June 04, 2021 5 min read
We’ve all got some vodka, some whiskey and a few random bottles of liquor that have been collected and kept over the years…used once and never touched again.
They all sit and gather dust on a shelf.
There are 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 as 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.
Want to know 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:
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?
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 a simple sugar syrup at home yourself, but seriously who has the time?Grab a little bottle of Gomme Syrup to have on hand for when that cocktail occasion arises.
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. The quality of fresh juice in cocktails cannot be overestimated — it is tastier, more balanced, and more irresistible than any other alternative. Our juices are handy for cooking as well as cocktails.
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 - choose to garnish with as much flair or subtlety as you like.
Remember, a truly great garnish serves two purposes - decoration 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.
It’s all about balance. Bitters is an ingredient we use sparingly. Often only a few drops are required, but the effects are enormous. Bitters adds an aroma and complexity to a cocktail like nothing else.
Taste the 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 add 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.
Citrus chilli salt is a perfect example of where a little creativity can take a classic cocktail.
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.
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 your ingredients equally.
The general rule is to shake cocktails that incorporate non-alcoholic ingredients (like juices or syrups) in order to mix them together. 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 comprises a tin lid and built-in strainer. This style of shaker (commonly known as a Cobbler 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.
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 is 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 cocktails taste. This is why we don’t just throw regular ice in everything.
In cocktail-making, every little detail is important.
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