Mr Potato Head - aka Invent Your Own Drinks
The first time I read about Mr Potato Head, it was like a lightbulb going off.
Now after practicing the idea for a couple of years, it seems like the most obvious thing in the world.
So let me welcome you in to the wonderful, creative, and experimental world
of Mr Potato Head.
Mr Potato Head is the idea that, by substituting one or more ingredients from an existing recipe, like changing Mr Potato Head's eyes or swapping his eyes for a nose, you create a drink that tastes completely different.
"Every great drink is the blueprint for many other drinks" - Phil Ward.
I use Mr Potato Head in a few different ways:
1) To create new drinks,
2) When I don't have the exact brand or ingredient required to prepare a great recipe I've found.
Allow me to explain how you can create a new cocktail whenever you approach your shakers.
Creating New Drinks
When you're starting off, its a good idea to start out by only substituting one ingredient at a time. This will hopefully stop you from mixing anything particularly unpleasant.
The simplest way to get started is to substitute base spirits. So, choose your favourite cocktail recipe and take a look through your bar, then plug and play!
This isn't going to work 100% of the time! At first this might seem a bit like playing roulette: randomly picking spirits and testing them out, but with a bit of practice you'll find you get better and better at making substitutions that work.
From there you can start substituting modifiers (thats bartender speak for liqueurs), fresh juices and then sweeteners.
Making a recipe when you don't have all the right ingredients
If you ever find yourself wanting to make a recipe, but are missing a specific ingredient, Mr Potato Head will help you through the problem.
Step 1: Google the ingredient if you don't already know what it is (if you do already know, skip to step 2).
Google, as always, is your friend. If you see a recipe with an ingredient you don't recognise, search and check out what it is. If you've got yourself even a basic bar setup, chances are you'll have a similar product floating around.
Step 2: Plug and play!
Here is a list of common like for like substitutions.
Branded Spirits: Frequently bartenders will call for a specific brand of spirit or liqueur in their recipe. Depending on the source, this could just happen to be the brand that they use in their bar (most of the time) or if you're following/ reading a book from an award winning bartender, this particular brand has characteristics that work particularly well in this recipe.
Does this mean that you cant make the recipe without this exact brand?
If the recipe calls for a particular brand of Gin, chances are, the drink will still taste great with whatever brand you happen to have.
"Chances are, the drink will still taste great with whatever brand you happen to have."
I've been known to substitute Bourbon for Scotch or Irish whiskey. Provided you're pouring decent quality ingredients, the drink is going to taste good.
Liqueur Categories: Understanding different brands of liqueurs can also be handy (again Google). Let's take triple sec as an example.
Triple Sec is an orange liqueur. If you like to cook chances are you already have a bottle floating around in your kitchen.
Here is a list of brands of Triple Sec and Orange liqueur that you'll likely come across:
Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Curacao, Combier Liqueur d'Orange, Mandarine Napoleon, Clement Creole Orange Shrubb, Santa Theresa Rhum Orange, Royal Combier Grande Liqueuer.
Whilst each of these is a delicious Triple Sec/ Curacao in its own right the humble bottle of triple sec that you already own will do the job. When you finish your bottle of triple sec, then go ahead and pick any of the premium brands listed above.
This of course goes for any liqueur flavour that you come across.
Thats all for now, Happy Mixing...