1. It must whet the appetite, not dull it. This first basic requirement of a good cocktail automatically eliminates a host of over-sweetened, over-fruit-juiced, over-egged, and over-creamed concoctions customarily found in books of cocktail recipes. For example, while an Alexander, like a glass of good port wine, may be a delightful midafternoon drink accompanying cake or chocolate cookies, nevertheless, in the sense of a pre-prandial apértif, it is definitely not a cocktail.Winner to receive a $500 shopping spree at KegWorks. (They've put together a "help page" as well.) Entry deadline is January 31. Get cracking! When you're ready, submit your entry here.
2. It should stimulate the mind as well as the appetite. The well-made cocktail is one of the most gracious of drinks. It pleases the senses. The shared delight of these who partake in common of this refreshing nectar breaks the ice of formal reserve. Taut nerves relax; taut muscles relax; tired eyes brighten; tongues loosen; friendships deepen; the whole world becomes a better place in which to live. But don't expect these results if you serve bitter drinks, syrupy drinks, watery drinks, or drinks that taste like reconditioned tin.
3. It must be pleasing to the palate. In order that a cocktail may satisfy both requirements 1 and 3, it must be dry (i.e., not sweet), yet smooth. Indeed in compounding a cocktail, the first thought should be the production of a drink sufficiently dry to wake up and energize the taste buds, yet not so sour or so bitter or so aromatic as to be unpalatable.
4. It must be pleasing to the eye. This requires no conscious effort, yet I have seen Martinis that looked like dishwater just recovering from a bad case of jaundice and Manhattans that resembled nothing else quite so much as rusty sludge from the radiator of a Model-T Ford.
5. It must have sufficient alcoholic flavor to be readily distinguishable from papaya juice, yet must not assault the palate with the force of an atomic bomb.
6. Finally, (and remember I am speaking now of cocktails only and not apértif wines) it must be well iced. Of this, more later.