Tag archives for: embury

Life is Bitter

The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, David Embury's classic, is notable for being somewhat rigid in its definition of a cocktail. He basically divides all of cocktail-dom into two camps: the aromatic ones (Manhattans, Martinis, Old-Fashioneds), and the sour ones (basically anything with lemon or lime juice in it, though never enough to overpower the main liquor).

For Embury, a cocktail is consumed before dinner, stimulates the appetite, and isn't very sweet - or it isn't a cocktail. As such, though mixed drinks like the Brandy Alexander and its cousins do show up on the pages of his book, they are (justifiably, though somewhat condescendingly) classified as desserts when made the traditional way (equal parts brandy, cream and creme de cacao) or grudgingly allowed to stand alongside the real cocktails when made according to his modifications (basically upping the brandy by four times the usual amount relative to the other ingredients) - though with a loud admonition that the result is vastly inferior to his tried and true favourites.

Read more

Meditations on the Aromatic Cocktail

David Embury classifies cocktails into two distinct groups: sour cocktails and aromatic cocktails. I've written in the past about sour cocktails but have been mostly silent about aromatic ones.

Until NOW, that is! It was an omission that just had to be rectified. Right? RIGHT?!

Aromatic cocktails are flavoured by some kind of aromatic wine, spirit, or bitters. Based on my (limited) experiments, I broadly categorize these drinks into:

  • Old Fashioned Cocktails
  • Liqueur or wine based Cocktails

But really, there's no real rule here. You basically take a base spirit and you flavour it with some combination of flavouring agent(s). Pretty simple.

Read more

More on Sour Cocktails

I've posted before about sour cocktails, but I felt that the subject deserved a bit more elabouration. The material here, as before, is quite heavily inspired by (some might say stolen from) David Embury's classic taxonomy from The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.

Embury's basic approach was to define a sour cocktail template. In his mind, a sour cocktail consisted of:

  • a spirit
  • a sweetener
  • lemon and/or lime juice

Different combinations of spirits and sweeteners lead, of course, to different cocktails. The exact ratios obviously depend on your personal taste and the actual ingredients you decide to use. My preferred ratio matches Embury's:

Read more

Sour Cocktails and the Embury Ratio

Over the last couple of years I've put together what I consider to be a fairly impressive home bar, and I've spent much of that time experimenting with various cocktails.

There are people in my social circle for whom mixing drinks is a bit taboo. When I say that I use Calvados) or Cognac in a cocktail, the first reaction I usually get is "What a waste!"

I disagree. My guiding principle with regard to cocktails is that you should use good quality liquor that you'd have no problem drinking on its own. Calvados falls into this category, and so does Cognac. It doesn't have to be the really expensive stuff, but it should at least be middle shelf. The idea of making a cocktail out of foul tasting gut-rot in at attempt to mask the taste is anathema to me. When a cocktail is well made, the extra ingredients enhance rather than mask the taste of the main liquor.

Read more