f u n k y j a r
Cocktails. Made simple.
What is a cocktail? How to prepare the party? Tips and advices, and much more.
Tools you need
What do you need to make your best cocktails. There is a handful of tools that every bartender needs. Find out more about the stuff you need for your party.
There are plenty of options, but we have selected the best party cocktails you can make. Specially chosen just for you, this list is a perfect option for all parties.
Make cocktails now!
Definition of cocktail.
Oxford dictionary definition of cocktail is: a cocktail is an alcoholic drink consisting of a spirit or spirits mixed with other ingredients, such as fruit juice or cream. Basically, in modern terms, almost any mixed drink can be referred as cocktail. The definition is really wide so you can see why there is an indefinite number of options when making cocktails. It can be a simple mixed drink such as gin and tonic or it can be a more complex drink such as a Sex on The Beach, which has about seven ingredients. There are endless possibilities and that is the beauty of it. There is no single must-do recipe. Everyone has their own way of making a certain cocktail depending on the taste they are looking for.
Our goal here is to give you the basics, everything you need to throw an awesome cocktail party. There is tons of information on cocktails out there but we will stick to what is most important for you to create great tasting cocktails at home and share them with your friends. The key here is to have fun and improve your typical drinking experience. Do not worry if you make a mess once in a while or if your drink goes wrong, try again and with time you will find your own perfect way of making that perfect Mojito while still having fun. So, we have made a list of the essential tools you will need and a list of the most appropriate cocktails out there for your home party. But first, let’s take a look at some basics you need to know to get started.
Stock you home bar.
You don’t need to have everything in your home bar, you just need to have
what you actually enjoy to drink. We have narrowed down our selection to
rum and gin. They offer endless possibilities and most of the people enjoy
them. To add more variety, we can add a bottle of vodka, tequila and
cachaça. We have not included whiskeys or brandies. Stocking you bar with
whiskey can complicate things and it may be more expensive as each has its own
characteristics so we do not think it is the perfect choice for home
parties. Brandy is not essential either so we will skip it. This does
not mean they are bad choices, if you like to drink them and would like
to explore more classic cocktails, feel free to add them to your home bar.
As for the rum, you need at least two kinds, the light and the dark one. A light rum will be your workhorse for most of our favourite cocktails, from a daiquiri to a mojito. You can spend as little or as much as you like, though rum tends to be one of the more affordable liquors and that is why it tops our list for home parties. Endless options and affordable prices. As a secondary rum, choose a dark one. If you really like to explore tropical and tiki cocktails, a dark rum is essential. We have some tropical cocktails in our collection.
Gin is our second choice. Not everyone is a fan of gin, but you can create a lot of cocktails with it and the best part is that one good bottle of a London dry gin will do it for the most part. It is the most versatile and goes well with everything from a dry martini to a gin and tonic.
Having good budget-friendly bottle of vodka will broaden your options even more. Vodka has a clean, transparent flavour and it is used for more cocktails than any other distilled spirit. There are two cocktails that are ideal for parties. However, vodka can be mixed with any juice or tonic and you will have a great drink in no time. We use tequila for margaritas and you will see you can make plenty of different types of margarita. From the classic recipe to achieving many different flavours, it is up to you to experiment. The most versatile style is a blanco (or silver) tequila. We have added cachaça to our home bar to be able to make that famous Brazilian drink: caipirinha. Although it is not essential, your party will really stand out if you offer your guests caipirinhas as well.
Methods for mixing.
There are four basic methods for mixing cocktails: shake, stir, build
and blend. All of them are incredibly easy and with a little practice
you can learn to apply them and start making great drinks.
You should shake cocktails when your recipe includes fruit juices, cream liqueurs, simple syrup, sour mix, egg, dairy or any other thick or flavourful mixers. Essentially, use the shake whenever you need to ensure that every ingredient is fully integrated into the flavour of the finished drink. When you are shaking a cocktail, pay attention to how frosty the outside of the shaker gets so you know when it is ready to strain.
Stir cocktails that include distilled spirits or very light mixers only. Stirring is a gentler technique for mixing cocktails, though it is often done for at least 30 seconds, which is longer than the typical shake. It is used to delicately combine the drinks with a perfect amount of dilution from the ice. Whether you are shaking or stirring, in most cases you don't want to serve the same ice you mixed your drink with. The ice is broken down and will not last long, so straining is a necessary step for better drinks.
Building a drink means that you simply pour the ingredients into the serving glass and on top of any previous ingredient and that is it. If you're pouring liquor and mixers directly into the glass, you're building a drink. This technique is used for the most basic of mixed drinks. To "Top" a drink simply means finish off the drink by filling the glass. To muddle means to smash drink ingredients to bring out their essence and you would usually use a muddler. Mojitos and caipirinhas use this technique.
