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The hard shake, on the balls, and edible cocktails
February 1, 2008 2:27 AM   Subscribe

"In the U.S., they're mixing drinks with herbs and other weird ingredients, but in Ginza the best guys just polish their cocktails like jewels." And perhaps no Japanese mixology master has contributed more than Kauzo Ueda, who has perfected the art of the hard shake, a refinement over more traditional shake styles. He has a disciple in NYC's Eben Freeman, who now imparts the secrets of the hard shake via a video tutorial.

* A review of the solid drinks pictured in the "weird ingredients" link.
* The cocktails you eat
* Cocktails enter the ice age
* In Japan, giant ice balls are often hand carved (as in the videos in "polish" and "jewels") but if you don't want to carve your own, there is an easier way to make your own giant ice balls.
* For some great cocktail recipes and a sidebar of kickass links to cocktail blogs and sites, you can't do better than Looka! The Gumbo Pages by Mefi's own, Chuq.
posted by madamjujujive (49 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
With the noise produced by all the shaking, the panting and grunting and the OoooOoohh MyyyyYYyyy GaaaWwddd, we can hear in the background, this truly is bra bar pr0n.
posted by NewBornHippy at 2:45 AM on February 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Hard shaking" is generally a terrible idea for any classic cocktail. Shaking hard results in what is known as bruising the ice. In other words, ice shards popping off of the ice and ultimately diluting the drink.

The author suggests that a proper hard shake somehow avoids this dilution problem. That's hooey. If you shake for a very short amount of time you are less likely to have ice melt at the time of shaking, but having shards of ice in a drink means that unless you gulp down your drink, you are going to have a diluted drink. Instead, you are far better off using a firm but not hard shake for a short duration with lots of fresh ice and you are best suited by keeping your vodka, Gin, and standard mixers pre-chilled. Furthermore, if you want to keep your drink chilled over time, instead of insulting the drink with shards of ice, try a glass design that allows for the drink to remain chilled.

The bottom line here is that the author's suggestion that his hard shake "softens" the alcohol is almost certainly because of a resulting colder drink and watered down drink in comparison with his other typical methods. Note that most bars do not chill their ingredients, so bartenders who are unskilled typically over shake a drink to get it cold.

Also note that the author suggests that softening a drink and clouding it with ice shards and bubbles is a good thing. This is almost certainly because he makes cocktails that suck and/or people order cocktails they don't really like but want to drink merely to look cool and get drunk. This is a very real problem with modern cocktails - they abandon the idea that you are supposed to taste the alcohol. Of course, this is also a symptom of the modern drinker who is more interested in partying and getting drunk than enjoying the alcohol along the way. Do yourselves a favor and abandon crappy modern drinks, abandon the hard shake (not surprisingly, recommended for cream drinks which are a modern cocktail disaster), and order yourself a nice Manhattan, Sidecar, or Between the Sheets. Here's a clue - you only need the hard shake to "integrate" your drink because you are trying to mix fat and alcohol into something drinkable. Maybe that's your first clue you're starting in the wrong place. Go slop down some egg nog if that's your thing. If you are going to go for cracked ice, go all the way and order a Planters Punch. Of course, you'll have to do so at a bar with a bartender that knows what the hell you are talking about.

While you're at it, refuse to call anything but Gin and Dry Vermouth a "Martini". Yes, you can add olives and I'll even give you a Vodka substitute if you clarify you are ordering a "Vodka Martini." But the uncreative abominations being called a "Martini" need to stop. People, come up with a new drink name and give the poor Martini name its dignity back.
posted by Muddler at 3:24 AM on February 1, 2008 [30 favorites]


I have to say I was pretty impressed the first time I ever saw, at a bar here in Tokyo, one of those huge pieces of perfectly round ice sitting right in the middle of a glass of scotch, as shown in the "polish" link.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:33 AM on February 1, 2008


Shaking cocktails reveals your orgasm face.
posted by brautigan at 3:42 AM on February 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's an ice bar here in Seoul, but it's pretty lame, and seems to mainly attract tourists and rubberneckers.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:02 AM on February 1, 2008


What's so weird about putting herbs in cocktails? They've been doing it for centuries where I live. Phillips Shrub is a herb cordial, traditionally drunk with rum, apparently this was originally to cover up the taste of any salt that might have got into the barrel during smuggling. It's not bad.
posted by biffa at 4:29 AM on February 1, 2008


These cocktails go to eleven.
posted by gimonca at 5:00 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is why I read MetaFilter.
posted by sidereal at 5:04 AM on February 1, 2008


I like the giant round ice cube. But the hard shake has got to be the stupidest thing I have ever seen. If I actually saw a bartender do that in person I might die from laughter. Does he not realize what a douche he looks like? I like a well-mixed cocktail (and I would definitely trust Muddler to make me one), but holding the shaker at EXACTLY a 34 degree angle and pointing the left foot towards the rising sun and making a VERY SERIOUS facial expression and whatever else he's doing is fucking IDIOTIC. If you want a frothy drink with bashed up ice, shake the hell out of it. If you want the drink to be clear and the ice relatively undamaged, shake it gently. It really is as simple as that. All this fancy shaking methodology is a really transparent way to make people feel better about paying 20 dollars for 3 dollars worth of alcohol.
posted by cilantro at 5:15 AM on February 1, 2008


I like the giant round ice cube

Umm....

