One of the most exciting things about a night out is looking over the cocktail menu and deciding whether you want to stick with a classic or venture out and try a cocktail with extravagant ingredients. While cocktails can look complex to make, it’s such an intriguing process and a great skill to pick up yourself. The beautiful thing about making cocktails is that it’s a wonderful way to express your creativity and so easy to add your own twist.
Take the Negroni for example; the iconic bitter red aperitif Campari can be complemented with herbs and flavours that appeal to whatever is your preferred palate. A splash of fresh-squeezed grapefruit here, a rosemary sprig there.
While you might not be a cocktail king just yet, there’s a lot of merit in faking it until you make it. After all, bartending is 80 per cent looks and 20 per cent drinks.
We chatted with Lachy Boyle from The Black Pearl in Melbourne, who’s given us the bartender scoop on what you need to ignite your cocktail passion. Thankfully, it’s a lot easier than one would think. Before you know it, you’ll be able to impress your friends, loved ones, or Instagram followers by perfecting your inner cocktail connoisseur with the help of these essential tools and ingredients in your at-home bar.
1. High-Quality Shaker
There are many cocktail shaker options out there. Boyle suggests using a shaker with two metal tins: “This will ensure that your ingredients stay nice and cold, and there is less likelihood of your ingredients leaking out as you shake”, says Boyle. Shake cocktails to cool it down, add dilution and incorporate air into the mix. Hawthorn and Tea Strainers are the best way to filter the cocktail into your glass and avoid messing up all around.
2. Campari as a Base
While there are so many ingredients out there to experiment with, starting off with simple recipes will set you up to understand how different flavours work together. “Campari is a great option as not only does it taste superb with its fruit and bitter flavours, it can be used in so many cocktails that require only a few ingredients”, Boyle explains. Take a Negroni for example, it’s only three ingredients and all equal parts; Campari, gin and vermouth rosso.
3. Insulated Mixing Glass
Some of the best cocktails are stirred down, e.g. Martini, Negroni, or a personal favourite, the Martinez. Boyle gave his thoughts on the importance of a quality insulated mixing glass: “beyond the aesthetic look, the glass needs to be made from thick glass to keep your drink cool when filled with ice and provide enough space to stir properly”.
4. Elbow Press for Fresh Citrus
Every single ingredient added to a cocktail makes a difference, and fresh juice is so important for tasty drinks. “The quality of the drink is only as good as the quality of the ingredients, and fresh citrus helps to elevate any cocktail”, says Boyle. Elbow presses are easy to use and clean, and a staple for any cocktail connoisseur in training.
5. Large Ice
Invest in some moulds that make larger, thicker cubes. Ice can play an important role in diluting your drink but can also run the risk of messing with the consistency. For some cocktails, a large ice cube plays a huge role not only with the aesthetic, but it dilutes the drink for optimal taste. “If you’re a fan of strong drinks and enjoy sipping, I suggest investing in Whiskey Rocks”, Boyle states.
6. Quality Spirit Selection
The most important element of a home bar is having your favourite spirits on hand. Boyles favourites include gin, rum, Campari, sweet and dry vermouth. “The fun part about cocktail making is experimenting with the unique flavours of each, so do your research and test out different combinations until you nail your signature concoction”, Boyle says.
Once you’re set up, there are thousands of cocktails inviting you to leave your comfort zone and explore new creative passions. If your passion is Red, a Negroni or a Campari & Soda might be good options to start from. Soon enough, you’ll be throwing the ultimate dinner party and show off your new skills as a confident mixologist.
If you want to find out more on how you can challenge your creative side, visit participating Red Passion venues, which you can find at the Campari website.