(ARA) - Ah, the cocktail party -- it's been a classic, sophisticated entertaining staple for generations of Americans. But a sea change is taking place in how people think about cocktails. Across the country, in fine restaurants and the homes of savvy hosts, cocktails aren't going solo anymore.
"Pairing cocktails with food is a very popular entertaining trend," says master mixologist Alex Ott, who for 15 years has been creating cocktails for some of the world's most upscale, trendy restaurants. "Cocktails have traditionally been thought of as standing alone because of their strong spirits and flavors. Now, adventurous mixologists and chefs are exploring which cocktails pair well with and complement a variety of foods."
One spirit emerging as a leader in this cocktail revolution has a 350-year history as a favorite "straight" spirit -- gin. Historically, cocktails that have incorporated gin have been simple mixtures like gin and tonic, Tom Collins or the classic martini. However, as the spirit is enjoying a renaissance of interest among American consumers and many companies are introducing new styles of gin, including New Amsterdam Straight Gin, Ott and other mixologists, are rethinking gin's role in the cocktail world.
"Gin will always be a great 'straight' drink, especially with new varieties, like New Amsterdam Straight Gin, which delivers a smooth, unique citrus flavor," Ott says. "But it's also great mixed in more exotic cocktails and paired with a variety of foods."
While other classic spirits are based on grains like wheat, barley or rye, gin starts life with the juniper berry, which constitutes the major flavor characteristic of gin. Anywhere from three to 20 additional botanicals can be incorporated into the fermentation process, meaning no two gins are exactly the same. There are three main styles of gin: dry (often called London dry or American dry), Dutch gin (with a sweeter flavor) and German gin (also known as Steinhager).
"The spices in gin enhance a variety of food flavors, from sauces and pasta to meat and fish," Ott says. "It also adds its own layers of flavor and just a little bit goes a long way towards complementing whatever dish you're pairing it with."
Ott favors New Amsterdam Straight Gin for cocktails and food pairings. The spirit's unique recipe starts out with a neutral spirit base, adds juniper and additional botanicals that set it apart. The balance of citrus elements and a lighter emphasis on juniper berries, which can often be harsh, result in a softer mouth feel.
Ott offers a few gin cocktail and food pairing recommendations:
Lower East Side
2.5 ounces New Amsterdam Straight Gin
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce of liquefied honey
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain and pour into a classic martini glass or pour all contents into a rocks glass. Garnish with a slice of lime.
Serve with: Red meat like steak or lamb.
2.5 ounces New Amsterdam Straight Gin
3 slices cucumber
2 ounces white cranberry juice
Directions: Muddle the cucumber until the juice is extracted. Add all other ingredients, including ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a cucumber flower.
Serve with: Salads or greens.
Gin is also a great ingredient to incorporate into your cooking. Try this glaze recipe for salmon:
New Amsterdam Straight Gin Salmon Glaze
2 ounces New Amsterdam Straight Gin
2 teaspoons strawberry marmalade
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
4 ounces guava juice
1 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce agave nectar
Directions: Shake or stir all ingredients until mixed. Glaze salmon with mixture. Bake in oven in tightly wrapped aluminum foil. Courtesy of ARAcontent
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