The art of making a good cocktail? It’s all about balance.

This is done through careful selection of ingredients, thought of as a set of scales. The ‘weights’ of the scales are strong and weak, bitter or sour and sweet.

This concept underpins the world’s best known and most successful cocktails, making the sum of all the ingredients more enjoyable than each individual component on its own.

The ‘strong’ parts are the alcohol, The ‘weak’ are the non-alcoholic parts such as soda water, juice, tonics and ice. Most cocktails will also include some sweet and sour or bitter ingredients. Sweet components include sugar, syrups or liqueurs. Sour or bitter parts are usually acids like citrus juices, Vermouth or cocktail bitters.

Once you understand and experiment with these basic concepts, you can have a lot of fun creating your own enjoyable concoctions. Success will be when all 4 of these are in balance, and the flavours of the ‘strong’ alcoholic component are emphasised and enjoyable, without the alcohol burn usually encountered when drinking spirits on their own.

Next, you need to ‘build’ your ideal cocktail. This serves two purposes- to chill and mix the drink, without diluting it too much. This is usually achieved with one of 5 common methods:

Building involves filling a glass with ice cubes, then pouring the ingredients into it, leaving around a centimetre at the top.

Stirring is where the ingredients are added to a mixing glass or similar container, along with ice cubes and then slowly stirred with a bar spoon. Once the desired chill and dilution is achieved, it is then strained through a julep sieve into a pre-prepared glass.

Shaking is where ingredients are placed into the base half of a cocktail shaker along with ice cubes, then the top firmly placed on to create a seal. The mix is then shaken intensively to chill and aerate everything. This is then poured through a Hawthorne strainer to prevent any ice fragments getting into the prepared glass.

Muddling helps extract juice and flavour out of herbs and fruits like lime & mint. The ingredients are placed into a glass/shaker and a muddler is used to crush them, whilst care is taken not to over-extract bitterness.

Blending, as the name suggests, involves all ingredients and crushed ice being placed into a specially adapted food mixer. The blades completely break up both the ingredients and ice, creating a chilled & smooth textured drink.

And that’s how you make a great cocktail! Mastering the art of mixology is all about testing and trying, and most of all having fun! Get testing now to create the perfect cocktail this holiday. If you would like to explore the world of spirits, check out one of our tasting events, for a great day of tasting and learning!