Blending cocktails are a great treat and a fun addition to parties. Just put all ingredients into the blender and blend them good. It takes practice to make a perfect mix every time but that is part of the fun. If the mix is too thin and watery, you will need to add more ice and blend again. If the mix is too chunky, add one of your liquid ingredients and re-blend. Start small because it's easy to upset the balance and make it too watery (which means you need more ice and the cycle continues).
If you want to constantly make great cocktails you have to measure
ingredients. Unless you are a bartender in a busy place and doing a lot
of drinks, you have to measure and make use of a jigger, a two-ended cup
that measures shots and half-shots. Our recipes are in imperial system
but you can easily transform it in metric system.
Remember, 1 ounce equals 30 milliliters. So, get yourself a 30/60ml or 45/60ml jigger and you can use our recipes in either system.
Measuring ensures that you are creating the cocktail as it was intended. An over or under pour of a single ingredient can throw off the delicate balance of a drink and you may not like it. Also, if you are drinking while mixing, your perception of measurements can be thrown off as the night goes on. We all know how parties can get and I am sure you also want to enjoy your drinks!
Homemade Cocktail Party.
This is a blueprint of what you need for an awesome cocktail party. You
don't have to stock your bar with dozens of bottles in order to have a great time. Our basic setup will consist of a bottle of light and dark rum, a good bottle of
London dry gin and one or all of these three: a good budget-friendly
vodka, blanco (or silver) tequila or cachaça, depending on your
personal preference. This will give us more than enough options. It is always better to offer simple drink menu then stock a full bar every time. It's
a great way to cut down expenses and your drink menu can be adapted for any party
theme. Choose up to six cocktails to offer during the night. Plan for 2 drinks per person during the first hour and 1 drink per hour after that.
Consider your guest count and then you will know how much liquor and
mixers you will need per drink. Maybe you are in the mood for tequila, so you
can then offer 3-4 versions of margaritas, tequila shots and, additionally,
mojitos as well, just in case. Maybe another night you get yourself a bottle of good
light rum, so you can make rum cocktails, and you still have half a
bottle of gin from a previous party, then gin and tonic is always an option.
You see, with this mindset and setup, there are plenty of variations to start from
and then we can always mix it up a little.
Getting right the mixing methods and measurements will come from practice. You will quickly learn when to shake or stir, build or blend. We can use the blending technique when we want to make large quantities of Piña Coladas, daiquiris or margaritas so we can then store them and have them ready when the party starts. This way we don't have to make every single drink from scratch and we save time. Besides liquor, we are going to need a few extra things to create our cocktails. In the following section, we will go through some of the most essential bar tools, glassware, liqueurs, mixers and garnishes so you can have a complete picture of what you are going to need to make the best cocktails.
Essential bar tools.
If you want to be able to mix a great variety of drinks, you will need to have some bar tools that are absolutely essential. Do not worry, you don't have to go all out and you’ll see none of these tools are expensive. You just need to make a small investment one time and they will last for a long time.
- Cocktail shaker
- Bar spoon
- Jigger (for measuring)
- Strainer (if one's not built into your shaker)
- Muddler (essential if you like mojitos)
- Not essential but nice to have: Ice bucket, ice tong, bottle pourers and poppers
Liqueurs are often used in addition to base spirits and they add
that final unique touch that defines a cocktail. Liqueurs come in every
flavour you could imagine and a bottle can last quite a long time. We will
only focus on a few selected ones which we are going to need for our
recipes and if you serve them, they can take your party
to a new level. You will be sure to impress your guests
with cocktails which are not that common for a home party.
Orange Liqueur is used in many cocktails and is invaluable. We will need it for our margaritas, Mai Tai and Blue Hawaiian. Our options include Curaçao, triple sec, Cointreau (a premium option for triple sec) and Grand Marnier (dark Cognac-based). Curaçao comes in different colours and we will need the orange one for Mai Tai and the blue one for Blue Hawaiian. Blue is used to make many blue and green cocktails. It looks great and adds a bit of fun to your cocktails. Cheap triple sec can ruin an otherwise good cocktail, so we will go with the premium option, Cointreau, for margaritas. If you think this is too much, you don't have to go with all of them in one go. Just pick one to start with and gradually build your stock, as one bottle will last many parties. Besides, if you don’t know which one to use, follow this rule: in gin, rum, and tequila cocktails start with Curaçao and with brandy or whiskey cocktails start out with Grand Marnier.
Dry Vermouth is only necessary if you want to make martinis. We will not be making martinis at our party although you might decide to make a martini night. We definitely suggest you try them; martinis are easy to make and there are many variations depending on the gin-vermouth ratio. You can also make vodka martinis and all sorts of cocktails with dry/sweet vermouth. These may be more suitable for a quiet, more intimate night with chill-out music in the background.
Mixers are non-alcoholic liquids that add flavour and volume to cocktails. You will have most of these beverages in your kitchen anyway and they can easily be found in any store you walk into. We will focus on the ones we need for our recipes. The beauty of it is that you can easily tweak a recipe to create a different cocktail just by adding different kinds of juices or fruits into it.
