A couple of years ago, I wondered why I only had a cocktail when out at a bar or restaurant, particularly when I enjoy them so much. So, I started preparing cocktails at home, and Marcy and I enjoy a cocktail once or twice a week.
In the process, I have learned a LOT about cocktails.
The first thing that I came to appreciate is the realization as to what a cocktail is.
A cocktail is a little glass of extremely intense flavor. If you’re a person who doesn’t consider themselves as a “hard liquor” drinker, take a moment to appreciate the next cocktail you’re served. Note that there is a clear distinction between a “cocktail” and a “highball”. While both are “mixed drinks”, a highball is a spiked beverage – orange juice, 7-up, Coca-Cola, cranberry juice, club soda, etc. As such, a highball simply adds the flavor and bouquet of an alchoholic spirit to another beverage. Some of these can indeed be delicious. I’m partial to a Screwdriver made with fresh orange juice, a good splash of lime juice, vodka and served over a lot of crushed ice.
However, for an incomparable gustatory experience, you have to go to a true cocktail, which is a mixture of various flavorings that include at least one alcoholic ingredient.
The alcohol is extremely important from a flavor standpoint. The vapors from the alcohol carry the flavors and aromas up into the nasal passages thus intensifying the flavors. You can make a “Shirley Temple” version of many cocktails, but in addition to the loss of the flavoring of the alcoholic component, you also miss the transport of the intense flavors by the vapors of the alcohol.
One last observation about cocktails in this entry. Cocktails are sipping drinks. The intensity of the flavor is best enjoyed by sipping the cocktail. Scenes you may have seen in some movies with characters tossing off martinis is a terrible waste of a good cocktail, and if you do it more than once, you will get anywhere from a little tipsy to completely smashed depending on how often it’s repeated. On the other hand, a single cocktail, consumed as it should be, will seldom cause any inebriation unless done on a completely empty stomach, and even then, should be only a mild (and not unpleasant) numbing of the upper lip that will pass rather quickly.
So, the point of a cocktail is to enjoy the flavor. There are cheaper and more effective ways to get falling-down drunk if that’s your goal!