Little known fact about me – for 6 years I worked in cocktail bars (very, very busy cocktail bars).
The downside of this is that I am unapologetically snobby about my cocktails. I don’t like my mojitos too sweet, God help you if you go anywhere near my margarita with sour mix, I want my drinks garnished correctly, I demand quality spirits with clean, fresh ingredients and I mix a mean iced tea (actually about 20 variations thereof).
The upside is that I can teach you a few things about mixed drinks.
Now, unlike most cocktail guides, I don’t expect everyone to keep a fully stocked bar cart, so I’m listing my favourite recipes based on the 4-key white spirits. This way, no matter which of the staples you happen to have on hand, you can rustle up a tasty libation.
The simplest and most beautiful tequila drink (in my humble opinion) is the Paloma. Wonderfully sharp and refreshing – only 5 ingredients required.
fresh lime juice
:: Mix equal parts grapefruit juice, tequila and club soda (1/4 cup) – add a teaspoon of simple syrup and a quarter lime squeezed. Stir and serve over ice. Garnish with a slice of lime or grapefruit. (Salt rim on the glass or a sprig of rosemary are also optional extras). Serve and enjoy!
FYI – many recipes will just mix tequila with a grapefruit soda and it is still very tasty, but I’d urge you to try making it from scratch – it is so much better!
Gin – Elevating the classic G&T with the quintessentially British pink gin.
- angostura bitters
- fresh lime juice
:: Add two shots of your preferred gin with five dashes of angostura bitters and a quarter lime squeezed to a large glass with ice – top with tonic water – stir and serve garnished with a slice of lemon.
Vodka – the secret to this is a good quality (read: fiery) ginger beer – the Moscow mule.
- Fresh Lime Juice
- Ginger Beer
:: Add two shots of your favourite vodka to a tall glass (or copper mug, if you have one) and half a lime squeezed (some recipes call for you to drop the lime shell into your drink – I’ll leave that up to you) and top with ginger beer. Garnish with a wheel of lime and enjoy!
Ernest Hemingway’s favourite, the classic daiquiri. Not all daiquiris are blended with fruit. In fact, I much prefer it when they’re not. A classic daiquiri requires only three ingredients. (Not to be confused with a Hemingway – which is a different variation altogether).
- a good white rum
- fresh lime juice
- simple syrup*
:: Add two shots of white rum with the juice of one lime and a teaspoon of simple syrup. Shake vigorously over ice and pour into a coupe/martini glass. Enjoy!
(This is the only recipe that actually needs a cocktail shaker or any equipment – apologies for that.)
*You will have noticed that a couple of these recipes require a simple syrup. Easily made you will need equal parts granulated white sugar and water. Pour one cup boiling water and one cup sugar into a pan on a medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Be careful not to let it boil. When dissolved let the syrup cool and pour into a sterilized bottle or jar. It will keep in the fridge for up to a month. Once you have mastered basic simple syrup you can then start exploring herb infusions (basil and rosemary are two of my favourites) but that’s a lesson for another time… ?
So there you have it – a clean and effortless cocktail that you can throw together no matter which spirit you happen to have at home – just in time for the weekend!