While you're at it, refuse to call anything but Gin and Dry Vermouth a "Martini".

I think I love you.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:45 AM on February 1, 2008


What's wrong with liking the giant round ice cube? It's pretty. It would be fun to play with. Or did I make some kind of double entendre that I wasn't aware of?
posted by cilantro at 5:50 AM on February 1, 2008


"Hard shaking" is generally a terrible idea for any classic cocktail

True. I've wondered if people get that "Shaken, not stirred" is a classic play-against-type gag. The real James Bond would have preferred stirred.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:53 AM on February 1, 2008


Oh, I think I get it. Round cube. Heh.
posted by cilantro at 6:12 AM on February 1, 2008


In Japan, the cube is round. One of those Inscrutable Mysteries of the Orient, you see.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:20 AM on February 1, 2008


What's so weird about putting herbs in cocktails?
Indeed.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:48 AM on February 1, 2008


Here, drink this glass of Wild Turkey* very carefully or you will be constantly getting bashed on the upper lip and tip of your nose by this giant boulder of ice, that will be twenty dollars please.







*The bird shall be dranken warm, whilst sobbing, out of a world's sexiest grandma mug at three am or not at all. Ten minutes chipping away at an ice cube for a shit-bourbon rocks indeed.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:15 AM on February 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


Oh, thanks mjjj! It's always happy hour on Metafilter.

Raises a toast to Miguel, whereever he may be.
posted by Fiberoptic Zebroid and The Hypnagogic Jerks at 7:23 AM on February 1, 2008


But an interesting and well assembled post as always, MJJ.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:37 AM on February 1, 2008


I used to order all sorts of variations of martini, wet, dry, dirty, and once, in a fit of anti-juniper sentiment, I even ordered a vodka martini. Recently I realized I was simply having opinions for the sake of having opinions. Now I want my martini right down the middle. I specify the gin (Beefeater), ask for an olive, run through a daydream of gunning down every noisy amateur in the bar, then settle in with my martini and perform a mental tally of those few opportunities I haven't yet abandoned, passed up, burnt down, or remembered too late.

I love it when the bartenders at my favorite cocktail joint go to work (quickly) carving up rough hewn cubes of ice for a double of Old Overholt. Sure it's a bit showy, but if am going to go through all the fuss of putting pants on and going outside, let's spice it up.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 7:39 AM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I keep trying dirty martinis. In theory, I should like them a lot--I love martinis, I love olives, I love salt. But I find the dirty martini to be unspeakably vile. This bothers me.

Stonestock, have you ever tried Hendricks gin? Or Old Raj? They are spec-fucking-tacular in martinis.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:22 AM on February 1, 2008


Man, you spoke the truth about Wild Turkey not being worth the trouble.
I gotta add one other purpose for The Bird, and that's Turkey Shoots around a campfire. It has the same chest-hair stimulating properties as eating beans and weenies from the can.
posted by dosterm at 8:47 AM on February 1, 2008


Another bartender here, agreeing with muddler... also seconding the Hendrick's gin - it's unique, and I love their stance on it: basically, we know we're different and not for everybody, and that's okay; go drink something else if you don't like our gin.
posted by hypersloth at 8:54 AM on February 1, 2008


Kinda related.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:17 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I want to drink at Muddler's bar. You even taught this old bartender a thing or three.
posted by vito90 at 9:19 AM on February 1, 2008


I have needed a drink all week, and was planning on beer tonight, but now I want a really well-made Manhattan.

Although all the Wild Turkey hate is making me consider the classic shot-and-a-beer. I am absolutely a beer (and whiskey, to a lesser extent) snob, but sometimes there's nothing better than a shot of Wild Turkey and an ice-cold Bud.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:32 AM on February 1, 2008


Muddler: eponysterical. (with limes)
posted by lalochezia at 9:39 AM on February 1, 2008


hypersloth- my roommate turned me on to hendricks martini with a cucumber wedge and some pulp in it. unbelievably good.

Now i make bartenders very confused when I order it. But if they make it right, extra tip for them. (Its actually really simple, standard gin martini, but pour over the pulp of one cucumber in the glass, and serve).
posted by mrzarquon at 10:20 AM on February 1, 2008


miss lynnster, thanks for that tasty link - I had missed that post!
posted by madamjujujive at 10:24 AM on February 1, 2008


While you're at it, refuse to call anything but Gin and Dry Vermouth a "Martini".

