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By Nimble Bar Company

The Nimble Bag of Bartending Tricks

The Nimble Bag of Bartending Tricks

How To Exude Confidence Behind The Bar

Bartenders need to project confidence. Our ability to do so puts our guests at ease, gains their trust, and gives them permission to have a good time. Master these bartending tricks and you’ll be oozing confidence and blowing your guests away in no time.

Years ago, I was working my way through a speedy seven drink chit, when I suddenly realized that all 7 guests around the bar were silently watching me work. They were transfixed. With all eyes on me, it dawned on me that in that exact moment, I had the power to transform these guests’ experience with a few simple-but-powerful bartending tricks.

Now, when I say tricks, I really mean movements. I’m talking basic things you can do with your tools and your drinks that’ll captivate guests and shift their experience from mediocre to mindblowing. I’ll share some of these tricks right here in this article.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to employ these bartending tricks subtly. Quietly. Like a ninja.

But before we get to the meat of the matter, we need to get one thing straight:

As bartenders, we never use loud noises, or do anything too ‘peacock-y’ to entertain our guests.

We don’t want to disrupt our guests or take their attention away from their conversations, but by using these functional movements in an unobtrusive way, your bar skills and stylish flair will make their experience more memorable. Whether guests decide to watch or choose to focus on something else, at least the decision will be theirs.

Bartending is a Dance

For the sake of this exercise, think of bartending the same way you’d think of salsa (the dance, not the condiment). Certain steps and methods are the same across nearly all styles of salsa; it’s when you create your own movements and personal style that you start to really build on those basics. The tricks I’m about to teach you are going to help shape your own personal style and build on the basic bartending strategies that you already have (and if you don’t, you can learn them at the Nimble Bar School).

But before you start flinging your spoons in the air during your next shift, I recommend that you give yourself a couple of months to practice these bartending tricks at home. You can do so by doing the drills described each of the videos below.

As you read through this article, bear in mind that these tricks are just the beginning. In time, we’ll show you even more movements that you can add to your repertoire.

Trick #1: Tin Flips

If you’re totally new to bartending tricks, this is where you’ll want to start. You’ll use this trick a lot — like, nightly.

The goal of the tin flip is to get the tin where you need it to be as quickly as possible.

 

 

In the video, I move pretty fast. You’ll probably want to start out slow to get the hang of the movement. Notice how I roll the tin over the back of my hand. This might take a little work. Be sure to practice in a place where you won’t break anything if you drop the tin. And make sure the tin’s empty, too…

Once you’ve mastered the tin, you can also use the trick on other tools, like spoons and bottles.
 

Trick #2: Tin Pivots

Tin pivots are the next movement to master because they can be used in combination with tin flips. The key here as you spin the tin horizontally is to get your thumb and fingers out of the way. Then, you can spin the tin on the ball of your hand.

These pivots are extremely versatile and can be used on bottles, assembled Boston shakers, and various glassware.

 

 

After you get the hang of the pivot, try combining the move with the flip. Flip the tin first, and then pivot,before setting it down. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes- it’s part of the fun!

For one final variation, try pivoting your shaker after you seal it for a greater effect.

 

Trick #3: Shake & Stir

(aka: double shaking and double stirring)

After you’ve built your drinks, you can shake one drink and stir another at the same time. Kind of like a more advanced version of the belly rub + head pat at the same time.

Nothing communicates confidence like actions that clearly say, “I know what I’m doing; no big deal” and that’s exactly what the shake & stir is all about.

After you’ve built your drinks, you can shift up your performance gears by shaking one drink and stirring another at the same time- kind of like a more advanced version of the belly-rub-head-pat.

The trick to this trick, if you will, is getting your spoon all the way to the bottom of your tin, otherwise, you’ll spill the drink.

 

 

Trick #4: Pour ‘Cuts’

The way most bartenders cut off their pours is- well… boring. They pour into a jigger and tentatively, gently lift the bottle away. Tentative and gentle? Doesn’t exactly exude confidence, now does it. You can easily add some boldness to your work and spice up an otherwise boring pour with a couple of super simple techniques.

The first cut is called a ‘swoop.’ Why, pray tell? Because, fair bartender, you must swoop thy bottle.

 

 

The Swoop

Here’s what you need to do to pull off a stellar swoop:


After you make your pour, let the bottom of the bottle (now at the top since you’ve turned the bottle over) fall to the side until the bottle’s weight turns everything right side up. Then, swoop the bottle around- like I did in the video- to keep the rest of the liquid in the bottle as you finish the pour.

Notice in the video how I’m holding the neck of the bottle between my index and middle fingers; then, I use my thumb to turn the bottle over. This method makes everything look much smoother and makes the move miles easier to pull off.

