How To Mix Drinks
So you want to learn how to mix drinks like a pro? Before trying to develop your own flair, first learn the basics. Memorize the classic drink recipes. Practice mixing and pouring until you can hold ten different drinks in your memory and pour them all quickly with your eyes closed. Practice, practice, and keep practicing!
Below are the major terms and techniques that you'll need to become familiar with. The only way to gain confidence when mixing drinks is by making them over and over again. When I first started out I used old liquor bottles filled with water and just starting mixing drinks. You can add a little food coloring to the bottles to make it feel more realistic if you prefer.
If you attend an actual bartending class similar to the one that I went to many years ago, they'll have an entire fake bar set up. You'll get the chance to do some role-playing and practice pouring drinks in situations very close to the real deal. It's a great confidence booster.
You can do it yourself simply by setting up your own fake bar and inviting some friends over. Give them a list of drinks that you want to practice, turn up the music, tone down the lights, and have them fire drink orders at you! Remember to use fake liquor as you don't want to send your friends into a coma! Reward them at the end with a few real drinks.
Pouring From The Bottle
To mix a drink, first you need to pour the liquor. Bartenders use jiggers to measure out shots of various liquor. First grab the correct jigger for the drink you're making being sure to check the seal on the bottle of liquor. The spout must fit snugly in the bottle forming an airtight seal. The last thing you want to do is flip the bottle up and have the spout fall off.
Different bartenders use different methods, but I'll teach you the way I learned to do it. You can add your own flair to the process once you've mastered the basics. Hold the liquor bottle tightly placing your index finger over the base of the pour spout, the rest of your hand firmly grasping the bottles neck.
Using one graceful, fluid movement flip the bottle up vertically, the tip of the pour spout just beneath the rim of the jigger. Count as you pour. Counting is the real trick to pouring the same amount of liquor every time. Eventually you won't even need to use a jigger. Every time you pour a shot, count at the same speed. For instance a 3/4 ounce pour might be a count of two, 1 1/2 ounces a count of 4. It varies for everyone, but count as you pour. Eventually you won't need the jigger. You'll be able to free pour the correct amount right into the drink itself.
Remember that there are many different types of liquors and liqueurs. Many of them have different weights and viscosities. They will pour at different speeds so you'll need to get a feel for the differences between them.
One other item I'd like to mention about proper pouring technique is to ALWAYS hold the bottle straight up vertically when pouring. Don't hold it horizontally, don't hold it at an angle; snap that bottle up quickly and pour with confidence! Beginning bartenders always seem to be nervous about snapping the bottle up. They're worried about spillong some of the liquor.
Don't worry about spills! This is why you start out practicing at home. Before doing anything else learn to pour correctly. Don't worry about memorizing drink recipes, your resume, anything else. First learn to perform a controlled, confident pour so that each and every time you mix a drink the liquor amount is correct.
Drink Mixing Techniques
A blender is used whenever the drink recipe calls for ingredients that can't be broken down by shaking. Blenders are used to make strawberry margaritas, daiquiris, etc... The drink should be blended until smooth. The ice required for each drink can vary by as much as 1/2 cup, to 3/4 of the blender being full of ice.
Building is another term for layering or floating drinks. Liquors are poured into the cocktail glass in a specific order to achieve a certain look. See "Layering" below.
Flaming is the process of lighting the top of a drink on fire. This is not only for the effect but to enrich the drinks flavor. I'm not going to describe the process here as it should only be learned in person from experienced bartenders.
Flaming can be dangerous. Always have a fire extinguisher on hand and never attempt to drink a cocktail that is actually on fire! The drink should be lit briefly and then blown out before being consumed.
Do not attempt to learn to flame a drink by yourself! Have an experienced bartender teach you to do it properly and safely.
Layering or floating drinks is the process of building different liquors, liqueurs, and creams upon one another to develop a layered look. Some purists would argue that layering is desirable because certain tastes should be experienced at different levels in the drink.
To layer a drink simply pour the most dense liquid first over the back of a spoon. The spoon should lightly touch the side of the glass. The key here is to pour SLOWLY. Properly layering drinks is difficult so take your time and pour slowly. Liquids should always be layered from heaviest to lightest. Typically the higher the alcohol content, the lighter the liquid will be.
Muddling is simply the act of smashing ingredients against the side of the glass with the backside a bar spoon. The Mojito is a classic example of a drink that requires muddling. In a Mojito lime juice, sugar, and mint leaves are muddled together before the rum is added which then dissolves the mixture.
Shaking is used to make drinks that contain ingredients that are hard to mix. Most often you'll use a stainless steel shaker.
To shake a drink simply fill the shaker 3/4 with ice. Add the ingredients, place the top on the shaker, and shake briskly for several seconds. Thicker liquids require a longer duration. Be sure to point the lid away from you and never shake anything carbonated.
Shaking drinks is an area where bartenders can add a bit of flair to their presentation if in the mood. Over time you'll develop a method that suits you. When first starting out keep it simple.
Straining a drink is simply the act of holding a strainer over a shaker after shaking a drink. Hold the strainer over the shaker and pour. Simple!
StirringStirring is used when a drink needs to be chilled and diluted slightly. Fill a shaker 3/4 full of ice and add the ingredients. Using a bar spoon or rod, simply stir the drink several times and strain into a glass.