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The Basics of Cocktail Making

Few things are better than whipping up a cool Mojito or a comforting Old Fashioned for an evening of fun. Cocktail making can provide hours of entertainment, but to the untrained eye it can seem complicated and confusing! Thankfully, cocktail making isn’t the science experiment it can sometimes appear to be, here are a few basic guidelines to get you shaking and stirring in no time.

There are three essential elements to any cocktail, and once you know these, you can whip up almost anything that takes your fancy!

1. Base of the Cocktail

This is the main ingredient and is usually an alcoholic spirit, forming the backbone of the drink. The most common bases are vodka, rum, gin and whiskey.

2. Modifying Agent

This step softens the strong base and lengthens the drink, providing the main flavours and textures of the cocktail. These agents include fruit juices, vermouths and cream, creating either a sweet or sour taste.

3. Additional Flavourings

These are added in small quantities, and are the finishing touch to the cocktail. These include liqueurs, angostura bitters and syrups such as grenadine. 

cocktail container

What do I need?


This is the most iconic piece of cocktail making equipment, and is where you’ll mix all your ingredients together. There are two types of shaker you can use. The Cobbler is very popular, and features a metal base with a metal lid. The Boston shaker is a metal tin with a mixing glass that fits partially inside.


It’s really important to measure quantities when you are starting out with cocktail making, as this is the easiest way to replicate that delicious Margarita you had last Friday night. It also helps you to easily follow recipes for new cocktails and makes learning the ropes a lot easier. Mixing the perfect cocktail is easy with a Measuring Glass.


If your shaker doesn’t come with a built-in strainer, then it will prove very useful to have one. Many recipes call for crushed ice and ingredients such as mint leaves, which will need straining out of the finished drink. Keep your drink looking smooth and bit free with a small sieve.

Bar Spoon

When a cocktail should be stirred and not shaken, a bar spoon is what you need. These extra long spoons are perfect for reaching to the bottom of tall mixing glasses, gently mixing your ingredients to perfection. 


Once you've shaken and sturred your cocktial, choose a glass that accentuates the look. Whether you are searching for a hiball glass, a gin glass or martini glass, check out our huge selection of glasses to create your perfect cocktail.

cocktail making basics glasses

Here are three basic but delicious cocktails to get you started... 


65ml rum / Juice of 1 lime / 8 mint leaves / Soda water / 1 tsp sugar / Ice

  1. In a glass, combine 6 mint leaves, lime juice and sugar, crushing the mint leaves to release the flavour.
  2. Pour the mixture into a tall hi-ball glass, and add four or five cubes of ice.
  3. Pour the rum into the glass, and top up with soda water to taste.
  4. Garnish with mint and enjoy.

Old Fashioned

60ml whiskey / 1 brown sugar cube / Angostura Bitters / Twist of orange rind / Ice

  1. In a glass, dissolve the sugar cube with a good dash of bitters and a splash of cold water. You’ll need to stir for about 5 minutes to make sure the sugar dissolves completely.
  2. Add a couple of ice cubes and pour over the whiskey.
  3. Top with the twist of orange rind.


40ml tequila / 20ml fresh lime juice / 20ml Cointreau / Salt / Lime wedges / Ice

  1. Fill your serving glass with ice and set to one side to chill.
  2. Pour the tequila, lime juice and Cointreau into a shaker. Add a handful of ice and shake well for about 30 seconds.
  3. Tip the ice out of the serving glass and rub the lime wedge around the edge. Dip the rim in salt.
  4. Pour in the mixture from the shaker and garnish the rim with a wedge of fresh lime.
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