Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Shake


Where'd I come up with it?

Really, it's anyone's guess.

From the time I started shaking cocktails I think I had a sense that the below-average "jostle and go" you typically see at bars was not my style... and did not make a palatable drink.

My first bar had a copy of Difford's Guide to Cocktails, Fifth Edition. By the time I was done with it it was loved to death. Simon recommends a shake that lasts about fifteen seconds, give or take a couple (mine is thirteen seconds; you can count if you like) This dilutes the drink and wakes up the ingredients in a way a light shake won't.

Around the same time, I had a guy come into my bar who was hand-picked to tend bar in Cyprus. Aside from teaching me how to flip bottles and flame zests, he highlighted the importance of entertainment in the cocktail process.

He also taught me how to use lighter fluid to breathe fire. I don't do that... At least, not anymore. ;)

Sure, mixology is important. The science is important. But I think there's not enough value attached to the myriad of things a bartender does. A good bartender isn't just a cocktailian... though knowing how to make a killer drink is essential. A good bartender is a waiter, drink chef, line cook, dishwasher, entertainer, psychologist, and confidante all rolled in to one. We put so much emphasis on the drink design, but I think the reason that bartenders are so well-respected in the industry is because they do a little bit of everything. Our "shaker faces" are just one element in a sea of things that we do.

So how did I come up with it? In the spirit of my shake, I'll keep the deets a mystery.

It looks cool. It shakes cool. And it makes a cool drink. :)


A shake is nice, but the most important element to a cocktail? Fresh ingredients. Everyone in The City's had a Margarita at some time or other. Here's a killer recipe for one:

2 oz. Tequila Milagro
1/2 oz. Combier Liqueur d'Orange
3/4 oz. Fresh Lime Juice

Combine ingredients in a shaker, shake vigorously, and strain either into a fiesta grande glass or over a rocks glass filled with ice with a half-salted rim.

To get the salt on the rim, coat half of the exterior of the glass with the wedge of a lime and then dip the glass in salt, being careful to keep the salt on the outside of the glass.

Half-salting gives you the chance to try the cocktail with salt and without!

This cocktail is very, very simple. None of that dreadful margarita mix with pasteurized egg white-- put that in your Margarita and I guarantee you, that's all you'll taste. But nothing crazy here in this Margarita. Just three ingredients in the right proportion. Three, two, one, shake, And presto! An amazing cocktail. Anyone can shake it.

Here's a little number that I featured at Bar & Books for our Spring Season. Again, the ingredients make the difference, but this one's a bit more complex:

1 oz Casa Noble Silver Tequila
3/4 oz Del Maguey Mezcal
1/2 oz Creme de Peche
1/2 oz Guava Puree
1/2 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice

Shake all ingredients, show your "Shaker Face," and strain into a cocktail coupe. Garnish with a Grapefruit Twist.

Quetzalcoatl was the Aztec "Feathered Serpent" God that Hernan Cortes was mistaken for when he discovered their empire. This cocktail has elements of the old world and the new. The smokiness of the mezcal adds another layer, as do the Guava and Grapefruit.

Happy Shaking!


Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Great Equalizer

The Longwood Grille, a 12-seat bar in Boston's Hospital District.

Getting back to the 'States from London was a huge wake-up call. Getting the chance to run the first bar I ever tended while I was there was like going from zero to sixty miles per hour in seconds flat, coming back home and trying to convince everyone I'd done it was like going sixty miles per hour and running into a brick wall. Starting out my bartending career as a bar manager was both a blessing and a curse: I'd had a taste of a wonderful career only to have it pulled away. Heading from bar to bar and taking rejection after rejection proved a sting to my pride, and more importantly, taught me not to take the incredible privelige of shaking cocktails for granted.

It took a year of job hunting for me to find my next bar gig. I went in twice; the first time, they interviewed me, lost my resume, and I returned again after seeing a second posting a month later. Even then, I had to parlay the position by exchanging four shifts as a bus boy for a bar shift on Sundays. But by that point, that one shift back behind the bar would have been worth just about anything to me.

The bar was next to a hospital. That's a unique experience for most bartenders, who are used to customers who come in to a bar to relax during lunch hour, watch the game in the evening, or try and pick someone up late at night. This bar had a lunch hour crowd, a game crowd, and a late night crowd, but their reasons for being there were very, very different from most bar patrons. Many had friends and family who were patients; some were even patients themselves. Their stories were sometimes so heart-wrenching that I couldn't help taking ten minutes to close my eyes and rest myself after a shift, even a slow one.

