1.6 Show me your gear
You don't need a whole gift set of kit to start making cocktails at home
Tom Cruise tossed and flipped his bottles, but did he ever actually shake his cocktails? If you’ve been inspired by the 1988 ‘hit’ Cocktail, you’ll be relieved to learn that all that tossing around is not a necessity for great cocktails. In fact, Negronis, Martinis, and many other classic gin cocktails are simply stirred with ice. So, even if you haven’t got a shaker, you can still make some great tasting drinks. And, without sounding like one of Coughlin’s Laws, the moment you start to express an interest in mixology, your Christmas gifts will begin to follow a similar theme.
HERE's everything you need to make cocktails at home
Stirring up a Storm
For now, while that shaker is in the post, you are ready to start stirring up a sumptuous selection of classic sippers. Although it sounds simple, there are a couple of tricks to bear in mind when stirring. Firstly, stir your drink in a large, smooth sided glass. A pint glass is perfect, or a small water jug. Next, add lots of ice. Ice keeps ice cold – think of snowman remnants on green grass. This will ensure you effectively cool your cocktail without over-diluting it. Use a long spoon to move the ice around the edge of glass. Take care not to chip the ice. Stirred drinks should be super smooth and silky – not watery with shards of ice in. Finally, decant into your glass using the spoon to hold the ice back.
There are some ‘home style barware’ essentials that might make things easier. A long spoon or table spoon is good for stirring. But your latte spoon from this morning’s Nespresso would be ideal. A small sieve (or loose-tea strainer) will come in handy, especially if you are shaking your cocktails and serving them straight up, or if you start experimenting with egg white. Some way to measure out quantities is an essential. The exact volume is rarely important, but the relative parts in each cocktail should have consistency. Most screw top bottles have a uniform size of around 15ml. For example, two Campari lids can be considered a US shot or ‘1 part’.
We measure cocktail ingredients in ‘parts’ because there is no universal shot size. In England and Wales it’s 25ml, in Scotland and Northern Ireland it’s 35ml, and in the USA, it’s 30ml. 1 part equals 1 shot.
A Good Shake at Home
If you are interested in giving your arms a work out, and shaking up some gorgeously frothy Pink Ladies or scintillatingly citrusy Gimlets, then you are going to need a cocktail shaker. There are principally three types of shaker: Boston Tins; Parisian; 3-Piece Cobbler. While the first two are favoured by professional bartenders for their size and efficiency during a busy service, the Cobbler is ideal for your home bar because of its in-built strainer and 30ml measure. The purpose of each type is the same though: to mix and cool the ingredients of a cocktail to the same temperature. This is done by the addition of, you’ve guessed it, ice.
You can fit a maximum of two cocktails in a cobbler shaker. However, if you’re using an egg white, make one cocktail at a time to give it space to fully aerate, emulsify, and chill.