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Have Some Fun - It's a Cocktail!

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There's no point if you're not enjoying it. I believe this is a good mantra applied to many things. With cocktails this can mean the act of consuming, or the participating in its creation. When I visit a bar, it is obvious to me when the bartender or the waitress haven't got their heart in it. This affects my enjoyment of said experience too; if they look miserable, it translates directly into my perception of the drink. However, on the flipside, if I'm entering with the opinion that I'm not going to enjoy myself, they are going to be hard pushed to charge this thinking.

The fact is, all the surroundings and the way we respond to them affect every part of our interaction with a cocktail (or anything for that matter!). That's why bar operators and restauranteurs spend so much time trying to get every element in order. Some things you might notice- such as the volume of the music or the lighting, others you might not- how the positioning of the booking desk is coordinated in relation to the entrance- but all of these things, no matter how subtle, affect our enjoyment.

An attitude is a big part of this too. On the consumer side, as mentioned above, it will be one hell of a cocktail to be able to turn around an instant dislike to a venue. However, as long as you approach it in the right frame of mind, although it won't help you forget an issue, it might be able to help you find a little respite. I've seen it before though where some patrons in the restaurant are determined to have a bad time. Surely at that point it's worth saving your money and perhaps seek a stress relief elsewhere?

The same goes for your house. Of course, I don't mean you should try to analyse all the details and settings, or consciously set out to make sure "I'm going to enjoy this cocktail", but that merely a bit of fun should enter the proceedings.

Drinking at home allows a different sense of discovery. If you're with a group of friends, you can try some new products and explore a shared interest. You can also tailor an event perfectly- say if you know you're having friends round for a celebration, you can put together an offering that truly reflects that, your tastes and that of your friends.

However, you really should approach this with an attitude that you're going to enjoy this with friends and it really will get you part the way to achieving this. And one way to help encourage this is to create a setting that's conducive to a bit of fun- get together some ingredients that are a bit playful, get some music on and try out some new drinks. Perhaps you can escape the inclement weather by grabbing some rum and testing out perfecting your own Pina Colada? Or you could get some Mexican food on the go and start developing the mother of all Margarita recipes.

Exploring cocktails should be fun- and like with cooking, there's a chance to get a group of friends involved. The beauty of this type of collaboration is that each person will bring a unique view to the gathering and with this, a whole new take to bring to the table.

A good start is to take one particular drink- say the aforementioned Pina Colada, or something like a White Lady- and together with a table full of ingredients start to play around. It helps to grab a few extra liqueurs, make up some flavoured syrups, get some in-season fruit... the options for modification are endless. And remember, nothing is out of bounds in cocktails (just make sure it's edible). Start small and work up though- you don't want to be wasting those lovely ingredients. Your favourite combinations from cooking will help you out too.

My suggestions:

  • Always get the best quality ingredients - poor in, makes poor out.
  • Freeze LOTS of ice
  • Pick one of the group's favourite cocktails, or a theme to the evening
  • Make some homemade syrups that you think might fit with this
  • Remember balance is key- to start, follow a simple ratio of 2 parts spirit, 1 part sour to half a part sweet. Adding more booze isn't smart- it'll through the drink out of whack and seriously affect your longevity in the evening.
  • Have fun!

White Lady
40ml London Dry Gin
25ml Cointreau
20ml fresh lemon juice
1 egg white

Shake without ice, then shake hard with lots of ice for about 15 seconds. Strain of all ice using a cocktail strainer and a tea strainer into a chilled coupette. Give a quick twist of lemon zest over the top and throw the peel away.

Homemade sugar syrup
Add 1 part water to a big pot. Put it on to boil, and as bubbles begin to rise, take it off the heat and add 2 parts granulated sugar and stir. At this stage, you can also add herbs, spices, peels... or even use different sugars. Just allow to cool, strain, and store in a clean container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

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