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November 17, 2014 / Andrew ("the Alchemist")

Ice + Shaking & Stirring

A fair number of people who have taken the Traditional American Mixology quiz online have done fairly well, but lost points on the question relating to the shaking of drinks with citrus juice in them. To better show where the ‘correct’ answer in the quiz is coming from, I am posting this excerpt from the 2015 edition of the Elemental Mixology book:


The most common types of ice used in alcoholic drinks are service ice, method ice and crushed ice. All types of ice should be nothing more than the purest water available, in its frozen state.

Service ice should be cut or molded in the shape of true cubes that are about 1¼ inches per side. That size has a volume equal to 1.08 fl-oz. This size is advantageous for the purpose of predicting the total voluminous capacity that a service vessel should have to hold both the total liquid volume of the drink (including any method-related dilution) and the service ice, itself.

Method ice (a.k.a. cracked ice) was historically made by cracking service ice in half. Method ice should thus be in the shape of cubes that are about half the size of service ice. This smaller size of cube has a greater relative surface area which is desirable to achieve the proper chill and dilution when stirring or shaking mixed drinks.

Crushed ice can be produced by crushing method ice with an ice mallet and canvas bag, a Swing-A-Way-type crusher or an electric crusher.


Both stirring and shaking of liquid ingredients with ice will yield many similar results. Both methods will mix, chill and dilute the other liquid ingredients. Shaking will accomplish these ends more quickly, so stirring should be done longer to achieve similar results. Shake hard, stir long.

The mixer should be aware that when ‘stirring’ or ‘shaking’ with ice, more water will be added to those drinks made with overproof liquor than to those made with the same amount of underproof liquor. This can affect appropriate selection of service vessels.

Dry shaking and dry stirring is done without ice. The dry version of either method is used when such mixing or aeration is wanted – but not any additional dilution.

Carbonated ingredients (such as Champagne wine, beer, soda water, etc.) should almost never be among the ingredients of a drink that are shaken or stirred. That is because they will be flattened by either method. In many cases, drinks that contain these ingredients, but that should also be stirred or shaken, will have the other ingredients stirred or shaken before being combined with the carbonated ingredients.

Stirring and shaking of the same ingredients with ice will yield some different results. A shaken drink will be much more aerated than a stirred drink.

Some have said that the decision whether to stir or shake should be made based on the presence or absence of certain ingredients, such as citrus juice. It seems to be an assumption among the ‘call-‘em-all-cocktails’ crowd that all drinks that contain any amount of citrus juice should be punchy. This one-size-fits-all assumption ignores the different desired results for the different genres of drinks. Those desired results should be informative as to when and why citrus juice should be used, whether as a major modifier or only as a slight accent, and separately, whether the drink should be ‘stirred’ or ‘shaken.’

Grogs – Grogs should only rarely be subjected to the ‘shake’ or ‘stir’ methods. Though some grogs are accented by a little juice, it is the condition of the water that is key. In cold grogs, the carbonated water or soft drink should be chilled prior to mixing. Hot grogs should have their water (or brewed coffee) heated separately before mixing.

Slings – Though not all slings are stirred with ice and strained, none of them should ever be shaken. In all slings (including true cocktails, of course), it is just as important not to bruise the alcoholic base as it is not to crowd it with too much other stuff. In slings, the strong element should be the star of the drink. Stirring can harmonize the other ingredients with the strong element, without suppressing its character. When a sling of any type is shaken, the liquor will be so aerated as to drastically alter its mouthfeel. To say the the ‘velvet’ of the liquor has been ‘bruised’ is the traditional parlance for this undesirable effect. To demonstrate the real effect of bruising, make two Martini Cocktails, but shake one of them instead of stirring it. Taste the stirred one first, and then the shaken one. That is what bruising tastes and feels like. This same test may be done with the orange-juice-accented Bronx Cocktail from 1908 – one properly stirred and the other one shaken. Tasting that difference will elucidate why it is not always best to shake a drink just because there is a little citrus juice in it.

Possets – Virtually all possets that are served cold should be shaken. By their nature, possets are led by the thick element. The thick element can benefit from the emulsification of shaking. Possets also generally require shaking to fully incorporate the other ingredients into the thick element.

Punches – Virtually all punches that are not made in bowls or batches should be shaken. Harmony may be key for slings, but balance rules punches. Aeration can help put all of the other elements into balance with the strong element by suppressing it a little. That is desirable, since the balance of sour, sweet, strong and weak elements should be the staring feature of any punch.

