The Best Cocktail Is the One You Know by Heart
Committing just a few key ratios to memory can make at-home mixology a breeze.
By Rebekah Peppler
Imagine a cocktail you know how to pour without referencing a book or the internet. A cocktail that uses ingredients already stocked in your bar — backup bottles at the ready. A cocktail you shake with ease whether you’re alone at the end of a long day or when you’re looking to impress someone on a third date. This venerable, default drink has a name: the house cocktail.
Any drink you love can become your house cocktail, but the best house cocktail lies at the intersection of easy to make and easy to remember. Memorizing cocktail ratios makes this achievable, even for the easily distracted. Here are three equal-parts drinks to get you started.
The Negroni, best suited to bitter-leaning palates, gets an upgrade by splitting the vermouth so you use half sweet, half dry (rather than sweet vermouth alone). The resulting drink is nuanced and adaptable to the spirit of your choice. Fresh, potent and perfectly balanced, the mezcal-tequila margarita combines equal amounts of mezcal, tequila, orange liqueur and fresh lime juice (plus a bit of simple syrup) and is served in a glass rimmed with earthy sal de gusano, or worm salt. Finally, if you prefer your house cocktail to be frisky in both name and spirit, pick up the bottles — namely gin, sweet vermouth and fernet — to make a Hanky Panky.
House cocktails can and should be easy to pour à la minute. That said, if you’re looking to mix in bulk and in advance — whether it’s for a weekend crowd or for your future self — stick to stirred-style drinks that don’t require fresh ingredients. The aforementioned Any-Spirit Negroni or Hanky Panky both work well in scaled-up batches. Just don’t forget to add a bit of distilled water to properly dilute your drinks if you’re batching.
Other equal-parts drinks that make excellent house cocktails include the Vieux Carré, the Corpse Reviver No. 2 and the Last Word. But, again, any drink you love has house cocktail potential, and it can be year-round or change by the season. Whatever you decide on, stock the bar and commit it to memory. Then, at the next cocktail hour, raise a glass to — and with — your go-to drink.
Recipes: Any-Spirit Negroni | Mezcal-Tequila Margarita | Hanky Panky
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