Whether you’re having a small soirée or going all out for something special, a surefire way to put on a memorable night is to flex your cocktail-making skills. But how can you produce drinks that match up to those at your favourite bar? Don’t worry, you don’t need to have a PhD in mixology to be a great host.
We’ve nailed down everything you need to know about whipping up a top-quality cocktail, whether you know your way around a drinks cabinet or you’re a complete newbie. Here are the five key things you need to know to elevate your drinks ideas into cocktails that are guaranteed to impress.
Elevate your drinks ideas
1. Get Kitted Out
It all starts here. You don’t have to blow a fortune on high-end gear, but picking up a few essentials will make sure your creations meet the same high standards every time. A long-stemmed bar spoon will make sure your stirred cocktails are always up to scratch, especially a classic Old Fashioned. Bonus points if it comes with a muddler, which you can use in a refreshing Summer Months to release vital flavours from herbs and fruit.
It’s a good idea to build your range of equipment over time. You could start off with a jam jar to shake cocktails but a dedicated shaker will make life easier. The same goes for measurements. It’s fine to use a range of spoons or an egg cup when starting out, but to reliably dish out the correct amounts you’ll want a stainless steel jigger. Get all the measurements right and you’re on the home run.
2. Quality Cocktail Ingredients
It goes without saying: good ingredients lead to great cocktails. And keep it simple. Rather than trying to master a dozen drinks at once, choose one or two recipes and pick good quality mixers and the freshest fruit and herbs you can find. No cocktail ever cemented its place in history by being made with wilted herbs or concentrated fruit juice.
Looking to go the extra mile? Our range of blends come in a variety of cask finishes and age statements that work best in different drinks. For example, Chivas XV is selectively finished* in French oak cognac casks and is the natural choice for a champagne cocktail. While you can of course use any Chivas blend in our cocktail recipes, using the specific blend we recommend will put you on the path to success in no time.
Good ingredients lead to great cocktails
3. Cocktail Glassware
The next step is finding something to serve your drinks in. You don’t have to spend a fortune on antique crystal goblets, but you can do much better than a bunch of plastic pint cups. Simple drinking glasses in your cupboard are a good starting point, plus you can even repurpose the jam jar you used as a shaker.
Once you’ve found a few pieces of glassware it’s worth knowing what kind of cocktail works best in each. Highball cocktails like the Footloose work best in tall glasses that hold a decent amount of liquid and ice, while short drinks that contain 100ml or less, such as the Rob Roy, are better in a shallow glass with a wide rim. And if you fancy dishing out some winter warming cocktails such as the Hot Toddy, it makes sense to use a mug or glass with a handle… No cocktail is worth burning your hand for. Most other cocktails will work in either a wine, glass or coupette glass - invest in a set and you can use them over and over again.
If you haven’t got the official type of glass recommended for each cocktail, don’t worry; the main thing is that it holds your drink. Build up your glassware though, and your cocktails (or even your morning orange juice) will look pretty as a picture.
Be creative with simple drinking glasses
4. Garnishes For Cocktails
Whether it’s fashion, design or drinks, details matter. Make your cocktails both look and taste the part with a beautiful garnish - don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a huge statement piece that knocks the drink over or gets in the way of drinking. In a simple Chivas Highball, an orange wedge or lemon slice is great for adding a pop of colour and zesty kick in one go. But if you’re going all out with something more fancy, try making a citrus twist like in the Signature X or Auld Alliance. Depending on the recipe you choose, take the opportunity to get creative! A sprinkling of spice, sprig of mint or a plump cherry dropped in all add those finishing touches. Guaranteed Instagram posts incoming.
Details matter: make your cocktails both look and taste good
5. Practice Makes Perfect
Finally, don’t be disappointed if your first few creations don’t quite hit the mark - just consider it a test of how good your mates’ poker faces are when they take that first sip. Keep practicing and know that each drink you make goes towards improving your mixing skills! After a while of slowly pulling cocktails together we’re sure you’ll be graduating to throwing a shaker around and dramatic long pours from a height - maybe just practice those with water first, though. No one likes wasted whisky.
Ready for the next steps in your cocktail making journey? Head to our mixology tips to learn all the tips of the trade from our Global Brand Ambassador.
Keep practicing to improve your mixing skills
*A portion of this blended Scotch whisky has been selectively finished in cognac casks.