Tips for making the perfect cocktail

Published on 11 July 2017

Be it for a special occasion or to simply end your evening with something a little lavish, cocktails are the perfect celebratory drink. And while it’s easy to go all out and get complicated with your concoctions, it’s also possible to pare them back and shake up a simple, yet deliciously satisfying one yourself. Just follow these tricks for becoming a master bartender in the comfort of your own home.

Always use fresh fruit

Freshly squeezed juice and real muddled fruit bring a cocktail to life, and make them unbelievably moreish. You’ll enhance the flavour of your liquor and the natural sugars in the fruit will add a subtle sweetness. When choosing between the two most common citrus notes found in many cocktails – lemon or lime – use this rule of thumb: lemons make the perfect pair to brown liquors, while lime is the best complement for white liquors.

Get your ratios right

Mixing cocktails involves a level of math know-how – most follow a 2:1:1 ratio of alcohol to sour (like lemon or lime) to sweet for a balanced flavour. Add a mixer like soda water or ginger beer to soften the flavour as needed – sometimes all you need is a splash to adjust it to meet your own palette. Also, never free pour. Cocktail making is an exact science so getting the balance of flavours in your mix is key to a smooth (and drinkable) finish.

Don’t forget the garnish

While you may think a cocktail garnish is all for show, it actually plays a key part in the overall flavour thanks to its aroma. Mint leaves and orange rind are popular choices, adding freshness and zest respectively to your cocktail combination. But for their aromas to shine through, make sure you gently crush herbs and for an orange rind, heat it over an open flame before twisting or rubbing around the rim of your glass to release its intensity. 

Know when to shake or stir

Not all cocktails are best served shaken – depending on the ingredients it can actually change the flavour profile of your drink. Shaking adds bubbles to your drink, which lifts cocktails that include ingredients like fruit, juice, dairy-based liqueurs and additives, and egg. However, for drinks that only contain thinner ingredients (like water and spirits only), stirring will deliver the strongest and more flavour-rich result.

Ice is everything

Ice isn’t only added to cool down the cocktail, but it also helps dilute your mix of liquids. And don’t worry, you’re not going to end up with a watered-down drink; the dilution from ice actually helps bring out the flavours of the alcohol. Also, make sure you chill your cocktail glass before serving. You can do this by filling it with ice while you prepare the cocktail. When you’re ready to pour, simply toss out the ice from the glass first. A cold glass will keep your cocktail cool for longer, which will ensure the flavour is just right from the first sip to the last.