Despite beer being the most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world, it’s surprising how little most people know about it. For lot beer consumers even the most basic concepts and ingredients are unknown or fuzzy at best. While a group of beer geeks and even those that are beer enthusiast, understanding what ingredients and processes brewers are using is becoming more and more publicly available. Beer is complicated beverage that many say is more intricate then wine itself. I am not going to go into depth on brewing techniques but I am going to discuss the basics of what makes beer, beer.
To understand beer you have to study the ingredients that are in a beer. There are manly three ingredients that make almost every beer. The first water, Beer is mostly water and an important factor of the final taste of the beer. Water minerals being more flavors to beer, the ions are chemically active and have an important effect on the brewing process. The second is barley, or malted barley. It is the perfect grain for brewing because of its large reserve of starch and a husk that makes it a perfect natural filter. There are two types of Barley, the least expensive six row hops and the more attractive two row hop. After kilning, malts can give the beer its roasted flavors, sweetness and color. Lastly there are hops, which come in hundreds of varieties from all over the world. Hops offer bitterness and different aromas and flavors like grapefruit and citrus to the beer. And did I mention it acts like a natural preservative.
When seeking a good beverage and food pairing, the range of flavors, aromas, colors, and textures all complement food in different ways. To understand how to pair your foods with different, soft drinks, beer, spirits or wines you have to be able to understand the elements that drive their flavors. Beverage and food transform each other unlike any other two things in the world, like Bonnie and Clyde, they were meant for each other.
The most important rule in my opinion in pairing is that there are no wrong answers both there are some guidelines that can help you choose what you like. These three principles can help any novice or master chef with pairing the perfect beverage with their meal.
Match strength with Strength: Delicate dishes work great with delicate beverages and strong dishes works wonderful with assertive drinks. Matching intensity and subtleness of food and drinks can go a long way to not overpower the other and work in harmony.
Find Harmonies: Combinations work best they have common flavor or aroma profile. It is important to consider both the food ingredients and the method of preparation. For example, roasted meat items can go well with dark roasts beer and fresh lemon baked fish could go well with a citrus based cocktail.
Consider Contrast Element: Sweetness, carbonation, bitterness, heat, spiciness, are qualities of food and drinks that can interact with each other in specific and predictable ways. Pairing a spicy dish to a sweet drink can help contrast and pairing a fatty dish with a highball can help cut the fat.
Ever thought what’s in your drink that makes it look, smell, and taste the way it does? Every sensation found in a glass of beverage has its origins made during the manufacture of the wine, beer or spirit. It is the bartender or mixologist that converts those profiles into a distinct and balanced drink. To understand your beverage, you have to analyze it. So here is a guide to deconstructing your drink:
Aroma: Derived from ingredients within the cocktail, wine, beer, etc
Head: From the medium-length proteins present in malt, such as wheat, oats, and rye as well as shaken cocktail.
Color: From ingredient skin, malting, aging or kilning process.
Carbonation: Carbon Dioxide (Co2) gas, a byproduct of fermentation by yeast.
Body and Mouthfeel: Proteins from ingredients. Think consistency of water vs Guinness.
Flavor: Derived from All the aspect of brewing or distilled spirits along with any ingredients added to cocktail, beer or wine.
Alcohol: More ferment-able material or sugar means more alcohol, along with everything else.
COFFEE? It is so synonymous with our everyday lives that the word itself has can used in the form of a question, a mood or attitude towards your day. For most of us it is the first thing that we consume when we wake up in the morning and drink throughout the day as needed. The obsession of coffee was evident by the rapid expansion and domination of beverage by the Starbucks Company. There are literally catty corner Starbucks on nearly every metropolitan street in the United States.
Is American addicted to this beautiful brewed drink prepared from roasted coffee beans, which are the seeds of berries from the coffea plant? I believe so! Coffee has become as much of our popular culture in our daily lives as the internet. Since the early days of import coffee has dominated the shipping and agricultural landscape, today it is the largest exported agricultural product in the world. Coffee is native to tropical Africa, Madagascar, the Comoros, Mauritis, and Reunion in the Indian Ocean yet it is harvested all around the world because of how lucrative the crop is.
Coffee has transformed over the years and the use of highly sophisticated machines, cold brews, steeping machines has elevated the flavor profile of coffee. Local and regional coffee roasters have emerged and communities of coffee aficionados have given way to the barista at Starbucks who was working part time for some extra beer money. I highly encourage you to indulge and seek out some artisanal coffee roasters and brewers to understand how the true beauty of this magical bean is supposed to be used.
I’d like you to compare a perfectly built cocktail to a finely tuned orchestra for a minute. A little dramatic I know but there are a few different aspects to a cocktail that make it well rounded and complete. Enter the garnish, while some bartenders and mixologist have for many years hidden from creating impressive and unique garnishes, at the bare minimum a cocktail needs some component of a garnish to appeal to the eye. After we all we taste and with our eyes. While a garnish adds a decorative touch to a beverage, it should also provide flavors and aromas to compare, contrast, cut or compliment the final drink.
