There is something deeply symbiotic that happens across the bar when a cocktail is made. For the seller it is often a means of extracting rather more money from the buyer than the sum of the parts would suggest might be reasonable while, for the latter, that price provides a promise of solace, of sophistication, even of seduction.
A cocktail is generally either two or more alcoholic drinks simply mixed together or one or more of them mixed with one or more of the following: fruit or fruit juice, bitters, sugar or herbs for flavour; and/or one of the following for texture, temperature or dilution: ice carbonated drinks, wine or Champagne, milk, cream, whole egg or white of egg.
There are five methods of putting these ingredients together (in ascending order of violence); layering, building, stirring, shaking and blending. (Stirring with ice doesn’t dilute the alcohol as much as shaking, by the way, so there is a difference.) So many modern cocktails are shaken that you’ll need some method of doing so as well as a decent the inventory of glasses – between squat “shot,” tall “highball,” tumbler-like “rocks” and the iconic “cocktail” glass itself you’ve covered most of the bases. You’ll also need lots and lots of ice (buy it – life’s too short …) and some simple sugar syrup – slowly melt twice the volume of sugar to water, cool and bottle it and keep it in the fridge for up to a fortnight. Chin-chin!
Acapulco – five parts light rum, two parts each lime juice and egg white, one part Triple Sec and simple syrup to taste shaken with ice, strained from a convenient clifftop in to a cocktail glass and garnished with a sprig of mint.
Alabama Slammer – shake equal parts sloe gin, amaretto and Southern Comfort with two parts fresh orange juice and ice and strain in to a highball glass. Or not.
Americano – pour equal parts sweet vermouth and Campari over ice in a rocks glass and finish with a splash of club soda and an orange (or lemon) twist. (Devised by Gaspare Campari and the first drink consumed by James Bond in the original Ian Fleming novel, Casino Royale.) Adding an equal part of gin makes it a Negroni.
Angel’s Tit – layer one part each white crème de cacao, cherry liqueur and single cream in a chilled liqueur glass, garnished with a maraschino cherry in the middle (at which point the name will become self-explanatory and mock the American bowdlerization to Angel’s Tip).
Apple Martini/Appletini – the cider of the gods is made with two parts gin (or vodka) stirred with one part apple schnapps and poured in to a chilled cocktail glass.
Artillery Punch – into a large bowl mix ten parts each bourbon, red wine and strong black tea; five parts each dark rum and orange juice; two parts each apricot brandy and gin; one part each lemon juice and lime juice and chill before adding ice and slices of lemon and lime. Serve (but don’t try this at home) by gathering your guests around the bowl and dropping a cannonball into the mix from a decent height.
Bacardi cocktail – two parts white rum to one part each lemon juice and simple syrup plus a few dashes of grenadine shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass . . . somewhere in the Caribbean . . . at sunset . . . preferably post-coitally.
B & B – equal parts Bénédictine and brandy layered in a balloon glass (to the sound of a big brass band).
Bellini – gently stir one part fresh peach purée with two parts chilled Prosecco in a flute glass and get naked.
B-52 – layer equal parts Kahlua, Bailey’s and Grand Marnier in a liqueur glass. For US college-kids only.
Black Russian – stir two parts vodka with one part coffee liqueur and ice. Serve in a rocks glass, lower your voice by an octave and quote some Pushkin.
Black Velvet – layer equal parts chilled stout and Champagne in a flute glass. For a classy twist, try drinking them separately.
Bloody Mary – wine writer Jonathan Ray sagely stirs six parts tomato juice with two parts vodka, one each of orange juice and dry sherry, a dash of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces, ice and a pinch of celery salt all poured in a highball glass. A Bull Shot substitutes beef consommé for some, or all, of the tomato juice. In the USA, Mr and Mrs T’s Bloody-Mary mix is good in a pinch.
Brandy Alexander – equal parts brandy, dark crème de cacao and fresh cream shaken with ice; cut out the middle man and strain directly into a condom (a funnel helps) – otherwise use a cocktail glass and sprinkle with ground nutmeg.
