Top Home Bartending Tips

What you need to know to make perfect drinks every time

Okanagan Cocktail

Always use fresh ice, and plenty of it.

Don't be shy about the amount of ice you put in your shaker or mixing glass — you want to chill the drink as quickly as possible.

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Never try to get juice from cold citrus.

It will yield up to a third less liquid than room-temperature fruit and require more effort. Let citrus sit at room temperature, or take cold fruits and soak them in really hot water for five minutes before juicing. Juices are best the day they're squeezed, but orange and grapefruit juices can be refrigerated overnight.

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Drinks made with juices or egg whites require serious shaking.

Don't shake a cocktail halfheartedly for three seconds: Vigorously shake for at least 10 seconds to make drinks properly frothy. You shake a drink to wake it up up, not to put it to sleep. To make double-shaken drinks extra airy, remove the semicircular spring from your Hawthorne strainer and add it to the shaker with the ingredients before the first shaking. Remove the spring before you add ice (it could get caught in the coil).

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Always refrigerate vermouth, sherry, and other fortified wines.

Fortified wines that are left at room temperature might spoil. Buy the smallest bottles you need — most vermouths come in 375-ml versions (which won't monopolize your fridge) in addition to the larger 750-ml and liter sizes.

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Chill pitcher drinks and punches with a large block of ice.

Small ice cubes will melt too quickly and dilute the drink. Ambitious cocktail-makers should also invest in a large (59-ounce) cocktail shaker (available from so they can shake large batches of drinks like margaritas for parties.

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Stir — don't shake — cocktails that look best when they're clear.

Drinks that should be stirred are ones made with only spirits, liqueurs, bitters, and/or syrups. The goal is to chill and dilute the drink with as little agitation as possible to avoid creating air bubbles than can cloud the liquid. To perfect your technique, practice stirring in an empty mixing glass with a cocktail spoon or chopstick.

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