Start by understanding the components of a well-balanced, flavor-filled cocktail. When you know the parts, you can be confident about following a recipe or experimenting to create your own signature cocktails.
Pleasing flavor is the primary goal in making a party cocktail. Each element makes a different contribution to a drink's flavor. Understanding those contributions makes it easy to serve cocktails your party guests will rave about.
Most drinks consist of four basic parts: bases, modifiers, accents, and finishing touches.
- Bases are the spirits. Common bases include bourbon, vodka, gin, brandy, rum, and tequila.
- Modifiers (or mixers) enhance the drink without overpowering it. They include vermouth, seltzer, mild or sweet fruit juices, sparkling wines, and carbonated soft drinks.
- Accents are subtle amounts of strongly flavored ingredients, such as lemon, lime, bitters, grenadine, and complex liqueurs.
- Finishing touches (or garnishes) add color, flair, and sometimes a bit of flavor to cocktails. Traditional garnishes include olives, cherries, and citrus curls or wedges.
In general, the base is the first ingredient placed in a glass, shaker, or pitcher. Add the modifiers, accents, and ice to the container; shake or stir as the drink requires. Garnishes are added to the finished cocktail just before serving.
Editor's Tip: When planning your cocktail party, count on guests to drink two beverages during your party's first hour and one additional libation each hour thereafter.