What makes a great cocktail?
We believe in good quality drinks, and we believe in the importance of sharing our knowledge to ensure you too are consuming good quality drinks outside of Ace+Freak. In this section of our “need to know”, we want to look at the key pillars of what makes a tasty AF cocktail. If you want to geek out, then carry on reading, where we’ll walk you through each sections and how we apply them to our products.
Cocktails come in many shapes and forms, but they all essentially do the same thing – they round the edges of alcohol to bring out their best assets. There are two distinct family trees of cocktails – cocktails that are aggressively shaken and cocktails that are gently stirred. Some examples of these drinks’ styles are below:
SHAKEN – Daiquiri, Mojito, Sours, Punches, etc
STIRRED – Old Fashioned, Martini, Manhattan etc.
The reasoning for the different styles is due to the ingredients within and how they need to be mixed together. Shaken or churned drinks contain juices and therefore need to be thoroughly mixed together whereas stirred drinks do not and therefore can be stirred together.
Both categories of drinks rely on the dilution of the ice, the reduction of temperature and an element of sugar to remove the burn of the alcohol. In the case of shaken drinks they add an additional sour ingredient such as lemon or lime juice.
Spirit + sweet + dilution + cold temperature = a tasty stirred cocktail
Spirit + sweet + sour + dilution + cold temperature = a tasty shaken/churned cocktail
But there is a little more to making a great cocktail than just rounding off the edges of the alcohol used. To be a tasty AF cocktail you need the following elements which provide the key pillars of a cocktail.
At Ace+Freak we produce cocktails that fall in to the shaken category of drinks and use both sweet and sour ingredients. With Ace+Freak we have effectively done the ‘shaking’ prior to the drink going in to the can. We take alcohol and mix this with a careful balance of sweet and sour flavours made up of fruit juices and extracts along with vegetable sugars.
The easiest way to think of balancing a cocktail is to think about a seesaw. If an ingredient is too sour when tasted then it sits on one side of the seesaw, if an ingredient is too sweet when tasted then it sits on the other side. If an ingredient is just right, it sits in the middle. The key is ensuring that the drink balances at the end with no one side being too heavy. Different ingredients have different weights of sweetness or sourness.
When making a cocktail the aim is to balance the positive sweet elements with the negative sour elements. When you equally match both of these elements then you will have a balanced drink. You be thinking why you don’t just use balanced ingredients from the start? Well if you did that then your drink would lack depth of flavour.
The depth of flavour of a drink is the length and changes in flavour that you taste within a drink over a period of time. Think of a great wine for example, it will have a distinct aroma (beginning), body (middle) and finish (end). Each part of the flavour may even be completely different. This is the depth of flavour that you would find within a drink. Depth of flavour is produced in a similar way to the way a perfumer creates a perfume. When creating a perfume, a perfumer will create a story with smells by using ingredients that are referred to as top (beginning) middle and base (finish) notes. By combining these top/middle/base notes they create an aroma with a depth. A scent that creates a story for the nostrils. They provide a beginning/middle/end to the smell. If you were to miss one of these elements the smell would lack depth. When making a cocktail you’re doing the exact same thing, building flavours that you taste at the beginning, middle and end.
Top notes are ingredients that evaporate quickly and are the first to hit our noses. They tend to be fresh, light and floral aromas such as citrus, herbs and some floral ingredients. Examples of top notes we use in Ace+Freak would be cucumber, mint and lemon.
Middle notes provide the body of a flavour and tend to bring both the top and base notes together. Most spirits will have strong middle notes as many of the flavours, such as juniper within gin, sit within this category. Other ingredients that we use in Ace+Freak that sit as middle notes are ginger, cranberry and apple.
The base notes are the heaviest of the aromas and leave the finishing impression on the palate. They tend to be quite intense and therefore need to be used sparingly as they often relate to specific flavours such as bitterness or flavour textures such as hot spice. Base notes that we use in Ace+Freak are ingredients as bitter orange extract, chilli and clove.
The final element of a cocktail is the dilution - the addition of water. Alcohol is an irritant and the addition of water makes it more palatable, it also releases different flavours and different dilutions. When you have a gin and tonic the flavours within the glass will change as the ice melts. You may find that you actually prefer a gin and tonic when it’s been sat in the glass for a while and the ice has melted to change the flavour. When preparing a cocktail, you are looking to get the optimum level of dilution in your drink so that it tastes just right. When a bartender shakes a cocktail they are mixing, chilling and diluting the drink and will often dilute it to a very specific level. This level of dilution is often different from drink to drink to get the best out of the flavour. When we make a cocktail at Ace+Freak we a spend a long time testing each drink at varying levels of dilution to find the optimum flavour. We need to take in to consideration where you will be enjoying these drinks and what temperature you’re likely to serve these drinks at in order to find that optimum dilution.
So, you can see, what we put in the can has to go through quite a process. We produce a recipe that must meet our strict criteria of perfect balance, beautiful depth of flavour and just the right dilution. Why do we do all of these things? Because we care. We want you to have the best tasting drink we can possibly make.