Home bar essentials : the non-alcoholic cocktail mixers you need
It’s a well known fact that cocktails require some non alcoholic ingredients in order to become their best self.
In this article we will explore all the cocktail mixers that are 0% abv and that help round up the flavor of your drinks.
This is the last article of the series ‘home bar essential’ and it should give you a good overview of the last important ingredients that you’ll need to gather in order to have a well stocked bar.
If you’re unsure of which cocktail to make, you can download my ‘Essential classic cocktails handbook’.
COCKTAIL MIXER n.1 – ICE
Ice is the most essential of essentials when making a cocktail.
Always make sure that you have plenty of it in your freezer. And remember that not all ice is created equal: the most transparent ice is always the best because it doesn’t pack any oxygen particles or impurities.
Different cocktails will ask for different kinds of ice: the basic ones being cubes, blocks and crushed ice.
I would suggest you to always serve cocktails on the rocks using a block ice cube (shaped in whatever fashion you want) because the larger surface will chill the drink without diluting too much and to shake your cocktails with cubed ice.
For mojitos, juleps and swizzles you can have some fun creating your own crushed ice by smashing cubes into a linen bag with a mallet (the traditional old way) or you can get yourself an ice crusher (advances of technology!).
COCKTAIL MIXER n.2 – LEMON AND LIME JUICE
Did you know that there are over 100 different types of citrus fruits and countless hybrids around the world? Isn’t that insane?
Anyway, for classic cocktails purposes you’ll simply need some freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice.
The difference in taste between the two might be subtle but the lemon slightly sweeter taste and the lime’s slightly more bitter flavor are very detectable and do shine through in cocktails.
COCKTAIL MIXER n.3 – SWEETENER / SYRUP
Excessive sugar isn’t good for your health but the right amount is essential for a balanced cocktail!
The main syrup that you need is a classic sugar syrup. This is by far the easiest to make as you simply have to dissolve sugar in boiling water according to your preferred proportion.
For most of my recipes I use a 2:1 syrup, meaning that I will dissolve 2 parts of sugar in one part of boiling water. Something fun to do when it comes to sugar syrups is experimenting with different types of sugars : classic caster sugar has the most neutral sweet flavor, muscovado has a light liquorice taste, demerara has a light molasses flavor and so on…
Another staple in classic drinks is grenadine. This is a pomegranate syrup. You might be familiar with the bright red stuff sold in supermarkets around the world, but let me tell you – that is not the real deal!
Real grenadine should be made from real pomegranates and it should have a pleasant fruity acidity to it. It should add an extra layer of flavor to the drink rather than contribute to it with only a bright red color and some plain sweetness.
Orgeat is another popular sweetener. It is an almond syrup subtly flavored with some rose or orange water which is mostly used in tiki cocktails. It’s not difficult to make at home -only a little time consuming- and you can experiment with all different kinds of nuts.
You will also come across honey, maple syrup and agave syrup in many recipes.
COCKTAIL MIXER n.4 – FRUIT JUICES
Apart from lemon and lime juice, you will need to add some other fruit juices to spice up your cocktails on occasions…
The ones that keep popping up time and time again in most recipes are definitely:
- pineapple juice -a must for tiki drinks, french martinis, mary pickfords, singapore slings and more
- cranberry juice – for all your 90s inspired concoctions like the Cosmopolitan, woo woo, sex on the beach and more
- orange juice – sometimes tricky to balance in a cocktail, you’ll need it to make the blood and sand, the
Harvey Wallbanger, the Bronx, the Tequila sunrise and many more
- grapefruit juice – for your Hemingway daiquiris, Palomas and Greyhounds
COCKTAIL MIXER n.5 – SODAS
- Classic soda water – doesn’t have a flavor in itself but the carbonation bubbles help bring some drinks to life
- Tonic water – we all know that its bittersweet taste pairs exceptionally well with gin, vodka and tequila, but have you ever tried to add a few ml of it to a cocktail?
- Ginger beer – Its spicy and zesty taste is essential in cocktails like the Dark ‘n’ Stormy, the Moscow mule, El Diablo, and more.
- Cola – I personally don’t like it as I find it overwhelmingly sweet, but you or some of your guests might enjoy it in a cuba libre…
COCKTAIL MIXER N.6 – COFFEE
When brewed, its molecular structure makes it possible for an elegant and fluffy foam to form on top of the drink making it look irresistible. And while the original recipe for an espresso martini calls for vodka as its base, you can easily tweak it with rum, bourbon, cognac or tequila with excellent results.
Coffee beans are interesting creatures to play with in infusions – you rarely need to leave them for too long as its flavor is very powerful!
COCKTAIL MIXER N.7 – DAIRY OR DAIRY SUBSTITUTES
And guess what? it’s the same for cocktails. Most cocktails with creams or dairy substitutes are better suited for after dinner consumption and are absolutely delicious.
Cocktails like the Alexander, the Grasshopper, the Suissesse or the pina colada will need either milk or cream(of any kind) or a combination of both.
My name is Lulu and I am a cocktail creatress, menu developer, consultant and blogger based in the wonderful Scottish highlands.
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In conclusion, there are a few essential non alcoholic cocktail mixers that you will need in your home bar journey and to recap, those are:
- Lemon and lime juice
- Sweeteners/ syrups
- Fruit juices
- Dairy or dairy substitutes