Bartenders make mixing drinks look easy, but once you try mixing cocktails at home, you might find it a tad more challenging than just pouring random liquids in a shaker.
Aside from getting the measurements of ingredients right, you also need to learn the different mixing techniques and the appropriate time to use them. In addition, you should purchase the best wine and spirits for the specific cocktail you’re planning to make.
That said, knowing the secrets from experts will definitely make things a whole lot easier.
Tips for Mixing Cocktails at Home
So, whether you’re preparing for a cocktail party or you simply want to mix and enjoy your own cocktails at home, here are seven tips and tricks that could help you do it like a pro:
1. Know Your Ingredients
It’s quite normal for non-specialists to find the fancy words used in cocktail recipes bewildering, especially since some of these terms sound the same. A good example of this is liquor and liqueur.
Liquor pertains to any alcoholic beverage that has undergone the distillation process with high alcohol content. On the other hand, liqueurs are sweetened spirits and a subcategory of liquor.
Liqueurs lend many drinks their signature flavours, while liquor is a collective term that describes distilled alcoholic drinks, including liqueurs.
So do not get confused if, for example, you are making an Italian Espresso Martini. If the recipe says you need to combine Kahlúa liqueur with chilled espresso and amaro (an Italian herbal liqueur), it is referring to a specific type of sweetened spirit. And normally, swapping it with a strong liquor will make a mess of the martini.
Besides liqueur, there are six other base distilled spirits – a.k.a. liquors – that you will most likely use in your home bar, as follows:
- Gin – distilled from grains
- Brandy – distilled from fruits (usually grapes)
- Tequila – signature product of Mexico distilled from the agave plant
- Rum – distilled from molasses or sugar
- Whiskey – begins with fermented grain distillate and mostly aged (except moonshine)
- Vodka – distilled from many different ingredients, such as grains and potatoes
2. Find Your Balance
Finding the right balance of ingredients is crucial in perfecting your cocktail drinks. And believe it or not, you’ll learn how to do this by practising with lemonade.
You see, mixing lemon juice with simple syrup at a 1:1 ratio yields a midline sweet-and-sour flavour. But since every palate is different, you may find your unique point of perfect balance by adding more syrup or more lemon to adjust how the drink tastes to you.
This method of calibration will help you make any cocktail recipe perfectly suited to your palate.
Take note that the “less is more” mantra works well when you’re only beginning to learn mixology. When experimenting with flavours, adding ingredients little by little allows you to attain perfection faster than pouring together more ingredients at once.
After all, you can always add more of an ingredient to the cocktail to adjust the flavour (i.e., add more sugar or juice if the spirit is too strong), but you cannot remove what’s already mixed into it.
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3. Don’t Skimp on the Ice
Many beginners and DIYers tend to overlook the importance of having enough ice in their freezers. This mostly stems from not knowing how much ice you can actually go through when making cocktails.
But these drinks need ice the same way bread needs flour, so make sure you stock up on as much ice as possible. If buying from stores isn’t an option, make sure your freezer is full of homemade ice so that you don’t run out.
For top-quality homemade ice, use a silicone tray with a lid. This will prevent the ice from absorbing any unpleasant odours from the freezer, especially if yours don’t have separate sealed compartments for meats and other strong-smelling foods. Don’t forget to wash your ice tray after every use, too.
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4. Begin with the Classics
Cocktail mixing is all about understanding the roots of the recipe. And everything has some kind of connection to the classics.
For example, if you’re aiming to mix a daiquiri, learning how to make a whiskey sour is a good start. Alternatively, mastering the Negroni means you can whip up a mean Boulevardier.
Find the roots of the different cocktail family trees, master them, and you’ll be bartending like a pro in no time.
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5. Invest in Proper Glassware
While it’s not impossible to drink a martini from a coffee mug, this entire scenario defeats the whole point of drinking a martini.
If there is the perfect glassware for the occasion, use it. If you truly take your home bartending seriously, you need proper mojito glasses, cocktail shakers, old-fashioned long-stem glasses, and a reliable whiskey glass, among others.
Pro Tip: For most cocktail drinks, it would be best to opt for smaller glasses. While it does leave more work for whoever is mixing the drinks, using smaller glasses ensures that the drinks don’t become warm before anyone can finish it up.
6. Stock Up on Punch
Did you know that you can pre-mix punch and store it for future use? This old trick from the forefathers of bartending entails keeping a bottle of punch stored in your fridge. Doing this will definitely help make your home bar your favourite part of the house.
If performed properly, this assures the consistency and quality of the punch.
Take note that if your punch has a fizzy ingredient like champagne, you should add it only when you’re ready to serve the beverage.
7. Don’t Forget the Presentation
One thing that separates cocktails from other drinks is the presentation. So, when mixing your own drinks or serving it to your house guests, never forget that it shouldn’t just taste good – it should look good, too.
In this aspect, even the small things matter, including using the right glass and garnish. If done with creativity, this will result in an expertly made, social media-worthy masterpiece.
Of course, there’s no universal formula that applies to every type of drink. For one, different drinks need different types of glassware. If you can’t stock every glass style, buy the most appropriate ones for the kinds of drinks you mix more often.
After choosing the right glass, you’ll also want to know the proper prep work that will make your glasses truly be worthy vessels for your cocktails:
Chill the cocktail glass
Cold drinks should go into cold glasses. This is why pro bartenders take the time to chill cocktail glasses before using them.
One way to do this is to fill the glasses with ice. Set them aside while you’re mixing your drinks.
By the time you’re done mixing, the glass should also be chilled and ready to use. Don’t forget to replace the ice used for chilling the glass with fresh ice.
Rim the cocktail glass
Salt, sugar, and other forms of flavouring not only improve the flavour of the cocktail but also add texture and create a whole new experience.
To add salt to your margarita glass, you can start by applying liquid (e.g., lime juice) to its rim. Then, turn the glass upside-down on a dish filled with salt and dip the entire rim until fully coated before pouring the cocktail into it.
Mix Like a Pro
Mixing cocktails at home doesn’t need to be complicated. Learn the tips and tricks listed here and mix your favourite drinks like a true pro.