 

The Bounce

Try this for a second:

Imagine having a salt shaker in your hand. Are you with me? Now imagine shaking that salt shaker over a big plate of fries. That movement you’re doing? That’s the bounce. Now, you’ll be trying to pull of a bounce with a bottle- not a salt shaker. To make it work, you’ll need to pull the bottle up from the bounce at the bottom, then flip it over (right-side-up) to stop your pour.

Notice how I’m holding the bottle the same way I was during the swoop. You definitely don’t have to; I just think it’s easier for different types of bounces- but you can play around with it and make it your own. For maximum pro effect, be sure to keep the labels of the bottles facing your guests while you perform these cuts.

These elegant flourishes bring flow to your style. And, with a little practice, you can perform cuts with the tin after you’ve poured your drink.

 

Trick #5: Spoon Flair

You’re going to reach for a spoon at least 60 times a night, so you might as well make it fun for you and your guests.right?

My all-time favorite spoon tricks are the flip from the glass or the spin, both of which are very similar to the tin flip and tin pivot.

The spoon flip is actually a little easier than the tin flip because you’ve got a long, thin spoon to grab onto after you complete the trick. The spin, on the other hand, is a little more challenging.
To get started, try spinning the spoon around your index finger (don’t expect it to work the first time; keep practicing, you’ll get there).

 

 

Bringing It All Together…

Ok. We’ve covered the tin flip, the tin pivot, the shake and stir, two different types of cuts, and spoon flair. That’s a lot to take in, so don’t feel like you’ve got to master all of these at once. Just like shuffling a deck of cards or learning to whistle, take it slow and stick with it and eventually you’ll get it. Practice, practice, practice.

If you give yourself time to master these bartending tricks, you’ll be 100% more entertaining than 99% of other bartenders (how d’ya like them apples?). Your movements will communicate confidence, show your guests a great time, and even help you set the tone for your night.

Want more?

We coach professional bartenders to master their craft and become leaders. Interested? Click here to find out more about the Nimble Bar School.


By thenimblebar

Vlog 4: Vancouver Cocktails: A Whirlwind Tour

Vancouver cocktails: a few of our favorite things

First stop, The Modern Bartender. What good is a cocktail expert without his tools? I’m not exactly sure, but he won’t be mixing drinks. This great little shop on E. Pender in has everything you need to craft amazing beverages. It’s basically a candy store for the cocktail obsessed.

Next up, Whiskey Wiseman Nick Harborne took us to the Irish Heather. Here, we met possibly the most knowledgable whiskey expert we’ve ever seen. We then crafted a smokey cocktail we affectionately named Camp Vickie (it has Miss Vickie’s potato chips in it!!!).

The Shameful Tiki was our third stop, and we’d definitely recommend a visit. Check out our linked post for full details on the amazing tiki vibe.

And what would an exploration of Vancouver cocktails be without a trip to Keefer Bar, one of the world’s 50 top cocktail bars?

We then made a custom cocktail to embody the awesome hippie vibe of Kitsilano. Check it out.

Want some bartending training? Check out Ryan Boyd’s Fine Art Bartending schools in Vancouver or Calgary.

And we saw some bears.

Liked this video? Don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube and share! And check out our other travel blogs.


the Offering Cocktail on Long Beach for Davines

By Reese Richards

“The Offering” Cocktail at Pacific Rim National Park

A Cocktail in a Hut on the Beach –
Stress Test at 1st of 29 Canadian National Parks

When you’re embarking on an adventure as epic as our cross-Canada tour, you’ve got to do some serious planning.  Since Nate, Kyle and myself will essentially live out of a small trailer for our trip, we have to pack carefully and only bring what we need.  Our meals, water usage, electricity, and media storage also require intentional budgeting. Our first stop, Pacific Rim National Park, gave us an opportunity to evaluate our gear and our plan. We called it our ‘stress test.’

According to Wikipedia, a stress test is

“a form of deliberately intense or thorough testing used to determine the stability of a given system or entity.”

Since the three of us will be together pretty much 24/7 for the next four months, our stress test also evaluated our relational dynamics. Thankfully, we can stand each other pretty well!
When we got to Pacific Rim, we learned that there bears and wolves had been sighted in the park earlier that same day. Kyle trembled for a bit (he might deny it, but I saw him shake).

The park itself spans over 500 square kilometers and three distinct regions: Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands, and the West Coast Trail. We camped at Green Point campground at Long Beach and filmed the creation of a bespoke cocktail in a driftwood cave.

