Mixology 101: How to be an Awesome Bartender at Su Casa
Mixing cocktails doesn't have to be so complicated. Here's an easy guide to start building your private bar.
I have a friend in college who dreamed of having his own bar and creating his own cocktail. He said he would name the drink “Tequila Mockingbird” as a tribute to one of his favorite books.
This was back in the 90s, mind you, when people still read books, and we were in Drama Club, where every one always tried to outwit each other. We also drank like fish, after rehearsals, after performances – most of the time basically.
I just did a quick googling and found out that there is such a drink called Tequila Mockingbird. I don’t know if it was indeed created by my friend, but all power to him nonetheless.
The reason I brought this up is because making cocktails is not rocket science. If you like the occasional drink in your living room after a long day at work, or if you enjoy entertaining people at home, perhaps it’s time to build yourself a private bar, and to learn a trick or two about cocktail making. Building your own private bar saves you from the hassle of going to the store every time you’re having some people over.
It’s simple and doesn’t have to be costly. You can start small and build your way to a satisfying private bar. All it takes is some basic bar utensils, some spirits that you most enjoy drinking, the optional liqueur for fancy options, and the willingness to mix it with whatever you have in the fridge.
But first, let’s begin with basic mixology: what is a cocktail? A cocktail is a mix of two or more ingredients, with at least one of them containing alcohol. When a cocktail contains only distilled spirit and a mixer, such as soda or fruit juice, it is called a highball. When it contains a spirit and a liqueur, it is a duo, and when it is added with a mixer, it is a trio. A cocktail may include sugar, honey, milk, cream and various herbs.
Some basic and more common spirits that can be mixed with a lot of things are Rum, Gin, Vodka, Tequila, Whiskey and Bourbon, which is an American whiskey made of corn.
A liqueur is distilled spirit that has been flavored with fruit and bottled with added sugar or other sweeteners. It is typically sweet and syrupy with an average of 15-30 percent (but some are up to 50 percent) alcohol content.
The most common liqueur are the orange-flavored Triple Sec or the more expensive option Cointreau, the almond-flavored Amaretto, the bright green melon sweet Midori, the coffee-flavored Rum-based Kahlua, the minty Crème de Menthe and the aromatic fortified wine Vermouth.
Mixers vary, including lemonade, lime juice, tonic water or club soda, cola, cream, milk, Sprite or 7-Up, Grenadine, which is made of pomegranate juice, and any fruit juice you may have in the fridge (orange, cranberry, pineapple, tomato), and tea or coffee. For garnish there are ice, lime or lemon, sugar or simple syrup, salt, Tabasco, olives, Maraschino cherries, and mint leaves.
The next thing you need to know is whether to stir, shake or blend the drink. The rule of thumb is that if the drink contains eggs, fruit juices or creams, it is necessary to shake the ingredients using a cocktail shaker to mix and chill them simultaneously. This is normally done with ice cubes three-quarters of the way full. Hold the shaker in both hands, and give it a short, sharp shake. When the water has begun to condense on the surface of the shaker, the cocktail should be sufficiently chilled and ready to be strained.
Certain drinks like Martini are better stirred, not shaken (James Bond knows his Martini). Use a metal or glass rod to stir. To extract the most flavor from certain fresh ingredients such as fruit or mint garnishes, crush the ingredient with a muddler on the back end of your bar spoon, or with a pestle.
I recently spoke to Sanang, the head bartender of the legendary Face Bar in Central Jakarta, who has created some awesome signature cocktails for the bar. He gave me a few simple recipes that will guarantee to make you look like a seasoned mixologist in front of your guests.
But first, you should have these to prepare the drinks:
- A shaker and strainer
- A measuring shot glass – a shot is about 30 ml of liquid
- A long spoon for Martini,
- All kinds of glasses (martini glasses, rocks glasses, highball glasses)
- A blender, if you like your drinks frozen
- Toothpicks for olives (optional)
- Cool napkins (very optional).
The recipes below are measured in shot glass, unless stated differently.
Photos: Courtesy of Face Bar
This spirit is made from sugarcane byproducts such as molasses, which gives it a slight sweet taste and a tropical zest. The simplest way is to mix it with limes and powdered sugar in 1½:1:1 proportion respectively for a good ol’ daiquiri. But if you want to get a little fancy, try this one.
12 or more mint leaves, muddled in your glass first
½ simple syrup
Crushed ice to top
Garnish with some fresh mint leaves
The liquid that sustains the Russians in their darkest hours (and in the morning for some). The simplest way to enjoy vodka is to mix it with orange juice, but why go for simple when you can have so much more?
1 tsp. Dry Vermouth
If you like it a little salty, you can mix in some of the olive brine
When I was a journalist for a newspaper, I used to wash off the biter aftertaste of a stressfully long day with a stiff Gin Tonic, AKA the Classic. If only I knew these tastier classics then.
½ simple syrup
2 lime juice (or to your taste)
Top with soda
Back in college we liked to down our Tequila shot in style. First we salted the back of our hands with salt, then we licked the salt, knocked back the shot and, finally, sucked on a lime wedge while wincing from the sourness of the lime and the robustness of the alcohol. But you’re a grown-up now, and getting inebriated doesn’t have to involve finishing your drink in one gulp.
1 ½ Tequila
½ Triple Sec
1 lime Juice
Rub the rim of a cocktail glass with lime juice, and dip it in salt.
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into the glass.
Whiskey or Bourbon
I have to admit my relationship with whiskey was irreversibly broken many years ago, when I inappropriately consumed a little too much Southern Comfort-cola in a setting where I should not have gotten slobbering drunk. That’s as far as I’ll open up. But just because I cannot stand the sight and smell of whiskey or bourbon, doesn’t mean you should be denied some good cocktail recipes.
2 Lime Juice
½ Simple syrup
Hope this helps give you some ideas on how to lubricate your little soirée at home.
Devi likes to drink and eat and ride a bike, and she often combines the three activities in one trip, like this one. Follow @dasmaran on Twitter.