In the lead-up to World Class Cocktail Week, we’ve asked a pro for his tips on making cocktails at home. Elliot Pascoe is a World Class Australia Top 25 bartender from Cobbler, a hidden gem in the West End with a sliding ladder behind the bar to access more than 400 whiskies from around the world.
Pascoe’s most important piece of cocktail-making advice is a simple one: have fun. “We’re human, we want to have a good time. So think about why you’re making the drink in the first place and have fun with it.”
Think about the occasion
For Pascoe, the most important thing to consider when making cocktails – for amateurs and professionals alike – is the occasion. If you think about the experience you want, it’s easier to build a drink to match it. “If you want a cocktail to accompany a few moments of contemplation at the end of a long day, that’s going to be a different drink to the one you want when you’re having some mates around for a barbecue,” he says. He suggests a tequila-based cocktail as appropriate for the former, and a whisky base for the latter.
Keep it fresh and simple
Fresh is best, says Pascoe. “We’re lucky enough to live in a country where we have fresh produce available all year round. Take a stroll around your local farmers’ markets and really just go with what catches your eye, be it fresh fruits, berries or herbs – stuff like that,” he says.
Then, keep it simple. “Although the world of alcohol and spirits can be daunting, many of the best drinks are four ingredients or less,” he says. Just look at the humble G&T, Martini, Negroni or Tom Collins. A good cocktail can be made with a base spirit, a mixer and some fresh fruit.
Get your ice right
Whether you’re shaking a drink in your home kitchen or professionally bartending in a cocktail joint, one of the most important elements to a good cocktail is good-quality ice. It should be as fresh as possible – old ice will have absorbed flavours from your freezer. “It’s also about the size of the cube,” says Pascoe. “The bigger the ice cube, the better, as it will chill the drink without diluting it.” If you’re making ice at home, it doesn’t have to be in a regular ice-cube tray, either. “Use Tupperware or other large containers to freeze bigger blocks.”
Customise your home liquor cabinet
If you don’t already have a decent liquor cabinet at home, it can be daunting – and expensive – to stock it. Rather than rushing out and buying everything, think again about the sorts of occasions you’ll be mixing for. “If you’re going to want a cocktail to sip on at the end of a long day, pick a quality whisky like a Johnnie Walker Green Label Scotch Whisky,” says Pascoe. “If you often have friends over for cocktails before a night out, there’s nothing better than Don Julio Blanco tequila. Just pair it with fresh mandarin juice for a simple, seasonal cocktail.”
He also recommends Good Things to Drink with Mr Lyan and Friends – a simple cocktail-recipe book from Ryan Chetiyawardana of London bar White Lyan. Use it to gain an understanding of the drinks you like, and stock your cabinet accordingly.
Work with what you’ve got
It’s easy to assume you’ll need a whole range of fancy equipment to make cocktails at home. But cocktails can be made with items you likely already have in your kitchen. “If you have a good selection of jars, you can use those for mixing and shaking,” says Pascoe. “You can even use a clean pasta colander to strain.”
Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon (or a cocktail to enjoy at home with friends)
Makes one. Approximately 1.6 standard drinks.
50ml Don Julio Blanco tequila
30ml fresh mandarin juice
15ml fresh lemon juice
small pinch of salt
Add all the ingredients except for the mandarin slices to a tall glass and fill with ice. Top with soda, stir and garnish with fresh mandarin slices.
Mitternacht (or a cocktail to enjoy in a moment of quiet solitude)
Makes one. Approximately 1.9 standard drinks.
50ml Johnnie Walker Green Label Scotch Whisky
10ml Pedro Ximénez sherry
5ml Amaro Braulio liqueur
1 dash espresso bitters
Add all the ingredients except for the orange zest to a chilled rocks glass with ice. Garnish with orange zest.
This article is presented in partnership with World Class.