When it comes to cocktails, one of the biggest myths is that they’re difficult to make, but in most cases, that’s far from the reality. At last count, there were 646,850 working bartenders in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but you don’t have to be a professional to mix your own. If you like to cook from scratch, you’re sure to get plenty of joy from making tasty drinks too.
Invest in the Basics
To be a mixologist, you’ll need to stock up on the basics. You don’t have to have everything, but you’ll have to have, at minimum, the ingredients for your favorite drink and build from there. Head to the nearest American liquor store and pick up tequila, vodka, bourbon, rum, gin, and blended whiskey.
You’ll want some liqueurs too, as they’re just as important, providing flavor to your drinks, with everything from snappy spices to sweetened fruits. A few basic staples include vermouth, amaretto, and Cointreau or another triple sec suitable for margaritas.
Always Use a Jigger
A good cocktail always requires a jigger. Even if it seems simple, you’ve got to measure the ingredients that go into it. These tiny cups are divided into the most common cocktail measurements, making them one of the most important tools in your arsenal for mixing drinks. Learn how to use it to ensure that your cocktails are always consistent and to the specifications spelled out in the recipe.
Shake It Right
One of the two basic ways to mix a cocktail to ensure that all of your ingredients are fully incorporated is shaking. You need to know how and when to use a shaker – for example, drinks made with fresh fruit should be shaken to fully emulsify them.
How you hold the shaker, move it, and the ice you use will all play a part in the results. If a drink calls for any type of fruit juice, like a daiquiri, you’ll shake it to aerate, creating a frothy body while lightning any harsh fruit flavors.
Drinks that have dairy should be shaken to emulsify and create a creamy, foamy head.
While stirring may seem like the easiest part of mixing a drink, it’s actually the most difficult basic bartending technique to master. It takes a ton of practice and patience, from knowing how to hold the spoon to how to move it. The key is to do it gracefully by holding the spoon so that it rests between your middle and index fingers as if you’re holding a long pencil.
Gently slide the spoon into the mixing glass using your dominant hand. Instead of using your wrist to propel it, use your thumb, gently guiding it clockwise around the inside wall of the glass.
As the spoon moves around the inside wall, it gains speed, creating a vortex in the center of the beverage which propels the ice in a circular motion.
Make Your Own Syrups
Using homemade syrups add a cool element to any drink. Plus you’ll save money as they’ll last for about a week and only cost the cup of sugar, and perhaps something like a thumb of ginger. Infuse your simple syrups with fruits, herbs, etc. rather than infusing spirits, as it will cut down on liquor waste.