Damn right.

I read an old interview with Ian Fleming and the reason that James Bond drinks his Martinis shaken and with vodka, not gin is to show what an unconventional loose cannon sort of chap he is. The martini is now so comprehensively associated with JB that no-one gets it anymore.
posted by atrazine at 10:29 AM on February 1, 2008


I use a silicon muffin pan to make my giant ice uncubes. They're not awesomely spherical, but they fit so perfectly into my highball glass that guests are suitably impressed. They don't say anything, but I can tell. I can tell.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:48 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


NOTE: Ian AT is not responsible if you use a muffin pan made of silicon instead of silicone and somehow poison yourself.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:52 AM on February 1, 2008


I don't mind Wild Turkey in the right setting, UncleLeozzy. Shot and beer is good, although I'm a Jackie D man myself, the Bird has kind of a weird chemical bitterness that bugs me after a few. I just thought it was funny that the dude makes this elaborate presentation with this crazy hand-hewn disco ball of ice, spinning it around just so, adding water, pouring out the water and waving his hands around and then he pours in a shot of Wild Turkey. It would be like getting plastic surgery, working out for a six months and putting on an Armani tuxedo to go take a dump in a gas station bathroom.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:14 AM on February 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


Yeah, Divine_Wino, but doing that would be fucking fabulous.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:24 AM on February 1, 2008


Any night that includes "a few" shots of Wild Turkey can't end well. And to be fair, though, the 101-proof Wild Turkey is much better than the more common 80-proof stuff. Hard to find the full-strength around these parts, enough so that I can't tell which sort it is in the video.

Jim Beam is really my cheap whiskey of choice, though. I go to the Turkey for comic effect when I can see the layer of dust on the bottle behind the bar.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:30 AM on February 1, 2008



Yeah, Divine_Wino, but doing that would be fucking fabulous.


The instant I posted that I started thinking that it was a great idea.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:33 AM on February 1, 2008


The beauty of it, is if there ever was the right thing to swill while taking a dump at a gas station, if your life had really gotten to the point where you needed to chug hard stuff on the john at a 76, it'd be Wild Turkey.
I like Hendrick's, I just feel that it's flavors lend themselves more to ice cold refreshers on a hot ass day. Beefeater just hits all the right notes and there's no chance a bar won't serve it.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 12:12 PM on February 1, 2008


Yeah, true, everywhere's got Beefeater. Plymouth is also excellent, but I only like it in a G&T. Doesn't really do it for me in a martini. Not much of a problem though--not a lot of places here serve it.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:17 PM on February 1, 2008


Wild Turkey's great and all, but I like me some Old Crow. I like my wine fine and my bourbon cheap, y'all.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:45 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I drank an entire fifth of Wild Turkey last night at the show. We play one venue (quite upscale) that offers free drinks and food, but beyond that we don't make much scratch. I always order whiskey because beer makes me belch, which does not mix at all with lightning fast bluegrass vocals. So I ordered my double whiskey on the rocks - specifying "well" please (I don't want to piss off the management by drinking their top shelf stuff) and she handed me a tumbler of booze. I drank it - "Absolutely vile!" I declared. "More please." It was only at the end of the night, after several hours of stomping, screaming, sweaty American music, that I ordered another and the tender shook the empty bottle at me in a chastising manner. She informed me that no one else had taken even a sip of the stuff. I spotted the turkey's scornful glare. "My god," I thought, "I've drunk an entire fifth of Wild Turkey." It was at this point that I was carefully removed from the bar and placed in a vehicle, taken home and put to bed.

Here I stand, Turkey! Undefeated!
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:18 PM on February 1, 2008 [8 favorites]


I drank an entire fifth of Wild Turkey last night at the show.

I had to go Google what a fifth was. (What does "well" mean btw?) So that's 750ml right? In the UK shots are usually 25ml a go so you had 30?! 28 shots per bottle and 2 for the road!

*Salutes*
posted by brautigan at 2:47 PM on February 1, 2008


I drank an entire fifth of Wild Turkey last night at the show.

Holy shit. How are you typing? If I had that much rotgut within the past 24 hours, I imagine each click of the keys would feel like a tiny explosion in my head. Capital-H Hangover, I'm sayin.
posted by quite unimportant at 3:19 PM on February 1, 2008


"well" refers to the common cheap house booze. If you order a "vodka and soda" they will pull from the well, unless you specify a better brand or "top shelf" booze (which is on the shelf, behind the bartender).

