I'm starting a new series on the blog called Methods of Preparation. Every cocktail can be placed into a category with defining features that tell us how to prepare that drink. These features typically suggest the glass and ice we'll need, along with the steps we'll use to achieve optimal temperature, water content, and texture.
Today, we're talking about STIRRED UP cocktails. This category most famously includes the Martini and the Manhattan. Typically these cocktails contain a base spirit along with fortified wines, liqueurs, amari, and other bitters. These drinks almost never have citrus juice of any kind.
Simply put, unless otherwise specified, ‘stirred up' cocktails should be built in a mixing glass, stirred with cracked ice, strained into a stemmed glass, and garnished as the recipe indicates.
- mixing glass
- bar spoon
- julep strainer
STEP 1. Build your drink in a chilled mixing glass. A 16 oz pint glass straight out of the freezer is ideal and crucial for temperature control. What you don't want is for your mixing glass to prematurely melt your ice because the glass is too warm. It'll add unwanted water content to your cocktail before you can get the drink cold enough. Make sense?
We build cocktails based on an internal Order of Operations, adding each ingredient as we get to its category. In the case of most stirred up drinks, dashes will be the first thing you add.
Next, we add liqueurs and fortified wines.
We almost always add our base spirits last. Adding the most expensive ingredient last reduces the chance for error later on and also acts as a reminder that the drink is now complete.
STEP 2: We add hand cracked ice a few pieces at a time until our mixing glass is full. Hand cracking larger pieces of ice into smaller rustic pieces allows us to better insulate the glass, essentially allowing the liquid cocktail to cover more surface area than if using a uniform shape of ice. Don't be shy with your ice. If your glass and ice both come straight from the freezer you should have no problem achieving sub zero cocktail temperatures.
STEP 3: There is no set amount of time nor a set number of rotations with a bar spoon that will ensure a properly stirred cocktail. However, there are two important variables that one must constantly consider while stirring: temperature and water content. Stir the drink for too much time and you may end up with an ice cold, but watery, cocktail. Stir it for too little time and you may end up with a warm drink that's too harsh on the palate.
Temperature: For 'stirred up' drinks, we aim to achieve a cocktail that's just below freezing (-2C or colder).
Water Content: For 'stirred up' drinks with an average starting liquid volume of 3oz we aim to introduce approximately 1 oz or 25% water content to the final drink.
STEP 4: We strain our finished cocktail directly into our chilled stem glass. This should ideally come from the freezer as well. The coupe glass has become the industry standard for most up drinks, although the Nick & Nora glass is making a swift comeback for obvious reasons.
STEP 5. Garnish as the recipe indicates. A garnish should always serve a purpose. It must, at the very least, enhance the appearance of the final drink without being cumbersome or distracting. It may also add subtle aromatic notes or enhance the overall flavor profile of the finished cocktail. This is especially true of 'stirred up' drinks.