1.5 Get your bits out
The last three essential ingredients you’re going to need for home mixology
Once you’ve got your essential bottles, there are three more ingredients that you’ll find keep popping up throughout our recipe suggestions. Exotic citrus fruits have long been associated with cocktails, but their sharp, acidic tartness means that they tend to be accompanied by a sugar syrup. Ice is the third and perhaps most crucial ingredient needed for making cocktails at home – so fill up that tray, get it in the freezer, then come back and find out why it’s so important.
Here is my quick guide to citrus fruits, sugar syrup, and ice
Many cocktails call for a citrus fruit juice to add a sharp sourness to the finished drink. Lemons and limes are essentials that you’ll find dominating a bartender’s fruit bowl, but don’t be afraid to squeeze out a grapefruit, pomelo or blood orange. Similarly, when it comes to garnishing your cocktails, or even just your G&T, lemons and limes are ‘safe bets’ but be experimental - you can always have another drink if it doesn’t quite work! The perfect fresh garnish will revolutionise your cocktail, whether by providing an intoxicating citrusy aroma, or by enhancing those sharp notes hidden in your gin.
You tend to shake cocktails that have fresh fruit juice in them. If you plan to drink it straight up (no ice), decant into your glass using a sieve/tea strainer to remove any pulp and small shards of ice to create a smooth drinking experience.
Another addition to some cocktails is sugar syrup. Sweetness eases the tartness of fresh citruses and softens that alcohol burn. There is no need to buy pre-mixed bottles of ‘pure sugar cane’. Whether at work or at home, I whip up a quick sugar syrup with a kettle and my sugar bowl. Mix equal parts of boiling water and granulated white sugar until all the sugar has dissolved. Stick it in the fridge to cool. Don’t feel you need to make jugs of the stuff, one coffee mug will make five or six cocktails. If you’re already feeling experimental, you can dissolve other flavours into your syrups – vanilla is great option for those with a sweet tooth.
Importance of Ice
Ice plays a pivotal role in mixology and your home bar should certainly have ready access to some frozen cubes. Other than cooling, the primary role of ice is to slightly dilute the alcohol content of the spirits, allowing the flavours to be expressed. When you stir a cocktail, these are the two functions the ice is performing. When you shake a cocktail, the ice also acts to properly emulsify and integrate the ingredients. In general, you should shake drinks containing juices, syrups or egg white, and stir cocktails composed of straight spirits. Be careful not to over-shake or over-stir, or else you risk washing away all those amazing subtleties and complexities.
The more ice, the less dilution. When you stir a cocktail, fill your mixing glass/jug with ice. When drinking a cocktail on the rocks, make sure the glass is packed with ice.