A Cocktail on a Beach – “The Offering”

The cocktail, called “The Offering”, is the first of 10 bespoke cocktails that we’re creating for Davines (the organic hair care products company) throughout our trip.  For this first cocktail, Davines wanted something that incorporated tobacco into the drink as a shout out to the historical tobacco industry of Virginia. They chose the name “The Offering” to pay homage to the native American tradition of the sacred offering of tobacco. This cocktail definitely presented a challenge. Working with tobacco in cocktails can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. To keep the cocktail safe and flavorful, we decided to pull the flavor from the tobacco by infusing a small amount of it into honey.

Pacific Rim National Park Video Highlight Reel

Here’s a video highlight reel of our time at Pacific Rim National Park – camping, cocktails and cooking.

“The Offering” Cocktail Recipe

    • 2/3oz tobacco infused honey
    • 2/3oz lemon juice
    • 2oz dark rum

Top with soda, garnish with cinnamon stick & lemon swath

 

Location

Green Point campground in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia, Canada in between the towns of Tofino and Ucluelet. It has 94 campsites suitable for both tents and small trailers.

Facilities

  • Water
  • Food Storage
  • RV Hookups
  • Washrooms
  • Showers
  • Electricity
  • Firewood for sale

Wildlife

  • Black Bears
  • Cougars
  • Wolves
  • Martens
  • Minks
  • Black Tailed Dear
  • Racoon

 

Marine Wildlife

  • Seals
  • Porpoises
  • Sea Lions
  • Whales

 

Highlights

Surfing and storm watching at Long Beach

West Coast Trail 

 

Cost of Camping

$43.30 – 3 people for 1 night

$20.00 – 3 bundles of wood

Total Cost of Camping 1 Night in Pacific Rim National Park: $63.30

 

Recommended Bars / Restaurants Nearby

In Tofino: Wolf in the Fog, RedCan Gourmet Restaurant, Ice House Oyster Bar, Sea Monster Noodle Bar, Wildside Grill

In Ucluelet: Floathouse Patio & Grill

 

 


By thenimblebar

The Smoked Cocktail: A Wild Spur Kinda Night

The smoked cocktail: Perfect for a night around the fire

About once a year, we make sure we get out to the beach so that we can have a fire and hang out with some good friends. This year, we decided we’d make a cocktail that fit the occasion perfectly. Never thought you could infuse a cocktail with campfire? Read on for an introduction to our smoked cocktail.

You see, cocktails can be paired with more than just food.

They can also be paired with a mood, event, occasion, or spirit.

If you’re going to gather around a fire, why not incorporate that into your drink? We paired the same tools necessary for the campfire for the cocktail. What’s the most beautiful thing about the fire aside from its enchanting glow?

It’s the smell.

We cut up small pucks out of bourbon barrel staves so that they fit most glasses very well. Then you take a butane torch to it until it catches fire and put your glass over top of it.

Almost any cocktail tastes great when smoked.

Want to infuse your cocktail with some campfire? Check out our proprietary Nimble Puck.


By thenimblebar

A Beginner’s Guide To Martinis (and Their Variations)

Martinis for beginners. In the world of cocktails, the martini holds a special place. The mention of its name conjures its distinct glass and garnish, as well as images of its distinctive drinkers. People of influence  casually saunter to the bar and say, “Martini, please”:  businessmen and women, well-to-do housewives, and, of course, James Bond.

The martini, however, is more than just a pretty face. It’s a cocktail of substance;  each variation possesses unique, and, you might even say, magical qualities.

In this article, I’ll describe six different martinis, what you should know about them, and what occasions to make them for.

The Introduction Martinis

Meet the ‘introduction martinis.’ These cocktails best suit two types of drinkers:

  • Those who haven’t developed a taste for spirit-driven cocktails (cocktails made up only of booze — no citrus or added sugar).
  • Those who think that vermouth in a martini is gross. These drinkers are stuck chillin’ in the 90s, when bartenders would leave bottles of vermouth (a fortified wine that is NOT shelf stable) on the back shelf for years. Old vermouth is gross.

The introduction martinis are:

The Fifty-Fifty Martini

A.k.a The pre-prohibition martini or the original dry martini.

The recipe for the fifty-fifty was most common prior to prohibition. As the name suggests, the fifty-fifty contains equal parts dry vermouth and london dry gin. The fifty-fifty also contains some citrus influence via orange bitters and a lemon twist.

I made this for a novice drinker a few years ago. When he tasted it, he exclaimed, “I’d always order a martini if it tasted like this!”

I don’t think he said this because I did an amazing job mixing the drink. I think it was mostly a matter of priming his palate by giving him an idea of what he was going to taste. Don’t get me wrong; formula and execution matter. But so does priming a guest’s brain and palate.

