Let's be honest. Many of us have been drinking more recently and in the comfort of our own homes. Here are some tips from the pros on how to get your home bar – and homemade cocktails – on the top shelf.
Get the right tools
"Make sure you have a proper Boston shaker and jigger that measures two ounces on one side and one ounce on the other," advises Luis Del Pozo, bar manager at Gracias Madre. While not as decorative as a shaker shaker, the Boston variety – essentially a can with a pint glass top – is preferred by bartenders for its effectiveness in making perfectly icy, vigorously shaken margaritas and daiquiris. In the meantime, a proper martini requires a stir (sorry to James Bond). "Just as important as a shaker," says Del Pozo, "is a good sieve, a bar spoon and a mixing glass."
Beyond the basic categories of alcohol – whiskey, vodka, tequila, gin, cognac / brandy, rum – it's important to have basic cocktail bitters (angostura and peychauds) as well as sweet and dry vermouth on hand. Bitter lasts for years, while wormwood can be kept in the refrigerator for about a month after opening. Popular liquors like Triple Sec and St. Germain are also conveniently available.
Squeeze it out
When it comes to blenders, forget about that box of Tropicana and grab your juicer. “Always use fresh limes, lemons, oranges and grapefruits,” recommends Saeed House, who until recently was the head bartender at the Kimpton Everly Hotel. "Everything from the bottle doesn't taste nearly as good."
The aim of every cocktail is a balance between alcohol, sour and sweet. Often, simple syrup is needed for the last one. Make it yourself by bringing a one-to-one ratio of sugar and water to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then let the mixture cool. It is kept in the refrigerator for several months.
The line between amateur and professional often depends on a good side dish. So load up on vibrant herbs and colorful stir sticks, and make sure you have a sharp paring knife for slicing fresh fruit. "Practice your cuts by looking up videos on YouTube," advises Del Pozo. "Prepare your herbs and keep them moist so they come alive when you're ready to use them. There is a lot of visual help on the internet, but exercise is always your best friend."
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