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2.24.2007

Know Your Mixed Drinks

PUNCH, FLIP, SMASH -- the categories of mixed drinks seem to have been inspired by a fight scene from an adventure comic. Unfortunately these specific names rarely surface anymore, as they are hidden under the blanket term "cocktail."

Mixed DrinkNot until Prohibition did the word cocktail gain popular usage as a name for any type of mixed drink. Until then, drinks were categorized much more clearly: A mint julep is within the category of julep; a sloe gin fizz is a fizz; and a brandy crusta is, as you might guess, an example of a crusta. Technically, only a drink consisting of any choice of liquor, sugar, sometimes a dash of liqueur, and bitters -- is a cocktail. Specifically, bitters, an additive made of herbs, is the ingredient that makes this drink a cocktail. Without bitters, it's something else.

There is no clear etymology for the word cocktail, and the reason for its usage is equally elusive. Some historians conjecture that its name came from alcoholic mixtures that Antoine Peychaud served in a coquetier, or egg-cup. Ted Haigh, author of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, feels certain that "they were named cocktails because they were your morning wakeup call -- like a rooster heralding the early morning light." There are literally hundreds of theories on this subject, none of them definitive.

But enough about the cocktail -- we feel it has been hogging the limelight for far too long. There are other drinks out there, and it is about time people ordered them by their proper names.

Joe Santini invented the Crusta in New Orleans. It consists of the ingredients in a proper cocktail, with brandy as the typical liquor, along with liqueur, and a fruit peel garnish. What makes it a Crusta is sugar on the rim of the glass. This drink has an interesting geneology: The Crusta is father to the sidecar cocktail and grandfather to the margarita.

Many drinks are a combination of sugar, wine, or some kind of spirit, chilled, with a creamy consistency. What makes this drink distinctly a flip is the addition of an egg or two. Flips are most popular when made with brandy or sherry.

Fizz drinks such as the Sloe Gin Fizz require a carbonated beverage, such as champagne, or more commonly, carbonated water, as an essential ingredient,.

Crushed or shaved ice characterizes Juleps. These are made of bourbon, sugar, and, most commonly, mint, served in a tall glass. A similar version of this is called a Smash, which is made with many sorts of liquors and served in a shorter glass.

Alcoholic punch can be made up of any combination of liquor. There are many punch recipes, and all of them require fruit juice, and sometimes tea. Until bartenders begin serving all mixed drinks in giant bowls, this is probably the easiest drink to remember as not being a cocktail. (MAULT)

1 comment:

dirtydan said...

Great information...glad I finally found your booze-based blog.