The craft of mixology is one akin to many popular card games. Easy to learn, difficult to master. If it were easy, we’d win every custom cocktail contest and make a name for ourselves in no time. But, there really are just a few basics which everyone should know and understand when creating an original cocktail. Let’s start with the ingredients. Almost all cocktails can be broken down into three magic parts: 1) a base spirit, 2) a modifier, and 3) a visual or flavor enhancer, often both.
Base spirits are the easy part. What will you use as the foundation of your cocktail? In general you have brandies, whiskies, rums, gins, vodkas and agave based spirits. The next step is choosing what to add to it. This is called “The Modifier” or in simpler terms, what makes a cocktail, a cocktail. If you were to take a base spirit and shake it with ice, then strain it into a cocktail glass and serve it; you would not have made a cocktail. A modifier takes what you’re already working with, adds to and enhances it, until you have something more interesting and marvelous than either ingredient on it’s own. A modifier not only takes the edge off an 80 proof spirit, but clarifies the character of the spirit in the same way spices work in cooking. You can add additional modifiers, bitters, colored liqueurs, creams, herbs or what have you. The first modifier is really what starts the whole ball rolling.
As this post has been sponsored by the good folks at PAMA liqueur, I’d like to focus on their product as a suggested modifier to work with this month. I’ve been using PAMA myself for several years now and have recommended it to many people as a high quality and quite useful product. Unlike many grenadine syrups you’ll find on the market, PAMA actually uses real pomegranates with a color and flavor both natural and enticing. It’s also 34 proof, which adds a depth and richness to a cocktail, and also boosts the overall quality of the finished product. I often use a 50/50 mix of a real grenadine syrup (which is quite sweet) and PAMA (which has a bright, tart quality) to any cocktail calling for grenadine.
If your customers are looking for something which goes beyond the usual cloying sweetness of a Tequila Sunrise for instance, try using my 50/50 ratio and see what they say. Watch for their facial reaction also. It’s sure to start an interesting dialogue. It also works especially well in the classic Jack Rose cocktail.
If you want to experiment even further, try using PAMA as an alternative to the usual citrus juice/simple syrup blend found in a sour mix or fruit based liqueur such as triple sec. Remember, Pama is less sweet and more tart than most liqueurs, so you may want to begin by using a different amount than the recipe states. The possibilities are only as limited as your imagination! Have fun, and keep mixing!
PAMA & Rye
Garnish: Orange Wheel
1 oz. PAMA
1 oz. High Proof Rye Whiskey
1 oz. Orange Juice
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
Method: Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into rocks glass over fresh ice and garnish.