melo_annechen: (Soda)
melo_annechen ([personal profile] melo_annechen) wrote2013-06-06 11:56 pm
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Basic Drinks - An introduction

Social drinking has waxed and waned over the centuries, but even making alcohol illegal did not completely erase it in the days such measures were tried. While not every host will serve alcohol, those that do are advised by many bartending guides to learn the basic drinks. The list of basic drinks varies, but there are some classics that have staying power.

From The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David A. Embury, first published in 1948, there were six drinks listed as the Basics.


  • 7 parts English gin

  • 1 part French (dry) vermouth

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, twist lemon peel over the top and serve garnished with an olive, preferably one stuffed with any kind of nut.


  • 5 parts American whiskey

  • 1 part Italian (sweet) vermouth

  • dash of Angostura bitters to each drink

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and serve garnished with a maraschino cherry.

Old Fashioned

  • 12 parts American whiskey

  • 1 part simple syrup

  • 1-3 dashes Angostura bitters to each drink

In an old-fashioned glass, add bitters to simple syrup and stir. Add about 1 ounce of whiskey and stir again. Add two cubes of cracked, but not crushed, ice and top off with the rest of the whiskey. Twist lemon peel over the top and serve garnished with the lemon peel and a maraschino cherry.


  • 8 parts white Cuban rum

  • 2 parts lime juice

  • 1 part simple syrup

Shake with lots of finely crushed ice and strain well into a chilled cocktail glass.


  • 8 parts Cognac or Armagnac

  • 2 parts lemon juice

  • 1 part Cointreau or triple sec

Shake vigorously with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon if desired.

Jack Rose

  • 8 parts Applejack

  • 2 parts lemon juice

  • 1 part Grenadine

Shake vigorously with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon if desired.

Compare the 1948 list to the one from a blog post from 2011:

The Martini

  • 2 ½ Ounces of a nice gin (Bombay or Plymouth come to mind).  If you prefer vodka, then substitute.

  • ¾ Ounce of dry vermouth

Shake ingredients with plenty of cracked ice in a shaker till oh so cold. Strain the martini into a chilled cocktail glass. Drop 1 or 3 (2 is bad luck) olives into the loveliness.  Rinse, repeat.

The Manhattan

  • 2 oz bourbon or rye

  • 1 oz sweet vermouth

  • A couple shakes of bitters (I have fun w/ this part;  different types create different subtle flavors)

  • Just a teaspoon or so of maraschino cherry juice

Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker till thick with cold. Strain into chilled cocktail glass with a fat maraschino cherry waiting in the bottom.  Also….many folks prefer the Manhattan served over cracked ice in a fat whiskey or double old-fashioned glass. No crime in that.

The Old Fashioned

  • 2 ounces bourbon or rye

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • 1 white sugar cube

  • soda water

  • Fruit (an orange slice and a cherry or two)

Soak the sugar cube in the bottom of a whiskey or old-fashioned glass with a couple dashes of Angostura bitters. Add a few capfuls of club soda and the orange slice and cherry, then muddle up (crush) everything until the sugar cube is more or less broken down. Add your ice to ¾ of the way to the top then your 2 ounces of whiskey. Top with club soda, stir and pass over to the person whom is about to compliment you on your fantastic Old Fashioned.

The Sidecar

  • 1.5 oz brandy

  • 1 oz Cointreau or Curacao

  • 1 oz lemon juice

Easy to remember, 1.5 to 1 to 1, the Sidecar is a no-brainer.  Just make sure you use a fairly decent middle-of-the-road brandy, and you should be all set.  Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel float.

The Daiquiri

  • ½ oz fresh squeezed lime juice

  • 1 tsp powdered sugar or 2 tsp simple syrup (adjust to taste)

  • 2 oz rum (have fun with this; many use white rum, but aged rum provides a different more earthy taste. Hell, try whichever rum you enjoy most.)

Shake ingredients with ice till frothy and cold. Serve up in a chilled cocktail glass or over rocks in a small rocks glass. Wedge of lime as garnish.

Besides the transition from the scaleable “parts” to more exact measurements,  there is the loss of the Jack Rose. The second set of recipes also have a less precise approach to the mixing of drinks. Part of this is due to the author’s writing style, but one should also consider the change in attitudes to any of the food services. The current trend to see “food as art” has extended to the bar. While we see more outlandish concoctions arriving on menus and bar lists every day, the classics survive.

They survive, with minor changes, because they are solid, time-tested recipes. Seeing the daiquiri as the cornerstone for all citrus sours, as noted by the 2011 blog of Mr Booze, notes that the simplest combinations endure. A pessimist might consider these basic drinks as the ones least likely to be ruined by someone playing around with them. Good bartenders know that when someone orders one of these cocktails, there is a specific flavor profile and proper presentation the customer is expecting.

The formulae are changing though. Generally speaking, the components stay the same, but the ratios fluctuate as much as hemlines and economic stability. Our 1948 version of the martini is a 7:1 gin to vermouth ratio. By 1959, the ratio had shifted to 6:1 if we use the lyrics of Tom Leher’s Bright College Days as a guide. Then in 1984, the age of excess The Mr Boston Bartender’s Guide lists the “Traditional” Martini at 2:1, with multiple variations appearing, such as dry (5:1), extra dry (8:1) and even a sweet (1:1, made with sweet vermouth). Our 2008 source, Mr Waters, lists the martini as 16:1, a wide swing for a very dry martini, which was published at the beginnings of the global economic decline. Our next version, from the 2011 blog entry, veers back to sweetness at 3:1.

The shifting of the balance happens throughout the list. The 1948 Manhattan is 5:1 while the 2011 is 2:1. The Sidecar shifts from 8:2:1 to 3:2:2. The most noticeable change  is in the Old Fashioned, which goes from barely sweetened whisky in 1948 (12:1) to a concoction with club soda taking the ratio down to about 5:1.

The one shift that is not in the same direction is the daquiri. In The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks the ratio is 8:2:1. Our modern blogger’s recipe clocks in at 12:3:2. In comparing the two lists, this is the one that bucks the trend of “less alcohol, more sweet”.

Admittedly, this is hardly a scientific study, with only these four sources being compared, but until the grant is awarded for studying the history of mixology, it will have to do.


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