On one of those slow nights, a man sat down at the bar, his head in his hands. One of my regulars was there enjoying his usual glass of wine with his meal. He took one look at this sullen soul and asked if he could buy him a cocktail. Of course I agreed.

The two got to talking. The man's daughter was due in the OR for surgery the next afternoon. Her condition had been chronic and terrible, and the operation was a last ditch.

"Pleased to meet you and thank you for the drink," the man introduced himself. "I'm A*****."

"I'm A***** B*****," my regular replied.

The man's eyes lit up. "I know you!"

"Oh?" My regular raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah! Oh my God! You're my kid's anaesthesiologist."

It is rare in the medical world that doctors, patients, and their families have this kind of contact. But something about getting to meet the man who would work on his daughter brightened the heart of this man. Parent and doctor talked together for about an hour. Then the doc got up, shook his new acquaintance’s hand, and walked away from the bar with a new sense of purpose.

When people ask me, “why do you work at a bar for a living?” I remember this story. It taught me that above all, the bar is not just a watering hole where we go to grab a pint, watch the game, or pick someone up. It is so much more than that. At its best, the bar is a watering-hole for a community, a place where people go to meet others they wouldn’t ordinarily run in to in their comings and goings. It is a break from regulation and the daily routine. In short, it is the great equalizer.

Here is a classic cocktail I used to mix to cheer up sullen patrons at The Longwood Grille. Fittingly for the time of year, it’s a classic Cinco de Mayo drink. I found it crisp and delicious, particularly in summertime.

1 1/2 oz. Milagro Silver Tequila
2 oz. Fresh Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz. Lime Juice
Top up with Soda
Shake all ingredients and strain into an ice-filled highball glass.
Garnish:  Lime Wedge, half-salted rim

This past season, Ben Scorah and I did a take on the classic Paloma at Bar & Books.  We named the cocktail after Ben's favorite Bond Girl from the illustrious Bond movie Die Another Day.  In the movie, Jinx serves the role of "The Great Equalizer" in many ways... odd coincidence. :)

Jinx Cocktail
1 oz. Casa Noble Reposado Tequila
3/4 oz. Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
3/4 oz. Becherovka (a Czech Digestif)
1 oz. Fresh Grapefruit Juice
Shake all ingredients and strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish:  Flamed Grapefruit Zest

Happy Shaking!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

J'Adore (Ginger Cobbler)

It was a Sunday in mid-May. I'd been working at Bar and Books for about a month. I was strolling through Central Park, overcharged like a battery struck by lightning. Someone who meant a lot to me at the time was going to visit me at the bar that night.

I wanted to do something special for her, make her feel welcome from the second she walked in the door... show her I still cared about her. It had been a while since I'd seen her, and I missed her.

She loved Ginger Martinis. Most of those used vodka with infused ginger. Could I do that? ... Not by tonight. No, I was going to have to make it work more quickly. Maybe I could muddle it. But it's strong stuff. So maybe just a couple of very thin slices...

Over the next half hour, I strolled past our old haunts. The soccer fields near 95th and 5th, where I'd pulled out a full picnic for her. The paths where we'd strolled and chatted about how she was a total francophile and missed Paris. The park bench where she'd closed her eyes for a moment and sighed relief after a stressful day at work, resetting herself for our date. The World Globe outside the Trump International, where I'd snapped photos at sunset waiting for her to show up. As I visited each place, another piece of the cocktail's design fermented in my head.

With clarity and purpose, I strolled into Whole Foods and picked up a fistful of fresh ginger. I hit work and suited up, block of ginger in hand, ready to make some mixological magic.

The owner showed up. I made him five.

A different beauty showed up. She had a riveting smile. When I told her I had a Ginger Martini she might like, her eyes lit up. I made her four; her friends bought another six.

That's fifteen cocktails!

She helped launch my career as a mixologist that night, and the drink featured on our cocktail menus a week later.

...But the girl I was actually waiting for never walked in the door... and to this day, she never has.


A couple of weeks ago, we launched our first etiquette class with Britt Media Relations, hosted by U'Luvka Vodka  and Christofle Paris at Beekman Bar and Books. The event was a huge success; the bar was filled to capacity with eager drinkers.

My Ginger Cocktail, now one of the most popular on the Bar & Books menu, was chosen as one of the featured drinks and christhened under the fitting name "J'Adore." Proceeds from the cocktail went to benefit the French-American cultural exchange.

