In the last four years, I have constructed a lot of cocktails. My first attempts were concoctions where I (like most cocktail newbies) used soda (in the form of cola, 7-up and ginger-ale) as my main mixing ingredient. These drinks were long and tall, easy to make, and (the other cocktail geeks are going to hate me for admitting it) they are usually quite tasty and refreshing.
I still mix tall soda filled drinks; but if you read my cocktail menu you will find that these tall drinks no longer dominate my recipe section. Instead of lots of soda, I am now more likely to choose fresh squeezed fruit juice as the base for my cocktail constructions.
These fresh fruit juices used to intimidate me; now, I cannot really do without them. When I squeeze the juice from a lemon or lime and begin to mix my cocktail, I begin to feel like I am a real bartender, and when I mix this style of bar drink for my friends they actually think I am a cocktail guru!
Sometimes my friends actually seem mesmerized when I grab a lime, squeeze it on my juicer, strain it into my shaker, add some sugar syrup and Vodka and serve them a simple Vodka Daiquiri. Of course, I am no guru; my skills are rather limited. However, I have found that after a bit of practice I can now make a tasty short cocktail. And you can too., all you need is a little confidence, and to follow some simple guidelines.
The first guideline I follow when I make juice based cocktail is that I let the fresh squeezed fruit, not the alcohol spirit control the cocktail. Some fruits, like lemons and limes are very tart and/or sour, and they require the addition of a sweetener (like sugar) to bring them into balance. Other fruits, like oranges and pineapples are already sweet, and they require little, if any sweetener. Then there are the in between fruits like grapefruit which require some sweetness added, but not nearly as much as what the sour lemons and limes do. Over time I have developed a few simple ratios that work as good starting points for me. These ratios are as follows:
- Sour fruits (lemons and limes) need 2 parts of sugar syrup to 3 parts juice.
- Intermediate fruits (raspberries and grapefruit) need 1 part sugar syrup to 2 parts juice.
- Sweet fruits (oranges and pineapple) require 1 part sugar syrup to 4 parts juice.
These ratios are not (of course) fixed in stone, they serve as guidelines. My suggestion is to start here, and then tweak the ratios based upon your preference for sweetness, and for the actual mixing spirit you are using.
(Note: I always use a 1:1 ration of sugar to water when I make my sugar syrup. If you use a different ratio you should adjust the ratios above accordingly.)
Of course we need to know how much base spirit to add to make a good cocktail, and for this I have a few guideline ratios as well:
- No more than 3 parts of a 80 proof alcohol spirit to 2 parts fresh juice.
- Use less base spirit if it is an overproof spirit
If I choose to add a sweet liqueur like Curacao for added flavour:
- One part liqueur to two parts fruit juice
- Decrease the sugar by at least half the amount of sweet liqueur used.
Basically I am saying that if I add 1 ounce of a sweet liqueur to a cocktail recipe then I must decrease the sugar syrup amount by at least 1/2 ounce. Again I may have to adjust the sugar syrup in the recipe after the first try; but if I follow my guidelines I will always be close.
Using those simple ratios as my guidelines I can construct all manner of cocktails, and they almost always turn out great!
Let me step you through a likely scenario where the amount and the type of fruit I have on hand controls the cocktail which I build.
Lets say, I happen to have five friends over, and in my fridge I only have one orange, one lemon, and one lime, and on my bar is an open bottle of Herencia de Plata Reposado Tequila. Since I want each of us to enjoy the same cocktail, I am going to need to use all of the fruit. In this scenario, I would begin by using my juicer to squeeze out each fruit.
Let us pretend that I squeezed the lemon and lime juice into a measuring cup, and I ended up with about 100 ml (65 ml of lemon and 35 ml of lime) of juice. Easy enough, I add 65 ml of simple syrup into a convenient container with the fresh lemon and lime juice and I let that stand. Next I squeeze out the orange, and let’s say I get 100 ml of juice this time as well. Again, that’s pretty easy, I add the orange juice to my reserved container with the sweetened lemon and lime, and then add 25 ml of simple syrup. Now, the total amount of fresh juice I have in the container is about 200 ml, and the total sugar syrup is 90 ml.
We can now add the alcohol spirit (in this case Herencia Reposado Tequila). In this case I keep my measurements simple and add 300 ml of tequila. Since I already used orange juice, I will leave my orange liqueur (triple sec) out of the recipe. This gives me about 600 ml of cocktail liquid to divide between my five friends and me. Easy enough I grab my cocktail shaker and fill it with ice. I stir the reserve container which holds my cocktail base and add just under 100 ml of the liquid into my shaker. I give everything a good shake and strain into a cocktail glass and then repeat for each guest.
When I finish all six of us have a nice fruity tequila cocktail to enjoy on my back deck. Since some of my friends still like those tall soda filled drinks, so I open a bottle of soda (Q-Soda in this case), and I let them to add a bit of soda to the cocktail if they desire. (Some of my friends may even add a bit of ice, and we all ejoy a great cocktail on a hot lazy Sunday afternoon. (See picture to the right.)
Keeping your bar drink simple is at the heart of the process of making a good cocktail. All you really need is fresh fruit, simple syrup, and a quality mixing spirit. The fresher the fruit, the better the final cocktail.
Here is the simplified recipe of the cocktail I just made:
2 oz Reposado Tequila
3/4 oz orange juice
1/2 oz Lemon juice
1/4 oz Lime juice
7/8 oz simple syrup
Add the Ingredients to cocktail shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker frosts
Strain into a cocktail glass
add a splash of soda (optional)
Garnish with a slice of fruit
As you can see the cocktail looks delicious. All that left now is to give it a name.
Any suggestions …