Mixers provide the flavor and balance that combine with liquor to give a drink its distinctive taste. Mixers range from plain water to club soda, from flavored sodas (like cola and lemon and lime), to fruit juices (orange, pineapple, cranberry, grapefruit, and tomato), and others. When it comes to mixers, fresher is always better.
Sugar is a powerful partner in many drinks, but its presence is behind the scenes, never tasted distinctly, and never, never felt as granules. Unless granulated sugar is specified, confectioner's sugar, referred to in this book as fine sugar, should always be used.
Some bartenders go a step further and prepare a “simple syrup” of sugar and water to use instead of dry sugar. To make a simple syrup, heat 2 cups of water in a saucepan and slowly add 2 cups of granulated sugar until it is completely dissolved. Boil for 5 minutes and then cool. The syrup can be stored in a bottle in a cool place.
Orange juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, grapefruit juice, lemon and lime juices, Bloody Mary mix, strawberry mix, olive juice, V8 juice, tomato juice, simple syrup, grenadine, coconut cream, honey, gomme, orgeat, lime juice cordial, hot sauce, Worcestershire, beef bouillon, Clamato juice, clam juice, milk, cream, half-and-half, ice cream, hot chocolate, unsalted butter, eggnog, egg white, all sodas, coffee, espresso, tea, and hot water.
With this book's bias for “fresher is better,” it is difficult to be objective. Fresh ingredients make a difference you can taste, but it may not be possible for you to make all of your own mixes. You can buy prepared mixes for Daiquiris, Margaritas, and, of course, Bloody Marys, among others. They come in bottled and powdered form. Some are excellent and some are not. Let the bartender beware and be the judge.
“Sour” mixes, which contain lemon juice, sugar, and some egg white, are a special case. Whenever a recipe in this book calls for sugar and fresh lemon or lime juice, sour mix can be substituted in the amount indicated on the product's label.
While the sound of bitters is not appealing, the little bottles are a witch's brew of roots and barks, berries, and herbs. Bitters add a kick of flavor to the mixed drinks they accompany, always in small amounts—dashes, to be approximately exact.
The most common type of bitters is Angostura, made in Trinidad. Two that are sometimes used are Peychaud's, from New Orleans, and Regans' orange bitters. Bitters do have an alcohol content and should not be served to anyone who abstains totally. Tasting them plain is not recommended either.
Condiments: The Little Things in Life
Sugar and spice and everything nice are all needed at the bar. Drinks are a delicate balance of ingredients, a microcosm of flavors. When the drink that is being created only totals three to eight ounces, every dash, splash, and fraction of a teaspoon counts.
Condiments are like the little things in life—they make all the difference. Stocking the bar with them is not an exaggerated effort, but as basic as buying the liquor. For some people, a Martini does not exist without an olive, a Margarita is naked without its salt. A Gibson is, in fact, defined by its cocktail onion.
A collection of condiments is dependent on personal needs. The accompanying list includes items like celery stalks and horseradish for Bloody Marys that you cannot keep at the bar waiting but must be available when the drinks are made. However, kosher salt for Margaritas can be ready at any time. Here are some condiments you can try:
|Raw sugar||Chili pepper||Spicy seasonings|
|Powdered sugar||Cayenne pepper||Kosher salt|
|Sugar cubes||White pepper||Coconut flakes|