The Cocktail Spirit with Robert Hess

The Cocktail Spirit with Robert Hess is dedicated to the creation of quality classic cocktails. Watch as he mixes up cocktail recipes from the past using the best ingredients.

Know Your Cocktails History - The Martini

Know Your Cocktails History - The Martini

6 May 15 0    ·   Vermouth, Gin, Vodka,

You might think that you have the recipe for a drink nailed, but if you don’t take the time to look into the history of the drink, you are probably doing a disservice to yourself, and your customers. While the full history of many drinks may be lost in the mists of time, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a trail to follow which can help you watch a drink as it evolved over time, and this evolution can help you not only see the various forms the drink might have taken over time, but also gives you some fascinating cocktail talk to share. The Martini is probably one of the most well-known drinks, and yet its true origin is unknown, or at least highly debated. Countless times I’ve seen articles which simply toss out there that the Martini was originally created in Martinez California (or in San Francisco). What they usually fail to tell you is that the drink they are referring to was the “Martinez” and not the “Martini”, and there is no proof at all (aside from name similarity) that the name “Martini” is just a bastardization of “Martinez”. There is in fact (to date) no actual story that tells us how the Martini first came about, or how it got its name. What we do know, is its recipe, and how it appeared in various books through history. One of the first recipes going by the name “Martini” comes from Harry Johnson’s New and Improved Bartenders Manual from 1888 (See Below)

Cherries in Cocktails - A Proper Garnish for the Little Italy Cocktail

Cherries in Cocktails - A Proper Garnish for the Little Italy Cocktail

10 Apr 15 2    ·   Vermouth, Rye Whiskey,

Maraschino cherries are a staple ingredient behind almost any bar. They are an extremely common garnish for a wide variety of cocktails, and if you look through the annals of historical cocktail books, you find cherries to have been a cocktail garnish for over a hundred years. The common maraschino cherries we have today, however, bare little resemblance to the cherries bartenders in the 1800’s would have used. The original maraschino cherries were imported “Marasca” cherries, a dark sour cherry from Dalmatia (now Croatia). They were packed in a thick flavorful liqueur, and where considered a luxury treat. Soon cheaper imports sprang onto the market, trying to satisfy the American sweet tooth. These “imitation” maraschino cherries were sometimes made using questionable methods, and were usually artificially flavored in order to disguise either the lack of flavor in the resultant product, or the off-flavors which resulted from the processing. American cherries were deemed unacceptable for use since they had a softer texture which got even worse once the cherries were prepared. The Pure Food Act of 1906 paved the way to clean up the methods used for manufacturing consumables. This helped to eliminate much of the downright dangerous cherries on the market, but did nothing for the “imitators” of the real thing. In America, methods were developed to turn a “Royal Anne” cherry into a crude approximation of the maraschino cherry. Then in 1912, the FDA stepped in to clarify what it meant to be a “maraschino” cherry: - “maraschino cherries” should be applied only to marasca cherries preserved in maraschino. This decision further described maraschino as a liqueur or cordial prepared by process of fermentation and distillation from the marasca cherry, a small variety of the European wild cherry indigenous to the Dalmatian Mountains. Products prepared from cherries of the Royal Anne type, artificially colored and flavored and put up in flavored sugar sirup might be labeled “Imitation Maraschino Cherries” Today, non-marasca maraschino cherries are no longer required to refer to themselves as “imitation” but, once you’ve tried the real thing, you can clearly see there is no comparison. To help distinguish true marasca cherries from rest it has become common to pronounce real maraschino cherries as “mare-es-KEE-no”, as it was originally pronounced, and those neon red globes as “mare-a-CHEE-no”. For your cocktail use, the best cherries to look for are Luxardo Maraschino Cherries, while costing more than the supermarket variety, they are worth having on hand. You can thank the Pegu Club of New York for establishing the relationship with the Luxardo Company back in 2005 to bring these cherries into the US in bulk and then popularizing them amongst craft bartenders across the nation.