Breakfast Martini – two parts gin to one part each of lemon juice and Cointreau and a teaspoon of marmalade shaken with ice, strained in to a cocktail glass and garnished with a tiny triangle of toast. Generally consumed as – rather than as an accompaniment to – the most important meal of the day.
Bronx Cocktail – two parts gin to one part each of sweet and dry vermouths and orange juice shaken with ice and strained in to the East River (or a cocktail glass if you must).
Buck’s Fizz – (aka Mimosa) build, if you must, two parts chilled fresh orange juice and one of Champagne in a flute and thereby diminish both ingredients. Revivify the zombie by simple means of the addition of one part vodka to four of the mix and you have Agua de Valencia. The disingenuousness of the name greatly enhances the frisson of naughtiness surrounding the consumption of the typical jugful of it. Anybody fortunate enough to have witnessed a traditional Valenciano firework fight will have pondered to what extent the intake of ‘Agua’ will have been influential upon the conduct of the ‘fuegos’ and vice versa.
Caïpirinha – muddle half a lime cut into 1cm pieces with two teaspoons of sugar in a rocks glass, fill with ice add 6-9 cl cachaça and strap on your hardest hat because you’re probably going to finish the bottle.
Champagne Cocktail – build a small lump of sugar, two dashes of bitters, one part brandy and nine parts chilled Champagne in a flute glass, and garnish with a maraschino cherry, a twist of orange and an unshakeable sense of superiority.
Cosmopolitan – three parts citrus vodka, two of cranberry juice and one each of lime juice and Cointreau shaken with ice, strained into a cocktail glass and garnished with a man-bag.
Cuba Libre – (“Free Cuba”) rum and coke. Wedge of lime optional. ¡Viva!
Daïquiri – five parts light rum to two of lime juice and simple syrup to taste shaken with ice and slipped into something more comfortable (or strained into a cocktail glass).
Dry Martini – whole books have been written on the subject (when surely the monograph is the appropriate form?) but all that really needs to be said is that a dash of vermouth (even Cinzano in a pinch) is stirred with 6cl of good gin and some ice, strained into a chilled cocktail glass and garnished with a plain green olive or a twist of lemon peel. The filthy “dirty” version adds a teaspoon of the brine from the olives. All the variants should be treated with scorn (except the ones listed here, of course).
Dubonnet Cocktail – two parts gin to one of Dubonnet stirred with ice and strained into a tacky plastic cocktail glass – doesn’t sound like much, but caused havoc in the ’70s (or it did where I lived, anyway).
Egg Nog – one egg (i.e. one part) to two each of light rum and brandy, three of single cream and simple syrup to taste shaken with ice and strained into a highball glass and finished with a sprinkle of nutmeg. Omitting the cream makes it an egg flip. Just say “Nog” to egg nog.
Espresso Martini – equal parts cold espresso coffee, Kahlua, white crème de cacao and vodka shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass – not all new cocktails are tricksy rubbish.
Gimlet – one part lime juice cordial to three parts gin shaken with ice and strained through the eye of a needle into a cocktail glass.
Gin Fizz – one part lime juice to two parts gin, simple syrup to taste, shaken with ice, strained into a highball glass and finished with soda. Known to travel under the alias of Tom Collins (his brother John diguises himself with bourbon instead of gin and their cousin Rum – rum indeed – uses something else entirely).
Grasshopper – equal parts light crème de cacao and green crème de menthe and two parts single cream shaken with ice and strained directly down the sink (or into a cocktail glass if you’re curious).
Harvey Wallbanger – build two parts vodka over ice in a highball glass with orange juice to taste and float one part Galliano on top to finish. Then again, don’t.
Irish Coffee – ’tis one part of whiskey to four of hot coffee and a teaspoon of sugar in an Irish Coffee glass (i.e. with a handle) topped-up with thick cream poured over the back of a spoon. Sod ‘em and begorrah – I’ll have have two!
