Whether you’re hosting a social soiree or cozying up on your couch for a night in, upgrade the occasion with your favorite libations made at home. Cocktails offer flavorful drinks that bring together a mix of tastes into one delicious sip. Recreating some of your go-to bar orders allows you to relish your beloved drinks without the hassle of paying a hefty fee at the bar. Check out our cocktails 101 guide and learn how to make your favorite beverages at home.
The Bar Necessities
Set your bar or cart with the bar necessities. Like with any other creative project, obtaining the right materials and tools allows you to create what you envision. It also broadens your artistic ability, supplying you with various means of creative exploration. There are three main ingredients to a well-stocked bar: alcohol, mixes, and bar tools. All three key supplies ensure your at-home bar provides you with the essentials for crafting your cherished concoction.
Liquors and Spirits
Alcohol comes in many variations. For cocktail creations, the best spirits to keep on hand include:
These five liquors are front and center in a range of cocktail recipes, from negronis and martinis to Bloody Marys and margaritas. They give your drinks the necessary kick to upgrade your favorite mixes into a 21-plus beverage.
Mixes and Garnish
If you want more than just shots, stock up on some mixes and garnishes. There are countless ways to add flavor to an alcoholic concoction, from premade mixed concentrates to syrups and fresh fruit. Herbs, sugar, salt, and other spices also enhance your drinks.
Buying premade mixes, like Margarita Man’s frozen cocktail mix, gives you a concentrated base that packs a lot of flavor and eliminates the experimentation phase. They provide you with tried-and-true mixtures that consist of the best flavor pairings. All you need to do is add the alcohol, mix it with a liquid of your choice, and serve it up in whatever way you desire. No need to play around with various syrups or additives. Best of all, these mixes can be used to make drinks served either frozen or on the rocks.
Garnishes give your cocktail a decorative touch and an added flavorful finish. They are typically a sprig of an herb, a sprinkle of spice, or fruits. Popular garnishes to stock in a bar include:
- Lemon and lime wedges
- Cinnamon sticks or powder
- Rosemary and thyme sprigs
- Various berries
- Mint leaves
Shakers, Stirrers, and More
Bar tools help with execution and accuracy in the creation process. They also affect the taste and texture of your final product. A classic bar set consists of a:
- Double jigger
- Ice tongs
Each bar tool plays an important part in curating the perfect cocktail and varies in importance depending on the recipe you follow. Jiggers provide measurements. Strainers restrain ice, foam, and other solid ingredients from going into the glass. Shakers combine your concoctions. Spoons act as stirrers—an alternative to shaking. Muddlers gently smash herbs and fruits.
Classic Cocktail Combos
Many cocktails feature classic flavor combos. Pair tastes that always complement one another to create the perfect base for your libation. There are numerous types of flavor pairings to explore.
Zesty tang knows how to combat the pungency of alcohol as it replaces the burning sensation of alcohol with a citric wash. Many cocktail creations include a zesty combo, including limoncello, lemon drops, and traditional margaritas. You can also add lemon, limes, and ginger with vodka or tequila for a classic zesty combo.
When people imagine themselves relaxing on a beach at an island oasis, it typically involves a fruity drink in hand. From piña coladas to mai tais, various cocktails recreate the essence of a tropical getaway. The secret to their island paradise in a sip is a fruity combo. Pair rum with sweet, tropical bearings, like coconut, pineapple, and lychee, for a fruity tropical cocktail.
A spiced, spiked drink warms you right up when the temperatures drop. Plus, they enhance your drinking experience with an added sensory factor: aroma. Cinnamon, rum, and wine give you that classic spiced aromatic cocktail combo that’s perfect for fall and winter.
Alcohol already packs quite a punch. However, mixing some mint with gin gives you an irresistibly fresh yet bitter uppercut. Add cucumber slices and lime to further enrich the fresh bitter combo.
Stirred,Shaken, or Blended?
Creating cocktails is a craft. It involves various techniques and curates a range of serving options. Stirring and shaking provide bartenders of any skill level with two classic methods of serving and enjoying a cocktail.
Shaking chills your drink faster and creates cloudy mixtures and fizzy maximized dilutions. Shaken cocktails often include citrus components, eggs, or creams. Stirring, on the other hand, provides a more fluid dilution method—diluting the drink per stir—and works better with spirits. As a general rule of thumb, you should add carbonated drinks after shaking a cocktail mix, or you should leave it stirred.
Neat, Straight Up, on the Rocks, or Frozen?
Aside from shaken and stirred drinks, another way to shake up a cocktail is with ice. Cocktails commonly come in three major variations: neat, straight up, or on the rocks. Neat cocktails involve no ice. You serve neat cocktails at room temperature. Straight-up includes ice during the creation process, which you then strain out before serving. It produces a chilled drink with no ice. On the rocks involves serving the cocktail with ice in the glass. Many people also like their cocktails blended and frozen.
Decorate your drink with some embellishments to add a final pizzazz. A pretty drink tends to taste better. Plus, after successfully crafting a cocktail, who doesn’t want to show off their masterpiece on social media? Decorating your cocktail makes your drink look the part. Popular ways to embellish a cocktail include:
- Adding garnishes to the drink or glass edge
- Lining the rim of the glass with sugar, salt, or spice
- Adding floral decor
- Sprinkling some spice or edible glitter
- Foam art
Embellishing your cocktail further enhances your drinking experience and makes your accomplishments as an at-home bartender much more satisfying.
Learning how to make your favorite beverages at home allows you to relish your libations from the comfort of your home. It also upgrades your hosting skills and saves you from spending too much on drinks. The next time you find yourself fiending for a tasty concoction, use this cocktail 101 guide and curate a drink worth raising your glass toward.