A few thoughts on making great cocktails at home.
I must give due credit for items 1 & 2 below to Vic Bergeron and his classic Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide, for that is where I learned the keys for making great cocktails at home. They’re really straight-forward, and make all the difference.
1. Use fresh ingredients and make your own fruit juices. You may not be able to do this for all varieties of fruit, but at the minimum you should always juice your own lemons and limes. You can make your own basic mixer this way, too. For other fruits, if you can’t juice your own, get the freshest juice you can (not-from-concentrate if possible).
2. Use quality spirits. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to blow a small fortune on a bottle, and depending on the type of spirit, prices will obviously vary, but I recommend avoiding the budget brands and products. My general rule of thumb is this: if it tastes good enough to sip on its own, it will make a decent cocktail.
3. Taste and adjust – some like it tart, some like it sweet; some like it mild, some like it potent. Fruit can vary in tartness or sweetness as well, so always check your drink. If you don’t like the balance of a given recipe, tweak it in the direction you prefer. Hey, it ain’t rocket science!
4. As the great beer writer Fred Eckhardt has long espoused, stay hydrated. I like to drink an equal portion of water for every cocktail I enjoy. At least. This helps dilute the alcohol concentration in your stomach, slowing its effects on your system. It also helps prevent the dreaded hangover in the event you overindulge. Which leads me to:
5. Know your limits and be smart. A drink with a meal will obviously have a different effect than one on an empty stomach. Be sure you’re safe to drive before you get behind the wheel. I keep a little pocket breathalyzer in the car, so I can check my blood alcohol level. If yours is too high, you can let someone else drive (spouse, partner, friend, cabbie, etc.) or you can wait, because time is the only thing that will sober you up.
One other thing I learned from the movie Sideways – don’t drink and dial! (Same goes for drinking and texting or posting to social media.)