Bar Basics

What you need to know for making the recipes in The Alchemist. photo

Measurements: For the most part, our recipes are in imperial volume (fluid ounces, teaspoons and cups). We might occasionally use weight (for instance, an ounce of tea leaves for an infusion); in those cases, it will be noted.

Tools: The essentials are a cocktail shaker (cobbler or Boston), mixing glass, jigger, citrus juicer, Hawthorne and fine mesh strainers, muddler, bar spoon, sharp knife and vegetable peeler. Any special tools will be noted.

Glassware: You could fill your cupboards with different types of glassware, but you only really need three (aside from wine and beer): a stemmed “cocktail” glass, either the V-shaped martini or curved coupe; the short, stubby rocks or Old Fashioned; and the tall, narrow Collins.


Simple syrup: This is the basic sweetener in many cocktails; because the sugar is already dissolved, you won’t get a gritty, sandy sludge in the bottom of your glass. To make it: Bring equal amounts of sugar and water just to a boil in small pot over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat, cool, and place in a clean jar or bottle. Will keep in the fridge for about two weeks.

Not-so-simple syrup: There are a couple of ways to add flavour to the basic simple syrup process. 1. Replace the water with another liquid, such as tea or juice. 2. Simmer the syrup with spices or hardy herbs such as cloves, cinnamon, ginger or rosemary and let them steep as the syrup cools. 3. Add soft herbs, such as mint or basil, to steep for a few minutes in the hot syrup after it is removed from the heat.


Double or fine strain: This means straining your cocktail through both a Hawthorne and fine-mesh strainer to remove ice, pulp, seeds and other small fragments that can muddy the texture of shaken drinks.

Dry shake: Shake without ice; this is often used to increase the froth in egg-based drinks like flips and sours.

Long, tall, lengthened: A drink with soda water and ice added to it, typically served in a Collins glass.

Rim: To rim a glass with salt, sugar or spice mixtures, run a lemon or lime wedge around the lip of the glass, then dip it into the seasoning.

Rocks: Served on ice.

Straight, neat: Served without ice.

Twist: A slice of citrus peel, with no pith or flesh attached, used as garnish.

Up: A cocktail served without ice in a stemmed cocktail glass or coupe.

—by Joanne Sasvari

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