3 Must-Have Ingredients for Making Cocktails at Home

March 29, 2019
by Rose Eat

    Here at HelloFresh HQ, we’re very big on entertaining (which is why these blogs are always such a ripping read, right?!). Whether it’s spoiling guests with a Gourmet meal of ours or just having them round for drinks, we love an occasion; and what better occasion than Cocktail Hour?!

    Making your own cocktails at home certainly makes having drinks a bit more fun than just cracking a beer or a bottle of wine (or accidentally destroying a nice picture frame with a champagne cork… sorry, Mum) but a bit of added care and some unique or important ingredients and garnishes can take them to a level far beyond that of a vodka soda.

    But before we get into our three special ingredients to fancy up your drinks repertoire, there’s a few essentials you’ll need first…

    essential cocktail ingredients

    The Basics

    First thing you’ll need, and this seems obvious but let’s say it to avoid any disasters and empty glasses, is alcohol. Gin, tequila, whisky, vodka, rum, you name it, can’t hurt to have it. It’s also helpful to have some other liquid ingredients like grenadine, soda, bitters and juices. You never know what you’ll be feeling like on the day and one of the most exciting parts of making cocktails is the near endless possibilities so a well-stocked bar will come in handy.

    Now, a pub’s worth of booze is all well and good, but if you don’t have the tools to engineer these magical concoctions then it’s all for show. So, to give bartending a good shake, you’ll need, well, a shaker! But other items in the mix (yes, pun intended) include a jigger for measuring specific liquid amounts, a strainer (either Hawthorne or Juliet) for pouring the final product, a muddler for crushing ingredients like ice and mint leaves and long handled spoons for stirring. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, these things will certainly give more of an impression that you do.

    So, you’ve got the grog and the tools, now you just need a vessel, because face it, something just doesn’t feel quite right about drinking a mint julep from a schooner glass your mate stole from the pub. Some of the right ways to make your cupboard shine again include martini glasses, champagne glasses, whisky glasses, Collins glasses, margarita glasses and a whole host of others! Speaking of hosts of others, now that you’ve got all the tools, that can be you!

    Friends are over, the drinks menu has been passed around, but now you need the pièce de résistance; the crown jewel; the cherry on top (in some cocktail cases that last one wouldn’t be a metaphor!). So, to our three superstar ingredients that’ll make your creations really pop!

    Sugar Syrup

    Not just the favourite beverage of Vincent D’Onofrio’s character in Men in Black, sugar syrup is a prominent ingredient in many, many cocktails. It can be purchased in stores or made quite simply at home, as it is, at its most base, essentially just sugar water.

    As a pinch of salt can really change the flavour of a dish when cooking, so too can the addition of sugar to a cocktail, the sweetness of which will drastically affect the enjoyment of the drinker (particularly when it’s supposed to be sweet, as some are not). Making sugar syrup is as easy as 1, 2, 3… although don’t mistake that for the ratio, because you’ll end up with something terrible. Simply let some water in a pot or pan simmer, add an equal part granulated sugar and stir until dissolved. Voila! Sugar syrup that will keep in the fridge – which reminds us, make sure to cool it before adding to your cocktail!

    Some of the deliciously sweet treats you can whip up with this include a Lemon Flip, Jitterbug, Mint Julep, Rum Rickey and Orange Drop!

    Cinnamon Sticks

    If you’re looking forward to the colder months approaching so you can cuddle up by the fireplace and warm your insides with a less “fun” but equally delicious drink, then cinnamon sticks will be your friend!

    Anyone who’s ever knocked back a shot of Fireball knows of the warming effect on your body when alcohol and cinnamon are working in tandem, but the spice can bring its unique flavour to plenty more than just whisky. It also works in mulled cider and wine, a Manhattan or a spiced martini.

    For more specific options, pop your cinnamon sticks in any variety of drinks, from an Apple & Cinnamon Old-Fashioned to a Cinnamon-Infused White Russian or a Cinnamon and Lemon Twist.


    If the winter months don’t appeal and you’re still clinging to warmer weather, stood in the bar with your Aperol Spritz held aloft in a boisterous gesture of defiance, then this is the garnish for you!

    Citrus is a tremendously versatile ingredient as far as cocktails go, whether it’s your squeezed and chucked in lime wedge for your gin and tonic, lemon or lime juice poured in as an ingredient, a twist of rind prettying up presentation or a burnt little slice floating atop your margarita, it’s a surefire way to jazz things up and add plenty of flavour. And often at the end you can eat it, which is the best bit!

    Enjoy some citrus in all manner of drinks; a Gimlit, a Negroni, a Spritz, a Martini, a Margarita, a Lemon or Orange Drop, an Old-Fashioned and the list goes on and on.

    Now go forth and impress the heck out of your friends with your newfound drinks knowledge and as you sit there sipping your cocktail think, “What if I became a bartender?”

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    Great post and great tips! Really helpful 🙂 thank you for sharing and please keep it up!

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