Getting Started: Basic Mixers February 05 2015


So far, the Getting Started Guide has mostly told you things to buy—bar tools, bottles of booze. In our mixers edition, however, we’re going DIY. Most of the items we’ll suggest here are easy (and cheap!) to make at home. So grab some mason jars and read on.

Lemon and Lime Juice: This is one instance where homemade is better. Don’t let the bottled juices at the grocery store tempt you! They lack the bright acidity of freshly squeezed lemon and lime, which add sparkle to every cocktail they’re in. Do yourself (and your whiskey sours) a favor and acquire a good citrus juicer, as suggested in our basic bar tools post. That way, you can squeeze out a couple of ounces of delicious, fresh juice whenever you need it.

Simple Syrup: This is the go-to sweetener for many classic cocktails, from old fashioneds to daquiris. Unlike bottled juice, bottled simple syrup doesn’t taste much different than its DIY equivalent. But it’s so easy to make at home, you might as well skip the grocery trip. And, if you follow the recipe below, you won’t even have to dirty a saucepan.

  • Fill a standard 8-ounce mason jar halfway with sugar.
  • Boil some water in a kettle and pour it in till the jar is filled.
  • Stir as necessary until all the sugar is dissolved.
  • Let the mixture cool, then close the jar and store it in the fridge.

PRO TIP: Standard simple syrup has a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water, but you can up that to 2:1 if you like your cocktails slightly sweeter.

Alternative Sweeteners: Though simple syrup is sweet, it doesn’t necessarily add much of its own flavor. That’s why some cocktail recipes call for more specialized sweeteners like honey syrup or agave nectar. You can make honey syrup using the recipe above—just replace the half-jar of sugar with a half-jar of honey. Agave doesn’t need the hot-water-in-a-jar treatment, but you may still want to mix it with water before using so it’s a little less sticky.

(And now, our one mixer you can’t DIY…)

Other Alcohols: You’ve already stocked up on the five basic spirits, of course. But craft cocktail recipes often go beyond, demanding liqueurs, apertifs, and other specialized alcohols. There’s no reason to worry about most of them for now—we’ll handle that in a detailed post later on. But even a beginner’s bar should have at least two of these drinks: a triple sec (orange liqueur) and a vermouth (fortified wine).

PRO TIP: If your budget allows, spring for fancier Cointreau over a lesser brand of triple sec—it’ll make a tastier, smoother cocktail.