For the joy of mixing: Tips for putting together a great cocktail

Sommelier Hardik Arora breaks down the tricks and taboos of mixology for the uninitiated

21 Apr 2016

Come summer and it's time for lively shindigs and some pure alcoholic indulgence. And no party would be complete without some cocktails to go with the good times. Rustling up a delicious cocktail may seem like a breeze to the untrained eye, but it often involves a thorough knowledge of balancing flavours, applying proper techniques and pairing the right ingredients. One wrong move can result in a mixological disaster that can leave a bad taste in the mouth, both in the figurative and literal sense. Sommelier Hardik Arora from Grover Zampa Vineyards outlines the basics for the novices in a mood to attempt lip-smacking cocktail recipes this summer.

Ace the Base

When it comes to creating a good foundation for a cocktail, Hardik stresses on the importance of selecting the right base which defines the distinct "mouthfeel" of the finished drink. He recommends stockpiling good-quality bases, mainly spirits such as rum, vodka, whiskey, gin and tequila for the beginners setting out on their cocktail journey. He says, "It's important which mixer should be blended with the base alcohol so that the drink tastes good and its freshness is retained." With the trend now veering towards fizzy cocktails, Hardik also prescribes stocking the bar with sparkling wines. "They have a better mouthfeel, and are spritzy and fresh to taste," he adds.

Method in the Madness

Techniques are as important to mixology as the ingredients. Hardik recommends two simple behind-the-counter moves for the rookies to blow their guests' minds. First is the build-up method where the mixers and the alcoholic base are poured into a glass successively. Second is the shake-and-strain method where ingredients such as ice, lime juice and sugar syrup are combined with the bases in a cocktail shaker and poured into a glass with the help of a strainer. He also recommends using the muddling technique, albeit with caution, in which the flavours of fruits and herbs can be released by bruising them in a glass with a muddler. "Care should be taken that the insides of the fruit is pounded and not the skin which may cause the drink to taste bitter," Hardik cautions.

Thinking out of the (Ice) Box..go ahead, innovate!

Those feeling a little adventurous can bring in their own innovations by adding special twists to drinks. Hardik muses, "Think about bringing complimentary flavours like coconut water and Malibu rum together." However, he warns the beginners to err on the side of caution by experimenting with tried and tested recipes such as Mimosa or Bellini. "Take the base of a classic cocktail and add your innovations to them instead of creating a new drink from scratch," he states. He also warns against experimenting with harsh flavouring agents and egg-yolk based cocktails for beginners. "Although there is no fixed number of ingredients to add to a cocktail, try not to mix more than three ingredients at a time," he adds on a concluding note.

No matter what your style is, be it a savoury Bloody Mary or an earthy Long Island Ice Tea, these tricks and tips can help you usher in the summer with style minus the embarrassing cocktail gaffes!

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