Cocktails are a suave and sophisticated drink to serve a guest and they don’t need as much planning as you might think
It’s tough being caught short when an unexpected guest turns up at the door, especially so soon after Christmas when the drinks cupboard is probably looking a bit bare. But don’t panic – here’s our easy guide to whipping up a quick mix that will impress even the most stylish friend.
Obviously, to make a cocktail work, you need to have some core items. At least one bottle of some sort of spirit, at least one sort of mixer, a citrus twist and a handful of ice. The last one is easy, of course, just make sure you keep your freezer topped up and you shouldn’t find yourself in a spot.
If you make sure you've always got at least one bottle of a spirit in the cupboard, then you've always got a cocktail at your fingertips. Canadian Club Whisky, Appleton Estate Rum and Grey Goose vodka are all very versatile foundations to build your drink on. Rum, for example, with a twist of lime gives you a refreshing Cuba Libre; or substitute the coke for ginger beer for a basic Dark and Stormy. If it’s whisky in the cupboard, couple that with ginger ale for a classic Whiskey American, or swap to orange juice and a twist of lemon for a refreshing Tiger Juice. Vodka is an easy spirit to mix, especially with fruit flavours – vodka and apple juice is pretty simple but will blow most guests away.
Be creative and playful, don’t be afraid to experiment.
TOP TIP: A splash of bitters can revolutionise your drink. Keep a bottle in the back of the pantry, it doesn't go off.
If you have a garden, then you have a garnish. Even if you’ve only got a balcony, keep some pots with some basic kitchen herbs to help add that something extra to dinner and drinks.
Basil is a great cocktail herb; fresh and sweet, it works well with most fruit-flavoured drinks. A vodka and lime can be reinvented with a dash of sugar syrup and a sprig of basil, or add it to strawberry-flavoured coolers for an exciting twist.
Mint is used in many cocktails already, but if it is all you have then don’t be afraid to play around. It works especially well with vodka-based drinks and those mixed with lemonade. Try adding some muddled mint to a classic gin and tonic with a handful of blueberries to wow your guests.
Sage – perhaps more commonly paired with lamb, sage works exceedingly well at the sour end of the spectrum. Ginger, cranberry, grapefruit and lemon mixed with dry style gin, vodka or even a Scotch can be livened up with the addition of sage.
Edible flowers can add a splash of colour without affecting the flavour, for those who want a visually exciting drink without messing with the recipe too much. Red and pink begonia petals, purple violas, delicate rose petals (the paler they are the less flavour they have) and lemon blossoms are all common in New Zealand’s gardens and look beautiful adorning your glass.
TOP TIP: Tie a sprig of lavender to a popsicle stick for an interesting and appealing stirrer.
The old switcheroo
If you’ve all but one ingredient for a classic cocktail, don’t be afraid to switch something out.
Bourbon can often make a good substitute for dark rum, while triple sec can almost always be swapped for a fruit liqueur, like cherry or Cointreau. If you don’t have sweet vermouth then sherry will work, or port at a push, while gin and vodka are interchangeable in a Martini. Just be aware, there is no real suitable substitution for Scotch.
On the mixer stakes, any dry fruit juice will work in place of cranberry, and any sweet juice can be used instead of pineapple. While ginger beer and cola are very different, they can often be switched for an equally enjoyable drink. Lemons and limes are interchangable, and other citrus fruits can often be used in their place for a different, but very pleasing effect.
TOP TIP: Liquorland have a great range of mixers in store, including some unusual ones like grenadine and pre-mixed lemon, lime and bitters, that you might not find at a dairy or supermarket.