The Secret to Good Cocktails

The Secret to Good Cocktails

Jul 14, 2014 by Christine & Anca

Mixologist extraordinaire at New York’s Black Hound Bar and Lounge, Eleonora Herdean, crafts some of the best cocktails we’ve ever had — intriguing, balanced, and complex. Once a season, we brainstorm possible combinations using local produce, then set aside several hours to let her work her magic. Which is, of course, followed by taste testing. Tough job.

Between shaking and muddling and sipping, we asked Eleonora about her inspirations and secrets for the perfect cocktail. And we’re thrilled she’s sharing her answers here today.

When creating a new drink, where do you begin? Where do you get inspiration?

Every season brings new inspiration for me, along with my passion for food. I get super inspired by fresh juices in the summer and comfort flavors like apple pie in the fall. I like to begin by thinking of my main component, whether it be a fruit, an herb, or a vegetable. Next, I think about what liquor will best bring out the flavor I’m looking for. Every liquor has its own flavor profile. I try not to limit myself to just one liquor and encourage everyone to think outside the box and explore.

What is the secret to creating a well-balanced cocktail with layers of complexity?

A well-balanced cocktail starts off with a few fundamental ingredients: alcohol, sugar, and acidity. Using the right proportions will make or break your cocktail. My standard ratio is 2 ounces of alcohol, 0.75 ounces of sugar to 0.75 ounces of acid. After you have these three components, the possibilities are endless. Your sugar component can be as simple as honey, agave, or simple syrup, but adding a liqueur for example, eliminates that step because it already has sweetness and will add a layer of depth. The acidity can come from lime, lemon, grapefruit, and even orange juice. If you are a foodie like me, you can explore other acidic variables from around the world as well.

In terms of adding complexity, bitters doesn’t just mean Angostura anymore. There are a slew of choices now ranging from rhubarb to chocolate. Just a couple drops will enhance the quality of your drink.

What are 5 essential spirits you think every home bar should be stocked with?

I would like to say you only need 5 essential spirits on hand, but that would be a lie. Personally, I would have two different styles of tequila. A silver and an aged one. My favorite aged tequila is Suerte Anejo. Of course, you can round out your bar by making sure you have your favorite gin, vodka, bourbon and a rye whiskey. You can easily concoct a great cocktail with any of these spirits. Consider what your friends enjoy drinking too.

What is your favorite season for cocktails and favorite seasonal ingredient?

Summer is hands down my favorite season for cocktails. Nothing like having a refreshing, crisp drink on a hot summer day. Ever since I was a kid, my favorite ice cream has been mint chocolate chip. So it goes without saying that my go-to ingredient would be mint. I love the clean, fresh taste, and the brightness it adds to any summer drink.

What is something unexpected or surprising that you learned while working behind the bar?

Creating a cocktail that’s not on the menu is not as intimidating as it sounds. It’s actually quite fun. I enjoy the challenge and I’m very fortunate to have a variety of spirits, liqueurs, herbs, bitters, fruits, and other ingredients to experiment with!

Make this amazing cocktail and search the HUCKLE & GOOSE database for BLACK HOUND BAR to find Eleonora’s other recipes.

Cilantro Lavender Gimlet

  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, 8 to 12 sprigs
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
  • 6 ozs gin
  • 3 ozs St. Germain
  • 2 ozs lavender simple syrup, homemade or purchased
  • 3 ozs lime juice

Place 2-3 sprigs of cilantro and one lime wedge into a cocktail shaker and muddle to release the oils.

Pour in the remaining ingredients, add ice, and shake for a few seconds.

For a smooth pour, empty mixture through both a cocktail strainer and a fine mesh strainer into your favorite glass. Repeat for 3 more drinks.