If you've been serving cocktails at your Christmas parties recently, you might be wondering why they seem to lack the sparkle of the high-priced ones you can get in fancy establishments. I attended a cocktail-making class at the Zeta Bar in Sydney's Hilton yesterday (along with some other IT writers, and courtesy of the nice guys at Blue Coat Systems), where bartenders Nelson and Thales were happy to pass on a few quick tips between watching us make fools of ourselves in the cocktail-making competition. The most important element, it turns out, is precision: measure your shots carefully, follow the steps exactly, and learn the specific mixing requirements for different cocktails. Don't skimp on the ingredients, including the garnishes. Also, you can't cheat by using tricks like pre-chilling glasses to make martinis. Mixing the alcohol with ice enhances the flavour and kills off the ethanol-like fumes, which won't happen if you just pour vodka into a glass straight from the freezer. And if you want the ice in your drinks to look clearer, triple-freeze it (half-freeze, thaw, half-freeze, thaw, freeze), which removes the impurities and excess air.