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Cocktail Basics: How to Create Your Own Cocktail

A set of cocktail-making tools and ingredients

What’s more fun than indulging in your favourite mixed drink? Learning how to create your own cocktail, of course! Play around with different flavours and spirits to create a signature cocktail that’s all your own. The best part is, you don’t necessarily have to start from scratch. There are so many cocktail blueprints out there that you can use as a basis for your own drink – all you have to do is add your own twist to the existing classics, and viola! Delicious cocktails for entertaining or a relaxing night in.

Before assembling your tools, there are three elements that make up a cocktail. They are the core (base spirit), the balance (sugar), and seasoning (bitters).

Now, wheel over your fully-stocked bar cart and follow these few simple steps to create your own cocktail:

1. Acquaint Yourself with the Cocktail Families

Coming up with your signature drink may seem overwhelming at first. You’ll be glad to know that there are cocktail templates that bartenders themselves often rely on. It might help you to use these as a framework in the process of developing your personal cocktail. When learning the characteristics of each cocktail type, it’s vital to keep the ingredients’ proportions in mind. 

According to the Cocktail Codex, there are six classic cocktail families that all other drinks are derived from: the daiquiri, the old fashioned, the sidecar, the martini, the flip, and the whisky highball.

The Daiquiri

Cocktails in this family balance sweetness and citrus (typically lime) with the core traditionally being rum. Daiquiris are often associated with summer because they are the perfect beachside drink – refreshingly-tart and boozy. Examples include Strawberry Daiquiri and Gimlet, but to make it your own, switch up the type of fruit you use.

The Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned cocktails have a whisky, bourbon or rye core and are balanced with sugar, water and traditional bitters to create a drink that’s all about highlighting the natural flavours of the booze. Create your own cocktail variation by using flavoured simple syrups or smokey bitters!

Sidecar Family

This classic drink has a brandy core, however, if you are to create your own cocktail, the base can easily be switched to bourbon or whisky. It’s important to balance sweetness and tartness – as is the sidecar category. You can also switch up the bitters to complement the tartness of the lemon.

Martini Family

This sophisticated cocktail has a vodka or gin core, vermouth for sweetness (or dryness), and citrus, saltiness, or bitters for the seasoning. Straight up, on the rocks, wet, dry, shaken or stirred; the combinations for this drink are endless! Boulevardier and Negroni are examples of cocktails under the martini family category. 

The Flip

This heated beverage was first popular in the late 1600s, created with a mulled ale, brandy/rum base, including sugar, nutmeg and fresh eggs. The addition of dairy to this rich cocktail is what categorizes it in the flip family. Create your own flip cocktail by substituting brandy for port or playing with the spices. Eggnog-based drinks are a popular example of this type of cocktail.

Whisky Highball

The whisky highball involves balancing out the intense flavours of a base spirit using non-alcoholic ingredients like tonic water, orange juice or lemon juice. You can easily create your own cocktail with this one – play with the natural flavour profiles of the individual whisky.

Four clear glasses filled with clear and orange liquid

2. Get Inspiration From Your Favourite Drink

Start by looking at the elements of your favourite cocktail and figure out what it is about it that made you like it in the first place. This way, if you stick to the basic flavour profile of the drink, you can play around with the more subtle flavours to make it your own. If you’re unfamiliar with an ingredient like the spirit, syrup, or juice, make sure to taste them before using them. Like any basic chef or mixologist, trust your palate to guide you to flavours that work well together. If you like the minty freshness of a Mojito or an Espresso Martini’s comforting coffee flavour, use these factors as a base for your own recipe. You’re bound to come up with a masterpiece!

3. The Balancing Act

A cocktail’s base can easily be too intense on its own. To lessen its intensity, citrus juices and sugar syrups need to be added to the mix. At the same time, these ingredients improve the flavour without overpowering the spirit. Other modifiers used in cocktails contribute to the rich taste. In Bloody Marys, Worcestershire and Tabasco are used to add a savoury kick to the drink, just as adding a sugar rim will balance out the tartness in any given drink.

4. The Art of The Swap

artenders use this trick to come up with new cocktails all the time. However, keep in mind that the right ratio means everything.

Start off by swapping one ingredient in an existing recipe with a different ingredient, but in the exact same amount. One example would be when mixing a margarita which is made of two parts tequila, one part lime juice, and one part Cointreau. If you swap the tequila for two parts Cognac, and the lime for one part lemon juice, you have a whole different cocktail, the Sidecar in its perfect proportions!

Martini glasses in a row

5. Choose Your Glass Wisely

The glass you choose should always correspond to the quantity of your drink. If your cocktail is on the sugary side, opt for a hurricane glass. Use a Collins glass if there’s a lot of fizz in your cocktail. The Collins Glass is thinner and taller, which helps the bubbles last longer. Another popular glassware variant is the rocks glass, this one is perfect if you’re a fanatic of an Old Fashioned or a Negroni.

6. The Cherry On Top

Putting the right garnish on your cocktail is like adding its crowning glory. The options are endless; grate a bit of chocolate, dust it with powdered sugar, a twist of lemon, a pickled onion, or even a strip of bacon will give your cocktail a piece of your personality.

7. Name Dropping

You’ve worked so hard in putting this cocktail together; it deserves a name. Draw inspiration from the recipe process, was there a song playing in the background as you were mixing thing’s up? Is there a specific ingredient you feel needs to take the spotlight? Does it remind you of a special occasion or person? Or, you could always be cheeky and name it after yourself.

8. Share Your Unique Cocktail Recipe With Us!

An innovative cocktail needs innovative ingredients. At Spirit of York Distillery, you can get just that and more! Visit our store today to find the perfect spirits for your cocktail creations. Once you create your own cocktail, share it with us by tagging us on your Instagram!

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