With the fifty-fifty/pre-prohibition martini, guests will smell a very pronounced lemony-freshness on the nose followed by clean, cold, and strong juniper. The drink finishes off with subtle orange-bitter notes. The equal measure of dry vermouth significantly softens the punch of the gin.

Recipe:

1.5 oz gin (preferably Plymouth gin)

1.5 oz dry vermouth

2 dashes of orange bitters (Regan’s or Angostura Orange)

Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

Garnish with lemon twist  — be sure to express the oils over the drink.

The Vesper Martini

Created by Ian Fleming in  James Bond, 007.

The vesper martini provides a fantastic introduction to mixed drinks because its origin story is steeped in pop culture. First, it’s directly connected to  James Bond, 007. Second, the vesper is kind of like James Bond took the traditional martini and said “I’m gonna do it my way!”

James Bond’s martini sticks it to the traditional in 3 ways:

  • It mixes gin AND vodka (wtf?).
  • It adds Kina Lillet, which is in a family of fortified wine that is different from vermouth (the primary difference is quinine in Kina Lillet versus wormwood in vermouth). The closest approximation to Kina Lillet widely available today (2017) is Cocchi Americano.
  • It’s shaken, not stirred!

Bond also made up his own ratio of 3 parts gin to 1 part vodka to 1/2 part Kina Lillet. And since it’s 007 we’re talking about, he probably considered 1 part equal to 1 ounce.

While folks often refer to the vesper as James Bond’s martini, Ian Fleming actually only had 007 order it once in all of 14 Bond books. Most of the time, Bond would order a vodka martini (which is technically a kangaroo cocktail) with an olive.

In 1986, the makers of Kina Lillet removed quinine, which made the Kina Lillet a completely different product — Lillet Blanc. These days, the ingredient that most closely approximates the original kina lillet is Cocchi Americano.

Drinkers should find the vesper’s taste and experience extremely accessible. Vodka softens the juniper punch of the gin and the Cocchi Americano sweetens the drink up a bit.

Recipe (adapted):

1.5 oz london dry gin

3/4 oz vodka

3/4 oz Cocchi Americano

Just do it  —  shake it — or at least ask the guest what they prefer, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Most fancy cocktailers will insist you stir this, but there are never hard and fast rules.

Garnish with a lemon swath and be sure to express those oils over the drink.

The Standards

The standard martinis either come with a savory garnish — usually olives —  or a twist of citrus zest. While the formula for the cocktail itself may not change, the type of garnish used can radically change the drinker’s experience. Use a standard martini with one of the following drinkers:

  • The hungry drinker. A standard martini makes a perfect palate cleanser. The citrus twist imparts fresh aromas, which combine with the clean texture of the gin and vermouth. The booze-soaked olives, on the other hand, are the perfect savoury snack to whet the appetite. This martini will never make a guest feel too full for food, unlike beer.
  • Due to the martini’s versatility, drinkers can add their own creative flair. They can choose ANY citrus zest, and ANY olive. Because a standard martini is a very ‘clean’ canvas we’re painting on, the garnish will definitely have a dramatic effect on the experience.

Recipe:

2 oz of gin

1/2 oz dry vermouth

Either a twist OR olives

In my opinion, a london dry style gin will work well with a twist or olives because: a) the bright and sharp juniper works very well with the clean fresh aroma of a twist. B) Juniper and coriander, often the prevailing botanicals used in gin, are originally pickling spices. We all know that olives pair fantastically well with pickles!

The Dirty Martini

A dirty martini is a martini that contains olive brine. Gin and olives accentuate any martini, and olive brine takes the flavors and mouthfeel even further. Note, however, that martinis without olive brine make better palate cleansers.

When I make a dirty martini, I use gins with pronounced notes of Grains of Paradise (which, to me, smell like some kind of mechanic’s grease), or Mediterranean herbs (rosemary, thyme, etc.). Respective examples are Aviation, and Gin Mare.

The amount of brine I add varies depending on the type of brine. We’re only trying to add a bit of sodium and mouthfeel, so usually about a quarter of an ounce will do.

A note on extra, extra, extra dirty martinis: while guests can order whatever they want, I find that a martini with tons of brine is a strange thing. They’re basically saying to me: “I want to drink alcoholic saline.” Weird, no? Excess brine totally covers up the gin. You could probably make the drink with absinthe and the guest wouldn’t know the difference.

The Gibson Martini

As is the case with all great cocktails, the gibson and its pickled onion garnish tell an awesome story.

Charles Dana Gibson created America’s first national standard of feminine idyllic beauty in his satirical drawings of Gibson Girls. Gibson Girls were characterized by both fragility and voluptuousness.

