There are a lot of cocktail blogs out there. Technically, this is another one. As with the food recipes, I focus on the practical. There’s not much point giving you a great recipe or technique for something completely obscure and hard to find. Sure, oddities crop up, but I keep them to a reasonable proportion, not the vast majority. (Imbibe Magazine, I’m looking at you!)

Detailed below is the shorthand I use to make reading and using drink recipes much more quick, efficient, and easier to remember. It’s designed for use on index cards to keep at hand, and you may want to use it that way as well.

Now, I have no illusions about the originality of this: I did invent it, and I’ve never seen anyone else do it, but it’s so obvious in retrospect that surely someone else has done the same, or better. (If you’ve seen better, I’m willing to trade up!)

General format

· glass (chilled or on ice, if so)
ingredients (in order, if any)
– garnish


Name is the drink name, obviously, but because entire families can fit on one card with this method, it may be the name of the family, such as Hopper or Collins. If so, the basic recipe or common items will appear as the usual recipe, and the rest of the name with whatever is added to complete the variation will appear elsewhere on the card. (Sounds confusing but you’ll see.) If a shooter, the word “SHOT” appears on the top right corner, opposite the name.

Any questions that need asking, such as use of vodka or gin in a martini, will appear immediately below the name.

The glass is the type of glass to be used, and is preceded by a dot (·). If chilled it will have a comma and then “chilled” which means to fill it with ice while preparing the cocktail, then remove the ice before pouring to serve. (If you have the space and foresight to chill glasses in a refrigerator or cooler, so much the better.) A drink to be served on the rocks will just have a comma and then “ice”. A salt or sugar rim will have a similar notation here. An alternate choice may follow the preferred glass, in parentheses. Note that some drinks don’t specify a glass but will still specify ice. The combination method is also listed here, if necessary. A general guide is listed below.

Usually, shots do not include a glass, being obviously a shot glass by definition. If it’s a layered shot, the glass line will say “· layered”. If it’s not layered, odds are that the shot will be best shaken, and that a hurried bartender will simply build it.

Each ingredient lists the ingredient amount and name, and if there’s an alternate choice it comes after the ingredient, in parentheses. The amount is in ounces unless it’s a fill (in which case it says “fill”) or a different unit (for example, 2 t.). Two items to fill simultaneously will be bracketed together, the bracket pointing to “fill”. Note that brand names are proper nouns, and thus capitalized. If an ingredient is followed by “(float)”, the floated ingredient is not mixed with the rest, but carefully poured on top at the end to form a top layer.

The garnish(es) line is preceded by a dash (-) and will include special garnish instructions such as skewering or balancing across the top.

Instructions are reduced to the bare minimum for usual procedures. Most times, the instructions have already been covered in the above items, something I’m mystified at not seeing in guides everywhere. Instructions are usually needed when there are 2 parts to making the drink, for example, muddling 3 ingredients then stirring in another one or two.

What about those methods of combining ingredients? Here’s an easy rundown that applies to any drink where the method isn’t specified on the “glass” line:

Shake: when the recipe includes fruit juices, sugar to dissolve, or viscous ingredients (such as simple syrup, egg, dairy, or cream liqueurs).

Stir in mixing tumbler: when using light (non-viscous) mixers or only distilled spirits.

Stir in serving glass: when making a “mixed drink” which is a spirit and mixer over ice, such as a screwdriver or a gin & tonic. A gentle stir is also the best method when carbonation is involved, such as tonic or beer. Yes, the categories on this site do not differentiate between mixed drinks and cocktails (a subset thereof) because it quickly becomes muddled and hard to guess which a given drink will be filed under, and ease of use is the whole idea here.

Build: when making something in which some layering is desired. The recipe will specify to build. This happens with layered shots, for example. Add the ingredients in the order listed: you’ll be reading down and they’ll be building up, so the layers will be in the inverse order they are on the page. Such is the nature of language and gravity.

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