You’ve got some vodka, some whiskey and a few random bottles of liquor you’ve collected over the years. Used once and never touched again.
They all gather dust on a shelf.
There’s some fancy glasses in the cupboard for special occasions.
You never use them.
Every now and then, you get inspired to throw a few things together to make some kind of fabulous boozy creation - but it just never turns out quite like it does in your favourite bar.
So, you stick to wine at home and save the fancy cocktails for when you go out. Leave mixing drinks to the experts.
Can we tell you a secret? That bartender didn’t know how to mix a perfect cocktail once either and they probably don’t drink any better than you do at home without a fully stocked bar at their disposal.
They had to learn how to mix the perfect drink and you can too. It’s all about having the right ingredients and tools for the job.
When you bake a cake, flour and sugar are the obvious ingredients, but it’s the little things that make it so good. The baking soda so it rises, a touch of spice for kick, warm syrup poured over to serve.
Cocktails are exactly the same. Anyone can throw some booze and a mixer in a glass, but making it into a delicately balanced flavour experience is all about those extra little details.
If you want to make cocktails at home that will have your friends posting your efforts all over Instagram, these are the 10 essentials you need.
1/ Quality Crafted Spirits
A quality cocktail is only as good as its ingredients. The best quality spirits quite simply taste smoother and better. And isn’t the whole point of a cocktail about having a delicious, indulgent drink you’ll enjoy?
That’s why Cocktail Collective source only the best quality, locally crafted spirits and choose an ultra smooth Reposado Tequila for our Margarita cocktail box.
2/ Gomme Syrup
A little more complex than simple sugar syrup, you’ll find this is a must in most cocktails.
Generally, only a small amount is used, but gomme syrup is vital to creating balance when there’s citrus and other strong flavours involved.
You can make this at home yourself, but seriously who has the time? We ensure you have a perfectly portioned 200ml bottle of gomme syrup when that particular sweetener is called for. That’s enough to stand you in good stead for 10 to 15 cocktails.
3/ Pure Juice
Fruit juices are a powerful player in adding flavour, acidity, freshness and texture to a beverage.
When shaken, pulpy and citrusy juices help create froth which elevates the aroma of all ingredients and increases the sensory overload we associate with a top-notch cocktail.
Of course, squeezing fresh fruit is always ideal but when it’s hard or expensive to find the fruit you need, it’s handy to have a juice option in the cabinet. Did you know we’ve squeezed the juice of nine limes into our 100% pure lime juice? That’s 350 ml of locally sourced juice from the Hawkes Bay, which gives you easily enough to service a round of cocktails. Our 100% pure lemon juice contains the juice of at least eight lemons. So pure they’ll keep for up to 12
months, our juices are handy for cooking as well as cocktails.
“I love lime and the juice used in this kit is absolutely lovely” - Janine S, Auckland
“I have been bartending and mixing drinks internationally for 25 years and have always struggled to find a good pre-squeezed juice for cocktails. These juices are EXCELLENT. They taste fresh and have no bitterness which is a trait of other pre-squeezed juices I have worked with. Aside from squeezing fresh citrus as you need it, I have never worked with better.” - Grant P, master mixologist
4/ A Great Garnish
Part science, part art, there are no hard and fast rules on what you should or should not do. It’s really up to you and you can choose to garnish with as much flair or subtlety as you like.
Just remember a truly great garnish serves two purposes - ornamentation and flavour enhancement. The classically simple maraschino cherry, for example, adds sweetness and a pop of colour to cocktails - perfect for the likes of a French 75 cocktail - while a trio of olives on a cocktail stick delivers a hint of saltiness and visual interest to a Martini.
Cocktail Collective cocktail boxes pair a range of unique garnishes to cocktails. From flavour-packed freeze-dried blood oranges in our Bourbon Old Fashioned Cocktail Box, to Maraschino cocktail cherries in our French 75 Cocktail Box, and bold blend coffee beans in our Espresso Martini Cocktail Box, to a stunning citrus chilli salt in our Margarita Cocktail Box.
It’s all about balance. Bitters is an ingredient we use sparingly. Often only a few drops is required, but the effects are enormous. Bitters add an aroma and complexity to a cocktail like nothing else.
Taste one of our Bourbon Old Fashioned before and after you mix in the bitters and the absolute transformation will blow your mind.
A little goes a long way. Salt affects your flavour receptors and serves to enhance the underlying flavours of your drink, in the same way that bitters adds depth. When we think of salt with a cocktail, a salted rim comes to mind first, but adding a little pinch to a mix can also have incredible effects. Popular cocktails that would not be the same without a little dash include the Bloody Mary, La Paloma and Salty Dog...
An easy trick to spice up your Margarita at home is to try blending some spices like chipotle or smoked paprika with sea salt to add some heat to the rim of your glass.
Our signature citrus chilli salt is a perfect example of where a little creativity can take a classic cocktail.
"Amazing!!! Perfect having all the right ingredients to make from scratch. The citrus chilli salt - OMG yum! " - Debbiana M
7/ Triple Sec
A handy staple to have on hand for any regular cocktail maker. Triple sec is a clear, strong, sweet orange flavoured liqueur. Used in Margaritas, Old Fashioneds, Sangria and a host of other popular cocktails as a sweet fruity point of balance, any serious cocktail maker will certainly have some in the pantry.
8/ Spirit Measure
A vital tool of the cocktail-making trade. When mixing drinks, just like when preparing food, the right proportions are everything. Accidentally over- or under-pour just one ingredient and you’ll end up with an entirely different drink to what you intended.
Cocktails are all about the perfect balance. Your spirit measure keeps that balance accounted for.
Shaking is a vital step in the making of a very long list of cocktails. It’s the most effective way to quickly chill all ingredients equally.
The general rule is to shake cocktails that incorporate non-alcoholic ingredients like juice or syrup in order to mix them together. A shaker is an absolute requirement for anything frothy or creamy. Shaking results in a brighter, more refreshing tasting drink.
Purely alcohol-based cocktails like a Martini or Negroni on the other hand are best stirred and left to mellow so you can sip slowly.
Silver, gold, leather-encased, decorated, large or small, glass or metal... shakers come in a vast range of shapes, sizes and colours. A three-piece shaker, comprising a tin lid and built-in strainer, like our Omaha Shaker is a great all-in-one place to start.
What a difference temperature can make.
A Beachcomber or Moscow Mule is best served over fresh standard ice so it’s chilled. To make a perfectly frothy Espresso Martini, shake with lots of ice but serve with none. A Mojito is in its prime poured over crushed ice. A king cube or ice sphere looks great, as well as having the job of chilling and diluting slowly in a Negroni.
Different varieties of ice dilute and chill at different ratios, and affect how your cocktail tastes. This is why we don’t just throw regular ice in everything.
In cocktail-making, every little detail is important.
So there you have it.
With Cocktail Collective’s home-delivered cocktail boxes, you can share fabulous bar-quality cocktails at home without the bar prices anytime you please.
All the ingredients you need to easily create delicious classic cocktails at home are perfectly proportioned so you won’t have remnants of random bottles that hang around for years to come. Necessary tools are included. Just supply the ice, grab a glass and you’ll be ready to mix, pour and enjoy.