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Here's To The Perfect Cocktail!

Despite its fun-loving and youthful attitude, the cocktail turns 200 this year. So isn't it time you learned how to make one that's "Just Perfect?"

Ray Isle, a senior editor at Food and Wine magazine, shares his expertise with viewers of The Saturday Early Show.

Memorial Day kicks off the season of summer parties. All of the drinks Isle discusses are light and refreshing, perfect to serve all summer long.

He says there are four basic steps on the road to the perfect cocktail:

Have the Right Tools

Two items are essential: a cocktail shaker and a double jigger. Isle prefers a shaker with a built-in strainer and a fitted lid. A jigger is a stainless-steel tool used to measure liquid ingredients. Look for one that has a ½-ounce cup on one end and a one-ounce cup on the other. Although you see bartenders casually throwing together drinks all the time, it's because they've probably made them hundreds and hundreds of times. Home bartenders will get much better results by measuring ingredients. After all, a cocktail recipe is just that — a recipe.

Use Appropriate Ice

Believe it or not, the biggest mistake amateur mixologists make involves ice. When mixing a drink in a cocktail shaker, you want to fill the shaker with cracked ice. The goal of making a drink in a shaker is to not only mix the drink, but to chill it. Cracked ice is the quickest route to a cold cocktail. You want to add this ice to the shaker immediately before adding the liquor and other ingredients, so it doesn't have time to melt. If you're serving your drink over ice, you want to put large ice cubes in the glass. Small cubes melt quickly and dilute the drink.

Buy Quality Ingredients

You don't have to use top-shelf alcohol. You're mixing the liquor with other ingredients, which change the flavor of the alcohol some, so it's not worth the money to buy a $30 bottle. However, you also don't want to buy the cheapest stuff you can find. Cocktail ingredients, like food, don't lie. Isle suggests middle-of-the-road options.

Chill the Glasses

There are two ways to do this. The easiest is simply placing the glasses in the freezer for about five minutes. Or, you could follow the model of many bartenders: Fill the glass with ice and cold water, then dump it out right before you pour your drink.

Go to Page 2 for recipes.

COCKTAIL RECIPES

The Aviation

2 ounces gin
2 teaspoons maraschino liqueur (Luxardo is a good choice)
3/4 ounce lemon juice

Shake and strain into a cocktail (martini) glass.

Grapefruit Basil Martini from J Six in San Diego

1/4 fresh grapefruit, unpeeled and cut into pieces
3 basil leaves
2 1/2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup
Ice

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the grapefruit with two of the basil leaves. Add the vodka, simple syrup, and ice. Shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with the remaining basil.

Ginger Margarita from Spice Market in New York

10 lime wedges and kosher salt
Ice
16 ounces añejo tequila
4 ounces Ginger-Lime Syrup (see recipe below)
6 ounces Cointreau or other triple sec

Moisten the outer rims of eight highball glasses with two of the lime wedges, and coat lightly with salt. Fill the glasses with ice. In a pitcher, combine the tequila, ginger-lime syrup and Cointreau. Stir well and pour one-fourth of the mixture into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into two of the highball glasses. Repeat three more times, using fresh ice each time. Garnish each drink with a lime wedge.

Ginger-Lime Syrup

1 cup peeled and sliced fresh ginger
8 ounces fresh lime juice
1 cup sugar
1/4 stalk lemongrass, smashed and chopped

In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree. Strain, let cool and refrigerate, covered, for up to a week. Makes eight ounces of syrup.

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