After a long shift finally over, I ordered a Manhattan from an employee of mine and sit at the bar watching whist he makes it. He jiggers nothing, pours liquor with chimp like grace and when it comes time to stir my drink, he basically muddles the ice with a bar spoon. The affect sounds like a tray of dropped sliver ware and produced a Manhattan, dry and bruised. To decode that language, I mean dry: not enough vermouth and bitters, bruised: little ice chunks floating in my drink. I slug it back and start to head home towards my side of the tracks. Before I get to the tracks, I decided to stop into one of my favorite bars for a do over. I order a Manhattan, this time from a peer. I might mention that this unnamed peer and friend is likely the most desired service industry worker in Seattle. All the ladies I know, want to fuck him silly. He cares not. Anyway, I watch as my peer makes me a cocktail: crystal clear mixing glass, filled with new ice, ingredients measured gently and poured over the ice, bar spoon held by only the very end, with intense focus and smooth subtle movements, the ice moves around the mixing glass as if it was one piece of ice made just for that mixing glass, this motion in silent, smooth and meditative, the drink is poured into a chilled cocktail tail glass touched only at the stem and delivered to me in the same fashion, unblemished with a cherry rested on the edge and not in the drink. The purpose of my last sentence was not to be the longest run on sentence ever blogged, rather to say, there are countless thousands of subtle important tasks that go into making a cocktail well. And when all subtle techniques come together, that is when excellence occurs. The Manhattan was perfect and I left thinking, “the way he made that drink made me want to fuck him too,” and, “my bartender, the way he stirs a drink, he could never please a woman.” I fired my employee the next day.
So am I a bastard because I, in effect fired a guy because of a weak metaphor regarding a sexual epiphany relating drink stirring to proficiency in cunnilingus? I don’t care, but you are going get a well made cocktail when you come by my bar because I require others to care about the little things. Making a drink correctly means knowing when to be gentle or forceful, when to be quick or slow, planning your next move, timing your actions and doing several things at once to achieve the best result. If that isn’t directly correlative to sex I don’t know what is. For example, you can’t start with hair pulling, but you should probably work it in there somewhere. Back to drinks. I’ll get into stirring technique in a bit, but first and most importantly, understand what drinks are shaken and what drinks are stirred. Here a a list of commonly shaken drinks that should be stirred:
Arsenic and Old Lace
And here is a list of drinks that you would normally shake:
Blood and Sand
Corpse Reviver #2
Kangaroo Kicker (aka, vodka martini)
When the customer asks the drink to be shaken
Hopefully, from these lists you could deduce some simple rules.
When a drink is a cocktail,* it is stirred
When a drink is a sour,**a sling,*** or has an egg in it****you shake it
There are exceptions to every rule, a Stinger for example is made up of two liquors of such different viscosity that the must be shaken to mix well.
When the dumb shit customer asks for his Manhattan to be shaken, just remember, money is green
For proper stirring technique, see my drunk blog post entitled: The recipe for a Vesper, a lesson in technique.
Or to here is a sober edited version of what I said:
For Stirring: Cracking ice in stirred drinks maximizes the surface area of ice to booze but you still get the cold from the the fresh ice. When stirring, stir for at least 30 seconds, and when stirring think of the booze as stationary and that you are moving the ice through it. When stirring, understand that the point is to introduce no air into the drink. Mouth feel is to be silky yet with proper dilution won’t taste syrupy. You will and want to add about 1oz of water to a cocktail when stirring (added by melted ice). But be careful not to over stir as this will make the drink watery. When straining from glass, you use a julep strainer; place it inside the glass and strain into the chilled cocktail glass. Don’t take the chilled glass out of the cooler until you are ready to pour into it.
Its a lot to keep in mind. And its hard to not write about proper stirring technique without sounding like a harlequin romance novel. Here are some photos on what I do:
Use a vessel big enough to hold a ton of ice. I swear by this Japanese crystal mixing glass.
When stirring, use much more ice than fluid, move the bar spoon with your fingers only, keeping you arm andwrist straight and make no noise at all.
You might as well not put your warm hands on that chilled glass. Put the julep strainer inside the mixing glass for the most control in your pour.
How the mixing glass should look when you are done: cold and no finger prints.
I made up a cocktail to explain the gentle nature of how to stir a drink, its called the: “Nurse Chapel.” The point of this drink is to smoothly blend strong intense flavors into a blue velvet mini dress of sophistication and strength. Also, it delicately uses Mile’s scrappy bitters. Bother him at scrappybitters.com to make some for you.
The Nurse Chapel Cocktail
only to be made by smooth steady respectful hands.
1.5 oz Armanagac
.5 oz Vodka-something smooth
.25 oz Strega
.13 oz Violet
1 dash of chocolate bitters
garnish with a lemon zest
stir, gently but with authority and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Otherwise, when looking to please a woman: Listen, clean things including yourself, pick up the check every now and them, flowers, make her feel pretty and learn how to do dirty things with your hands. Its that easy.
*Cocktail- a mixed drink made up of of only alcoholic liquids, a dash of bitters and stirred
**Sour- lemon lime sugar and booze
***Sling- long drink sweetened with fruit juice
****Eggs in drinks are good