Kamikaze – three parts vodka to two of Triple Sec and one of lime juice shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass in the cockpit.
Kir – one part crème de cassis and ten of white wine built in a wine glass (or of Champagne in a glass slipper for a Kir Royal – or a flute glass for the smelly of foot).
Long Island Iced Tea – equal parts vodka, light rum, silver tequila, gin, triple sec, lemon juice and simple syrup shaken with ice, strained into a highball glass and finished with cola to taste. Remember what Anthony Burgess said – only have as many cocktails as you have nostrils.
Los Angeles –one egg (i.e. one part) and one of lemon juice to three parts whisky, half a part each of sweet vermouth and simple syrup shaken with ice and strain … every sinew to make good your escape (or use a cocktail glass).
Lychee Martini – equal parts gin, lychee liqueur and lychee syrup shaken with ice, strained into whatever glasses sit best on the side of the bath (assuming there’s two of you) and garnished with a lychee.
Mai Tai – two parts each light rum and dark rum, three parts lime juice, one part each orange curaçao and orgeat syrup shaken together, poured into a rocks glass over crushed ice and garnished with a ladyboy.
Manhattan – five parts bourbon or rye whiskey, two parts sweet vermouth and a dash of bitters stirred with ice and strained into granny’s handbag (or a cocktail glass) with a cherry to garnish. Made with Scotch, it’s a Rob Roy.
Margarita – six parts tequila, two parts triple sec, three parts lime juice (and none of your “Margarita mix” rubbish, thank-you very much) shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass (with a salted rim, please). Might as well start making the next one straight away (but stop there or your stomach will feel like an acid bath).
Millionaire – if you’re expecting three parts bourbon whiskey, one part pastis, one part orange curaçao, one egg white and a teaspoon of grenadine shaken thoroughly with ice and strained into a cocktail glass … you’ll be surprised if you get the other one, in which equal parts sloe gin, rum and apricot brandy, a dash of grenadine and the juice of a lime are shaken with ice and served likewise.
Mint Julep – a few sprigs of mint muddled in a rocks glass with a teaspoon of sugar dissolved in water, shaved ice and 6-9 cl usually of bourbon whisky (but brandy, apple brandy, gin etc. are also used) but don’t bother if you don’t have a verandah (or at least a jacaranda).
Mojito – three or four wedges of lime muddled with a couple of sprigs of mint, two teaspoons of sugar and 6-9 cl light rum, then shaken with ice, strained onto crushed ice in a highball glass, topped up with club soda and garnished with mint leaves, a droopy moustache and a sombrero (for urban cowboys).
Morning Glory – one part each lemon (or lime) juice and orange curaçao, two parts brandy (or whisky), two dashes each of pastis (or anis) and bitters and a teaspoon of sugar shaken with ice, strained into a highball glass and topped-up with soda water to taste is just the thing to keep your pecker up (assuming you have one).
Moscow Mule – the drink that made Smirnoff’s name (but that’s still not a good enough reason for using it) builds two parts of any other vodka with one part lime juice over ice in a copper mug, topped-up with ginger beer to taste. Dark rum in place of vodka makes it a Dark and Stormy.
Old-Fashioned – half-a-teaspoon of sugar, two dashes of bitters and minimal water to melt the sugar built in a rocks glass with 6-9cl bourbon, ice cubes, a cherry, orange slice and lemon wedge to garnish and served with a blending stick (or a walking stick).
Paradise – one part each apricot brandy and fresh orange juice to two parts gin with a dash of lemon juice shaken with ice and strained into a celestial cocktail glass to the sound of earthly angels laughing dirty.
Piña Colada – equal parts white rum and coconut cream to two parts pineapple juice shaken with ice and strained into a teenager via a highball glass with a pineapple spear to garnish.
Pimm’s – gin or vodka-based fruit cup (dating to the 1820s) for a mixed drink which should resemble a boozy fruit salad in a glass and is indelibly associated with summer in England. If you don’t want to drink the whole bottle at a sitting then be sure not to add pieces of strawberry, cucumber and a few leaves of fresh mint to the usual stuff (orange, lemon, apple). I know that raspberry and watermelon do excellent random service, especially if zippified with a squeeze of lime, as does basil in place of mint – it’s high-pitched pepperiness makes the whole even more intoxicatingly aromatic.