A real-life portrayal of a Gibson Girl

You could say that the gibson martini embodies both of these qualities. The gibson garnishes the martini’s delicate body with TWO cocktail onions. The number of onions represents a Gibson Girl’s two voluptuous breasts. The gibson is the only cocktail in the common repertory that calls for an even number of garnish. Tradition would generally call this bad luck.

Recipe:

2 oz gin of guest’s choice

1/2 oz dry vermouth

Stir, and strain in a chilled cocktail glass

Garnish with TWO cocktail onions

 

The Dry Martini

The dry martini we know today differs significantly from the original (see the fifty-fifty above). If a guest asks for an ‘extra dry’ martini, they often just want a very cold glass of gin with a twist or with olives. Originally ‘dry’ meant substituting sweet Italian vermouth for dry french vermouth , NOT using less dry french vermouth.

Nonetheless, I generally use a 1/4 oz of dry vermouth when guests ask for a dry martini. A 1/4 oz of dry vermouth added to a punchy London dry gin, though, honestly won’t change the drink very much.

Recipe:

2.5 oz –  3 oz of gin.

0.25 oz Dry Vermouth

A challenge that often comes up with dry martinis is a low ‘washline’. The washline refers to where the drink comes up to on the glass, and is a very important subconscious indicator of the value that the guest is getting. A low washline causes the guest to say “hmm..that is a small drink” even if there is the same amount of alcohol. We never want a drink that is dwarfed by the glass.

People are conditioned to expect that they receive a full glass, so it is in your best interest to ensure that you exceed their expectations on first glance.

This being the case, you may need to bump up the amount of gin you put in a dry martini to make up for the lack of dry vermouth.

Martinis That Aren’t Quite Martinis

These relatives make an excellent choice for guests who want something a little different.

The Martinez

The martinez is the modern martini’s granddaddy. The modern martini (along with the Manhattan, Rob Roy, and others) all descend from the vermouth cocktail (sweet italian vermouth, bitters, ice, twist).

So the vermouth cocktail was a great mid-day, low-octane cocktail that wouldn’t muddy the waters too much. But eventually drinkers longed for a bit more booze in their vermouth cocktails. So imbibers began adding all kinds of spirits to vermouth  —  gin, brandy, whisky, etc. As a result, we now have cocktails like the manhattan, martini, and Rob Roy.

Note the use of sweet italian vermouth in this recipe instead of dry french. The italian vermouth exploded in popularity in the 1880s. In fact, all extant print recipes prior to 1931 used italian vermouth.

So, when it comes to today’s common repertoire of drinks, the martinez is actually the closest thing we’re making on a regular basis to the original martini: gin, sweet vermouth, bitters, and a twist).

Recipe:

3/4 oz london dry gin

3/4 oz old tom gin

1.5 oz sweet vermouth

1/4 oz maraschino liqueur

2 dashes Boker’s Bitters

Note: I’ve adapted this recipe to suit my own palate. The original actually calls for 2 oz of italian sweet vermouth to 1 oz of old tom gin. This proportion, with the maraschino liqueur, makes for a very sweet drink. I add old tom gin to bring down the sweetness of the italian vermouth. Then I bolster the two with a nice london dry. This combination, I find, attains a better balance.

The Arsenic and Old Lace

In Joseph Kesselring’s 1939 black comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, the protagonist, Mortimer Brewster, must contend with his maniacal family. This family includes two homicidal aunts who enjoy murdering lonely men. The aunts feed men a concoction of elderberry wine (often floral, like the violette in this cocktail) laced with “arsenic, strychnine, and just a pinch of cyanide.” In the non-fatal version of this cocktail, we substitute the arsenic, strychnine, and cyanide with absinthe.

Poor lonely old man

Recipe:

1 3/4 oz london dry gin

3/4 oz dry vermouth

1/3 oz violette liqueur

3 dashes of Pernod

Stir, strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Garnish with a lemon twist or something floral

Well, there you have it. A guide to six magical martinis and stories to go with them. Have a taste, serve them up, and don’t forget to prime your guests with their peculiar histories.


By thenimblebar

Drinks and Drams With Whisky Wisemen

In this episode we get our feet wet in Vancouver by mixing up a couple of delicious whisky cocktails with Whisky Wisemen’s co-founder Nick Harborne.

Who are the Whisky Wisemen?

Whisky Wisemen is a nonprofit that hosts cocktail parties to raise money for charity. The Wisemen are now branching out into other forms of charity events like golf tournaments, whisky festivals, TV shows, and tastings.

We mixed it up with Nick to create some cocktails

Nick and the Nimble team left the ‘candy’ store with bottles of Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban and Lagavulin 8 year. Next we named our first drink, made with the Glenmorangie, the Quinta-sensual. The Quinta Ruban boasts a velvety, chocolatey, smooth flavor profile and texture.

