Internet recipe hunting.
We’ve got it easy these days. The internet gives us access to an enormous array of cocktail recipes – and of course I’m pleased to play some small part in that. But the downside of this ocean of cocktails is that there is a lot of crap floating around there too. So how do we recognise a good recipe? Well there are certain clues. Does the recipe look balanced? There should be a balance of sweet to sour or sweet to bitter in almost any decent cocktail so if you are seeing only sweet, only sour or only bitter ingredients that should be an immediate warning sign. Does the recipe call for quality ingredients? Those that call for specific brands are likely to be more considered creations. If a recipe consists of Jagermeister, orange soda and vodka that tells you that it’s some kind of student dare chugger. Are the quantities realistic? You should be looking for a total volume of around 3 – 4.5oz for most cocktails (a bit more for Tiki) and a alcohol equivalence of 1.5-2.5oz at 40%ABV (again a bit more for Tiki). For long drinks you should be seeing something similar but just “lengthened” slightly with ice and soda or a decent mixer such as ginger beer. Of course there will be exceptions and outliers but these tips should filter out most of the dross. On the other hand you also need to be on the lookout for the kind of overworked hipster BS cocktail that’s all presentation without any real quality content. Over-emphasis on the garnish and particularly obscure liqueurs and bitters are your warning signs of this kind of “Fur coat and nae knickers*” drink.
If you do see a recipe that looks interesting, write it down and try it out. If you like it keep that recipe in a safe place for future use. And just in case you should end up writing about it, note the source. While there is no copyright on cocktail recipes (with a trio of silly exceptions) it is considered polite and proper to give credit where due, whether to a particular individual, bar or website. While we on the subject of recipe collection might I recommend the Android app I use for all my recipes.
Note Everything is [update: no longer supported so I now use the similar but simpler:] Simplenote is particularly well suited to making a simple cocktail recipe book and syncs automatically across different platforms. After all it would almost kill us to lose all those great recipes.
Here’s a recipe that caught my eye and now, a few months later, I can’t find the original source. Luckily I wrote down enough details to be able to credit its creator – Trey Hughes of Portland Hunt and Alpine Club. The Apprentice isn’t on their current menu but Trey is mentioned as the bar manager so that seems to fit. It’s an example of the increasingly popular “brown and stirred” category of cocktails that balance spirits, liqueurs and amari of differing sweetness and bitterness. This recipe easily passes the above tests and is devoid of daft garnishes and unnecessary bitters that are there only for exclusivity. Ingredients are (largely) called for by name and reasonably available and the quantities suggest that some fine tuning has taken place. By no means a classic or even a well known drink, the Apprentice is just an example of how to identify a promising original recipe on the internet. To prove the point – I didn’t even make and taste this drink until I’d written all of the above. Is it any good though? Yep, not bad at all. Cheers Trey!
1.5oz / 45ml rye whiskey (I used Old Overholt).
1oz / 30ml Campari.
0.75oz / 22.5ml Amaro Montenegro.
0.25oz / 7.5ml Heering (an excellent Danish cherry liqueur).
Stir with ice. Strain into a chilled champagne coupé. Garnish optional.
Toast Trey Hughes – creator of the Apprentice.
*Scottish saying: Spending all the money (or effort) on appearance by skimping on the basics.