Already missing the electric vibe of a night out on the town and the sip of an expertly-crafted cocktail? We feel you. But doing our part to flatten the COVID-19 curve by physical distancing by no means has to be boring—cue Houseparty hangs, live Instagram concerts and DIY creative cocktail classes at home.
To help you master all things mixology from the comfort of your couch, we recently caught up with award-winning cocktail whiz and Maker’s Mark ambassador Cam Pirret. He’s smashed more than a decade in the biz, from backing some of the best bars in Australia to competing in international cocktail competitions. Here’s a thing or two to master next time you take a crack at whipping up delicious drinks at home, according to the expert.
Get Your Kit Together
Before we kick into the shaking, stirring and, of course, the all-important drinking, Cam recommends getting your kit together with all the essentials. Ensure you have a blender on hand—a stick blender or NutriBullet works the best—plus something to crush ice, this can be as simple as a bag and a rolling pin. Stock up on measuring equipment, a funnel, a cocktail shaker (pro tip for the clumsy: avoid glass ones), a strainer, a bar spoon, a good knife and finally, loads of ice. With this kit at your disposal, the cocktail world is your oyster.
Nail The Basic Techniques
As you can imagine, the big one to nail is ‘the shake.’ Cam suggests filling your shaker with plenty of ice—you want to be able to hear the ice hitting both ends when you shake, making a maraca sound. “You can never shake something too hard,” he says. And while you’re at it, why not give cooking a go? In Cam’s opinion, “Good cooks make better bartenders,” so whip out that recipe book in the back of your cupboard and start skilling up.
Master These Classic Tipples
Cam’s award for the top three at-home sips go to the Whisky Sour, Mint Julep and of course, the classic Old Fashioned. To master the Old Fashioned, he suggests using minimal sugar (under 10ml of sugar syrup) and a hearty hand of high-quality bitters like Australian Bitters Company’s Aromatic Bitters, alongside the essential 70ml pour of Maker’s Mark. A quick stir is a good stir and results in less dilution, plus don’t forget to garnish with that orange zest—it simply isn’t an Old Fashioned without it.
Fancy It Up With Minimal Effort
“The easiest way to go from just good to impressive is with glassware, ice and garnishes. The same drink with some nice big ice cubes and a perfect citrus twist in a beautiful glass can look ten times more tantalising,” Cam explains. So whether you’re making it for your housemates, your family or yourself, it’s those finishing touches that will make your cocktail all the more ‘Gram-worthy.
Get Around These Secret Ingredient Swaps
Because self-iso is not being particularly kind to our pantry, Cam let us in on a few secret ingredient swaps to sub out with common kitchen staples. For Whisky Sours, swap the egg whites for chickpea brine from the can. If you’re looking for a flavour twist, try jams, preserves, honey and syrups instead of regular old sugar syrup. And while you’re getting around the garnishes, go for some fresh herbs other than just mint—try sage and thyme with cocktails featuring winter fruits. Dried spices and herbs also make a good addition when they’re cooked into the ingredients, such as a spiced sugar syrup, and finally, no matter how desperate you are, never use fake lemon or lime juice. It’s just not worth it.
Seek Inspiration And Switch It Up
When it comes to the best advice for any budding at-home bartender, Cam says experimentation is the mother of all creation, “There is no wrong way to make a drink you really enjoy.” We couldn’t agree more.
Seek some inspiration from different cuisines by getting around the latest food and travel shows—now that you actually have the time to binge-watch them. Plus, if you’re really feeling brave, strikeout and take on some of the industry’s latest trends like clarification, which is all about removing any solid components of a cocktail to produce a clear, aromatic creation. But if it’s all just too much, jump online and find out if your local bar is dishing out delivery cocktails and support small, local businesses around you.
Ready to rock that self-isolation cocktail game? Prep yourself by checking out these twisted takes on the Old Fashioned and grabbing a bottle of Maker’s Mark online or from your local bottle shop.
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