The other day I received a text from my cousin Mike he was at a restaurant and was drinking a cocktail called The Gordian Knot. The menu had a brief description that sounded fantastic, it read:
THE GORDIAN KNOT
Split down the middle equal parts brandy and rye – Spicy character notes inherent in each. Add to that a soothing blend of honey-sweet lemonade an fresh pressed-sage.
Reading that it seems a whole lot like a Whiskey Sour to me. So I thought I’d give the Gordian Knot a try. The result is a very balanced and wonderful cocktail. The sage adds an unexpected summer flavor to an otherwise big drink. I used cognac over brandy to keep it a bit less booze forward, but I think Brandy would work exceptionally well too. I also used honey syrup in lieu of straight honey, as it will mix much better.
The Gordian Knot
Redemption Rye. Courviosier VSOP. Lemon. Honey. Sage.
The Goridan KNot
A very balanced and wonderful cocktail. The sage adds a wonderfully unexpected summer flavor to an otherwise big drink.
- 1 oz Rye
- 1 oz Cognac
- 1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1/2 oz Honey Syrup
- 1 Sage Leaf Gently Muddled
Very gently muddle sage in cocktail shaker, really just bruise it.
Add remaining ingredients.
Shake well with ice.
Serve in Old Fashioned glass over large block of ice.
Garnish with a rolled sage sprig.
Creating Great Craft Cocktails
Over the years I have made a large number of cocktails, but it was not until about the last year I focused on making great ones. Previously, I made the usual drinks. Like a blender full of frozen strawberries, a bunch of rum, lime juice and sugar, for a strawberry daiquiri sort of thing. Around a 2018 I began seriously studying cocktails in earnest. Because of this deeper dedication the quality of my cocktails improved to craft mixologist level.
There were three things that helped the most, and two of them were probably not surprising. The two that are simply logical are high quality ingredients and knowledge of technique. The final element was a study in depth of cocktail history. I found I needed a base of knowledge to guide me and my ability to make amazing cocktails others will like.
The Similarity Between Cocktails and Cuisine
Creating an excellent meal is similar to creating an excellent cocktail. In contrast though cocktails are faster and much less forgiving. Rarely do cocktails have more than 6 ingredients. Also as rarely, they are not prepared over a long period of time usually less than 2 minutes. Similar to cuisine, people like what they like. If someone hates lobster, no mater how well you prepare it, its still lobster. I have found the same goes for alcohol, gin haters can taste gin, and will hate it.
Cocktails, like cuisine, are about balance. Balance in food comes from 6 profiles, which are, sweet, sour, spicy salty, bitter, and unmami. Cocktails balance on only four, those are sweet, sour, boozy and dilution. Therefore by paying attention to the balance it is far easier to make a great cocktail.
Three Aspects of a Great Cocktail
High Quality Ingredients
High quality is harder in cocktails than one might expect, the non alcoholic ingredients have shelf lives, and take effort. The alcoholic ingredients can be very expensive and, at times of a limited usefulness. Making syrups, and always having fresh fruit on hand is important. As is having the proper liquor. But if you want something like a Corpse Revivier #2, possibly one of the most balanced and perfectly made cocktails, you will need Lilet, but how often will you use it? In a vesper maybe,or a Lilet cocktail, but it’s not a common ingredient. High quality is hard in cocktails. It took me over a year to build my bar, which is currently well north of 100 different bottles. I really had to commit. Not everyone has to go to this level, but having expensive straggler bottles is a side effect.
I came to realize that professional mixologists have a huge leg up on me. They mix many more drinks than I ever will. To learn technique I had to make, and most times drink a bunch of cocktails. Also I had to buy a full kit of real bar stuff. Things like shakers, mixing glasses, bitters, ice cube trays, its a long list. But it helped.
Finally, I needed to research the history, which is important for me. I have built a little society of friends who are “cocktail historians” like me, and it really helps. I also have quite a few historical books I draw upon. Knowing what something is, and where it came from is powerful. Especially in knowing how to make it, and how to develop a wholly new cocktail.
So please join me on my journey, with whatever effort you want to put in. I will be doing, and drinking, the research, and trying new things. So we can all enjoy a cocktail together.
Try our other cocktails: