Cocktail Making 101
Bartending is no doubt an impressive (and arguably, important) skill! If you have ever experienced a REALLY good cocktail, you'll know. From the way it looks, to the aroma and of course the way it tastes, will make you experience and appreciate the amount of skill and craftsmanship that went into that glass of joy placed in front of you! Thank goodness the days of cocktails = sugar, more sugar and being sickly are almost over!
This list is not going to turn you into a world class mixologist, as mixology is literally a science and art combined. However, it will hopefully give you a few tips and tricks to elevate your home bartending skills to the next level.
1. The Booze: The alcohol is the most important ingredient. The cocktail should celebrate the "base" spirit by being complimented with the added ingredients and the preparation.
2. Ice: Do not underestimate the importance of ICE. Possibly the second most important ingredient. Ice serves a dual purpose: chilling the drink and providing, just a touch, of dilution. Not using enough or thin ice will create too much water or not enough chill, and will spoil your cocktail!
3. When to Stir and when to Shake!:
STIR when the cocktail is fully composed of spirits or requires tonics or bitters. Stir if the drinks are built in the cocktail glass they are served in.
SHAKE when the cocktail contains citrus, diary, cream, liqueurs, fruit juices, eggs or sour mix.
4. Home bar stock: keep in mind cost, space and drinks. You may just want to choose a couple of cocktails and just stock your bar with those ingredients. However, if you fancy it being a little more robust have a look at this.
Essential spirits (get a decent quality spirit - if it is low quality, your cocktail will not turn out well):
Vodka (a widely used base spirit)
Gin (popular choice for many drinkers)
Tequila (margarita), Rum (white and dark)
Whiskey (so many to choose from but Woodford Reserve is a fantastic all rounder)
Liqueurs (Vermouth, Campari, Amaretto)
For a new base spirit, try Marala 41, not quite gin and not quite whiskey, but a new kid on the block that is worth getting.
Juices (cranberry, lemon, lime, orange)
Bitters (Angostura will cover most needs)
Simple syrup (make it yourself with equal parts water and sugar, or buy a bottle from the supermarket)
Garnishes (cherries, oranges, grapefruit)
5. There are two categories of cocktail: Aromatic and Sour
Aromatic type cocktails are those which use modifiers such as bitters, vermouth, or another spirit on top of the base spirit e.g. an Old Fashioned uses bitters as a modifier for the base whiskey.
Sour type cocktails are those which use fruit juices as modifiers e.g. Whiskey Sour uses lemon juice as a modifier, as well as syrup and aquafaba (make it vegan!), to the whiskey base.
6. Presentation: cocktails are supposed to look nice! You certainly don't need to go overboard, but a nice garnish with an orange twist or a sprig of mint makes a wonderful difference. Even if it's 11pm and you are home alone with a movie or good book.
7. Know how to make one or two cocktails really well and off by heart. You will not only impress yourself but those you make it for!