In most people’s minds cocktails represent delicious and mysterious concoctions which need to be prepared by expert mixologists behind gorgeous looking bars. This can easily scare away someone with no experience form picking up a few bottles and try mixing their own drinks from the comfort of their home. Truth to be told, being a cocktail bartender is no easy feat, but the reasons behind this haven’t got too much to do with the making of a single drink, but with loads of different factors which will not be relevant to you as a home bartender. Just by following a few simple steps, you will be able to surprise your guests with some delicious drinks they will certainly remember.
As with everything, when starting out, try keeping things as simple and basic as possible. The more variables you add, the more likely it is that you will be overwhelmed. Anyone who have ever hosted a three-course dinner party will know this feeling. Having a selection of three simple cocktails will allow you to cover most bases. You can pick something citrusy (Daiquiri, Margarita), strong (Old Fashioned, Negroni) and something fresh (Aperol Spritz, Americano) and achieve good variety. By limiting yourself to three drinks, you will also easily be able to write up a simple shopping list. Difford’s Guide is a great place to start when looking for recipes.
Equipment & Glassware
Most cocktail bars will have an array of tools and gorgeous barware, but for a beginner home bartender, all you need is a basic cocktail shaker with a strainer and a 25ml/50ml jigger and you’re good to go. When it comes to glassware, if you have the means to provide the required style, great, but if not, there is no need to panic. If your drinks taste right, no one will be complaining. You can always build up your equipment and glassware collection later.
Ice & Garnishes
Ice is a key ingredient for getting your drinks to the required temperature and adding the right amount of dilution. It is always better to have too much ice than not enough. As a rule of thumb, a standard 2kg bag of ice will make you around 10 drinks. Garnishes are there to add an extra visual element and, in many cases, some subtle flavours to your drinks, so don’t ignore them.
Always pay extra attention to the way a drink should be prepared. In general, there are 4 main methods when preparing cocktails. Shaking means, you need to add all ingredients to your shaker, fill it with ice and shake vigorously until it gets frosty on the outside. When a drink is stirred, you add the ingredients in a glass, alongside ice and stir it with a spoon for 30-60 seconds. Building a drink means adding all ingredients in the final glassware over ice and giving it a quick stir to combine flavours. Churning a cocktail is very similar, but the whole process happens over crushed ice and the mixing is more intense.
Making cocktails can be great fun and the only way you can enjoy it is if you don’t take it too serious in the beginning. Things can go wrong, but the feeling of achieving a perfectly made, tasty cocktail will be well worth the effort. Most importantly, your guests will be overly impressed and certainly very appreciative of the effort you made to make them feel more special.
By Bence Ivanov