Tips for Inventing Your Own Cocktails
Grab some alcohol, add a fruity flavor, put it in a fancy glass with a little umbrella and you’ve got a cocktail, right? Nope! Actually, inventing a cocktail isn’t as easy as combining the first things you grab from a liquor cabinet and hoping it turns out well. This may work at an O-week party, but it definitely won’t work with quality liquor.
Visit any bar in the CBD, and you’ll see a lot mixed drinks with their own signature looks: the margaritas with salt on the rim, the martinis with their classic olives, and the pineapple slices on pina coladas. But it’s not just about the looks either! A signature drink has to have its own distinct flavor, too – that’s its signature! Just imagine a black Russian without the coffee flavor, a tequila sunrise without the lime kick or a cosmopolitan without the tartness of cranberries.
Set on creating your own signature cocktails? Here are some tips from the experts:
1. Learn the basics
You have to know the rules before you bend them. Simply doing some research on what types of spirits work well together should be a good start. Check out some common combinations for gin, vodka, whiskey, rum and other spirits. Find out which drinks should be shaken, and which should be stirred. Want to go the extra mile? Watch a couple of videos of how bartenders slice up fruit for garnish, or how they can get the liqueur to settle right at the bottom.
2. Find inspiration
When you’re out at a bar or even at a restaurant, you can sometimes find some inspiration for your cocktail concoction. Maybe you’re having some spiced tea and you’re thinking a little sugar, vodka and triple sec might be able to turn it into a new spin on the Long Island Iced Tea. Or maybe you’ve got some extra kiwis in the fridge, and you might just have some vodka on hand to create a kiwi cocktail. Inspiration is everywhere, so let your taste buds explore!
Try to imagine how a certain cocktail would taste before actually making it. If it doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would, clear your palate with some water and try again with a different mix or different proportions. Keep doing this over and over, and eventually you’ll be familiar with the difference between a teaspoon of grenadine and an entire tablespoon. Finding the perfect harmony is the key, so you also have to know how to sweeten, how to thicken, or how to make it tart.
4. Mix and match
So maybe you have an idea of the main ingredient for the cocktail you’re looking to invent. For instance, you’ve chosen orange juice to be your base and you’re looking to build up from there. The best way to do this is by mixing up a couple of drinks with orange juice, and finding one that tastes just right. The citrusy flavor of orange juice can be highlighted with tequila, a lime liqueur or lemon bourbon. Now you’ve got your main ingredient and your alcohol, add something extra like grenadine, cinnamon sticks or just simple syrup. Mix it up with some ice and start tasting!
5. Stock up
This doesn’t mean you have to get your hands on every type of liquor you can afford. Get your hands on the brands that would actually help you with creating your cocktails. When you’ve got your ingredients, separate them into the types of drinks they can create to make building a cocktail easier for you. For instance, sour cocktails are made with liquor, citrus and a sweetener. Duo cocktails are made by mixing a spirit and a liqueur. Tropical style drinks are those with a hint of coconut or pineapple or just about anything that warrants a little umbrella on your drink.
6. Stay cool
Unless you’re intentionally serving a hot drink like sake or room temperature drink like wine, you’ll need loads of ice. The general rule here is to make sure your drink is about 25% water or ice. But you can’t just use those little ice cubes in your freezer because those melt as quickly as popsicles in the summer. Go for bigger ice cubes so that your drinks will only ever need one. Keep this in mind the next time you make a cocktail.
7. Get your drink on
If you don’t try out new drinks, you’ll never know what you’re missing. A great way to learn more about cocktail flavors and mixes is by trying the ones created by professionals. Go to your favourite bar and get something from the bar list you’ve never had before. Tried them all? Move on to another bar and check out why the previous bar’s sangria tastes better. Check out the different brands of alcohol they use and try to see if that’s what’s making the difference. It’s like research, but a lot more fun.
8. Practice, practice, practice
Unless you’re really lucky, your first invention will probably taste horrible. Don’t fret; just try again. If you don’t want to spend all your hard earned cash on booze, then go for the cheaper alternatives and replace them with their quality counterparts when your cocktail is closer to success. By experimenting with proportions and ingredients, you’re narrowing down your options until you’ve found the right balance of spirits and flavor. Get your friends to join in the fun, and ask them to critique your cocktails!
The most important part of your journey to making better drinks is that you should learn to have fun with it. Create, drink, and create again! You don’t have to make your generation’s version of a margarita, so there shouldn’t be too much pressure. Besides, if your drinks are consistently bad, an equally bad pun for its name should be enough to keep your drinkers interested. If you have any ideas for those, definitely let us know!