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The psychology of mixing drinks
Before you set out to make a cocktail, you should ask yourself several questions:
1. Who is the person that I am making this cocktail for?
It's just like the recipe for success in any business: you have to know your customer. You have to take into account what gender they are, and what age. Young people have less drinking experience than, let's say, the over-30s. (The over-30s, with their reasonable amount of drinking experience, seem to have been on a constant quest for the drier, more simple cocktail: the ultimate is perhaps the Platinum Bullet. That's just pure gin or vodka served in a Dry Martini glass refrigerated at -18.4°C, with one olive and a thought for Louis Pratt. This cocktail was invented in the Bar Hemingway in 1996, but of course was inspired by the Silver Bullet.) But back to the youngsters; they go for exotic cocktails that are sweet, with lots of juices, the kind of thing you would drink by the swimming pool in Bora Bora.
Girls drink lighter than boys do. They want to drink alcohol without the taste of it and, in general, without too much of the effect. Of course, there are girls and there are girls, but one thing's for sure: saving ladies from total inebriation is an honourable endeavour.
Young men can sometimes want something powerful. Because they are young they want to feel the kick, and they would not be seen dead (in front of their pals) drinking something light. But then again, exactly which young men are we talking about? Rugby footballers at 9 o'clock in the evening or Pimm's cricketers at 5 o'clock in the afternoon? Or are they highly-stressed stock-exchange types, or the superfit local swimming team?
2. What are they celebrating?
It's very important to know what is being celebrated: the cocktail must reflect the event. As the Rank Xerox team once asked me: if the latest copier was a cocktail, what would it look like and how would it taste? How's that for a challenge? If the event is a (post-) sporting one, one has to be light and low in alcohol. If it's St. Patrick's Day, you had better use an Irish whiskey base.
Business cocktails are often vodka based (vodka based equals no bad breath, which is why Ernest Hemingway had the Bloody Mary invented for him, or so his favourite bartender said...). For business functions, the colour or the name or the ingredients of the cocktail should be relevant to the origins of the company or its president. Of course the name must have an irresistible charm about it, too.
3. What's their objective in having this cocktail?
Do they just want to have a light thirst-quenching drink, or do they want to forget a bad week? Models often like the former, although catwalk cocktails have to be short, dry and effective, to produce an instant calming effect. In this case the Kamikaze seems to rule with its reassuring mix of vodka, lemon juice and Cointreau. Needless to say, I don't know who invented it. Sometimes, of course, people just want to get drunk! (Oh, that's a horrible word! What's it doing in a book about cocktails?)
Whatever the customers' objective, you must counterbalance their prescription with what you think would be right. Two heads are better than one, especially in such a serious business as drinking.
4. What's my objective as the creator of this cocktail?
If your customer seems flagging in energy you really ought to make a cocktail with lots of fresh juice in it. You should include sugar, a drop of alcohol and something fizzy to pep the person up, probably champagne or ginger ale. In this case, why not try the French 75, a cocktail invented in Paris (though not in the Ritz Paris) during the First World War. Incidentally, this became a very popular cocktail in the United States upon the conclusion of hostilities. We call our version a Ritz 75 as our preparation seems to be very popular and I don't want to get other bartenders in trouble.
Another cocktail, this time invented by Pauola from Argentina (a student of the Ritz Escoffier Bar classes), is perfect for a lady that would like a long drink that is refreshing but at the same time extremely light in alcohol. (This cocktail was the result of a written exercise to develop a cocktail on a hot day for a certain Elisabeth, who was also a student of the Ritz Escoffier School.)
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