Distillation Live!
The three tier system: necessary?

Not in the mix, and the Problem with citrus

The Wall Street Journal's Eric Felten tries out Williams-Sonoma's new line of high-end cocktail mixes and compares them to the recipes for the same drinks in a new book called Mix Shake Stir (that I don't see on the website yet). Not surprisingly, he finds the drinks pale in comparison to the homemade versions. a cocktail from the wall street journal

But the story is an interesting read on cocktail mixers in general. First he gets sassy:

The flacks for that supermarket standby, Rose's Cocktail Mixers, sent out a press release for their Mojito mix this summer touting it as "a solution to complicated drink-making." Complicated? Crush some mint in sugar syrup and fresh lime juice; add white rum, club soda and ice; stir. Is it supercilious to suggest that those for whom this is a task of surpassing complexity are better off not dulling their wits further with alcohol?

Then he tells us why citrus is so hard to bottle:

The core problem with cocktail mixes is that they almost all involve lemon or lime juice, which are notoriously difficult to bottle. Sara Risch, a food chemist and member of the Institute of Food Technologists, told me why: "Among the major components of citrus flavor are terpenes," she explained, compounds that are grievously subject to oxidation, and that break down quickly, especially when cooked (as in the pasteurization process such bottled juices require). The volatile terpenes in the juices and oils of lemons and limes turn inexorably toward the piney taste and smell of turpentine.

Ahh, citrus, the ingredient that ruins home cocktail mixing for everyone. How much juice is in "the juice of half a lime" anyway? I get the discount limes and there ain't much juice left in 'em. The lemons from my tree are huge and watery as opposed to the store-bought smaller tart ones.

Even if your cocktail recipe lists juice in ounces, the type of juice going in is highly variable. And if the tart/sour aspect of a drink is variable, so too must be the sweet aspect to balance it. So that's two ingredients you have to make "to taste" in each recipe.

Methinks this is why we have pre-mixed versions of the Mojito, Caipirinha, Margarita, Lemon Drop, Cosmopolitan, and Blood Orange Martini, whereas mixers for the no-citrus Manhattan and Martini aren't too popular. Maybe in cocktail books and live classes the instructors should give a lesson on balancing sour to sweet. To make many cocktails, it's not about using the perfect recipe, it's about perfecting that skill.