What to buy, how to use it and which drinks to make
To successfully complete any DIY project, even homemade cocktails, you need the right tools. You also need to know how to use them and what you’ll be constructing in the first place. Follow our experts’ advice, and soon you’ll be swirling your swizzle stick like a pro in delicious drinks of your own making.
Get the gear
You don’t need a ton of crazy contraptions to make delicious cocktails, but you will need a few tried-and-true tools of the bartending trade. These need not be expensive, particularly if you’re a beginner, and can easily be found in many stores or ordered online. You’ll need:
Jigger: A small, usually stainless steel cup that lets you precisely measure the amount of different ingredients to be added to your drink. Mixology is a science, and accuracy counts, so pick up a large and small jigger and keep them handy.
Shaker: One of the showier pieces of bartending gear, shakers come in various shapes and styles but all serve the same purpose—mixing and chilling your drink. The Boston Shaker style is universally popular and simple to use, comprised of two differently sized cups that fit within each other to seal tight and let you shake vigorously.
Strainer: Just because you put ingredients in your shaker doesn’t always mean you want them in your glass. A strainer lets you pour that luscious liquid from shaker to glass while leaving behind excess ice, bits of fruit or anything else you don’t want clouding up your mixed masterpiece.
Muddler: If you’ve had a mojito, you’ve seen a muddler in action. This tool allows you to crush herbs, fruit or other ingredients to bring out their most intoxicating flavors. Hardwood is a good choice for a muddler, as it is strong enough to crush, but easy on your glassware. Speaking of which…
Glassware: Once you’ve crafted the perfect cocktail you want to show it off in its proper form, so be sure to have appropriate glassware on hand. You don’t need every shape and style of glass, but a few simple “rocks” glasses are a must, and adding martini glasses and “Collins” glasses (which are tall with long, thin sides) are enough to pull off the presentation of most popular cocktails.
This list assumes you already have some basic kitchen items like spoons, a peeler, a juicer, etc. It also certainly doesn’t hit all of the handy gadgets you may eventually want to pick up, from shaped ice trays and julep strainers to a channel knife or a smoke box, but it’ll get you started and help you make some delicious drinks as you learn.
Practice your technique
Before you take on the task of pouring cocktails for a party full of friends, it’s important to familiarize yourself with your new equipment. Start with simply pouring, shaking and stirring water and ice. Better to have a shaker pop open and spill that than a fresh Blackberry Widow Cocktail you’re in the midst of mixing.
For step-by-step instructions you can see, hear and repeat until you’ve got the hang of it, there are countless videos available on YouTube and other sources that make learning fun. Start simple, focus on technique and sample your own work at home. When you’re confident enough to be your own mixologist, then it’s time to call some friends.
Consider these cocktails
What are the best cocktails to make? The ones you and your guests enjoy the most. That’s always the right answer. But to find your faves, you need to do a little research first—it’s the best homework assignment you’ll ever have.
These foolproof recipes created by our experts using the C&H® Sugar you know and love make the ideal start on your journey, offering a variety of taste profiles using various liquors prepared simply but skillfully. So settle down, drink up and let C&H® help you set your inner mixologist free.