Commit to the cocktail. If you like drinking Manhattans, the coupe or rocks glass makes the drink. The best place to find glassware on the cheap is a local thrift store. Mix and match all types of cocktail glasses for just a few bucks. If you are having a party, mixing glassware allows guests to decide how they prefer their drink.
Invest in a bar kit that includes a jigger (for measuring), a shaker tin, strainer, stir spoon and some bottle pour tops. Nothing ruins a good drink like over-poured ingredients. These simple tools can elevate your abilities with very little practice.
Start small. Stick with basics and develop different flavors from fresh ingredients. Remember, the home bar’s main customer is you. Start building with things that you enjoy to drink on the regular. Vodka, gin, and rum are the usual suspects. If you enjoy the Manhattan, get a good bottle of rye whiskey and bitters, too. Common items that appear in a lot of recipes (simple syrup, bitters) are good to have on hand, but don’t go overboard unless for a very specific cocktail. If you go too crazy, a bottle of pumpkin pie vodka might be living in your cabinet for a few months.
Now on to the drinking
Think about the cocktails you enjoy, then spend some time on the internet. Most recipes can be found online. When throwing a party, having all the ingredients ready for a cocktail can really make it fun for guests. When looking at recipes, follow them carefully. If it says “shake over ice,” get that tin out and shake! Only one ounce of spirit? Measure with the jigger only one ounce. The balance in a cocktail is key.
Just hanging out at home is the time to really experiment and add your own ideas to drinks. Love pineapple? Try adding it fresh, muddled with mint, rum, and sugar. Have some extra raw veggies or fruit on hand from dinner yesterday? Add them to the juicer! Celery, cucumber, jalapeños, radishes, and basically all fruits can be juiced or muddled for a great cocktail base.
Don’t be afraid of trial and error either. The best bartenders in America had to begin somewhere. Some of the best cocktails were discovered by accident.
Find featured contributor Tracy Molyneaux at Coughlin’s Law Kitchen & Ale House