Thursday, 31 December 2009

The fine art of mixing drinks

This is the title of one of mixology's reference books, its better known as Embury, after the author.

Embury wasn't involved with the drinks trade in any proffessional way, but he knew what he liked & understood how to make a cocktail. He lived through prohibition & that has influenced the writing, the 50+ yrs of marketing that have taken place have had an influence on what we drink & how it differs from Embury's time.

Tequila is given very short shrift, and the margarita is absent from the 6 basic cocktails with the no longer popular/drunk "Jack rose" taking its place. He's a very opinionated writer, but it doesn't get in the way of enjoying the book but if you like creamy sweet cocktails, don't look for them here. This is all about cold,sharp drinks to stimulate the appetite, and although he is at pains to point out it's not a recipe book, several of the pages will have any civilized person reaching for the shaker & the cocktail cabinet.

Perhaps the most useful thing to take away is his formula for a sour-type cocktail which is 1:2:8 or
1 part sweet
2 parts sour
8 parts base spirit

He is very vocal about what counts as a base spirit, its a high quality, high proof alcohol. There are no generics here, its topshelf all the way (he is quite dissmissive of vodka & other neutral grain alcohols) because as he rightly points out that's the main body of what you are drinking. (the other explanation is that he drank through prohibition and had enough low quality liqour to last several lifetimes).

If you can manage the didactic style(unlike some other authors Embury's opinions tend to be part of his charm) and find a copy(this seems to be the hard part) then if you have the slightest interest in cocktails you will want to read this book.

His musings on "The Old Fashioned" are quite a handy guide to making a good drink, several bar-tenders I've met on my travels could do with reading them and thinking before pushing their concoctions on unwary drinkers.

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