Blossoms – Most blossoms should be shaken to balance the strong element with the succulent element.

Juiceballs – Juiceballs should only rarely be subjected to the ‘shake’ or ‘stir’ methods. In juiceballs, it is the condition of the juice that is key. The juice should not be diluted by shaking it with ice to make it cold. Instead, it should be separately chilled before mixing.

November 14, 2014 / Andrew ("the Alchemist")

Drink of the Day — Palmetto Punch

Today’s drink of the day is the Palmetto Punch.  It is not found in many American drink books of its era, before 1900, and I am not allowed to tell you where I found the old recipe.  But I did place some historic attestation to the drink in the recipe itself.  If you can find Seville bitter oranges, maybe from a tree planted over a century ago in the back yard of a kindly neighbor in Southern California, your Palmetto Punch can be wonderful.  It is still quite lovely made with common, sweet oranges.  In fact, there are few other orange juice drinks this good.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Palmetto Punch

November 14, 2014 / Andrew ("the Alchemist")

Elemental Mixology, 2015 Edition

After a couple of weeks of work, I am happy to say that the 2015 edition of the Elemental Mixology book is done!

Elemental Mixology 2015 Edition cover (front)

For an idea of what I have been working on these past two weeks, I offer here all six pages of the table of contents as thumbnail images that can be clicked on to enlarge them:

EMB 001 EMB 002 EMB 003

EMB 004 EMB 005 EMB 006

October 1, 2014 / Andrew ("the Alchemist")

Take the Traditional American Mixology Quiz!

I sometimes get inquiries from bar-tenders as to whether they would actually learn anything from an Elemental Mixology Course.

The answer is always, “Yes.”  It would be a resounding ‘yes’ even if the bar-tender asking were Eric Alperin, Matthew Biancaniello, Julian Cox, Aidan Demarest, Vincenzo Marianella, etc.

In fact, I would give any of the bar-tenders I mentioned a money-back guarantee to take either the Standard Mixing Course or the Master Mixing Course.  If they could look me in the eye at the end of the course and tell me that they had not leaned plenty, I would be happy to refund them.

Well, we know that won’t happen.  But, what about the less-famous bar-tender that isn’t sure whether there is really that much to learn?

I have set up a Traditional American Mixology Quiz.  Anyone who scores a perfect 100 percent on the quiz might already be familiar enough with traditional, pre-prohibition, American mixology that they would be wasting their time and money at Elemental Mixology.  Everyone else would have their understanding-and-making of mixed drinks revolutionized and impassioned by the course.

Find out if that includes you.  Take the twenty-question Elemental Mixology Traditional American Mixology Quiz!

September 30, 2014 / Andrew ("the Alchemist")

The Cinnamon Syrup Recipe Revealed!

Cinnamon Syrup

Above, from left to right; my cinnamon syrup, dried bark of Cinnamomum verum zeylanicum (true cinnamon from Ceylon), dried buds of Cinnamomum cassia (common cassia ‘cinnamon’), and dried bark of Cinnamomum cassia.

Many attendees of the shorter Elemental Mixology courses and classes have asked me for my recipe for my ‘triple cinnamon’ cinnamon syrup.  I  have usually replied that the recipe is divulged and the syrup made during the Ingredient Fabrication Course.  But, many people just don’t have the time to take that course and want to make the excellent San Francisco Pisco Punch that was made in the course they have attended.

So, here it is:

Pour 750 milliliters distilled water into a saucepan and bring it to a boil.  Turn off the heat.


40 grams of dried, true cinnamon bark from Ceylon

20 grams of dried, cassia bark (common ‘cinnamon’ in the U.S.A.)

10 grams of dried, cassia buds

Place the saucepan over the lowest flame possible, cover well and leave for several hours.  Do not allow the liquid to reach anything near a boiling temperature!  Don’t even allow a bubbling simmer!

After at least two hours, remove from heat and strain out the solids through a chinois-type strainer, and then through a coffee filter.

Weigh the liquid infusion.  It should weigh about 600 grams.

Add the same weight in fine, white sugar and whisk until dissolved.

Pour through a funnel into a one-liter bottle, which should be right about the entire yield.

Cap and label and store in a refrigerator.

Use the syrup over vanilla iced cream, or in a San Francisco Pisco Punch (below) or a San Francisco Rum Punch (scroll all the way down), or in any other spirit version!  San Francisco Rye Punch is good, too!

San Francisco Pisco Punch

San Francisco Rum Punch

September 15, 2014 / Andrew ("the Alchemist")

Maraschino Cherries?

