6 Ways to Instantly Make Better Cocktails at Home

05/21/2014 at 01:17 PM ET

6 Ways to Instantly Make Better Cocktails at Home
James Ransom; Food52

When he’s not busy running the cocktail program at New York City’s Maialino, Erik Lombardo is giving us the rundown on all things spirits — and showing us the best ways to drink them. 

Let’s face it: The drinks you make at home may not be as good as the drinks you get in your favorite cocktail bar. The reasons for this are many, not the least of which is the fact that you probably aren’t a professional bartender. Let the following 6 tips help to close the gap, and you’ll be stirring and shaking your way to inebriated bliss in no time.

1. Use better ice. Ice matters: It accounts for close to 1/3 of the final product, so this is really one of the fastest ways to improve what you’re making at home. Right off the bat you should be using ice cubes that measure at least 1 inch per side. The crescent-shaped ice that comes out of automatic ice machines in fancy refrigerators is no good, ditto the mini cubes. These Tovolo ice cubes are perfect for highballs, but for drinks you want on the rocks, you really want a huge chunk of ice, just big enough to fit in the glass you’re serving it in (these and these work well, or try making your own at home). This maximizes volume to surface area, giving you the most chilling power and control over dilution.

2. Chill your glassware. You spend all that time to make the perfect cocktail and get quality ice, then you pour it into a glass that has been sitting in a cupboard over your oven. Cocktails are best when ice cold, so do yourself a favor and throw your glassware in the freezer when you start to prepare you drink. Take it out only when you’re ready to fill it with your delicious cocktail.

6 Ways to Instantly Make Better Cocktails at Home
James Ransom; Food52

3. Know when to shake, and when to stir. Enough said.

4. Treat your ingredients appropriately. Vermouth and aromatized wines need to be refrigerated to prevent them from oxidizing too quickly. If you have a dusty bottle of vermouth on the liquor shelf, throw it out and buy a fresh one. It may seem like a waste, but the real waste would be thinking you don’t like dry vermouth in Martinis because the dry vermouth you used was produced the same year the Matrix was.

5. Juice and zest to order. Resist the urge to juice a whole bunch of lemons and limes at once. You may think you’re saving time, but lemons and limes begin to react with oxygen almost instantaneously. Do yourself a favor and invest in a citrus juicer like this one, or this one (if you’re super fancy). Cut and juice your fruit as you go so that you can get the freshest flavors into you cocktail. Also: If your juice comes out of a plastic fruit, I don’t know you and you don’t know me.

6 Ways to Instantly Make Better Cocktails at Home
James Ransom; Food52

6. Measure appropriately. Some people think that bars use jiggers in order to cut down on waste, and to be sure that’s a nice benefit. But the actual reason your favorite cocktail bar uses jiggers is to ensure consistency — they want to be positive that you get the same exact cocktail every time you order it. To ensure that you’re making quality cocktails at home, get a jigger, find a recipe you like, and write it down (don’t be shy to ask your bartender what their specs are — tell them you want to make it at home and they’ll likely be flattered). If you measure correctly and use the right technique, you’ll enjoy that cocktail at home as much as you do in the bar.

This article was originally published on Food52, a site that brings cooks together to share recipes, ideas and support.

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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms
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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms

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On a clear day, you can see forever—or at least that’s the wicked thought behind L.A. designer Agi Berliner’s transparent idea: see-through jeans. Exhibitionists notwithstanding, most folks wear them over bathing suits or as attention-getting evening wear with halters, garter belts and body stockings. Created for the disco crowd, the $34 jeans are selling like, well, hot pants. In just six weeks, 25,000 pairs have already been sold in such major department store chains as Macy’s, Bonwit’s and Saks.

“What’s limiting American designers is that we’re afraid to do something different,” says Berliner, 32, a Hungarian émigré who fled with her family to the U.S. in 1956. Agi thought up the gimmick in London while marveling at the way plastics were being employed by designers of punk fashion. In her L.A. office, where she designs for La Parisienne junior sportswear, Agi spent five days on the phone and six weeks testing to come up with the right plastic.

Agi herself tried out the French-cut jeans with the zipper in front, and quickly found several problems: Some plastics tore away from stitching, others wouldn’t bend and all fogged with perspiration. The ideal material proved to be a vinyl supplied by a bookbinder. The steam was eliminated with a series of vents behind the knees and in the crotch. “They’re no hotter than polyester pants,” claims Agi, “and if you wear them with tights, they won’t stick to your legs.”

Whatever the discomfort and despite the problem of Saturday night feverishness, discomaniacs report one major advantage of the plastic pants: no laundry bills. To keep Berliner’s see-through jeans clear, all the wearer needs is a little Windex.

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