Make Cocktails at Home

Learn Mixology – in your own home!

Category: Fundamentals (Page 1 of 3)

Make Cocktails at Home

Understanding Your Ingredients

Get to know what you’re putting in your mouth

Now that you have the core cocktail making skills you need to make a good drink it’s time to get up to speed on the next important part – the ingredients. Afterall, if you want to make great tasting cocktails of your own it’s essential you understand exactly what you’re playing with.

Start off by brushing up on the fundamentals behind how alcohol is made with an introduction to distillation and fermentation.

The Easy Guide to Alcohol part one – Fermentation, Distillation and Spirits

Next, dive into the sweeter side with a look at how your favourite liqueurs are made.

The Easy Guide to Alcohol part two – Liqueurs

We follow this up with an introduction to that most versatile of citrus fruits, the lime.

Easy Guide to Lime Juice – Fresh Lime, Roses Cordial and the Gimlet

Now you can tell the difference between a spirit and a liqueur , how they taste, how they are produced, and also when and why we should use fresh citrus. Great! Let’s put this knowledge to use in the next guide  as we breakdown a cocktail into it’s separate components.

Cocktails Deconstructed

Make some drinks!

With a core knowledge of the key techniques and the ingredients needed to make a decent drink it’s time for you to start experimenting with recipes of your own! Feel free to let me know how you go by leaving a comment below, I’m very interested to see what you can come up with.

/David

How to stir cocktails at Make Cocktails at Home

Brush Up On Your Core Cocktail Making Skills

Ready to brush up on your skills?

To make truly great tasting cocktails it’s important to understand both the reasons and the mechanics behind how they are made. Although it may sometimes seem like it, (good) bartenders do not just reach for the shaker every time they make a drink – they use the right tool for the right job, at the right time.

Start by having a quick look at the different types of bar equipement you’ll be using.

Essential Home Bar Equipment

 

Now that you have an idea about the equipment, it’s time to  answer the age old question – shaken or stirred?

Have a look at the different mixing methods and when you should use them.

Mixing Cocktails 101 – The Methods – Overview

 

And the Individual methods

Mixing Cocktails 101 – The Methods – Build

Mixing Cocktails 101 – How to stir a cocktail

And of course, the all important

Mixing Cocktails 101 – The Methods – Shake and Strain

 

How to stir cocktails at Make Cocktails at Home

Mixing Cocktails 101 – How to stir a cocktail

The proper way to stir a cocktail

 

For more info about bar equipment check out the ‘Essential Equipment for your home bar’ blog post

Time for the next post in my series on mixing methods, and today we’re going to take a look at stirring, or stirred,  cocktails.

I’ve previously covered shaking, an aggressive action we use when we need to mix ingredients that that differ greatly in consistency (mixing spirits, juices and syrups together for example), but what if we are using simpler ingredients?

If we are simply mixing two types of clear alcohol together (such as gin and vermouth) then the aggressive nature of shaking  is really more than we need- it  will ruin the appearance of the drink by making it cloudy,  and the small chips of ice that break off during the shaking action can also add often unwanted dilution to the drink.

Instead, we’re going to treat this cocktail with respect – be gentle, and stir.

Technique

You will need:

  • Mixing glass (part of your shaker set)
  • Bar spoon

Take your (clean) mixing glass and fill it with (clean) ice.

Using a measure for accuracy pour in the ingredients from your cocktail – for example if you are making a Martini, pour in measured amounts of gin and vermouth.

Now you have the ingredients in the ice it’s ready to mix.

 

 

It’s time to grab your bar spoon. Ever wondered why it was so long? Well, wonder no more – the extra length lets us get right to the bottom of a mixing glass to the precious, precious alcohol.

Carefully push the ‘spoon’ end of your barspoon down the side of the glass right down bottom, holding the base of the mixing glass steady with one hand.  Stir the spoon around in a gentle circular motion making sure that the ice and liquid  move around almost silently – we want a smooth mixing action, we’re not trying to smash the spoon through the ice.

Continue stirring until the drink is mixed – you may read ridiculous things in fancy guides like “stir clockwise 27 times” but really the mount you need to stir will depend on how fast you are stirring, and in general it will probably take around 30 seconds. The most important thing to remember is that we are stirring for a reason – we want to make the ingredients mix and the drink temperature nice and cold – so we will be finished when we have accomplished these two goals.

Mixed and cold, it’s time to move the drink into our glass. Grab your Hawthorne strain (or a Julep strainer if you have one), fit it over the top of your mixing glass and carefully pour your cocktail into it’s new home.

