According to a poll last year, a fifth of drinkers are now opting for cocktails over beer and wine. However, nearly half of those surveyed have cocktail-making equipment at home. In fact, a significant proportion described themselves as ‘cocktail aficionados’. So, it seems that the UK’s love affair with cocktails shows no sign of cooling off any time soon. In that case, why not follow my expert guide featuring our favourite cocktail recipes, which you can make in the comfort of your own home?
What is a cocktail?
In fact, the Oxford dictionary defines a cocktail as an alcoholic drink consisting of a sprit (or spirits) mixed with other ingredients. So the other ingredients can, in fact, include fruit juices, bitters or cream. In addition, nobody knows for sure who made the first cocktail, or even where the word originates. However, there are plenty of theories, which involve everything from horses’ tails to a New Orleans apothecary called Peychaud!
Why are cocktails so popular?
So, there are a number of reasons why cocktails have managed to stand the test of time. Firstly, (like champagne) they are synonymous with good times, celebrations and holidays. In fact, aperitifs, healthy options, sparkling and low or non-alcoholic cocktails, mocktails, are another big growth area. In addition, Happy Hour and 2-for-1 promotions have done much to drive sales in recent years. As a result, specialist cocktail bars are becoming an increasingly popular choice for an indulgent night out. Furthermore, many people now enjoy a cocktail before, or even during, a meal, making them a restaurant affair too. In fact, some even try their hand at making their own if they have the right cocktail recipes to hand.
Popular cocktail choices
Earlier this year, industry bible Drinks International questioned the world’s best bartenders about their best-selling cocktails last year. As a result, the top ten feature a mix of familiar classics and on-trend arrivistes. So, in order, they were:
1 Old Fashioned
3 Whiskey Sour
4 Dry Martini
8 Moscow Mule
9 Espresso Martini
Bourbon, gin, vodka, rum and tequila continue to feature among the most popular cocktail spirits.
In fact, I am rather partial to making an Old Fashioned from my cocktail recipes collection, especially when made with Woodford Reserve bourbon. So this version uses sorghum in place of traditional simple syrup, for a sweeter yet mellower finish.
WOODFORD RESERVE SORGHUM OLD FASHIONED
2 oz sorghum simple syrup
2 oz Woodford Reserve
6 dashes of bitters
1 orange slice
- Muddle the orange slice and bitters in the bottom of the a glass. Add the syrup, Woodford Reserve and ice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick (optional).
Not too familiar with the next cocktail on the list? Well, you need to be as this Negroni cocktail recipe is simple, sophisticated and easy to prepare. In fact, it’s typically served stirred, but it can also be shaken, strained and served in a cocktail glass, topped with a lemon twist. So make sure you use a premium gin – and reduce the Campari proportion if you’re not accustomed to bitter aperitifs! This is another of my favourite cocktail recipes so read on, start mixing and enjoy!
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz Campari
1 oz gin
Orange slice or twist to garnish
- Pour the ingredients into a glass filled with ice cubes
- Stir well
- Garnish with the orange
Pairing cocktails with food
Of course, most of us are familiar with the concept of pairing food with wine but, chosen carefully, cocktails work equally well. In fact, the secret is to complement the food being served, while avoiding an exact match. So, if you’re not sure where to start, think about specific ingredients. For example, raspberries and chocolate work well together. Therefore, a cocktail that features raspberry liqueur Chambord (eg a French Martini) is a great partner for a chocolate dessert. In addition, matching your cuisine with a similar spirit origin is another strategy. So, pair a tequila cocktail with Mexican food, or a Saketini with sushi.
Most noteworthy for those of you who don’t drink alcohol, or are looking for ways to cut down, a ‘mocktail’ could be just the solution. After all, consuming less alcohol certainly doesn’t mean you have to give up cocktails. In fact, there are plenty of ways to create alcohol-free versions at home, which still have plenty of party appeal. So, if you’re out and about and there’s no special mocktail menu, don’t despair. Simply order a ‘virgin’ version of your favourite cocktail.
Here are my top three alcohol-free cocktail recipes (mocktails) to inspire you:
Apparently this alcohol-free version of the popular Mojito was invented by Colonel Rickey, a nineteenth century English officer posted in Washington.
30ml lime juice
30ml sugar syrup 1
15ml orange bitters
120ml soda water
- Squeeze the limes and pour the juice into a glass
- Add the sugar syrup, followed by the orange bitters
- Top the glass with a shaker, and shake contents thoroughly
- Add ice (crushed or whole) to a tall glass
- Pour the shaken contents through the strainer and into the glass
- Add the soda water
- Stir and garnish with lime peel
Make sure you use the best quality tomato juice available to achieve that rich, authentic taste. As a result, this will be ultra tasty and one healthy mocktail you can even enjoy for breakfast!
180ml tomato juice
Half a lemon
Dash of salt and pepper
6 basil leaves
1 celery stick
- Squeeze half a lemon into a glass
- Add the salt and pepper
- Add a couple of dashes of Tabasco sauce, to taste
- Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce
- Tear four basil leaves and add them to the glass
- Add the ice
- Add the tomato juice
- Top the glass with a shaker and shake contents thoroughly
- Get a tall glass, add the ice and pour the contents of the shaker into the glass through a strainer
- Garnish with the celery stick, basil leaves, and lemon
THE REAL SHIRLEY TEMPLE
In fact, this was reportedly first served to the young film star by a barman in Beverley Hills. It’s a tasty cocktail and, in addition, you can always substitute the ginger ale for lemonade, if preferred.
180ml ginger ale
- Pour the grenadine into a tall glass
- Add the ice
- Pour in the ginger ale
- Stir and garnish with lemon peel