How To Make A Cocktail Like An Expert
Illustrations by Mr Joe McKendry
From the freshest ingredients to the ideal equipment – here is our guide to help you prepare the perfect tipple.
There are four things the modern gentleman should be able to do: change a tyre, tie a bow tie, start a fire and, most importantly, mix a great cocktail. You may feel that the latter is probably the most difficult to achieve, but with a little practise and a lot more confidence, this could prove to be a valuable and impressive tool.
There are many classic cocktails you could choose from to be part of your repertoire (see below for a few recipes to get you started), but for maximum effect you need to make a bespoke creation that reflects whoever you’re trying to impress.
Here are the main things to consider when crafting your drink:
Trust your tools
Select the cocktail equipment that you are comfortable using; there is nothing worse than a shaker exploding all over you and your guest – alexanderandjames.com is a good site where you’ll find everything you need. Also, if you use a two-piece shaker, practise in advance. These can sometimes be tricky to separate so need some getting used to before you can make it all look incredibly slick on the night.
The finer details
Make sure you have fresh, seasonal fruit. Pre-squeezed fresh lemon or lime juice will save time and mess (don’t be tempted by bottled varieties). Also, make sure you have something for a sweet tooth: sugar syrup, agave nectar, honey or elderflower cordial should always be in your cupboard.
Don’t assume you can make enough ice for your cocktails with the plastic tray in your freezer alone – this is simply not enough. No one wants a warm drink, and it’s better to have too much rather than run out, so you’ll need at least one big bag of cubes/chippings – you can pick these up from most supermarkets.
Focus on the drink
When you are shaking your cocktail, make sure to never make eye contact with your guest/s. You usually have to shake for 10 seconds – which can get extremely uncomfortable even if you share a glance.
Strong drinks are lovely if they are made correctly, but generally you can only have the one. A good rule should be that no drink exceeds two units of alcohol, which equates to 50ml of the hard stuff per glass.
Strike a balance
Make sure you get the correct balance of sweet versus sour. If you master this, the cocktail should taste like a sorbet. If in doubt, make it more on the sweet side, as a sugary drink is generally more palatable than a sour one.
When using egg white in a drink, remember that it’s only for aesthetics and texture. If you can taste it then you have used too much – the drink will be chalky and unpleasant. Only use approximately 5-10ml per glass.
Keep it classy
Don’t make the garnish too elaborate. The star of the show should always be the drink; the decoration should be simple, rustic and serve a purpose. Choose stylish glassware and focus on the ingredients for inspiration. No cocktail umbrellas and sparklers, please.
Mr Barrie Wilson worked as a cocktail expert for Diageo before co-founding drinks brands consultancy Scotch+Limon