Using garnish to enhance the aroma a cocktail is a great way to transform a garnish from visually appealing to have some utilitarian values to your taste profile. A strategically placed garnishes can e enhances and completely alter the taste profile and overall experience you receive from a cocktail. Below I discuss three different methods to step your garnish gam up!
3 Techniques to Garnish Your Drink
Citrus Twist: Cut or use a peeler to peel fruit length wise to width specification. Curl citrus of drink to enhance aroma and place in glass.
Classics Toothpick: Use a toothpick to elegantly place different varietals of fruit like a shish kabob’. Using ingredients that were used to build the cocktail is a great plus.
Rim: Enhance your cocktail by lightly soaking it in your desired citrus juice (many use lime juice) and apply salt, tahin or desired ground ingredient to enhance the mouth feel and initial taste of a cocktail.
Most recently you have seen a drastic shift in the cocktail industry to fresher, locally sourced and all natural ingredients. The growth is unparalleled to anything we have seen in the beverage industry for decades. The days of artificial sour and lime juice are gone and enter the world of fresh pressed juice and all natural ingredients in cocktails. Modern day bartenders and mixologist are making homemade juices, syrups and sodas to enhance the flavors of their cocktails. They are raising the bar for the national chain restaurant and bar to create healthier and more naturally flavored drinks. Needless to say there is a health benefit to drinking all natural juices and ingredients as well.
I for one am a huge advocate of fresh ingredients inside any culinary or beverage experience and advice any beverage manager or bar owner to look into this practice. Below I listed the top flavors of juices that are popular right now in order to help build cocktails to the needs of consumer demand.
U.S Fruit Beverage Ranking (Source: Beverage Marketing Corporation)
Whether you have converted 100% to fresh ingredients or are slowly transition your bar into it, keep in mind that it is important to stay on-top of your freshness dates and codes. If you are not committed to ensuring your produce is fresh I highly encourage you to stay to pasteurized juices and sodas.
Timeless is a word used to describe objects, people or events that are not affected by the change of time. As I look at the ever evolving world of creative mixology and barmanship, it occurred to me that there are so many timeless cocktails that should not be forgotten. While I highly encourage change and the progressive nature of the beverage industry, there’s an old soul inside of me that cannot let go of the dry martini that the likes of Frank Sinatra drank in the Las Vegas hay day. I have outlined what i think are the 5 most important classic cocktails that all beverage professionals and amateurs alike should know.
Dry Martini: Sometimes made with vodka, this is a classic, clear, and very strong cocktail. Serve chilled in (you guessed it) a martini glass.
½ oz Dry Vermouth
4 oz Gin
2 Pimento-stuffed green Olives
Directions: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the vermouth, followed closely by the gin. Shake while counting to 30. Divide into 2 cocktail glasses. Garnish with 1 olive each.
Manhattan: Similar to the martini, but with a touch of sweetness. This 100-year-old cocktail can also be made with bourbon. Serve in a martini glass or a short tumbler–always chilled.
2 oz Rye Whiskey
½ oz Sweet Vermouth
1 dash Angostora bitters
1 Maraschino cherry
Directions: Combine whiskey, vermouth, and bitters in a cocktail mixing class. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Bloody Mary: Usually served at breakfast or brunch, the Bloody Mary is easy to customize depending on how strong you like your drinks–and how much spice you can handle. Serve over ice in a tall glass with the vegetable garnish of your choice.
4 oz tomato Juice
1 ½ oz Vodka
¼ Ounce fresh lemon juice
4 dashes hot pepper sauce
2 dashes Worchester sauce
1 pinch of salt and pepper
Directions: Combine tomato juice, vodka, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper, and 1 cup ice in a mixing glass. Stir until chilled and strain into ice-filled pint glass or goblet.
Margarita: A sweet party drink that’s easy to make in batches. Blend in some fruit for extra flavor. You can serve in special rounded margarita glasses or whatever’s handy (serving in a mason jar is increasingly popular).
1 – 6oz can frozen limeade concentrate
6 oz Tequila
2 oz triple sec
Directions: Fill blender with crushed ice. Pour in limeade concentrate, tequila and triple sec. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.
Old Fashioned: A sweet, sophisticated cocktail that’s simple to make and goes down smooth. Serve over ice in a short tumbler (also known as an Old Fashioned glass).
1 teaspoon water
1 dash bitters
2 oz Whiskey
1 lemon twist
I Orange slice
I maraschino cherry
Directions: Muddle sugar cube, water, and bitters in an old fashioned glass for 1 minute. Pour in whiskey and stir for an additional minute. Squeeze the lemon twist over the glass and drop it in. Add ice cubes. Garnish with a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry; serve with a swizzle stick.