Friday, April 26, 2013

gaining wisdom

This is the Yarai mixing glass from Japan. It's my favourite piece of bar gear I have - bought from the ever reliable Cocktail Kingdom. Yes, the past few weeks have been ALL about the cocktails. Gin drinks, whisky cocktails, all kinds of citrus fruit squeezed, zested, and expressed. I'm a firm believer that if you're really going to do something, you do it the right way. Unfortunately, doing it the right way often doesn't correspond with doing things on a budget. But it doesn't mean you have to ball so hard. You just have to do it smart.

Wisdom. I'm maybe not getting any smarter, but at least I think I'm getting wiser. With all these things, whether it's photography, wine, food, cocktails ... certain investments have to be made. And as is usually the case, we all have to make some bad investments first before we see the light - that is, unless we have parents (who share the same interests) who pass things on to us. I don't. So I have to start from scratch, which is good in a way because I can rightfully claim that I was entirely self-taught in wine (thus far) and my latest obsession, cocktails.

So you need a basic set of bar gear. Shakers, jiggers, strainers, spoon, muddler, presses, and yes, mixing glasses. So how do we avoid making bad investments (now that I'm - nearly - 27 and therefore wiser)? Careful observation and research. It's simple really. You figure out what kind of cocktails you want to focus on - throwback classics - and the tools required to make them, and make your purchases from there. I knew I wanted to focus on gin, whisky, and rum cocktails. All throwbacks, simple drinks with minimal ingredients. And like cooking, the key is always to use fresh ingredients - like wine, to drink seasonally. So, the martini, the gimlet, the Tom Collins ... the Old-Fashioned, the Manhattan ... the mojito, the daquiri.

Always count on the Japanese to take a concept and perfect it, as foreign as it may be. It's easy to forget that cocktails are a completely foreign invention in Japan. It's still a (light) beer drinking culture - even sake doesn't make regular appearances on most dinner tables there. Yet the Japanese cocktail culture is now widely viewed as the finest, and purest in the world. From their equipment (the Yarai, the Japanese-style jigger) to their techniques (the hard shake, 'nuf said), they've managed to perfect the art of making cocktails. And yet like all other aspects of their culture, it's minimalist. They're economical in everything they do ... everything is calculated down to the last drop, the last swirl, the last shake. And that's the philosophy one should adopt. Invest in the right equipment, and no more than what is necessary.

The Yarai. With a capacity of 500 mL, a heavy base to stabilize the glass as you stir, with that stunning lattice pattern to admire for its beauty, and its grip when condensation builds from the ice. Seamless all around, with a spout for a perfect pour. A beauty.


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