It's arguably the best way of entertaining guests at home. It can bring people together, show off your expertise, and provides an altogether cheaper alternative to a night out at a bar.
But mixing drinks at home is far easier said than done. There's a great deal to learn before you get started, which puts most people off of trying. But don't be dissuaded, it's well worth the effort!
Not only that but we've made the whole process easier by writing this beginner's guide. We're going to let you know everything you need to get started, as well as some essential tricks and tips along the way, before listing some of the best cocktails to learn first.
Once you've read through this guide, you'll be well on your way to become a cocktail maestro from the comfort of your home bar!
Mixing Drinks: The Alcohol You Need
A cocktail, much like a home-cooked meal, is a question of using the right ingredients properly.
You should treat mixed drink making like cookery. By doing that, you first need to acknowledge which ingredients you need.
Like with cooking, there are certain ingredients that are used for a lot of different cocktails. The trick to starting out is stocking up your bar with the essential spirits to get you started.
As a general rule, we'd recommend that you purchase big bottles of:
- Whiskey (not too fancy to start with)
- 2 or 3 liqueurs (some classics include coffee liqueur, Cointreau or amaretto)
Now you can't make every cocktail in existence with this brief list, but in terms of alcohol, this covers most of your bases.
Before you entertain guests we'd also recommend you purchase a crate of beer and a couple of bottles of red and white wine. Unfortunately, as impressive as your cocktail skills will eventually become, some people simply prefer these drinks, and it's important to cater to everyone's desires to host a good party.
It isn't just alcohol you need to stock up on though, you'll also need mixers and additional items.
Stocking The Essentials
In addition to the above list of alcohol, you should look to stock the following list of different mixers:
- Coke or Diet Coke (Pepsi is totally fine)
- Fruit Juices (Orange, Cranberry, Pineapple, Tomato)
- Ginger Ale
- Tonic Water
- Lemon/Lime Soda
- Seltzer/Soda Water
In addition to mixers, you should ensure you've purchased:
- Lemons and Limes to be wedged
- Tobasco Sauce and Worchester Sauce
- Oranges to be sliced
- Fresh Mint
- Angostura Bitters
Now, we know this sounds like a fairly substantial shopping list. But we've listed this all out right away to make sure you have a bar fully stocked with all you need to get started.
There are more things you'll likely need to purchase in the future for your home bar, but this should be everything you need to start mixing drinks! That is with the exception of some glasses and other equipment that you'll require.
Glasses and Equipment
This is the last list of things you'll need to buy, we promise! But to learn how to mix drinks you'll need at least some of these items:
- Glasses (make sure to stock a variety to try out different cocktail serving styles)
- Cocktail Shaker
- Cocktail Strainer
- Mixing Spoons
- Jiggers (these will be your measurements)
- Chopping Board and Chopping Knife
There are other items you can acquire now to spruce up your home bars like beer mats or a cocktail rack, but we're focusing on the items you need to learn how to mix drinks.
Once you've bought all of this and decked out your home bar, we can get started learning some of the essential cocktail-making techniques.
Mixing Drinks: The Essential Techniques
There are several techniques that are used to serve a large number of different cocktails. You'll need to master these to properly mix drinks for your partygoers. We're going to list them here briefly, to let you know what they are and how you go about learning them:
Shaking: This is the classic drink mixing technique, where you use a cocktail shaker to mix ingredients together. Pour into one side, put the top on, bash it into place, give it a rough shake around, then separate and pour. It takes a while to get this movement right, so keep practicing!
Straining: This is often done after shaking but is also done for other cocktail recipes. To strain a drink, you simply put the strainer on top of the container and pour it over the glass.
Stirring: Again, a fairly self-explanatory technique. Make sure to use mixing spoons for this and practice getting your speed just right.
Layering: This is a more advanced technique used to put cream on top of certain cocktails. The best way to do this is by using the back of a spoon and pouring slowly.
Muddling: This is where you get the flavor out of things like fresh mint. An item known as a muddler is sometimes used, but you can simply crush things like mint with your mixing spoon.
There are some further techniques than this, such as flaming or blending, but we're going to leave that for more advanced lessons.
Once you've had practice with all of these, you should have all the basic techniques you need to start making some standard cocktails for your family gathering!
Best Mixed Drinks to Learn First
When it comes to choosing drinks to mix, there are many timeless favorites you can learn first. Maybe after making these, you can take part in some college drinking games! We're going to list a few of them below:
Don Draper's favorite. The Old Fashioned is a mixed drink that's been popular for many years, and it's one of the easiest to learn first.
All you need is a good whiskey, angostura bitters, sugar, and an orange peel.
Simply add the bitters and sugar (half a teaspoon or a cube) to the glass and mix with a dash of water. Make sure to do this until the sugar is almost dissolved.
Then, add your whiskey, or bourbon if you'd prefer, and combine, including some ice at this stage if requested.
Finally, garnish with an orange peel. Make sure you twist the peel over the top of the glass first to get the orange flavor into the drink.
That's it! You've successfully made your first mixed drink at home. Easy, right? Now we're going to list a couple more mixed drinks you can try your hand at.
The Dude's favorite! White Russians are a delicious creamy choice that many people enjoy.
You'll need vodka, coffee liquor, and either milk or heavy cream, depending on how heavy you want the drink to be.
First, add the coffee liquor and the vodka to the glass. This should be a tumbler similar to the glass used for an Old Fashioned.
Then, you top this with either the milk or the heavy cream and gently stir.
That's it, you've made a White Russian! That's two classic mixed drinks you've already mastered from the comfort of your own home.
Now, let's try one that's ever so slightly harder.
A zesty, refreshing favorite for hot weather. To make a mojito you'll need some fresh mint, crushed ice, sugar, white rum, soda water, and a lime.
Muddle the mint, sugar and lime juice together. Make sure you're crushing the mint as you do this.
Add this mixture to a tall glass filled up with lots of ice. This ice should be crushed ideally, but regular ice works just fine.
Then, pour over the white rum whilst stirring with your long mixing spoon. Top up with soda water (these ratios are up to you, the more rum, the stronger the mojito!) and a final garnish of fresh mint.
That's a mojito! You can create a large batch of mojito to serve to several guests at once at a mixed drink party, or serve them individually.
What If I Need More Fun Ideas?
Congratulations, you've gone from a mixing drinks novice to stocking your own home bar and creating three of the world's most popular mixed drinks!
Keep practicing those techniques and make sure to look up some new mixed drink ideas. Chances are you should have all the ingredients you need with your stocked up bar to give it a try.
If you're looking for more fun ideas with drinks or parties, make sure you take a look through our fun center blog posts!
In our fun center, we outline several different party ideas, drinking games, and much more. Not only that, but we have some more family-friendly ideas alongside the more boozy outings you undertake with your friends!