Our Friday night favorite: home-based happy hour. What’s better than the comforts of your flip-flops, your own couch, and your own Friday night vibes playlist? Whether it’s hosting an adult sleep-over with your closest girlfriends, entertaining a few lucky neighbors, or mixing a custom cocktail for yourself before Uber’ing to dinner, planning the perfect party takes work.
It can be intimidating to be in charge of everything – from bartending, to cheffing, to DJ’ing – there’s a lot to figure out. And let’s get real, besides good music, a well-balanced cocktail is one of the most important elements for a perfect night. We’ve all had to sip through a saccharine sweet margarita or an Schwarzenegger-strong gin and tonic that ruined our palate for the amazing charcuterie platter the host prepared. No one wants to be the “hostess with the leastest” serving up undrinkable drinks with the brie and baguettes. Mixing a well-balanced drink that enhances the flavor of the feast (even delivery pizza) is essential to a great happy hour.
If you’re the official home bartender this Friday night, remember these easy ideas to launch you to expert mixologist level.
Home Bartending is a Balancing Act
Just remember 2:1:1. It’s that simple. Two ounces of your base liquor to one ounce of the sweet ingredient to one ounce of the sour ingredient. Your base spirit will be the flavor that finishes the drink, as it’s the dominant ingredient. The sweet can be any component you choose that complements your base. Think soda or juice or even a simple liqueur like chocolate or berry. The sour could be a fresh squeeze of a tart citrus, a drop of pickle juice, or a pre-made sour mix. Remember quality counts when selecting a pre-made sour. Better yet, make your own by adding simple syrup to a mixture of lemon and lime juices.
The only limit to a harmonious home-crafted drink is your imagination.
Dig down deep to find your inner Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Treat your DIY bar like a lab and experiment with your favorite flavors. Or try some flavors that normally you don’t like. Sometimes the best concoctions seem the silliest at the time. Bloody Mary, anyone?
Now Master Making Cocktails at Home
Once you master the basics, you’ll have the confidence to take a few steps outside of your comfort zone. Then you can really wow your guests (and yourself) at your next margarita party. Add in a dash of surprise and an element of complexity with aromatics. These subtle ingredients add specific scents that play to multiple senses as you sip.
In this new era of craft cocktails, bitters are making a big comeback. They are an easy aromatic add in and come in many essences to enhance a flavor with only adding a few drops. Bitters pack a punch in small doses so use them sparingly.
Another way to add aromatics to your drink is by either coating the inside of your most fancy glassware (or red solo cup) or on top of your finished cocktail with an essential oil, like Rose Water or Orange Flower Water, or strong liqueur, like Absinthe. Essential oils are a great way to introduce herbs and fruit flavors while using very little actual substance.
Adding just a hint of aroma keeps your “2 to 1 to 1” ratio in check and makes the most spectacular custom cocktails. Not to mention, your mixology experiments just might earn you the moniker of “hostess with the mostest”.
It All Adds Up
You’ve set the table. Planned the menu. And now you even have the formula for the best mixed drinks. So, put on that playlist and get busy making cocktails.
Your guests are on their way.
Think you have created the perfect balance in a glass? Share your ideas for your bright and bold balanced beverage in the comments below.