As I shook libation after libation, I couldn't help thinking how strange life can be sometimes.

Sure, things might not have turned out the way I'd intended. The girl who'd been my inspiration was nowhere to be seen... even though I'm sure a Parisian fete showcasing a ginger cocktail would have been right up her alley. But because of the inspiration I'd gotten from her, I was living my dream, mixing a cocktail that was the star of the show. And I couldn't have been happier.

Life really is funny sometimes...


Ginger Cobbler
(Alias J'Adore)
Glass: Cocktail
2 oz. U'Luvka Vodka
3/4 oz. Domaine de Canton
1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
2 Thin slices fresh Ginger
Muddle Ginger and Simple Syrup in the mixing glass.  Add all other ingredients, shake vigorously, and strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish:  Fresh Ginger Slice

J'Adore is a very simple and balanced drink, very much no frills and one of my favorites. The light vanilla and spice from the U'Luvka balances almost perfectly with the light bite of the ginger. The drink is refreshing on the palate; it cools in warm weather, and warms me when it's cold. Those who sip slowly have nothing to worry about with J'Adore; the drink stays balanced even as it warms up.

It's worth mentioning that the inspiration for the cocktail’s original name, "Ginger Cobbler," is a tip of the hat to Jerry_Thomas, reknowned by many as the father of mixology. Mr. Thomas conceived a similarly popular drink in the late 19th Century called "Sherry Cobbler."

The recipe follows:

Sherry Cobbler
Glass: Julep or "Large Bar Glass"
4 oz. Sherry (Recommended: Pedro Ximendez)
1 tablespoon Superfine Sugar
2-3 Orange Wedges
Fill a tumbler with shaved ice, shake well, and ornament with berries in season.

Happy Mixing!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Inspiration From The Snow Maiden

The soft, inspired beauty stepped into the sleepy hotel bar on that midwinter day in Boston and the whole place instantly lit up. Her smile had a grace and a confidence that filled the room with the musical tenor of a light morning snowfall.

She introduced herself to us with a soft, almost hypnotic style. Instead of being just like every other pint-pulling bar in the neighborhood, she said, we were going to make cocktails. She was going to introduce us to these cocktails, and they'd served on a separate menu at our bar. And these weren't just martinis, manhattans, and margaritas, either... they were real cocktails.

In roughly an hour, she took our whole restaurant staff through a gauntlet of mixed drinks-- and the bottles that came with them.

She introduced me to Lillet Blanc and The Vesper. Milagro Tequila and the Paloma. Pama Pomegranate Liqueur and the Pomegranate Martini. The Blood and Sand. Hendrick's -- the most unusual Gin. A swirl of Agave Nectar to enhance a modest Margarita.

In two hours, the entire world of spirits opened up... and the possibilities were endless.

After pouring the ingredients for her Vesper Martini gracefully into her Boston Glass, she knocked metal top to glass bottom and prepped for her shake. She hesitated for an imperceptible moment.

"Now, when you shake a cocktail, you'll want to put some vigor into it," she remarked. "Polarize the ingredients. You wouldn't want a simple, weakly shaken drink, now would you?"

I softened and leaned forward through every detail, drinking in her knowledge, her style, her poise.

If I was only a child in the world of mixology, she was my Mary Friggin' Poppins.


When I look back at the start of my career as a bartender, I can remember two people who inspired me to new heights of love and understanding for the world of the cocktail. The first is
Simon Difford, who I've never actually met in person; the second is Charlotte Voisey, who I've met only once.

Looking back to that midwinter day when Charlotte strolled into
The Longwood Grille & Bar in Boston, where I'd parlayed a part-time gig as a bartender, I remember our paths crossed for only about an hour or so... but the impact that hour had on me changed my whole mindset, my whole career. What I knew about liquor... about drink design... about shaking a cocktail. Her cocktail menu stretched me from a pint-slinging bartender to a budding cocktailian almost overnight.

I mention all of this because Charlotte has recently launched her own Sicilian Blood Orange Liqueur, Solerno. We inherited a few bottles at Bar & Books since we briefly served her Hendrick's Daisy here during the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. Inspired yet again by my erstwhile mentor, I've been pulling the bottle out almost every chance I get... and with the number of chances I've gotten, I'm frankly surprised we still have any Solerno left to speak of.

But we did last night. And who should walk in the door but a lovely couple named Melissa and Lincoln. Melissa happens to be the new Brand Ambassador for Solerno, and asked if we have any Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur at the bar. Like clockwork, I reached for the bottle like an old friend...

