spirits
Posted in: Blog Liquors

How to Enjoy Spirits at Home

COCKTAILS ARE THE STANDARD DRINKS SERVED AT SOCIAL gatherings, but there are a number of other spirits based on distilled alcohol that make a good accompaniment to dinner or can be enjoyed by themselves.

Although several popular brands of spirits are available in the home market, there’s no denying the sense of charm and distinction associated with cocktails from your own supply. Unfortunately, most people find it difficult to produce good-quality drinks at home because they lack sufficient knowledge about how distilled alcohol should be handled before serving. 

In addition, improper storage can spoil any liquor very quickly. The first step toward enjoying fine spirits is thus to acquire an understanding of proper handling and storage procedures.

Proper Handling and Procedure

Once a bottle of distilled alcohol is emptied, either by drinking or cocktail mixing, it should be recorked tightly and stored in a cool place. The best storage temperature is 60 degrees F (16 deg C), with fluctuations no higher than 65-70 deg F (18-21 deg C) during the year. 

Maintaining these moderate temperatures is not difficult in most parts of North America; however, most European homes are subject to considerably higher swings in temperature because of the outdoor placement of most storage areas. 

A basement will usually provide acceptable storage conditions for small supplies kept there through the summer months. When fall turns into winter, bottles should be transferred to an insulated storage area at both cooler and constant temperature until needed again.

In order to make cocktails from your own supply, bottles should be uncorked only when ready to use and recorked tightly immediately afterward. Any liquid remaining in the bottle can usually be used for cooking. 

Water or soda may be added to restore the liquid level if the liquid has been partially used for a cocktail; however, if more than half of the contents have been used, it’s best to dispose of what remains and replace it with fresh alcohol. It is possible—but not advisable-to store distilled spirits without removing air bubbles by freezing the liquid before storing, but this process cannot prevent evaporation completely.

Recorking

Recorking quickly after each use makes it easier to keep track of how much is left in the bottle so that more can be ordered when needed. When ordering distilled alcohol for home use, some thought should be given to the future needs of the household. 

Family members may change their tastes with time, for example, or a particular drink favored by one person may not appeal to another at all. It is best, therefore, to buy only small quantities of distilled alcohol until it is needed again rather than large amounts that are stored away and forgotten.

If you don’t want multiple bottles of spirits sitting around your house indefinitely before they’re opened-and, if you intend to serve cocktails made from your supply on special occasions—you will have to remember when new supplies are scheduled for arrival. Many retailers ask customers to place orders for this purpose but do not require this, so it’s up to you.

Types of Glasses

The type of glass used when mixing cocktails is an important consideration. Many drinkers prefer to use a five-ounce cocktail glass (shown in the accompanying illustration) because it provides them with a good sample without forcing them to drink too much at one time. 

The quantity in this size glass is enough for two or three sips, and since cocktails should be enjoyed slowly, no more than one ounce of alcohol is poured at a time.

Glassware for other types of drinks such as liqueurs or after-dinner drinks can be anything from small cordial glasses to glasses the size of old-fashioned water goblets—whatever looks best and feels most comfortable when held. It’s wise to avoid using wide-mouthed glasses that hold too much liquid at one time.

Serving Drinks

People who prefer to drink cocktails straight or with ice usually use standard highball glasses (see illustration, right). These are about seven ounces in capacity and can accommodate four or five drinks per bottle of spirits. 

However, neatly mixed cocktails should be served in the order of their strength so that drinkers will know when they’ve had enough rather than getting ahead of themselves by drinking stronger drinks before weaker ones.

A well-made cocktail contains equal amounts of spirit and mixer—usually an ounce of spirit to an ounce and a half of mixer—and this is the way it should be served when made for one person. If two or more people are sharing a cocktail, any amount may be poured into the glass and then diluted with soda, water, or an additional mixer to taste.

A cocktail can be served in two ways: “straight up” or “on the rocks.” When it’s served straight up, the liquid ingredients are poured directly over ice cubes in a glass and served without further dilution. This method is used for strong cocktails like Martinis and Manhattans. It also works well with certain drinks that are already cold; for example, some highballs made with scotch whisky.

On the other hand, when drinking “on the rocks” (see above illustration), alcoholic beverages are put over ice cubes without first being mixed—a practice especially common with drinks containing fruit juices cream.

Food Pairings

The proper accompaniment to a glass of spirits is something light and not too filling. The most common selection would be nuts, olives, or other types of snacks that can easily be eaten from the fingers without disturbing the cocktail being sipped.

Another popular practice that you might consider is mixing a small amount of a new item into your drink before sampling it to see how it tastes. For example, if there are some maraschino cherries left from a previous Christmas dinner, put one in your glass as soon as you open the bottle so that its flavor infuses with yours as you drink.

Even though cocktails should be served cold enough for some ice to show at the top of the glass—which helps keep drinks cool—the quantity of ice used in mixing cocktails is usually too small to affect flavor. Therefore, it’s not necessary to worry about using only the best quality ingredients when preparing cocktails for guests.

Conclusion

Remember that the easiest way to enjoy drinks at home is to use only spirits, mixers, and glasses you already have. If there’s some leftover fruit or mint in the refrigerator, put it in your glass for decoration, but don’t worry about using special ingredients unless they happen to be at hand.

There are no strict rules on serving cocktails beyond those of taste and common sense, so be creative! Remember that experimentation with novelty items can extend the range of possible cocktails without adding expense. Enjoy yourself—that’s what drinking should be all about.