5 Tips for Making a Top Class Cocktail at Home
Let’s be honest, us Bartenders do have the advantage when it comes to making Cocktails. Not only have we got plenty of experience, we’ve got the Bar, all the Equipment, plenty of ingredients and fresh fruit and of course, virtually endless Ice!
However. We are always limited by what our customers will actually order. We could stand their all night ready to make weird and wacky drinks until the cows come home. But if no one is going to order them, what’s the point. So our Cocktails are always dictated by our Customers. And this is the point. Who is going to stop you from making whatever you want at home! If you want to invest in £80 Cognacs and £50 Rums for your Cocktails, you have that choice. You have no rules!
I remember as a 20yo (1997), wanting to set up my home Bar. It was hilarious. I couldn’t get hold of half the stuff I wanted. There were virtually no online resellers. Actually, scrap that. There was virtually no internet to place orders in the fist place. I didn’t get my first PC and 56k Dial Up Internet until 2001! Anyway, the point I’m getting at, you’ve never had it soooo easy to make cocktails at home! You can make whatever you want, whenever you want! And below I’m going to give you some pointers!
There is absolutely no need to max out on Ingredients. Unless you’re making clear Martini/Manhattan/Old Fashioned style drinks, a £35 Bottle of Gin or Rum isn’t going to make that much difference on the palate to an £18/£20 bottle when mixing them in Cocktails. But I do use this analogy a lot.
All you vegetarians and vegan peeps aside (you’ll still get my drift though), when you go out to Buy some Steak for your Special Friday Night Dinner, you’re not going to buy a £3 piece of Braising Steak. Nor are you really going to splash out £15/£20 on a piece of Kobe, Wagyu or Porterhouse. You’re going to sit somewhere around the £7-£10 Sirloins, Rib-Eyes or at a push Filet. The same should be said of your ingredients. Don’t buy the best of the Best, but don’t buy the cheap and nasty either.
I’m just gonna put this right out there. At the end of the Day, the Equipment REALLY doesn’t matter. Yes, I will make your life easier, but it’s not a necessity. Decent Ingredients area necessity. Not the Tools to do the job.
You could use Bottle Caps as measures. Jam Jars with Lids as a Shaker. A (clean) Tea Strainer to strainer the Cocktails. A Long Fork or Spoon to Stir the Drinks. And a sharp knife to cut fruit.
HOWEVER, if you do want to invest to show off to friends and family…and make your life easier, then I highly recommend my good friends at DrinkStuff.com. I’ve been trading with them for over 15 years now. Superb range and speedy Delivery.
As a Starter Kit you’ll need;
Jigger, that’s lined at 5ml, 10ml, 15ml, 25ml, 35ml, 45ml and 50ml. (Not all Cocktails are 1 shot of this and 1 shot of that. A lot require balancing)
Have a good shop around their website for other cool things!
When it comes to Making Cocktails, Ice is THE MOST important thing. And however much Ice you’ve got, Double it! When it comes to Events for 25/30 people, I’ll typically use around 35kg to 40Kg! That’s 20 Bags of the Supermarket Ice!
How far will a 2kg Bag of Ice go?! Well, that depends. If you’re making Martini’s then you’re going to be chilling glasses as well as shaking. If you’re making Longer Drinks, you’ll be using Ice to Shake and fresh Ice in the Glass. So typically, one 2kg Bag of Supermarket Ice will make 10 to 15 Cocktails.
(Don’t forget about Needing Ice to Chill Beers too if you’re having a Party!!)
Shaking & Stirring
Now I’m not going to tell you how to shake specifically, but there are a few “Rules” to consider surrounding the etiquette.
When it comes to Shaking vs Stirring, How do you know which to choose?
The general rule is that if your Cocktail is clear (Martini, Manhattan Style) then you should Stir a Cocktail as the finished drink should be clear. If your Cocktail is opaque…juices, purees, syrups etc, then Shake it. And when I say Shake, I mean SHAKE. Shake it like you wanna Wake it and for at least 10 seconds. No need to go over 20…I won’t go into the science of Melting Ice here, but trust me, 10-15 seconds is perfect.
Stirring, well you need to Stir for much Longer, 30-60 seconds, with the back of the spoon gently caressing the inside of the Glass in smooth circular motion as you push the Ice around creating the Chill and the Dilution.
To Garnish, or not to Garnish?
