Cocktail, a member of a class of party beverages made by combining two or more individual drinks, is universally acclaimed for its visual appeal, refined composition, and sophisticated fixing and serving norms. Today, the term is mostly used in reference to combination drinks made by mixing two or more alcoholic drinks, or an alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic one. The term is also used to refer to cocktail dishes which are made by the combination of two or more ingredients of the category after which the cocktail is named. For example, seafood cocktail is one of the most common cocktail dishes which contains a medley of different kinds of seafood. This article is mainly focused on the beverage and associated foods. Cocktails are generally meant to be party drinks. A number of interesting cocktail recipes have been created in the American and European cuisines , since the olden days , hence they are traditional drinks. Mojito( the rum and mint cocktail), Sling( Singaporean gin cocktail mix), Sidecar( brandy and Cointreau cocktail), Pisco Sour( South American bandy Pisco cocktail), and White Russian( vodka cocktail) are some of the most popular cocktails of all times.
History of Cocktail and Cocktail Recipes
According to historical evidences, mention of the cocktail was found to have been first made in the early 1800s. The term was first mentioned in The Farmer’s Cabinet ( a 1803 book), and was defined for the first time on 13th May 1806 in Balance and Columbian Repository in New York. How to Mix Drinks; or, The Bon Vivant's Companion a 1832 publication of Jerry Thomas was the first book that contained information for bartenders on fixing a cocktail drink. Mrs. Julius S. Walsh is credited with the honor of being the first person to have hosted a cocktail party in 1917 in St. Louis, Missouri. The popularity of cocktails underwent a decline in the mid 20th century, but they were later revived from the early years of the 21st century with the increasing trend of people preferring to drink vodka and gin based cocktails in the recent years. The traditional cocktail drinks are almost in vogue again now.
Ingredients used in Cocktails
As in the Balance and Columbian Repository, the cocktail by definition is made using two or more alcoholic drinks (liquors or distilled spirits), sugar, and bitters and water, though modern cocktail recipes exclude bitters. The contemporary version of the traditional cocktails are made by including other ingredients like milk, soda, honey, ice, fruits, herbs, fruit juice or cream to the basic cocktail recipes. Some of them even exclude the alcoholic components owing to the rise in health consciousness. Preparation of a cocktail does not require a lot of effort and neither does it consume more time than a few minutes. The key to fixing a perfect drink lies in the art of mixing the constituent ingredients. It is important to mix the prescribed ingredients in the correct proportion and in the correct sequence.
Preparation of Cocktails
Though a cocktail essentially involves mixing, fixing the drink is an art that involves different types of techniques. Cocktails may be fixed in one or more of the following ways :
• Blending – This is a simple and fast process involving mixing the constituent ingredients with adequate quantity of ice in an electric blender and serving the mixture in cocktail glasses with a suitable garnish.
• Shake and Strain – The ingredients, as prescribed by the cocktail recipe, are placed in a cocktail shaker and topped with ice and other toppings. The lid of the shaker is placed and the shaker is shaken manually by holding it higher than the shoulder level of the fixer. The mixture is strained and poured into cocktail glasses and garnished for being served.
• Stir and Strain- The constituent ingredients are added to the cocktail shaker which is already filled 2/3 with ice. The mixture is stirred till it is chilled, strained and then poured into cocktail glasses and garnished for being served.
• Building – this is the simplest of all methods of fixing cocktail as it only involves adding the ingredients one by one in appropriate quantities and sequence to ice in a cocktail glass.
A cocktail may be served as party refreshment along with some snacks, or it may be served after a meal. It all depends upon the composition and ideal consumption norm of the cocktail. Cocktails are ideally served in glasses or glassware specifically designed for the purpose. Nowadays, with development in the practice of drinking cocktails, serving cocktails is a sophisticated affair requiring expert administration of serving skills on the part of the bartender, the party host or any other person fixing the drink and serving it.
There are some essential resources for enjoying a perfect cocktail:
• The serving glasses should be chilled and frosted (if necessary) – some cocktails require, sugar, salt, chocolate or cinnamon flavored rims on the glasses in which they are served. This can be achieved by dipping the serving glass upside down in the frosting mixture which may be a dry mix or a liquid solution.
• Crushed ice should be easily available
Different types of glasses used for serving cocktails : Different types of glasses have been designed for ideally serving and enjoying different types of cocktails and it is recommended that in formal environments it is better to serve the drinks in the type of glassware ideally designed for the purpose.
• Highball glasses –these stunted glasses with straight sides are the most ordinarily used glasses for serving cocktails in general. They are specifically designed for serving layered cocktails, on rocks cocktails and also some mixers.
