I have a serious love affair with art. I’ve never been much of an artist, but I’ve always have a deep appreciation for aesthetic and beauty. From a young age I’ve also always had a deep appreciation for food, and later drink, and preferably in copious amounts. When I started in the hospitality industry I figured not only would I get to meet a lot of people, but I’d also get to indulge my appetite. Once I started bartending, however, I realized how much creativity goes into the crafting cocktails, and I soon began to look at it as its own art form. Bartending has become a medium of art for me–liquors are my paint while the glass is my canvas.
I began bartending about a year and a half ago. I’d always had a fascination with bartenders–they just looked so damn confident and cool. And, although I was getting my degree at the time, when I had the opportunity to move into bartending at my serving job I took it without question. Bartending was something I’d always kind of wanted to do, it looked fun, you apparently made great money (which I can now attest to as true), and, like I said, it just looked so damn cool. No one ever really talks about how they’d like to date a bartender, usually the dream is a doctor or a lawyer, but bartenders possesses this raw sexiness about them that no other career can boast.
Anyone who’s worked in the hospitality industry can easily tell you about the fast pace and intense pressure you’re under. I always thought of being a server as being an actress: you’re getting paid to smile and entertain people more than anything. But being a bartender was even harder: your audience is right in front of you, and in the heat of it there’s no where for you to go, you’re just at your bar on stage for everyone to see. Meeting people is my favourite part of the job, but having to maintain composure throughout a long and busy shift is something that takes a lot of skill, patience, and experience. The friendships you form while working in the hospitality industry are amazing as well; there are few other industries where you’ll cry so often at work or need to vent on-the-spot to whichever co-worker happens to be there at the time.
There are two things I really, really love about bartending. Firstly, you meet a ton of people. Some are terrible, but most are genuine and kind. I’ve made a few really great friends who started out as random people sitting at my bar. The conversations that can be struck up between someone sitting at my bar and I are amazing, anything from politics to a childhood story to the latest event happening in the city. It’s an incredibly easy way to meet people, and no two days are ever truly alike. Secondly, you can be really creative behind the bar. Depending on what sort of place you’re bartending there are a variety of ingredients: spirits, liqueurs, bitters, syrups, fruit, and some vegetables. Some days I really do feel like a painter of sorts. It’s always also really exciting to make a drink for someone depending on the flavours they’re looking for, and have them really enjoy what you’ve created.
As I learned more and more about the art of mixology I became enamoured with all the different ingredients you could use, from fine spirits to fruit to various kinds of bitters and syrups. I had never before thought of bartending as a creative thing, but the longer I was behind the bar and the more I learned about the distinctions between different kinds of liquors and liqueurs, the deeper my appreciation became for the art of mixing cocktails. A year and a half ago I never could’ve told you the differences between white, dark, or spiced rum or about the different types of whiskies, but having working in the hospitality industry and grown an organic interest in mixology, and also from having seen how numerous people dedicate their lives towards perfecting the concoction of spirits and cocktails, I can tell you a whole lot more.
Before delving into the recipes, I’m assuming that you have all the necessary ingredients and tools. For a list of bar tools refer to Cocktail Tool Guide by Studio Neat. For more information about different liquors and ingredients pick up a copy of Bartending for Dummies or visit Liquor 101 by The Spruce.
For starters, there are three ways to prepare cocktails:
- Stir: you’ll add your ingredients to a mixing glass with ice, and stir for about twenty seconds. Stirring helps cool down a drink without diluting it or bruising the alcohol. Bruising means to agitate or aerate a spirit and changes its taste–although unless you’re a connoisseur you’re unlikely to notice the difference in taste.
- Shake: shaking helps activate certain ingredients, such as egg whites. Most people are surprised when they hear of egg whites in their drinks, but the ingredient helps create a frothy texture in drinks like whiskey or bourbon sours, gin fizzes, and (sometimes) margaritas. Generally, if you’re adding anything creamy to your drink you should shake it. Never shake soda, tonic, or sparking wine. Instead, add it once your other ingredients have been shaken and strained into your glass, like a French 75.
- Build in glass: nice and easy. Just dump your ingredients in the glass, add your garnish and a straw, and enjoy.
There are tons of cocktails and new ones being created all the time, but here are some of my favourite classics and their recipes according to whether they’re stirred, shaken, or made right in the glass.
Happy (and responsible) drinking everyone!