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DIY Drinks: How to Make Better Cocktails at Home

various at home cocktails

Crafting your own cocktails at home is a thrilling adventure full of wonderful challenges and tasty rewards. A way to enliven a dinner party or play the ultimate host, toying with mixology can elevate your creative skills and transform your gatherings into memorable occasions. Here’s how to stock a home bar and how to make better cocktails at home.

infographic of how to stock your home bar

How to Stock a Home Bar

These bar essentials will give you the best bar setup for home.

Essential Home Bar Tools

• Cocktail shaker & strainer

• Muddler

• Jigger

• Bar spoon

• Bottle openers

• Corkscrew

• Citrus juicer

• Ice bucket & tongs

• Cutting board, knives, & peelers

Home Bar Glassware

• Martini glasses

• Rocks glasses

• Collins glasses

• Highball glasses

• Copper mugs

• Coupe glasses

• Champagne flutes

• Wine glasses

• Shot glasses

Home Bar Essential Liquors

• Vodka

• Whiskey, bourbon, or rye

• Tequila or mezcal

• Rum

• Gin

• Brandy

home bar cocktail tools

Home Bar Non-Alcoholic Mixers

• Tonic water

• Club soda

• Ginger beer

• Cola

• Diet cola

• Lemon-lime soda

• Cranberry juice

• Orange juice

• Tomato juice

• Bitters

• Grenadine

• Simple syrup

• Sweet & sour mix

Prefer an alcohol-free beverage? Check out our top mocktail recipes.

Home Bar Liqueurs

  • Triple sec
  • Vermouth (dry and sweet)
  • Campari
  • Amaretto
  • Cointreau
  • Coffee liqueur
  • Elderflower liqueur

Home Bar Garnishes

• Olives

• Cherries

• Citrus fruits

• Herbs

• Salt & pepper

How to Make Better Cocktails at Home

Here are our top tips for crafting better, more compelling cocktails at home.

1. Buy Quality Spirits

Good spirits are the foundation of any good cocktail. You don’t have to break the bank, but skip the bottom-shelf booze. Premium liquors are smoother and have stronger flavor profiles and fewer additives and impurities. Some markers of quality include:

• Gin from a classic London brand.

• Tequila with 100% agave.

• Bourbon aged at least four years.

• Vodka distilled at least three times.

• Rum with the Authentic Caribbean Rum (ARC) symbol.

2. Use Fresh Ingredients

Cocktails with fresh ingredients look and taste better. Adding depth, vivid colors, and complex flavors, fresh sodas, juices, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and ice deliver a top-tier drinking experience. It may be tedious, but you should cut, squeeze, and zest your own produce and avoid overly processed juices, stale freezer ice, old sodas, and dried herbs—you’ll thank yourself later.

person squeezing orange for at home cocktail

3. Know Your Glassware

Surprisingly, your glass can affect a drink’s taste, presentation, temperature, color, aroma, and flavor. For example, a stirred or shaken cocktail without ice should be served in a stemmed glass so your hands don’t warm it up, and cocktails with carbonated mixers should be served in a tall, narrow glass so the carbonation doesn’t dissipate as quickly. With this in mind, always consider the size, shape, thickness, and curve of the glass before selecting which one suits your beverage.

4. Use the Right Type of Ice

Accounting for about one-third of all drinks, ice is an essential component that most overlook. Ice regulates the temperature of your drink and its dilution, consistency, and texture. The majority of cocktails can be mixed, shaken, or stirred with one-inch-by-one-inch cubed ice made with filtered water; however, if you have a nice spirit that you don’t want to water down, opt for a larger ice sphere or a two-inch-by-two-inch cube. If you want a slushy drink, use crushed or pebble ice.

Spritzes are all the rage right now. Here are 10 unique spritz recipes to sip on.

5. Measure & Mix Correctly

Cocktail mixology is a science, and having proper ratios and precise measurements matters. Instead of eyeballing it, use a measuring tool or a jigger to ensure a well-balanced drink with an accurate representation of flavors. The order you add your ingredients matters, too. Here’s a classic recipe for success:

  1. Add your measured spirit to a mixing glass or cocktail shaker.
  2. Add liqueurs, mixers, and enhancers.
  3. Add ice.
  4. Shake or stir.
  5. Pour or strain the mixture into a serving glass.
  6. Top with garnish.

6. Be Intentional with Garnishes

From candied bacon to edible flowers, the selection of garnishes is endless. And surprisingly, garnishes do a lot more than add flair. Literally the “cherry on top,” garnishes enhance the taste and scent of a drink by adding a complementary or contrasting element. While personal preference does heavily influence your desired garnish, it’s important to choose one that doesn’t overpower the beverage but ties it together. For instance, an orange peel works wonders in balancing out the bitterness of a drink, and a lime garnish can cut sweetness.

7. Make Your Own Simple Syrup

A liquid sweetener, simple syrup is a cocktail staple and bartender favorite because it evenly disperses sweetness throughout your beverage. Although you can purchase some from the store, DIY-ing your simple syrup is cost-effective and will take your cocktail to the next level. Luckily, simple syrup is super simple to make. Just combine one part water and one part sugar, and heat it on the stove until the sugar fully dissolves. Feel free to experiment and infuse your simple syrup with things like lavender, honey, and other herbs for extra pizzaz. Store your concoction in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to one month.

8. Understand Shaking vs. Stirring

Shaken or stirred? If you’ve ordered a martini, you’ve probably been asked that question. Whether you shake (vigorously shake the mixture in a cocktail shaker with ice), or stir (gently stir the mixture in a glass with ice) a cocktail can have a huge impact on aeration and dilution. In general, opaque cocktails with eggs, dairy, citrus, and juice—think: margaritas, daiquiris, and cosmopolitans—should be shaken. Conversely, cocktails that are clear and/or very spirit-forward—think: Manhattans, old fashioneds, and martinis—should be stirred.

three people cheers with homemade colorful cocktails

Take Your Home Bar to the Next Level

Now that you’ve learned how to stock a home bar with all the bar essentials, you’ll be ready to make delicious DIY drinks that everyone will love. Not sure where to start? Put your skills to the test and try making one of these nine classic cocktails using our home bar stock list, tips, and tricks.