Whether it's a long-awaited arrival home on Friday after work or a warm-up to an awesome girls' night out, everyone needs a short list of go-to cocktails that make a delicious impact without a ton of work. Save the multi-step cocktails for your next bar stop. When you're behind your home bar, you only need a few simple bar tools and a handy selection of classics--with or without a twist.
The Classic Daiquiri
There are almost as many takes on the daiquiri as there are beach bars, but the classic one is a symphony of simplicity. Daiquiris are a natural cocktail for much of the world--namely, the Caribbean and South America, where rum and limes are aplenty--but you can make an extremely impressive version in a snap, no matter where you live or what the weather is like outside. Pour 1/2 teaspoon of sugar into a shaker. Add 1/2 an ounce of lime juice on top of the sugar and mix it up so it becomes a little bit of a paste, then add two ounces of white rum. Shake it up and pour it into a daiquiri glass. If you don't have one, a martini glass will do! The tart, yet sweet potency of this cocktail will bring a smile to everyone's face. It's the easiest of the daiquiris to make and one of the more sophisticated ones, too.
The Kir Normand is a take on a Kir Royale, which is the more popular version of the original Kir, a wine cocktail that's been big in France for decades. The secret ingredient to all three is crème de cassis, a black currant liqueur. Pour about six tablespoons of crème de cassis into a wine glass and top it with a cold hard cider, preferably a French one if you're strict about keeping it real. Use a fruit to peel the skin off a green apple and garnish. If you know you'll want to make these ahead of time, store the peeled apple skins in the fridge in a bowl of ice water for a bright, tart crunch that infuses and complements the drink. The skins will stay overnight without any worry. A squeeze of lemon juice in the water keeps their bold green colour intact.
Moscow mules are beloved for their speakeasy feel and fun, effervescent bite. That tang comes from the inclusion of ginger beer--different from ginger ale and non-alcoholic, although you'll probably have the easiest time finding it at a liquor store. Mix a jigger of vodka with lime juice and ginger beer before pouring into a classic Moscow Mule Copper Mug. The mug makes this drink. The warm, textured cup is the trademark of the Moscow Mule anywhere you go--now you know how to make one of your own at home.
The inclusion of triple sec gives this fun, bright orange drink the extra kick that will impress everyone. Mix two parts orange juice, one part vodka and one part triple sec into a pitcher and stir until the ingredients combine. Triple sec might remind you of ultra-sweet drinks, but in this playful--yet grown-up--cocktail, it's citrusy, tasty and refreshing. Use a strainer with your pitcher to pour rounds for friends. This one makes a great brunch drink, too.
Although martinis are about as easy as it gets, they can look incredibly sophisticated. Mix two parts vodka, 1/2 a part of vermouth, and a dash of bitters into a martini glass. The secret to a fabulous flawless martini is that it's perfectly clear, so if you garnish with olives, serve the olive on a toothpick laid across the glass--don't dip the olive into the drink. The other bartender's trick is to stir the martini gently with a small bar spoon. If you mix with a straw, you risk air bubbles. The spoon keeps the drink impeccable and clear.