There is much more to the craft of cocktail making than the ability to follow recipes, as proven by master mixologist Eben Freeman, who helms a very informative cocktail-making class a few times a month at Genuine Liquorette, on the Lower East Side.
We joined one of his classes to learn some master tips and tricks:
Setting Up Your Tools is the First Step to Success
The position of each tool (think Julep strainer, stirrer, mixing glass, shaker, and jigger) on the bar is designed to minimize labor time. “When you notice a bartender looking around [the bar],” explains Freeman, “It’s because they didn’t put something back in its place.” Lesson learned: Spend time memorizing each and every single tool’s location.
You Need to Learn How to Fold a Towel
The “wine fold” is Freeman’s preferred method. An essential bartending tool, the towel’s function is much more than mere drying post-ingredient-spillage. Besides preventing accidents, it allows the bar to be a more welcoming space (and therefore more conducive to patrons purchasing drinks).
Learn the Difference Between a “Shaken” Cocktail and a “Stirred” Cocktail
“We stir a drink to get it cold but not get air into it,” explains the expert. “When you’re shaking [a cocktail], you’re trying to get air into it.” Remember: gin martinis and Manhattans are always stirred.
There Are Secrets to Jiggers
Have you ever looked inside of a jigger? The tool is actually a multi-measuring one: peek inside and you’ll notice internal lines that denote various measurements.
When Making a Cocktail, Less is More
Specifically: the less you move, the better the cocktail will be. “Pour all ingredients in the measuring cups using your wrist,” says Freeman before instructing the class to pour over three bottles of water using his wrist-heavy technique. “Remember: it’s an ‘economy of motion,’” he explains.
The Bartender That Smacks Down His Jigger is Not Cool
Freeman explains that, when smacking down the jigger on the bar, a bartender thinks he’s cleaning the tool. However, “washing it out is always the right option.” Also: feel free to utilize different jiggers for different ingredients, just make sure not to mix them up.
Always Start Small
Always begin by pouring the smaller ingredients—if you make a mistake, you’ll be throwing out the most modest amount of ingredients possible.
When Stirring, Always Aim for Quiet
“Quiet ice is your goal,” explains the cocktail guru when teaching about the proper technique for stirring ice. Why? “You don’t want the ice to move around because that adds air,” which is what you should avoid when stirring.
When Shaking, Always Aim for Lots of Noise
“Shake so hard that your neighbors complain,” is how Freeman puts it. Side note: nobody tells you how freezing cold the cobbler is once ice is added to it (and how excruciatingly painful it is to shake it).
Bonus Knowledge: There’s a Reason Why Most Micro Distillers Start Off with Gin
“Gin you don’t have to age,” says the mixologist, “So it’s the first spirit micro-distillers make.”