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3 Steps to Handcrafted Cocktails

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If you can make highballs (ice, one mixer, one alcohol) then craft cocktails are only steps away—that is, with the right ingredients. As always, it’s all about the details.
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Photo by Andrew Cebulka

Step One: Ice

Quality cocktail bars have ice programs where they strive to achieve the perfect ice for each cocktail. Knowing how ice changes a beverage as it melts is part of the bartender’s skill. You need not go to that extreme, but these two ice cube trays will help you achieve the most common two ice shapes for craft cocktails (big square and big round). One big piece melts slower, and thus dilutes.

Sphere Ice Molds
Silicone King Cube Tray

Photo courtesy of Tovolo
Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds. Photo courtesy of Tovolo

Step Two: Mixers

Making Craft Cocktails with Bittermans from the Bitterman feature in April 2015
TLP Recommended Mixers. Photo by Andrew Cebulka

These are the ingredients front and center in your house-made cocktail because there is more mixer in most home cocktails than anything else. If you start with interesting mixers you get interesting drinks. And once you get the basics, many of the following can be used in combo for more mix-n-match deliciousness from your own bar cart.

Compounds 
Bittermilk is the best we’ve found.
All flavors are quite delicious, but we’re partial to No. 2 – Tom Collins with Elderflowers and Hops.

 Tonic 
Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic.
It’s become a modern classic. You’ll see it on many professional bars, so make sure and add it to yours. 

 Shrubs 
Otherwise known as drinking vinegars, shrubs add a refreshing complexity to a drink. Shrub Drinks out of Texas makes a great variety, including Pear Ginger and Prickly Pear. Our favorite was the Strawberry, Balsamic, and Black Pepper for a just-west-of-your-comfort-zone strawberry cocktail.

 Syrups 
These are the sweet to shrub’s sour.
Use a tiny amount alone or with club soda: we suggest Lemon Cherry Echinacea from Blue Blaze Soda and Syrup Co. It’s a crowd-pleaser, playing well with gin, tequila, and even bourbon. 

step 3: Alcohol  

Bartender’s (that’s you) choice. Have fun. We always suggest experimenting with local and/or artisan distillers.

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add Bitters

One bottle will do you, but be warned, they are highly collectible once you know how to employ them. You can add even more panache to prosecco, amp up a simple gin and tonic, or even top off some tequila in a margarita. We suggest Bittermens Burlesque Bitters because it’s distinctive and doubles as a conversation starter.