 

Done.  Now be a good bartender – rinse your equipment – and then take a seat, relax, and enjoy your beautiful stirred cocktail.

 

/ dave

Lime, Roses Lime cordial

Easy guide to lime juice – fresh lime, Roses cordial and the Gimlet

Is all Lime Juice the same?

There seems to be some confusion for the newly enthusiastic home bartender as to what exactly is meant by lime juice – do we literally mean only the freshly squeezed juice of a lime or could you use one of the green lime bottles littering the shelves at the supermarket?

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Why use lime at all?

When we make cocktails we are aiming to take a selection of different ingredients and mix them together, producing something that (hopefully) tastes better than when we started. To get good flavours we need to make balanced use of some of the 5 primary tastes – sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and umami. I’ll go into a detailed explanation of each of these in an upcoming post but for now we are interested in the main taste associated with lime – sourness.

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When drinking freshly squeezed lime juice you notice a strong sour taste on your tongue – this is because limes contain a relatively high level of citric acid which our bodies note as being sour. A sour acidic flavour, when balanced with other tastes (such as sweetness from sugar) adds to the overall depth of the cocktail so if we use it correctly we can give our drinks a crisp, refreshing flavour.

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Fresh squeezed Lime

Easily the most important lime for us – the vast majority of cocktails that you’ll come across on this blog referring to lime juice are asking for freshly squeezed lime juice. Buy a bunch of limes from your local grocer, wash them, cut them in half and squeeze with a citrus press or reamer to extract all the juicy, natural goodness. Real, fresh limes will provide the acidic bite that we are looking for and provide a more natural flavour in the final drink.

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Depending on where you live these can be pretty costly so try and buy a citrus press to make sure you can get as much juice as possible out of each lime. A tip; use the palm of your hand to push on the lime and roll it around on your bench a few times before juicing and you’ll get more out of it. Expect to get around 15ml juice per half lime/ 30ml per lime.

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‘Fresh’ Lime bottles

Often found in the soft drink section of your local convenience store or supermarket, these squeezed lime bottles tend to contain concentrated lime juice that has commonly had preservatives and other bits and pieces added. While these bottles may save a few seconds over the hand-squeezing of a real lime, unfortunately they tend to fail on the taste test, generally lacking the true sour or acidic bite as fresh lime juice and are therefore best left on the shelf.

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Roses Lime cordial, other brands of Lime cordials

Lime cordials were originally a mix of concentrated lime juice and sugar although the ingredient list on many modern bottles seems to have grown somewhat with a mix of added preservatives and colourings. Hmm. But anyway…

 

The original and best known is Rose’s lime cordial, invented by a Mr Lauchlin Rose in 1867 in part as a way to help British sailors in their fight against scurvy, a nasty disease bought on by a diet lacking vitamin C.

 

Sensible medical types had discovered that limes and other citrus fruits were a good natural source of vitamin C and therefore helped in the fight against scurvy and quickly pushed for laws to ensure that all ships carried a ready supply of citrusy goodness for their sailors. While good in theory, problems arose quickly – citrus fruits were not always easy to source, and even when you could find them they were not particularly appetising when they’d been stored in the hold of a ship for a few weeks. Added to this, drinking straight lime juice is not particularly appealing at the best of times and while it could (and was) made more attractive by adding it to the daily rum or gin rations it was still something to be drunk out of necessity rather than choice. Time for Mr Rose.

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Lauchlin Rose had a business supplying provisions for ships and after a bit of experimentation discovered that a mix of concentrated lime juice with sugar allowed him to create a cordial which would provide the necessary vitamin C but in a sweetened, more palatable form than simple lime juice. Added to this the lime and sugar combination was stable when bottled and could be stored for lengthy periods without going off. Created just in time for the Merchant Shipping Act of 1868, which made the carrying of citrus a legal requirement, Rose was on to a winner.

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Nothing is perfect however. The sugar that helped so much in creating the cordial is often its downfall when used in cocktails. Remembering from earlier, the main reason we use limes in good cocktails is to add an acidic bite from the citric acid contained in the juice. Unfortunately the sugar that is used to help stabilise the cordial weakens this acidity, ultimately giving a kind of sweet general lime flavour but without the acid that we really want. This results in an unbalanced and (often) unpleasant drink when compared to fresh squeezed lime.

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Conclusion

Unless specifically stated, use freshly squeezed lime juice for cocktails – your drinks will taste better. Avoid buying pre-squeezed as squeezing by hand will result in better juice and a better drink.

