In defense of the at-home cocktail: Part I

“You need three ingredients for a cocktail. Vodka and Mountain Dew is an emergency.” – Peggy Olsen, Mad Men

Wow, talk about a late post, huh?

I am going to be really frank with you guys because I feel we are getting a lot… closer. I would normally be inclined to say that this post is late because I am bombarded with work or something. But I just have been really busy enjoying a week off from work…mostly swimming, sailing, paddling, or catching up with old friends. I have really bad sunburn on my nose, sand in my bed, and running on fumes. Also, I am a little shocked that there remains about $4…in change… in my wallet. But…I had a great time!

This seems like a really appropriate time to discuss cocktails.

I love making cocktails at home because if you’re planning on going out with friends- you save tons of money by enjoying one or four at home before heading out. Also, there are so many awesome recipes on the magical interwebs that you can never run out of combinations! There are a few tools you need and a couple professional bartending tricks they don’t explain on the back of those awful “bar kits”.

Bar kits. I don’t know who came up with these but they are an evil genius. You should always be weary of anything sold as a kit, because someone has created the illusion that you need ALL OF THE THINGS to accomplish the task. You usually don’t. This is all you need:


  1. Shaker Tin & Pint Glass – This does not need to be fancy. The glass does not need to have recipes on it. Just, a simple shaker tin and any pint glass you probably already have laying around will do just fine. Now, I know you all have seen that shaker with the built in strainer lid…and it is tempting to go for that. The reason why I don’t like those is that its 3 pieces to wash, and it pours out so slowly. Also, the few times I have owned one I somehow lose the tiny little top. This just makes more sense. Also its only a few bucks online. So, no brainer, right?
  2. Cocktail Strainer- This also does not have to be fancy, and it is an industry standard. It will fit any pint glass snugly allowing for optimal straining, and washes very easily. Also super cheap online.
  3. Muddler- This one is really important, and a lot of the kits don’t even give you one. FOR SHAME, KIT MAKERS. I love adding fresh fruit, herbs, and other smashable things in my cocktails. Even if you don’t drink alcohol, which is fine, try muddling some mint and lime into club soda. So much better than just plunking it in the drink. The muddler presses the oils out of the herbs, releasing those amazing flavonoids that matter the most! I always go for an all-wood muddler because the metal ones totally freak me out when they clank against the sides of the glass. I know that they probably won’t chip the glass into my drink but that’s just not he kind of chance I’m willing to take.

That’s it. The rest of the items the kit comes with are actually just stainless steel versions of things you already own. The “cocktail citrus zester” is just a fancy word for “grater”. (even better is if you own a microplane!) The jigger is a measuring tool that I suppose isn’t a bad idea if you have aspirations of pursuing a career in mixology. I don’t look very good in vests, and I have never cared for Chartreuse, so I tend to keep things a little more…improvisational. If you don’t already have one, I do recommend buying a standard size shot glass, which holds 1.5 ounces. This will be helpful when making basic mixed drinks like gin & tonics, which actually taste pretty terrible & abrasive when it is made with a heavy hand.

Tomorrow, I am going to cover the main spirits. How to choose them, how not to be a sucker, and how to avoid brilliant marketing schemes like celebrity brands… and the strange mass obsession with Patron tequila.

xo. alicia.

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