Cocktail
Some cocktails taste even better when you prepare the ingredients from scratch.
Iralin Irala / Getty Images
  • Insider spoke to bartenders to find out what people should never do when making a cocktail at home.
  • The type of ice and glass that you use can make a difference when it comes to your overall beverage.
  • According to bartenders, it's cheaper and better to make your own simple syrup instead of buying it.
  • You shouldn't shake spirit-based cocktails.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

There's nothing like sipping a perfectly prepared cocktail. Unfortunately, there are plenty of pitfalls that can take your homemade mixed drink from delicious to disastrous.

Here are a few things you should never do when making cocktails at home, according to professional bartenders.

Never free-pour your ingredients

Nils Schabert, head bartender at Fairview Bar and Restaurantin Alberta, Canada, told Insider that the most important rule for making a cocktail is to always measure your ingredients.

"Never eyeball your ingredients. It's critical to use a measured shot glass or jigger," said Schabert. "Like baking, cocktail making requires exact measurements for the end result to be flawless."

Though you may see professional bartenders free-pouring ingredients, that kind of skill takes years to develop. Save yourself from an unbalanced cocktail and just measure your ingredients.

Don't use room-temperature mixers when making a chilled cocktail

Mark Phelan, bartender and bar manager at 16" on Center in Chicago, Illinois, told Insider that you shouldn't add room temperature-mixers to a chilled cocktail.

"Properly chilled carbonated mixers will better hold their bubbles and lower the temperature of the drink to an optimal level. The ice will melt more slowly, minimising dilution and maximising enjoyment as you sip," said Phelan.

There's no need to buy simple syrup

Phelan told Insider that spending money on premade simple syrup is just silly since it's so easy to make at home.

"Never buy simple syrup. All that is needed is equal parts, by weight, of water and granulated white sugar. No need to heat the mixture - just stir until the sugar dissolves," said Phelan.

Don't underestimate the importance of the right ice

If your homemade cocktailtastes flat or has an unusual aftertaste, even though you followed the recipe exactly, it may because you used the wrong kind of ice.

"If you use the subpar ice from your freezer's ice cube tray, chances are you're diluting your drink more than you realise. Use boiled water to fill silicone moulds and prep them ahead of time - your taste buds will thank you," said Schabert.

No time to boil and freeze water? Buying premade ice from the grocery store is also a good option.

Avoid buying a big bottle of a spirit that you haven't tried

"When buying spirits you've never tried, especially amari and liqueurs, always buy the smallest bottle size," said Phelan. "This lets you decide if you like it and if it is versatile enough to warrant buying a larger bottle next time."

Some ingredients, like absinthe and green Chartreuse, have very strong flavours and a little goes a long way. Depending on how often you make cocktails, a small bottle might last you a long time.

When serving cocktails, don't ignore the visual details

Flavour may be the most important element of a cocktail, but nailing the visual details can elevate a good drink to an unforgettable one.

"Glassware, garnish, ice quality, and even ambiance all play a part in enhancing the drinking experience," said Phelan. "A big cube from an ice mould can go a long way in creating a more memorable and enjoyable cocktail."

You shouldn't shake cocktails that are spirit-based

Spirit-forward drinks, such as Negronis, Manhattans, and Old Fashioneds, should always be stirred rather than shaken.

"Spirits are dense, so shaking is not necessary to combine them into a homogeneous solution. Stirring gives your drink clarity and preserves the spirit's silky texture," said Schabert.

But you should be shaking cocktails that are citrus-based

As a general rule, cocktails that contain citrus ingredients, like lemon or lime juice, should always be shaken with ice.

"Shake ingredients that would readily separate by stirring them, such as juice, milk, and egg. This will add texture and aeration to the drink," said Schabert.

Another important tip: Don't shake any cocktail that has a carbonated ingredient, like soda or tonic. Doing so will potentially get rid of some of the fizz.

Don't change up a recipe until you're a confident mixologist

It can be tempting to unleash your creativity when you have a few bottles of liquor at your disposal, but swapping one spirit for another can change a cocktail for the worse.

"Nine times out of 10, changing the recipe will result in a less tasty cocktail," said Schabert. "Stick to the recipe until you start to understand the concept of flavour pairing and when it makes sense to substitute one ingredient for another."

Using the wrong glass can impact the quality of your drink

If you want your cocktail-mixing skills to truly shine, don't present a drink in the wrong glass.

Fortunately, most cocktail recipeswill indicate the ideal glass to use.

"Each glass serves a purpose. I highly recommend having at least coupes, highball, and rocks glasses stocked in the cupboard for your at-home happy hour," said Schabert.

Vermouth shouldn't be stored at room temperature

Vermouth is a fortified wine that won't hold its flavour wellwhen stored at room temperature.

"The most common mistake when experimenting with drinks like the Manhattan or a martini is using spoiled vermouth," said Schabert. "Vermouth will hold its fantastic flavour profile for up to two months, but only if you keep it in the fridge."

Don't go overboard with the bitters

Bitters are an essential part of many classic cocktails - but beware of their power.

"There is a reason why it says three drops or a dash of bitters in your recipe," said Schabert. "Bitters are very intense, concentrated tinctures, and your drink will show no forgiveness when you overdose it."

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