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7 Basic Bartending Skills to Master to Rock Your Home Bar

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Installing a home bar is the start of a lot of fun: Your house will be the go-to for neighborhood parties, dinners with friends, and to watch Sunday’s game. Are you ready to be the star bartender your friends expect? Do you have the skills to throw together an old fashioned, a margarita, or a manhattan? If you don’t think you’re there yet, don’t worry; the skills needed to make great cocktails are basic and easy to learn! Here’s a quick guide to help you begin learning to make these cocktails and impress your guests.

Shaking

Shaking is usually included in drinks that have fruit juice, egg, or dairy ingredients. Shaking introduces extra oxygen bubbles and creates a frothy appearance to the drink. To properly shake, you’ll need a shaker. Fill it halfway with ice, add your ingredients and shake vigorously (seriously, don’t be gentle), and then strain as you pour.

Stirring

Stirring is a more subtle technique for a different kind of cocktail. When you’re stirring a cocktail, most likely that cocktail is something along the lines of a manhattan or martini composed of alcohol-only ingredients. The goal is to mix the drink just enough to make it smooth and allow the spirits to blend nicely; shaking with ice would dilute the drink. Use a long bar spoon and stir quickly to create a vortex in the center of the cocktail for about 30 seconds, let it rest, and then strain as you pour into another glass.

Building

This is probably how you already make your cocktails – simply added the ingredients and giving it a little stir (no vortex!). The idea here is to simply make sure your alcohol and mixer are equally distributed. This method is most frequently used for drinks with carbonated ingredients, like your average Jack and Coke.

Topping Off

Even easier than building, topping off means simply to fill the glass with the instructed ingredient.

Muddling

Some cocktail recipes call for a muddled ingredient (mojitos and old fashioneds are on this list). Reading this on the cocktail instructions might be confusing, but really all it takes is a muddler and your own strength. Simply put the ingredients in a shallow dish or bottom of a glass and grind until they are crushed and pulverized, releasing their essential oils and strong flavors. Once they look nice and ground up, add them to the rest of the cocktail ingredients and mix as instructed!

Straining

Obviously a needed skill, as it has been mentioned in two of the other skills you need to have! Straining is as simple as it sounds – you often will pour a drink after it was shaken or stirred through a strainer to make sure the cocktail doesn’t have any chunks of ingredients or seeds in it. Many shakers come with a built-in strainer, but if it doesn’t or you’re stirring a drink, you’ll want to buy a strainer. There are two primary types of strainers: hawthorne and julep strainers. Hawthorne strainers are supposed to be used when pouring from a tin and julep strainers when pouring from a glass. For your home bar, the difference doesn’t really matter, so one can serve both purposes. If you want to ensure that you get a perfectly clean pour, invest in a fine mesh strainer!

Blending

Throwing ingredients into a blender may seem easy enough, but there’s actually some tips you’ll want to follow to make sure those daquiris are as smooth and delicious as can be. Use fresh fruit if you can, and rinse it off before using. Remove the stems and skin and chop into cubes around 1 inch. Herbs should be rinsed as well and torn into smaller pieces with the stems removed. Once you’re ready to blend, add all of the ingredients in with ice. Crushed or cracked ice is your best bet, as it blends easier and will save your blender’s motor and blades in the long run. Hold on to the top of your blender and start at a low speed and use the pulse mode to chop down the ingredients and ice and then begin to work through the speed cycles from lowest to highest for a super smooth blended drink! Avoid using carbonated beverages in the blender, and make sure you clean the blender after each use and between different types of drinks.

With these basic bartending skills, you’re well on your way to concocting the best drinks in your neighborhood. Now that you have the skills, you’re just missing the home bar!

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