By: Mussy Raitman, Lubicom Staff
On a hot summer’s day, I can think of few better ways of spending my nights than relaxing outside, sipping the perfect summer cocktail. I know cocktails are a year-round thing, but there is nothing that comes close to a mixed drink made with seasonal ingredients.
My favorite this summer; a watermelon and basil combination.
This summer I took on the challenge of learning to craft my own cocktails. I couldn’t resist the opportunity of learning how to mix great drinks at home. It’s fun and really not difficult (once I learned the real difference between liquor and a liqueur and when to use lemons or limes. FYI- lemons should be paired with brown liquor and limes with white liquor).
One of the greatest myths about mixology is that it’s time-consuming and not worth it. Let’s just put it this way – if you think making pizza from scratch is worth the effort (which it is!), that same joy you get from cooking can be found when you make some new mixes. Oh, and just you wait until you see the look on your friends’ faces when you pull out that rose-gold cocktail shaker. Not to mention the amount of money you’ll keep in your pocket when you stop spending your savings on $14 martinis.
So, if you’re looking to dive deeper into the world of mixology, a quick crash course is all that you need. With a few basic tools and a handful of tips and tricks, your next drinks can be better than any you’ve ever dreamed of.
1. Always use good-quality alcohol. The better the quality of alcohol, the better the flavor notes in your drink. Unlike a lot of other items where you can get away with buying the cheaper option, when it comes to spirits at the liquor store the difference between the top and bottom bottles is huge. Let’s just say, if you try making a martini from an $8 bottle of gin it will taste significantly different than a $30 bottle. This does not mean you have to get the most expensive alcohol out there, but experimenting with mid-range bottles will help you determine which you like best.
Here are some of our favorites:
Gin: Distillery No. 209 Rum: Ron Abuelo
Vodka: LVOV Tequila: Los Generales
2. When it comes to cocktails, believe it or not, the shape and size of your ice cubes makes a difference. Forget about running to the gas station for a bag of ice before your party. Nowadays there are hundreds of different ice cube trays available for purchase. Using an unusual shape or size ice cube tray can spice things up and keep your drink refreshing and cold.
3. Personally, I think mint is by far the herbal star of summertime drinks. Whether you’re plucking it straight from your garden or buying from the store, there is a technique to bringing out its aroma and flavor. Before using any mint, clap the leaves in your hand. Doing this bursts the cells in the leaves, releasing the liquid, which is where all the minty magic is stored. It’s also important to remember to handle the leaves with care. It sounds funny, but excessive muddling can cause the mint to take on a very bitter flavor.
4. Some things in life just go so well together that we hardly give them a second thought. When it comes to cocktails, the most popular element by far is citrus fruits. However, make sure to follow a couple of rules. All citrus fruits should be left out on the counter, not the fridge, as chilled citrus fruit is less juicy. Additionally, acidic fruits oxidize quickly and in turn can taste extremely bitter. It’s essential, particularly with limes, to squeeze them right before you are planning on using them.
5. I don’t know if it’s just me, but having a perfectly garnished cocktail is half of the fun. Gone are the days of the sickly sweet soaked cherries. Fresh ingredients like a mint sprig or a piece of pineapple on the side of the cup is a real game-changer. Rubbing lemon or lime on the rim of your glass takes the flavor up a notch.
It can be a little intimidating when you start experimenting with different flavor combos, but nothing catastrophic will happen–remember to have fun! Make sure you start off with an easy cocktail recipe that can be served in a large jug for sharing. The more you practice mixing flavors, the more spot-on your drinks will get.
And, if you’d prefer to start off with a recipe, check out three of our best cocktails:
- Blood Orange Margarita with Cinnamon Sugar by Trisha Jones
- Tropical Mule by Tessa Skara
- Strawberry Lime Mojitos by Kiki Fisher
Anyone, and I mean anyone, can master making a cocktail. Just keep in mind: don’t mix your cocktails like a cake batter. Keep things cool, calm, and collected in your cocktail shaker.