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Master Drink Themes

This photo demonstrates a confident bartender that has memorized all the master drink themes, which means that memorizing individual drink recipes isn't required. (© fxquadro/123RF photo)

To be a star of the bar, memorize the Master Drink Themes.

A Master Drink Theme is one recipe that’s used to create many different cocktails. Only the base spirit changes. The other ingredients and mixing method stays the same. Learn to make one, you can make them all. Any exceptions to the Master Drink Themes are noted on the individual recipe pages.

The Highball

A highball is one jigger of base spirit, topped with a soft drink or soda. There’s no need to include them in a recipe book, because guests order them by their ingredients, as in Gin and Tonic, making them easy to figure out. Most, except scotch and soda, can be garnished with a citrus wedge or cartwheel, but usually they just come with a straw.

Build the drink in a highball, or rocks glass. Fill the glass 3/4 full of ice. Add 1 jigger of the requested spirit. Top with the specified soft drink. Serve with a straw and optional garnish.

The most popular highballs are Rum and Coke, Rye and 7 Up, Rye and Ginger Ale, Gin and Tonic, Scotch and Soda, Vodka and Soda.

Some drinks like the Cuba Libre (white rum, cola & lime) and the Screwdriver (vodka, orange juice, orange wedge) seem to be highballs, but they’re not really, because they have juice, garnishes, or proper names. Those recipes have their own pages on this website.


Rickey

The Rickey contains no sugar, or sweetener, and can be made with any base spirit. The juice is always lime and it’s always topped with soda. The most popular ones are Gin Rickey (also known as Lime Rickey), Sloe Gin Rickey, Bourbon and any kind of rum.

The ingredients are 1/2 fresh lime juice, 1 base spirit, and soda water. Build the drink in a highball glass 3/4 full of ice. Add the juice and base spirit. Top with soda and stir slightly, with an up and down motion of the bar spoon. Garnish with a lime wedge and straw.

Sour

The sour is made with simple syrup, lemon juice and a base spirit. The most popular is rye in the Whiskey Sour, but brandy and gin are also ordered occasionally.

The recipe is 1/2 simple syrup, 1 fresh lemon juice and 1 base spirit. Fill a mixing glass 3/4 full of ice, add the ingredients, then shake and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and straw.

Fizz

The Fizz is basically the same as a Sour, shaken and strained exactly the same, except it gets topped with soda into a bigger glass. Any base spirit or liqueur may be called for, but gin and sloe gin are the most popular.

Fill a mixing glass 3/4 full of ice. Add 1/2 simple syrup, 1 fresh lemon juice and 1 base spirit. Shake and strain into a fizz or Collins glass. Top with soda water. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and straw.

Collins

At first glance the Collins appears to be a Fizz. The main difference is that the Collins isn’t shaken, it’s built on the rocks and the garnish is different. The gin, or Tom Collins, is by far the favorite, but vodka (Joe Collins), rye (John Collins) and Bourbon (Colonel Collins) also get ordered occasionally.

In a Collins glass 3/4 full with ice, add 1/2 simple syrup, 1 fresh lemon juice and 1 base spirit. Top with soda water and stir slightly, with an up and down motion of the bar spoon. Garnish with fruit stick or lemon cartwheel.


Flip

A Flip is the addition of 1 whole small egg and 1/3 syrup to any base spirit. The most popular one is the dark rum flip. If a sweet spirit, or liqueur is called for, the syrup may be eliminated. If using medium sherry, double the amount of liquor to 2 parts, due to its mild flavor and low alcohol percentage.

Fill a mixing glass 3/4 full of ice. Add 1 whole raw egg, 1/3 syrup (omit for liqueurs), and 1 base spirit (2 if sherry). Shake & strain into fizz or martini glass. Garnishing with a short straw is optional.

Mist

The Mist is a slushy made with dry crushed ice. It’s usually made with base spirits. Scotch Mist is the most popular, but any type of liquor can be called for. It always gets garnished with lemon zest.

Build over crushed ice in a rock glass. Pour 1 jigger of spirit over the ice in circular motion. Garnish with lemon zest and swizzle stick.

Frappe

The Frappe is essentially a snow cone. It’s usually made with sweet liqueurs, poured over top of dry powdered ice. Green creme de Menthe, Cointreau, Drambuie and Licor 43 are the most popular, but any type of liquor can be requested. It always gets garnished with a maraschino cherry.

Create the powdered ice with a mallet and Lewis bag, or a powerful blender. Heap the fresh powdered ice into a cocktail glass, creating a snowball. Pour 1 jigger of liqueur over the ice in a circular motion. Use a bar spoon to make a dent in the top. Garnish with a cherry in the dent and serve with a straw.

The Press (Presbyterian)

The Press is a modified highball, that’s designed to cut down on sugar content. They can be made with any liquor or soda upon request. For example, rum and coke press, or rye and 7 press. The most popular one is the Rye Presbyterian made with rye and ginger ale.

Fill a highball glass 3/4 full with ice. Pour 1 base spirit over the ice. Then fill the glass half way with the soft drink, and the other half with soda water. The result is less sweet, dryer highball, with fewer calories. Serve with a straw and optional garnish.


Other Themes

From the 1840s to the 1920s there were many drink families that were popular. Some of the long forgotten families are the Buck, Cobbler, Cooler, Crusta, Daisy, Fix, Puff, Sangaree, Scaffa and Smash.

Over the decades, some like the Julep family evolved into a single cocktail, the Mint Julep. Most however, slowly faded away after the Martini, Manhattan and Old Fashioned became the new fads. 

It could be years before you get asked for any of the following, but they are mentioned here, just to be thorough and in case you get asked.

Buck – A base spirit and lemon juice, topped with ginger ale and garnished with lemon zest or wedge. There is no added syrups or sugar. The most popular are gin and brandy.

Cobbler – A base spirit and either a syrup, or liqueur, poured over crushed ice and garnished with a generous portion of fruit, like orange slices and pineapple.

Cooler – A base spirit and a syrup, topped with ginger ale.

Crusta – A base spirit with syrup, lemon juice and bitters, garnished with lemon zest and sugar rim.

Daisy – A base spirit with syrup, lemon juice and curacao. Some recipes substitute grenadine for the curacao. The most popular daisies are whiskey and brandy.

Fix – Same as the Sour Master Drink Theme with a base spirit, syrup and lemon juice, but garnished with seasonal berries. Some recipes also call for cherry brandy.

Puff – Equal parts of a base spirit and milk, sweetened with simple syrup and usually topped with soda water.

Sangaree – A base spirit with syrup and a fortified wine, like port or sherry, with a grated nutmeg garnish.

Scaffa – The original layered shooter that evolved into a shaken cocktail. It consists of three layers; a base spirit, a liqueur and either a bitter aperitif, or just plain bitters.

Smash – Made like a Mint Julep with a base spirit, sugar and mint, but it uses less mint (2 or 3 leaves) and is garnished with an orange slice, or seasonal berries.


 

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