Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cocktail picks, to pick for the perfect cocktail

So Le Cocktelier has been a little stuffy with the history lately so let's mix things up a big with a few photos of the most innovative cocktail picks and skewers around.

Picks are perfect for garnishing any number of cocktail. They can add a dash of whimsy and fun. The right pick partners nicely to produce a most pleasant  imbibing moment.

Do you have a favorite from below? Do you have a favorite not show? Send in a photo and let us know!

A nice take on the traditional sword
A cocktail pick within a pick!

Customized by personality

Our favoriates
Another take on the cocktail glass with pick motif

Monday, October 10, 2011

Drop by drop - distilling things down

Ancient still
So we've delved into the origins of the term "cocktail" and some early ideas about what construes a proper drink.

But we just may have gotten ahead of ourselves.

Knowing what a cocktail is made of and the many ways one can concoct a cocktail overlook one thing -- where the stuff that we make cocktails with, came from.

Cocktails wouldn't be possible without distilled spirits. 

Europe had a long tradition of creating local varieties of spirits that began long before the cocktail in the moderns sense, was born.

Both the Greeks and Arabs knew the art of distillation, but the earliest written record of alcohol distillation came from the School of Salerno in the 12th century. The production method was written in code, suggesting that it was kept a secret. Fractional distillation was developed by Tadeo Alderotti in the 13th century.

In 1437, burned water (brandy), made from wine, was mentioned in the records of the County of Katzenelnbogen in Germany. Records show that it was served in a tall, narrow glass called a “goderulffe.”

Consumption of distilled beverages rose dramatically in Europe in and after the mid 14th century, when distilled liquors were commonly used as remedies for the Black Death.

Then, around 1400 it was discovered how to distill spirits from wheat, barley, and rye beers, a cheaper option than grapes. This discovery began the "national" drinks of Europe: jenever (Belgium and the Netherlands), gin (England), schnapps (Germany), grappa (Italy), horilka (Ukraine), akvavit/snaps (Scandinavia), vodka (Russia and Poland), rakia (the Balkans), poitín (Ireland).

The actual names only emerged in the 16th century but the drinks were well known prior to that date.

And there we have it, the origins of some of the prime ingredients for cocktails.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The granddaddy of guides - Jeremiah was a Bartender

As the American Civil War was ramping up in 1862, "Professor" Jeremiah "Jerry" Thomas (1830 – 1885) published the first bartenders' guide to include cocktail recipes.
How to Mix Drinks; or,
The Bon Vivant's Companion

Mr. Thomas was the first celebrity bartender. His guide, "How to Mix Drinks; or, The Bon Vivant's Companion" was replete recipes for punches, sours, slings, cobblers, shrubs, toddies, and flips.

Given some of those names, I suppose "cocktail" isn't too odd an appellation for a drink. And speaking of cocktails, there were a variety of other types of mixed drinks, including ten recipes for drinks referred to as, OMG, "cocktails."

Interestingly, at that time, a key  ingredient differentiating "cocktails" from other drinks was bitters.  Ironically, most modern cocktail recipes don't include the use of bitters.

The book collected and codified what was then an oral tradition of recipes from the early days of cocktails, including some of his own creations; the guide laid down the principles for formulating mixed drinks of all categories.

He would go on to update it several times in his lifetime to include new drinks that he found or created.

The "Professor" at work
For more on Jerry Thomas, check out the  New York Times article, The Bartender Who Started it All.