AUSTRALIAN GOOD FOOD GUIDE - Home of the Chef Hat Awards

Mixology Masterclass: Crafting the Perfect At-home Cocktail

By Marie-Antoinette Issa.

Whether you're entertaining guests or simply unwinding after a long day, there's something special about crafting your own cocktail at home. From ingredient selection to presentation, we asked a dozen of the best bartenders along the East Coast the big questions and got them to spill their best tips on crafting the perfect at-home cocktail like a pro.

A balancing act:

Creating the perfect at-home cocktail is an art form and, it all starts with selecting the right ingredients. Mattia Arnaboldi, Director of Bars at InterContinental Sydney, emphasises the importance of using ‘the fundamental elements - spirits, sugar, citrus (the balance agents), modifier (complexity) and water (dilution)’, before ‘identifying your hero ingredients and elevating them’.

Mixology Masterclass: Crafting the Perfect At-home Cocktail

As to how much to use, opinion is divided. Tim Penter of Botanical Hotel Melbourne says: "Without giving away all of our secrets, the general ratio of 60mL spirit, 30mL citrus and 15mL sweetener will never fail you.” 

However, on the other hand, Cardea Barangaroo’s head mixologist George Bekarian, says it’s okay to freestyle.

"Focus on balance and flavour. Experiment with different ratios of spirits, sweeteners, acids and aromatics to achieve a harmonious blend of taste sensations.”

This allows you to play around and personalise your cocktail with unique twists - whether it's a splash of homemade syrup or a spritz of aromatic bitters.

The non-negotiable? Freshly squeeze your juice if possible. According to Grant Collins of Gin Lane in Chippendale: "The acidity in juice changes very quickly, and the PH value can decrease by as much as 30-35% a day and can completely oxidise after 48 hours!”

Tools of the trade:
Mixology Masterclass: Crafting the Perfect At-home Cocktail

While having top-quality ingredients is essential, the right tools are equally important. For those looking to go pro, Vincent Valliere, Bartender at Bartiga Double Bay and owner at Casa Luna Byron Bay, highlights the necessity of basic equipment for precise mixing.

"With a Boston shaker and tin, a Hawthorn and double strainer and some jiggers (30mL/60mL), you can easily measure and balance the cocktail to perfection.”

On the other hand, Gus Gluck, Beverage Manager at Fitzroy-based Neighbourhood Wine Group says improvisation can also be equally acceptable.

"Personally, at home, I don’t use professional equipment. It’s a waste of cash. Instead, a stick blender can help you break up ice more easily and is great for sours.”

Proof that with a bit of creativity, you can achieve professional-quality cocktails without breaking the bank!

Shaken vs stirred:
Mixology Masterclass: Crafting the Perfect At-home Cocktail

The age-old debate of shaken versus stirred continues to divide cocktail enthusiasts. However, Marco Nunes, JERRY Professor for Allara Global has some insights that can ensure a perfectly crafted cocktail, whatever your sipping style. 

"For shaken cocktails, use plenty of ice and shake the cocktail vigorously until you can hear the ice hitting both ends of the shaker with power. When preparing stirred cocktails, also use plenty of ice, but stir the cocktail smoothly and quietly using the end side of a bar spoon, mimicking the motion of stirring tea, for about 10 to 30 seconds. It's important to note that stirring quickly can cause the ice to melt faster,” he says. 

According to Danson Danium, from Familiar Spirits Distillery in Burleigh Heads, another tip when it comes to a professional technique you can try at home is to pre-batch your favourite cocktail.

"The spirits and liqueurs component of your favourite cocktail recipe can be mixed in advance and kept bottled in the fridge, ready to go. Just exclude your perishable ingredients. This will keep in the fridge for up to a year, or a week if adding cream or fruit-based liqueurs.”

It's a time-saving hack that allows you to enjoy a perfectly crafted cocktail whenever the mood strikes.

Ice, ice baby:
Mixology Masterclass: Crafting the Perfect At-home Cocktail

Ice may seem like a minor detail, but it can make a major difference to your cocktail experience. James 'Rusty' Russell, Group Bars Manager at the new INNA Lounge in Sydney’s The Republic Hotel, emphasises the importance of using fresh, high-quality ice to enhance the flavour and presentation of your drink. 

"Using old ice cubes that have been sitting in your freezer is 'no bueno'. Ice is absorbent so if it has been sitting in your freezer for months it is probably going to taste like a pack of frozen onions. Fill a container with filtered or boiled water, pop a lid on it and put it in the freezer. Break it up for making drinks or better than that, have rustic hand-cut cubes for that late night or sunny afternoon Negroni's.”

Raise a glass (the right one):
Mixology Masterclass: Crafting the Perfect At-home Cocktail

Not only do the right vessels ensure your homemade cocktail looks professional, but they can actually also help improve its taste! For that reason, quality glassware is key to serving the golden trilogy of cocktails (built, shaken and stirred). To get started, invest in some Martini glasses, some old-fashioned/large tumblers and some highballs

Another tip according to Federico Malavendo, Branca Brand Ambassador is to freeze your vessel itself!

"No one wants a lukewarm cocktail, so pop your glasses in the freezer before serving it up for a fresh, frosty drink.”

Perfect presentation: 
Mixology Masterclass: Crafting the Perfect At-home Cocktail

Presentation is often the final touch that elevates a good cocktail to a great one. For that reason, garnishes are the cherry (or cucumber) on top of a well-crafted drink.

As well as fresh herbs or edible flowers to add visual appeal and aromatic complexity, Alberto Sara, Assistant Venue Manager at Hickson House Sydney, suggests a lemon twist. 

"This is a cocktail garnish made from the peel of a lemon twisted in a corkscrew shape. Use a paring knife or peeler to cut a long, thin slice of lemon peel from the fruit. Try to avoid getting any of the pith. Curl the lemon peel and then rub the outside of the peel around the rim of the glass.”

Finally, Neilson Braid, Bar Manager at Zephyr Sky Sydney, encourages aspiring bartenders to be curious and creative.

"Tailor your cocktails to suit your preferences and those of your guests. Whether it's adjusting the sweetness level, experimenting with different spirits, or adding a personal touch, make each drink uniquely yours. Keep learning and exploring: mixology is an ongoing journey of trial and discovery. Stay curious, continue experimenting and always be open to learning new techniques and flavour combinations.”

Featured Locations

Modern Australian    $$$$$

Casa Luna

Right in the heart of Byron Bay and one of its little gems, Casa Luna on Fletcher Street is a cultural venue providing an all-round dining experience, signature cocktails and local and internationa...

Want more AGFG?
Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest articles & news...