Four classic cocktails to master at home

sweet manhattan cocktail

We all have our favourite cocktails – and chances are, you know exactly how you like yours to taste.

“Flavour excites me. It’s such a personal experience that is difficult to quantify, yet something we love to share and communicate with others,” drinks researcher and developer Zoe Burgess writes in her new book, The Cocktail Cabinet: The Art, Science And Pleasure Of Mixing The Perfect Drink.

“While it’s important to me to put good quality products into my body, what I really care about is satisfying my soul.

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“For a long time I took that desire at face value; I consumed food and drink without thinking about why I and others were enjoying it. Then I had my first well-made, considered cocktail – an Aviation containing gin, maraschino liqueur and lemon juice – and it blew my mind.

“I left that experience asking myself, ‘How did that single small vessel, containing one complete liquid, make me feel like I’d had the most personal flavour experience?’ It was as if I’d just witnessed a magic trick. I was desperate to uncover the secrets.”

With more than 80 recipes, the book promises to develop your approach to cocktail making, exploring flavour profiles and techniques, and ultimately showing you how to evolve your drinks at home.

Here are four of Ms Burgess’ favourites to unleash the cocktail hound in you.

1. Champagne cocktail

Champagne cocktail
Champagne cocktail. (Andre Ainsworth/PA)

“This is an iconic cocktail with great depth of flavour, yet it remains approachable to guests. Though a little stronger in spirit, we’ve retained balance with the warm flavour profile of all the ingredients involved.

“The spices from the Angostura bitters complement the cognac’s woody profile and act as a bridge between the cognac and champagne. This is a richer, deeper flavoured cocktail, especially when compared with the bright fruity notes of the Kir Royale.

“What’s great about this drink is that the aroma delivery system has changed and this is because of the sugar cube. The sugar cube encourages and becomes the starting point for the bubbles, and this is important.”

“Each bubble carries with it the aroma of the bitters, making this cocktail a great example of the impact aroma has on the drinking experience. It’s therefore important you stick with a sugar cube – sugar syrup would taste fine, but the aroma of the drink will be reduced.”

Ingredients: 1 white sugar cube, 6 dashes of Angostura bitters, 15ml cognac, 100ml champagne. Glass: coupette at room temperature.

Method: place the sugar cube on a napkin and dash the bitters onto the sugar cube; it should be fully covered in the bitters. Place the soaked sugar cube in the glass, add the cognac and top up with the champagne, then serve.

Note: “You do not stir this cocktail, as you do not want to disturb the sugar cube. The goal is to let it gently release the flavour from the bitters while it slowly dissolves and makes the cocktail sweeter.

“The drink will therefore get sweeter as it sits, so don’t be concerned if this cocktail is dry at the start. Enjoy the experience of it changing over time.”

2. Dry gin martini

Dry Gin Martini
Dry gin martini. (Andre Ainsworth/PA)

“This martini packs a punch. Its clean, crisp and bright flavour suits a London dry gin, and my preference here is Beefeater – its balanced citrus notes add a brightness on the nose, while the bitter almond and orris give a little roundness to the overall flavour of the cocktail.”

Ingredients: 50ml gin, 10ml dry vermouth, disc or twist of lemon peel or green olive. Glass: chilled coupette or martini glass.

Method: fill a cocktail tin with cubed ice. Add the gin and dry vermouth and stir approximately 15 times to combine. Double strain into your chilled glass, garnish with an olive or lemon disc or twist that’s had its oils expressed over the surface of the liquid and serve.

Note: “If you are intrigued by the flavour impact of different gins, try a few dry martinis made from different gins, side by side, and take note of what you smell and taste. You’ll soon find your favourite gin for making martinis.”

3. Sweet Manhattan

Sweet Manhattan cocktail
Sweet Manhattan. (Andre Ainsworth/PA)

“A sweet Manhattan is a great place to start if you are looking to explore bourbon-based stirred cocktails. Despite its rich, sweet, warm and woody flavour, this cocktail has a dry finish, making you want to go back for more.”

Ingredients: 40ml bourbon, 20ml sweet vermouth, 2.5ml maraschino liqueur, 1 dash of Angostura bitters, maraschino cherry. Glass: chilled coupette.

Method: fill a cocktail tin with cubed ice. Add the bourbon, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur and Angostura bitters and stir approximately 15 times to combine. Double strain into the chilled glass, garnish with a maraschino cherry and serve.

Note: “Buffalo Trace is a great bourbon to start with, but do feel free to experiment with your choice, paying attention to how it changes the body and length of flavour in the cocktail.”

4. El Presidente

El Presidente cocktail
El Presidente. (Andre Ainsworth/PA)

“Here, through the change to aged rum, we flip the structure created in the sweet Manhattan and build on it through the additional flavours of triple sec and grenadine.

“The grenadine’s red fruit aroma underpins the wine base of the sweet vermouth, while the triple sec adds a bright citrus note. Overall, there is a great depth of flavour in this rum cocktail.”

Ingredients: 40ml aged golden rum, such as Havana Club Selección de Maestros, 20ml sweet vermouth, 10ml triple sec, 5ml grenadine, twist of orange peel. Glass: chilled coupette.

Method: fill a cocktail tin with cubed ice. Add the rum, sweet vermouth, triple sec and grenadine and stir approximately 15 times to combine. Double strain into the chilled glass, garnish with an orange twist that’s had its oils expressed over the surface of the liquid and serve.

The Cocktail Cabinet: The art, science and pleasure of mixing the perfect drink. By Zoe Burgess
(Mitchell Beazley/PA)

The Cocktail Cabinet by Zoe Burgess is published by Mitchell Beazley. Photography by Andre Ainsworth, available now.

What’s your favourite cocktail? Do you ever make it at home? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Cocktail culture through the years

– With PA

Written by Sam Wylie-Harris

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