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How To Build A Cocktail

April 8, 2020 by Jonathan Paxley

How to Build a Cocktail.

Imagine a builder, building a house. The builder adds one ingredient on top of another until the house is finished, and then adds a straw and garnish.

Well we don’t know how to build houses, but that’s how you build a cocktail.

For the most part, drinks are built in this order: prepare glassware/vessel, ice, ingredients, anything fizzy to top up the ingredients and lengthen the drink, anything needing to be drizzled over the top or crowned, a straw, followed by any garnishes (if these are elaborate or time consuming, you may want to prepare these first!)

Firstly, get your drinking vessel ready and check for chips as this drink is being built directly into what the customer (or you) will drink from! If you’re freezing the glass, applying a rim or painting the inside now’s the time to do that. Check out this beginners knowledge guide to start building the foundations.

Begin building…

Ice is used first to begin chilling the vessel down, and each ingredient as it is poured over. Trying to add ice at the end makes it harder to know the amount of liquid required.

Ingredients (think more spirits, citruses, fruit juices, sherbets, shrubs, egg whites, bitters, kefirs etc etc) are added next. It’s good practice to add more complicated items and cheap items first, in case you make a mistake, and more expensive items such as spirits towards the end so these are less likely to be wasted.

Fizzy drinks are typically added afterwards to lengthen the drink up to the washline (the intended level, which should be atleast 1cm from the top of the glass). Adding last keeps fizzy drinks lively and effervescent, and the process of adding them will begin to mix the ingredients you’ve built below.

Some recipes call for an ingredient to be drizzled over the top of the drink, think blackberry liqueur which is laced over a Bramble or Goslings rum in a Dark and Stormy. Foams are added at this stage – so they’re at the top!

A straw is almost always called for in a professional hospitality setting, it’s optional to use and it’s optional to add at home. Don’t worry, our straws are never plastic and haven’t been for years.

The final component to add is the garnish, the presentational piece to finish the drink off! Recipes suggest all different sorts of garnishes which accentuate or draw a contrast to an element of the drink, learn how to make a flashy orange twist here

Why build?

Generally, more simplistic drinks are built. A drink might be built because the recipe calls for it, because it was the design of the creator, or because there is no reason not to build the drink. Built drinks are almost always served over ice, to cool the ingredients down. Drinks with a large number of components are less likely to be built to combine ingredients more fully. Often components like citrus and egg whites require shaking to combine with the other components.

Some drinks are built for aesthetics, in this case you can see different layers in the glass. Where this is the case a straw or swizzle stick is imperative for the drinker to stir and mix the flavours together as they go.

Why isn’t a Dark and Stormy shaken?

The Dark and Stormy is a classic built drink. It isn’t shaken because it’s made up of three components: Rum, lime juice and ginger beer. Ginger beer and most fizzy drinks aren’t shaken, otherwise they’ll go flat.

In the case of the DnS, shaking rum and lime juice together and adding ginger beer would create a completely different tasting drink to the built, flavour-heavy and distinctive Dark and Stormy where the drinker is expecting to taste these three flavours.

Try the two out and you’ll see what we mean!
Dark and Stormy
What are the alternatives?

Building drinks is one of the fundamental ways of creating cocktails. Check out our other knowledge base articles for how to stir drinks, shake drinks, blend drinks. If you’d like to know more about any of the terms in this article then have a search through our ever-expanding knowledge base.


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