SEVEN TOP TIPS ON HOW TO PREP YOUR HOME BAR AND MIX COCKTAILS LIKE A PRO
Many of us enjoy a tipple in the garden as the weather gets warmer and now is the time to take stock and give your home bar a bit of attention and a refresh so as soon as the sun puts in an appearance, you are ready.
1. Variety is the Spice of Life
You’ll have your own favourites, but my absolute essentials are whisky, tequila, gin, and Drambuie of course, with a handful of spirits and liqueurs. Look up classic cocktail recipes with your favourite base spirits and you’ll discover more bottles to increase your repertoire, this avoids the guesswork of what to buy and ensures you know what to do with them.
One of the forgotten stars of the home bar to have on hand is both dry and sweet vermouth, and both can be used in a variety of cocktails.
2. Don’t forget the bitters!
Bitters are also essential to creating the perfect cocktail. They are like the salt and pepper of the drink’s world – no bar should be without them. Bitters add complexity to your drinks and accentuate other tastes, like sourness or sweetness, and give your drink more depth of flavour.
The classic two are Angostura and orange bitters, but these days you can find anything from electric Szechuan to grapefruit and hops to add to your drinks. Just think along the same lines as a seasoning food, start less as you can always add more.
3. Get ahead and make your own cordials and syrups
I’m giving you one of my cheat secrets that will save you time and impress your guests so much that they’ll be asking for the recipe. I make my own citrus cordial – not only does it taste delicious, but it is also economical and lasts for ages in the fridge.
Start by peeling and juicing either four lemons or 6 limes and reserve the peel. Next, dissolve 200g of sugar into 225ml of hot water and combine with the citrus juice which should be approximately 150ml.
Using a blender, in more than one batch, if necessary, combine the liquid and citrus peels. Strain the whole mixture into small leftover glass bottles and you should have enough for at least ten Drambuie Whisky Sours or Margaritas.
The magic of these cordials is that you’re also extracting the aromas from the skins and being less wasteful by using the whole fruit.
4. Cold brew coffee – the perfect ‘pick me up’ ingredient
The beauty of a cold brew coffee, decaf or caffeinated, is it that it acts as the perfect ‘pick me up to cut through a rich party food and when combined with your favourite spirit is a great way to extend celebrations with family and friends.
Its versatility means it can be paired happily with a tonic for a refreshing spritz or in a delicious Espresso Martini. I like to prepare mine when having my morning coffee. That way I can just pop it in the fridge until I’m ready to use it and surprise my guests with the perfect Jubilee cocktail.
5. Ice, the most important ingredient you’ve never considered an ingredient
You’ve got all your spirits, cordials, and mixers ready, before reaching for the ice only to find yourself staring into the small empty voids of your freezer ice tray.
The best purchase you can make is stocking up on two bags of commercially made ice which you can pick up from your local supermarket. I also replaced my old ice tray with a few small Tupperware boxes (about half the size of a block of butter) for making my own ice. I use these for large, stirred tumbler cocktails, like an Old Fashioned and Negroni.
6. Jiggers, Shakers, and Tumblers
The best purchase I made in the last few years was a miniature 60ml measuring jug, combine this with a good Hawthorne cocktail strainer, and everything else in my opinion is optional. Even without a gold-plated cocktail shaker, you can use a clean empty jam jar.
We also need a vessel to drink out of, so now is a really good time to make sure you’ve more than a couple of nice cocktail glasses. The next time you pass a charity shop or antique store have a look for some cool vintage martini ones and don’t just put them in a cupboard as they also make good display pieces.
People often ask me the secret behind making a good cocktail at home and I always say garnishes – they can really elevate home amateur mixing to a cocktail worthy of any trendy bar.
The key to garnishes is they really need to have a purpose and some flavour affinity with a drink. For example, take a delicious cocktail that incorporates Drambuie. You could always garnish with some honeycomb or even bee pollen to complement the sweet honey flavours or use some fun Jubilee-themed toppers to make the most of the moment!
“I was shaking and making these cocktails in Edinburgh bars 20 years ago, during The Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and it’s a true Scottish twist on Dick Bradsell’s original Espresso Martini,” said the drink’s creator, mixologist Freddy May.
“I’ve never forgotten how much better they tasted to me than the vodka version of the cocktail, and now I’ve updated the recipe to feature Scotland’s most famous whisky liqueur.
“I’ve been making delicious and interesting drinks with Drambuie honeyed liqueur for many years. During that time, I’ve come to realise this unique spirit comes alive when we embrace its generous butterscotch aromas and rich texture. Drambuie is a luxurious treat fit for a Jubilee celebration and perfect for sharing with friends and loved ones.”
Recipes for both the Scots Guards Whisky Espresso Martini are below and available from Drambuie
RECIPE: SCOTS GUARDS WHISKY ESPRESSO MARTINI
- 25 ml Drambuie Honeyed Liqueur
- 25 ml Scotch Whisky
- 50ml Espresso or strong cold brew coffee, decaffeinated if preferred
- Lots of ice
Pour all ingredients over ice and shake vigorously before pouring into a chilled martini glass.