Mixology at its heart is simply the skill/hobby of making mixed drinks or cocktails. Now whether you’re looking to pick up a hobby or learn a little more behind what makes your favorite bartender’s job tick. Here are the top 10 items anyone needs to get into mixology.
1) Cocktail Shaker
Obvious, but completely necessary for taking up the calling of mixology. The whole purpose behind a cocktail shaker at first glance seems kind of redundant. Why do I have to have some weird looking cup just to make drinks? And furthermore, why can’t I just make my drinks and mix them together with a spoon? Well while those are fair questions, to really mix drinks well, a cocktail shaker is a lifesaver in mixology. The reason being that liquor in itself can be somewhat fickle about mixing with other ingredients. Yeah, a spoon may work, but they’re still might be portions of your drinks that are heavy tasting in one specific liquor or mixer. Not to mention the fact that many mix drinks can involve fruit which can be a nightmare to try and stir around a small glass-it just gets messy. Having a good cocktail shaker will allow you to take an easy first step into mixology and cut a lot of the fuss out of it for you.
Jiggers if you haven’t heard the term before, are effectively two shot glasses connected together at their bases in an hourglass shape. Commonly, one side of a jigger will be around a half shot worth of liquor whereas the other will be a full shot worth of liquor. The actual measurements and sizes of jiggers do vary somewhat from bar to bar-but this is the usual. Now why these are so important to mixology is in the fact that it brings so much more accuracy and convenience to your creation of mix drinks. Knowing exactly how much of each liquor you’re pouring at any given time will allow you to match drink recipes spot on and ensure that you don’t overload someone’s drink. Not to mention the fact that it’s very easy and a fluid piece of equipment to use. It fits the hand well, can be turned around easily for switching amounts and saves you time trying to eyeball how much liquor you’re putting into a drink.
3) Corkscrew/Bottle Opener
Again a nice obvious item haha. But for those perhaps looking to get into mixology as a profession-this is a good moment to get something done right. Having a sturdy bottle opener and corkscrew will help you maintain pace and keep things flowing when you’ve got a handful of drinks to make. Even if you’re just making drinks for a family gathering-its such a buzzkill when someone has to go hunting for an opener. Now don’t get wrong, I too have a cheap metal bottle opener on my key ring, but it is probably about number 5 after having snapped the others. On top of that, for wine gatherings or tasting parties, having a good double-handled corkscrew will make your life so much easier. Most people can relate to having an old bottle of wine that you’re finally going to open and you find the cork halfway disintegrated at the top. Make mixology easy on yourself, I’m going to say that a handful of times. Having a good opener on hand makes your life easier and gives you a look of preparedness that you just can’t beat.
4) Appropriate glassware
Now, look, ill be the first to admit that I’ve made some drinks in the typical red solo cups. Among other random drinkware, but really when it comes to mixology there’s this air of class to it. You’re taking the time to bring these flavors and ingredients together in a way that they all complement one another. It really takes away from the experience of your hard work when you serve it in a plastic cup or a glass that is just obnoxiously too big for what you made. And I’m not saying you have to go out and buy some crystal set, just get yourself some sturdy tumblers, maybe a couple tall beer mugs, and a few martinis glasses. I’ve actually found some pretty sturdy stuff at the dollar store, to be frank. Either way, don’t sell your effort short, serve up those drinks nice and pretty- it will go a long way with your mixology hobby.
Focussing more here on a specific ingredient of mixology. Bitters can be somewhat difficult to get around to. It’s definitely an additive that I feel many people are struggling to enjoy. Your basic bitters like Angostura, for example, can be a very trying test on someone’s palette. The closest thing I can relate it to is a mixture of black licorice and a heavy herbal profile-kind of like gin. Of course, bitters in itself are just an additive to bring out the flavors of any-one liquor you are using in a mixed drink. The best advice I can give is to find a drink recipe you think you’ll like that involves bitters and give it a shot. They make all kinds of flavors of bitters so its really just about getting that initial taste for it, and then experimenting with what flavor profiles of that genre you would like to opt for. I myself like the original bitters, but only in a few specific drinks-like you really can’t have a manhattan without it but that in itself is an acquired drink taste to some.
