Do you like fixing drinks at home? There’s no reason why you can’t perfect the art of making a cocktail. Bartenders share tips on how to hone your craft.
Sweet and Sour
Use only fresh-squeezed lemon, lime and other juices and homemade simple syrups in cocktails. They can make a lot of difference to the drink. Here’s how to make simple syrup: Combine equal parts of sugar and water in a saucepan, or go 2:1 if you prefer sweeter drinks. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer, stirring until all the sugar dissolves. Cool before use. Leftovers can be refrigerated for several weeks.
Try something new
There’s a world of new ingredients to experiment with, from absinthe and cachaca to white whisky. Don’t forget liqueurs like Domaine de Canton ginger or St-Germain elderflower. Both can be sipped solo, added to fresh lemonade or a wine spritzer, or used in more complex cocktails. “The range of products has grown so much... it allows for so much more creativity,” says Ryan Maybee, owner of RoundTable Marketing & Consulting, USA.
Measure it right
The best bartenders measure their ingredients, and you should, too. You can use a jigger, which looks something like a stainless steel hourglass.
Muddling means to crush fruits or herbs with a pestle to release their flavours. The classic wooden muddler looks like a miniature baseball bat, but there are plastic, silicone, and stainless steel versions, too.
Bartenders are increasingly infusing gin, tequila, bourbon, vermouth and other spirits with everything, from blueberries and pears to espresso beans, chilies, peppercorns, chamomile, lemongrass, sumac and ginger.
Select good-quality ingredients and wash, peel and pit as necessary. Place in a clean jar and cover with a premium brand of spirit. Seal and store in a cool, dark location. Taste regularly to determine readiness, and then strain.
If you’re hosting, make a large batch of punch or pitchers of margaritas or sangria instead of mixing individual drinks. “That way, you can enjoy yourself at the party as well, with a drink in hand and a smile on your face,” says Van Zarr, a bartender at Bluestem Restaurant in Kansas City, USA.
Whatever you do, practice. Try different recipes and ingredients, measure everything, keep track of what you like and what doesn’t work, and practice until the results are consistent.