If there were ever a time for a good cocktail, it’s right now, to help take the edge off of living through a global pandemic.
Bars and restaurants are still closed in most states, so meeting for drinks with friends, family or co-workers has switched to the digital sphere, with many of us signing off our work-from-home days with a virtual happy hour. For those of us without any bartending skills or expertise, we may be missing a well-made cocktail at the end of the day to help us unwind. But many classic drinks can be made by following easy cocktail recipes, and they only require a few ingredients that you can easily find at your local liquor store or order online for delivery.
And not only do you get to enjoy the results of your mixology, but the art of cocktail mixing is a new skill you can master during quarantine that will come in handy in the future for at-home dining and impressing your friends.
1. Gin and tonic
Refreshing and effervescent, this straightforward cocktail was originally created as an antimalarial treatment for British soldiers stationed in India in the 19th century. Malaria is treated with quinine, but straight quinine has a bitter taste, so the soldiers added ingredients like gin, water, sugar and lime to literally help the medicine go down easier.
Since then, the recipe has been refined to the classic as we know it today, and although a gin and tonic only requires a few ingredients, the proper preparation method is all in the amounts and mixing; the correct ratio for a proper version should be one part gin to two parts tonic water.
- Tonic water
Add ice to a highball glass. Pour two ounces of gin over ice. Top with four ounces of tonic water (stirring here is optional). Add lime for garnish.
The Negroni has emerged as one of the top cocktails to learn how to make and enjoy during this quarantine, largely thanks to Stanley Tucci‘s viral tutorial. A quintessential Italian cocktail, this bittersweet concoction will whisk you away from your home to the cobblestoned streets of Rome or sunny Italian beaches. And it’s a perfect drink for happy hour, as it’s considered an aperitif, meaning it’s best enjoyed before a meal.
So, once those Zoom calls are done with work and have switched into happy hour mode, try your hand at making this libation. Be forewarned: Few drinks inspire as much controversy, because everyone has their favored mix of gin and sweet vermouth; the key is experimentation and finding the right flavor combination for you.
- Sweet vermouth
- An orange (for garnish)
In a mixing glass with ice, add one ounce of gin, one ounce Campari and one ounce of sweet vermouth — the key to a proper Negroni is to have equal parts of all ingredients. Stir together until chilled. Strain into a chilled glass with ice. Top with a twist of orange peel for garnish.
3. Old Fashioned
There are few things more satisfying than a properly-made Old Fashioned, and unwinding at the end of the day swirling an Old Fashioned glass and hearing the ice clink together is sure to cure what ails you.
There are several variations on how to make this classic drink, with the line being drawn between whether to muddle or stir together the sugar and Angostura bitters. Since you may not have a muddler available in your home, for this recipe, we will err on the side of stirring for ease and convenience’s sake.
- One sugar cube or a teaspoon of sugar
- Bourbon or rye whiskey
- Angostura bitters
In an Old Fashioned cocktail glass, add the sugar, two dashes of bitters and then a splash (about a teaspoon or two) of water. Stir all together until the sugar is dissolved. (It is this step where, instead of stirring, you could muddle the sugar together with the bitters and water.) Add a few ice cubes and then two ounces of whiskey. Stir all together until chilled. Top with an orange peel for garnish.
4. Dry martini
There are few cocktails more renowned than the martini. Stately and elegant, it exudes sophistication and gravitas. There are many different theories as to how the martini was first created, with one of the most popular theories being that it’s based on a cocktail called the Martinez that was created in the 1860s in San Francisco.
But the drink as we know it today was honed during the 1920s, and then, of course, popularized by Ian Fleming as the trademark drink for British spy James Bond. However, most bartenders agree that stirred — not shaken — is the way to make a proper martini. The recipe here is for a standard dry martini; to make it dirty, swap out the lemon for a splash of olive juice and garnish with olives.
- Gin (London dry-style is best)
- Dry vermouth (like Martini & Rossi)
- A lemon
Add ice to a mixing glass. Add four ounces of gin, 3/4 ounce of vermouth and then stir quickly using a bar spoon (or long-stemmed spoon if you don’t have a bar spoon available). Stir until very cold. Using a strainer, strain the liquid into a chilled cocktail glass. Cut a strip of lemon peel, twist slightly over the drink to “express” the scent and taste, and then rub the lemon along the rim of the glass. Finally, place the peel on top of the drink as a garnish.
5. Moscow Mule
Summer is on its way, which calls for ice-cold refreshments like the Moscow Mule. Zesty and thirst-quenching, the drink is most commonly served in an eye-catching copper mug that also makes it a fun beverage to enjoy for happy hour.
There are variations on the different parts per vodka and ginger beer, but the general rule is that there should be double (or more) parts ginger beer to vodka.
- Ginger beer
- Lime juice
- Lime (for garnish)
In a tall glass or copper mug filled with ice, add two ounces vodka, six ounces cold ginger beer, and half an ounce of lime juice. Stir all together until chilled. Top with a lime wedge.
Whatever your drink of choice, you can liven up your virtual happy hour — and brush up on your bartender skills — by making one of these classic cocktails.
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