The Cocktail Gadabout
From one amateur to another… How to survive your local liquor store, build a great bar, impress your friends and mix a damn fine cocktail.
There are many great websites that cover everything from the basics to the detailed within the world of cocktails. There are equipment sites, recipe sites, spirit review sites, bartender blogs and bar blogs. My goal with TheCocktailGadabout.com, however, is not to replicate any of the great information already available online but rather to provide sources and other information on how to set up an amateur bar.
Cocktails are magical beverages. I used to like to cook but the ardour of parenthood, home ownership and small business stripped the pleasure from spending two hours slogging over a stove. Making cocktails, on the other hand, is like preparing a great meal in 2 minutes, tops. The reactions from guests are the same as if I’d prepared Peking duck. I guess that’s what I like best about it; I can make friends, family and myself really happy by barely doing anything. What could be better?
I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and refer specifically to our government-controlled chain of liquor stores called the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). That said, if you don’t live in Ontario, and don’t live in a large, spirit-friendly city like, for example, New York, San Francisco, London or Amsterdam, you’re probably in a similar boat. Simply insert the name of your most frustrating local liquor store whenever you see the LCBO acronym and you’ll feel right at home.
I’m not a bartender nor a mixologist. I don’t work in the industry and I’m not secretly plugging a line of spirits. What I am good at, however, is thoroughly and exhaustively researching and learning. I have a good memory, and am ruthless when I want to get to the bottom of something. I’d like to think I make a good cocktail, but I’m not here to promote that side of my passion with spirits. Instead, what I hope to offer is essentially two fold: to provide information from an amateur perspective on what you will need to set up a decent cocktail bar and, how to cleverly source anything and everything, from cocktail books to barspoons to Creme de Violette to Nolet’s Silver Gin. I’ve spent hours, days, maybe years figuring all this stuff out so you don’t have to. Along the way, I might throw in a recipe, or name an essential bar in a city you might visit, or recount an old time story I might have heard. Anyway, I’ll make it entertaining, I promise, at the end of the day you’ll make a profound cocktail and impress those normally unimpressed with mixed drinks.
Most cocktail people already know that a true cocktail in its simplest form is composed of:
- A base spirit
- A sweet
- A sour
- A bitter,
though it doesn’t take long to deviate completely from this formula. That said, I’ve set my blog up to follow the basic cocktail formula. Thank you for taking the time out of your undoubtedly busy life to read.
I think it’s important to mention an unwritten rule of the cocktail world (which henceforth, I guess, will no longer be unwritten): save for special occasions, cocktail drinkers don’t get drunk. No one would walk into the best restaurant in the world, eat themselves into a coma, be carried out by friends, vomit into the gutter and then wake up in a strange bed with someone twice or half their age (depending) and not remember anything. The same goes for the fine world of cocktails. It’s not cool to get hammered at a good cocktail bar, and most fellow cocktail gadabouts are not actually huge drinkers. We enjoy a nice spirit or two on the weekends and then generally abstain the rest of the week. If you start mixing and drinking every night of the week, you’re probably an alcoholic.
I’ve included pictorial evidence as to why you might not want to get overly inebriated. I couldn’t resist.