When you’re crafting a simple, minimal cocktail every ingredient, and every step you take becomes that much more important.
While they may not have the same visual impact as their maximalist cousins, perfecting simple cocktails is one of the most important things a bartender can learn. Each ingredient in a minimalist cocktail plays a pivotal role – from the ice, to the mixing method, to the glassware to the actual ingredients – every little aspect impacts the final taste.
So, how does a new bartender perfect mixing a simple cocktail? Practice, practice, practice. Explore how small changes in quantities of ingredients change the flavor and attune your palate to degrees of difference. If you use a citrus spiral versus a swath the amount of oil and exposed pith will create subtle changes due to the amount of surface area exposed. Likewise, good quality ice over ice made from tap water, as well as dilution due to shaking over stirring, will both have a surprising impact on the final cocktail.
Knowing how small differences affect the resulting mix can help you adjust each of your cocktails to make a highly controlled final product. Plenty of bartenders can create complex drinks with elaborate garnishes, and do so beautifully, but far less truly master the art of minimalism.
To help you get started on doing more with less, try crafting multiple versions of classic cocktails (like the ones below) with minor changes. As you see how each change affects the final drink take notes to give yourself a good way to compare over time.
- 2 oz. Good Quality Rye or Bourbon
- 1/2 tsp. Sugar
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Preparation: Add the sugar and bitters to a rocks glass and lightly muddle. Add the bourbon and ice and gently stir to combine. Express an orange peel over the glass and use as garnish.
- 2 1/2 oz. Gin or Vodka
- 1/2 oz. Dry Vermouth
- Lemon Peel or Olives
Preparation: Chill the Martini glass before serving by placing it in the freezer. Place the gin or vodka and dry vermouth into a mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain the mixture into your chilled Martini glass and garnish with a lemon peel or olive.
Tip: Pinch the back of the lemon peel over the Martini. Rub the peel around the rim of the glass then drop it in.
- 1 oz. Gin
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
- Orange Twist (for Garnish)
Preparation: Add all liquid ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir until chilled and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Express an orange peel over the top of the drink and drop it in as a garnish.