- Ice. The most important ingredient for cocktails. Treat your ice with respect and know the difference between the various forms of ice.
- Juices. Use fresh juice whenever possible. For lime and lemon we recommend you always use fresh juices. For others, like pineapple or orange, ready-to-use juices will be more practical.
- Sodas. Go for small bottles to ensure you are using fresh soda. Although, for the parties if you estimate you will use a lot of soda, you can go with larger bottles as you will end up using a lot. The most important ones are: club soda (mineral, sparkling water), tonic water for our gin and tonic and let's not forget the unavoidable cola.
- Simple syrup. A must-have, we need it for many of our cocktails. Simple syrup is sugar and water, we can use a 1:1 sugar-to-water ratio or a 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio for a richer version. This is the best way to sweeten cocktails and it's really simple, so you can make it yourself. It can be reduced by heat or simply by shaking until it dissolves. Once finished, store it in the fridge in a well-sealed bottle where it will be kept for a few weeks. To extend its shelf life, add a little vodka.
- Ginger beer. Although not so common, ginger beer is used in many cocktails that require a snappy spice like Moscow Mule, Gin Gin Mule and Dark 'n' Stormy. We have them on our list so we will need ginger beer. It could be a bit harder to find, depending on where you live but if you do find it, you will throw an awesome theme party as you will offer a great cocktail menu, plus a good ginger beer is awesome on its own as well.
Garnishes provide a finishing touch and add visual appeal and a splash
of flavour to the finished cocktail. You're probably not going to add a
garnish to every cocktail you make, but we need them
for mixing as well so if we have them already, we can garnish the cocktail and
give them that special final touch.
Our essential citrus fruits are: limes, lemons and oranges. We will use them as garnish but mainly as a source to obtain fresh juice. Make sure you have enough limes and lemons as we will use them a lot. It is better to have too many than to run out of them.
Another essential ingredient is mint for those nice mojitos. Make sure you have enough fresh mint for the night. Although it is not essential, if you like to rim the glasses of drinks like margaritas, then salt and sugar are a must. Olives are also nice to have around if you plan to make martinis and maraschino cherries as a garnish for a number of cocktails.
Let’s not forget the glasses. Most cocktail recipes suggest a style of glassware that is typically used for that drink. There are many styles of glassware, we will try to keep it simple and not go too deep into it. Most of our cocktails are served in highball glasses, but there are some that require a different type of glass. Don't worry if your glasses are not all the same. That is the fun. Highball, Collins glasses, mason jars, they will all serve our purpose and they will add a fun touch to the party. Don't worry if you don't have a specific kind of glass. Experiment, keep those food jars, just be aware of the amount you use and if it fits inside the glass. It is party after all!
- Highball glass. Most of our cocktails are served in highball glasses. The Collins glass is very similar to the highball glass, but it tends to be taller and narrower. They can be used interchangeably.
- Mason jar. Another alternative for highball glass is Mason jar. They are becoming more and more popular and they add character to your bar/party. After all, our website is called Funkyjar, so find them, buy them and use them. They don't have to be all the same, that’s the fun of it!
- Cocktail (or Martini) Glass. A classic. Not required if you are not going to mix martinis, daiquiris or margaritas (also served in similar margarita glass). If you want to be a bit fancy, get a couple of cocktail glasses and offer those cocktails to your guests.
- Old-Fashioned (or Rocks) Glass. Another classic. These glasses are typically used for short mixed drinks that are served with ice (aka 'on the rocks'). We will need it for our caipirinhas but it is useful for many other cocktails as well as for serving a straight shot of liquor with or without ice.
- Shot/wine/beer glasses. Not all guests will drink cocktails, although we certainly hope so! You probably already have these stored in your kitchen. Collecting shot glasses is fun and it is good to have a bunch of them for those tequila shots to shake up the party. Wine and beer lovers will appreciate if their favourite drink is served in an appropriate glass.
Ok, you have learned a lot about cocktails, you have everything you
need, the party is starting, now it's time to make cocktails!
Easy to make, popular, simple and delicious. These are the best
cocktails for your party.
Rum based. Very common and popular, rum offers endless variations. Our workhorse of the party.
Gin based. Gin is our second choice for parties. Get yourself a bottle of good London dry gin and you will be able to make many some awesome cocktails.
Make me now!
Classic Gin Martini
Make me now!
Gin Gin Mule
Make me now!
Gin & Tonic
Make me now!
More party cocktails. If you are a tequila or vodka lover here you will some more great cocktails that are a fantastic choice for your party. Also, let’s not forget the famous Brazilian Caipirinha made from cachaça.
- Buy essential bar tools.
- Estimate the number of guests.
- Make a simple drink menu - six cocktails max.
- Estimate the number of drinks - 2 during the first hour, 1 per hour after that, per guest.
- Stock you bar.
- Learn recipes. Try, fail, try, perfect. Experiment.
- And more importantly: Have fun! :)