How To Make Cocktails: Mixing Alcoholic Party Drinks

Get Tips for Making Your Favorite Mixed Drinks

Cocktails

Knowing how to make a variety of cocktails is important for a good host, and raises a party to a different level of sophistication. Here's how to make a selection of mixed drinks for your next party.

  1. Know your guests. While having a well-stocked bar is important, a football party isn't likely to require some of the more "girly" liqueurs that enjoy warm reception at bridal showers.
  2. For a basic bar that will cover alcoholic party drinks for almost any occasion, stock the following liquors:
    • Vodka -- Begin with a basic vodka, then graduate to more expensive boutique varieties as cost permits. Smirnoff is a good all around brand suitable for most uses. Don't spend money on flavored vodka unless you are planning to serve it alone. Otherwise, use plain vodka and add juices and flavors as desired.
    • Rum -- Light rum is the best and most popular for cocktails. Spiced, flavored and dark rums are necessary only if you know a guest prefers them.
    • Whiskey -- For Americans, bourbon is king. Evan Williams is just as good as Jim Beam for less money; Jack Daniels is a separate thing entirely and is good to have for fans. Canadian whiskeys (Crown Royal) and Scotch are a must for an older crowd.
    • Gin -- Gin isn't as popular among younger drinkers, but having a small bottle on hand is a good idea. Try Gordon's or Fleischman's for a decent gin that won't break the bank. Premium gins are Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray.
    • Tequila -- Jose Cuervo is the standard. Many premium tequilas are designed to be sipped alone and are not for cocktail mixing.
    • Miscellaneous mixers, liqueurs and flavorings -- grenadine, blue curacao, triple sec and peach schnapps are good to have on hand because they appear in many classic cocktail recipes such as the Tequila Sunrise, Cosmopolitan, and Blue Hawaiian. If martinis are a feature, stock both sweet and dry vermouth.
  3. Mixers are a must for a cocktail party.
    • Juices are the bases for many cocktails. Stock orange, cranberry, Rose's lime, sour mix (basically lemon juice and sugar) and pineapple. If your guests are primarily rum and vodka drinkers, juice blends like white cranberry-peach and tropical blends make for a nice change.
    • Sodas are a must as well for cocktail how to make cocktailsdrinks. Cola, diet cola, lemon-lime soda, club soda and tonic water are the basics. Some of the newer fruit sodas in flavors like grapefruit and lemonade make a nice mixer with vodka or gin. Soda is cheap; go overboard rather than run out of it.
  4. Make sure you have plenty of ice when making mixed alcoholic drinks! 
  5. When making cocktails, MEASURE. I cannot overstress the importance of measuring to achieve the proper flavor and to control the party. As the host, you are responsible for your guests. Cocktail sets that include strainer shakers and jiggers are common and inexpensive these days. Otherwise, simply use shot glasses to measure alcohols. I have a plastic container with a tight seal that I use to shake cocktails and then simply strain around the lid for occasions I don't feel like digging my set out of the back closet!
  6. Buy a bartender's guide such as the Bartender's Bible or Boston Bartender's Guide. They contain thousands of alcoholic drink recipes for everything imaginable and are standard at every bar.
  7. Follow some basic cocktail recipes:
    • Tequila Sunrise: combine 1 shot tequila with 4 ounce orange juice. Shake over ice and strain into a highball or Collins glass. Pour grenadine over the top and let it settle to the bottom.
    • Screwdriver: 1 shot vodka with 4 ounces orange juice over ice.
    • Fuzzy Navel: 1 shot peach schnapps with 4 ounces orange juice over ice.
    • Hairy Navel: 1 shot vodka, 1 shot peach schnapps with 4 ounces orange juice.
    • Cape Cod: 1 shot vodka with 4 ounces cranberry juice over ice.
    • Madras: 1 shot vodka with 2 ounces cranberry juice and 2 ounces orange juice.
    • Cosmopolitan: 1 shot vodka, 1 shot Triple Sec or peach schnapps with 3 ounces cranberry juice, shaken with ice and strained. Garnish with lime.
    • Gin&Tonic: 1 shot gin with 4 ounces tonic over ice. Garnish with a lime wedge.
    • Blue Hawaiian: 1 ounce vodka or light rum, 1/2 ounce blue curacao and 4 ounces pineapple juice. Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass.

If you want greater variety in your cocktails, a wealth of recipes awaits you online at sites such as Cocktail.com and The Webtender. You're certain to find a recipe that catches your eye, or the experience may even inspire you to develop your own unique concoction. Now get out there and start making the best party drinks your friend have ever tasted!

 

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