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For the novice mixologist

Modern mixology involves muddling and infusing various fruits, vegetables and spices into liquor to create all kinds of tantalizing cocktails.  Mastering some basic mixology skills is not hard, but to get started you need to know a few basics:

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Cocktail terminology and tools

How much is a jigger?

1.5 ounces, which is the basic pour for most drinks.

What is a double jigger?

A measuring device that has two small metal cups welded bottom-to-bottom.  One cup holds 1.5 ounces and the other cup holds 3/4 of an ounce.

What is agave nectar?

A natural sweetener made from the agave plant, the same plant that is used to make tequila.  Agave is thinner than honey and about 1.5 times sweeter than sugar.  It is perfect for sweetening cocktails because it is already in liquid form.  From a health standpoint is also has a lower glycemic index than sugar.

What is a muddler?

A bartender's tool that is used to mash fruit and herbs in the bottom of a cocktail shaker or a glass.  There are two basic kinds of muddlers: an old-fashioned wooden muddler and a metal muddler with a textured nylon head that helps pulverize the fruit or herb.  If you can find one, buy the metal and nylon muddler, they are much easier to use and they do a great job.  Oxo makes a nice one. 

wooden vs metal & nylon mudler


What are the components of a cocktail shaker?

A cocktail shaker has three parts: 1) the container itself 2) a perforated lid used to strain the cocktail 3) a cap that goes over the perforated lid and seals the shaker allowing you to shake the shaker without sending your cocktail all over the ceiling.

Three components of a cocktail shaker


Why use a cocktail shaker?

There are two reasons to use a cocktail shaker: 1)  To infuse the liquor with the fruits and herbs you are muddling and then strain the infused-liquor from the shaker leaving the mashed fruit and herbs behind. 2)  To chill the cocktail without diluting the liquor.  Typically you finish the cocktail by shaking all the ingredients with ice and then straining into a cocktail glass.

Do I need a strainer?

There will be some drinks where the perforated lid that is built into the cocktail shaker will be inadequate for straining.  In these cases you will use a Hawthorne strainer, which allows you to strain the liquor from the ice rapidly and thouroughly.

Hawthorne strainer


Basic mixology cocktail recipe

  • Chopped fruit, vegetables and herbs of your choice (lemons, limes, berries, melons, cucumbers, basil, mint, etc...)
  • 1 jigger of favorite liquor (vodka, gin, whisky etc...)
  • 1/2 jigger of flavored liquor (optional -- St. Germaine, Cointreau, etc...)
  • Splash of Agave (if you want to sweeten)
  • Soda water (if you want to dilute or add some sparkle)

Muddle your fruits, vegetables and herbs in a cocktail shaker with a muddler.  Add ice and liquor.  Shake until very cold and condensation is on outside of the shaker.  Strain into a martini glass or into an ice-filled highball glass.  Let your imagination guide you!  Or try out your new skills by making a Jalapeño margarita or a Ginger smash.


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