It’s that season again, when we resolve to accomplish a list of goals in the coming year. The new year allows us to reflect on the changes we want to make in our lives and set resolutions where we promise to improve ourselves. Well, for us, our #1 resolution for 2015 is to enhance our knowledge and approach to something we’re passionate about — cocktails and the art of mixology. Now that you’re here, we’d like you to join us. Being a better mixologist can be accomplished with just three easy steps.
Step One: Stock Your Home Bar
Stocking your bar with quality spirits seems like a simple idea. Truth be told, investing in the proper bottles for a well-stocked bar takes planning, time and money. Sure, we all have that go-to vodka or the whiskey we naturally gravitate toward because it’s familiar. But are these selections helping you to expand your cocktail palette and give you the chance to experiment? In order to explore the art of mixology you need to fully stock your bar and we’ve found the perfect place to start. First you’ll need to determine your budget, then define what you really like. From there it’s a matter of working toward building your bar with the basics and expanding as budget allows. Here’s an easy reference guide on the basics, complete with a Mad Man-esque happy hour play list to get you started.
If you’ve got a fairly well stocked bar to begin with and you’re looking to expand your bottle collection, this shopping list from GQ’s Guide to Domestic Mixology will help you take your bar to the next level, one bottle at a time. This list provides ideas such as adding Gosling’s rum (and a bottle of ginger beer) to help you quench your Dark ’n Stormy craving and build the drink the way it was originally designed. Get ready for a visit to your local liquor store!
Step Two: Essential Bar Tools
Much like a master chef has their trusty knives and special pans, every good bartender needs the right tools to master the art of making cocktails. While there’s a whole world of bar gear out there, there are a few basic tools you need to start mixing cocktails like a pro at home. When it comes down to it, a shaker, strainer and jigger turn out to be the home bar essentials because no matter the ingredients, almost any drink you’re making will need to be measured out, either shaken or stirred and then strained. So spend time getting those top three tools right. As you explore the world of cocktails further, other techniques come into play, so you’ll need more tools. Depending on what you’re mixing up and how advanced you want to get, the following list will enable you to be ready for any drink you’re willing to try.
- Shaker – You have two options with a cocktail shaker. The Boston shaker and a Cobbler shaker. The Cobbler is a popular 3-piece shaker with a cup, a lid and a cap, and all have built-in strainers. The Boston shaker is made up of 2 pieces – the mixing glass and a steel mixing tin. It’s good to have both styles on hand and be able to use either one.
- Jigger – No home bar is complete without at least one jigger. A jigger is a small liquid measuring cup that you pour cocktail ingredients into for measuring and then dump the contents into your shaker. Hands down, our favorite jigger of all time is the OXO 2oz. angled shot glass which is designed for reading from overhead.
- Hawthorne Strainer – A Hawthorne strainer is used in conjunction with a Boston shaker. It’s usually paddle-shaped and it’s trademark is a tight ring of coils. You hold it inside the lip of the cup on your shaker and pour away, holding all the ice and other particulates in your shaker.
- Citrus Juicer – While not absolutely essential for every cocktail, a hinged press citrus juicer is smart to have around because it allows you to extract fresh lemon and lime juices quickly. To use, you place your citrus in the bottom cup, cut side down and squeeze. The juice runs through the openings and into your shaker. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezey!
- Bar Spoon – A bar spoon is a long, slender metal soon specifically designed for cocktails. Most have a twisted stem to make them easy to hold and twirl when stirring your cocktail. Bar spoons are used to stir any cocktail made entirely of spirits such as a Martini or a Manhattan.
- Muddler – Muddlers are used to muddle fruit like citrus or berries and herbs such as mint. Muddlers come in a variety of shapes and material (steel, plastic, wood), but our recommendation is a natural wood muddler with no stain or finish.
- Citrus Channel Knife – This handy tool is used to create that julienne strip of citrus peel to garnish your cocktail. You’ll be amazed at how easy this tool is to use and it will become one of your favorites…trust us!
- Wire Strainer – Simply put, a wire screen strainer is used when you have extra pulp or fruit in your shaker that you’d like to make sure stays out of your cocktail. A fine wire strainer is used as an added level of filtering as you pour your cocktail into your glass.
- Large Ice Cubes – The company Tovolo makes silicone ice cube trays that come in both large square and ball shaped. These cubes are slower melting and perfect for your ice-driven drinks like margaritas, etc. Besides, one big chunk or ball of ice looks super impressive as it cools your cocktail.
Step Three: Use Fresh Ingredients
Source: Serious Eats
Every fruit has its season – the time of year when you can enjoy it at its very best. We all know that using the freshest of ingredients in cooking will yield the best dishes, and now it’s time for you to bring that philosophy into your liquid kitchen. Sure, there’s always a time when using a pre-made mix or frozen fruit may be in order, but 9-times-out-of-10, your cocktail will shine through when you’re using fresh fruit or herbs. You’ll be amazed at the difference fresh ingredients will make in your libations so 2015 is a year to resolve to spending a little more time at the farmers market or in the produce section selecting the right items for your cocktails. You can make spirit infusions, customized simple syrups and fruit purees which will expand your mixology experimenting!
Source: Style Me Pretty
For a beautifully illustrated guide to remind you of the natural seasons for most fruits and vegetables, you can download this guide for yourself.