Cocktails are iced alcoholic drinks with a subtle and harmonious blend of flavours and a powerful kick; spirits are at the heart of most true cocktails. They are surprisingly easy to make, provided you remember a couple of simple rules. Keep all your ingredients in a cool place, and serve chilled drinks in chilled glasses. Wash mixing equipment between making different cocktails to avoid mixing flavours, and rinse spoon and other stirrers.
The three basic pieces of cocktail equipment are a shaker, a blender and a mixing glass. Drinks with ingredients such as egg whites, syrups and fruit are shaken, then strained to remove any items like bits of ice and fruit that could spoil the look of the drink. A blender is useful for drinks that contain fresh fruit, ice cream and milk and require a more thorough shaking. It is also useful for smoothies and similar drinks. The mixing glass is used for drinks that require only a gentle stirring before they are poured, or strained, into glasses. Other essential equipment is a chopping board and a sharp knife, ice trays for freezing ice and tongs to lift it, a corkscrew, a lemon squeezer and a supply of tea towels. A set of bar measures, an ice bucket and glass swizzle sticks are nice to have around but not absolutely vital.
This is one of the most important ingredients when mixing drinks and you should never skimp on it. It really does make all the difference. If you are having a party, make the ice in advance and store it in the freezer. Tip the ice cubes into a polythene bag and squirt them with soda water this will stop them from slicking to each other Some cocktails need cracked ice. To make this, put the ice cubes in a polythene bag and hit it hard with a rolling pin. to make crushed ice, which cools a drink more effectively, and faster than cracked ice, simply continuing hammering until the ice is in smaller pieces. The more ice you use, the cooler a drink will be, but remember that too much ice will also dilute a drink. This is particularly true of crushed ice.
This is the most practical way of sweetening a drink. Since the sugar is already dissolved it does not need lengthy stirring to blend it into a cold drink. To make sugar syrup, pour equal quantities of sugar and water (6 tablespoons of each is a sensible amount) into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then boil for 1-2 minutes without stirring. Sugar syrup can be stored in the refrigerator in a sterilized bottle for up to 2 months.