In my opinion, a Garnish is rarely there to add flavor to a Drink. And that includes Gin & Tonic. For me, the Garnish is all about aesthetics! (That’s a posh word for me!!). Customers, Guests…they Buy with their Eyes. But not only that, they Taste with their eyes too. Because a decent Sexy Garnish, is that first Impression of what you’re about to drink. All to do with the Olfactory Nerve! You know, you’ve almost sensed what something will taste like, before you actually taste it!
Also think Lemon Twist in Martinis, or heaven forbid an Olive, for me, the Martini Cocktail is all about marrying the Vermouth and the Gin. If you’ve got a cracking ingredients, why on earth would you then squeeze Lemon Zest over the top. Now you’ve just got a Lemon flavoured Gin Martini. Now that’s fine if that’s what you like, but if you’re creating a Drink to perfectly match flavours of certain ingredients, don’t add another flavour after you’ve finished.
So, when you come to Garnishes, pick something that'll make the drink look stunning, and maybe something your guests can eat too.
Watch me make one of my Signature Cocktails...
BONUS PARTY TIPS
Well, the things you need to consider...
Probably the most important part of planning your Party! You have to consider how many people will you be inviting? If planning on hosting the Party at your house, will it be big enough? Will you have to remove any furniture...if so, do you have a place to store it? If you’re hosting it in your Garden, do you have provisions in case it Rains?
What about if you have large numbers and are looking to hire a Hall. Will people be able to get there without expensive Taxis? Will it be too Big? Have you ever attended an Event in a Room that can fit 250 people, but there's only 50 of you...it feel's Empty and the atmosphere is decidedly "Flat".
Who are you going to invite? How many people can you afford to invite? Is it a family affair? If so, make sure you don’t forget anyone!
Will children be allowed? If not, make sure guests know this and that it’s clearly stated, so babysitters can be arranged.
In my experience, an average of 25% of all invitees will either decline in the first instance, or let you down last minute. It's just how things are. Life happens. So if you invite 30...don’t expect 30 people to turn up!
Don’t forget the +1’s either!
Are you supplying the Drinks yourself?! Or are you putting "Bring a Bottle" on the Invites?!
If you ask people to Bring a Bottle, it'd be a good idea for you to supply the essentials...Tonic, Coke, Lemonade, Juices etc.
If you're supplying the drinks, you don't need to go overboard. The average "Party Animal" will have 8/9 drinks, the more sensible, 5 drinks.
You could select 3 or 4 different cocktails and supply those ingredients yourself. Look for a balanced list... Sweet, Sourish and use different Spirits; Vodka, Gin and Rum...or maybe a Whisky?!
Make sure you cater for the Drivers, Pregnant friends...and those that know their limits!
DON'T FORGET THE ICE...
Oh and I might know someone who can help you impress your Guests even more, when it comes to drinks...
The atmosphere of a Party can make or break a night. Too loud and the Guests will dive outside, or to a quiet room to chat. If you have no music at all, it will take guest ages to relax.
In this day and age of smart phone technology, there are many great apps available. If you have a great Music collection, you can set up playlists on iTunes to get you through the night.
If you don’t own music, Apps like Spotify are brilliant. 90% of all tunes available to you at the click of a button. They even have Playlists ready to go!
Start off with some chilled background music for the first 60/90 minutes, gradually warming up to slightly louder Party tunes once guests have had a few drinkies.
You will over cater. FACT!
I see it every week, plates...and Plates...of food going in the Bin!
Remember, if your Party starts at 7:30pm, most will turn up at 8-8:30pm, which means most people will have already eaten. That's unless you're hosting a BBQ or a Dinner Party!
If you're hosting a Larger Party (50+) consider something like a Hog Roast, or maybe even an outside caterer. If your party is smaller, aim for a few nibbles at about 9:30pm and 11pm when the munchies kick in!
Don't use your favourite glasses for your Party! I promise you, you'll lose at least 1 or 2 to breakages!
A great tip is go and speak to your local supermarket as most of them offer Free Glass Hire these days. Especially if you buy your booze from them at the same time! There will probably be deposits involved and a condition that you return them washed as well!
However, the thing to consider with the likes of Supermarkets and Majestic etc, you're only going to get Basic Glasses. You're not going to get nice Martini Glasses, Mason Jars, Tiki Mugs etc. If you want to Hire these, then you will need a professional Hire company.