Be the Family Bartender: How to Make Amazing Holiday Cocktails

During the holidays, drinking is almost inevitable. Even if it’s just a mocktail, something about the holidays makes people want to break out their fanciest stemware and sip delicious sparkling beverages.

A holiday party calls for an elevation of the usual glass of wine or mixed drink, so this year, get your head in the game with our guide to mixology. We’ll teach you how to set up a home bar, and prep for any party in style. You don’t need to be an expert in order to wow your family and friends with amazing drinks — it just takes a little research, and patience. You’ll be a whiz in no time.

1. Explore your preferences

When you first start getting into cocktails, it’s helpful to have an entry point. This won’t be difficult, unless you’re a real newbie when it comes to alcoholic beverages. Most people make it through college and come out the other side with at least a few opinions when it comes to booze.

Unless you’re completely loaded, it’s easiest to focus on a few drinks rather than spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars stocking a bar with bottles you’ll never touch. The trends in liquor are changing every day, and there are always new products to try.

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2. Find the perfect shaker

The most basic cocktail tool you’ll need is a cocktail shaker.

It comes in three varieties. The cobbler, which is most common for household bartenders, is made of three parts — the body, a strainer, and a cap. Most professional bartenders use a Boston shaker, which is comprised of a tin body and mixing glass which wedge into each other to form a seal. If you go with the Boston shaker, you’ll probably need to buy a strainer at some point, which is most often sold separately. The third type of cocktail shaker is a French shaker, which is basically a hybrid of the first two. It has a metal bottom and a metal top, and also requires a separate strainer.

There are pros and cons for all three types, but a cobbler shaker is a good starting point for a beginner.

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3. Collect your tools

Once you’ve gotten a cocktail shaker, you may decide you need some other tools as well. Depending on the type of shaker you buy, a strainer is probably a good idea. It allows you to hold back ice easily, and strains out solids if you’re making a drink with egg white, or herbs.

Other tools that are nice to have but not strictly necessary for beginners is a long bar spoon (which is great for mixing things in a shaker), or a muddler, which helps you crush herbs or fruit. A zester makes pretty spirals of citrus peel, which can be used for a professional-looking garnish. You’ll also want a jigger, or shot glass for measuring.

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