Learn the Foundational Cocktail Recipes - Trident Cocktail

Learn the Foundational Cocktail Recipes - Trident Cocktail

22 Jan 15 3    ·  

I think there is probably nothing more important for making truly great cocktails than understanding the “Foundational” cocktail recipes. By taking the time to master those cocktails which represent the basic and classical foundations, you will not only better understand all of the other cocktails which are based on them, but you will be better prepared to experiment with creating your own recipes. In any culinary school, one of the first things that will be drummed into the students are the classic recipes. In French cooking school specifically, students are carefully taught the foundational sauces. Once you understand these sauces, you can then add additional herbs, spices and other appropriate flavorings to tailor the sauce to the specific needs of the moment. The cocktail world is no different. The classic cocktails can often be thought of in the same light as the foundational sauces of French cuisine. The recipes I will typically encourage people to master are Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Manhattan, Martini, Whiskey Sour, Sidecar, Margarita, Daiquiri, Negroni, Bloody Mary, and Mai Tai. Even in this list, we have drinks which are based upon one another. The Whiskey Sour, Sidecar, Margarita, and Daiquiri are all very close variations of one another, with the Mai Tai being closely related. So even here, understanding how one of these cocktails is just a slightly different expression of another, and how the flavor profile changes due to those differences, goes a long way in better understanding that style of cocktail in general. - Robert Hess

Measuring is Important - Floridita Cocktail

Measuring is Important - Floridita Cocktail

15 Jan 15 3    ·   Vermouth, Rum,

There are two distinct camps that bartenders often segment themselves into, those that free-pour and those that measure. Personally, I am a strong proponent of measuring. I feel that the only mildly valid argument against it, is that measuring takes a little longer, and so in a very busy bar it might slow things down. While it is possible to train yourself to be fairly accurate at the free-pour, it is also possible to train yourself to be fast enough at using a jigger that it doesn’t matter. I have no intention of settling this debate here, but I do feel it is valuable to emphasize the importance of properly measuring your ingredients. For some drinks, the proper measure is more important than others. One-Quarter of an ounce is not a very big measure, and it can be easy to accidentally over or under pour by that much when mixing drinks. Drinks such as the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Martini are such that being off a little bit may not be very noticeable, but when mixing drinks with tart citrus, or intense ingredients like Chartreuse, that 1/4 ounce can make a big difference. I think many bartenders see it as a rite of passage to feel they are skilled enough to free-pour, while others see it as a sign of how serious they take their craft that they carefully measure everything. Feel free to make up your own decision on this issue, but hopefully you realize that whether you free-pour or jigger, being sure you get the precise measure is important for making great cocktails.

Not All Recipes Are Good Recipes - Cosmopolitan Cocktail

Not All Recipes Are Good Recipes - Cosmopolitan Cocktail

8 Jan 15 3    ·   Vodka,

Just because you see it in print, doesn’t mean it is a good recipe. Similarly to when good recipes can result in bad drinks, the flip side of that is when a recipe is just flat-out bad to begin with. One thing that is important for any bartender (or consumer) to realize, is that not all recipes are “good” recipes. This problem is only exacerbated by the plethora of cocktail books that have come out on recent years. Often in an attempt to differentiate themselves, they go to great lengths to try to publish recipes that other books haven’t used. This can sometimes mean they are either dredging up long forgotten recipes that should never have existed in the first place, or trying to create new recipes through what often appears to be little more than a random recipe generator. There are several ways that recipes can go bad. The typical bad recipe will start with a failure to understand the fundamentals the make for a good cocktail. There are several facets to this, which include: using quality ingredients, proper proportions of ingredients, proper usage of ingredients, and proper methodologies of making the drink. All of these are due to trying to create a new cocktail recipe before you should. Next there is just being downright sloppy with how a recipe is communicated, and leaving too much up to the imagination of the reader. And probably the biggest reason for bad recipes out there, is that many times the creator is more interested in making a drink that is “good enough” to get somebody drunk on, and not “great enough” for somebody to enjoy. NOTE: In this video, when describing the “original” Cosmopolitan, I forget to mention the defining ingredient of the drink, the cranberry juice! NOTE #2: And if you are interested in a “random recipe generator”, you’ll get a kick out of The Mixilator by Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh. It attempts to randomly produce cocktail recipes (and names!) by loosely using the cocktail structures described by David Embury in his book “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks”.

