Not everyone is born a mixologist. Actually no, nobody is born a mixologist.
If you are like me, you might walk into a specialty cocktail shop and look blankly at many of the bottles and products in there, or marvel in wonder at the mystery of how such a gorgeous drink was presented to you at a cocktail bar.
I will actually show you the most surreal gin cocktail I have ever been served - it is a real photo I took about 3 years ago at "Bar Chef" in Toronto, Canada.
I barely knew what cocktails were at the time. It floored me. I made me realize there is so much more to mixology. Where to begin!? Mushrooms? Tree branches? Easy to get overhwelmed here.
Well, by studying the cocktail (and asking the waitress) I noticed...
- most of what is impressive is the garnish (so adding decorations after the lovely drink is already tasing good)
- there is a fancy dry ice effect (still not yet what makes the gin cocktail delicious)
- There is a base gin drink in there (I have that at home...)
- There is tonic water added (still easy)
- There were bitters and syrup added (Bingo! That's it! This is where I can improve my mixology skills.)
Cocktail bitters are used for flavoring cocktails. Since cocktails mainly contain sour and sweet flavors, bitters are used to engage another primary taste and thereby balance out the drink and make it more complex, giving it a more complete flavor profile.
They will not make the cocktail taste bitter, a few drops of bitters will just balance out the flavors to make it taste better. You should not even notice a bitterness when drinking a properly balanced cocktail.
Cocktails that are missing bitters are cocktails that don't taste quite right - but you can't explain why. If you don't know what's missing from making your drink super delicious... it's probably missing bitters.
The bitters themselves are like highly concentrated 'tinctures' (see our previous post about this) which will give specific flavors that you desire to your cocktail.
The number one essential syrup you must buy is grenadine. Doctor's orders, you read it here first.
Now that you know to buy grenadine, I can introduce what cocktail syrups are... they add sweet flavour to your cocktail. Unlike bitters and tinctures, they are generally alcohol-free and are made from an extraction of the natural ingredients. Generally, they are very sweet and should be balanced out with bitters, so now you know they must be paired together.
Now it's your turn!
In closing, here is a much more reasonable yet lovely cocktail I was able to put together with the help of some simple rosemary syrup.
Cheers to the next step of your mixology journey!