A beginner’s guide to making cocktails at home

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If you have some time on your hands, there’s no better opportunity to learn how to mix drinks like a pro than in the comfort of your own home. Screencap from WHOLESOME MEALS, BETTER LIFE/CNN PHILIPPINES

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — When you’re a beginner to mixing drinks, you’re either one of two things: intimidated and unsure where to begin, or under the impression that you can just pour any alcohol base and some juice into a glass and call it a cocktail. Mixology is its own art and science, and like any field, it’s just a matter of balance. If you have some time on your hands, there’s no better opportunity to learn how to mix drinks like the pros, even in the comfort of your own home.

It’s important to find ways to relax and refresh, and maybe try out a new thing or two. And when it comes to cocktails, starting with the basics is key — not only does it make you look like you know what you’re doing (because you will know), it’ll also put you on the right path to experimenting and getting more creative.

1. Get the right tools.

The most important of these would be the cocktail shaker, and experts will tell you that a Boston shaker does the job well. It’s a two-piece shaker made up of a glass and a metal tin, the latter of which helps cool the drink faster with the inclusion of ice. The two pieces are typically inserted into one another to prevent the liquid from spilling as it’s shaken. If you don’t own one, or aren’t too confident in your skills yet, a regular tumbler works as an alternative.

The jigger is used as a measuring cup, whether to fulfill the 1:2 ratio for making cocktails (more on that later), or for pouring shots. A “jigger” is itself a unit of measurement in cocktail recipes — it basically means 1.5 oz, or around 45 ml, which is the standard for jiggers and shot glasses. Simple shot glasses work fine if you don’t have a fancier jigger at your disposal.

You’ll also need a bar spoon for mixing and layering drinks (or anything long and thin, like chopsticks or metal straws), a muddler for mashing fruits and other solid ingredients (or a wooden spatula or spoon), a bar knife or any kitchen knife, bar spouts for precise pouring and measurements, and a strainer to make sure drinks are served smooth.

2. Learn the techniques.

You might have heard of the phrase “shaken, not stirred,” a catchphrase from James Bond that describes the iconic fictional spy’s preference as to how his martinis are prepared. When it comes to mixing techniques, it’s indeed a choice between shaking and stirring — but shaking is said to get it done faster, and with better results for flavor and texture. With a Boston shaker, you usually have to shake for 10 to 20 seconds before the drink is cool enough and thoroughly mixed.

Other techniques include muddling or mashing solid ingredients to release their flavor and make it easier to incorporate them into liquids, straining to separate liquids and solids, blending, and building, which is mixing the drink over ice.

3. Know the basics.

Complicated as they may seem, the simplest of cocktails would require technically just two ingredients: a basic spirit, or base liquor, and a modifier or mixer, which can include fruits, juices, syrups, herbs and spices, creams, bitters, and softer liqueurs. Here’s where the 1:2 ratio comes in — perfectly balanced cocktails can be achieved by adding one portion of the spirit, and two portions of the mixer.

For base liquors, there are six types that are most common. Vodka has a clean, neutral flavor profile that goes well with a wide range of tastes. Gin is perfect for dry cocktails such as martinis, and is good with light fruits like apples and peaches. Whiskey, meanwhile, goes well with dark fruits like berries and cherries as well as warm drinks. Brandy is for no-fuss, smooth drinks. Rum is a great tropical base, while tequila is the go-to for margaritas and frozen fruit cocktails.

In an ideal cocktail, the mixer softens the base liquor, serving to complement and enhance the overall flavor. It’s meant to take the edge off, in more ways than one. With knowledge of the essentials and a little trial-and-error, you might just whip up your own signature drink in no time. The secret, really, is to find the flavors that pair well together and that taste great according to you.


Learn more at Wholesome Meals, Better Life at CNN Philippines airing Monday to Friday at 7:30 a.m. with replays at 4 p.m. and 11 p.m.