Explainers

How to mix a drink

Cocktail king Michael Madrusan, of The Everleigh in Melbourne, prides himself on precision and principles, which also form the foundation of a great drink. Here are his golden rules.

By Michael Madrusan
From left: jigger, mixing glass, bar spoon, strainers and cocktail shaker from Bargeek.

"Making a drink shouldn't be complicated or hard," says Michael Madrusan, founder of Melbourne cocktail landmark The Everleigh, "but there are a couple of steps and tricks that can help you get it right every time.

"Start with quality ingredients. Good liquor and fresh citrus are vital - throw out that dusty vermouth and keep the new bottle in the fridge. Make sure you measure everything accurately - it's the only way you can ensure one Martini tastes as good as the next. And treat the dilution level as an ingredient, too; there's no set number of turns when stirring, for example, you need to keep tasting as you go. Finally, chill your glassware.

"These are the golden rules. Respect them and they'll serve you well."

TOOLKIT

Accuracy and having the right tools go hand in hand. The first thing to start with is a jigger to measure ingredients, which will help drinks stay consistent, "no matter the bartender, no matter the day", says Madrusan. A Japanese-style jigger usually has increments marked on the inside, so it's a good place to start. A bar spoon and mixing glass will add to the theatre, and should be matched with a julep strainer, while a Hawthorne strainer, with a spring for holding back ice, is for shakers.

SHAKING

Shaking chills drinks quickly and keeps cocktails light and refreshing. As a rule at The Everleigh we shake all drinks containing citrus because it helps release their zing. Any shaken cocktail is best enjoyed immediately.

Bar tools: Cocktail shaker, jigger, Hawthorne strainer, frozen cocktail glass.

1 Add all ingredients to a shaker. Taste before you add ice to make sure you didn't forget anything.

2 Add ice and seal the shaker. Make sure the seal is tight; you don't want it coming apart mid-shake.

3 Shake hard and fast, holding each end firmly. After 10 seconds the shaker should feel very cold, which means it's time to strain.

4 Crack the seal, strain into a glass using a Hawthorne strainer, garnish and enjoy.

Recipe for a Daiquiri: The Daiquiri is a typically shaken cocktail. Use 60ml light rum, 30ml fresh lime, 20ml sugar syrup, and garnish with a lime wedge.

Note: To make your own sugar syrup, bring a mixture of equal parts sugar and water to a boil to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and cool before use.

BUILDING

Built drinks are quick and simple. In this instance, the dilution happens in the glass, not before the drink is served. We practice "ice last" bartending to ensure the drink doesn't dilute before we want it to.

Bar tools: Rocks glass or tumbler, jigger.

1 Add the cheapest ingredients first in case you make a mistake. No one wants to pour expensive booze down the drain.

2 No need for a shaker or mixing glass for these drinks, simply measure the ingredients accurately in a jigger and add straight to the glass itself.

3 Now add your ice. For cocktails on the rocks, opt for large pieces; they'll melt slowly and cool the drink quickly, helping the drink maintain its integrity for longer.

Recipe for a Negroni: The Negroni is a class example of a built cocktail. Make it with 20ml gin, 30ml Cocchi sweet vermouth and 20ml Campari, add a large cube of ice and garnish with a twist of orange or an orange wedge.

STIRRING

Stirring creates a full-bodied, concentrated cocktail with no aeration. Stirred drinks are more durable than shaken drinks that feature citrus, so can be enjoyed over a longer period.

Bar tools: Frozen mixing glass or pint glass, jigger, bar spoon or chopstick, julep strainer, frozen cocktail glass.

1 Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Taste to check you didn't forget anything.

2 Add ice and stir. There's no need to add air here, so reserve that whipping motion for your omelettes. The ideal motion should feel smooth, natural and avoid splashing.

3 Taste every 20-30 seconds until the drink is ice-cold and soft on the palate (as in there's no longer any sting from the alcohol).

4 Strain with a julep strainer into a glass, removing any stray ice.

Recipe for a Martini: A Martini is usually stirred. Use 60ml gin, 30ml dry vermouth, 2 dashes of orange bitters and garnish with a lemon twist, olive or pickled onion.

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  • Author: Michael Madrusan