... And what do you know? Melissa asked me to mix with it.

First I tried a cocktail of Charlotte's Design. It is aptly named "The Snow Maiden."

Solerno Snow Maiden
Glass: Cocktail
3/4 oz. Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
1/2 oz. Maraschino Liqueur
3/4 oz. Hendrick's Gin
1 oz. Clear Apple Juice (for those stateside... just regular old Apple Juice)
2 Dashes Orange Bitters (Regan's works nicely)
Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass and stir. Strain into a cocktail coupe.
Garnish: An Orange Spiral Twist.

The cocktail I came up with is a cross between a Velvet Cadillac (a rum drink I designed a few months ago) and a Grand Marnier Smash (created by Andy Seymour... for more on the GM Smash from my boss, Ben Scorah, follow this_link).

Since it's a rum based cocktail, Melissa and Lincoln insisted on naming it after that nuttiest of the Pirates of the Caribbean:

I do admit... my shake is a bit nutty.

Jack Sparrow

Glass: Martini
1 1/2 oz. Ron Zacapa 23
3/4 oz. Solerno Blood Orange
1/4 oz. Simple Syrup
5 Fresh Sprigs of Mint
3 Orange Wedges
1 Dash Xocolatl Bitters
Muddle Mint, Oranges, and Simple Syrup. Add all other ingredients to the mixing glass, shake in vigorous Voisey style, and strain into the martini glass.
Garnish: Flamed Orange Zest

Eleven of these were shaken and lapped up last night at Beekman Bar & Books to a dedicated crowd of late-night patrons. I'm pretty sure that nary a drop ended up in my swill sink.

A closing note: As we were saying our goodbyes for the evening, Lincoln, a musical artist, ruminated: "You know, the way you shook those cocktails, you looked like a musician."

Charlotte would have been proud. :)

Happy Shaking!


Monday, November 9, 2009

Cachaca Leblon at Beekman Bar & Books

Sometimes in life, you have to take risks. Especially when they stare you in the face at eleven in the morning. Which, for the record, is the buttcrack of dawn for those of us who live ardently in The Sporting Life.

It was at eleven in the morning yesterday that I found myself in a produce aisle in Union Square with my boss and mentor, Ben Scorah, staring down a cadre of menacingly tantalizing Habanero Peppers.

To prep myself creatively, I'd dragged my roomie, Matt (who doesn't drink, by the way... or at least, not regularly) through a gauntlet of sugarcane spirits two nights before. We ID'd the primary notes in Leblon Cachaca. Leblon had buttery, tropical, and nutty notes. So sure... Leblon and banana. Leblon and pomegranate. Leblon and mango. Leblon and lime, naturally... Caipirinhas are practically Brazil's national libation.

But Leblon and... Habaneros?

I don't know if it was a sense of adventure, a need to be different, or simply lack of sleep that motivated me to reach out for a pound of the notorious "Scotch Bonnet" Habanero peppers, which eaten raw will smack even the sturdiest salsa afficionado into submission. But within minutes, I'd bagged a pound of the chromatic peppers with the highest Scoville Heat Rating on record (300,000 Scoville Heat Units, to be exact; for comparison, Tabasco Sauce weighs in at around 40,000 SHU's).

Habaneros are not for the faint of heart or the weak of tongue. And for my take on the classic Caipirinha, I was going to need to use them in the right combination and proportion. What's more, there was a real risk that too much pepper would overwhelm the drink with a wave of heat and knock out every other flavor in the cocktail.

By the time Ben and I got done buying the groceries and the glassware, flagged a taxi, loaded it full with supplies, and got back uptown to Beekman Bar & Books, it was noon. We had two hours to work out our four Leblon cocktails, hone the recipes, prep mixes and garnishes, clean our glasses and beautify the bar. The first three cocktails were relatively easy; Ben concocted the recipes for two of them almost right away, and we set to mixing them in punch bowls. The third, Brazilian Sangria, is an old tried-and-true recipe at Bar & Books, so we knew what we were getting into.

With the clock ticking, our gregarious barback, Rafi, was a godsend; somehow, he managed to be in fifty places at once. Thanks to his efforts, I had enough time to piece together the framework for Anaconda Cocktail.

The base would be a "standard" Caipirinha: Two ounces of Leblon, three slices of lime and two white sugar cubes. I'd add in three slices of mango, a splash of acai juice, and the smallest sliver of Habanero. I was about to press boldly forward, muddler in hand, when one of the Leblon crew happened to drop a Dimetapp shaped bottle filled with purple liquid down on the bar. "Experimental Acai Liqueur?" He offered.

