Spending even just a couple of minutes watching the bartending wizards behind today's best cocktail dens is enough to make any aspiring home bartender feel a little inadequate (Photo Credit: Alexandra Grablewski).
The confidence of their pours, the showmanship of their shaking, all those curious, colorful ingredients in little labeled bottles at their disposal -- it's a lot to take in, and quite frankly, pretty intimidating to try and emulate.
Still, that shouldn't hold anyone back from trying, and there are plenty of little tips and tricks you can pick up to improve your cocktail game. Often, some of the best advice bartenders have to offer is the simplest -- for example, using good, fresh ice. (No joke, the quality of the ice can make or break a cocktail.)
Other pieces of knowledge are more practical, like when a drink should be shaken, and when it's better stirred. And then there are the things that bartenders just pick up from experience, like knowing that it's important to use a shaker with a mixing glass made with tempered glass (to avoid damaging it).
To that end, here are eight tips to help you improve your skills as a home bartender. And if all else fails, there's always the bar around the corner, right?
- Maryse Chevriere, The Daily Meal
Whether you have a home bar that would make Don Draper jealous or simply keep your bottles on a counter in your kitchen, it’s important to remember to always store your liquor in a place that is cool and away from direct sunlight. (That said, fortified wines like sherry and vermouth should be stored in the refrigerator to keep from spoiling.) Most importantly, however, experts recommend that when your bottle is nearing empty, don’t wait a long time to finish it, as the air in the bottle causes some of the flavor to leach out. Slideshow: America's Best Dive Bars Photo Credit: © Flickr/brendan-c
How extensive your behind-the-bar toolkit is will depend on how much of a cocktail geek you are. Of course, staples like a jigger, a shaker, a strainer and a muddler are necessities -- but even within that basic group there are some important things to keep in mind. Renowned bartender Dushan Zaric, for example, notes that when buying a shaker (most professionals prefer the Boston variety), it's essential to make sure the mixing glass is made with tempered glass so you can shake vigorously without worrying about damaging it. And when it comes to strainers, there's a choice to be made, too: Hawthorne strainers are better for shaken cocktails, whereas Julep strainers are used for stirred cocktails. Another great tool tip of Zaric's? Use microplanes not just for zesting citrus but also for freshly grating hard spices like cinnamon and star anise. Slideshow: The Ultimate Guide to Ordering Wine Photo Credit: © Flickr/susanna bolle
When making cocktails at home, especially when experimenting and coming up with an original creation, it's important to make sure you are familiar with the flavors and textures of the ingredients you're working with. Explained mixologist Raffaelo VanCouten when talking about how to make a successful beer cocktail, "What I would recommend is to taste all of ingredients by themselves -- the spirit, the beer, the other flavoring agents -- before putting the cocktail together." The same theory applies when making any kind of cocktail. Slideshow: 12 Most Ridiculous Beer Names Photo Credit: © Flickr/StuartWebster
Opting for pre-made mixes is kind of like compromising quality for convenience. More often than not, the stuff from the supermarket is going to be packed with sugar and overly sweet. The solution? Use fresh juice. Seriously, margaritas will have never tasted better. (A word to the wise, however: Never juice cold citrus — if it’s room temperature, you’ll be able to extract a lot more juice.) Slideshow: 12 Quick and Easy Drinks to Start the Day Photo Credit: © Danya Henninger
There's a reason why your bartender would likely be really annoyed if you ordered, say, a Ramos Gin Fizz on a busy night: because it requires a lot of shaking. (Seriously, the original recipe calls for it to be hard-shaken for 12 minutes.) Point being, if you're mixing a drink with an egg in it -- such as a flip or a fizz -- you're going to need to shake it vigorously. Click here to see More Tips Every Home Bartender Should Know Photo Credit: © Ed Anderso
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