The well itself, is a well, usually located behind the front of the bar itself, so it is within easy grabbing of the bartender, that they can stick those above cheap booze in.
posted by mrzarquon at 3:51 PM on February 1, 2008


This image shows the well on the right side (the bottles just in line with the bartender in the background).
posted by mrzarquon at 3:53 PM on February 1, 2008


Also, in the us a "shot" is 1.5 fluid US ounces, or ~45ml.

So 16-17 shots a fifth of whiskey.

I would wager that Baby_Balrog didn't crack the seal on the wild turkey, but that is still a feat. I had went one and one with a flask sized bottle of Turkey 101 a few weeks back, and while victorious, I don't know if I would do that again.

(man I should have waited and pulled all these three comments together).
posted by mrzarquon at 4:01 PM on February 1, 2008


This image shows the well on the right side (the bottles just in line with the bartender in the background).

Ah, ok I'm with ya. We'd call that "well" the gun-rail or rack. But noone would order it as rail or rack liquor, more probably we'd call it House eg a shot of House Whisky etc.

Bourbon wise, I'm loving Four Roses right now.
posted by brautigan at 4:13 PM on February 1, 2008


Also, in the us a "shot" is 1.5 fluid US ounces, or ~45ml.


Really?! Jeez, I thought it was 30ml. We have a slightly archaic measure of a 1/4 Gill which is 35ml but thats as high as we go.

I was drinking in NYC last year and got royally HAMMERED quite unintentionally one night. Free poured 45ml's might explain it.
posted by brautigan at 4:17 PM on February 1, 2008


Ah, the Turkey. I always took it as a sign to cancel any plans I'd made for the next day when I saw that come out. Not because of the liquor per se, but just because what it said about the occasion. Serious business. That said, it's never made it onto the "holy crap never again" list, like (gag, shudder) Southern Comfort.

The large spherical ice cubes intrigue me, but I wonder about whether I'd just end up wearing my drink, or feeling like my nose is starring in an Indiana Jones movie every time I tipped the glass towards me and the thing rolled downhill.

The best device I've found for making ice for drinks is a sort of bottle-like contraption; I think it originally came from Homegoods. Crude illustration here. It's neat because not only can you use bottled or filtered water, and keep out funky freezer odors, but it produces nice rounded half-spheres of ice that don't chip when you stir them.

Muddler (eponysterical?) hit the nail on the head regarding the hard shaking. That just looks like a recipe for a watery drink to me. I can appreciate the "flair" aspect of bartending, but not when it's at the expense of the drink's overall taste or quality.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:25 PM on February 1, 2008


oh, the stories i could tell you about wild turkey...

instead, i'll mention the bartender who sniped at me - when i ordered a vodka martini - "well, you know, martinis are made with vodka."

no, no they are not.
martinis. are. made. with. gin.
muddler, yr the kinda drinker i'd like to sit next to in a bar. we could seethe in mutual disdain at the squealing green-apple "martini" swillers. too bad i can't drink gin. it' the one liquor that doesn't love me. *sob* i guess that's why i drink manhattans.

baby balrog, i once had 22 shots of wild turkey 101, in one night. apparently, i won. but i am glad to say, i will never do that again.

and this is pretty much yes, a faboo description of wild turkey, divine_wino. i think that it needs to become a movie.
posted by lapolla at 12:20 AM on February 2, 2008


Muddler claims:
If you shake for a very short amount of time you are less likely to have ice melt at the time of shaking, but having shards of ice in a drink means that unless you gulp down your drink, you are going to have a diluted drink. Instead, you are far better off using a firm but not hard shake for a short duration with lots of fresh ice and you are best suited by keeping your vodka, Gin, and standard mixers pre-chilled.
Hogwash. Assuming ingredients at the same starting temperature, regardless of how the drink is shaken or stirred, the same amount of ice will melt in the process of chilling the drink to serving temperature. The comment about shards of ice in the drink stands, but the idea that one version of shaking is more expert than another is ridiculous.
Also note that the author suggests that softening a drink and clouding it with ice shards and bubbles is a good thing. This is almost certainly because he makes cocktails that suck and/or people order cocktails they don't really like but want to drink merely to look cool and get drunk.
I drink martinis, and I drink single malt scotch whiskey, and I respectfully disagree with this assertion. After much reading and experimentation, I have concluded that the gin is best kept at room temperature, and the martini is best served with the degree of melted ice that results. Yes, this drink is diluted compared to one made with gin stored in the freezer -- but it's better.

By contrast, I don't dilute my whiskey at all, though some people argue persuasively in favor of a drop or two of spring water to "open up" the flavors. I take my whiskey neat with water back, and I do the "opening up" on my tongue. It is insulting to suggest that a person who wants his martini with a small amount of dilution doesn't actually like the drink, much as it would be an insult for me to claim that a connoisseur who does put a drop or two of spring water in his whiskey has no taste for it.
posted by fedward at 11:42 AM on February 3, 2008


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