Once again, you've found yourself inviting comrades, companions, and compatriots over for beverages on a Friday evening whim... but alas, your alcohol cabinet is looking rather meager, and your skills are lacking.
No worries—just utilize these 10 tricks and spice up your at-home mixology game. Your friends will be none the wiser (and swear that you are a cocktail-concocting genius).
To really show your mettle as a budding mixologist, ratios are a great place to start when flying without a recipe (or creating your own). The perfect drink formula for achieving this balance is 2:1:1. That's 2 parts alcohol, 1 part sour, and 1 part sweet.
Instead of rimming glasses with plain salt or sugar, throw some finely chop herbs into your mixture. Pick an herb that compliments your cocktail and mix with salt or sugar. Then, get the rim of the glass wet with citrus (lemon, lime, grapefruit, blood orange) or with liquor (rimming a margarita glass with tequila, for example, is a fun one) and dip the lip of the glass in the herb mixture.
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Here are some of our suggestions for fantastic flavor pairings:
- mint and sugar on the rim of your blackberry mojito
- lemon and thyme on the rim of your champagne cocktail
- rosemary and blood orange on your favorite vodka drink
A flamed orange peel twisted on the rim of a glass is one of the most magical tricks used by bartenders. It stops the crowd and turns cocktail making into an exhibition event.
But lighting a twist of rind isn't just for the showmanship factor, though—it also allows you to squeeze the oil out of the peel and into your cocktail for a zesty citrus flavor.
Make sure to go for an orange with fresh skin, as old oranges don't provide as much flavor (or as bright a flame). Head over to Serious Eats for cocktail contributor Michael Dietsch's step-by-step guide on how to flame your orange.
If you don't feel like making simple syrup, or don't have time, use a tablespoon of preserves or jam instead. Peach champagne jam can take your sparkling Prosecco to the next level with a little bit of added citrus. So, too, can marionberry jam in your mojito, or jalapeño jam in your margarita.
Forget preserves on toast; preserves in cocktails is the new jam.
The purpose of a cocktail shaker is to get your drink cold... ice cold. But not everyone has a shaker at their disposal
Fellow Food Hacker Brady Klopfer points out that mason jars are perfect as a shaker stand-in because they're made of thick glass: you can shake your drink with intensity while still allowing it to retain that cold temperature you so love to sip. Just put your ingredients and ice in, screw on that lid (tightly!), and give it a shake, shake, shake.
We've even hosted gatherings where we give each guest their own individual mason jar and let them have a go at playing mixologist for the evening by setting up a cocktail bar with various ingredients. It's an interactive way to cocktail party and it takes some stress off your end as the host, too.
Muddling (or slapping) releases fantastic flavors from fruits and herbs. There's no need to shell out for a muddler, though, when the handle of your rolling pin works just as well. Avoid pressing your herbs with too much force, as it makes the herbs bitter; just go slowly and take your time.
And while you have that wooden rolling pin out, use it to crush your ice, too. Just put your ice in a bag and pound away! (A cast iron pan is excellent at crushing ice, as well.)
When you're thinking about tossing out last night's leftover wine or using it for cooking, think again! Perhaps that wondrous wine could have a new life... as the crowd-pleasing, fruity cocktail known as sangria.
If you are running low on time, this genius trick lets you prep a 24-hour sangria in 5 minutes or less.
Infusing alcohols and syrups in cocktail making can take your options from 1 to 100, easily.
The guide above explains the easy steps to infuse everything from jalapeños to strawberries and lemons in vodka. (Liquors like rum and whiskey are more complex and therefore more difficult to infuse.)
For those with a sweet tooth, candy-inspired infusions like vodka and Lemonheads or Skittles shots are delicious. We usually save our candy for road trips, but we'd be willing to make an exception for alcohol.
In addition, herb-infused simple syrup can supplement many popular cocktails.
Use your infusions in an array of cocktail creating, to give as gifts, or to add to a bit of sparkling water for a refreshing midday treat.
Drinking alcohol from a shot glass is standard... but drinking alcohol from an edible shot glass is even better!
Baileys in a toasted marshmallow shot glass... a White Russian in a chocolate chip cookie shot glass... or even tequila in a watermelon shot glass? The creative possibilities are endless. That being said, we're a bit hesitant about the meatball shot glass, so if you give it a go, let us know!
Grenadine is a tart and sweet syrup with a deep red color traditionally created from pomegranate juice. It harkens us back to summer days of childhood spent on beaches sipping Shirley Temples through thick red straws. However, today it's a common ingredient in cocktails like tequila sunrise and sea breeze.
Many brands found in the market today have replaced grenadine's fruit bases with artificial ingredients. Luckily, this simple DIY grenadine is just as tasty.
With these mixology tricks now in your back pocket, have no fear of being outed as an amateur bartender. In fact, we're sure you're bound to host a whole slew of eager imbibers in your home, time and time again.
Have any favorites to share? Let us know in the comments below.