Shake, stir, sip, smile. Repeat

DIY Cocktails will make your kitchen the hottest bar in town

2020 has truly been the year of the liquor store and the mask manufacturer. As most of us are still hesitant about heading out for some antics, enjoying a beverage or seven has become an at home kinda thing.

Nothing wrong with that of course. For one, it’s cheaper and we’re forced to talk to our partners and family members. Wine, beer and whatever else you fancy have helped take the edge off a trying year.

However there are only so many new wines and beers you can discover and the taste buds may be wearying. Plus there’s the problem of throwing out all of those clinking bottles without the neighbors noticing, although to be fair they’re probably in the same boat.

There may have been one type of drink you’ve overlooked. Yes – cocktails!

Not the ones with stupid umbrellas sticking out of a mysterious blue fluid that are only blue to hide their shocking/bland taste.

We’re talking about the good stuff. Classics that are laughably easy to make. These cocktails have stood the test of time and cater to everyone’s tastes. Vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, tequila – there’s something out there for us all.

Let’s cut up a few lemons, get a shaker, strainer and some decent glasses. It’s Happy Hour/s.

Margarita

The tequila treasure loved and guzzled around the world. Sure, Mexico exports gold, crude oil and other stuff…zzz, but the margarita is their finest contribution to modern society.

A deliciously sharp taste thanks to tequila, doubled with a lemon and orange mix.

Margaritas are traditionally shaken but are also blended for a frozen version. Both work well.

What you’ll need:

  • A decent bottle of tequila – you don’t have to get top shelf, but neither do you want to wake up in the foetal position with a jackhammer at work in your head.

Find a brand you like – sampling brands is half the fun. Don Julio, Jose Cuervo and Jimador are all good places to start.

  • A bottle of triple sec, which is an orange flavored liqueur. Cointreau is the most well-known (and recommended) but there are plenty of other triple secs that will do the trick.
  • Lime juice. This is the classic juice to use but if it’s pricey you can get away with lemon juice.
  • A handful of lemons and some salt.
  • A shaker and a strainer.

How to make it:

  • First and most fun is preparing the glass! Honestly. Spread some salt on a plate or napkin. Grab some lemon slices and rub them around the rim of the glass. Once it’s nice and soaked you can dip it into the salt. Hey presto! A salty glass rim. You’ll appreciate this effort soon.
  • Pour the alcohol and juice into a cocktail shaker about 2/3 full of ice. We need 45 ml of tequila, 30ml of Cointreau / triple sec and 30 ml of lime juice.
  • Shake gently for 5-10 seconds.
  • Pour the drink into a glass – a margarita or martini glass if you can.
  • Have a sip – the tequila and lime combined with the salty rim is…pretty special.

Margaritas (and all drinks) can be enjoyed all year round of course, however due to their salty nature the Margarita is a real summer special.

Martini

Often regarded as the ultimate cocktail. James Bond can’t function without them and the writer H.L. Mencken went as far as to call it the “only American invention as perfect as the sonnet”. We’re guessing he liked them.

The beauty of the martini lies in its simplicity. No fancy juices, colours or cream.

Just pure taste.

What you’ll need:

  • Gin of your choice – Gordons, Tanqueray, Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire are all very drinkable. Vodka is your other option but for now we’ll go with the classic recipe.
  • Vermouth for adding to the desired dryness of the martini
  • Some olives (essential) and lemon rinds (optional).
  • A tall glass for mixing the drink and a martini glass…obviously.
  • Your trusty strainer.

How to make it:

  • Pour 60 ml of gin and 10 ml of vermouth into your mixing glass.
  • Add a handful of ice and stir gently for 10-15 seconds.
  • Strain into the martini glass and add a few olives for the extra taste kick.
  • Some like to rub lemon peel around the rim of the glass beforehand and that’s perfectly acceptable. Whatever works!

Good enough for 007, good enough for us.

Moscow Mule

Vodka is the most popular spirit on the planet – it goes with almost anything, has a fresh, sharp taste and is low on calories.

The only trouble is deciding on what cocktail to make…decisions, decisions.