Product Choice is Important - The Sidecar Cocktail

Product Choice is Important - The Sidecar Cocktail

11 Dec 14 9    ·   Brandy, Cognac,

I recall one of the first times I went to the liquor store to “stock my liquor cabinet”. It was a tad daunting to try to make sense of all of the different bottles of booze and understand what I was needing. And the price range, wow! At the time, I didn’t really have any true knowledge of brands and quality variations, but I knew enough to realize that just because there might be a brand that I had heard of through their marketing efforts, didn’t necessarily mean it was a good product. Since there were several different products I needed to buy, and a budget to deal with, the $20+ products became less and less appealing. Knowing that with wines, price wasn’t really a useful measure of the quality, I assumed the same could be true with spirits, and so I tried to be selective on finding “bargain” priced bottles. At first, I thought it was just the recipes I was using which were making my cocktails lackluster. Thankfully I did the right thing when it came time to replace a depleted bottle, I intentionally bought a different brand, and since I only needed to buy one or two on this visit, I was able to buy something a little more expensive. My cocktails quickly improved. This isn’t to say that all of the good spirit choices have to be expensive ones. There are lower-cost products that you can use which can make cocktails as good, if not better than, their costlier counterparts. And sometimes, even if a more expensive product will make a better cocktail, is the difference noticeable enough to warrant the expense? Courvoisier, is a great cognac. Their VSOP costs, say $45 per bottle, but their VS is more like $25. A sidecar made with the VSOP will be a better drink, but will it be twice as good? If you were to compare them side by side, you’d probably pick the VSOP as the better drink, but you’d still really enjoy the VS as well. So in this case there is nothing wrong with going with the less expensive Courvoisier VS. Cointreau is a triple sec, and most recipes for a Sidecar simply list “Triple Sec” as an ingredient. Cointreau costs, say $34 a bottle, while you can get a bottle of triple sec for around $10. The difference here however can be quite amazing. Not only would you clearly identify a Cointreau Sidecar in a side-by-side comparison, but you might be hard-pressed to finish the one made with triple sec after this discovery. So selecting products you are going to use in your cocktails, realize that your choices will make a difference.

When Good Recipes Go Bad – The Old Fashioned Cocktail

When Good Recipes Go Bad – The Old Fashioned Cocktail

4 Dec 14 4    ·   Bourbon, Rye Whiskey,

In Hannah Glasse's 1747 cookbook “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy” the following recipe appears - A Savory Veal Pie: TAKE a breast of veal, cut it into pieces, season it with pepper and salt, lay it all into your crust, boil six or eight eggs hard, take only the yolks, put them into the pie here and there, fill your dish almost full of water, put on the lid, and bake it well. The recipe appears fairly simple and straight-forward, but it is also devoid of enough information to allow somebody who has never made it before really understand how to do it right. How large of a breast of veal is it? What sort of “crust” is supposed to be used? Are the egg yolks supposed to be left whole, or broken up? By “lid” do they mean a physical lid or a lid made of crust? What temperature to bake it at, and for how long? Many cocktail recipes are even less descriptive then Hannah’s recipe above. If we take the Old Fashioned for example, one of the earliest published recipes (not counting earlier recipes simply referred to as “Whiskey Cocktail”) for it is from "Modern American Drinks" (1895) by George J. Kappeler - The Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail: Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass; add two dashes Angostura bitters, a small piece ice, a piece lemon-peel, one jigger whiskey. Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass. Drink recipes by their very nature are of course are far simpler than cooking recipes, but we are still faced with many unknowns here. For example, how large is a “small lump of sugar”? How much water is “a little”? What type of whiskey is expected to be used? When a recipe leaves out important details, it requires the reader to fill in the gaps to the best of their ability, often without having any idea what so ever what the actual thing they are trying to make should taste like when done properly. This means that whatever they end up with, they will consider as “the way it should taste.” And then they teach this to another bartender, who teaches it to another bartender, who… you get the picture. Perhaps more than any other cocktail, the Old Fashioned is the one to suffer the most from bad interpretations of a good, but poorly written recipe, as well as just plain bad recipes (typically based on a bad interpretation of a good, but poorly written recipe). Here is where a solid understanding of a recipe, and more importantly the foundation that it is built upon, can aid the reader in better understanding how to make it properly. That, plus more details is part of what it takes to make a good recipe. Of course you also can run into the problem of recipes that are just plain bad from the start regardless of how they are made.

