Cocktail Making 101 – What You Need to Get Started in Cocktail Making
When making a cocktail, it’s important to get the balance right. You want the drink to be balanced between sweetness, sourness and bitterness.
You can do this by mixing the ingredients in the right proportions and letting your taste buds tell you when something’s too sweet or too tart.
Cocktail making is a craft that can be mastered through experimentation and trial and error. The basic building blocks of a good cocktail are spirit, balancing agents (like sugar or citrus juice), modifiers (like liqueurs or bitters), and water. Mixing these ingredients in the right proportions creates a well-balanced, flavorful drink.
Many bartenders use a cocktail recipe book to create their signature drinks, but it’s also easy to make a homemade version at home. A simple rule of thumb is to stick to three main ingredients: a spirit, a balancing agent, and a modifier. For example, a Negroni is equal parts gin, vermouth rosso, and Campari.
Modifiers can add a wide range of flavors and aromas, like floral, herbaceous, or umami. They’re often used to complement high-proof alcohol, and they can also dilute a cocktail’s strength or balance out flavors that might overpower the booze.
For instance, Worcestershire can give Bloody Marys their savory kick and cranberry juice adds a fruity, tart hint to a cosmopolitan. In addition, most cocktails are made with water to help dilute their flavor and balance the spirits.
Shaking is the method of choice for certain cocktails, and it’s a technique that can change the taste of a drink. This is especially true for drinks that contain thick ingredients, such as dairy products or egg whites.
It’s best to shake when a cocktail is made with distilled spirits or very light mixers, such as flavored vodka. But it’s also recommended for cocktails that include fruit juice, dairy products, or simple syrup.
If you’re mixing a cocktail with soda or tonic water, shaking isn’t always necessary; simply layer the ingredients and stir for 10 seconds. That’s a much more subtle approach than the “vortex” that some people try to achieve when mixing with shakers or spoons.
Some of the most popular cocktails, such as the Mojito, Manhattan, and Martini, are all made up of just three key ingredients. For more advanced cocktail recipes, however, you’ll need to use a higher number of components.
In order to make cocktails, you need a wide range of ingredients. There are different types of spirits, mixers, and garnishes that you can use in your drinks.
Alcohol is the primary ingredient that you will need to mix your cocktails. You can find a variety of different liquors, including gin, vodka, whiskey, and more. These spirits have different flavours and aromas that you can use in your cocktails to create a unique taste.
Liqueurs are another important element that you will need when mixing your cocktails. They come in a wide variety of flavours and can help add a sweet and fruity taste to your drinks.
For example, you can buy a rum that is flavoured with orange and add it to a cocktail to give it an extra sweetness. You can also get a tequila that is flavoured with lime and add it to your cocktails to create a fresh and tropical taste.
Another essential ingredient for your cocktails is sugar. It is used to balance out many popular drinks and adds structure and mouthfeel. It can be added to a Martini or a Daiquiri.
Bitters are another important ingredient that you will need when making your cocktails. They can give your drinks that extra kick to make them stand out from the crowd.
They can also be mixed with other ingredients to add flavor and complexity to your cocktails. They are made by soaking botanicals in alcohol. They can be infused with different herbs, spices, and even dried flowers.
It is best to use clear or grain alcohol when making bitters because it maximizes flavor extraction and preservation of the botanicals. This will ensure that your cocktails taste their best!
Aside from the aforementioned elements, there are some other ingredients that you may want to consider stocking in your bar. Ice is an obvious one but you can also add mint to your simple syrup, which will make your drinks much more delicious!
If you are a beginner, you should stick to simplicity but as your skills improve, you can add more complicated ingredients like bitters or spices.
The techniques used in making cocktails are important because they can make all the difference between a good cocktail and a great one. A little practice will go a long way toward improving your skills, so don’t be afraid to put in the work and learn all about these different methods.
Shaking, dry shaking and stirring may seem like a lot of work but they are actually very simple techniques that can really make a big impact on the overall quality of your cocktails. The shaken method is often used with cocktails that include cream or egg-whites because it allows the ingredients to aerate & emulsify better than they would with ice alone.
To shake a cocktail, build the ingredients into the cocktail shaker & fill it two-thirds of the way with ice. Holding firmly, shake briskly for 30 to 60 seconds. Then strain the liquid into your serving glass.
Another technique that can be used to improve the taste of your cocktail is frothing the drink, which refers to pouring the ingredients from a tall vessel into a smaller vessel. This can be particularly helpful when using vermouth and sherry because it enhances aeration and releases aromatics.
Chilling glassware is also a great technique to help keep your cocktails cold for longer without diluting the drink. This is especially important for drinks that don’t have ice, such as a Martini or Manhattan.
Stirring a cocktail is a bit more subtle than shaking, but it still requires a delicate touch. It’s best to stir your drink slowly so you don’t break or crack ice and create bubbles or shards of ice that will dilute the drink.
A muddler is a bartender’s tool that can be used to crush ingredients such as mint, citrus peel and ginger into the drink. Muddling is a great way to add texture and flavor to your drinks, so it’s worth taking the time to practice this technique.
You can find all sorts of premixes and cocktail cordials on the market, but these are usually too strong for most people’s tastes. Instead, try using fresh ingredients to give your cocktails a truly unique and satisfying experience. This is a great way to impress your guests and show them that you put a lot of thought into every aspect of your cocktails.
As with any hobby, there are plenty of tools that you can buy to make your cocktail making experience more efficient. However, if you’re just starting out, it can be overwhelming to know exactly what equipment you need. Here’s a quick look at the essential bartender tools that you’ll need to prepare drinks that impress your customers:
Ice: It’s one of the most overlooked items when it comes to cocktails, but it’s also essential for keeping the drink cold. Depending on the drink, you may need larger cubes for Old Fashioneds and margaritas or smaller rocks (cocktail bar slang for ice) for classic cocktails like gin and tonics.
A good ice cube tray and a freezer that can quickly produce ice are two important pieces of cocktail-making equipment. Besides keeping the drink cool, ice also helps prevent bacteria growth and adds a refreshing taste to the mix.
Shakers: These handy little tins are used to shake most cocktails, and you’ll need at least one for each type of drink. They range in size from regular 18-ounce shakers to larger 28-ounce Boston shakers.
Stirrers: These long-handled bar spoons can help you mix cocktails by stirring the ingredients into the liquid with circular movements. Usually, you’ll also need a mixing glass to hold the mixture while you’re working.
Strainers: These are useful for separating the ingredients in a mixed drink from any ice chips or other traces of them. They’re small and affordable, and come in a variety of styles to fit your bar needs.
Jiggers: These handy measuring cups measure both single and double shots of your liquor of choice. They’re great for ensuring the correct amount of alcohol goes into each cocktail, and are also handy for preparing infusions, syrups, and pre-batching cocktails mixes.
A chopping board is another necessary piece of bartender equipment, especially if you’re cutting garnishes or lemons and limes. Having a hygienic chopping board will keep your knife sharper for longer, and it also makes it easier to prep ingredients in advance. If you’re planning on styling your cocktails, a channel knife will be handy for peeling long, thin spirals from citrus fruits.