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6 Steps To Becoming Your Own Mixologist


The cocktail culture is still going strong. Witness the popularity of the Espresso Martini, Aperol Spritz, and Paloma. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a bartender to wow your family and friends at home. Here’s how to start.
Making drinks


You can ruin a cocktail with too little or too much of the key ingredients. So, invest in a jigger or cocktail measuring glass. “It will help keep you honest when you are making an Old Fashioned or the Negroni Sbagliato that everyone is talking about,” says Andrew Olson, head mixologist and cofounder of Hook Hand Rum.

A well-equipped bar should also have a strainer, corkscrew, and bottle opener. And if you like fruit and botanicals in your cocktails, consider a muddler, a pestle-like tool that grinds or blends ingredients. A lemon squeezer also comes in handy.


Perhaps the most recognizable piece of equipment is the shaker. While some people prefer a stainless-steel version, Olson likes one that is half stainless steel and half glass. Paul Kushner, CEO of My Bartender, a recipe resource for home and professional mixologists, is also a fan of the half-and-half. “You can use it for shaking, muddling, and stirring,” he says.

Elevated Craft is a hybrid cocktail shaker with a measuring system in the lid—no jigger needed. Plus, the double-wall vacuum insulation keeps the shaker at a constant temperature to better control dilution from the ice, which is a big deal in bartending circles. Use a cocktail shaker for drinks that contain juices, syrups, or dairy, says Claire Onidi, founder of JugoFeed, a food blog. “It will blend the ingredients better than stirring.”

Since not every cocktail requires a shaker, you’ll need a mixing glass and bar spoon. “The mixing glass is usually a statement piece and really allows you to have a visual experience while mixing a drink,” Olson says.
Titos drinks


If you’re interested in cocktails, you’re probably not sipping wine from a mug or jelly glass.

To be sure, there’s just something satisfying about using the right glass, says former bartender Luke Slater of The Cask Connoisseur. While he can’t prove it, he believes that the correct glass will elevate the aroma and flavor.

Your choice partly depends on your favorite cocktails. Onidi, for instance, likes rum and Coke or a Tom Collins, so she owns a lot of highball glasses. Coupe glasses are for sparkling wine and martini cocktails, while a rocks glass or double-rocks glass is perfect for an Old Fashioned or a spirit on the rocks. Other considerations include flutes, shot glasses, margarita glasses, and the newly popular Nick and Nora glasses, which look like small wineglasses.
Making a drink


Having gin, vodka, rum, and whiskey on hand will cover many cocktail recipes, says Slater. Typical liqueurs and aperitifs include triple sec, vermouth, Campari, and Aperol.

As for mixers, fresh is vital when it comes to juices, says Camille Wilson, a cocktail blogger and author. She says that store-bought citrus juices often include sweeteners and stabilizers that will create an unbalanced drink. Similarly, forget pre-made simple syrup, Kushner says. “Simple syrup is just equal parts sugar and water heated in a pot until the sugar dissolves.”

Ice is an underrated cocktail ingredient, maintains Wilson, who recommends having plenty of it on hand. Not just any ice will do for Olson. Cloudy, stale cubes are about as exciting as flat sparkling water, he says. Many liquor stores carry specialty ice, including blocks, spheres, and pebbles. Perfectionists like Slater want the right ice for the job—crushed ice for drinks that require diluting and slowly melting cubes for spirit-heavy cocktails. Investing in ice molds can ensure that you always have the right shape.

When assembling your ingredients, ensure you have the proper accoutrements. “All you need to take your drink to the next level is a slice of orange, lime, or lemon,” maintains Onidi. Maraschino cherries bring a pop of color to a cocktail and have a long shelf life.


Now that you have all the makings, study the classic recipes. You won’t lack sources. There are books, websites, and tutorials.

Or you can go high-tech with a product like the Barsys, a smart coaster and mixer that links to an app. Find your desired cocktail, and the app will provide step-by-step ingredients. Meanwhile, the coaster senses the measurement and indicates when to move to the next step.
Courtesy of Shaker & SpoonPhoto courtesy of Shaker & Spoon


Several expert mixologists suggest that once you’ve got the classics mastered, put your own spin on a drink by using different mixers and spirits. Others recommend tasting your drink as you make it, so you can understand the ideal ratio of ingredients and how it affects the quality of the drink.

Adventurous palates can experiment even further, especially with the help of cocktail subscriptions like Shaker & Spoon. Call it a Blue Apron for cocktails. Each month, subscribers receive three different recipes and all the ingredients, except alcohol.

And remember, practice makes perfect.