One of my favorite offerings at Camelot Wine & Spirits is our Cocktail-To-Go kit. We offer several different variations, ranging in price from around $5 to $8 and they’re ready to grab & go every day in our gift area…
- Vodka Cranberry
- Classic Margarita
- Salty Dog
- Crown & Coke
All of these cocktails are designed to use three or fewer ingredients, but our selection is somewhat limited by the availability of single-serving mixers and spirits, so this article will take a closer look at simple, three-five ingredient cocktails you can mix at home.
An ingredient-heavy cocktail isn’t necessarily a better cocktail and complex cocktails can be overwhelming in terms of cost and difficulty of preparation. You don’t need a ton of tools and ingredients to make a delicious cocktail. If you have a reasonably well-stocked home bar, you can amaze your friends and satisfy your cocktail cravings any time the mood strikes. Let’s start by taking a closer look at the tools you’ll need for a very simple home bar setup:
- Water-Resistant Tray – The tray shown above is plastic that looks like aged china and cost me about $10 at an outlet store. A simple, clear plastic, dollar store tray will work just as well for containing your wet items and helping to protect your furniture from drips or spills.
- Dish or Bar Towels – It’s nice to have a clean cotton towel handy to wipe up spills or help catch anything wet or drippy. We have some great towels from Kathy’s Primitives to get you started!
- Measured Shot Glass – this is just a little shot glass with lines to show the different measurements your recipes might call for.
- Bar Spoon and Cocktail Shaker – Most cocktails need to be mixed in some way. Some recipes will suggest shaking and some stirring, depending on the contents of the drink. A good rule of thumb is to “stir” spirits and carbonated liquids and “shake” anything with juice or dairy … or when you want to show a little flair…
- Glassware -You don’t have to keep a different glass for every cocktail – you can start with simple mixing glasses, like those shown above. These are perfectly acceptable for most of the cocktails we’ll talk about in this article and can even double as a pub-glass for serving beer. If you have a particular favorite cocktail, you might want to get that specific glass and add to your collection as you build your cocktail repertoire.
The list of mixers, garnishes and other “stuff” you might add to your cocktails is vast! Here are a few basic standards you can get started:
- Rimming Salt – There are tons of different flavors and price points, but rimming salt is basically just Kosher Salt. The Twang version shown above is a great, reasonably-priced salt you will find in our store AND it comes in a handy tub for ease of rimming glasses.
- Fruit Juices & Nectars – We carry a line of Langers juices in a 15oz or 32oz sizes and we’ve added some Nectars as well (a more concentrated fruit juice). They’re kept cold in our store, but these juices are shelf stable and don’t need to be refrigerated + they keep for several months. This is probably an item to buy as you go vs. keeping a huge stock of different types on hand.
- Mixers – These are the true magic behind simple cocktails. I’ve shown some very basic ones above (simple syrup, sweet & sour mix, and triple sec) that appear in lots of recipes. You can also get more cocktail-specific mixers such as Hurricane, Dirty Martini, Bloody Mary, Flavored Daiquiri and much more. Start with the basics and add on as your interests widen.
- Soda – This includes anything carbonated, such as cola, lemon-lime soda, club soda, tonic water, and the like. This is another item you might want to buy as needed unless you particularly like a certain soda (diet coke for me, all day, every day).
- Garnishes – These are totally optional and include things like olives, maraschino cherries, limes, lemons, etc. These are typically items you’ll want to buy fresh, as needed. They are intended to make things “fancy.” If you’re trying to keep costs down (or “fancy” ain’t really your thang), omit the garnish for now.
Mid-priced liquors work great in most cocktails because you’re mixing with other ingredients for most of the flavor. You can certainly up your game with more expensive liquors, but if your aim is to set up an inexpensive home bar, start simple with these well-known spirits. All of the bottles shown are 750ml (aka “fifths”), but smaller sizes (pints or even half-pints) are available if you want to ease more gently into this purchase – most cocktails only require an ounce or two of spirits per serving, so a little can go a relatively long way…
- Jose Cuervo Blue Agave Tequila – this is a silver (clear) spirit that works well in a lot of tequila-based cocktails.
- Bacardi Rum – I’ve shown the Gold, you might prefer to with the Superior, which is clear or white.
- New Amsterdam Vodka – I’d venture to say Vodka takes up the most space of anything in our store (next to domestic beer and wine), mainly because it comes in SO many different flavors and varieties. Best advice here is to start with the plain, unflavored version and use fresh juices and mixers for flavor. I’ve shown New Amsterdam as a decent mid-range vodka to get started with. If you wanted to move up a bit, Tito’s would also be a great choice.
