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Common Cocktail-Making Mistakes For Budding Bartenders To Avoid

Garnishes

Making the perfect cocktail is a skill, one that needs to be practised and mastered just like any other. The process of crafting cocktails is a play of creativity with science to find the balance between flavours while simultaneously creating an unforgettable experience for the drinker. Whether you’re just starting off on this journey or you’re a seasoned home bartender, there are some common pitfalls to avoid if you want to perfect your technique. Here are a few of the most common mistakes people make, and how to avoid them. 

Precision Matters: 

No matter how many times you’ve made a drink, there’s always room for error when you’re measuring. So to craft the perfect cocktail, don't eyeball the measurements. Use a shot glass or a jigger to measure your ingredients accurately. Even a slight variation can alter the taste significantly to ensure your cocktail tastes just as you intended it to.

Avoid Frozen Mixers

While it may be tempting to opt for conveniences like juice concentrate or frozen pre-made mixers, nothing quite tastes as good as the real deal. Even if you can’t get access to fresh juice easily, opt for natural, cold-pressed juices or natural brands that don’t rely too heavily on flavourings and additives for a truly delicious sip

Ice Matters Too: 

It may seem like a simple element, after all, we use ice in so many regular drinks – but ice in cocktails is a more delicate matter. Don't settle for regular ice cubes. They tend to be small and melt quickly and water down your drink. Invest in large silicone ice cube trays and fill them with boiling water. This minimises the air bubbles and maximises the chill for dense, slow-melting ice cubes won’t dilute your cocktail as much.

Stir or Shake Wisely: 

While it’s tempting to shake your cocktails around, even just for the aesthetics, sometimes that can bruise the ingredients and ruin their taste. Understand when to stir and when to shake and stick to it. For liqueur-based cocktails, stir in a mixing glass to avoid bitterness. But when it comes to cocktails with cream liqueurs, eggs, dairy, or fruit juices, shaking is ideal to prevent the ingredients from separating. And of course, if you’re shaking or stirring with ice, remember to string it to minimise the dilution.

Don't Skip the Garnish: 

Presentation can seem like a waste of time when you’re making cocktails for yourself, but sometimes garnishes are there for more than just the aesthetics. Citrus garnishes, such as wedges, twists, peels, and wheels, are staples and can add an extra zing and aroma to your cocktail. You can consider using spice sticks, herb sprigs, or berries which will change up the drinking experience and elevate the flavours.

Remember to Muddle: 

Muddling is a cocktail-making 101. The art of gently crushing fruit, herbs, and sugar to extract flavours and blend them with alcohol, adds a fresh dimension to your cocktail. When using these ingredients, use a muddler to release their flavours just before serving. Be gentle with herbs and leaves, but apply more pressure to rinds and fruits.

Invest in Quality Equipment: 

In most cases, people say ‘blame the carpenter, not the tools’, but if you're serious about taking up mixology, then investing in quality tools could really make all the difference. Quality barware usually includes items like a strainer, cocktail shaker, bar spoon, jigger, and muddler. These can all help you to hone your measurements and pours, ensuring you can replicate even the most professional cocktails at home.

Get The Glass Right

It’s another simple touch that can actively impact your drink, but choosing the right glass can make all the difference. Smaller glasses like martini glasses have wider rims and wide distribution so that your spirits shine, whereas drinks that are carbonated usually go in taller glasses so there’s plenty of space to fizz. If you're not looking to break the bank buying every glass under the sun, start with lowball glasses, highball glasses and coupes, and then build from there if you feel it’s necessary.