Basic Cocktail Techniques

There are many special techniques a bartender will use when professionally preparing cocktails and hope you find the following information of use when practising your own 'mixology'.

We break down the mystique that has sprung up over the years about the virtues of those 'closely-guarded' trade secrets from layering to shaking and beyond.

Remember, the key to a truly memorable cocktail is your own individuality!

An electric blender is needed for recipes containing fruit or other ingredients which do not break down by shaking. Blending is an appropriate way of combining these ingredients with others, creating a smooth ready to serve mixture. Some recipes will call for ice to be placed in the blender, in which case you would use a suitable amount of crushed ice.
Fill the recommended glass with ice (if required) and simply pour in the ingredients and give them a quick stir before serving.
Most liqueurs with a high alcohol content are really easy to flame. Simply warm your liqueur up in a saucepan and have a pre-warmed cocktail glass ready. After heating the glass, pour the rest or other alcohols into the glass to warm. The glass can be heated over an element or a flame, but use caution to avoid contact with the glass, the element, or the flame, as the glass will break or char easily. When the alcohol has been heated, ignite it, and add it to the alcohol in the glass. If done properly the alcohol in the glass will be warm enough to flame as well.
Caution: When flaming liqueurs be sure to keep any objects away from the glass. Flames can often shoot up high and ignite things on their way like your hair! So if doing this, please use caution and enjoy the fireworks.
Drinks are served over chrushed or shaved ice.
The most common frosted glass is simply put in the freezer or buried in ice cubes long enough to create a white frosted look on the glass.
One of the more difficult techniques in bartending is layering or floating liqueurs. Although this seems like a challenge, there is a very simple method that you can use. Each liqueur weighs differently and either floats or sinks when added to another. Most recipes are written with the heaviest liqueurs printed first. If all else fails, experiment and get used to the liqueurs that you most often use.
To pour the liqueurs into the glass, simply use the rounded or back part of a spoon and rest it against the inside of the glass. Slowly pour down the spoon and into the glass. The liqueur should run down the inside of the glass and smoothly layer. This technique takes practice, but can be mastered by anyone. Make sure that the liqueurs are poured in order of their weight, starting with the heaviest first (the one with the least alcoholic content, ABV).
To extract the most flavour from certain fresh ingredients such as fruit or mint garnishes and inclusions, you should crush the ingredients with the muddler on the back end of your bar spoon, or with a pestle.
A drink, to be served in an old-fashioned or rocks glass, over ice.
Use a wedge of fruit, lemon or lime, and wet the top edge of the glass whilst holding it upside down. Then dip the rim of the glass into a plate of shallow salt, preferably caorse or kosher salt and turn it slowly to achieve a consistent depth of 'frosting'.
To season a glass, dash only a small amount of the spirit with which you wish to 'season' the glass with by rotating the liquid around the inside of the glass and discarding the excess.
When a drink contains eggs, fruit juices or cream, it is necessary to shake the ingredients. Shaking is the method by which you use a cocktail shaker to mix ingredients together and chill them simultaneously. The object is to almost freeze the drink whilst breaking down and combining the ingredients. Normally this is done with ice cubes three-quarters of the way full. When you've poured in the ingredients, hold the shaker in both hands, with one hand on top and one supporting the base, and give a short, sharp, snappy shake. It's important not to rock your cocktail to sleep. When water has begun to condense on the surface of the shaker, the cocktail should be sufficiently chilled and ready to be strained. Fill the mixing glass aproximately 3/4 full with ice and then add the required amount of liquor. Stir slowly in a clockwise motion for about 3-4 stirs or circles around the glass. After this is done, strain the drink into the serving glass and garnish it accordingly.
Known under various names, from Bar Syrup to Sugar Syrup, this simple to create concoction is basically a supersaturated mixture of sugar and water. As a liquid, it easily dissolves in drinks where a bit of added sweetness is called for.
To make, gradually pour two cups of granulated sugar into a cup of boiling water and simmer for about ten minutes. Keep in your refrigerator until needed.
Cocktails which contain only spirits require stirring with ice in a mixing glass with a bar spoon for proper mixing. It is necessary to stir aplenty to ensure that the drink is well mixed and chilled, but not enough to dilute the drink.
A drink that is chiled, strained of ice and served into a chilled cocktail glass.
Most cocktail shakers are sold with a build-in strainer or hawthorn strainer. When a drink calls for straining, ensure you've used ice cubes, as crushed ice tends to clog the strainer of a standard shaker. If indeed a drink is required shaken with crushed ice (ie. Shirley Temple), it is to be served unstrained.