Almost immediately, I was sold.
There's already an Acai liqueur on the market called VeeV, but it's distilled solely from Acai juice, and lacks both the antioxidant power and the grainy taste that come from the skin of the Acai berry. This sweetness and the added taste of alcohol-- not to mention the graininess-- would come in handy from an Acai cordial in my cocktail and would level out the spiciness of the Habanero perfectly.

Team Leblon and friends. Ben's the one sporting the cane in the center.

Experimentation with the pepper levels followed. Ben suggested-- rightly-- that I cut out every pepper seed from the Habaneros I'd be muddling in the drink. Just one of those seemingly harmless seeds could easily destroy the whole cocktail right out of the starting gate. After using reknowned mixologist Colin Asare-Appiah's tongue as a guide (thanks, Colin, for being my guinea pig, and for your honest feedback!), I ended up using a quarter of a thin slice of pepper in each cocktail.

The results?
Well... I'll just leave you with the Photographic Evidence:

Junior Merino, The Liquid Chef (right), introducing
Anaconda Cocktail to Michael Anstendig and Jamie Keller.

Carmen Operetta of Libation Diaries, clearly thrilled with the spice.

Not everyone is a fan of hot pepper in their cocktails, but those who were regaled the drink with rave reviews. It was a total hit! Not to mention that it caught Lush Life's Leo Borovskiy's eye (thanks for the bully photos, Leo!):

Here is the recipe:

Anaconda Cocktail
Glass: Fiesta Grande
2 oz. Cachaca Leblon
1/4 oz. Acai Berry Liqueur (on the market soon, I hope)
3 Lime Wedges
3 Cubes Mango
1 very small, very THIN quarter slice of Habanero Pepper
Muddle fruits and pepper. Add liquor, shake with ice, and pour into the glass.
Garnish: A Habanero Pepper (which you can eat if you feel brave enough!)

That's all for now. Till Next Time, Happy Shaking!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cocktails You Need To Know, Vol. 1

Let's face it-- if you're gonna hold your own behind the stick, there are a few drinks that you should absolutely know... and make your own. And I'm not talking about Jack-and-Cokes or Vodka Sodas here. If it's on the rocks or mixes with a single ingredient... or if 'mixing' it denotes cracking open a bottle or pulling a tap, it's not rocket science.

No, I'm talking about cocktails here. And specifically, cocktails that any aspiring bartender needs to know if they're going to step behind the bar. These are the drinks that any interviewer is going to ask you if you know, and if you blow 'em away with your answer... well, all the better for you!

The first of these that we'll go over today is the ultimate daytime drink and hangover cure. It is a cocktail that every bartender has a recipe for.


Classic Recipe
Glass: Highball
2 oz. Vodka
1 dash Lemon Juice
4 dashes of Salt
2 dashes Black Pepper
2 dashes Cayenne Pepper
3 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
Top up with Tomato Juice
Garnish: Lemon Wedge, Celery Stalk
Stir all ingredients lightly to mix and serve over ice.
This drink originated at Harry's New York Bar in Paris around 1920. Fernand Petiot, the originator of the drink, gave the above recipe in an interview for New York Magazine in 1964.
Note: There is no Tabasco Sauce and no Horseradish in Petiot's recipe. Those bartenders who are throwing Tabasco Sauce/horseradish into their Marys should duly note its lack of presence here. I'm not saying don't tool around with your own recipes; but I find both abrasive and don't use either in my Marys. I strongly recommend you do the same.

Bartenders typically guard their Mary recipes... but since I was inspired to create my own Mary recipe from a fellow bartender's suggestions and inspiration, I see no reason not to include my own recipe here. Enjoy!

Jake's Bloody Mary Recipe
Glass: Highball
2 oz. Citron Vodka
1 dash Lemon Juice
1 dash Olive Brine
2 dashes of Salt
2 dashes White Pepper
2 dashes Cayenne Pepper
5 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
Top up with Tomato Juice
Garnish: Lemon Wedge, Two Jumbo Shrimp
Stir all ingredients lightly to mix and serve over ice.

My variation holds true to the original recipe pretty well. Cayenne instead of Tabasco, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and of course the tomato base. I add a couple of extra dashes of Worcestershire and the Olive Brine to give the cocktail a bit more of a savory edge. I use the white pepper because of a little chef's secret: White Pepper won't show up in your drink... or in your teeth for that matter.