Pink Gin – two or three dashes of Angostura bitters stirred into 6-9cl gin in a rocks glass unencumbered (unencucumbered, even) by anything so vulgar as a “garnish” or as prissy as ice – a certain type of Englishman’s version of the Dry Martini, perhaps, and a fine thing if the gin’s up to scratch.
Pisco Sour – one part lemon juice, three parts pisco, a teaspoon of simple syrup, half an egg white and a dash of bitters shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass in Chile. And only in Chile. Unless you’re in Peru.
Planter’s Punch – three parts dark rum, two parts lime juice, one part simple syrup and a dash of bitters shaken with ice and strained into a highball glass over and over again.
Pousse-café – literally “push café,” mixed drink in which the different ingredients are carefully poured (in order from the densest liquid first to the least dense) to make layers or horizontal stripes. A party trick really but not a bad one.
Prairie Oyster – surely there’s no point in building the ultimate “kill or cure” of an unbroken yolk of a small egg, teaspoons each of Worcestershire sauce and tomato ketchup and two dashes of Tabasco if you don’t then add a goodly measure of gin or vodka? What good could possibly come of it?
Red Lion – two parts each gin and Grand Marnier to one part each lemon and orange juice shaken over ice and strained into a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass (although mine’s a pint!).
Rusty Nail – two parts Scotch whisky to one part Drambuie stirred with ice in a rocks glass.
Scarlett O’Hara – four parts each Southern Comfort and cranberry juice to one part lime juice shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass – after a couple, you won’t give a damn.
Screwdriver – one part vodka to two parts orange juice stirred with ice in a highball glass (but drinking some of the juice out of the carton and replacing it with the vodka works if you’re 16 and camping, I seem to remember.)
Sea Breeze – build two parts each vodka and cranberry juice with three of grapefruit juice over ice in a highball glass and get fresh with a sailor.
Sex on the Beach – build over ice in a high-ball glass three parts vodka, one part peach schnapps and three parts each cranberry and orange juices. If the beach is crowded put some of the ice down the front of your Speedo’s.
Side Car – five parts brandy to two each of Cointreau (or Triple Sec) and lemon juice shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass with a sugared rim.
Singapore Sling – shake one part each cherry brandy, Cointreau, Bénédictine and lime juice with three of gin, six of pineapple juice and dashes of bitters and grenadine with ice, strain into a highball glass over ice, top up with soda water and wait for Suzie Wong to come along (in a thong).
Sloe Comfortable Screw – two parts Southern Comfort built over ice in a highball glass with four of vodka, filled with orange juice and a float of one part sloe gin. Geddit? Additional float of Galliano to make it Up Against the Wall (as in banger). Witty, or what?
Snowball – advocaat and a squeeze of lime stirred with ice in a rocks glass and topped up with lemonade to taste. The pygmy bottles of it – hideous, stunted throwbacks to the cess-pool that was the ’70s – can still be found in odd corners and (whisper it) are really rather nice.
Stinger – two parts Cognac to one of white crème de menthe shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass. Popular as a nightcap in New York, apparently – but as it’s the city that never sleeps, presumably it doesn’t work very well.
Tequila Sunrise – build three parts tequila to six of orange juice and one of grenadine over ice in a highball glass with a straight face and I’ll take my hat off to you.
Zombie – equal (and, I suggest, small) parts each of light, dark, golden, añejo and over-proof rums, maraschino, simple syrup, lime juice and grapefruit juice, two dashes each of absinthe, Angostura bitters and grenadine shaken with ice and strained into a rocks glass with a pineapple spear, orange slice, cherry and sprig of mint to garnish. A bed in the Cocktails Ward of the Betty Ford Clinic awaits those who fail to heed my advice.