You’ve always wanted to be a master bartender like the character in the 80s classic movie Cocktail, or perhaps you simply want to have an excellent home bar for entertaining friends and relaxing at home with good drink anytime. Any good mixologist will tell you that the secret to creating the best drinks is to be equipped with the right tools and fresh ingredients. Having shaking and stirring skills will also stand you in good stead when it comes to impressing your guests with cocktails or deliciously simple spirits on the rocks.
You’re gonna want to invest in professional tools and attractive glasses, because whiskey on the rocks just doesn’t seem to taste the same when you drink it out your mother’s milk glasses with floral patterns. Here are a few tips and tricks for enjoying bar quality drinks in your very own Man-Cave.
The Essential Ingredients
it doesn’t take a diehard barfly to know that you need a few basics for your bar such as whiskey, gin, rum and other spirits. The question is what brands and types of alcohol to buy. It is a good idea to have a selection of each variety, with high quality gins and whiskeys or basic vodkas. If you want to save some money, you may be able to get away with using cheaper brands of alcohol in mixed drinks, but make sure you use premium quality alcohol if you are drinking it on the rocks or straight up, because that is where smoothness counts.
All of your ingredients should be fresh if you want to enjoy drinks that are as satisfying as those you order from your local bartender. That means ditching that unopened bottle of liqueur with the yellowing label that you inherited from your deceased aunt. Even minor ingredients should be fresh and well within the sell by date. For the most delicious screwdrivers and boozy punches, squeeze the oranges yourself and your own lemons and limes rather than using bottled lemon juice. Freshness is in the details, and these small touches will make the difference to your taste buds.
Shaken or Stirred
The famous spy and infamous ladies’ man James Bond ordered his drinks shaken not stirred. A bartender should’ve taken issue with him if he had asked for his all-liquor drinks this way. Certain drinks should be shaken and not stirred and certain drinks should be stirred and not shaken. A bartender knows that all liquor drinks should not be shaken, because shaking creates foam and all-booze drinks should be smooth. Stirring technique is of the essence, and requires a long handled bar spoon designed for that purpose. Stir your drinks quickly while rotating your fingers as you move the spoon in circular motions.
Drinks that have ingredients that are nonalcoholic such as fruit juices can be shaken. A daiquiri for instance needs something more than a spoon to blend it properly. Use a stainless steel two section shaker designed for this purpose, and shake the contents vigorously for 15 to 20 seconds until the outside of the shaker is frosty. For maximum freshness drinks should be made a few minutes before consumption, however if you want to prepare straight spirit cocktails for a party, you can make them ahead of time, store them in the fridge, and stir them individually in glasses before serving.
Tools of the Trade
Every chef values his tools, and food enthusiasts salivate over catalogs and websites designed with a perfect kitchen implements. Just as many people are desperate for the newest iteration of the iPhone, chefs are always upgrading their kitchen tools. The same is true for expert mixologists and champion bartenders, who like chefs, value their tools. Even the simplest bar requires a few items that cannot be replaced with similar implements. For instance, you need a jigger to measure shots precisely, and hopefully you wouldn’t dream of using measuring cups from your kitchen. Nothing quite replaces a real bar shaker with a stainless steel finish. Some bartenders prefer the French style shakers while others are partial to Boston shakers. A bar spoon, unlike a kitchen spoon, has a long thin handle with a swivel design to make stirring easier. You may need strainers in several sizes fits various types of glasses. Finally the right mixing glass with a seamless design can help you make the perfect drinks.
All About Ice
Eskimos may be experts out about snow, but bartenders know all about ice. It isn’t enough for ice simply to keep your drink cold, but the shape and thickness of the ice effects the flavor of your drinks. For instance, ice cubes are ideal for straight alcohol on the rocks, because their large size melts slowly and does not dilute the drink. No bartender would ever dream of using shaved ice with straight liquor, because the pieces of ice would interfere with the smooth texture, and would add too much water to a drink. Cracked ice melts quickly and is ideal for frozen drinks. Shaved ice belongs in the shaker where it creates a smooth texture for a daiquiri. A bartender pays special attention to how the ice is made, and the first rule is never use water for making ice that you would drink. This may seem obvious, but many people are averse to drinking tap water but prefer filtered or mineral water. Do not place ice in the freezer close to, fish, meat, or anything with a strong flavor. It’s for this reason that even if you can make ice at home, it may be a good idea to go to the store and get ready made ice in bags.
You don’t have to be a professional bartender to make bar quality drinks right in your home for yourself, your date, or your friends. Applying mixology tips and using the right tools of the trade help you enjoy awesome drinks without leaving the house.