Mixology Basics: Part 1 (Classifications, Spirits, Mixers, Garnishes, etc...)

(Pictured above is a Blue Cosmo being made as a part of Friday's Mixology class with a twist of lemon).

I had the wonderful opportunity to do a Mixology class and Happy Hour for my dear cousin Lisa this past Friday night. We had a small group which allowed for much interaction and engagement. They were very entertaining, enjoyed themselves, and asked many good questions. The guests learned the foundations of Mixology with live demonstrations and had the chance to learn proper pour techniques and make their own signature cocktails from the cocktail menu they requested for the night. They also learned about the reasons behind glassware, bar lingo, and how they should ask for cocktails and what to watch for when they visit their local drinking establishment. Many of their eyes were opened about the many things bartenders and bars do wrong.

This post is the start of a series of posts related to the foundations of Mixology based on proven methods and techniques that every home bartender, novice or professional bartender, should use. I covered glassware last week so please check that post because it will better help you understand what's to come. Much of the information covered in the series is a result of feedback received from the guests at my most recent event. I have a handout that I used at the bartending school and currently use for mixology classes which nicely displays all this info in a table format. If you would like a copy, please let me know or just sign up for a Mixology class and you will receive one free of charge. You will see that many acronyms are used to help you remember the answers.

Classifications of Alcohol (Acronym = ABC Wine & Spirits)

A = Aperitif (appetizer wine/before dinner drink), French word which means "to open"

B = Beer

C = Cordials/Liqueurs, which are sweet and syrupy products made from a base spirit

Wine = Wine

Spirits = Spirits

Of those spirits, there are 6 main spirits (Very Good Rules To Work By) -

Vodka, Gin, Rum, Tequila, Whiskey, and Brandy

Whiskey has two off-shoots and brandy has two.

Whiskey = Bourbon and Scotch. Other whiskies are off shoots of these two, i.e. Irish (place), Canadian (place), Blended, Tennesseean

Brandy = Cognac, fruit-flavored brandy (i.e. blackberry brandy)

Mixers defined as anything non-alcoholic that is added to a drink, i.e. soda, juice

Flavor Enhancers are defined as flavoring agents that are not mixers, but add something to a drink, i.e. lime juice, lemon juice, grenadine, bitters

Garnish rules for a drink is defined by the main mixer, but exceptions to the rule are for specialty cocktails where you can experiment with different garnishes to achieve a different look/aesthetic. Garnishes have two purposes - appearance and enhancement of drink.

For example: cranberry lime juice and tonic water = lime wedge/slice; orange juice = orange slice/twist; lemon sour/soda water = lemon or orange/cherry flag; coke = lime; grenadine = cherry. If a drink contains both lime juice and/or lemon sour, orange juice, etc...they will get a lime.

All standard Martinis get olives or, if specified, a lemon twist. Standard Cosmo gets a lime slice unless a specialty Cosmo, like a Blue Cosmo, which gets lemon twist.

All Manhattans get a cherry or, if specified, a lemon twist.

All Long Island Iced Teas get a lemon slice.

All Cuba Libres get a lime slice. Same as a Rum & Coke, but must ask if they want a lime.

All standard Margaritas get a lime slice.


Next up...Discussion on the proper way to make certain categories of drinks (build in glass or build in mixing glass/tin), shaken vs. stirred rules, and other rules related to drink-making...Enjoy, Cheers!