If you ever have the opportunity to watch legendary bar chef Tony Abou-Ganim in action, don't turn it down. There are several reasons for this: first, he's the definitive expert in mixology and bartending today. Second, his jokes ("what lasts longer: your marriage or a bottle of Angostura bitters?") will have you clutching your gut. And third, he'll make you aware of little details that you might have never otherwise noticed.
At his seminar in South Beach, Tony, who's referred to as the Modern Mixologist, left me — someone who regularly makes cocktails at home — aghast with regards to how many things I do wrong behind the bar. Not only did he set the record straight, but he made sure to explain in detail exactly why cocktails should be made in a certain way.
- What you're doing wrong: Not chilling your glassware. "A cold drink should always be served in a cold glass," he declared. At any given time, Abou-Ganim stores two to three different glasses in his freezer.
- What you're doing wrong: Buying that economy-sized club soda. Always buy small bottles. Tony buys the eight-ounce bottles and keeps them in the refrigerator for use any time.
- What you're doing wrong: Squeezing that lime juice ahead. "Limes are very fragile," Tony explained, "so you should always squeeze them à la minute." They should be used right away, because after 20 to 30 minutes, they become oxidized. Look for fruits with smooth, dark green skin and a soft, pliable touch.
Want to know what else you're doing wrong? Find out after the jump.
- What you're doing wrong: Giving your fruit the big chill. Those limes don't belong in the refrigerator. "A refrigerated lime is about 33 percent less generous with its juices," Tony claimed.
- What you're doing wrong: Not serving your drink over fresh ice. "You must serve your drink over fresh ice to maintain its integrity," he explained. Otherwise, you'll encounter a "bruised," or watered-down, drink. The beverage should contain no more than 20 percent water.
- What you're doing wrong: Making your drink too sweet. "I'd always rather a drink be too tart than too sweet," he said. Why? Because sugar is like salt: you can always add more, but you can't take it away if it's too sweet.
- What you're doing wrong: Shaking your Manhattan. "The Manhattan is a city cocktail. It should be swanky and transparent — not foamy," Abou-Ganim explained. Give it a nice stir in ice, then strain it into a martini glass.
- What you're doing wrong: Keeping a bottle of vermouth, well, forever. Vermouth isn't a spirit — it's "aromatized wine," as Tony calls it — and it shouldn't be kept for longer than a month, tops. Buy it in 375 ml like he does, and keep it refrigerated. One martini a day means it'll last around 30 days. And when it comes to vermouth, the Modern Mixologist prefers French for dry vermouth, and Italian for the sweet kind.
It's time for me to take those limes out of the fridge and toss that three-year-old bottle of dry vermouth. 'Fess up: how many of these cocktail crimes have you been guilty of?