Knowing how to make a great cocktail is something everyone should know. When we’re talking cocktails, something more than a standard screwdriver of course. Bartending is a profession that does take some time to master! The general consuming public that is just interested in how to make a great cocktail can also learn those essential cocktail making tips and make bartending a fun hobby too. That’s why we do our Intro to Bartending class for anyone looking to pick up some cocktail making skills.
Start Studying Cocktails
Ask yourself what went into that last tasty cocktail you had. A well crafted cocktail is a blend of flavours that makes the drink go down all too quick. Spend some time studying the cocktail list. Snap a picture so you can dissect the drink. Research the ingredients and do some ‘reverse engineering’ of the cocktail. Great cocktails have the perfect balance of strong and weak elements. Sour and sweet are also neatly complemented. Even the hobbyist bartender should understand that a drink that is too sour, or too sweet is plain just hard to enjoy. The great thing is most cocktails can be easily fixed when you know what to do. Classic cocktails are some of the easiest drinks to make, and understanding the fundamentals is what we teach.
Visit Your Local Liquor Store
In Vancouver we have some great private liquor stores with a lot of variety on the shelves. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer number of brands and bottles available. The first tip for any hobbyist is to note the different price points on your bottles. Extensive online catalogs of “What’s in Store” are great for virtually browsing from the comfort of your own couch. Price and customer ratings are usually available as well, so do your homework and identify a few highly rated spirits that come in at a great price.
Hobbies Start Simple
Pretty bottles are tempting to buy for displaying on your home bar. Although they may be attractive, you will want to know what the spirit is like inside. To start your bartending hobby, focus on some lower price point spirits.
After purchasing a few bottles, try the spirit by itself. No mix, no ice. Pour some of that spirit in a wine glass and ‘nose’ the spirit. What do you smell? Have a small taste. As humans, we aren’t very good at identifying different tastes and smells… when compared to canines anyways. We can make a concerted effort though to categorize those tastes and smells. Add an equal amount of water to your spirit sample and both smell and taste your newly purchases spirits again. A good spirit should be enjoyable all on it’s own. If you need to mix it before being able to drink it… you bought the wrong bottle!
Use Only Quality Mixes
We can’t stress this enough. Always use quality mixes in your cocktails. Never use juices from concentrate, or pre-bottled citrus juices. A bucket of sugary crystals from Walmart for making instant margaritas is the wrong way to go. Buy fresh limes, lemons and citrus. Buy 100% pure juices. Be sure to read the ingredients on the label and know what those ingredients are. A fresh squeezed lemon or lime is very different than even pre-squeezed organic juice. Pineapple juices are commonly cut with cheaper apple juice and coconut flavoured milk is very different from cans of true coconut milk.
If you are spending the money on the spirits, why would you scrimp to save a few cents on your mixes. Quality cocktails are made with quality ingredients… plain and simple. You can of course make a fantastic cocktail with inexpensive spirits, but you still need great fresh ingredients to make that drink sing!
Check Antique Stores for Glassware
This was a great tip from one of our instructors. In addition to bartending, he collected vintage glassware as a hobby. There is some great mid-century cocktail glassware out there in need of a new home and ready to display your fancy new cocktails. The 50’s and 60’s were a great time for design and that too is found in many different glasses.
The Difference Between Mixing Methods
Most cocktails are quite simply built on ice. Grab your serving glass, fill it with ice, then add your ingredients… garnish and serve. Learning when to stir and when to shake are what makes the difference between a knowledgable hobbyist and an amateur. Spirit forward cocktails should always be stirred. Shaking is for when you really want more dilution and aeration of the cocktail. With the right tools, you can make all your essential cocktails. You don’t need many pieces of bar equipment to make a great cocktail. Even with inexpensive strainers, spoons and shakers those cocktails will still taste fantastic. Just make sure the parts aren’t rusty or broken.
Start Bartending As A New Hobby
Kick off your learning with an Introduction to Bartending Class. Here in Vancouver we do these classes downtown approximately every 6 to 8 weeks. The classes are great for anyone wanting to understand how a proper cocktail comes together. If it’s casual interest or wanting to start a new hobby for your home bar, we have a class for you.