For the best cocktail, never mix more than three ingredients, and try to refrain from muddling your mint into mush. That comes straight from award-winning barman Colin Field, who was asked to share tips on how to tend the perfect at-home bar this season. For over 20 years, Field has been the face of the historic Bar Hemingway in Paris, named after its most famous client, Ernest Hemingway.
Frozen elegantly in the 1920s, the small, intimate enclave is tucked at the rear of the five-star Ritz Paris hotel, which recently re-opened last year. It's where Hemingway spent hours in conversation with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gary Cooper, and where Cole Porter is said to have composed "Begin the Beguine." Maybe the bar inspires artful storytelling and composition. Because like Hemingway, Field has a natural way with words -- albeit more poetic and embellished than Hemingway's stark minimalism.
A good apple martini, for instance, should be like first beholding a beautiful lady, and then smelling her perfume. Because, Field explains, "A great cocktail should be subtle." A successful cocktail recipe should be composed of only three main ingredients: the body, base and perfume. The base of a cocktail is the main liquor ingredient, while the perfume adds flavor and aroma.
Field maintains that we drink a single cocktail three times: once with the eyes, then with the nose, and lastly with the palate. He creates a tragic love story about a beautiful Polish dancer who broke the heart of a poor artist, in drink form. When the dancer realizes he's not as rich as she thought, she callously leaves him in search of another, wealthier man. Lightly crushed fresh strawberries represent the poor sod's crushed soul, while homemade, five-month-old strawberry vodka symbolizes his bleeding heart. Ice cubes bobbing in the bloody elixir represent her cold heartlessness.
As for muddling herbs and fruit for cocktails, Field advises going easy: either apply slight pressure to the skin or crush lightly to release flavors and aromas. "The pores will sweat out a beautiful clear juice," he says.
Here's what Field says budding mixologists should stock their at-home bar with for summer:
Gin, vodka, Cognac, whisky, tequila, Cointreau, vermouth (red, white, dry), champagne, ginger ale, beer, tonic, prosecco, Angostura bitters, mint, cucumber, oranges, lemons, limes, strawberries, tomatoes.