We decided to go with the Moscow Mule for its simplicity and unique taste.

What you’ll need:

  • Decent vodka. There are millions to choose from but Smirnoff, Absolut and Stolichnaya will never let you down.
  • Ginger beer / ale, lime juice and a few limes.
  • A highball glass or even better – a copper mug!

How to make it:

  • Fill half the glass with ice then pour in 60 ml of vodka, 20-30 ml of lime juice then top it up with ginger ale.
  • Cut up some lime wedges and put them in last.
  • Stir gently, not with your finger if people are watching, then enjoy.

Strawberry Daiquiri

The traditional daiquiri is made with basic ingredients and requires careful attention. We figured some people just want to throw stuff into a blender because it’s fun, so we’re going with the strawberry variation.

What you’ll need:

  • White rum, so you have to thinking Barcardi. No shame in using Meyers, Havana Club and Mount Gay either.
  • Triple sec. Like the Margarita, Cointreau is the best quality triple sec out there but you can get away with another brand. If you do go the cheaper option you can always pour it into a Cointreau bottle for when you have guests.
  • Lime juice and sugar syrup. You should be able to find sugar syrup in most supermarkets. If it’s not in the alcohol section, the confectionery aisle should stock it. If not never go to that supermarket again.
  • A punnet of strawberries. Use at least 2 strawberries per daiquiri so figure out how many you’re likely to down then do the math.

How to make them:

  • Put a small handful of ice into the blender. We don’t want to use too much ice as it can dilute the cocktail but a tiny bit will freshen it up.
  • Add 45 ml of rum, 15 ml of triple sec, 30 ml of lime juice and 15 ml of sugar syrup.
  • Throw in some sliced strawberries then blend until smooth.

Admire your handiwork and adjust the ice / strawberry amounts as you see fit.

Old Fashioned

Why should the clear spirits have all the fun? Whiskeys provide some great options and the Old Fashioned has been around since the 19th century. It must be doing something right.

Loved by whiskey worshippers around the world, the Old Fashioned allows you to truly savor the delights of a good bourbon or rye whiskey. A major appeal of this cocktail is its simple makeup, which allows plenty of tweaks to accommodate various tastes. Sweeter or bitter ends of the scale are all catered for.

What you’ll need:

  • A good to very good bottle of bourbon or rye. Because there’s nowhere to hide with the Old Fashioned, you can’t skimp on the main spirit. Maker’s Mark, Old Knob and Four Roses will all suffice, but you can sample dozens until you settle on your favorite.
  • Sugar syrup
  • Bitters
  • Orange for a garnish

How to make it:

  • Half fill an old fashioned glass (of course) with ice.
  • Pour in 60 ml of whiskey.
  • Add 2 dashes of bitters and around 10 ml of sugar syrup.
  • Throw on an orange rind for a garnish.

You can experiment with the bitters / sugar ration until you find a winner. The Old Fashioned is good all year round.

Long Island Iced Tea

It seems only sensible to finish with the mightiest cocktail of them all. When you can’t decide whether to go for vodka, gin, tequila, rum or triple sec – why not throw them all into a glass at once!

Whoever invented the LIIT wasn’t big on moderation and that’s fair enough. If you’re going to do something, do it properly.

Big glass required here, goldfish bowls if need be.

What you’ll need:

  • White spirits and plenty of em. Gin, vodka, rum, tequila and Cointreau
  • Lemon juice
  • Cola
  • Sugar syrup

How to make it:

  • Fill a long glass with ice.
  • Here we go – pour in 15 ml each of vodka, gin, rum, Cointreau and gulp…tequila.
  • Add 30 ml of lemon juice and 15 ml of sugar syrup.
  • Top up with cola and stir slightly.

Down the hatch! With a few LIITs under your belt the inhibitions will start crumbling away and dancing on living room tables can be expected.

These are just a…taste of some classic cocktails. There are literally hundreds of others out there, and others yet to be created – maybe by you.

And the best thing about making them? You can just drink your mistakes.

Not so much happy hour as happy hours.

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