The Do's and Don't of Cocktail Making

When you decide to start making cocktails, you have to get an idea of what you should and shouldn’t do to save yourself the time and headache of having to unlearn incorrect techniques. There are some basics that you should keep in mind because they’ll produce the best cocktails.

 

This quick list will give you a brief overview of what will help you as you learn to become a bartender, mixologist, or recreational mixer. 

 

Without further ado, let’s get into cocktail making!

Tips to Help You Get Started

Follow these steps to get into the world of cocktails:

DO Learn the Basic Cocktails

This tip isn’t necessarily essential, but it’s a good idea to learn some basic cocktails before you start trying the more advanced stuff. Some drinks have cycled in and out of style, but these six drinks seem to be a staple in bar culture: the Old-fashioned, Daiquiri, Sour, Martini, Flip, and the Highball. 

 

These drinks are the foundation for your to expand your skills and create other cocktails. 

DO Use Fresh Ingredients

The quality of your cocktails will increase exponentially just by using fresh herbs and fresh-squeezed juices. The juices in stores contain a lot of extra sugar. That can affect your cocktail recipes and make the process more complicated than it has to be. 

If you have a mini garden, it will also lower your costs along the way. 

 

Pro tip: use the oil from your orange or other citrus fruit, and rub it around the rim of the glass for a heavenly scent before the sip. 

DO Dilute Your Cocktails Correctly 

You never want to over-dilute your cocktail. If it’s too watery, it lacks any flavor, but I’m more so referring to under diluting your cocktail, making it much too strong. It could be the difference between your cocktail having nice flavors that meld together and your cocktails being a 6 oz “shot” of hard liquor. 

 

When you add water to your cocktail by mixing it with ice, that’s dilution; or when you stir the ice in, it’s the same. Diluting your cocktail generally requires about 15 to 30 seconds of shaking or stirring. 

DO Sample Before You Serve

It’s crucial to taste the cocktail before you serve it. Of course, do it sanitarily if you’re serving someone else, but it’s necessary. You can take a clean straw and dip the end in the glass to get a quick taste. This tip is how you ensure your ingredients came together as you planned. 

DO Chooses the Right Glasses

There’s not necessarily a wrong glass to present your cocktail, but some glasses are better for a cocktail than others. The smell and taste of your cocktail can change if you use plastic instead of glass.

DO Keep Your Supplies Organized

Not only do you need to store your supplies in the same area, but they should also be easily accessible. This allows you to see what you have and what you need, and you also won’t have to keep going to different places around your workspace because your glasses are in a different place than your drink mixes.

Cocktail-Making Mistakes

When mixing cocktails, don’t do the following:

DON’T Use Regular Ice

A watery cocktail is simply undesirable. Smaller ice notoriously melts faster and will only dilute your drink quickly. Try purchasing a large silicone ice cube tray. Moreover, if you wish to have even better results, fill the tray with boiling water before freezing it. This process removes air from the water, optimizing the chill of the ice. 

DON’T Stir or Shake Unnecessarily

If your cocktail only has liquor and it becomes bitter, stir it. However, if it has mixers such as cream liqueurs, egg, dairy, or fruit juices, you will need to shake it to ensure that all ingredients don’t separate.

Keep in mind that shaking a drink with ice will dilute the drink a bit. However, in this situation, it’s necessary to help the ingredients blend. Lastly, take note that shaking also adds air to the cocktail. That is why drinks with eggs can appear foamy. So strain your drink after shaking it, and then add yourself an ice cube. 

DON’T Forget a Garnish

The temptation not to spend extra money on a garnish to serve yourself is understandable. However, there’s more to garnishing glasses than mere presentation. Garnishes also add to the flavor and even the aroma of the cocktail. The general rule for citrus in cocktails includes wedges, twists, peels, and wheels. Lastly, adding spice sticks, herb sprigs, and berries are essential for pulling off high-end cocktails.

 

This tip includes bitters as well. Bitters come from botanicals like flowers, fruit, or bark. Bitters will give your cocktail more layers of flavor.

 

DON’T Forget to Pair Your Cocktail Properly

In the end, food can interfere with the flavor of your cocktail. Pair your whiskey with cheese, meat, and seafood. Rum goes with Caribbean-style chicken, bananas, and fish. Vodka is perfect with salads and cured meats and gin with lighter foods such as nuts and smoked salmon.

DON’T Forget to Muddle

The act of crushing fruit, herbs, and sugar to bring out flavors and help them to mix with alcohol is muddling. This process is essential for the freshness component.

 

When your cocktail has these ingredients, press them with the muddler to release flavors into the cocktail right before you serve. It’s necessary to muddle herbs and leaves gently, but rinds and fruits will need more pressure.

DON’T Use Cheap Equipment

If you genuinely enjoy the craft of mixology, then it will be worth it to you to buy the correct equipment. You can find some quality kits online that come equipped with a strainer, cocktail shaker, bar spoon, jigger, and muddler. A jigger is a measuring cup that’s shaped like an hourglass that’s used to ensure the perfect balance of ingredients every time.

 

Final Thoughts

In the end, it’s a learning process. You may make some mistakes along the way, but cocktail making is pretty fun. For one, you get to make classics that you’ve enjoyed all while in the comfort of your own home. 

 

Additionally, you also get to experiment with new flavors and create a signature cocktail of your own once you grasp the flavors and science of mixing. 

 

Whatever your goals, just stay organized and dedicate yourself to learning the craft.