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Get a muddler – and five other tips for making great tasting cocktails at home | Vive la vodka!

During lockdown, many of us became home mixologists to infuse our routines of jogging bottoms and streaming binges with some much-needed glamour, rustling up spritzes behind kitchen islands, breakfast bars and dining tables with whatever we had to hand.

I personally bumbled my way through a batch of pulpy French martini cocktails – vodka, Chambord and pineapple juice – mixed up in a measuring jug and strained through a broccoli steamer; though passable, they were far from ideal.

Nights in are still a part of our lives, but sub-par cocktails should, by now, be a thing of the past. And nothing will improve your cocktail game quite like proper mixology equipment. It needn’t break the bank, either. The absolute essentials are a shaker, stirrer, strainer and jigger. And if you’re thinking “what on earth’s a jigger?”, let me tell you how each piece of kit can transform your cocktail …

Shake it
The shaker is like the mixing bowl of the mixology world. There’s nothing worse than taking a sip of your long-thought-about cocktail and discovering all the alcohol is sitting at the bottom.

Fresh fruits, sweet syrups and shots of vodka need to be married together to get the balance right before they hit the glass, especially when you’re dealing with a blend of heavy and light ingredients.

Take the espresso martini, for example, with its espresso, coffee liqueur and vodka; if it’s not properly blended, you’re left with a layer of liqueur lurking at the bottom of the glass. Shake it all together and a rich, smooth cocktail comes out, topped off by the must-have crema.

Strain it
A strainer is essential for any cocktail maker, whether you’re serving straight up or over ice. A hawthorne strainer with a coiled spring is perhaps most versatile as it can fit into a range of glasses and shakers. If you’re serving your cocktail straight up, like a vodka martini, straining gets rid of the pieces of ice after shaking. Shaking tends to break up the ice so even if you’re planning to serve over ice, straining over new cubes means less risk of a watery cocktail.

Straining also gets rid of solid ingredients such as herbs and fruit, so you’re left with a light infusion. Nobody wants the grainy texture of raspberry pips after a sip of raspberry mule, or to be picking mint out of their teeth after a taste of a vodka southside.

Adding Simple Syrup To A Cocktail Shaker
Get the flavour balance right with a jigger. Photograph: Cameron Whitman/Stocksy United

Measure it
Unmeasured alcohol can leave a cocktail unbalanced, so this is where the jigger comes in. The jigger in the Grey Goose cocktail set has 50ml and 25ml measures. This handy little tool is particularly useful if you want to make cocktails in batches because you’ll always get the ratios right. So, a round of perfectly measured espresso martini cocktails is on the cards.

And if you want to go full at-home mixologist …
A few additional items can complement the essentials, depending on how you like your cocktails. A muddler, actually a baton with a toothed bottom, releases the aromas and flavours of any herbs and fruit you’re using – perfect for making fruity martini cocktails with ingredients such as passion fruit or berries.

One of my favourite concoctions that benefits from a muddling is a basil and Grey Goose Vodka gimlet. Fresh basil cuts through the sharpness of the lemon, adding a subtle sweetness and rich herby taste that rests on the palate after every sip. Muddling the basil bruises the leaves, releasing the flavour without pounding them to mush.

If you’re into spirit-forward cocktails, the bold type where you can taste the base spirit, then it’s a good idea to invest in some large ice cube moulds. Big cubes melt slower so you can savour your drink before it becomes watery and keep things cool without diluting the cocktail as quickly.

Here’s the sweetener
There are a few staple syrups that should accompany your cocktail set. If you’re a classic martini cocktail fan, vermouth is a must. Coffee liqueur can be cracked out for a round of white or black Russians, or a batch of espresso martinis. An orange liqueur such as Cointreau adds the citrus sweetness to a cosmopolitan or lemon drop martini. And a sugar syrup, or “simple syrup”, can cover an endless array of cocktails and is really easy to make at home by simply dissolving equal parts of sugar and water (a cup of each, for example).

And to finish it all off
Top off your home cocktails with classic garnishes. Salt, lemon and lime are the most common, while a sprig of mint can provide freshness, plus it’s easy enough to grow an endless supply in your garden or in a window box, providing you take care of it. Basil leaves add a cut-grass aroma, while lavender can tinge a drink pleasingly purple and add a floral note.

It’s time to put away the measuring jug and save the steamer for the vegetables. Our kitchen island cocktails don’t have to be muddled together (unless by a proper muddler). So no more making do. Let’s treat ourselves to the real cocktail bar experience at home, giant ice cubes and all, by snapping up a good cocktail kit.

A night in bangkok

Fiery and savoury, this cocktail takes inspiration from France, Mexico and Thailand to create a truly global taste. Serves one.

35ml Grey Goose Vodka
20ml fresh lime juice
20ml sugar syrup
– this can be bought pre-made, or you can dissolve 300g sugar in 150ml water and store excess in the fridge
20ml mezcal
50ml kosher salt
5 tsp crushed black pepper
2 slices cucumber
g of coriander

Combine the kosher salt and black pepper. Rim a rocks glass with sesame oil and dip in the salt and pepper mix. Put aside a slice of cucumber and a coriander leaf for the garnish. Muddle the second cucumber slice and several coriander leaves in a shaker, add the rest of the ingredients, plus ice. Shake and strain into your salt and pepper-rimmed glass. Garnish with the reserved cucumber and coriander.

Shop the Grey Goose x Alessi Lunar Eclipse cocktail kit, including a shaker, strainer, stirrer, jigger, and a 70cl bottle of Grey Goose Vodka

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