Step 3: Make It Work
After you decide on a base, it’s time to add in the supporting characters. You have endless choices here from other spirits, bitters, liqueurs, syrups, sodas, all the way to fruit juice. The most important things to consider are complementary flavors and striking a balance.
What does it mean for a flavor to complement another?
Technically, it’s kind of like the color wheel; opposite flavors are complementary while adjacent flavors are analogous. Non-technically, we’ve listed some complementary flavors that you should know.
- Example: Margaritas with a salt rim
- How do I create balance?
Balance simply means that your recipe can’t be too sweet, sour, bitter, or salty. This is where the supporting ingredients get their chance to shine.
If your recipe is too sweet, consider adding some citrus or bitters. If it’s too sour, try adding some gomme (sugar syrup) until you feel all the flavors coming out. Refer to the flavor complements above for inspiration on balancing out the flavors of your drink.
Step 4: Make It Look Good
A little goes a long way when it comes to garnishes. Resist the urge to do something elaborate here. Yes, we know an orange peel swan sounds good in your head but it might not work as well as you’d like.
The Grapefruit Thyme Fizz has simple garnish but goes a long way.
We recommend that you stick to peels, twists, sprigs, and wheels for your garnishes. Here are a few examples of easy but elegant garnishes:
- A lemon wheel on the rim of the glass pierced with a rosemary sprig
- Mint sprigs slotted into the ice (place the straw next to the sprigs so you get the aroma of mint every time you take a sip)
- Thumb-sized peel of lemon squeezed over the drink to release the oils and dropped into the glass.
Extra Credit Tips:
Shaken Not Stirred
The rule of thumb is, if your recipe calls for liqueurs, fruit juice, eggs, or syrup, then it needs to be shaken. If it is entirely booze, then it needs to be stirred (only top international spies are permitted to break this rule).
Learn more about when to shake and when to stir your cocktails here.
Work From a Story
A cocktail is not just alcoholic liquids mixed together. It can be a carrier for your most cherished memories. Take advantage of the full creative control over your signature cocktail and make your drink carry a memory.
Let’s say you spent some time in the Caribbean and there was one local who sold pineapples from his stand every day. The taste of sweet pineapple can bring you back to the moments with your toes in the white sand and the sun on your skin. From this story alone, you already have two ingredients you can work with – pineapples and rum (classic Caribbean spirit). From there, mix in some other flavors to finish your creation.
Now every time you serve this drink, you can have a lovely story to go along with it thus elevating your experience of the cocktail.
And there you have it, all the necessary elements to creating your signature cocktail.
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