Cocktails are popular drinks to order when you go for a night out. Maybe you even have your favorite bar for cocktails. Moreover, cocktails have gained some popularity lately thanks to recent news suggesting moderate alcohol use can be beneficial.
While it’s fun to buy a fancy cocktail on a night out, why not try to make them yourself? Inviting friends over and making cocktails is a great excuse to enjoy your favorite drink or try something new without breaking the bank. To make these cocktails, you’ll have to be stocked up on the goods. That means you need spirits, bartending tools, and mixers.
Even if you’re not planning on having friends or family over any time soon, you might as well stay stocked up on everything you need, especially if you’ve started your home bar. You never know when having spirits and mixers will come in handy.
If you’re new to cocktails and don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered. We’ve created a list of essential mixers and some drinks you can make with them. By following below, you’ll become a home bartender in no time.
First and foremost, you need to have club soda, as it’s a crucial mixer to have behind any bar. Club soda can go with virtually every liquor you’ll have. You can make a vodka soda, Vodka Press, Gin Soda, and much more.
While club soda may not be the most common ingredient in the cocktails that you buy at a fancy bar, you can make some excellent homemade cocktails with it. The reason it’s so versatile is due to the basic flavor and carbonation.
You likely won’t want to drink club soda by itself, but that’s why it works perfectly in cocktails with other flavors—club soda will never overpower any other taste.
Some cocktails that use club soda or can have club soda substituted in them include the following.
- Aperol Spritz— equal parts prosecco and Aperol topped off with club soda
- Mojito — a dash of cane syrup mixed in rum, lime juice, mint leaves, and soda water
- Gin Rickey— a squeezed fresh lime wedge placed in a glass-topped with ice, club soda, and gin
These three cocktails require very few ingredients, are easy to make, and will surprise you with flavor. What’s more, they can all be customized to your liking. By using different types of gin or rum or additional fruits, you’ll be able to change the flavor exactly to your liking.
To try a Gin Rickey, start with Hendrick’s Dry Gin.
Similar to club soda, tonic water is a carbonated drink that goes well with too many pairings to keep track of. However, the main difference between it and club soda is that it has added sweetener and quinine. While tonic water does have a unique flavor, that’s an added bonus for many tonic lovers.
This mixer is just as versatile, if not more so than club soda, as the peculiar flavor blends well with the flavors of spirits. It goes great with several liquors for standard mixes if you’re not feeling like making a cocktail. Gin and tonic, anybody? Thus, tonic water is a must-have for any home bar.
When you are feeling like a cocktail, you can make all the following with tonic water.
- Frozen G and T—the perfect margarita counterpart. Blend ice, gin, tonic water, freshly squeezed lime, and garnish with lime wedges
- Sueño—a unique tequila-based drink utilizing tonic’s exceptional flavor. Shake rosemary, cucumber, lime juice, and simple syrup together before adding ice and tequila for the last shake and pour. Garnish with a rosemary sprig
- Rum and Tonic—a sweeter, more flavorful version of a gin and tonic. With ice in a highball glass, add dark rum, lime juice, and top with tonic water. Garnish with a lime wedge
Thanks to tonic water’s unique flavor, you can make creative cocktails with full-bodied, complex profiles. Alternatively, you can pair tonic with your favorite spirit, add some lemon or lime, and set it with the perfect drink.
For those who have never tried a rum and tonic, step out of your comfort zone, get some Bacardi Gold, and be ready to be surprised.
Ginger ale or ginger beer
One of ginger ale or ginger beer should be mainstays for your home bar. The difference between the two may be slight, but people typically find ginger beer stronger than ginger ale.
Although it’s called ginger beer, it is usually nonalcoholic. The drink is brewed and fermented with ginger—which has countless health benefits— to give it a strong flavor. On the other hand, ginger ale is essentially carbonated water with added ginger flavoring.
Regardless of which you choose to stock, you get a sweet yet spicy drink that mixes well with many liquors. You can find cocktails mixing ginger with scotch, rum, vodka, tequila, gin, and even beer at any bar. However, the following three are great options to serve at your home bar.
- Dark and Stormy—a mix of light and dark rum with ginger ale. Pour altogether in a glass over ice, add a lime wedge and serve
- Scotch and Ginger— add ice, scotch, and ginger ale in a highball glass. Add in a few mint leaves and a lime wedge and serve
- Moscow Mule—in a copper glass, add ice, fresh lime juice, vodka, and top with ginger beer. Garnish with mint and lime
Ginger ale and ginger beer are great drinks to always keep at hand. They’re refreshing by themselves, especially when you have an upset stomach and great mixers for countless cocktails.
If you want to follow the trend and make a Moscow mule, consider using Tito’s Vodka.
Simple syrup is essentially liquid sugar. It’s an essential additive for any bartender as it goes in countless cocktails. Many cocktails need a little added sugar to take away a little bite from the drink. You can find simple syrup at your local liquor store or supermarket. Alternatively, you could make your simple syrup.
To make a simple syrup, add equal parts water and granulated sugar in a saucepan. Heat it over medium and stir it often. Once the sugar is completely mixed in, you can let it cool and pour it into a container to keep.
Some cocktails you’ll need simple sugar for include the following.
- Mojito—in a shaker, muddle mint leaves, and simple syrup, pour in rum and lime juice and shake with ice. Strain into a glass filled with ice and top with club soda
- Old Fashioned—combine simple syrup and bitters in a glass half-filled with ice. Squeeze orange peel over the glass, drop the peel in, add whiskey, stir, and fill with ice
- Margarita—in a shaker full of ice, add tequila, lime juice, and simple syrup and shake well. Strain into a glass filled with ice and rimmed with salt and sugar
Lime and lemon juice
As you’ve already noticed, lime and lemon juice are key ingredients in seemingly every cocktail. If you don’t regularly use lemons or limes, buying juice from the store may be better than fresh fruit.
However, if you know you’re having guests, it’s a good idea to have some lemons and limes ready, as they’re used for flavor and garnish.
Furthermore, limes and lemons are great for people who may be picky with their mixers. Lime and lemons can suffice for virtually all drinkers. Plus, limes and lemons are healthy, so they may just make you and others feel better while drinking.
Other fruit juices
Another necessary item to keep behind the bar is fruit juice, other than lemon and limes, of course. Many cocktails may call for just a splash of fruit juice, whether pineapple juice, cranberry juice, or orange juice.
As fruit juices are more selective in their cocktail use, you’ll need to do some research to determine which juice you need for your cocktail.
If you’re just making cocktails for a couple of people, it may not be practical to keep three or four bottles of juice. However, the following options will get you started.
- Tequila Sunrise—orange juice, tequila, ice, and syrup
- Cosmopolitan—cranberry juice, triple sec, vodka, and lime juice is shaken in a cocktail shaker and strained in a glass
- Pina Colada—ice, frozen pineapple, pineapple juice, coconut cream, and rum blended and poured into a glass
The number of cocktails you can find at a bar is endless. Bartenders likely know how to make dozens of cocktails off the top of their minds.
While doing so, they use several different mixers. While it’s not practical to have as many mixers as a full bar has, those listed above will get you started. You can pick and choose your favorite cocktails, see the ingredients, and shop for the necessary mixers from there.