• Martini glasses – These are ideally designed for serving apart from martini( the obvious choice), Manhattan, gimlet and Metropolitan.
• Pint glasses – These glasses are appropriate for fixing drinks requiring a sufficient space for the purpose. These glasses are tall and can be used for fixing layered cocktail drinks and also beers.
Cocktail recipes include a number of interesting garnishes, such as, fruit peels or wedges especially of citrus fruits like lemon, lime or orange, chocolate, olive shreds, vegetable fragments, and coffee bean. Food artists are known to make delightful fancy shapes of some of the garnishing ingredients and decorate the cocktail ensemble with them for parties.
Accompaniments to be served with Cocktails
Cocktails are served with a number of accompaniment dishes which are light foods. Small pastries, canapés, finger foods or crudités may be served preferably without dipping sauces. The side courses served with cocktails are recommended to be of salty or savory flavors and not sweet. Cheese , olive ham, bacon, tomato or fish preparations are expected to go well with cocktails.
Popular Cocktail Recipes
Cocktails are of different kinds and based on their constituent ingredients they are divided into a number of classes:
• Absinthe Cocktails– These cocktails are made with absinthe, an alcoholic drink with anise flavoring. Death in The Afternoon is a famous Champagne cocktail made including absinthe. Corpse Reviver# 2 is another popular absinthe cocktail made in combination with gin and Cointreau with citrus flavorings. Earthquake, The Monkey Gland and Green Vesper are other types of absinthe cocktails.
• Beer Cocktails – These are drinks made with beer as the mandatory component. The other ingredient may or may not be a distilled spirit. A cocktail made in combination with a non-alcoholic component is known as a Shandy. Black Velvet, Down Low, Scotch Beer, Snakebite, and boiler Maker are some of drinks that belong to this category of cocktails.
• Brandy/Cognac Cocktails – These are cocktails made with brandy or cognac as the compulsory inclusion. Dirty Mother is a cocktail made of brandy and the Mexican Kahlua which is a coffee flavored liqueur. Brandy Manhattan, French Connection, Chicago Cocktail, and Jack Rose are a few of the large number of brandy or cognac cocktails.
• Cachaca Cocktails – These cocktails contain cachaca, a sugarcane liquor, in combination with other ingredients. Batida, Caju Amigo, Leite de Onca, and Rabo de Galo are all cocktail drinks that are made with cachaca as the compulsory ingredient.
• Gin Cocktails – Martini, Gibson, Hanky Panky, Pink Lady, and White Lady are a few popular drinks belonging to this category which comprises one of the most populous groups of cocktail drinks. The alcoholic beverages belonging to this category contain gin as the essential ingredient.
• Rum Cocktails- Bacardi, Mojito, Brass Monkey, Pina Colada, and Daiquiri are some of the best known cocktails of this category. As indicated by the name of the category, these drinks contain rum as the mandatory ingredients. Apart from the cocktails categorized as above there are a number of other categories of cocktails.
There are a number of cocktails made with vodka, sake or tequila as the essential ingredient. For example, Margarita is a popular cocktail made with Tequila as the primary ingredient. Bloody Mary, Harvey Wallbanger and Cosmopolitan are some of the most popular vodka cocktails. Godfather, John Collins, Old Fashioned and Rob Roy are some of the IBA official whiskey cocktails. Bellini, Mimosa, Champagne Cocktail, and Kir Royale are some of the IBA official wine cocktails. Cocktails are not only made with an alcoholic element as the primary ingredient but also with chocolate, coffee, cream, fruit, herbal, nut, flower liqueurs. Kahlua Colada, Jamaican coffee, Dirty White Mother, Irish Car Bomb, and Zombie are cocktails made with liqueur.
Health Benefits of Cocktails
As a cocktail is mostly made up of an alcoholic element, usually it is not considered very good for the human health, but studies reveal that fruit and wine cocktails are found to be beneficial to the human health. The Bloody Mary drink made with tomato juice is found to be one of the healthiest cocktails as the lycopene in tomatoes is believed to clear arterial plaque and also found to be beneficial for treating other cardiological conditions. The tomato in the drink is also a rich source of Vitamin C. Beer cocktails are also found to be beneficial for the human health provided they are consumed in prescribed quantities.
Cocktail : Trivia
The name cocktail for this mixed drink is known to be linked to several stories of origin, a popular one of which conveys that the drink was given the name when the feathers from tails of cocks were placed on the bottle or the glasses containing the drink to celebrate one’s achievements during a cockfight.