You don’t have to be a professional mixologist to craft incredible bar-quality cocktails at home. All you need is the right tools, techniques and ingredients and you’ll be sipping something seriously special in no time. Having a few of our expertly-crafted cocktail collections at home is a great start, but if you really want to take your cocktail crafting skills to the next level we’ve got 20 simple tips, tricks and hacks to help get you there.
1. Use a Mason Jar Instead of a Cocktail Shaker
Don’t have a cocktail shaker to hand? No problem! If you have a mason jar or even an empty water bottle they will work just as well. Plus, the cocktail will look great served in the mason jar!
2. Make Crushed Ice at Home
Rather than going out and buying crushed ice, you can make it yourself easily at home - all you need is a rolling pin, a zip lock bag and some muscle. Add the ice into the bag and hit it with the rolling pin until it’s crushed. If you prefer uncrushed ice, take a look at 6 different types of ice to use in cocktails that are always popular.
3. Use Measuring Spoons Instead of a Jigger
If you don’t have a jigger in your kitchen drawers, you can measure out your ingredients using tablespoons. Here’s a basic conversion guide to help you get started:
- ½ ounce - 1 tbsp
- 1 ounce - 2 tbsp
- 1 and ½ ounces - 3 tbsp
- 2 ounces - 4 tbsp
4. How to Rim a Glass with Honey
Rimming a glass with honey will give your cocktail an extra sweet flavour. And, because the honey is sticky it’s easy to rim your glass with. Simply cover a small plate with honey, turn your glass upside down and dip the rim into it. Then you can either leave it as is or add extra garnishes such as herbs, coconut or chocolate flakes.
5. Create a citrus peel rose garnish
This cocktail delight sounds and looks very fancy, however it is actually incredibly simple to create. The citrus peel rose is a firm favourite with any cocktail maker, as it adds that citrus burst whilst also offering a beautiful treat for the eyes.
First off you need to cut the top off of the orange or lemon, leaving part of it attached. This will form the base of your orange or yellow flower. Next you need to cut off the peel of the fruit, keeping the peel in a solid line about 2cm thick. Using your knife, try to carve up and down to give the illusion of petals. Once you have this long line of peel, all you need to do is roll it up tightly (it will naturally form into a rose shape as you roll it) and secure your rose with a cocktail skewer or toothpick so it holds its shape. Now simply rest your beautiful garnish on top of your glass.
6. Make Pink Sugar for Cocktails
If you’re throwing a themed party or hosting a girl’s night in, making pink sugar to rim your cocktail glasses is a fun way to add something extra special to the event. To make pink sugar pour some sugar into a bowl and add a few drops of food colouring, mix it all together with a whisk or a fork and keep adding the drops until you get the desired colour.
7. Sweeten a Cocktail with Maple Syrup
Maple syrup isn’t just the perfect pancake topper, it’s also ideal if you need to make your cocktail a little bit sweeter. Combine the maple syrup with a little bit of lemon or lime juice and add it to drink for a sweet flavour and a delicious citrusy aroma. Difford’s Guide has a beautiful, simple recipe you can try at home. Or you can always try our NIO Old Fashioned.
8. Use Chopsticks to Stir a Drink instead of a Stirring Spoon
If you’re a budding mixologist but don’t have all the required equipment yet, you can just as easily make use of your current kitchen utensils, such as chopsticks to mix the perfect drink.
9. Make Edible Shot Glasses
Go that extra mile for you and any guests you may have by making your own edible shot glasses. If you’re serving a tequila-based cocktail, like our Tommy’s Margarita a watermelon shot glass would be ideal, or a chocolate shot glass for a White Russian. The creative possibilities are endless and you can have a lot of fun making them.
10. How to Rim a Glass with Sugar
Rimming your cocktail glass with sugar is a simple way to add a bit of decoration and it’s easy to do too.
- Step 1: First, pour the sugar onto a small plate.
- Step 2: Mix fresh cut citrus fruit, or any other liquid you’d like to use with the sugar.
- Step 3: Place your glass upside down onto the plate and twist it until the rim is covered.
11. Boil Water for Professional Ice Cubes
For sleek and professional looking ice cubes, boil distilled water, let it cool slightly and then boil it again before pouring it into an ice cube tray and freezing. This will ensure you get clear ice cubes rather than opaque. Plus, if you want to add a professional touch, you can invest in solid square ice cube trays that give a whole new element to cocktails on the rocks.
12. Use a Tea Strainer Instead of a Cocktail Strainer
If you don’t have a cocktail strainer you can use a tea strainer, or even the lid of a mason jar, to strain your cocktail ingredients for a smooth drink.
13. How to Garnish a Cocktail
There are hundreds of ways to garnish a cocktail so it’s a great chance to unleash your creativity. Garnishes are designed to not only decorate your drink but add to the flavour and aromas of it too, so it’s important for them to complement each other.
Some classic garnishes are -
- Maraschino Cherries - These can be used for many cocktails and even alcohol-free mocktails too. They’re perfect for cocktails such as a Vodka Sour, Manhattan or Gin Sour.
- Olives - Olives are one of the most popular garnishes which you often see in both gin and vodka Martinis. There are many different types of olives so make sure you choose wisely.