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Lesson – Making a Gimlet

A real classic cocktail now, we are going to start by going against what I’ve just been telling you and using Rose’s cordial rather than fresh lime.

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You will need

  • 50ml Gin
  • 20ml Roses Lime Cordial

Gin and Rose's

Method

Stir in glass

Nice and easy, this can be made in the glass or stirred in your mixing glass and strained into a cocktail glass. We are going to do the ‘stir in glass’ method today.

Take a rocks glass, old fashioned glass or similar and fill with ice. Measure in your gin and lime cordial and use your bar spoon to stir the ice and liquid until it is well mixed and cold – this should take around 30-40 seconds. Garnish with a lime slice and drink, feeling happy in the knowledge that you are tackling the fight against scurvy head-on.

Finished Gimlet.

 

Variations to try

After making a traditional Gimlet, make another but replace the Roses lime cordial with freshly pressed lime juice. Prepare in the same manner and taste the difference. You should notice that the new fresh lime Gimlet is very sour from the citric acid in the lime juice. To improve the taste add a small amount of simple syrup and stir – the sugar should help bring the drink back into balance and improve the overall taste.

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There you go – more than you’d expect to read about lime juice on any given day. Try making the drinks and let me know in the comments section how they turned out.

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// David

Bird Shaker

Mixing Cocktails 101 – The Methods – Shake and Strain

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Shake and Strain

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For more info about bar equipment check out the ‘Essential Equipment for your home bar’ blog post

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Depending on the ingredients used and the overall effect we are seeking there are a number of mixing methods that we can use to make cocktails. We’ve covered built drinks already and today we’re going to look at the most visible – shaking.

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Shaking and cocktails appear to go hand in hand – it often seems like anytime more than two ingredients are involved they have to be tossed into a tin and shaken around by an enthusiastic bartender. Shaking is an aggressive mixing motion and helps us to mix and chill multiple ingredients quickly and efficiently. The aggressive nature of shaking means that getting the correct technique is very important.

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Technique

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Start by taking your mixing glass and setting it on a table, giving yourself enough room to work.

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Add your ingredients (whiskey, lemon, syrups etc) into the mixing glass, being careful to measure for the correct amounts.

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Fill the mixing glass with ice – we add the ice last to minimise dilution.

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Place the shaker tin on top of mixing glass, being careful to have a slight angle to avoid a ‘perfect seal’ (which is a real pain in the wherever to try and get off) and give a nice, hard tap to seal the glass and the shaker.

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Ready for some shakiing

 

Hold the shaker, ensuring you have a solid grip of both the mixing glass and the shaker tin (we don’t want to let go by mistake!), and shake hard in nice big movements allowing the ice to travel from one end of the shaker to the other. The further the ice travels the better as it will mix and cool the drink faster – you’ll hear a ‘clack clack’ sound as the ice hits each end of the shaker if you’re doing this correctly.

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How to shake a cocktail correctly

 

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Continue shaking hard until you have the right level of cooling and dilution – the exact time depends on the style of drink, but around 10-12 seconds will usually be good. If you’ve shaken hard enough then there should be condensation on the shaker tin.

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Now its time to separate the shaker. Hold the shaker tin in one hand and use the palm of your other hand to give a hard ‘tap’ on the tin where the mixing glass and shaker meet. This should break the seal and allow you to lift the mixing glass off and away.

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Now it’s time to taste test the cocktail. Use your finger to cover the end of a straw and dip it into the cocktail so that you can get some liquid to taste. You want to check whether the cocktail tastes balanced (the right levels of sweet/sour/bitter) and make sure the flavours are correct. If you need to make any adjustments then do so now and either stir or give another quick shake.

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The cocktail tastes good (of course!) so it’s time to transfer the drink from the shaker to a glass.

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Check your recipe to see whether you need to fill your destination glass with ice (if you’re using a Collins or an Old Fashioned you will probably need to). If you do then make sure to fill it right to the top as more ice = colder drinks of the correct size.

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Use your Hawthorne strainer to pour your drink into the glass without any of the ice or other junk in the shaker following along for the ride. If you are pouring into a cocktail glass you won’t be using icing the glass so you can double or fine strain by pouring through a tea strainer placed between the Hawthorne strainer and the glass – this will help collect any small pieces of ice or fruit that and make the cocktail look better.

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Finish off by adding your garnish and a straw (if necessary). You’re done!

Cocktail set

Buy Cocktail Set at Amazon!

 

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