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Become a Cocktail King (Part 1)

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Cocktails never seem seem to go out of fashion, sure the garnishes or ingredients will come and go over the years or there will be ten different names for the same cocktail – but these magical little beverages never cease to be the life of any party or hellishly fun night out, and have been documented as one of the definitive ways into a Girl’s er, heart.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that only those glass juggling bar jockeys are capable of making a decent cocktail – this isn’t true. With only a few select ingredients and a handful of hardware your very own cocktails can rival even the most elite of bars – securing your place as a bottle-juggling God in the eyes off your adoring fans (be they real, rented or imaginary).

Cocktail Hardware

Most of the hardware needed for making killer cocktails can probably already be found sitting in your kitchen cupboard – or at least in you Mom’s kitchen cupboards (ready for immediate ‘borrowing’). The following is a list of hardware you will need:

  • A large jug (with a curved lid to stop ice tipping into serving glasses)
  • Teaspoons & tablespoons
  • Cutting board
  • Grater (for grating nutmeg and fresh garnishes)
  • Paring knife
  • Citrus zester
  • Juice squeezer (for the freshly squeezed effect)
  • Blender (for making frothy cocktails)
  • Cocktail shaker (made of stainless steel and has a built in strainer)
  • Ice-bucket (with lid & tongs)
  • Double ended tot measure (15ml/30ml)

Then things like muddlers (used for mashing fruit, herbs & spices together), bar spoon, swizzle sticks, straws and toothpicks are additional extras.

Stocking the Bar

When stocking the bar up you need to consider first what type of cocktail and drinks you plan on serving, for how many and how often. Rather than going for a shed load of drinks, aim to master just a few at first and then expand your offering. You may even want to stock up with half size bottles to begin and then see which cocktails prove popular – so you know what to stock up on for the next trip out to the liquor store.

Some essentials would be:

Cocktail Spirits

  • Dry gin
  • Vodka (clear)
  • Brandy
  • Rum (either white or light)
  • Tequila (not essential though)
  • Whisky (or Scotch if you prefer)
  • Bourbon
  • Cachaca (if you plan on making the popular Caipirinha)

Cocktail Liqueurs

  • Triple sec/ Cointreau
  • Kahlua
  • Frangelico
  • Malibu (cocunut rum)

Cocktail Aperitifs

  • Dry/sweet vermouth
  • Campari

And any well stock bar should always have sparkling white wine or champagne on hand. Then to add some more basic ingredients have a look at bitters: which add a unique flavour to cocktails. Also, syrups such as grenadine make a nice addition to any bar and is widely used in many drinks. Then quite obviously be sure to stock up on soft drink mixers such as; soda water, lemonade and cola are essential. Tonic water and dry lemon are also good ones to add.

For creamy cocktails, cream and milk are essential and coconut cream is used in the tropical favourite: the Pina Colada. Assorted extras might include castor sugar, salt (for frosting glasses), tabasco, pepper and worcestershire sauce for the Bloody Mary aficionados.

Cocktail Garnishes

While the tempation to throw on a heap of trinkets, fruit and “frilly-bits” may be overwhelming – remember to K.I.S.S. your garnishes. Keep Them Simple Stupido. A single piece of strawberry in a champagne glass or a olive in a Martini are classy, ‘tastful’ additions. However, sugar frosted rims, fresh cherries, straws, umbrellas and swizzle sticks are aesthetic additons and should be used to liven up any cocktail.

Classic Garnishes: Maraschino cherries, green olives.

Fruit Garnishes: Fresh lemons, limes and oranges are essential – strawberries, melon and pineapple are also nice additions.

Herb Garnishes: Mint (and Basil) or the top candidates here. Fresh, soft baby leaves should be used.

Toppings: Chocolate, cinnamon, coconut can be dusted or sprinkled on – or with a peeler made into long ‘curls’.

How To Frost a Cocktail Glass

The traditional (“Y” shaped) cocktail glass is best suited to the frosting technique and will give your cocktails that added umph.

Step 1: Holding the glass by the stem, gently dip into some beaten egg whites mixed with, juice (i.e. lemon), syrup (such as grenadine), or even a liqueur such as Frengelico.

Step 2: Fill a flat dish with castor sugar and then press the rim of the glass (from step 1) into the sugar and turn the glass slowly to coat the edges. Once coated, turn the glass upright and gently tap off any exess sugar.

How To Prepare Fruit Garnishes

Be sure to use only fresh fruit here. Fruit, with the peel left on, can be cut into slices, rings, quarters or halves. Pineapple should be cut into small triangles or long spears.

To make a twist: cut a small strip of lemon/orange zest then place and twist of the drink. Or alternatively drop into the drink and allow the citrus flavours to enhance the drink further.

To make a spiral: with the same pairing knife cut a strip about 5mm wide and 10-15cm wide long, then by hand curl it into the desired shape. When making spirals ahead of time, use a pencil or spoon to twist strips around.

Strawberry Garnish: when placing a strawberry on the glass, keep the leaves and cut the strawberry almost in half. To fan it, make a few slits in the strawberry.

Melon Balls: using a melon-baller, shape the fruit then place it on a toothpick..

Ice: be liberal with your ice and use larger ice cubes to ensure they don’t melt (and dilute the drink) to quickly. To be really fancy you can freeze slivers of fruit or mint into ice cubes. If you don’t have crushed ice place the cubes in a kitchen towel and ‘crush’ them a rolling pin or mallet.

Part 2 coming soon.

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About Author

Lover of gadgets, men's culture, cool stuff, Earl Grey tea and all things manly. An optimist in his prime. When he's not keeping the wheels turning at Mantality HQ you'll find him trawling the web, and visiting trade shows to find the newest and coolest gadgets. During his down time he's usually with his 2 dogs, on the golf course, cycling or basking in the literary company of Oscar Wilde, Bret Easton Ellis or Martin Amis whilst drinking espresso strong enough to strip paint.

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