How To Make Better Cocktails At Home

One of the best parts of hosting a party at your place or having people over impromptu is playing bartender, but it can quickly turn into a perception vs. reality problem—which means a lot of really awful drinks. If you haven’t mastered the art of making cocktails. no need to panic, we enlisted the help of two of our favorite mixologists to get the scoop on making drinks on your own.

Choose the Cheaper Stuff…Really!
Austin Mendez, the bar director of Messhall Kitchen in Los Angeles, promises that you don’t have to go top shelf to impress at your party; it’s okay to let go of your dreams of recreating late 90s/early 2000s rap music videos. “Some of the best spirits are ones you’ve never heard of before,” he says. If the company doesn’t really advertise, it’s usually because they put that money into the product. He also recommends doing some Internet research beforehand or asking your own favorite bartender.

Buy Fresh Ingredients
It’s easy to grab a few bottles of juice right there in the liquor store, but Mendez thinks that’s an idea you should swipe left on. “Get some citrus and juice it yourself. Buying juice is going to cost you in flavor and money. Do the little extra work.” Another great tip of his is one that probably never crosses your mind: the size of the ice, but that’s why he’s the pro. “Invest in a mold that makes larger ice. It will keep your drink from being diluted and keep it cold longer.”

Don’t Guess the Measurements When Mixing
Throwing ingredients together without paying much attention to the written amounts in a recipe is the perfect way to make sure no one ever lets you make their drinks again. Robert Taylor, bartender at The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City, just outside of Washington D.C., says, “Being accurate when making cocktails is an absolute must. While some cocktail drinks are actually made by personal judgment, for example a rum coke float, many others require precise measurement for it to achieve the perfect balance and taste.”

You Can Still Get A Little Creative With the Recipe
Accuracy doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun. Taylor encourages novice bartenders to play around with recipe ingredients where they can. Because we all know that sometimes the remix is just a little better than the original version. For instance, honey, agave syrup, brown sugar and maple syrup can all be used instead of white sugar to sweeten your cocktails. Just make sure you taste the mix the whole time you’re experimenting. He warns (rather ominously) that “you can always add to the cocktail but you can’t take away.”

Graduate From Red Cups
Nothing says you still drink like your twenty-one-year-old self quite like a stack of Solo cups. Sure, they make cleanup easy at a rager, but for a small get-together while adulting, presentation is everything, so decent glassware adds a nice touch. If you’re in a pinch (and rich in mismatched glasses and plastic tumblers), though, Taylor says never underestimate what a little garnish can do. Try mint, rosemary, thyme, sage, fresh berries, lemon, limes, or stuffed olives.

Finally, A Recipe Ready to take the training wheels off? Here’s Austin Mendez’s favorite easy-to-make recipe. Don’t let the name fool you though, this isn’t that kind of daiquiri, it’s an actual legit, OG daiquiri, made popular in Cuba in the 50’s. It was Ernest Hemmingway's favorite drink (and why it's also known as a "Hemmingway Daiquri" so if it's good enough for one of literature's biggest badasses it's good enough for you. Cheers!

The Hemmingway Daiquiri
2 oz. white rum

1 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup

1. Combine all ingredients in shaking tin.
2. Add ice and shake long and hard (about 40 - 60 seconds).
3. Double strain with a fine strainer into a coupe and garnish with a lime wheel.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published