Keen to make cocktails at home but aren’t sure how to go about stocking your drinks trolley/cart? Don’t worry, we’ve got you.
Here are six essentials that will have you mixing, stirring and shaking your way to beverage bliss in no time, with suggested cocktails to boot.
Known as uisce beatha (“the water of life”) in Irish, there are many kinds of whiskey – the most famous being Scotch, Irish and American bourbon. Each has various subcategories and styles but they’re all made from grains, such as barley and corn.
They’re usually interchangeable, so choose whichever you prefer for your trolley. In fact, there will probably be a name for the version you’re making – for example, if you use Scotch instead of bourbon in your Manhattan, it becomes a Rob Roy.
45 ml bourbon
1 sugar cube
Few dashes Angostura bitters
Few dashes plain water
In a tumbler, muddle sugar with bitters and water. Fill a glass with ice, add whiskey and stir. Garnish with orange slice or zest.
Also try: Whiskey sour, hot toddy
2. White rum
Contrary to popular belief, white rum isn’t necessarily unaged. The best white rums are aged in wood to gain flavour and soften them up, then charcoal-filtered to remove its colour.
Standard rum is made from molasses, while rhum agricole is made from sugarcane juice. When in doubt, opt for the former, as rhum agricole can be challenging.
60 ml white rum
20 ml fresh lime juice
2 bar spoons of superfine sugar
Stir ingredients in a shaker to dissolve sugar. Add ice, shake, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Also try: Mojito, piña colada
Made from the agave plant – like its sister, mezcal – tequila adds a wonderful vegetal character to cocktails. The difference between the two flavour-wise is that mezcal has an added smokiness, as the agave is roasted with fire.
If that sounds like your thing, sub out tequila for mezcal on your trolley, as most agave-based cocktails can use either.
60 ml tequila
30 ml fresh lime juice
15 ml agave syrup
4 drops bitters
Shake with ice, then finely strain into a chilled cocktail glass (a half-salted rim is optional).
Also try: Mexican mule, tequila and tonic
Gin is really just vodka infused with juniper and other botanicals. In South Africa, you’ll find all sorts of interesting indigenous plants in the recipes, but traditionally coriander, angelica, orris root, cassia bark, cardamom and citrus are commonly used.
45 ml gin
15 ml raspberry syrup
15 ml fresh lemon juice
Few drops egg white or cellulose
Shake ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with fresh raspberries.
Also try: Red Snapper, South Side, Gimlet, Bee’s Knees, Basil Smash, Gin Fizz
While Campari falls under the “bitter” category of alcohols, its flavour profile is unique, which is why it’s getting mentioned by name here. This cult brand is filled with history. It was invented by Gaspare Campari in Italy 1860 and the recipe remains unchanged to this day.
Easily identifiable by its vibrant red colour, it’s an essential addition to your drinks trolley.
25 ml Campari
25 ml sweet red vermouth
25 ml brut sparkling wine
Pour ingredients into an ice-filled glass, stir gently and garnish with an orange slice.
Also try: Negroni, Campari spritz
It’s a tough call choosing between red or white vermouth, as they both make excellent cocktails and they’re actually both necessary for a solid home bar.
Both are fortified wines, white being drier and more umami-like in flavour, while the red is typically sweeter. They’re also both usually made from white grapes, the red colour coming from added red wine, botanicals or colourant.
If you have to choose one, red is probably more versatile – think Negronis and Sbagliatos, as well as Manhattans – but do you need white for a martini…
Manhattan (red vermouth)
50 ml rye whiskey
20 ml sweet red vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cocktail cherry.
Dry martini (white vermouth)
60 ml gin
10 ml gry vermouth
Lemon peel or green olives, for garnish
Stir ingredients in a mixing glass with ice then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Squeeze oil from lemon peel onto the drink, or garnish with olives.