a friendly guide to spirits, cocktails and beverages for beginners

Posts tagged “home bartending

Aperitifs – The weird bottles at the bar that no one drinks

An aperitif is the drink that is served before dinner to stimulate the appetite. This french word is derived from the latin word aperire meaning ‘to open’.

The purpose of an aperitif is to entice your senses and to excite the palate, to get the juices flowing and… well… to get the buzz going.

Aperitifs are a funny thing though – in the United States – few people know what they are and how to use them. They’re in almost every bar (if you look in the top shelf, covered in dust and to the left of the Cognacs) but most bartenders don’t know what the hell they’re for! They know how to put it in a shot, pour it on the rocks or shake it up and put it in a martini… creative huh?

The irony is that these liqueurs can make some of the most delicious cocktails you could ever try (and they’re super easy) but neither the drinker nor the drink-maker know about them.

If a bottle of liqueur isn’t used in a bar, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound when it cries? Yes it does.

I picked two aperitifs to focus on this time – Campari and Aperol. These Italian legends are two of the most typical liqueurs that you might find at a bar unless you’re in the deep south or in a town where the bar doubles as a gun store (in which case, well… finding Campari is the least of your problems). They’re both red-ish colored Italian bitters made by the same company. They’re both infusions of fruit and herbs in a bitter liqueur – where Campari has a heavier, rich wood-rhubarb-floral flavor profile, Aperol is lighter with mandarin and orange peel, higher sugar content and almost half the alcohol. Some people think they’re like Coca-Cola and Pepsi but the difference is actually more like Sprite and Lemonade; there’s similarities in the flavor profiles but they’re done completely differently.

In Europe, these are most commonly had on the rocks or in a cordial glass. They are also drank in simple spritzer cocktails with soda or with a fresh juice.

I’m gonna suggest sticking to what they’ve already discovered in Europe – the simpler the better, Here are three quick cocktails to try (and that will be easy to describe to the average bartender) – Aperol Orange, Aperol Spritz and a Negroni. If you’re making them at home, remember your proportions (or buy a jigger already): a tablespoon equals a half ounce so two tablespoons equal an ounce.

Aperol Orange

1.5 oz Aperol liqueur

4-5 oz fresh squeezed orange juice

Directions: Pour ingredients into a rocks glass, stir… Drink! Garnish with a slice of orange.

Aperol Spritzer

2 oz Aperol

3 oz prosecco

Splash of soda

Directions: Add Aperol and prosecco to a glass full of ice. Stir. Top with a splash of soda. Add a slice of orange as a garnish.


1 oz Plymouth gin

1 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth or Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth

1 oz Campari

Directions: Mix three ingredients into a large glass, stir, strain into a martini glass (or serve on the rocks). Garnish with an orange zest. (Home tip: Use a peeler to peel a nice piece of orange instead of zesting)

Important tip: Measure the ingredients! Any cocktail (but especially the Negroni) tastes amazing when they’re measured and the proportions are right. When there’s too much of one or not enough of the other, it’s all of the sudden too bitter or too sweet. It’s kind of like baking – too much flour or too much sugar and it’s not the way it is supposed to be. If you don’t have a jigger, measure out the exact proportions with spoons, shot glasses, measuring cups, candle holders, thimbles, ANYTHING; just make sure the proportions are 1:1:1.

So that was easy enough for you to make at home and easy enough to ask your bartender to make right? Now go reward yourself with a nice, refreshing bitter cocktail before dinner today!

Thanks for reading!

I love booze. I hope you love booze too.


A cocktail a day keeps the doctor away

If you’ve been in prison or under a rock for the past ten years, you might be asking yourself, “What’s that drink in the picture?” Most of you look at that delicious, refreshing drink and are remembering that special night at the Mexican restaurant where you had one too many of these and you woke up feeling hungover and smelling like ‘Paco’s Tacos’, some maybe even with Paco on the other side of the bed. It’s OK, I don’t judge you for it.

Margaritas are like eggs… everyone can make them but few can make them well.

So, your run-of-the-mill Margarita at your run-of-the-mill neighborhood bar is probably made with Shit-brand tequila, Crap Inc. Triple Sec and Rose’s Lime Juice. There’s a reason it costs $5.  If you’re making it at home, make it the way ‘Margarita Sames’ made it in 1948. Like with food, use the best and freshest ingredients (not necessarily the most expensive) like fresh limes, quality orange liqueur and good tequila. Recommendations: El Jimador tequila or most 100% agave tequila over $20 per bottle, Cointreau (which comes in small 375ml bottles) and fresh Mexican limes.

Tools needed for 2 drinks: Ideally a bar shaker, a pint glass, a jigger (1 oz/.5 oz) and a hand juicer.

Acceptable home substitutions: Big glass (pint sized), something to stir with (wooden spoon), measuring spoons (table/teaspoon).

Original Recipe:

3 parts (1.5 oz) Tequila (Silver or Reposado if you like the aged flavor)

1.5 parts (.75 oz) Orange flavored Liqueur (Cointreau)

1 part (.5 oz) Fresh Lime Juice

Bar Instructions: Add ingredients in a shaker, shake, strain over fresh ice. Salt rim if desired.

Home Instructions: Add ingredients in a glass; remember that one table spoon is 0.5 oz. and one and a half teaspoons is .25 oz. If you don’t have a hand juicer, you can just squeeze the limes with your hands. Soften the lime by rolling it in between your hands for a minute until it softens up. When you’ve added your ingredients into the glass, stir with ice. If you want salt, run a lime wedge over the lip of the glass, pour some salt onto a small plate and put the glass rim into the salt. The salt will stick to the limed parts of the glass. Then pour the cocktail you made into the salted glass. Add straw. Drink quick!

That’s the basics, whether or not you’re going to make them at home, at least you’ll know what to ask for at a bar. It’s usually only a couple extra dollars for the fresh stuff and it’s always worth it. If they can’t make it then don’t worry… luckily… beer is also delicious.

Thanks for reading.

I love booze. I hope you love booze too.