The quest for a half-decent home cocktail doesn’t have to involve elaborate equipment, onerous tinctures or fiddly garnishes. Led by the expertise of David Indrak, operations manager at The Cocktail Service, we’ve pulled together a fine selection of three-ingredient classic cocktails you can whip up at home with relatively little fuss…
As anyone who has attempted a home-made Irish Coffee can attest, making bar-standard cocktails in the kitchen typically requires untold prep work, time, effort, and a certain level of skill. Let’s face it, sometimes it’s easier to leave the tricky drinks to the experts. “Making cocktails is similar to creating good food,” agrees Indrak. “It takes practice and an understanding of techniques, flavour combinations and what ingredients are available to enhance your drinks. Cocktail bartenders in top bars are students of cocktail culture and dedicate their lives to the craft. For the best cocktails, there is no other place to enjoy but a cocktail bar.”
Creating infusions, sherbets, and clarified cocktails frequently requires long preparations, says Indrak – up to two weeks in some instances – and often requires ingredients or equipment you wouldn’t normally have at home. As well as requiring lots of planning ahead, buying fancy produce is often expensive and wasteful. By keeping home cocktail-making simple and using familiar ingredients, you’ll find it far easier to repurpose anything you don’t use. Besides, visiting your favourite watering hole – adhering to social distancing guidelines, of course – may just help the owners weather the ongoing coronavirus crisis. “We are living in more difficult times now, and supporting your local bars helps the businesses to get through this period,” says Indrak.
With that being said, ‘simple’ doesn’t mean ‘boring’. There are plenty of ways to dress up a three-ingredient cocktail – for example, adding fruit to the equation. “Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries – these can be all kept in the freezer and can be used as a garnish, dropped in a glass of fizz to maintain the temperature, or added in the blender to create delicious fruity frozen cocktails,” says Indrak. On the other end of the spectrum, why not dehydrate your own citrus fruit? “Cut your lemon, lime, orange in slices and keep on the window sill until completely dehydrated,” he says. “This can be stored in sealed containers and will last for some time.” Alternatively, stick to tradition and fashion citrus twists with a potato peeler.
Another easy way to add a ‘professional bartender’ air to simple drinks is by pre-freezing your glasses to give them a delightful opaque mist effect on the outside. You could also use crushed ice to crown drinks in rocks and highball glasses, Indrak suggests. When it comes to the liquid inside, you don’t need a ridiculously well-stocked home bar to make a diverse array of cocktails. If you’re looking for guidance, keeping a bottle each of vodka, gin, white rum, bourbon and Tequila will pretty much guarantee you cover all classic cocktail bases, along with Angostura Bitters, vermouth, Cointreau, and perhaps a coffee liqueur if you’re feeling extra.
For the remaining ingredients, raid your larder (or your fridge), suggests Indrak. Fresh herbs such as mint, basil, coriander and rosemary make cracking garnishes, while spices such as chilli, nutmeg, cinnamon, and star anise can add an warming element to certain drinks where recipes call for them. Honey and agave syrups are an ideal sweetener – to make cocktail syrup, combine 1:1 honey or agave and hot water – as are cordials, such as elderflower and raspberry.
In terms of making the drink, there are plenty of kitchen-friendly substitutes for cocktail equipment, as Indrak explains. If you don’t have a boston shaker, use a Kilner jar (with lid!) or a protein shaker. No jigger? Stick with the measuring jugs, cups or spoons you have in your kitchen. Instead of a Hawthorne strainer, use a slotted spoon, and if you don’t have access to a muddler, use a wooden spoon or rolling pin. A fine mesh strainer can be subbed out for a tea strainer or sieve, and a bar spoon can be switched for a long tea spoon if you have one, or just a regular teaspoon with some adjustments. “A bar spoon holds 5ml of liquid,” says Indrak. “The standard imperial teaspoon holds around 15ml of liquid.”
As we’ve hopefully illustrated, you don’t need a Michelin star back bar to craft these tasty drinks. They’re a step up from your typical spirit and mixer combo, without resulting in a mountain of washing up. Here, we present an extremely quaffable selection of three-ingredient classic cocktails for every occasion…
Fill a cocktail shaker – or kitchen substitute – with ice, then add all liquid ingredients. Shake until the outside of the shaker feels cold, then fine strain into a pre-chilled glass. Serve with a wedge of lime.
Build the ingredients into glass over ice in the order listed above, and then garnish with an orange slice.
25ml Bathtub Gin
25ml Martini Rosso Vermouth
25ml Campari (order a Negroni bundle here)
Garnish: dehydrated orange wheel
Build the ingredients into glass over ice – in any order – and then garnish with a dehydrated orange wheel. If you don’t have one, use an orange peel.
Build the ingredients into glass over ice – in any order – and then garnish with a lime wedge. Don’t like vodka? Try subbing in rum, whisky or gin.
Dark & Stormy
Build the ingredients into glass over ice in the order listed above and garnish with a lime wedge.
50ml Bathtub Gin
20ml Lemon juice
15ml Honey syrup
To make the honey syrup, combine equal parts honey and hot water and stir until the honey has dissolved. Fill a cocktail shaker – or kitchen substitute – with ice, then add all liquid ingredients. Shake until the outside of the shaker feels cold, then fine strain into a pre-chilled glass.
Fill a large glass or cocktail shaker with ice, then add the liquid ingredients. Using a bar spoon – or alternative – stir for 20-30 seconds. Fine strain into a pre-chilled glass and garnish with a cherry.
To make half and half, combine equal parts whole milk and cream. Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker – or equivalent – stir briefly, and then pour over a glass filled with ice.