Building up your home bar stash can feel daunting at times. You not only need to stock up on spirits, but modifiers and mixers too. From vermouths to liqueurs, tonics to bitters, there is always something to add on. Not to mention needing the proper equipment to properly shake, stir or build a cocktail.
Yet actually, many common household ingredients can easily be added to your mixology arsenal. Many are potent modifiers and mixers themselves. Here are some truly easy-to-get items that you’ll surely find at the supermarket or online store, that will vastly enlarge your repertoire of recipes. The best part? They can be used for your everyday needs too.
Any home baker will already have this in their house, and hey, you can use it for adding flavor into your drinks too. Extracts work just as it is – simply add it into your mix and it imparts that flavor to the drink. Just be wary of portions, as extracts are very concentrated ingredients, and a single drop can already be a lot. From orange to pandan, butter pecan to vanilla, extracts opens up your home bar to a world of experimentation.
Yes, you read that right. Most folks who drink carry some beer at home, and this alcoholic beverage works great as a mixer too. So rather than chugging them down can after can, feel free to use this carbonated beverage as a soda, tonic or soft drink replacement too. Top up your Highballs with a lager instead of soda for something crisp and malty, or do a peaty whisky (such as a Talisker) and IPA combo for a boilermaker you won’t soon forget.
Ubiquitous soda label Coca-Cola is greatly used in concoctions like the Jack and Coke, as well as in classics like the Cuba Libre (basically a rum and coke), Long Island Iced Tea or Kalimotxo. Or simply add a splash of it over cocktails like a Boulevardier or Sidecar for that extra bit of refreshing fizz.
But as far as sodas go, we find Sprite and 7-Up some of the best mixers out there, acting as a sweetener and carbonating agent for cocktails while doing little to modify the base flavors. Use them as you would tonic water or Ice Cream Soda; you won’t regret it.
Not too sweet, refreshing, non-carbonated and slightly saline, the coconut water is, in our opinion, one of the most overlooked modifiers out there. It’s super useful, giving volume to a drink while modifying it only ever so slightly. Add a small portion (20ml or so) of it into your G&T and you’ll get an added layer of complexity. Or try making ice cubes out of them, for keeping drinks cold while letting the melting and dilution actually be welcome.
There’s always some ice cream lying around in the freezer. And rather than eat them, let it elevate your next drink. Throw ’em in a shaker and let it add flavor to your mix while it does the same job ice cubes usually do (meaning you can use less ice when shaking). We generally prefer using mono flavors like vanilla and chocolate to create cocktails with a milky, desserty twist.
Well, juices are already a big part of cocktail making, especially freshly-squeezed ones. But if you’ve got cartons of orange or apple juice lying in the fridge all the time anyway, why not try boozing them up. Juices make great fruity cocktails, especially in long drinks like coolers, spritzers and highballs. Use your fruit juice of choice and experiment away.
Another item that almost anyone has in their fridge. Milk is great for making creamy drinks, and is a great replacement to use even in classics like the White Russian. Try using milk in blended drinks, so it adds a thicker texture to the cocktail. Or if you’re lazy (as we all do sometimes), just mix up Bailey’s Irish Cream with milk for a satisfying nightcap.
Sugar is already a common ingredient used in cocktail-making. But what we’re suggesting here is to use various forms of sugar and sweeteners, such as brown sugar, agave, gula melaka and honey, to add depth to your drinks. White sugar is almost tasteless, while other types of sweeteners can impart more complex qualities to your cocktail. You can also use them to make simple syrups (here’s the super easy way to make them), which then opens up a whole world of options for you.
Not all jams are suitable, but the ones that are will change the way you look at them. Try using marmalade to make citrusy, fruity concoctions in a shaker, for instance. Just don’t go for jams that are too gelatinous, as they don’t mix well with spirits.
And in that same vein of utilizing things we can spread on bread in cocktails, we’ve very successfully used peanut butter in making cocktails too. Try using peanut butter and ice cream together, shake ’em up with dark rum, and you’ll get creamy, boozy bliss in a cup.