In my blogs, I try to give generalized advice for two reasons:
I want to encourage creativity, and
I don’t know what you have on hand.
I can assume that you do not have the same set up as I do (considering I own a bar) - so I figure it’s better to keep things flexible. The problem with too much flexibility though, is not only can things get confusing, but it can be super intimidating when there are too many options! In an effort to alleviate some of that, here are 5 things every cocktail needs, as well as some fun tips to keep things flexible - but not overwhelming.
Pick your spirit - and add the appropriate amount.
Can’t have a cocktail without the booze. So, what are you in the mood for? The possibilities are really endless - whatever you decide, choosing the right amount is important. Most cocktail recipes have 2-3 ounces of alcohol in them - but that doesn’t always make sense. To determine how much you’ll need, first look at your glassware (also important - more on that later.). Determining how many ounces your cup holds (+ ice if necessary) will help you put together a recipe that works.
Next, figure out how much of an edge you need to take off. If I’ve learned anything about struggling with sobriety while simultaneously opening a mobile bar, it’s that cocktails don’t (only, *wink*) have to get you sloshed; they can also be nourishing, invigorating, comforting - everything you need to unwind at the end of the day. That means you decide how much booze to pour - not the recipe.
Use the fancy glassware.
I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, as far as superlatives go - glassware for the home bartender is at the top of my list of important things. Walking around with a fancy glass in your hand makes you feel different. Makes you feel important and worthy of beautiful things (even if your children disagree), and let’s be honest. It’s wicked fun. We all have those martini glasses that we inherited from our friend that we swore we were going to use - or that gorgeous vintage goblet you’ve been eyeing - trust me. Dust them off - it will be worth it.
Consider your syrups, juices, and mixers.
We’re all busy, so in a pinch (and please for the love of something funny - only in a pinch), the supermarket actually carries premade simple syrup (and margarita/bloody mary mixes, etc.), but if you can, making your own really makes a big difference - and it’s really not that difficult once you know the basics.
Simple syrup is equal parts white sugar dissolved in water. (White sugar can be substituted for other sugars, including honey, each bringing fun and interesting flavor profiles.) Adding spices, fruit, and herbs to basic simple syrups transform them into something even more amazing.
Your juices don’t need to be freshly squeezed (again, your local Piggly Wiggly has Rose’s lime if you’re really hankering) BUT if you had a second to cut a lime in half and squeeze it fresh - or even a minute (or two - might as well not rush it) to throw that lime on the grill - charred citrus juice (or pineapple - yummm) is one of my fave mixers.
Garnishes are not just important, in most cases, they are necessary.
But I'm not going to lecture you - Read more here.
When in doubt - look it up!
Unlike the 80's and beyond - we have the entire human consciousness at our fingertips. My family and I use it to learn new useless facts every day, might as well use it for cocktail inspo too. My advice, use recipes for inspiration, but switch things up. Experiment with different spirits and purchase ingredients you’ve only read about. Find a fun new grocery store, and try something you’ve never had before - or perhaps something you can’t pronounce. After all - if we’re not having fun, what are we even doing in life?
Times are much different now - the hustle and bustle of this world isn’t going away anytime soon - so let’s lean in, and enjoy when we can. Find little joys and remember, drinks are meant to serve so many purposes. They bring us together, they provide sustenance, they warm you on a cold day. Start thinking of your nightly/weekly cocktail in this regard and watch how it transforms from a vodka soda - to something so much more. Cheers friends!