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Drinkaware - For the facts
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"Frank! It's the love boat to Cuba! Shuffle board and pineapples filled with rum. Know what they do? They put little paper umbrellas sticking out the top so that when it rains, it don't thin out the liquor. " - Jessica Tandy as Faye Rilley in the feature film, Batteries not Included.
"Mixology : The study or skill in preparing mixed drinks"
"Mixologist : An employee who mixes and serves alcoholic drinks at a bar"
For any budding Mixologist (amateur or professional) the art of Mixology has the ability to be an art form, entertainment and a great ice-breaker at any party.
Art form : The art of mixology isn’t just about the presentation. Anyone can make a Screwdriver and stick a tacky umbrella with a skewered slice of orange and call it a cocktail. The art is in the creativity required to conjure up a drink from various ingredients. Too much of one ingredient or not enough of another will change an exquisite drink into a taste-bud nightmare.
Of course the end result should also be as pleasing to the eye as it is the tongue. Where appropriate, the use of mixer sticks, slices of fruit and mini umbrellas can add a touch of the tropical to what may be a very bland looking drink. However, like anything in life, don't just add them for the sake of it. Simplicity in look, will generally always outshine tackiness.
Entertainment : Also referred to as Flair, the entertainment side of mixology was made most famous on film by Tom Cruise in Cocktail and most recently on British television through Neil Lowrey and Neil Garner, better known as the Bar Wizards who were surprise finalists with their Bar Flair routine, on Britain's got Talent show.
It is fair to say that this is easier to do if you can juggle, but juggling isn't the only required skill of Flair. This is harder to practice, compared to making and tasting cocktails, especially as it may involve flying bottles, glasses or shakers. As this is a skill I'm still trying to develop, my best suggestions are use a previously finished standard sized/shaped bottle, filled with water; ensure you have plenty of room and preferably a soft flooring (i.e. not stone) and lastly, don't have any pets or small children running around while you're trying to copy anything you may have watched on a video or at your local TGI Friday's...
Ice-breaker : While harder to define, I have noticed that at a large number of parties I've either had the pleasure to host or be a guest at, that as soon as you start making coktails, people's attention will be drawn to the creation and/or drinking of these mixed drinks. Among my most fond memories are when a couple of friends who don't even drink alcohol being so excited that they were able to make a cocktail, that others were able to enjoy.
Throwing together cocktails is harder work than just providing cans of beer and bottles of wine, but with that bit of extra effort, your parties are far more likely to be remembered for the fun and creativity that you put in.