The Beginners Guide To Amazing At-Home Cocktails

Like scones with jam and cream. Like gin with tonic. Like Beyonce and Jay-Z.

Some things are just made for each other.

When you’re enjoying a perfectly balanced cocktail, it’s like magic. All those ingredients were made to be mixed together exactly like that.

Cocktail Collective is all about bringing bar-quality cocktails to your home, minus the bar prices.

Let Cocktail Collective share a few tips on how to make amazing cocktails at home that are so good you’ll be proudly posting them #madethismyself.


First things first

Like anything, a cocktail is only as good as the ingredients you’re using. That’s why we source only the best quality craft spirits, juices and garnishes we can get our hands on.

All our juices, syrups and garnishes are locally sourced, grown and made right here in New Zealand to cut down on food miles and support our local producers. When you order from us, you can feel good in the knowledge you’re supporting fellow Kiwis.

Tools of the trade

There are a few handy, basic barware tools we recommend if you’re serious about making top quality cocktails at home:

  • A good shaker (like the Omaha Shaker available on our website - a great place to start)
  • An accurate spirit measure to keep things perfectly balanced (included in all our cocktail boxes)
  • A strainer for perfect pouring (included in the lid of our Omaha Shaker).
  • Quality glassware for serving and best possible taste (a selection of which is available on our website)
  • A wooden muddler for extracting ultimate flavour from your fresh ingredients.

It’s all down to technique

This is where the fun begins. Once you learn a few of these simple tips, you’ll realise that you can be just as impressive as the best bartenders in town.

Chill your glass

Super simple, but so often forgotten. The first step to any cocktail should be to chill your glass. This ensures your drink stays at prime temperature for longer. It also helps you look super impressive and theatrical when mixing drinks for friends (and really, so much about cocktails is about the theatre).
Do this by simply placing a few ice cubes in your glass while you prepare everything else. Alternatively, if you have space, you can pop glasses in your fridge to chill.


The general rule is that any cocktail with non-alcoholic ingredients like juice, coffee or egg is best shaken. Shaking is the most effective way to quickly and simultaneously chill and combine all your ingredients.
Generally, we’d recommend that once you’ve poured in your ingredients, fill your shaker about three-quarters full with ice, pop on the top, give it a tap to ensure it’s safely sealed, hold a hand on each end, and as Taylor Swift would say, shake it off.
You want the liquid to hit each end of the shaker, top and bottom, as you shake so you’re mixing effectively. 15-20 seconds will do the trick.  A thorough shake will not only give your arms a mini workout, it’ll also give your cocktails a brighter more refreshing taste.


Cocktails that are entirely alcohol-based (like an Old Fashioned or Negroni) are better simply stirred. This is so the ingredients are thoroughly chilled but not diluted by all that melting ice. A cocktail bar will do this in a crystal jug with a metal stirrer, but if you have a glass jug and a spoon at home, they’ll do the job just fine.

For best results, start by chilling your glass and prepping any garnishes you need, then pour spirits into a jug. Ice is the very last thing you should add to minimise how much melts and dilutes into your drink. Give your drink a quick, vigorous stir, and you’ll be ready to strain.


Strainers are called for when we want to separate our liquid ingredients from solids like ice or fruit. Some cocktails call for double-straining, but generally one strainer is all that’s required. Some shakers (like our Omaha Shaker) have inbuilt strainers. This is super handy, but not all do. Hawthorne strainers and Julep strainers are the most common ones, but a mesh strainer (not too dissimilar to a tea strainer) can also be used, particularly if double-straining is called for.

To strain your drink, simply place the strainer over the mouth of the cocktail shaker or jug, place your forefinger and middle finger over the top so the strainer stays secure and gently pour into your glass. A mesh strainer sits on your glass and you pour your drink through it.


Muddling helps extract the flavour from fresh ingredients. That burst of freshness you get with a Mojito is from the mint and lime first being muddled with the rum.

Muddling is simple but just takes a little elbow effort.

Throw your fresh ingredients (mint, fruit, sugar) into the larger half of your shaker, add your spirit, place the wooden muddler in your cup, and gently but firmly press down and twist.

Muddlers can be made from a number of materials. Gentle muddling is best done with a wooden muddler while a stainless steel muddler can handle more vigorous muddling. Muddlers can also be a handy tool to have on hand when you need to crack your ice.


For all this talk of shaking, stirring and muddling, there are still some cocktails that are best built in the glass. Usually, we would do this when ingredients are to be floated on top of each other (think: sunset effect in a Tequila Sunrise).

Having said that, rules are made to be broken and sometimes we might build in a glass and give a little stir.


How cool is it when you get a drink that has layers as it goes down the glass? It’s not actually hard to do. You just need a good spoon, a steady hand and some patience.

To layer or float an ingredient, simply rest the rounded back of a spoon on the rim of your glass. Slowly pour each ingredient one by one down the spoon. When done correctly, each ingredient should run down the spoon, down the inside of the glass and remain separate from the ingredients below.

Tip: Not all liquids are created equal. Think about which ingredients will be heavier than others and layer accordingly starting with the heaviest. Liquids with the least water and the most alcohol are generally lighter and floated on top.


Top it all off

Finish it off with the right garnish to really add to a cocktail’s wow factor. This could be as simple as a wedge of citrus, a skewer of cherries, olives, a flower or a slice of citrus peel. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

Garnishes are a lovely final touch that make your cocktails super impressive. Our Espresso Martini, for example, comes with a side of delicious chocolate-coated coffee beans.

Why limit happy to an hour, when you can make cocktail bar-quality drinks at home for a fraction of the price?

Now you’ve got some secret knowledge up your sleeve, all that’s left to do is decide which super convenient, ready-to-mix Cocktail Collective Cocktail Box you’re most excited to try first.

 Download Our Free Infographic

 beginners guide to cocktails

 Click. Mix. Pour. Enjoy.