If you’re used to having bartenders fixing you your favourite drink, maybe it’s time to take matters into your own hands! Some bartenders are also mixologists, meaning they practice the skill of inventing, creating, and serving cocktails professionally. This is a skill that anyone can learn as long as they have the right tools and ingredients. While being able to innovate new cocktails and highballs may take some time, creating classic drinks is relatively simple. Learning mixology can help you save time and cost, enabling you to create your favourite drinks from the comfort of your own kitchen. Start your own mixology journey with this basic guide.
Tools you’ll need
You won’t get far without the right tools for the job. Here are the basic essential cocktail-making tool kit you’ll need to begin with.
Used to mix, dilute, and chill your ingredients, a shaker is the number one item you’ll need in your arsenal.
Generic shakers are non-weighted and made of stainless steel. However, there are other types available too:
- Weighted shaker: heavier at the base so that the tin can spin
- Vinyl-coated shaker: coated in vinyl to give you more of a grip
- Powder-coated shaker: covered in a solid colour for variety
Mixology will often involve ingredients such as ice, ground herbs, or fruits, which you may not want in your glass. Strainers prevents these elements from falling into the glass as you pour your drink from the shaker.
Some shakers come with a strainer. However, if you’re buying them separately, make sure that your strainer is the right size to fit over your strainer.
Chefs use measuring cups, and bartenders use jiggers. This little pyramid-like tool is almost always made of metal, and is used to measure out liquid ingredients in shots.
You may be familiar with the most common type of jigger, the tall endurance jigger. It’s made of either metal or plastic and has an hourglass shape with two sections on either end. The taller section is called the jigger shot. It holds 1.5oz. The smaller section is the pony shot, and holds 1oz.
A muddler is a smaller version of a kitchen pestle, small enough to fit in a mixing glass.
Muddlers are used to grind and crush solid ingredients such as fruits, herbs, sugar, and bitters. Muddling these ingredients help to release more of their flavors in the drink.
There are wood, plastic, and stainless steel muddlers available, but the stainless steel is recommended as it’s easier to clean.
Other bartending tools you can get include:
- Bar spoon
- Cocktail glasses
- Bottle opener
With the right tools, you can now begin to gather up your ingredients. These are the most basic materials you’ll need that will be used in every cocktail.
It’s not a cocktail without liquor! You can stock up your home bar according to your preferences, but here are just some of the most common liquors in cocktails:
The mixers you choose will depend on what spirits you have, but it’s generally helpful to have the following drinks at your disposal:
- Tonic water
- Club soda
- Sparkling water
- Ginger beer
- Lemon juice and lime juice
These can go with any alcohol.
Additionally, you can also get ginger ale, cranberry juice, orange juice, or lemon soda.
This isn’t necessary, but it’s always good to serve your cocktail with the best presentation.
Common garnishes used in cocktails are:
- Maraschino cherries
- Limes, lemons
- Green olives
- Herbs (basil, mint, rosemary, etc.)
Almost every cocktail in the book is served cold, so ice is an essential ingredient! To create the best quality cocktail, you can’t use just any kind of ice.
It’s not recommended to use ice that has been frozen in an ice tray in the freezer. These tend to dilute quickly and water down your drink. Instead of using these, try getting larger ice molds to create more solid cubes.
As you begin your mixology journey, here are some useful tips to take note of.
When you’re only making one drink, eyeballing things may work. But if you’re entertaining guests, you’ll want a more consistent flavour and alcohol strength in every drink. This is where the jigger comes in handy!
Shaking vs. stirring
How do you know when to shake your drink in the shaker, and when to just stir it? Well, it all depends on the ingredients you’re using.
Shake drinks with mostly liquid ingredients such as juice or simple syrup. This allows the mixers to incorporate well with the liquor.
On the other hand, drinks that seek to highlight the flavors of the spirit should be stirred. Examples of such cocktails are an old fashioned or martini. Stirring ensures a good incorporation of all ingredients without disrupting any flavors.
Should opposite flavors be paired together when mixing cocktails?
In mixology, it’s all about a balance of flavors. If you’re struggling to decide which ingredients go best together, a good rule of thumb is to pair opposite flavors.
A bitter spirit will do well with a sweet mixer. Take the classic daiquiri for example. It balances the bitterness of rum and the sweetness of syrup, with just a tinge of sour from the lime juice.
Clear-tasting liquors such as vodka gives you more room to play around with tastes. You can have sour notes and even heat in one glass, such is the case with the Bloody Mary.