The Quinta-sensual Recipe:

50ml Quinta Ruban

20ml Nutty Solera Medium Sherry

0.25oz Shrub and Co. Wildflower and Honey Syrup

3 dashes Mister Bitters Honeyed Apricot and Smoked Hickory Bitters

Stir in ice and strain neat into a chilled Whisky Wisemen tumbler. Garnish with two Maraschino cherries.

 

Finally, we mixed a cocktail starring the Lagavulin 8 year. We named this cocktail…

The Camp Vickie: Recipe

3oz Lagavulin 8 year

Dash of runny honey

1 Tbs BBQ Sauce

Dash of Sriracha

Use a Nimble Smoking Puck to smoke the tumbler. Rim the glass with lemon juice and mashed Miss Vickie’s BBQ smoked potato chips.

Then mix, strain, and serve on the rocks.

Cheers, Whisky Wiseman Nick. Until next time

Liked this video? Don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube and share! And check out our other custom cocktail recipes and travel blogs.


By Nimble Bar Company

7 Steps To Become An Absinthe Expert (or to act like one…)

The US government legalized absinthe more than a decade ago, but mystery and misunderstanding still surrounds the spirit. So we decided to help a bartender out and offer seminars on the worthy drink.

Absinthe, also known as the ‘green fairy,’ is a beautiful and unique spirit with a colourful history. But people always ask us, “Oh, but that’s not the real stuff, is it? Doesn’t the real stuff make you hallucinate”

We answer, “Yes, we’re using the real stuff. And no, it won’t make you hallucinate.”

Here’s our expert’s guide to absinthe

If you master the following 7 simple topics, you’ll be a conversational match for any self-proclaimed absinthe aficionado. You’ll better serve the knowledgable patron, and perhaps teach him a thing or two. And most people know so little about the drink that, if you remember the lessons in these seven steps, you’ll basically become an expert.

1. Know where absinthe comes from

Absinthe originated in 18th Century Switzerland as an over-the-counter medicine. Most potable ethanols share similar origin stories as well as similarly unproven health benefits.

A gentleman named Major Dubied acquired the original recipe for absinthe and in 1797 opened the first distillery in Couvet, Switzerland. Dubied, together with his son Marcellin and son-in-law Henry-Louis Pernod, named the distillery Dubied Père et Fils (Dubied Father and Sons).

In 1805, the trio opened a second distillery in France called Maison Pernod Fils  —  the name Pernod remains in today’s booze conglomerate Pernod-Ricard.

2. Know why absinthe was banned

From 1850 to 1900, famous artists (think Ernest Hemmingway, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe, etc.) cherished the green fairy. So did notorious drinkers like opiate-addicted Bohemians.

The widespread popularity of absinthe, its famous (and infamous) drinkers, and its high alcohol content (a minimum of 60% ABV) combined to create a certain reputation. The public knew the drink as a cause of profligacy.

In 1905, an alcoholic Swiss farmer under the influence of absinthe murdered his wife and two children. This murder hammered the final nail in the spirit’s coffin. While the farmer had also been drinking wine, beer, and cognac all day, absinthe took the blame.

The murder inspired a public petition to ban the green fairy, and 82,000 individuals signed. Thus began the absinthe prohibition in Switzerland.

A handful of other nations followed suit: the United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Absinthe, however, remained legal pretty much everywhere else.

The modern day resurgence of absinthe likely began when Brits ‘realized’ that they had never banned it to begin with, and imported the drink.

3. Know how absinthe is made

Meet the Holy Trinity of botanicals: grande wormwood, florence fennel, and green anise. Absinthe makers macerate these greens in a distilled neutral grain spirit, and then redistill the result so that bitter compounds don’t outshine the nuances of the botanicals.

If distillers bottle the drink after the first distillation, the absinthe acquires the label blanche (Switzerland) or bleue (France) due to the liquid’s transparency. These styles can be quite delicate and even somewhat fruity. Oftentimes, I have noticed notes of melon and creamy chamomile.

Some distillers perform a secondary maceration of herbs and botanicals. This further step results in a much more herbaceous finished product. The second maceration also imparts chlorophyl to the spirit and adds the famous green colour. These absinthes appropriately gain the label verte.

4. Understand the chemistry behind the louche

Louche, the French word for ‘opaque’ or ‘shady,’ refers to the cloudy colour that appears after the distiller adds water. Think of adding water to an over-proof whisky. Same concept.

Adding water opens up the absinthe, unlocking essential oils. In fact, the drink gains a louche (shadiness) when the botanicals release solid compounds (primarily anise and fennel). The release of the essential oils also cause the drink to become much more aromatic.

5. Know the different ways absinthe can be prepared

Around the world, bartenders serve absinthe in two popular styles: the French style (the most traditional), and the Czech Republic’s modern Bohemian style.