Don’t Use Bad Ice in Your Cocktails - Mai Tai Recipe

Don’t Use Bad Ice in Your Cocktails - Mai Tai Recipe

19 Nov 14 9    ·   Rum,

Ice has become one of those things that some cocktail geeks can really… well… geek out about. You don’t have to look too hard to find people discussing the science of crystal clear ice, how to make hand-carved ice balls, or various other highly involved details about the ice that goes into mixing the perfect cocktail. As these deep examinations on ice start turning into esoteric exercise, it is easy to start dismissing the importance of ice all together. Ice is just frozen water isn’t it? What’s the big deal? In truth, thinking about the ice you put into your drink is a very important consideration. At the most rudimentary level it is all about size/shape, and temperature. Some bars will use what is referred to as Half-Cube or Crescent ice. These are two slightly different shapes, but about the same size, about the size of a pat of butter. This small and flatish ice will fill the glass with more ice than cubes would which will make the glass look like it is fuller of beverage than it actually is. Since there is more surface area exposed on this shape, it will melt faster as well. The result of course is a flabby drink, and not much of it. Higher end bars will go out of their way to use nice sized cube ice, the larger the cube, the less surface area exposed, and the slower the melt. For serving a drink on the rocks, you can select a size that virtually fills up the glass, but for mixing a drink you need something smaller so you aren’t fighting with the ice when you stir. The most common size is just a little over 1” cube. From a temperature standpoint, at a fairly rudimentary level, ice can be either “wet” or so cold it is “dry”. Wet ice has already started melting, and has a thin layer of water on it, which will immediately go into the drink. “Dry” ice (not to be confused with the CO2 based “dry ice”) is so cold that its surface hasn’t started melting yet. If you touch a cube of “dry” ice, your finger will stick to it because the ice is so cold it freezes to the small bit of moisture on your finger. So, while there is nothing wrong with geeking out about ice, your primary concern is to use nice sized cube which are as cold as possible.

Don’t Use Old Vermouth

Don’t Use Old Vermouth

12 Nov 14 15    ·   Vermouth, Gin,

There used to be a time when the amount of dry vermouth that would make it into your Martini would have been better measured by an eye dropper instead of a jigger. To this day, you can still find little spray bottles being sold as “vermouth misters” to allow only the slightest amount of vermouth to be added to your Martini. When you are using that little vermouth in your Martini, that means that you are going through your vermouth very slowly, making it very, very old before you make even the slightest dent in it. Vermouth is a wine. And like any wine, it will oxidize over time, which will impact its flavor. Vermouth is what is known as a fortified/aromatized wine (Port and Sherry are simply fortified wines). Fortification simply means adding an alcohol to the wine, usually brandy. This originally was done to help preserve it, the higher alcohol content would make it last longer. Aromatization means that herbs, spices, and botanicals have been added to it. The original intent of this was to produce a supposedly medicinal beverage, with wormwood being the key ingredient of vermouth, which is where it gets its name. These botanicals also had a side-effect of giving the wine a longer shelf-life, not because it reduced oxidation, but because it would sort of mask the effects of oxidation. Even with fortification and aromatization vermouth is still a wine, and so its shelf life, once opened, is limited. Those dusty bottles of vermouth you might have on your shelf are not going to do anything good for any drink you use them in. This could be part of what leads to the fear that some people have of vermouth, and hence the gymnastics they may go through to use as little of it as possible in their cocktails (the Martini specifically). You owe it to yourself, and the guests you are serving, to use as fresh of a bottle of vermouth as you can. This will mean buying as small a bottle as possible and keeping it refrigerated when not in use. If you have any doubts about the age of that bottle, then relegate it for use in cooking, where it works quite well.