Luxardo Marasche Jar

Do you remember this label on a jar of cherries?  Some of you must.  I remember it very well.  There was a time when I used to tell my students how nice it was that Luxardo didn’t try to sell their lovely marasca cherries with any lie that they were somehow maraschino cherries.  The label simply, and correctly, identified the product as marasche — plural in Italian for marasca.  The label also stated that the product consisted of marasca cherries in a pure, marasca cherry syrup.  I recall how I would praise Luxardo’s integrity versus the shameful lie on the label of any so-called “maraschino cherries” found in an American supermarket.

Then some handful of years ago, Luxardo went and did this:

Luxardo Marasche New Jars

Imagine my disappointment.

They didn’t bother to remake the product’s name on the can — so if you procure that item, you will still get the truth:

Luxardo Marasche Can

So it goes.

There was a time before the prohibition of alcohol in the U.S.A. killed off the huge north American demand for the true, alcoholic, maraschino cherry.  Here is what the U.S. Board of Food and Drug Inspection decided in their decision number 141 of 1912:

BFDI Decision 141

Note the decision by the board that:

BFDI Decision 141 Opinion

That simple, obvious standard would mean that there is no such thing as maraschino cherries in the world today — at least not commercially-available ones.  Dear reader, you have never had a true maraschino cherry.

That is why, in my book, I instruct the reader to garnish those drinks calling for a cherry with a “marasca cherry” instead of a “maraschino cherry.”

Over the years, I have toyed with the idea of taking some of Luxardo’s marasche, rinsing the syrup off of them and placing them in a jar and then covering them with Luxardo’s maraschino liqueur.  But, for the liqueur to really permeate the cherries, I expect they would have to be fresh — not already saturated with heavier-than-liqueur syrup.  I have never been willing to spend so much money to try something that common sense tells me would not yield anything like the correct result.

The good, old standard (and the governmental body that set it) is long gone.  Now we have so-called “maraschino cherries” that are not marasca cherries — nor cherries of any type preserved in maraschino liqueur.  Luxardo’s cherries really are marasca cherries, so it was understandable that they would want to cash in by joining those that had been stretching the ‘maraschino cherry’ truth for so long.  Though I understand the financial motivation behind it, I find Luxardo’s labeling change to be vulgar and distasteful.

I wish, instead, that Luxardo had brought to market some true maraschino cherries.  They would have been expensive — their marasca cherries in syrup already are so without the inclusion of maraschino liqueur.  I imagine that the cherries preserved in Luxardo’s good maraschino liqueur might have cost a lot more money.  But, I would have bought at least a couple of jars.  Plenty of our nation’s more pretentious drinking establishments would’ve have made an ostentatious display of using them.  Luxardo could have sold both marasca cherries (marasche) and true maraschino cherries.

But why bother when a little lie is so much easier?  Luxardo’s marasche are very good — even when called something that they are not.  Who would ever know the difference, anyway?  Well, you do — now.

September 12, 2014 / Andrew ("the Alchemist")

Curaçao Liqueurs




Anything called Curaçao liqueur should be made of the zest or peel of Citrus aurantium currassuviencis, the Curaçao orange — an especially bitter variety of Citrus aurantium, the bitter orange. The Curaçao orange grows on the island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles.


Surfin Curaçao liqueur is specifically distilled from of a maceration of the peels in an overproof spirit. It is considered the standard. Surfin is French for ‘superfine.’



Surfin Curaçao liqueur may be of any of several grades for sweetness, and intensity of bitter orange aroma.


In addition, surfin Curaçao liqueur of any of the above grades may also be either colored or left blanc (‘white’ or colorless).



The sweetest grade of Curaçao liqueur is doux (French for ‘sweet’).  No Curaçao doux liqueur seems to be commercially produced anymore.






Less sweet than Curaçao doux is Curaçao sec.  Sec is French for ‘dry.’ Early French Curaçao liqueurs were very sweet, and Curaçao sec may have been created as a later adaptation toward the Netherlands original.





Even drier and more aromatic than Curaçao sec is Curaçao triple-secTriple-sec is French for ‘triple-dry.’




The very driest and most aromatic grade of Curaçao liqueur is extra-sec (French for ‘extra-dry’). Though originally of a sweeter grade, Cointreau’s famous product has become drier over the decades (perhaps in response to the success of Cusenier’s extra-sec product), and is now an extra-sec Curaçao liqueur.



Watch for a future post giving the grams of sugar per liter for each easily-obtained true Curaçao liqueur still on the market!


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