Anatomy of a cocktail:
(From the Ultimate Bar Book – Chronicle Books)
A cocktail is made up of three principal ingredients: the base alcohol (or basis) the body (the modifier) and the perfume (the flavoring agent).
This is the main liquor ingredient that the cocktail is built upon. It is the largest component of the drink, and thus not only determines the type of drink but also dictates the other elements that are appropriate in the drink. For example, in a Sidecar, the base is brandy, and so it is considered a brandy cocktail, whereas in a Daiquiri, the rum is the base. In the classically proportioned cocktail, mixing bases, such as gin with tequila, is a mixological faux-pas, but this rule is frequently broken, such as in the Long Island Ice Tea.
The technical term is “modifier”, meaning an ingredient that modifies but does not completely dominate the base spirit. Without it, the drink is no longer a cocktail. The body is the component that holds the drink together, adding a consistency, weight, or texture, whether it be a light juice, a champagne, a clear vermouth, or heavy cream.
The Perfume accentuates and enhances the base alcohol and is typically the smallest element proportionately. It could be a fruit, nut, coffee, or herbal liquor or even a syrup or bitter, which sometimes brings a new dynamic to the drink with aromatic notes, such as hazelnut, orange, strawberry, vanilla, or cherry. The flavor agent can bring sweetness, bitterness or color to the drink and, even in minute amounts, completes the fine balance of the cocktail.