Art of the Cocktail, Part 1 – moonstones
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a cocktail as “a usually iced drink of wine or distilled liquor mixed with flavoring ingredients,” a fairly broad definition that leaves a lot to the imagination. Historians tend to disagree on the exact origin of the cocktail, though many think it probably traces to sometime in the early 19th century, very likely in England. What the first cocktail might have been is also disputed (the Sazerac and old-fashioned are both contenders). Even the origin of the term “cocktail” is cloaked in mystery. Some say the term originated in New Orleans from the French word coquetel, an eggcup that doubled as a drink glass. Others claim that “cocktail” once referred to drinks that were stirred or decorated with an actual cock’s tail, and that over time the definition was broadened to include drinks mixed without the help of our feathered friends.
Whatever the truth might be about the cocktail’s past, mixed drinks have earned a place in our contemporary culture. The mere mention of the word “cocktail” evokes images of smoky jazz-soaked nightclubs brimming with stylish people. They are served at the beginning of nearly every event imaginable, from corporate mixers to wedding receptions. We have cocktail parties, cocktail dresses, and you have to wonder: What would James Bond be like if he ordered a beer instead of a martini?
In the recent past, cocktails have undergone a transformation of sorts. Serving as creative outlets for bartenders (or mixologists, as some like to be called), modern cocktails often are made from the finest ingredients, regularly including things like freshly squeezed juices, homemade syrups and bitters, spices, exotic fruits, and locally distilled spirits made with great care and attention to detail. These drinks look almost as good as they taste. Some might even say that modern cocktail craft has been elevated to an art form.
Read on to discover inspired creations by three Merrimack Valley bartenders. Try making these drinks yourself, or round up a group of friends and enjoy a fantastic night out.
The Clementine Negroni is a tangy adaptation of the classic Italian cocktail. Although the origins of the iconic Negroni are disputed, one thing is clear — its combination of gin, vermouth and Campari, garnished with a citrus rind, was unheard of on these shores until filmmaker Orson Welles published one of the earliest known reports of the drink. According to the website “A History of Drinking,” Welles said of it, “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.”
It’s that sense of balance that makes the Clementine Negroni an exemplar of the art. You’ll find it served by moonstones’ Jeff Mousseau at the Moon Bar in Chelmsford. Mousseau shared this drink with us for its “exceptional balance of citrus, sweet and bitter.”
On this page you’ll find an original moonstones’ cocktail, the Mo’roccan. It’s made with herbs, spiced rum and ginger beer. The warming properties of rum and fresh ginger contrast nicely with the fresh herb taste of basil and the sparkling sweetness of the ginger beer.
Although still in his 30s, Mousseau has been tending bar for more than a decade and is adept at using the techniques he has acquired in that time to create perfect cocktails for guests’ individual preferences. Now that’s art.