How to Make a Simple Cocktail: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

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In the summer, alcohol can help you stay cool and refreshed. During the wintertime, it can be ideal for your New Year’s party. However, crafting a mixed drink the wrong way can be a nasty, costly mistake. 

Some mixed drinks take a certain level of experience to craft, but others are simple. To enjoy your drinks while keeping them coming with ease, here’s a step-by-step guide to making a simple cocktail. And no matter what, please drink responsibly.

The six liquors

There are six base liquors: gin, brandy, vodka, tequila, whiskey, and rum. Learn the basics of these liquors, and you’ll better understand how to use them in mixed drinks.

Brandy tastes like charred wine with a pleasant woody aftertaste and is traditionally made from grapes. This fruity liquor tends to be in drinks with few ingredients but is also used in unique flavor combinations.

Gin is dry and herbal, its primary flavor coming from the juniper berry that gives it a gentle, sweet aroma and taste. It’s distilled from neutral grains such as barley and wheat, then flavored with herbs and botanicals. Perfect for non-sweet cocktails and vital for martinis, it pairs well with sweet mixers and fruit, and it naturally complements herbs.

Rum has a toasted sugar taste and is most commonly distilled from sugars, molasses and pure sugarcane. Its sweetness makes it one of the more versatile spirits. Rum is the base for many cold tropical drinks and is great in warm cocktails.

Tequila has an earthy flavor with semi-sweet, spicy notes and is distilled from the fermented juices of the agave plant. Essential for cold margaritas and frozen fruit cocktails, it makes a perfect base for sweet and spicy drinks.

Vodka has a pure ethanol taste that varies greatly depending on the distillate and additional flavorings. Neutral grains like rye, corn, and potato are the most common, though some vodkas are distilled from grapes, beets, and other bases. Its neutral taste means that vodka cocktails span almost every flavor profile.

Whiskey varies by style and is distilled commonly from corn, rye, wheat, and barley. Its flavor is like malted grain with an oak undertone and has distinct characteristics in each style. Whiskies mix well with other liquors in more complex drinks and pair well with darker fruits.

Cocktail essentials

Cocktails are alcoholic beverages consisting of spirits mixed with other ingredients such as fruit, sodas, or dairy. They require finesse for the tastiest result. 

Liquors have a powerful essence, and there are two reasons for mixing in other elements. One: A cocktail masks the harsh taste of the spirit. Two: It enhances the flavors of the other ingredients through contrast or complement.

Building a cocktail requires three elements: the liquor, the mix, and your spice. There are as many mixed drinks as taste buds, but they share these three elements in common while remaining unique

Before you shake things up, think about which flavors you enjoy most and which mixed drinks you’ve previously liked. The bitterness of clear liquor and the rich, robust consistency and flavors of brown liquors requires a different approach. 

You don’t need any special directions for making a cocktail. As a tester, try a combination of mixer and spices with just a dash of liquor. It’s most important to know what flavors you like combined with which liquors. Decide what you like, gather your ingredients, and focus on balancing flavors to create your own unique concoction!

What’s your favorite cocktail recipe? Sound off in the comments!

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