Shaken and stirred: the rise in home cocktail making
Try your hand at our Christmas Sour or find a premixed kit
“Thanks to 2020, we are drinking, shaking and stirring cocktails at home like never before.” Photograph: Getty Images
I don’t think I’m alone in considering casual cocktails at home or mixing up a drink before dinner to have been a mythical Americanism for most of my life. To have a drinks cart for pre-dinner martinis like the posh parental house in Gilmore Girls certainly wasn’t what I’d come across growing up. We had a drinks press, a dark place opened for the Christmas cake and visitors or, depending on your age, raided for night outs. But these days, thanks in part to 2020 of course, we are drinking, shaking and stirring cocktails at home like never before with many of us swapping the drinks press for dainty drinks carts, if Instagram and Pinterest are anything to go by.
Keelin Counihan, a solicitor who has been working from home since March, tells me she has loved embracing cocktails this year having previously only ever mixed a gin and tonic at home. “It’s a nice way to mark the end of the working week in the house when there’s nowhere to go.” She started off buying cocktails from local businesses but then decided to start making her own creations from scratch. “I’ve purchased a slick cocktail shaker but I’m not sure it’s necessary. A jam jar also works pretty well. Other than that you just need loads of ice and some decent glassware for the inevitable photos.”
The jam jar Counihan started out with came from one of the earliest at-home cocktail kits I’d seen, the Quarantini Box, brainchild of Catch Events, a company that usually specialised in catering some of the most glitzy parties around Dublin. Back in March they launched their Quarantini Box as a simple idea to cheer up their friends, says co-owner Federico Riezzo. “It’s gloom enough as it is – we thought, ‘Let’s do something to cheer them up’ and it snowballed from there.” Now they offer a weekly cocktail box delivered to your door containing the ingredients for four cocktails and a shaker jar and glasses should you need them. So there’s no need for any specialist equipment? “Of course, if you have the equipment certain things are easier but what’s more important is the quality of the produce and how you make the drink.”
And the quality of the ingredients seems to be an important factor for many of the cocktail-at-home businesses popping up. Chef and publican Seáneen Sullivan, who runs L Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7, started boxing up cocktail bundles earlier this year in a bid to keep her business and brand alive. She was determined to stay true to their sourcing and sustainable practices, making sure to change up their offerings often to showcase as many local suppliers as they can. “It’s Irish gin one week, whiskey the next, even some mead. We are using Irish produce to make tinctures, syrups and cordials and using Irish liqueurs where possible.”
And as more and more bars and drinks brands pivot their business into cocktail kits, increased competition naturally leads to increased creativity. One of the most distinctive products I’ve seen is Craft Cocktails, created by Dave Mulligan and his team at Bar 1661. They’ve designed a collection of eye-catching brightly-coloured, wax-sealed bottles. In them, cocktails of course, mixed at their Dublin 7 bar using Irish spirits, fresh juices, hand-made cordials and plenty of cocktail know-how. “We never intended to do this but we were quick out of the traps and the reaction has been amazing,” says Mulligan. The idea is you just chill, pour and shake to enjoy a premium mixed cocktail at home.
This is the great thing about these new cocktail iterations, if you don’t want all the pomp and ceremony of mixology, you can buy top-end drinks almost ready to go. And if they do spark your inner Brian Flanagan, there are resources galore to avail of. As Counihan discovered when she graduated from ordering her drinks premixed to experimenting herself, “I’ve been trying out a load of different recipes for passion fruit martinis from various different online recipes. I’m still perfecting it but home-made vanilla vodka, as in adding the vanilla pod to a bottle of Stoli, seems to be key.”
And Riezzo is confident, that much like the renaissance of home cooking, home cocktail making is here to stay. “I find people say, ‘I didn’t know it was that easy!’ Sometimes people have this big fear that they are going to need fancy equipment or crazy produce but the cocktails and videos we do are specifically aimed to be simple to make and simple to drink.”
Easy, accessible, amazing drinks at home – what’s not to like about that?
Three to make at home
Federico Riezzo’s Christmas Sour
This is a great drink to make at Christmas because everyone usually has jam or marmalade in the house. Christmas marmalade is great or apricot jam would work or even some cranberry sauce. You can make it even more Christmassy by adding a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, ginger or cloves to garnish at the end.
What you’ll need
50ml Irish whiskey
3tsp of Christmas marmalade or jam
30 - 50ml of lemon juice
1 white of egg (optional)
1. Squeeze your lemon juice and have your egg separated and the white ready to use.
2. Add a small amount of hot water to your marmalade or jam to create a syrup.
3. In your cocktail maker add 50ml of whiskey then add 50ml of your marmalade syrup.
4. Add in 30ml of lemon juice first and taste it. If you’d like it more sour add more lemon juice, using up to the 50ml if you like. Add your egg white.
5.We like to double shake sours to get them really frothy so put the lid on your shaker and without ice first, give it a really hard shake. Then add the ice and shake it really hard again and you should get a lovely frothy luxurious sour.
6. Strain over fresh ice into a glass and enjoy.
All Irish Kir Royale
What you’ll need
Wicklow Way Móinéir blackberry wine
Cockagee cider or perry
Per drink add 20ml blackberry wine to a champagne flute and top with chilled cider. Garnish with redcurrants
Seáneen Sullivan's Make-Ahead Gin Sour
What you’ll need
500ml boiling water
One bottle Irish gin
Angostura bitters (optional)
Pomegranate seeds and strips of lemon peel to garnish
1. First, make the simple syrup by whisking the sugar into the hot water until completely dissolved. Leave aside to cool and then refrigerate. This can be done up to a week ahead.
2. Squeeze juice from grapefruit and lemons. You should have 350ml juice in total. Juicing is easier when the fruit is at room temperature.
3. In a 2l jug combine a bottle of gin, the juice and 350ml of the syrup. Add 10 dashes of the bitters if using. Mix to combine.
4. Refrigerate to chill, covered.
5. These are strong drinks so shake 100ml portions over plenty of ice.
6. Using a potato peeler, peel strips of lemon peel to garnish, making sure to avoid or remove the white bitter pith.
7. Finally, sprinkle over some pomegranate seeds.
Top tip: simple syrup is great to have on hand for adding a drop of sweetness to cocktails, mulled wine and hot whiskeys. You can even spice it up with the addition of some star anise, cinnamon or cloves.
Home cocktail kits
If you fancy letting someone else do all the hard work, you can order from these businesses that deliver around Ireland:
Catch Events Cocktail Boxes
Fun and tasty cocktail kits for home.
Stylish, artisan premixed cocktails.
L Mulligan Grocer Cocktails
Bottled cocktails and cocktail kits with a focus on Irish ingredients.
The Twelve Brown Bag Cocktailsshop.thetwelvehotel.ie
Choose from their premixed Brown Bag Cocktails or the cocktail club subscription box.
The Virgin Mary Bar
Offering non-alcoholic ingredients and kits to mix up virgin cocktails at home.