(Recently, my friend Luke quietly published a book of poetry. It's called Abacus, and you can buy or download it here. I created a signature cocktail for the launch party, and because I sometimes get asked how I go about inventing a new cocktail, I thought you might like to see my thought process for this one. It's a longish story, so I've broken it up into six pieces, each of which will be a separate post and conclude with a recipe. Last week's chapter, "What goes into an artist's cocktail?" can be found here.)
Chapter 2: What goes into this artist's cocktail?
Luke is a case study in how to manage a home bar.
I suspect that most people who keep liquor in their homes do it accidentally, accumulating a seldom-used collection of gifts and one-off acquisitions that they'll someday pass down to their grandchildren, cabinet and all.
There are also some people who become alcohol hobbyists, and like to keep a large bar on hand so that they can conduct experiments and make a wide variety of classics. This group is in particular danger of eventually becoming alcohol professionals. (I speak from experience.)
But the unsung heroes of cocktail culture are people who maintain a small but deliberate home bar, the ones who have one or two cocktails that they know they like, who decide that they should learn how to make those drinks well for themselves, and who are always prepared to make them should they or their guests be in the mood for a tipple.
Luke is one of these. His cocktails are the Gibson and the Old Fashioned, and his house is permanently stocked with the ingredients for both. He makes them carefully and well. He also enjoys absinthe, and has the tools for proper absinthe service.
But that's really it. He has, essentially, a house cocktail menu (and a rotating beer list). It's a good formula, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys cocktails but finds the prospect of building up a home bar daunting or bewildering. It's also a useful thought for those of us who have large home inventories: if you have a few house specialties, it's easier to prioritize when stocking up.
And for the purposes of our devising a cocktail recipe, it's useful to know the tastes of the person you're making it for. In this case: classic, spirit-forward, enjoys both whiskey and gin, and likes slightly savory things. I can work with that.
Because it's his most idiosyncratic preference, I decided I'd especially like to make something that appeals to his Gibson-drinking side. The Gibson, you might recall from my taxonomy of the Martini and its cousins (if not, see here), is today understood as a Martini garnished with a cocktail onion instead of an olive or twist, like so:
2 oz. Dry Gin
1/2 oz. Dry Vermouth
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail onion.
The proportions used reflect Luke's preference for a 4:1 drink. I tend to skew towards 5:2; others may like other ratios. As a general rule of thumb, however you like your Martini is how you'll like your Gibson - although lemon-twist partisans like myself should be prepared for a savorier cocktail than we're otherwise used to.
Stay tuned for next week's post, "Chapter 3: What's in a name?"