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Jan 2, 2012 01:35 AM

Alcohol newbie looking for some starter tips.

Hello everyone, I just recently turned 21 and one of the things I really want to learn to do is mixing my own drinks. I honestly have no idea what I'm doing and when I try to google recipes most of them assume that you know the basics at least. I'm honestly asking for any and all starter help or wisdom you vets could share on this pathetic newbie. hahahahaha

From what I've tried I really enjoyed a Margarita, so if those are easy enough I would like a small rundown on any beginner recipes for those. If you guys have any other cocktail recommendations that are easy to make feel free to mention em! I haven't experienced or tasted many drinks so I'm open to try many things.

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  1. The first thing I would do is taste more drinks. Get a feel for what you like. There is no use in putting together a bar if you don't have a sense of what you want to make.

    If you liked a margarita, try a daiquiri ( a plain, shaken daiquiri, not some frozen slushy concoction) or a whiskey sour. All three of those drinks have fairly similar recipes (spirits mixed with lime juice and simple syrup), so it will be easy to make all of them.

    From there, you may want to explore some of the more classic cocktails. Try a Manhattan, a Martini or a Negroni. See what you like.

    1. Sku has it right : "DRINK!!!!"
      A friend of mine recently turned me on to the Negroni, which I loved at first sip. Then, thanks to this board, I discovered a variant called the "boulevardier", which I now can't stop drinking: my favorite recipe is equal parts Catoctin Creek Roundstone rye, Punt E Mes, and Cynar, with a couple good shakes of Angostura bitters. I'd also recommend looking into the Manhattan.

      1. The biggest starter help I can give is to take it easy. In a little while, the bug will bite you and you'll want to rush out and get EVERYTHING for your bar. It's really easy to get pressured into feeling like you should have all kinds of stuff in your bar so that you can make all kinds of drinks at a moment's notice, but trust me, your guests will be appreciative of your booze-making skills whether you have three bottles or a hundred. The main reason to have a huge home bar is to show off, and as far as I can tell you actually want to make drinks. Take your time with it. Go out and get the stuff for the margarita (which I'll get to in a moment), get comfortable making those, then pick a second cocktail (go try different drinks out at a decent cocktail bar in town) and go get the stuff for that. Over time, you'll develop a well-stocked home bar full of things you'll actually use.

        On to your margarita. Here's a basic recipe for one.
        1-1/2 ounces silver tequila
        1 ounce triple sec
        1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
        Pour everything into a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice, shake like hell until your hands get really cold, then strain over fresh ice into a double old-fashioned glass with a salted rim.

        That's your standard-issue margarita. If you like it sweeter (I do), add simple syrup a little bit at a time until it's to your liking. More tart? More lime juice. Piece of cake, and an excellent starter formula. If you use vodka instead of the tequila, it becomes a Kamikaze. Citron vodka and a splash of cranberry, and you have the Cosmopolitan.

        My other big piece of advice: Do fresh stuff as much as you possibly can. ALWAYS squeeze your citrus fresh. Bottled lemon or lime juice is a far inferior substitute. Sweet and sour mix and margarita mix exist solely to make your drinks taste terrible. And for the love of all that is holy, make your own simple syrup. The bottled stuff is horrifically expensive for what you get. It's a cinch to make: Mix together a cup of sugar and a cup of water, either shaking or heating until the sugar is completely dissolved. That's it, you've made simple syrup. Simple, huh? Then once you've done that, make your own grenadine by making simple syrup with pomegranate juice instead of water. But I think I'm starting to get ahead of myself here.

        Starting equipment for your new bar: A Boston shaker, a long-handled bar spoon, a Hawthorne strainer, and a jigger. I've used cheap shakers and bar spoons from my friendly local restaurant supply store for ages. For the strainer and the jigger, I'm a big fan of Oxo. They're definitely more expensive than the restaurant supply store's, but I find it to be worth it. If you find them expensive for your taste, the ones at the restaurant supply store will do just fine; I used them for years before upgrading to the Oxo. Other things can be picked up as your acquire a taste for the drinks that need them.

        There's one last part of the bar: Glassware. As with the booze, buy 'em as you need 'em. I think you'll eventually find these five will serve the vast majority of your drinking needs:
        1) Red wine glass, big bowl, ~20 oz
        2) Cocktail (aka Martini) glass, <6 oz
        3) Collins/Highball glass, 10-12 oz
        4) Old-Fashioned glass, ~7 oz
        5) Double Old-Fashioned glass, 14-16 oz

        If you have to pick just one, go for the wine glass. Any other drink would be happy to inhabit it.

        1. You'll probably want to start with some of the classic sours: the Margarita, the Daiquiri, whiskey sour, and Sidecar, depending on what base liquors you start with. Highballs which are longer drinks with soda are also a good place to start like the Gin and Tonic, Tom Collins, Moscow Mule, Dark 'n Stormy, etc. If you have a good nearby bar that uses fresh citrus juice, you might want to try some of these before committing to buying the ingredients.

          It's important to go with good sources for your recipes (unlike some of the 10,000 recipe sites), so online you might want to start with Dave Wondrich's recipes on Esquire:

          There's also a lot of good blogs and other sites that can give you recipes and ideas. A few I like are the 12 Bottle Bar (especially good for the beginner), Cocktail Virgin Slut, Kindred Cocktails, eGullet, and Serious Eats Drinks.

          A good book can also be really helpful with the basics. One by Robert Hess, Dale DeGroff, or Gary Regan, among others, should set you on the right path.

          1. A good tip is to buy quality - it helps you drink in moderation and enjoy what you have. I'm not saying you should only ever buy Grey Goose (or whatever the 'best' vodka is these days) and some expensive drinks are (in my opinion) a bit of a waste when mixed, just don't buy a plastic bottle of Kristov and mix it with a juice-style drink and hope for the best.

            Once I got over drinking for the sake of it and wanted to move on to making nice things, I experimented first with vodka. Balancing a simple vodka, soda and lime. Floating galliano on top of a screwdriver (vodka and orange juice). A Cosmopolitan by adding cointreau (some recipes call for triple sec) and cranberry. A Sea Breeze with vodka, cranberry and grapefruit. Most of the lighter spirits lend themselves well to beginner cocktails, as they can be built on with a few mixers.

            Think about what flavours and textures you like in a drink without alcohol - do you like creamy, sweet, sour, citrus, berries, nuts? Chocolate, caramel?

            Do you already have a liquor that already enjoy the taste of? If so, google search it. Try out different combinations. Measure, then taste - do you like it? Do you think you need a little more or less of something? You are the one drinking it, tinker with it until you find your perfect mix.

            Above all else, drink what you like. If you turn out to like Pina Coladas, drink them. Don't let people yuck your yum.