Cocktailing at home requires a few more ingredients (and tools) than cracking open a beer or decanting some wine, and complexity probably isn’t exactly the vibe any of us are looking to cultivate right now. Luckily, cocktails don’t have to be crazy complicated.
I’m not talking about reducing your intake to “something and sodas” and “something and Cokes”—I think you have a handle on those mixed drinks; there are quite a few super simple but fully realised cocktails you can make with ingredients you probably already have on hand.
Many iconic drinks—margaritas, daiquiris, sidecars—are classified as sours, and they are surprisingly easy to make. They contain three basic ingredients—booze, citrus, and sweetener—and you can play around with amounts in each category to suit your palate and whims. A ratio of 60ml (about two shots) of spirit to a 3/4 shot (about 22.5ml) each of citrus and sweetener will work in almost every case, though you can use a whole shot (30ml) of the latter two ingredients if you desire a sweeter, fruitier beverage.
If you want to start with a time-tested favourite, try a margarita (tequila, lime, agave), a daiquiri (rum, lime, simple) or a whiskey sour (bourbon or rye, lemon, simple). If you want to complicate your life in a fun way, switch out a syrup for a sweet liqueur. A sidecar—made with brandy, lemon and Cointreau—is a classic (and classy) example of this move.
All sours should be shaken over lots of ice, then strained into a coupe. (A case could be made for straining a whiskey sour over a rock, but that’s a matter of personal preference.) For garnish, use more citrus—either wheels or strips of zest. Don’t overthink it; now is not the time for thinking. If you want to add some nice citrus oils and a little more body to the drink, you can throw half of a spent lemon or lime into the shaker, like Dan did here with his gimlet (also a very excellent sour).
Party with Campari
Look, I know I lean a little heavily on the Italian bitter, but a shaken Campari really is one of those beverages you have to taste to fully “get.” No other drink illustrates just how transformative agitation and dilution can be, and it’s dead simple to make. There’s no measuring, no citrus squeezing, no sticky syrups—just a single, shooketh aperitif, made frothy and refreshing by a little muscle.
If you want to lengthen your cocktail—and sipping time—add a little orange juice and make a Garibaldi (pictured at the top of this post). Campari and orange juice may not sound incredibly intriguing, but agitating the orange juice before layering it over the liqueur, either by cocktail tin or blender, lends the drink a fluffy, refreshing character and really pretty look.
Brush off your dusty liqueurs
Almost any neglected bottle of liqueur can be used to make a “Quarantine Queen” that exploits vodka’s neutrality by using it to lengthen the flavours in more intense or syrupy aperitifs and amaro.
Just add 30ml of whatever’s lingering on your bar cart and a dash of bitter to 60ml of vodka, stir it over a lot of ice, then strain into a coupe. If you have a strip of citrus, squeeze that over the glass to get all those delicious oils in there. Repeat until you’ve made your way through your collection of dusty bottles.