The Traditional French Style

This is where those beautiful and ornate fountains come into play:

So, you take a glass that looks something like this:

You get an absinthe spoon that looks like this:

And you put a sugar cube on that spoon. Like this:

Then you slowly run the water over the sugar cube.

Note that you don’t need a fancy fountain to do this. You can simply pour ice-cold water from a pitcher or a mixing tin over the sugar cube. Hell, you can even use simple syrup instead of a sugar cube! And then you’ll get a more consistent result.

The Czech Republic Style (a.k.a the Modern Bohemian Style)

Many consider absinthe from the Czech Republic an inferior product because the Czechs don’t use wormwood. The Czechs often create absinthe using a neutral grain spirit and then adding artificial flavours. As a result, the drink does not louche (see above).

These Czech distillers then set the sugar cube on fire and dump it in, which ignites the entire drink. You can make just about anything taste good when you add caramelized (browned or burnt) sugar.

6. Know the essential absinthe cocktails

Three cocktails make our list of absinthe essentials: The Corpse Reviver #2, the Death in the Afternoon, and the Sazerac.

Corpse Reviver #2

The Corpse Reviver #2, a 1920s classic, has gained major popularity for good reason. This drink is a perfect palate-cleansing refresher that also maintains a bit of underlying complexity to keep things interesting. If you’re looking for an accessible cocktail for an absinthe newcomer, the #2 is your drink.

Corpse Reviver #2 Recipe:

  • 1 oz (30 ml) Gin
  • 1 oz (30 ml) Cointreau
  • 1 oz (30 ml) Lillet Blanc (or Cocchi Americano for historical accuracy)
  • 1 oz (30 ml) lemon
  • 1/4 oz (7.5 ml) Pernod

Shake, strain, garnish with a cherry.

I personally like to use Pernod (technically an anise liqueur and not an absinthe) in a Corpse Reviver #2. Pernod is quite bright and shines through the other ingredients well. Pernod is also more economical than other options.

Death in the Afternoon

The Death in the Afternoon was created by none other than Ernest Hemmingway. The Death takes a more traditional French approach to an absinthe cocktail but then uses champagne instead of water. This  particular cocktail really allows the green fairy to shine in all its glory, so use something gangster. For a real treat, grab a bottle of Jade 1901, a nice quality bubbly wine, and pony up to that desk or favourite reading chair and have a deep think. Maybe read some Hemmingway.

Death in the Afternoon recipe:

  • 1 oz (30 ml) of a gangster absinthe
  • Optional: simple syrup or granulated sugar to taste
  • Top with a good sparkling wine

Sazerac

The Sazerac is essentially a whisky cocktail (whisky, sugar, water, and bitters) with the addition of absinthe. It’s served in a chilled rocks glass, neat. The glass should be half full. The drink looks very simple, and so it should.

Despite its simplicity, the Sazerac is actually one of the most challenging drinks to master. The difficulty lies in achieving an ideal sweetness. Not all sugar cubes are created equal, so using cubes can result in inconsistent drinks. To avoid the variability and achieve a consistent sweetness, use simple syrup. The chemically controlled sweetness levels put you in complete control. Note that a lighter rye, like Bulleit, might require a touch less sweetness. A bigger rye, like Rittenhouse, might call for a touch more.

Somewhere between more sweet and less lies the perfect drink.

Sazerac recipe:

  • 2 oz (60 ml) American Rye (or Cognac, or both)
  • 1/4 oz (7.5 ml) simple syrup
  • 1/4 oz (7.5 ml) Absinthe
  • 7-9 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

Stir, strain into chilled small rocks glass, express lemon oils over the drink (optional: toss lemon zest in the drink).

7. Know a bit about thujone

First, a couple fun wormwood facts to pass on to your guests:

  1. The first known medicinal use of wormwood occurred in 1552 B.C.
  2. In the Bible, wormwood and its bitterness became a metaphor for injustice.
  3. In the middle ages, new mothers would rub wormwood on their nipples to ween their babies.

Most people know that absinthe contains wormwood, and many blame wormwood for the drink’s hallucination potential. Wormwood, however, is not the cause. Thujone, an active ingredient within wormwood, can cause side effects. Thujone is to wormwood what THC is to cannabis.

While thujone consumption can yield mind-altering effects, remember that every chemical, even the most benign ones, can prove lethal when consumed to excess. What’s more, sage, the kitchen herb, contains more thujone than distilled wormwood. Most thujone doesn’t survive the distillation process. Absinthe drinkers would probably die from alcohol poisoning before they would feel the effects of thujone.

