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PartnersMarch 6, 2019

Mastering the art of the at-home cocktail

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

You don’t need a cocktail shaker, 14 different obscure liqueurs or even any particular skill to create a killer mixed drink in your own kitchen.

Have a few friends round, whip up a few cocktails – what a lovely idea. How grown-up. How positively classy. Until you realise all you have in the cupboard is an ancient bottle of dubious vodka and some flat lemonade, the supermarket is all out of limes and you’ve forgotten to refill the ice trays.

Yes, it’s tempting to put cocktail making in the too hard basket. So much easier to fill the fridge with beers and wines, maybe stretch to a G&T if you can be bothered. Really, who’s going to complain?

But you won’t regret putting in just a wee bit more effort, as you’ll be rewarded with delicious drinks and impressed friends to boot. And you don’t even need a cocktail shaker.

The team from independent spirits distributor Proof & Company has kindly shared with us four delicious cocktail recipes that require not much more skill than the ability to do some basic measuring, yet are far more than the sum of their parts. All the Proof & Company products mentioned below are available at Fine Wine Delivery Co.

Gav Liddle’s number one tip for home cocktail makers is ice, ice, ice. Use lots of the stuff. “If you think you’ve got enough ice, get two more bags,” says Liddle, an account manager at Proof & Company.

Trust us, you need more ice (Photo: Getty Images)

Go easy on the hard stuff too, he says. “It sounds ridiculous, but people put too much booze in. Balance is key – there’s a reason they’re made with 30ml of spirits rather than just ‘pour it in till you can’t get in any more’.”

A basic liquor cabinet should have decent bottles of rum, gin and vodka, plus high-quality liqueurs – invest in a decent curaçao or Grand Marnier, advises Liddle. Tequila is good to have on hand too, as well as decent mixers and lemons and limes. If you winced at the mention of limes, you’d be forgiven – they’re hard to come by and extremely expensive at this time of year. But Liddle has a few tips to soften the blow.

“You can buy frozen limes, which are cheaper,” he says. No, they’re not as good as the fresh ones, but what can you do? “In New Zealand, you’ve got to make certain sacrifices and if using frozen limes is one of them, then that’s it.”

Bottled lime juice isn’t always a no-no, adds Liddle, but some brands are a lot better than others. Go for cold-press or not-from-concentrate. And remember: “If the bottle’s in the shape of the fruit, don’t use it.”

The good news is there are plenty of cocktails that don’t require lime juice. For those that do, limes are coming into season soon, so they should be more readily available and a bit cheaper.

The following recipes require investing in the likes of vermouth and cognac too, but just think of all the money you’ll be saving by not going to those eye-wateringly expensive cocktail bars! And remember, as Liddle puts it: “At the end of the day, if you’re making something you’re looking to enjoy, it’s worth putting a little bit of investment in.”

The Belafonte, starring gin, sherry and grapefruit tonic (Photo: James Buxton)


Makes 1 drink

Charlie Ainsbury of Proof & Company, who developed these drinks, said the first name that came to mind for this one was “Amalfi Coast spritz”. But that was too “generic and boring”. Instead he named it Belafonte, after the boat in the wonderful Wes Anderson film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Build all the ingredients in a large wine goblet filled with ice. Garnish with a sprig of basil.

Cognac, yuzu tonic, lemon juice and demerara sugar syrup come together in the continental fizz (Photo: James Buxton)


Makes 1 drink

The star of this drink is cognac, particularly the pre-prohibition-style cognac made by Pierre Ferrand – a high-ABV, single-vineyard version with a decent amount of spice to it. It’s paired with lemon juice, Demerara sugar syrup and East Imperial’s Yuzu Tonic, made with the Japanese citrus fruit yuzu. Ainsbury says he named this drink continental fizz because each main element comes from a different continent – the cognac from Europe, the sugar from South America and the yuzu from Asia.

Build the ingredients in a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with a dehydrated lemon wheel or a wedge of lemon.

Dark rum, sweet vermouth, lime juice and ginger ale: meet the roundhouse (Photo: James Buxton)


Makes 1 drink

The name is a reference to Thai kickboxing, says Ainsbury: apt because of the ingredients used as well as the feeling you get when sipping this drink, he reckons.

Build the ingredients in a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with a kaffir lime leaf.

Vodka, curaçao, lime juice, spicy ginger beer and a touch of bitters: the tools down (Photo: James Buxton)


Makes 1 drink

As the name implies, this is a drink to enjoy at the end of a hard day’s work. It uses the newly developed Tried & True Vodka, made from organic French wheat, and Pierre Ferrand’s orange curaçao. Curaçao has been somewhat debased over the years, says Proof & Company’s Kit Clarke, and Pierre Ferrand’s version is an attempt to return the drink to its centuries-old roots. Named after the Caribbean island, it’s made with the peel of the laraha orange, which is native to Curaçao.

Build the ingredients in a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with a skewered piece of candied ginger and a sprig of mint.

This content was created in paid partnership with Fine Wine Delivery Company. Learn more about our partnerships here

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