6) Simple Syrup
Alright, now this drink additive for mixology is a lot more welcoming to many palettes. Simple syrup is literally just sugar boiled down with water in a pan and cooled into sugary syrup. The reason why this is great with mixology is it takes the bite out of many drinks. Having a little simple syrup allows the alcohol to shine while giving your mouth a little bit of relief with some sweetness. A big drink this is used in are your classic mojito recipes. The sugar pairs wonderfully with mint and rum and make a great drink to get to know for someone beginning mixology. Plus what is really cool about this basic additive is you can do so much with it. You can spice it up and add some cinnamon in the wintertime to give you that warm feeling. Or you can cut right to the chase and mix it with some mint or fruit to give it a stronger profile in your drinks.
Hey, speaking of fruit profiles in your drinks, lets talk produce when it comes to mixology. Many drinks while not containing fruit, call for garnishes. Which itself seems a little extra and over the top if you’re just looking to get slogged. But I really can’t stress enough how these little additions to drinks can make a world of difference in combining all the flavors. A little bit of orange zest goes a long way with many drinks-from an old fashioned to even just dropping a slice in a blue moon. And if you’re going for martinis or other more colorful drinks, lemon and limes will suit you just fine. Plus let’s be real here, we all like going after that bright red boozy cherry at the bottom of our drinks. Point being, mixology and fresh produce-keep the two together because they belong together.
Or more accuratly= opened wine bottles/ opened liquor bottles. If you take a liking to mixology and really start getting into it, you’re going to start accumulating bottles. With wine it’s tough, I’m not overly well versed when it comes to the grape infused drink-all I know is leaving it open will ruin it after a while. And it’s really not reliable to try and force a cork back into a wine bottle, either it’s too swollen or it’s half disintegrated from the opening. So nowadays you can buy all kinds of stoppers for an open wine bottle. This will save you time and effort in the long run if you do much mixology with wine so that you can preserve bottles and not feeling pressured to always finish them. With liquor, on the other hand, its a lot more forgiving. Obviously, most if not all bottles are made to be resealed-plus the stuff tends to last forever-its taste might change a bit but it won’t necessarily go bad for the most part. But something that really helps to work with liquor is having a stopper pourer. That way the bottle is sealed but you can flip a cap over and pour right over it easier. Otherwise, you’re constantly unscrewing and replugging bottles when you may have other drinks to get working on. Stoppers and pourers make it easy so that you can preserve and have your booze on hand when you need it-make it is easy on yourself.
I touched on this a little bit in the last tip. Depending on how deep you want to go with mixology-considering storage options might fall onto your plate. Between wines and liquors, there’s everything from super cheap stuff that tastes like nail polish to hundreds of dollars in value drinks, that literally give you an experience. I cannot generalize what to do with all of them, the best thing I can say is doing some research if you have the kind of money to be working around with these calibers of drinks might be very worthwhile. Bottles of booze can be affected by light exposure, temperature, and even proximity to certain activities. The best advice I can give here from a mixology standpoint is getting yourself a nice clean and dry cabinet cleaned out and devote it to your bottles-maybe even make sure it’s in a cooler environment as well.
Well no duh right? This last tip is mainly focussed on making your adventure into mixology a little easier. After all, decent liquors can be a bit of money when you’re looking to start a collection for making mix drinks. A lot of the bottles you’re going to want to buy will range from 25-80 dollars when we’re talking your average liquors/wines that most people opt for. It really is worth your money to go for something with a reputation so that you know what you’re buying is worth it. After that, it really just comes down to your own personal tastes in booze. Ask an associate at a liquor store if you’re new to purchasing liquor or if you know what you like but want some ideas of where to branch out to. On top of that, do a little googling before you head out to the store, find some drink recipes that suit you or find a pattern for which base liquor is used the most often. You don’t have to buy a ton of bottles right off the bat-find one that has a lot of recipes correlated it with it that sounds good to you, and then just buy produce and mixers to make drinks out of it.