Rules are meant to be broken, and that includes the rules that create consistently balanced cocktails. Peruse any respectable cocktail menu and you will pick up on the rules for yourself, even if they aren’t explicitly laid out. Don’t add too much sugar, for example, and respect old and rare whiskey by consuming it neat rather than mixed into a cocktail. The guidelines are there for a reason—they often result in the best drinks—but if you step outside the boundaries you can find true, unrestrained pleasure. Here are six cocktail rules to break at least once in your lifetime. Who knows? You might just find that living outside the rules is better.
Put Ice and Water in Your Expensive Whiskey
You’ve likely read about Anthony Bourdain putting ice in his glass, and you might have seen a study floating around that found water scientifically improves the taste of whiskey. If you saw these and thought to yourself, “but that’s not the way it was intended to be drunk,” then you need to get out more. Whiskey, and every other spirit for that matter, is made for someone to enjoy drinking. If enjoying whiskey means watering it down or chilling it a little with ice, by all means, do it—even if it’s an expensive bottle that you paid for yourself. If you’re not enjoying your $400 bottle of scotch because you’re scared to add water or ice, go ahead and give it a go (just be sure to experiment on less expensive whiskey so you know how much water or ice you like).
It’s easy to blame James Bond for ruining proper Martinis. Purists and people who like to talk down to others will tell you 007 has no class for ordering his Martinis shaken, not stirred. But maybe you like your drink slightly more diluted and super frigid. Perhaps little flecks of ice floating in your glass don’t bother you. In fact, perhaps you like little flecks of ice. If that’s all true, then you need to try shaking your Martini like a salt shaker. Heck, even if you are a diehard stirred Martini drinker, you should try a shaken Martini—it makes for a much more aperitif friendly cocktail. Martinis are highly personal beverages, and breaking the rules could lead to your next favorite libation.
Use Canned Whipped Cream in Irish Coffee
Fresh is best, except when it isn’t. Go ahead and grab that can of Reddi-wip. You know the feeling you get when you spray compressed and artificially sweetened whipped cream straight into your mouth? You can’t do that with the fresh stuff. And who cares if it carries the same stigma as drinking milk from the carton? The only thing better is spraying it onto Irish Coffee. It’s fast and efficient, with the added bonus of being artificially delicious with booze underneath. And if you find anyone who says they haven’t enjoyed Reddi-wip on its own at least once, you’ve found a liar.
Put Expensive Scotch into Cocktails
Catching the nuances in an old, rare and expensive scotch is a delight. But you know what else is a delight? Using it in a cocktail and seeing how it transforms something like a Rob Roy or a Penicillin. You’re not wasting good scotch by breaking this rule; you’re seeing what it can really do and how it plays with others. Break this rule as soon as you can afford to.
Garnish Your Bloody Mary with Something Garish
Common cocktail rules state that, other than extravagant tiki garnishes, the decoration on top of your glass shouldn’t distract from what’s inside. Throw that out the window. Do something crazy with your Bloody Mary. Put some fried chicken on top, or a whole fried chicken if you can make it work. Add some bacon (or a bacon straw) and don’t settle for just one pickle slice. A Bloody Mary is designed to be a recovery drink/meal, and nothing says recovery like a boatload of fried, pickled and bacon-wrapped food.
Break the 2:1:1 Ratio
Many good cocktails, at their most basic, are two parts spirit to one part sour and one part sweet. Following this rule will give you plenty of respectable cocktails like the Margarita, Daiquiri and Sidecar. But, on occasion, it’s acceptable to leave the land of the balanced. Make a Margarita so sweet it makes cheap hotel bar Margaritas taste like sour Warhead candies. It’s your life, and something has to satisfy that sweet tooth. Add a couple extra splashes of good rum to your Daiquiri if you’re in the mood for something with more of a kick. Balance is reliable, but balance can also be boring. Spice things up and live life on the unbalanced side every once in a while. You won’t regret it.