glass before you get to mixing. Then retrieve the bottom to your Boston shaker, add about a pint of ice, and start laying down the notes.||1 Pint Crushed Ice|
|Our first note will be in the form of rum, two ounces of rum. [one note sounds] And if you want to be classicist, you will go with light rum which has not been aged. If you want to jazz up your chord a little bit, [two note chord] like that, you will go with slightly aged golden rum. But you want to avoid spiced rum or dark rum. That tastes like this [off chord] when it is mixed with the rest of the ingredients. You don't want that.||2 Ounces Light Rum|
The heart of the daiquiri lies in lime juice. [holds up bottled lime juice, alarm sounds] Yes, that is correct. This is bad. Pre-packaged, bottled, frozen, concentrated lime juice will make your daiquiri taste like, I don't know, marinade or salad dressing. You must use fresh limes. Now I realize that squeezing a lime every time you want to make a drink is a little bit of a pain. So at the beginning of your evening, squeeze a couple, and strain them into a squeeze bottle for easy distribution. Now we just need one ounce of this—that's a pony—and just squeeze that right in. There.
1 Ounce Freshly Squeezed
Now last step is, we need some sugar, a teaspoon of sugar. [holds up regular granulated sugar, alarm sounds] Yes, this is also a very bad thing. Anybody that's ever tried to sweeten a glass of iced tea knows that sugar is not going to dissolve thoroughly in cold liquid. So you are going to use one half ounce, that's half a pony, of syrup. And it's called simple for a lot of reasons, especially because it's really simple to make.
|1/2 Ounce Simple Syrup|
Simply combine two cups of sugar with a cup of water, and bring them to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Now when it reaches a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer and let it cook for three to five minutes. Now this process will literally break apart some of the sucrose molecules into their components, fructose and glucose. This is called an invert sugar. It will resist crystallization and is actually sweeter than the original sugar.
2 Cups Sugar &
1 Cup Water
The syrup goes into our mixture and it is time to shake. Yes, I do shake a
daiquiri because it involves ingredients that are both cloudy and viscous.
Now, when shaking, don't do this: [makes exaggerated up-and-down motions with the
Boston shaker]. Number one, it makes you look like a jerk. Number two, it
doesn't provide enough contact between the rocks and the liquid. Shake sideways,
like Dick Powell did in "The Thin Man". There, you look very cool doing that.
After a few shakes, kind of give it a squeeze to break the vacuum, and strain thusly. Oh, I have to get rid of that, of course [dumps the ice out of the cocktail glass]. Because this time instead of using an actual strainer, I'll just use the miracle of the Boston shaker itself. [lets the drink pour out between the two halves of the shaker] Ahh, perfect. Nice and frothy, and a little smoky, and cloudy, and perfect.
AB: Your daiquiri, madam.
DD: Viva la rvolutión!
Strange but true: "rum" comes from rumbullion meaning "good soup".
GUEST: Colonel Bob Boatwright
[The Colonel (AB) narrates the rest of the show] You know, some of the oldest cocktails there is was born at the hands of apothecaries who used to grind up herbs and spices and roots and what-not as medicine. And they'd add a little bit of sweet liquor to, you know, make the medicine go down a little easier. Well, I don't know if mint juleps was born that way. But I do know they are good for what ails you, if what ails you happens to be the hot old sun and a three-piece suit in the middle of summertime. Come on in the house and we'll make us up some.
Alright. Here we go. Gracious, but it is hot out there. Now I got to tell you, when southern gentlemen come to fisticuffs about making mint juleps—and it is known to happen—they're not arguing about what goes in one. Oh, everybody knows that. What they're arguing about is how you go about putting one together. Now this is how I do it. And if you don't like it, you can write your Congressman or something. I know I just don't care a little bit.
Anyway, here we go. You're going to need a vessel. This is my julep cup from college. It's pretty, but we're not going to use that today. We want you folks to be able to see. So we're going to use a plain old Old-Fashioned glass. And what we're going to start with a little bit of agricultural product. We've got 10, not 9 or 11, but 10 just beautiful little mint leaves. They're going to go right in there, like that. Now we're going to add a little sugar on top of that. Now I'm going to add one teaspoon plus a half a teaspoon of fine sugar. That's right, fine.
10 Mint Leaves
1 1/2 tsp. Superfine Sugar
Buy fine [sugar]? No. You don't buy it, you make it. You just put some regular old
sugar in your blender and hit the "Go" button. And in a couple of seconds,
you've got fine sugar. Buy ... Lordy. I don't know.
Here we go. Now we do need to do some muddling. Muddling, that's ... I got my muddler right here. This here is a muddler, and it looks like, if you was to have like a junior pygmy baseball team, this is what they'd for a bat. [swings the muddler like a baseball bat] Batter up! But actually, it's a very powerful culinary multitasker and this is how you use it. You just start grinding that sugar right into them leaves. Now what we're doing is we're using the abrasive power of this sugar to just cut that mint to ribbons and release its minty goodness, so that we can, you know, imbibe of it later. Anyway, remember this: lackluster muddling leads to lackluster juleps. Don't let that happen to you, do you hear me? I know you do. I know you do. Alright, now this looks good.
Now when the view in the bottom of your glass looks like that [shows a thick pesto-looking paste], you know that you're done muddling. Now we're going to loosen that up with just a little shot from the old seltzer siphon. This ain't nothing but branch water, all bubbled up with one of these fancy CO2 things. It's a lot tastier than club soda. And besides, with club soda, you can't do anything like that! [sprays the camera with seltzer] Ha ha ha! I'm sorry, it just went off. Here, let me get that off for you. It'll just take a minute. I'm sure sorry about that. There, good as new. I'll be sure to keep the safety on that thing next time.
|Come on, let's finish this drink now. I'm just going to give this a little squirt of this. There, just enough to loosen that paste up and get our muddler cleaned off. Don't want a dirty muddler hanging around the kitchen, now do you? Here we go with some ice. We're going to go with about three quarters up to the top with good, clean, flavorful ice.||
Splash of Seltzer Water
Crushed Ice to Fill 3/4 Of
|Now, the whiskey: Bourbon whiskey. We're going to go with 2.5 ounces. That's one jigger, plus one pony. [makes a braying sound] Heh heh heh. There.||2 1/2 Ounces Bourbon|
Now we're going to top that off with another bit of squirtin' from our seltzer
bottle. We'll give it just a couple of stirs. There you go. And there we got
ourselves a fine mint julep. Just a little bit of garnish, you know. Or not.
Don't much matter.
Anyway, I'm going to go back out on the porch and enjoy my beverage. We'll see you next time on, uh, what is it? "Good Eats". That's it. That's a funny name, I swear.
Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger
"Can I tell you what's messed up about James Bond? Shaken not stirred will get you cold water with a dash of gin and dry vermouth, the reason you stir it with a special spoon is so not to chip the ice. James is ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it."
- President Josiah Bartlett, The West Wing
Last Edited on 08/27/2010