How to Choose Proper Glassware - Sazerac Cocktail

How to Choose Proper Glassware - Sazerac Cocktail

30 Oct 14 8    ·   Cognac, Absinthe, Rye Whiskey,

When it comes to glassware, it can far too often come down to simply using what you have on hand. In a pinch, there may not be anything wrong with that, but even when you are simply making a drink for yourself, you deserve to do things properly and serve it up right! Wine drinkers have long known that different wines taste better in particularly shaped glassware (Thank You Riedel!) In much the same way choosing the right glass for your cocktail can make a big difference in the final results. With cocktails it isn’t so much the nuances of the flavor profile, but instead it is the functionality of the form, the visual presentation, size of the drink, comfort, and elegance as well. Drinks that need to be served with ice obviously need to be in a larger glass than those that don’t. Iced drinks should also be served in glasses with more vertical sides like a typical “Rocks” glass as opposed to an angle-sided “Martini” glass. Many times, the cocktail glassware you might see for sale in various houseware stores, while well intentioned, only exacerbates the problem. Most of the “Martini” style glasses you will see for sale are designed to hold 7, 8, 9, or even more ounces. When you think about a true Martini, it is mostly booze, with a little water from the melting ice. A properly sized Martini will only be a little over 3 ounces of liquid once it is made. If you put this into a 9 ounce glass, it will look like an insignificant drink, which may lead you to pour WAY too much into the glass. Even a “sour style” drink like a Cosmopolitan, should only be around 4 ounces when it is properly made, which is still too small for such a large glass. So even if you are simply preparing to make drinks for yourself at home, you should gather a small collection of glassware so you can treat every drink you make properly. For tonight, Lucullus dines with Lucullus!

Sour Mix: Just Say No - Daiquiri Cocktail

Sour Mix: Just Say No - Daiquiri Cocktail

22 Oct 14 11    ·   Rum,

As the saying goes, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. For bartenders, that “hammer” can come in the form of “sour mix”. For sour style cocktails (such as Daiquiri, Margarita, Sidecar, Cosmopolitan, etc.), the proper balance between sweet and sour is important to achieve. You can add just a quarter ounce too much tart citrus juice to a cocktail and send it over the cliff. So imagine the value of getting that “just right” balance ahead of time, in bulk, and then being able to turn out well-balanced drinks that much quicker, without having to be as concerned about getting the recipe right. One of the problems of course is that not all sour style cocktails are created equal. Even a great sour mix, made from scratch, won’t work well in multiple recipes. Probably the only time that a sour mix “batch” is appropriate, is for a catering type of operation or event. This would be where you either know you are going to be slammed all night with people ordering a specific cocktail, or you have to use untrained staff. In such a situation you can have the “right” sour mix for the couple of drinks you’ll be offering, make it easier for untrained staff to get the recipe right, and take a little less time doing it. Sour mix was not created as a cocktail ingredient, but as a cocktail shortcut. The next time you see a recipe that calls for “sour mix”, realize that you will be far better off looking for another recipe.

When to Shake and When to Stir a Cocktail

When to Shake and When to Stir a Cocktail

16 Oct 14 3    ·   Vermouth, Bourbon, Rye Whiskey,

This is one of those galvanizing issues that can really show that you take quality cocktails even slightly seriously. Shaking a Manhattan is like serving your guests instant coffee. There, I’ve said it. The question about When to Shake and When to Stir still confuses many, more so when you see contradictory information about this in different recipes for the same drink. The rule to follow here is really quite simple. “Stir drinks that are made with transparent ingredients, shake drinks that include cloudy ingredients.” The reason for this is mostly due to aesthetics. Drinks served in a beautiful clear glass, look better when they themselves are clear and transparent. Shaking a drink will often make it cloud up, and make it unappealing. Often it will also put a scummy looking foam residue on the top which makes it even more unappealing. If the drink already includes cloudy ingredients (such as a citrus juice, cream, or egg white) then no amount of stirring will make it clear, so go ahead and shake it. A corollary of our simple rule, is this: “It is rarely wrong to stir a drink, but often wrong to shake it.” Which makes it all the more surprising when you see bartenders who not only shake all of their drinks, but don’t even have the tools necessary to stir a drink if they wanted to. So the next time you find yourself making a Martini, Manhattan, Negroni, or Derby, take a little extra time and stir it instead of shaking it.

‹ First  < 6 7 8 9 >