Also contrary to popular belief, thujone, if it does anything, increases cognitive capacity. If absinthe drinkers feel the effects of thujone, they’ll probably feel a higher state of clarity (in the midst of their intoxication). Maybe that’s why 19th century artists drank so much absinthe.

That said, don’t drink homemade absinthe. Home distillers sometimes erroneously mix wormwood oil with a neutral grain spirit — this combination is poisonous. Distillation makes the wormwood safe to drink.

There you have it…

7 steps to present yourself as an absinthe expert, even if you secretly aren’t one. What are some of your favourite stories about absinthe?


By thenimblebar

How To Make a Canadian Old Fashioned

Guess what’s in our Canadian Old Fashioned?!

A special day calls for a special ingredient. June 3rd was National Doughnut Day, so we made a cocktail that reflected the majesty of the day: the Canadian Old Fashioned. We used Wiser’s Whisky, a Canadian classic with a very high rye content and beautiful sweet and spicy notes.

The bitters from Trinidad and Tobago bring in clove and cinnamon to bind the whisky together. Now, you don’t have to use table sugar for the sweetener. You can mash up some donuts like we did.

“Canadian” Old Fashioned Recipe:

2 oz. (60 ml) Wiser’s Whisky

2 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Muddled Timbits

Stir, junk-strain, garnish with a Timbit.

 

Liked this video? Don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube and share! And check out our other custom cocktail recipes.


By thenimblebar

A Stump in the Grove: Honouring BC’s Majesty with a Cocktail

The Story of our Cathedral Grove
Inspired Cocktail: a Stump in the Grove

We Love the Wild, Ancient Trees of Vancouver Island

The unexpected encounters with creatures of the forest; the grandeur of massive groves of ancient cedars and firs.  This is why we decided to create a cocktail based on this beautiful piece of land called Cathedral Grove.

Cathedral Grove is 157 hectares of ancient Douglas Fir trees, and it’s the only stand of Douglas Fir trees in British Columbia accessible by highway.  If you haven’t seen massive trees in person before, we highly recommend getting out to Cathedral Grove to experience these wonders of nature.  So wondrous, in fact, that the grove made the short list for the Seven Wonders of Canada competition held by CBC television in 2007.  The 157 hectares that are Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada are part of 301 hectares that make up MacMillan Provincial Park.  You’ll find these gargantuan trees towering over highway 4 in central Vancouver Island – 25 km west of Qualicum Beach and 16 km east of the small town of Port Alberni.

A Stump in the Grove, one of our first wilderness cocktail creations, honours the beauty and majesty of our very own British Columbian coastal forests. We’ve carefully selected winter spices and foraged needles and mixed them with Stump Coastal Forest Gin and Woods Amaro Bitter Liqueur.

To offset the bitterness of the Amaro and the citrus kick from the lime, we created a sweet tea through steeping winter spices in boiling water and sugar. We finished the cocktail with lime, and rimmed with salt infused with the tips of Grand Fir needles (which have a subtle pineapple / citrus taste).  It’s decidedly woodsy, herbaceous, and earthy. The citrus blend of the tree needles, gin, and amaro accentuates the grandeur of the surrounding towering giants on a cool, British Columbian May morning.

Stump in the Grove Ingredients:

1.5 oz (45 ml) Stump Coastal Forest Gin

0.75 oz (22.5 ml) Woods Amaro Bitter Liqueur

0.75 oz (22.5 ml) Lime juice

0.75 oz (22.5 ml) Sweet Winter-Spiced Tea


Serve on the rocks, garnished with Grand Fir tip infused sea salt on the rim


Sweet Winter-Spiced Tea:

A handful of cinnamon, juniper berries, star anise, clove, and allspice mixed with equal parts sugar and water. Simmer all of these ingredients together for 20-25 minutes.

This actually isn’t the first time we’ve used ingredients from the forest in a cocktail. It certainly won’t be the last. Have any ideas or suggestions for mixed drinks that come from the forest? Mention them in the comments below and we’ll give them a try! Assuming they’re legal.

A word of warning: don’t forage ingredients yourself unless you know what you’re doing. Not all plant in our forests are edible. If you want to safely experience unique cocktails like A Stump in the Grove, join our expert bartenders at an outdoor event.

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The Nimble Bag of Bartending Tricks
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the Offering Cocktail on Long Beach for Davines
“The Offering” Cocktail at Pacific Rim National Park
The Smoked Cocktail: A Wild Spur Kinda Night
A Beginner’s Guide To Martinis (and Their Variations)
Drinks and Drams With Whisky Wisemen
7 Steps To Become An Absinthe Expert (or to act like one…)
How To Make a Canadian Old Fashioned
A Stump in the Grove: Honouring BC’s Majesty with a Cocktail