The 'Shrimp Effect' is largely a tip of the hat to a bartender who I met in England when I was cutting my teeth at my first bar gig at SMART Bar in London. His insistence that I make the Mary my own, and that every bartender should have their own take on the classic recipe, are my reasons for posting this article.

This recipe is a hit every time I pull it out and dust it off, but can take up to three minutes to make if the ingredients (like the shrimp) aren't handy and need to be brought up or defrosted.
I made a few of these during a slow afternoon a few weeks ago at Hudson Bar & Books. By the time the night had picked up and my bar was two deep, a pair of ladies who'd been savoring my Marys while it was slow sauntered back in, and lo and behold, they wanted more. When their round came up for the girls, suddenly everyone next to them took one look at the crustacean-topped savory highballs and insisted on their own. I mixed seventeen Marys that night-- and ran a bar that was slammed at the same time!
Till Next Week... Happy Shaking!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Balancing a Cocktail


The Cosmopolitan
2 Ounces of Ketel One Citroen
1/2 Ounce of Cointreau
1/2 Ounce of Fresh Lime Juice
Splash (1/4 to 1/2 Ounce) Cranberry Juice
Garnish with a Lime Wheel


A Memory

My first bartending gig back in the US came after I'd started working full time for Children's Hospital in Boston fixing pharmaceutical equipment. The bar was next door to the hospital. I carried a pager for my medical job, and I was lucky to have managers who were very understanding whenever my pager went off and I had to run next door and use my lunch break to fix a machine.

So one night, I'm mixing this lady a Cosmopolitan, and my beeper goes off.  I finish pouring the drink, call my boss over to the bar, explain the situation to my customer, and head to the hospital to fix the issue. 

Shortly after I leave, her cell phone rings.  It's her daughter's nurse.

"I'm so sorry," the nurse says to my customer as she sips her drink, "your daughter hasn't gotten her pain meds yet. But don't worry-- the guy who fixes the Pyxis Machine is here, he's working on it right now."

"Yeah, I know." My customer replies sardonically. "The Bartender's fixing it."

The Cosmopolitan, by the way, was delicious.


Many bartenders overlook the importance of balance in crafting an effective cocktail. While drinking on the easy side of the bar, I've noticed that we're all too used to emphasizing two ingredients at the expense of all the others: the biting nip of the alcohol and the sweet kiss of sugar.  The former feeds our need to ensure we haven't been cheated on our spirits; the latter mitigates the intolerable taste of the former where necessary for the faint of tongue.  A great example of this shortfall would be those terrible chocolate martinis that overpower with their base spirit and make up for it with an overwhelming douse of creme de cacao.  Establishments' names will be changed to protect the innocent.

Let's not forget that the whole point of mixology is to craft a cocktail that trades a one-two punch in the taste buds for a smooth massage of flavor that brings them all out to play.  Instead of just sticking with the two hometown favorite tastes, a finely crafted drink should touch at least three of the major tastes associated with the cocktail:  Spirit, Sweet, Sour, Citrus, and Bitters.  If the tongue is a drum, the talented mixologist should aim to keep time with several regions in tandem to lay down a cool baseline.

Ultimately, the ideal in mixing a quality drink is to get the customer's first sip to start out almost neutral on the tongue.  This starting point should then follow up with a wave of flavor.  Just like a fine wine, cheese, or whiskey doesn't have a single note but operates on several, a good cocktail should start simple and move to the complex.

The Cosmo is a great example of a cocktail that is often overdone. Too many bartenders think they're doing their customers a favor by throwing in too much vodka or triple sec.  Worse, many overdo the Cranberry Juice.  While the garden variety Ocean Spray has a nice sweet kick of corn syrup (which, incidentally, inhibits the flow of leptin to the brain, shutting off your customer's sense of whether or not she's full; congratulations, there goes the diet), its combination sweet and bitter-dry taste should be used in moderation, not in excess.  Many of my customers ask for their Cosmopolitans "baby-pink" which means I breathe Cranberry Juice into my Boston Glass with care rather than slathering it willy-nilly into my cocktail.  

One of my mentors often tells me to mix my drinks "with love."  While this may sound sappy to some would-be bartenders, the principle of adding care into your recipes is one I'd consider of paramount importance.  It's the same care I provided to to the patient's mother in my cocktail yarn. On both sides of the bar, I managed to provide her with impeccable care and service. It's a goal I aspire to every day in my career, and one I consider well worth the effort.

Happy Mixing!