Recently, we interviewed Merit Badge’s Matt Mount about his six top tips for creating the perfect zero-proof cocktail. Since we couldn’t fit all of his ideas into print, here is some more wisdom from Mount for fellow cocktail makers:
1. Balance of Sharp Tart and Sweetness: Is the drink bright? Is the drink too syrupy?
2. Texture and Body: Is the drink falling flat after two sips? How is the mouthfeel of the drink?
3. Space for Other Flavors to Shine: Are some flavors getting lost that you want to taste? What can I bring up/down that won’t lose the other flavors and ingredients?
4. No Need to Rush and Keep It Experimental: What are some of my favorite flavors? What flavors might I be excited to experience together?
5. Measure Everything and Write Down Your Findings: This is key if you come across a fantastic drink you’d like to re-create for yourself and/or others.
6. Almost Always Start With a Core Flavor: This can be a flavor or ingredient that will need some stretching or counterbalance, but it’ll be the anchor in the drink.
7. Don’t Forget the “Cooking” Part of Building the Drink: I love starting that process with three flavors, one core and two support, and working up and out from there.
8. Use Fresh Ingredients as Much as Possible: Fresh juices really make these drinks, so juicing, squeezing, pressing and fresh citrus is highly recommended. And fresh herbs, fruit and produce also will give the greatness these drinks deserve.
9. Water Is an Awesome Ingredient for This Style of Drink Making: Filtered water can help balance strong flavors, and carbonated water is your friend! An example would be: pear (core that plays well with other); fresh lemon juice (support): Orgeat (support). Once this is balanced, we can add more support flavors like ginger or fig or rosemary with consideration of the type of flavor that is being added.
10. Sometimes Just Adding the Right Garnish Makes the Drink: The “finishing salt” to complete a drink can for sure be the garnish. Does it add aroma? Does it add a hint of color that the finished drink needs?
11. Glassware Can Really Make the Drink: Ask yourself, is the drink even more enjoyable served up in a coupe glass rather than over ice?
12. Focus on Look and Color: Make sure your creation looks delicious to drink. Many bars take this into consideration with their cocktail menu.
13. Shake Zero-Proof Drinks: I love shaking zero-proof drinks! If you do shake your zero-proof drink, be careful to not overdilute the drink. Each shake will add more water to the drink, so sometimes a couple hard shakes to integrate and chill the ingredients is all you need.
14. Straining Double Straining Matters: If you’ve pressed whole herbs or cut fruit into your drink, straining out the larger solids might be the way to go.