What’s this all about?

Understanding Cocktails is for those of you who want to know a little bit more about what's going into that $15 drink you ordered last night. Perhaps you'd like to know what all the fussing behind the bar is about or maybe you'd like to be able to say something other than; "it's nice" when someone makes you a drink. Still not sure? Check the about section out for more details.

The Lemon Drop

Our first drink. It’s about as simple as it gets and a great way to discover some of the basic elements that make up a cocktail. Unlike most the rest of the drinks here, you should try making this at home. With doors closed and nobody watching you can quickly throw this drink together and see if it’s something you like. Trust me – it’s the only home work you’ll get from this site.

The Simple yet proud Lemon Drop
The Simple yet proud Lemon Drop

This is a great first drink. It’s hard to ruin and easy to make. Try not to be to heavy handed with the simple syrup (sugar and water) because you really don’t want to be accused of drinking alcoholic lemonade. This drink has more class than that. Remember cocktails are partly about attitude and partly about show.

So let’s get the show on the road. The ingredients: vodka, a lemon, sugar, ice. Done! The ceremony: grab some ice in a cocktail shaker (if you don’t have shaker you mix with a spoon in measuring glass), juice the lemon, pour in the vodka (1.5 ounces – measure it out please), throw in a teaspoon of sugar and shake (or mix) for a good minute. Strain (hold back the ice somehow) into glass. Your first cocktail!

Try it out

Okay, I hear you. You didn’t come to this website to be a bartender. I know. As I said this is the first and only time you’ll have to make anything. Take a sip and ask yourself: “How can this be improved?” Ah-ah. Adding ingredients is cheating.

Let’s think about that cocktail attitude again. And we are back in the real world. Let’s face it, that chipped glass with a smurf on it ain’t cutting it, that undissolved sugary sludge at the bottom the mixing glass isn’t helping things and, why is all so watery tasting?

If you are still with me. You have three choices now. Try again, admit defeat and get a bartender to make you on, or skip to the next drink and get bartender to make you one of those.

What’s going on?

Some import lessons to learn about cocktails.

  1. They need to be cold
  2. They are usual quite small so attention measurements and ratios is important (watch a good bartender in action).
  3. They need be mixed well
  4. How a drink looks is important.

Originally, this drink required citrus vodka – and that certainly makes things easier and smoother for those not used to the taste of alcohol. With the right lemons, regular vodka will do just fine if you are careful. But given the choice of the same brand of vodka in either the citrus and non-flavoured variety – we’ll take the citrus everytime.

The Lemon Drop as good starting drink because experiments with sweetness, sourness, and strength are all very apparent and easy to manipulate. If you want to appreciate cocktails you need to feel your way through how subtle changes in ratios, temperature, and even fruit type and quality effect the final result.

If you are feeling adventurous you can play around with the variables like lemon type (sunkist vs myer), vodka type (premium vs run of the mill) and temperature (did you make it cold enough) and see what happens. Like a good scientists, just alter one at a time.

Once you’ve got a good control of the temperature, sweetness and citrus quality, this is a great drink to showcase that premium vodka your friends bought you. We were very impressed with Grey Goose. For whatever reason the combination made this drink sing! A word of caution; 42 Below’s Manuka Honey infused vodka seems like it would make a great Lemon Drop but it just ends up tasting like cold lemon and honey (which isn’t very pleasant).

As courtesy to your guests, advise them that this drink is best consumed quickly, lest it get warm. If they are not familiar with your mixing style let them know how strong it is.

When should I order one?

At a friends house or from a good mate who happens to be a barentender. This isn’t because it’s a bad drink, far from it – it’s just so simple and you’d be better off ordering something a little more interesting. Asking for one, I’m afraid, sends the wrong message for strangely paradoxical reasons. If you knew enough to order one with confidence, you’d also know enough not to order one. Snobbery, is a missing ingredient to cocktail enjoyment.

Of course, your experience may be different – let us know.