The Open-Minded Art of LearningEdit Post
Contributed by on Mar 02, 2018
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Bartending isn't just about "slinging the drinks." As of late, I have had the opportunity to work alongside some ridiculously talented chefs, one of whom is a master chef with talent that blows me away! The good fortune to be able to learn from them simple things like knife skills, (I'm still not very good .. but I keep practicing & have a healthy stock of bandaids on hand!) temperature techniques when preparing ingredients, and, most importantly, subtle flavor enhancements via herbs & spices that one would not normally think of for cocktails, is a chance of circumstance that I am Oh So Grateful for!
A couple things that are important take-aways for me:
1. The best stuff takes time. Bartending is a lot of instant gratification. People want their drinks as immediately as possible, and, as bartenders, we want to move light speed fast to handle the multitudes of drink orders from customers. Speed pours and multiple drinks being made at once are a norm in our multitasking bartending world. But, taking the time to slow down, to carefully and intentionally create the bases for those cocktails, (i.e. syrups, mixers, and infusions) is wonderfully fulfilling and, surprisingly relaxing! Wow. Who knew the fast paced world of bartending could contain those types of chill moments?!
2. Specificity in recipes is key. Just because I know for a fact that when I free pour a 4 count with my favorite pour spout style it equals 2 oz, doesn't mean that I'm not a slight fraction off of someone else's pour for a cocktail recipe. Taking the time to use measuring barometers like jiggers and tare weights is crucial to recreating the exact same cocktail with the exact same taste every time. There is never shame in slowing sightly down to create the best!
3. (This one is something that I always knew, but in cases of handling a crazy busy bar, it tended to fly to the sidelines for basic drinks like a vodka soda or a gin and tonic) In the end, it's about the taste and experience, Not the alcohol. If you take the time and effort to make a great drink, it's going to be the thing that brings people back again and again. I have patrons that show up specifically for their favorite cocktails that I created on a weekend specials menu weeks or months ago. I recently had one regular patron that came in because he only is having one drink per week during Lent, so he wanted it to be the one that I'd created awhile back that he loved. Moments like that aren't about the alcohol. They're about the experience, and the fact that if you didn't put the time, effort, and specificity of ingredients into your cocktail base and creation, the patron wouldn't come back specifically to relive that drink moment. The end result from the effort is truly gratifying.
With all that in mind, let's get to creating! I recently had the honor of creating the cocktail served at the annual Academy of Chefs gala dinner reception. The syrup for this one was the key to the cocktail. It takes time, but the end result is totally worth it!!
What you'll need (tools & supplies):
● a big pot
● a sharp knife
● a food scale
● 80 g. peeled and sliced ginger root
● 15 g. lime zest
● 90 g. granny smith apples
● 37 g. chopped lemongrass
● 1/2 a lime without pith (FYI, for those of you that are unfamiliar, "pith" is the white stuff that exists in between the zest and the fruit.)
● 225 g. sugar
● 800 g. water
What to Do:
Put the water and sugar in the pot and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then throw all the rest of the ingredients in, stir, and bring to a slow, tiny bubbles boil. Hold it there on low heat (approximately 200 degrees) for about 1.5 hours, stirring often. When you can taste the flavors, not just the sugar, it's ready! Strain and enjoy in your favorite cocktail!
The above recipe makes almost 1 quart of syrup. Feel free to calculate out your amounts to create more or less of it. This particular syrup is great with vodka, rum, or gin. The subtle citrus, spice, and fruity sour work well with almost any combination you can dream up. I used it with vodka, fresh ruby red grapefruit, and soda water, with an orange garnish, but it will work wonderfully with a variety of liquor options and garnish choices!
In the end, it's all about the flavors. It took me a couple of tries testing my end result cocktail with things like lime versus lime leaves in the syrup, and what fruit would work best in the drink itself to get to the final product, so play with it! Let me know what you come up with! Variations are definitely the "spice of life"! :)