Introduction: Kitchen Skills: Bartending Basics
Sadly, most people don't have a home bar, and are forced to conduct their amateur mixology experiments in the kitchen. This instructable will show you the basics of bartending by walking you through the process of making a classic whiskey sour. I will outline the techniques I use to make my own sour mix, fresh lime and lemon juice, and simple syrup. Then I'll teach you to shake up a drink, cut the garnishes for it and show you a quick trick to fancy up your home bar (or kitchen table). Read on to get started mixing your own cocktails in your kitchen!
Ingredients for the whiskey sour:
Whiskey (low quality is fine since we are mainly going to be mostly tasting the mixer rather than the whiskey)
Step 1: Making Simple Syrup
Simple syrup is exactly what the name implies, a very simple syrup. It is used to sweeten drinks without adding any additional flavors. Rose's lime juice is basically a simple syrup with lime flavoring and grenadine is simple syrup with cherry flavoring. When mixing drinks with either of these, the taste can quickly become overpowering and tends to be slightly artificial. It is much better to whip up your own simple syrup then add in fresh juices to suit your tastes.
The process for making simple syrup is very straightforward:
1) Boil some water.
2) Dissolve a lot of sugar in the water. Basically keep adding in sugar until it stops disolving in the boiling water.
3) Let cool and enjoy your simple syrup.
For the batch of whiskey sours that I made I boiled two cups of water and added in about two cups of sugar. You can play around with this ratio but keep in mind that lower sugar to water ratios will be less sweet and less viscous and higher sugar to water ratios will be sweeter, more viscous, and slightly harder to pour.
Step 2: Cutting Garnishes
When you are cutting a garnish of either a lemon, lime or orange, you want to maximize the number of garnishes that you get from each piece of fruit. However, you don't want to cut them too small. Otherwise you won't be able to add juice from the garnish to your drink once it's prepared.
The following way works best for me:
1) Make sure you are using a serrated knife. It is much easier to slip off of the sloped side of the fruit if you are using a straight edged knife. Be safe and go with a serrated blade.
2) Cut the little nubbins off of each end of the fruit. You want to just barely cut into the juicy flesh of the citrus.
3) Slice the fruit in half along the stem line.
4) Make a cut perpendicular to the stem line but don't cut all the way through. This cut will allow you to easily place the garnishes on the rim of your glass.
5) Lay the fruit down on the cutting board and cut into about 1/4 in slices. Depending on the size of the fruit you should be able to get about five to ten garnishes from each half.
6) Arrange in a bowl or on a plate depending on how sophisticated you want your bar to look.
Step 3: Juicing Citrus
There are many ways to juice a piece of fruit and an endless amount of products that are sold to accomplish this. If you don't have any of these juicers you can follow these simple steps to get your own fresh squeezed lime lemon or orange juice.
1) Cut fruit in half perpendicular to the stem line. Again make sure you are using a serrated knife.
2) Cut through the juicy parts in a circle around the stem line to free up the juices and leave the pulp attached to rind. Be careful not to go all the way through the fruit and cut your hand. Cut just until you feel the knife encounter the resistance of the rind on the other side.
3) Squeeze out your fresh juice.
4) If you don't like drinking pulp or seeds then you can use your shaker set to strain out these unwanted pieces of your fruit as shown in the pictures below.
As i was making my whiskey sours I ended up getting about half a cup of fresh lemon juice from 4 lemons. This can be saved for just about as long as you want but will gradually lose some of its flavor and freshness. It is best if used right away.
Step 4: Making Sour Mix
Sour mix is a staple of any bar and it is used to give your drinks a citrusy kick. You can buy your own sour mix from most liquor stores but making your own is easy and will give you much better drinks.
Warning: The recipe I use for sour mix includes raw egg whites. It carries a very slight risk of salmonella. To minimize this risk make sure you use fresh eggs that have been refrigerated. Use the sour mix that you make within a day. If you are still uneasy about using raw eggs you can omit the egg entirely or use eggbeaters egg-white mix that is pasteurized and salmonella free.
Sour mix is basically very strong slightly thick lemonade. Commercially available sour mix uses emulsifiers and other chemicals to achieve this creamy and slightly thick texture, but you can just as easily achieve this by adding in a bit of egg whites to your sour mix. My method to make sour mix is as follows:
1) Add a single egg white to your shaker set and shake. Make sure your shaker set is securely fastened together. No one wants to get egg all over their kitchen.
2) Shake until egg is nice and foamy. Then shake a bit more. There is no such thing as too much shaking in this step.
3) Mix the shaken egg white and the fresh lemon juice. Add in simple syrup while stirring. There is no hard and fast ratio for this step. I advise tasting what you mix and when you get a taste that is sweet but not too sugary stop adding in the simple syrup.
4) Shake to mix everything up really well and then enjoy your fresh made sour mix.
For the 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice I added in half of an egg white and about 2/3 cup of simple syrup. This can change drastically based on your taste and how much sugar you added into the simple syrup. Taste your mixture and go with what tastes like strong delicious lemonade.
Step 5: Shaking a Drink: Making a Whiskey Sour
Now that we have all of our necessary ingredients lets actually start making a whiskey sour!
A whiskey sour is whats called a higball in that you don't really taste much of the alcohol and you mainly taste the mixer. Other highballs for example are a screwdriver, a vodka cranberry or a rum and coke. Highballs generally only have about a shot of liquor in them and are generally either stirred or shaken. A whiskey sour is traditionally a shaken drink. We can get away with using cheap liquors in a highball since we are mainly tasting the mixer so I wouldn't mix any quality liquor into a high ball.
The steps to making it are:
1) Fill your glass that your going to be drinking from about 2/3 of the way full with ice.
2) Measure out a shot of whiskey (or two if you like stronger drinks) and add to the glass.
3) Fill the remaining space in the glass with sour mix. Make sure to leave about a half inch of space at the top. No one likes an overflowing drink.
4) Pour the drink into the metal part of the shaker set, secure the pint glass on top and start shaking. If you over shake here you melt a lot of the ice and water down your drink. If you under shake you could serve a warm drink. The key to knowing when to stop shaking is to watch the metal part of your shaker set. When water just starts to condense onto it you can stop shaking. This usually happens pretty quickly after about 15 or so seconds.
5) Pour your shaken drink into your lowball glass, garnish, and serve!
Step 6: Adding Class to Your Bar/Kitchen Table: a Napkin Trick
So this is a really simple trick that you can use to class up you bar or kitchen table if your having a party or want to impress your friends. All that you need for it is a set of unopened cocktail or regular napkins.
1) Take about 50 napkins and place them on your outstretched flat right hand.
2) Make your left hand into a fist and press down on to top of the napkins as shown in the picture below.
3) Twist your hands in opposite directions while keeping pressure on the napkins. Release the pressure untwist your hand then twist again. Repeat until just about all the napkins form a spiral.
4) Enjoy your fancy looking napkin swirl.
Make sure to add some peanuts to your home bar because everyone loves snacking on something salty as they are drinking something sweet.
Hopefully you learned some of the basic techniques that will enable you make your own high quality drinks at home and to transform your kitchen table into your very own bar!