No matter how many cocktail glasses and shakers you buy, when you try to recreate the perfect balance of a bar-bought cocktail at home, it never tastes quite the same. That’s because, while having a few pieces of the right kit is essential, the key to a great tasting cocktail is all in the technique.
Enter trendy café Balans (of Old Compton Café fame) who have been creating innovative cocktails for celebrity clientele for 25 years.
At the launch of their cocktail masterclasses, held every first Tuesday of the month at one of their London-based bars, head barman Dylan divulged his top tips for cocktail novices to create alcoholic alchemy at home.
1. Ingredient Order
Always start with the cheapest ingredient first; citrus, followed by fruit juices and then the alcohol. If you’re making a shaken cocktail, the ice is added at the last minute so you don’t dilute the flavours.
Watch how American cocktail expert Ricky Gomez makes his Season’s End cocktail from the World Class Bartender of the Year competition.
Tip: Prepare your glass first so that as soon as your cocktail is ready you can serve, maintaining a great flavour and avoiding dilution from the ice.
2. Move Away from the Gadgets
All the bar gadgets in the world will not make you a better cocktail mixer. The basic tools you will need at home are: a pair of measures or jiggers, one single 25ml and one double 50ml measure, a cocktail shaker, a bar spoon, a muddler and a range of glasses.
Tip: Turn your jiggers upside down to get an accurate 10ml measure.
3. Ice, Ice Baby
The golden rule of cocktail making? You can never have too much ice. Which is easy to say if you have a bucket to keep it all in, but harder to maintain at home. Turn out your ice tray into a freezer bag, building up a stock pile of ice for the weekend, without having to wait ages for the water to set.
Tip: Freeze fruits, mint sprigs and edible flowers into your ice cubes for an easy decoration.
4. Virgin Substitutes
Taking out the booze can leave a dent in the taste stakes when it comes to cocktails. A splash of apple juice in a mojito or a few shakes of Angostura Bitters in a Bloody Mary are two clever substitutions that make sure your mocktail still delivers on flavour. Or try our delicious Apple Glow Cocktail.
Tip: Dress up mocktails just like you would a cocktail with mint sprigs and a twist of lemon peel to keep the sense of occasion.
5. Sugar Syrup = Sweet Success
Plain sugar syrup is used throughout the cocktail bible, from margaritas and mojitos to this Summer Glory Fizz. Larger supermarkets, specialist drink shops and online stores sell a 70cl bottle for around £5-£7.
Tip: If you don’t have any sugar syrup, muddling brown sugar with lime juice will give a similar flavour.
"While having a few pieces of the right kit is essential, the key to a great tasting cocktail is all in the technique."