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.

Mojito – Drink #3!

The MojitoAt long last, Understanding Cocktails reveals a new drink. Please put your hands together and welcome this little bit of Cuban paradise – the Mojito.

What’s that? You were just getting used to the Lemon Drop and you missed out on drink #2? Ah, well you can always read about our beloved Daiquiri at your leisure. As for us, we’re saying hello to effervescent fun that comes when you combine mint, lime, rum, sugar and soda. Read more.

No it’s not abandoned

We haven’t forgotten about you. Still working on the fantastic prose. Sure it’s been a long time coming, but trust us, it will be worth it.

A Night Out

hawthorne-sidecar If you’ll excuse the biographic detour, the bill to the right represent a good night out – I’m glad I knew none of those drinks were going to be lack-luster. Thankfully we were in the expert hands of Jamie and Dick at the Hawthorne Lounge. You’ll notice the lack of listed items – some of us were going off piste. When we do, we are not above getting expert advice ourselves. You see, the truth is, no one knows everything about cocktails, although Kingsley Amis and David A. Embury [both amazon.com] probably came close.

hawthorne-billIn any event, it struck us that part of having a good time is knowing what to expect – the programme side of things if you willl. Another important aspect is having a guide or someone to follow. So while Jamie lead us through his subtle take on the Old Fashioned, I too played guide for my friends. Keeping in mind that these are some good mates. While I may know there taste well, their the tyranny of the cocktail menu required some intervention.

In a slightly flowery fashion, perhaps the importance lies in knowing enough to let someone else guide you at times – otherwise you’ll be drinking that same drink, forever. Cocktail attitude doesn’t preclude the possibility curiosity, quite the opposite. The trick, is knowing who to trust it too.

A great book find

A chance encounter at local bookstore followed by some gift lobbying found us in possession of great, and relatively recent new book: Cocktail Culture [amazon.com] by Mark Kingwell. Strangely enough it seems to go by the less intriguing name Classic Cocktails: A Modern Shake [amazon again] in the States.

There’s lot to like about this book – in particular his take on what we here call cocktail attitude. This book just drips it. In particular we have certain fondness for the literary linkages, the philosophic cocktail commentary, and the smug use of the first person plural. Anyone who describes vodka as “baltic potato moonshine” is alright with us.

For biographically obvious reasons we have to pardon Mr Kingwell’s canuck-ophile sensitivities (but really, his devotion to Canadian Club is worrying), we are never-the-less touched by his University of Toronto professor of philosophy background. It almost had us diving through our old course notes. Almost. As we all know, a degree in philosophy is good for working behind the bar and not much else.

The introduction contains a valuable lesson about writing and drinking cocktails. It should be about the fun. Taking leisure seriously becomes work – and that’s not what we are after. A lesson we’d all do well to remember.

Better get a move on…

The 2008 Google Zeitgeist was released today. As always it’s quite interesting. The trendsetter page was particularly interesting. Check it out. Many of the drinks mentioned there are destined to be featured here in the near future. Seriously!

Confirmation that tastes are improving or that we are part of a trend the top 5 in that list are destined have all been planned. Some of them, like the mojito have been written and are just waiting for some nice editing and a good photo shoot.

Launch party?

Impatience is probably not the better part of valour, but we can’t stand it anymore. Joining the world of perpetual betas and behooving our copywriting sensitivities, Understanding Cocktails launches (or at least become more public). We start with new drink feature – The Daiquiri but there is much more planned.

All in the name help improve the overall appreciation of the cocktails, here’s what’s ahead:

  • more drink photos
  • a daiquiri story (called The Old Man and the Daiquiri)
  • further reading and some links
  • and then another drinks feature
  • and another.

Comments, suggestions, and advice are all welcome. Enjoy the journey.

A cocktail list in your pocket?

There are much better sources for cocktail recipes than this site. In many ways the whole point of the site is to get away from “drinks for drink makers” and into the “what’s so great about one of these” mindset. It’s cocktail appreciation if you will. So there’s never been much interest in the catalog of a thousands of drinks.

However, if you are looking for a list of drinks though, you could do worse than this nifty iPhone app. The tip off came from folks at The Spirit World who gave it a bit of a review. If you are an iPhone toter and you are worried about communicating with your bartender, then this could save you some rather embarrasing moments:

“Hey, how’s it going? Could you make me an Aviation?”

“A what? Sorry can’t hear you. Is that cocktail?”

“It’s gin, lemon, and mara…it is pretty noisy in here, maybe this would help.” [iPhone is presented with easy to read recipe showing.]

“Sweet! That a pretty cool phone. One Aviation coming up.”

In any event, I bought it for $4.99 and it seems like an excellent way of quickly looking up the proportions. The aesthetics are very pleasing and developer has done really well. The price is well worth it for the curation of the drinks. For entirely selfish reasons, an neat extension to the functionality would be the ability to share “collections” of drinks with your friends. The alert reader should be able to guess where this is going.

New Under the Sun?

Understanding Cocktails concept has been in progress, off and on for about 2 years. Admittedly more off than on and one can be lured into a false sense of originality. For heaven’s sake! It’s drinks and drinking we are talking about – everyone has an opinion – especially online. So imagine the rude awenking to discover The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. Sure it’s been out of print for a while but it looks as though it’s being reprinted.

From what I’ve learned from the Wikipedia entry is that the author David Embury sets out some basic principles for a cocktail. These lessons must have been passed on by cocktail revivalists of the 90s-00s because it has certainly informed the thinking about what one should be looking for in a cocktail.

Embury first outlines some basic principles for fashioning a quality cocktail:

* It should be made from good-quality, high-proof liquors.
* It should whet rather than dull the appetite. Thus, it should never be sweet or syrupy, or contain too much fruit juice, egg or cream.
* It should be dry, with sufficient alcoholic flavor, yet smooth and pleasing to the palate.
* It should be pleasing to the eye.
* It should be well-iced.

Having said that. We are still looking to find a cocktail appreciation guide rather than a reciepe book. Hopefully when the reprint becomes available this can be verified. Until then, excuse our lack of research. The library awaits.


Work is progressing slowly on the site. The quality of the writing needs to be improved and some photographs need to be taken. All going well I hope to take the temporary homepage off and show the world at the end of October (that’s 2008 for those playing at home).

The Lemon Drop

Take the first step to cocktail enlightenment with the lemon drop. It’s easy to drink and easy to love. Explore the balance of strong, sour, sweet, and cold and to see how they combine. In fact, it’s so easy to make you can do it yourself – no bartender required….

Follow this link to read the full Lemon Drop story. Or maybe you’d like to check out the fictional narrative first.