Behind the Bar – Bartending Tidbits

  • As ice melts and a drink gets diluted, sweet tastes tend to get weaker and bitter tastes tend to get stronger.
  • Shaking gives a drink a sharper, more vibrant flavor. For this reason, drinks that are bitter to start with are generally stirred to avoid enhancing the bitter flavor and to create a smoother texture and taste.
  • If you have juice, dairy or eggs in your drink, you should shake and not stir. The frothy texture enforces the integration of the ingredients.
  • Using a muddler to smash mint leaves in drinks that call for it also lets our some bitter taste from the leaf. The better way of getting that minty fresh taste is to take the mint leaf in your palm and slap it a few times. Then throw the entire leaf in the drink.
  • When using a jigger to measure out your alcohol, keep the top of the jigger level with the top of the shaker or glass and right next to it. Since the correct measurement in a jigger requires filing to the point of having a meniscus, keeping the jigger close will help prevent spillage.
  • If using a Boston shaker (that’s the one with two separate mixing vessels – one is usually stainless steel and the other glass), start shaking slowly. This helps form a vacuum between the vessels. After that, shake vigorously.
  • The volume of a dash changes based on how much liquid is in the bottle. When full, the dash is small. When almost empty, the dash is, again, small. In the middle, the dash is the appropriate size. Is it worth trying to compensate? Probably not, but it’s a cool bar fact.
  • It’s not a bad idea to add ice to your drink as the last step during preparation. That way, when you inevitably get distracted while making the drink, the ice doesn’t melt and dilute your drink too much.
  • During shaking or stirring, plan for 20-25% dilution of the drink from melting ice. This is expected. The drink recipe was created with this expectation.
  • All vermouth should be refrigerated after opening. Vermouth is a fortified wine and does oxidize over time. Even refrigerated, you should limit the life of your vermouth to a couple of months at most.
  • Use a little more than 1/2 oz of simple syrup (50:50 water:sugar) to replace one muddled sugar cube. You can also use a teaspoon of granulated sugar.
  • Put the cocktail glass in the freezer as you’re filling the shaker with ice. By the time you are done pouring and shaking the ingredients, it will be nice and cold.
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