- Evan Williams Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey – Whiskey is another area where the choices can be overwhelming – rye, scotch, bourbon, single malt, Tennessee, Kentucky… and the list goes on! I’ve shown the Evan Williams, based on price. Crown Royal is a bit pricier, but another great all-around bourbon for mixing simple cocktails.
- Bombay Dry Gin – Gin is probably more of an optional item for a starter bar. It used to be a staple in the Rat Pack era, but these days, Vodka tends to be a reasonable substitute in many recipes.
- Champagne – I’ve listed this and shown Martini & Rosi Asti, mainly for the sake of the Mimosa and Bellini – if those aren’t your thing, skip it.
A word about shelf-life: Most basic liquors (tequila, rum, vodka, etc.) will last indefinitely, even after they’ve been opened; however, if you have something with sugar or carbonation, it’s going to have a shorter life. Mixers tend to contain a LOT of sugar and will spoil once opened – look for expiration dates on the side of the bottle. Champagne and wine can last several days if you have a good stopper.
Whiskey and Coke – aka Jack & Coke or Crown & Coke, this drink mixes 6oz coke with 2oz whiskey of your choice. Stir and serve over ice in a highball or mixing glass.
Rum and Coke – aka Cuba Libra, mix 6oz coke with 2oz rum. Stir and serve over ice in a highball or mixing glass and garnish with a wedge of lime.
All American – mix 6oz coke with 1oz whiskey and 1oz Southern Comfort (a bourbon, flavored with orange and peach liqueur). Stir and serve over ice in a highball or mixing glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.
FRUIT JUICE BASED COCKTAILS:
Mimosa – Mix equal amounts of chilled orange juice and chilled champagne. Stir and serve in a champagne flute or stemless wine glass.
Bellini – Basically the same as a mimosa, substituting orange juice with peach juice or nectar. Peach is traditional, but you can mix just about any juice (mango, pineapple, cranberry, etc.) with champagne and not be sorry! Stir and serve in a champagne flute or stemless wine glass.
Seabreeze – Mix 4 oz cranberry juice, 1 1/2 oz vodka, and 1 oz grapefruit juice. Stir and serve over ice in a highball or mixing glass and garnish with a wedge of lime.
Cosmopolitan – add 1 1/2 oz vodka, 1oz triple sec, 1/5oz each of lime and cranberry juice to a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a martini glass and garnish with an orange peal.
Vodka Cranberry – basically a simplified Cosmopolitan, this is just 1 1/2 oz vodka with 6-8oz cranberry juice. Shake and strain into an ice-filled highball or mixing glass.
Screwdriver -1 1/2 oz vodka with 6-8oz orange juice. Shake and strain into an ice-filled highball or mixing glass.
You may have noticed a trend here – just about any juice will mix well with vodka. Experiment and see what you like best!
MIXER BASED COCKTAILS:
Daiquiri – mix 1 1/2 oz white rum with 1/2 oz simple syrup and 1 oz lime juice. Shake and strain into an ice-filled daiquiri, martini or coupe glass.
Margarita – mix 1oz lime juice, with 1oz simple syrup, 1/2oz triple sec, and 2oz tequila. Shake and strain into a salt-rimmed margarita glass and garnish with a wedge of lime.
Lemonade – add 2oz lemon juice, 2oz simple syrup, and 1oz vodka to an ice-filled highball or large mixing glass, top off with lemon-lime soda and garnish with a wedge of lemon.
Tom Collins – add 1 1/2 oz Gin, 1/2 oz simple syrup and 1oz lemon juice to an ice-filled collins or large mixing glass, top off with soda water and garnish with a slice of lemon and a maraschino cherry.
Simple Syrup Recipe – You can buy simple syrup, premade and ready to mix. But in a pinch, you can make it with water and sugar. Just add 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water to a small saucepan over low to medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. This recipe will keep in your fridge for about a month.
Flavored Mixers – If you walk down our mixers aisle, you’ll find a huge selection of cocktail mixers. These are typically a simple syrup, flavored to fit a specific drink – like a mango margarita, strawberry daiquiri, bloody mary or hurricane, just to name a few. The possibilities are endless and you can get away with simply the mixer of your choice and appropriate liquor (usually suggested on the mixer label). One of our favorite brands is Master of Mixes – check it out to see what options are available, then come see us and we’ll set you up!
Be sure to check out our other recipe articles and come see us at 12247 N Penn Ave, in North Oklahoma City. Cheers!!