At this point, it’s an open secret among people who love good drinking and love Manhattan: There’s a “hidden” book tucked inside the new The NoMad Cookbook, by chef Daniel Humm and his business partner Will Guidara.
That not-so-secret tome? The Nomad Cocktail Book, only available with the main book.
Penned by Leo Robitschek, bar director for The NoMad’s multiple and award-winning bars, the book has about 200 cocktail recipes. To be expected. What might not be are Robitschek’s revelations that changed the way he and his team make drinks.
“Drinks really do taste better when they’re treated with precision,” insists Robitschek, who dropped medical-school plans to open The NoMad.
All new bartenders at The NoMad are given an 80-page service manual that goes into great detail about methods, practices and beliefs around making cocktails. There are seven tips that could change the way you think about shaking and stirring at home.
KNOW YOUR INGREDIENTS
At the NoMad, all new staff members are expected to taste and analyze every spirit they work with, taking into account the flavor and alcohol level of the spirit, to understand how it will impact a cocktail. Says Robitschek: “In cocktails, just as in cooking, your dish or drink is only as good as your worst ingredient.”
DON’T OVER-JUICE YOUR CITRUS
“Be careful not to press down on the citrus too hard,” Robitschek urges, “as it will release bitterness within the pith.” In addition, all citrus juice at the NoMad is fresh and double-strained to catch any unwanted pulp or seeds. (Favored tool: the Coco Strainer from Cocktail Kingdom, held underneath a regular Hawthorne strainer.)
“MAKE” NOMAD’S HOUSE ORANGE BITTERS
The word “make” goes in quotes because the process is so dang simple. Just combine equal parts Angostura and Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6.
“At the NoMad, we do not actually ‘muddle’ any herbs,” says Robitschek. “We gently tamp them in whichever sweetener is used in a recipe.” Muddling herbs— otherwise known as pressing them with a pestle or muddler—extracts tannins and other bitter, well, muddy flavors that are unwanted in most cocktails, Robitschek warns. For shaken cocktails, you can skip this step altogether: “The ice will work as a muddler and extract all your essential oils and desired aromas.”
Jiggers are “the best way to maintain consistency and precision in measurement,” Robitschek notes. (Preferred tool: Cocktail Kingdom’s Japanese-style jiggers.) When measuring ingredients, always hold your jigger to the side of the mixing glass (rather than over it) to prevent overflow from falling into the cocktail. And don’t bother rinsing out your jigger immediately after using honey, cane syrup, or other viscous sweeteners, Robitschek advises: “Reuse that jigger as you build your drink to ensure you get the full amount of sweetener into the glass.”
ICE GOES IN LAST
Never fill your shaker or mixing glass with ice until you are ready to stir. “You may be distracted before finishing your cocktail, and the ice can dilute your drink more than desired.”
GARNISH WITH PURPOSE
The finishing touch to your drink, garnishes should add flavors or aromas to complement the cocktail. Consider the aesthetics: “Your cocktails should always be photo-ready.”