Words William Ford Photographs Lisa Valder
William’s eight tips for making perfect cocktails
1. Never use ice twice
. . .even if you’re making the same drink. The ice will be too wet. Your drink will over-dilute and won’t be as cold. Ice should be taken straight from the freezer and into your glass or shaker. It should feel dry, almost sticky to the touch.
Wet ice however can be used to chill your glass by filling it up with the ice and water. Do this while you prepare your drink.
2. Always have more ice than liquids in your shaker or glass
The more ice, the less dilution and the colder it will be. A perfect cocktail should be between -5°C to -8 °C. Having more ice allows the minus degrees to dominate the room temperature, alcohol or juices. Being stingy with your ice means it will melt fast, diluting the drink and it won’t stay as cold.
3. Liquids before ice in your shaker
Again, this prevents dilution. If you have a two-part shaker, fill the bigger half with ice and the smaller with liquids.
4. Never make more than two cocktails per shaker
Overcrowding the shaker tends to produce sloppy cocktails. More likely than not, you won’t be able to fit in enough ice, causing the drink to over-dilute.
5. A metal cocktail shaker is best
Metal heats and cools very quickly making it ideal for shaking drinks. It uses less energy from the ice allowing it to focus more on the liquids inside. A glass shaker or mixing glass is perfectly acceptable, but it takes longer to chill as they have more thermal mass.
Plastic shakers… you’re wasting your time.
6. Shake drinks with juices and stir if all booze
This applies to coffee, cream, eggs, and most ingredients not from a bottle. You shake drinks with juices because of their different density to spirits, wines and liqueurs. Compare it to mixing vinegar and oil – it’s far quicker and more effective to combine them by whisking than stirring. Aerating the mixture helps the emulsifying process and also adds texture. A stirred drink tends to be crisper and less textured. Obviously there are some international super spies, who break this rule, but for the most part, stick with it.
7. Use precise measurements
Mixology is a science as much as baking is. Overdoing ingredients can ruin a drink like too much baking powder in a cake. Ideally you want a jigger, which is a little measuring cup, but teaspoons and tablespoons work fine. There are 5ml in a teaspoon and 15ml in a tablespoon. Often recipes use for fluid ounces, 30 ml is 1 fl oz.
8. A delicious cocktail is a balanced cocktail
Getting the flavours to work in harmony is the aim. Sweetness, bitters or sourness should never override the drink and dominate. A cocktail should have, a beginning, middle and end, creating a new flavour in the mouth.
This is my own creation, and one I’m particular proud of. The deep, herbal, celery-like flavour of lovage pairs beautifully with gin. The lime lifts the drink, breaking through the sugariness of the syrup and the absinthe carries the flavour to completion – tailing the drink off with a clean and sharp finish.
60 ml dry gin
30 ml lime juice or the juice of 1 whole lime
15 ml lovage sugar syrup (see recipe below)
1 dash of Absinthe
Garnish with a maraschino cherry
Glass: Small martini or coupe
Begin by chilling your glass.
Add the gin, lime juice, lovage syrup and the dash of absinthe to your shaker.
Add your ice and shake vigorously for roughly 20 seconds or until the shaker gets uncomfortably cold in your hand.
Empty your now chilled glass of the ice and water.
Strain the cocktail out of the shaker and into your glass.
Add the maraschino cherry and let it sink to the bottom.
Lovage Sugar Syrup recipe for about 700ml
A simple sugar syrup is… well, simple to make. A 1:1 ratio of sugar dissolved in water. Simmering it down will make it thicker and more intensely sweet. I prefer it thinner. If you want to add flavour just add any citrus peel, fruit, herb or spice. You decide. Bring it to boil then simmer it for 10-15 minutes then let it steep. The steeping time varies depending on your flavouring. It can vary from a couple of hours to a day.
It’s also great for non-alcoholic drinks – a shot of your sugar syrup and the juice of half a lime or lemon topped up with soda is delicious.
Unfortunately lovage is rarely found in shops, but is often found in gardens. It grows in abundance and little is needed for this recipe, so you needn’t feel too bad if you have to ask someone for a few sprigs. It’s getting near the end of lovage season but there is still plenty around. If you can’t find any fresh looking leaves, the stalks retain plenty of flavour so they work just as well. The flavour however is less fresh, and slightly more bitter.
700 ml caster sugar
700 ml water
3 big sprigs of lovage, roughly chopped
The zest of half an orange taken with a peeler
1 teaspoon of lightly crushed peppercorns
In a pan, pour in the water and sugar then stir on a medium heat till the syrup is clear. This is when the sugar will have dissolved. Throw in the lovage, orange peel and peppercorns, give a quick stir, cover and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer and leave it for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it steep. Don’t put it in the fridge to steep, as the cold temperature will stop the flavours infusing. I like to leave it for about 12 hours but taste it every hour or so until it reaches the strength you like.
Dark ‘n’ Stormy
This is my take on a Dark ‘n’ Stormy. Traditionally it’s 60ml dark rum, topped up with ginger beer and served with a lime wedge. That recipe however is copyrighted to Goslings Black Seal Rum. So to combat this I’ve changed it, by losing the ginger beer and adding my own ginger sugar syrup and soda water. Making my own ginger syrup also gives me control over how fiery the ginger is.
To make ginger syrup follow the steps for the lovage syrup but use the ginger in the same ratios as the sugar and water 1:1:1. The ginger should be peeled and sliced.
Mint is used as one of the garnishes here. When using fresh leaves always slap them. This helps to release the oils and aroma, subtly flavouring and scenting the drink.
60 ml dark rum
45ml ginger sugar syrup
15ml lime juice or the juice of half a lime
Topped up with soda water
Garnish with a wedge of lime and a sprig of mint
Glass: Highball or Collins glass
Half fill your glass with ice
Add the rum, ginger syrup and lime juice to your shaker
Add ice and give a quick brisk shake
Strain into the glass, add some more ice so it fills it.
Top up with soda water and gently stir.
Slap your mint, and stick in the top of the drink with a lime wedge.
The Boulevardier is a variation of the Negroni. Replacing gin with bourbon and upping the base spirit gives it a richer, deeper taste. Your choice of sweet vermouth will make or mar this. Martini Rosso will make an average drink, but if you go for a vermouth like Cinzano Rosso 1757, or Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, it will expand the flavour profiles and really elevate the drink. Your cocktail is only as good as your worst ingredient.
The garnish for this recipe calls for ‘expressed’ orange peel. To do this, get an orange, with thick, crater-like skin – these tend to hold the most oil. With a peeler take a generous amount of the zest. Start from the stalk of the orange and peel to the top. Try to avoid getting any pith as it’s very bitter.
Over your finished drink hold the zest between your index finger and thumb with the orange skin facing the cocktail. Squeeze lightly. This releases the oils that will sit on top of the drink and be the first smell and taste. Some people like to wipe the zest round the top of the glass and even the stem, so you fingers will catch the scent.
45ml Bourbon Whiskey
30ml Sweet Rosso Vermouth
2 dashes Orange Bitters
Garnish with expressed orange peel
Fill the tumbler with ice and dash in your bitters
Into a shaker or mixing glass pour the bourbon, vermouth and Campari
Fill with ice, stir roughly 40 times or until the shaker is very chilled and condensation appears.
Strain into a glass full of ice
Express the peel over the drink and stick the zest in the side of the drink like a straw.
William Ford will be making cocktails at The Hot Tin this Saturday at Some Kinda Cultcha from 6pm.
Text: William Ford. Photographs: Lisa Valder