Know Your Highballs From Your Duos and Trios

A ‘highball’ contains only a distilled spirit and a mixer such as soda or a fruit juice; a ‘duo’ contains a spirit and liqueur; whilst a ‘trio’ has all three: A spirit, liqueur and a mixer. Beyond this primary classification, there seems to be no convention in naming cocktails.

Consider this: Four Horsemen walk into a bar with a Salty Dog that goes “Woo Woo”. “Are you Harvey Wallbanger? they asked. “Nope”, the bartender replied: “I am Terry”. “Well, in that case: We are here to inflict Death in the Afternoon and blow the Buttery Nipple clean off the chest of your Dirty White Mother with an Irish Car Bomb”.

Of course, with names like this, even I become an inspired poet.

The staff from the bar next to us in the complex strut their stuff in jackets that read ‘Sons of Mixology’.

No doubt the inspiration for the dress code has come from the television series on the undertakings of a fictitious motorcycle gang called ‘Sons of Anarchy’.

From their name Sons of Mixology, I assume they are less about riding powerful motorcycles as “one percenters” and more about pouring mixed drinks. Well, there is that, and I have never seen any of them on a motorcycle.

If you are an old geezer like me, you are well familiar with the fact that the more the world seems to change, the more it stays the same. In the endless ebb and flow of time, things come and go, and they come back again and disappear again, and come back and disappear.

Personally, I have lived through at least five rebirths and revivals of the hula-hoop, the spinning top and the yo-yo, and many more with regard to marbles, the Rubik’s cube, and… Yes, you guessed it: Cocktails.

At some point, every woman I dated was either in the middle of a cocktail craze or just about to leave it.

It is only with much hard work and tenacious discipline that I can say I am Martini free for nearly a decade now.

The first recorded reference to a ‘cocktail’ as a beverage was in The Morning Post and Gazetteer published in London on 20 March 1798. In the United States of America, the word cocktail has been in use since at least 1803.

It did not take long for some to realise the political potential of this alcoholic concoction. According to writer and clergyman Harry Crosswell: “A cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters – it is vulgarly called bittered [sic] sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, in as much as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said also to be of great use to a democratic candidate: Because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else”.

Do I even have to mention that the eyes of the world rest firmly on the American electorate this month?

At least one source endorses the view that horses provided inspiration for the origins of the word cocktail:

“It was customary to dock the tails of horses that were not thoroughbred… They were called cocktailed horses, later simply cocktails. By extension, the word cocktail was applied to a vulgar, ill-bred person raised above his station, assuming the position of a gentleman but deficient in gentlemanly breeding. A cocktail was an acceptable alcoholic drink, but diluted, not a ‘purebred’, a thing ‘raised above its station’. Hence the highly appropriate slang word used earlier about inferior horses and sham gentlemen.”

Today it is commonly accepted that the word cocktail refers to “a mixed drink typically made with a distilled beverage (such as gin, brandy, vodka, whiskey, tequila or rum) that is mixed with other ingredients; often flavoured syrups and juices.” And “if beer is one of the ingredients, the drink is called a beer cocktail”.

Given that cocktails require mixing combinations of ingredients, and that there are almost no rigid traditions as is the case in traditional gastronomy for example, it is not surprising that so many drinkers and mixers are drawn to cocktails by the promise of unlimited creative freedom. Needless to say, some outcomes are plain awful; and their creators’ creative licence should be taken away – plain and simple.

When they get it right, on the other hand, it can be pure magic, and with the growth of molecular cooking techniques, cocktails have received a huge creative push. With the use of liquid nitrogen and dry ice, alcoholic drinks can be frozen and presented in very creative applications (e.g. frozen cocktails and sorbet drinks), and with techniques such as spherification and reverse spherification, special textures in the form of liquid-centred spheres and fake caviar could be added to drinks.

Part of the creative appeal of cocktails seems to be the naming of them. A ‘highball’ contains only a distilled spirit and a mixer such as soda or a fruit juice; a ‘duo’ contains a spirit and liqueur; whilst a ‘trio’ has all three: A spirit, liqueur and a mixer. Beyond this primary classification, there seems to be no convention in naming cocktails.

Consider this: Four Horsemen walk into a bar with a Salty Dog that goes “Woo Woo”. “Are you Harvey Wallbanger? they asked. “Nope”, the bartender replied: “I am Terry”. “Well, in that case: We are here to inflict Death in the Afternoon and blow the Buttery Nipple clean off the chest of your Dirty White Mother with an Irish Car Bomb”.

Of course, with names like this, even I become an inspired poet.

Perhaps the closest thing to a food cocktail we have is soup. This particular soup is a very cocktail-like soup, as it mixes cheese and beer.

One of the dangers of making this soup is that you’d heat it to too high a temperature, causing the cheese to split. You do not want that to happen, as gloopy cheese soup is simply gross. To prevent that, I use sodium citrate. But you could go the roux route and use flour, or better even – cornstarch. I had lager beer, so that is what I used, but I encourage you to paly around. Craft beer does add interesting alternative possibilities.

Cheese and beer soup. PHOTO: CHRISTIE KEULDER
Cheese and beer soup. PHOTO: CHRISTIE KEULDER

Beer and Cheese Soup

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Butter
3/4 cup Finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup Finely chopped celery
1/4 cup Finely chopped onion
1 cup Flour
1/2 teaspoon Paprika
1/8 teaspoon Black pepper
1/8 teaspoon teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
3 cups Chicken stock
1 cup Cream
4 cups Chedder cheese (grated)
330 mililiters Lager beer

Directions:

1. 1 In a large soup or stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add the finely chopped vegetables and for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until celery and onions are transparent. Then stir in the flour, paprika, black pepper and ground red pepper to make a roux. Add broth; heat to boiling over medium heat. Boil and stir 1 minute.
3 Reduce heat; stir in whipping cream and cheese. Heat until cheese is melted, stirring occasionally. Stir in beer. If desired, serve with popcorn.

2. Add the chicken broth and heat to boiling over medium heat. Boil and stir for 1 full minute. Reduce heat and stir in cream and cheese. Heat until cheese is melted, stirring occasionally, but do not the let the mixture boil. Stir in beer. If desired, serve with croutons or even popcorn.

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