- Lemon slices - Lemon slices add an extra refreshing element to cocktails such as a Long Island Iced Tea or a Lemon Drop Martini.
- Celery - A celery stick may seem like an odd ingredient to garnish your drink with but it works wonderfully well with a Bloody Mary or our own interpretation, The Ghost of Mary Tudor cocktail.
- Fresh herbs - there is nothing quite as delicious as fresh herbs to garnish a cocktail. Whether the drink calls for mint, rosemary, thyme or even basil, adding fresh herbs gives a fragrant twist. If you’ve not used fresh herbs to garnish your cocktails before, adding fresh basil to your Gin and Tonic is a great place to start. Clap the herbs in your hand before you garnish to release the essential oils that add a beautiful aroma to your cocktail.
14. Add Edible Flowers to your Ice Cubes
Add edible flowers to the water in your ice cube tray before freezing it to create some truly beautiful ice cubes. You can also add fresh fruit slices such as lemons, strawberries or limes which will then create a new flavour once they’ve melted in the cocktail.
15. How to Rim a Cocktail Glass with Salt
To rim a cocktail glass with salt, which is a common garnish for Margaritas, you’ll first want to run a quarter of a lime around the edge of the glass until it’s wet. Then, turn the glass upside down and twist it in a plate of salt ensuring that the rim is completely covered.
16. The Best Glasses to use for Cocktails
Did you know that the type of glass you use can have an effect on your cocktail? Using the right type of glass can bring out the complexities of the drink and make it a much more enjoyable, sophisticated experience. Some examples include:
- Highball cocktails glass - These glasses are used for ‘tall’ drinks such as a Mojito or Long Island Iced Tea. Highball glasses are perfect for longer drinks as they are able to hold up to 350ml of liquid.
- Coupe Glasses - These elegantly designed glasses are used for Daiquiris or a Boulevardier as they literally open up the flavour over a broader surface. Characterised by their broad mouth and shallow bowl, coupe glasses are used for serving cocktails that are shaken or stirred until chilled and served without ice.
- Champagne Flutes - It should go without saying that these glasses are used for champagne-based cocktails such as a Bellini or Mimosa. There is a scientific reason that flutes are considered the best drink for champagne, and this is because the flavour and bubbles are preserved in the long thin shape that guides the bubbles up to the nose. When the higher levels of carbon dioxide that are released by the bubbles are able to gather at the top of the glass leaving you with the delicious bubbly sensation that is synonymous with champagne.
If you want to learn more, take a look at our guide to learn which is the right type of cocktail glass to use for each different cocktail.
17. How to Properly use a Cocktail Shaker
The type of cocktail shaker you have, either a two-piece or three-piece shaker, will determine the correct way of using it. For a two-piece shaker combine the ingredients in the smaller half and the ice in the larger half, then briskly put the bigger half over the smaller one without losing any ice. Shake vigorously for around 12-15 seconds, make sure you point the shaker away from guests in case any spillage occurs. Place a strainer over the glass you wish to use and pour the mixture into it.
For a three-piece shaker fill the base with the ingredients and then top up ⅔ with ice before placing the cap firmly on top. Again, making sure you point the shake away from guests, shake vigorously for another 12-15 seconds. Then, lift the cap off and pour the drink through the built-in strainer into the glass.
18. Age your Cocktails with Burnt Sugar
If you’re wanting to age your cocktails or liquors quickly, adding some burnt sugar syrup to the mixture will do the trick and give that lovely, aged flavour. Burnt sugar is a delicious addition, and is pretty simple to create in advance by following a simple recipe. The three key ingredients to burnt sugar syrup are sugar, water and heat, so it’s just ensuring you use the right measures that is the key.
19. Infuse Alcohol with Flavour
You can infuse most ingredients into your cocktails and liquors to give them an interesting and unique taste. From fruit or jalapeno peppers to your favourite sweets or herbs, infusing drinks allows you to experiment with different flavours. Infusing essentially relies upon adding an ingredient into a drink for a period of time and allowing the flavour to permeate. Be prepared to leave your infusing ingredient into your spirit for up to a month for best results. We like Crowded Kitchen’s Spirit Infusions 5 Ways for inspiration.
20. Flame an Orange for a Smoky Flavour
A flamed orange peel on the edge of your glass is a great little bartender trick for releasing subtle smoky flavours and delightful aromas from the oil... plus it looks great! You’ll need to use fresh orange peel for the best results. Here’s one way to flame an orange:
- First, light a match and hold it a few inches above the cocktail.
- Hold the coloured side of the orange peel above the match but not close enough where you end up with a black mark on the peel. Wave the peel slowly around to help heat the oil.
- Once the peel has warmed up, twist and squeeze it over the match to let out the oil quickly.
- Then, rub the peel along the rim of the glass and drop it into a drink to create a flavourful cocktail.
The second method involves "expressing" citrus oils through the flame of a match to ignite them before they hit the surface of your drink. To do this, you simply tilt the peel 45-degrees and squeeze the peel into the flame, igniting the expressed citrus oils. You should see oils bursting into your drink or sitting on the peel of the citrus fruit, which then you can place in your drink. This technique creates a subtly caramelised flavour.
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