Wednesday, 14 March 2012

'Trade Secrets from the Cocktail Industry' #1 (in a series): Layering

Forget the boring, age-old chicken/egg debate about whether people either only enjoy doing things they excel at, or that, conversely, they only excel at the things they enjoy doing.

For me, the rule is that I really like doing things that other people would do probably be able to do themselves quite easily if they tried; but either can't be bothered to do, or that the task looks so deceptively complicated that they don't attempt it for fear of failure.

Cocktail layering is a prime example of something which looks impossible to pull off easily, but actually is dead simple, and looks spectacular. When I used to make these drinks as a cocktail barman (many, many moons ago) I would huff and puff around the bar, lining up bottles and shakers, readying the glasswear, ice, fruit garnish and straw, following up with a theatrical piece of bar-orientated showmanship that any five year old with a steady hand could achieve, and then charge a 400% mark-up on the raw ingredients (plus tip).

The three easy rules to successfully layering drinks are these:

1. Place the ice, fruit garnish, straw and/or any other cocktail accoutrement you are using into the glass before you start - you don't want to disturb the drink once it's layered.

2. Place the densest drinks at the bottom, getting lighter the higher up the cocktail you go. Fruit liquors are heavy, spirits mixed with juice are lighter, pure spirits are lightest (you get the idea - just use your senses; cranberry juice is lighter than orange juice etc). N.B. Baileys, which you would imagine to be the heaviest liquor in the world, will float on top of pretty much anything.

3. Do not pour liquid directly onto another liquid - you must deflect the pour of the upper layers onto something solid (this can be ice, a spoon, or down the inside of the glass, depending on the drink), in order to maintain the surface tension of the lower layer.

The two cocktails I have chosen to help you show off your new-found talents, are the 'Traffic Light', which is a tutti frutti flavoured concoction - very popular with the unsophisticated (eg high disposable income, very fun, low inhibitions, short skirt) customer; and the 'Baby Guinness', a classic shooter - befitting the end-of-the-night (eg bit drunk, and in the mood for something non-challenging and easy on the palate) customer.

There are, of course, hundreds of colour and flavour combinations - try a few. Stay within the rules and you'll avoid your drinks all looking and tasting brown, whatever colour they started out at individually.

Shots of booze are about 40 pence each, and I allow between two and three shots per glass. Even with the mixer, ice and garnishes, you'll be hard-pressed to spend more than £1.50 per cocktail.

The Traffic Light:

(In a tall glass or large goblet, filled with ice)

Vodka and cranberry juice, mixed (Top layer)
Malibu coconut rum liquor and orange juice, mixed (Middle layer)
Midori melon liquor, straight (Bottom layer)

Pour a shot (25ml) of Midori into the glass and then carefully fill the glass with ice and add a straw. Mix one shot (25ml) of Malibu and three shots of orange juice in a shaker, pour it gently onto the uppermost ice cube, and watch it gradually sink onto the Midori. Repeat with the vodka and cranberry juice. Serve.


Baby Guinness:

(In a double shot glass)

Dash of Baileys (Top layer)
Double shot of Kahlua (Bottom layer)

Pour the Kahlua into the glass, and then carefully tilt the glass to pour the dash of Baileys on top, to create the 'head' of the Baby Guinness. Serve.

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