Making cocktails at home is fun, but it also can be tricky sometimes: Which spirits to choose? How much ice is needed? What equipment is essential and what is not? Fortunately, our friend, award-winning bartender Kaitlin Wilkes Back got you covered! Kaitlin shared with you a few hacks on how to make delicious cocktails at home.
Who is Kaitlin Wilkes Back?
- Assistant Manager Blue Bar,The Berkeley & Drinks Brand Consultant
- Charmingly Canadian
- Award Winning Bartender
- 10+ Years in the Drinks Industry
- Amateur Baker
- IG @kaitlinwilkesback
Choosing the right spirits!
When it comes to making drinks at home, work with your favourite spirits. If you love vodka, try to buy the best brand you can afford. Stock the home bar with at least 3 main spirits and two modifiers.
“Kaitlin, what’s a modifier?” These are usually bitters or fortified wines that help give length to a drink...try Campari, Sweet vermouth or Amontillado Sherry —three things I never go without at my home bar.
The more ice you have in your freezer, the better! Ice does two things to a drink. One, it keeps it cold! One of the most important things is a cold delicious cocktail so don’t be afraid of using lots of ice! Two, it adds dilution to the drink. This helps balance your cocktail so it isn’t harsh from straight alcohol; dilution helps open up spirits and unlock flavours.
You can make drinks at home without fancy bar equipment. A kitchen scale can help you measure as 1g=1ml, a large jam jar with a lid will help you shake cocktails and a slotted spoon to strain them... However, if you feel like home bartending is a new passion of yours, do invest in a 2 piece shaker, strainer, jigger and bar spoon. These tools will help you execute drinks as professional as some of the best bartenders on the planet. Cocktail Kingdom is a great place to find this equipment.
Citrus & Sugar
Great cocktails are all about balance. This means you’ll always want to keep a couple of lemons and limes around. Most sours call for 20-30ml of lemon or lime (which is about half a lemon and a whole lime) so keeping a few around means you’ll be able to whip up a delicious drink like a Daiquiri, a Sour or Margarita.
Keeping a small bottle of simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, mix it together until they are combined) in the fridge is a great go to and I do the same for honey water (equal parts honey to water, mix it together until they are combined.) as this is one of my favourite ways to sweeten drinks and avoid refined sugar. Make sure you pick organic honey and it is of good quality (No Rowes’) as the better quality of the ingredient, the better drink you’ll make. Honey water and simple syrup have very long shelf lives as long as you store them in the fridge!
Now, the perfect drink belongs to a wonderful glass. This means if the recipe calls for a cocktail glass, use something with a stem! A martini glass, small wine glass or if you can get your hands on a coupette — LSA or Ridel have great ‘barware’ sections to give that extra pop to your drinks at home. It’s all about drinking with the eyes too!
Most importantly — have fun! Don’t overthink cocktails at home. I always recommend Difford’s Guide for great cocktail recipes. But feel free to connect with your favourite bartenders online, especially on Instagram, we’re happy to answer your DM’s!
And if all else fails, most of your favourite bars are doing bottled cocktails so support them every now and again and order their drinks to enjoy at home. Start with a simple spirit mixer like Avallen and Tonic and build up from there.
My favourite spirits:
Calvados - Avallen; a delicious apple spirit that is wonderful with tonic!
Gin - Brighton Gin, Plymouth, Herno (You can make hundreds of classic cocktails with gin)
Vodka - Sapling Vodka
Whisky - Nc'Nean Organic Single Malt Whisky
Bitters - Martini Bitter, Campari, Aperol
Vermouths - Martini Rubino, Nolly Prat Dry Vermouth
Sherry - Xeco Fino or Amontillado Sherry