How do I make “Wow!” cocktails at home, I hear you ask? You need to elevate your homemade concoctions with a strong foundation. I’m talking basic liquor, herbs, fruits, larder items and of course the right kit. They are much easier to get hold of these days, thanks in part to those pesky lockdowns and our reliance on online purchasing.
Below, I will be sharing which tools and ingredients will give your drinks that little edge over your friends. I will share the recipes that you need to up your drinks game and once you know the basics, I promise, you will be looking to try different ingredients and make your own signature twists!
What You Need
Your liquor: vodka, gin, white and dark rum, whisky (both blended malt and Scotch), Triple Sec, dry and red vermouths, reposado (rested) tequila and Campari.
Your larder: fresh herbs (mint, rosemary, dill), extra virgin olive oil.
Your equipment: cocktail shaker, mixing glass, spirit jigger, tea strainer, small aromatise bottles, ice cube moulds, citrus juicer (I use something that’s called a Mexican elbow), paring knife,
wooden spoon and 1 litre glass jars.
Wow Factor Gin & Tonic
Let’s start with the drink that shows no sign of slowing down… the humble gin & tonic. The citrus garnish is the key to changing the way you perceive the flavour of the spirit. I love using lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit but you can easily incorporate the fruit into the ice.
First put pieces of the fruit into each mould and fill with water. Before freezing simply express the oil from the corresponding fruit’s skin into the water for extra zing! Once frozen, these ice cubes will slowly give up their zesty flavour and aroma to the bubbling tonic as its poured creating an exquisite perfume.
Wow Factor Negroni
A Negroni needs no introduction but trust me on this… pre- batching gives this cocktail the edge. Place equal measures of gin, Campari and red vermouth into a glass jar, seal and leave on your kitchen sink for 30 days, just make sure it’s bright! The UV light permeating the glass ‘rests’ the cocktail making it silky smooth and a touch sweeter on the palate.
All you need to do after the resting stage is to pour 75ml into your chosen vessel and add a big cube of ice. Done! Garnish is optional.
Wow Factor Vodka Martini
Your vodka martinis will be loved by adding a spritz of salt and black pepper tincture! A tincture is essentially a herb or spice macerated (softened) in neutral alcohol.
Start by creating your tincture; add 1 teaspoon of sea salt to 200ml of vodka. Add 6 slightly crushed peppercorns and seal in a non-reactive container for a week. Make sure to shake the mixture once every day. Strain into an aromatise bottle.
Next, mix your martini by stirring 50ml of vodka with 5ml of dry vermouth over ice. Strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass and spray just the once with your tincture. It’s essential to keep your tinctures out of direct sunlight. You can also twist some lemon peel over the top for a glorious balance of citrus and spice!
Wow Factor Gin Martini
Dill oil is a lovely thing and will transform the finish to your gin martinis. To make the oil make sure you are using the best virgin olive oil you can buy. Gently heat 200ml of olive oil in a pan and add a handful of dill. Stir periodically with a wooden spoon for a few minutes until warm. Decant and strain into a bottle once the oil has cooled. Your dill oil can then be stored in the fridge until you need to use it.
Make your martini as above but substitute the vodka for gin. Once served in your chilled martini glass slowly drop 3 drops of the fragrant oil using the tip of a teaspoon or pipette if you have one.
I’m pretty sure that your drinks game will be higher than ever with the above hacks! It takes a bit of time to prepare but it will be worth it. I use these methods behind the bar at The Hand and Flowers (www.thehandandflowers.co.uk) and all the guests love that the attention to detail for the food is equally matched by the drinks.
About the expert
Anthony Peart is the Bar Manager at two Michelin-starred pub, The Hand & Flowers founded by Tom Kerridge in Marlow. Anthony is a cocktail obsessive with over 20 years bar experience. He has been at The Hand & Flowers for over a decade. Anthony’s creations for The Hand and Flowers include The Pirates of The Caribbean, Duck Fat Old Fashioned, Coconut Espresso Martini and Quincey Jones to name a few. He finds inspiration from the pub kitchen as well as his travels across the world. He is responsible for maintaining the exceptionally high bar standards of the two Michelin-starred pub in Marlow, founded by Tom Kerridge. His knowledge of syrups, bitters, oils, aromatics and tinctures is exemplary, and each cocktail has been created with consideration and care. Anthony oversees the day to day running of the bar and manages a team of five, his role also encompasses mixology training and development as well as maintaining bar stock and a progressive spirit list for the pub. Anthony has consulted on a rum series book with Octopus Publishing and created signature serves for a range of premium drinks brands.