mixologist mixing ingredients
Mixology is about more than just putting two ingredients together and hoping they mix | © Chino Rocha / Unsplash

We’ve all been in a situation where we graciously volunteered to take over drink making at a house party or prees. Everyone’s hyped to go out to the club and you’re in the kitchen making (what you think) is the best drink ever. You bring those drinks into the room, give them out to their respective takers, and wait for the reaction. 

It’s never a good sign when silence takes over the room after the first sip. Or when no one’s really looking you in the eyes as they nod their heads. 

Just face it: You’ve made a drink that everyone hates.

So what went wrong? Maybe you’re just not the mixologist you think you are.

We interviewed Vasil, a self-proclaimed and professional mixologist who learned the art of drink making on the job. 

To help save you some embarrassment at your next social function, we interviewed Vasil, a professional mixologist who learned the art of drink making on the job. He’s here to tell you exactly where you’re going wrong.

1. You’re being a little too gracious with the alcohol

Maybe you think you’re doing everyone a favour by pouring three shots of vodka into their glass. But in reality, more alcohol doesn’t always make a good drink. 

It’ll probably just make your guests feel sick and burnt out early on in the night. 

“To have a good tasting cocktail, you need to make sure your measurements are in good proportion to one another. You don’t want one element to overpower the other and ruin your whole drink.”

Vasil recommends drink-makers get a taste of each of the liquids they plan on using before adding them to the shaker.

mixologist making a drink
We all love a drink with a kick to it, but an overpowered cocktail isn’t everyone’s cup of tea  | © Stewardesign  / Pixabay

2. You’re not caring enough about the mixers

There’s nothing worse than having your guests get their own delicious alcohol only for you to mix it with the Coca Cola that’s been open in your fridge for weeks. 

“I’d probably say that it’s more important to get good mixers than the most expensive brand of alcohol.” 

There’s no point in splurging on some Patrón if you’re mixing it with cheap and stale grapefruit juice. 

homemade juice
It’s all about the juice. Check out these homemade Frozen Mango Daiquiris! | © @caityroseskitchen / Instagram

“I’d probably say that it’s more important to get good mixers than the most expensive brand of alcohol.” 

There’s no point in splurging on some Patrón if you’re mixing it with cheap and stale grapefruit juice. 

At the end of the day, when you’re mixing drinks, they’re not just based on the taste of the liquor, it’s more important that the mixers taste good.

So spending more on getting fresh juices and good quality grenadine (very important!) is much better than splashing out on a bottle of Grey Goose.

Of course, there are drinks like Amaretto/Whiskey Sours, Martinis and Old Fashioned which are based on the taste of the spirit. If you’re aiming for those, it’s nice to get a mid grade liquor.

3. You’re lacking the right gear

Look, we don’t expect everyone to have a bar set up in the middle of their kitchen. But that being said, if you’re going to offer to be everyone’s mixologist for the evening, you could at least have some of the basics covered. 

Instead of using different plastic cups to mix your cocktails together, invest in a cocktail shaker. There’s loads of them on Amazon, and they come with everything you need to make a properly mixed creation. 

It’s not just about trying to feel professional – mixing your drinks correctly is like 70% of what makes a good cocktail. If you don’t have that, you can’t expect your drink to turn out decent.

Many of these shaker sets also come with a Jigger – which is essentially a shot glass to help you measure your liquids properly. 

jar mixer for cocktail amazon
We’re not saying everyone has to have a mug as cool as this one. But you can’t deny it’ll be one memorable drink | © Kike Salazar N / Unsplash

Another aspect of the gear goes into what you actually serve your drink in. 

“A good cocktail always has to strike a balance between taste and presentation, and so much goes into these two things. For me, it’s picking the correct glassware which will show off the drink in the best way possible.”

4. You’re forgetting the garnish

Garnishing is vital, and according to our mixologist, many people tend to overlook it.

“Garnishes add a sense of freshness and flavour, and also make it look like a professional high end cocktail if you’re really trying to impress your friends. A good looking cocktail simply tastes better.”

Vasil swears by lime and lemons as garnish essentials. But if you’re feeling creative, berries for fruit-based potions will always make your homemade cocktail feel a little more special. Essentially, the garnishes need to compliment the colour and taste of your drink.

simple garnishes mix
Simple garnishes can go a long way | © Ulvi Safari / Unsplash

“A good looking cocktail simply tastes better”

Who said you have to go to a fancy restaurant to snap a picture of an instagrammable cocktail? Add a few herbs, leaves and maybe even some flowers, and turn your concoction into a high end bevvy. 

5. You’re not choosing the right kind of ice (yes, that’s a thing)

If you’re not fussy, you’ve probably usually used whatever ice cubes you had in your freezer. But if you’re actually trying to give your guests an enjoyable drinking experience and save them from watered-down drinks, you’ll have to put in a little more effort than that.

It’s hard to have a one-for-all rule when it comes to what kind of ice to add to your cocktail. Vasil helps break down the ice choosing formula for us non-mixologists: 

“A general rule is that you shake your drinks with cubed ice and then serve with crushed ice. This is specifically for cocktails that are strong on alcohol and citrus, or are fruit-based such as mojitos and daiquiris.”

correct quantity of ice
No one likes a drink that’s been watered down by the wrong type of ice | © cottonbro / Pexels

The main reason for this is that shaking with crushed ice waters down the drink really quickly and can even change the flavour of the alcohol. But shaking with cubed ice will keep your drink cool for a longer time – giving it an extra feeling of freshness.

If you’re trying your hand at blended drinks such as frozen daiquiris, margaritas and pina coladas, then crushed ice is the way to go. The crushed ice becomes part of the drink’s formula, and makes it a perfect summer cocktail. 

6. You’re not getting / accepting criticism

Sure, it’s not a nice feeling to get told that you’re bad at making drinks, or that everyone hates the cocktail you made especially for them. 

That being said, if you really want to give your mates a nice treat and have something to actually boast about, you should be aware of what you’re doing wrong.

bar in the house mixologist
Mixology is all about the learning curve | © Alessio Zaccaria / Unsplash

Vasil admits, “I personally call my friends out on bad drinks all the time, and every other mixologist I’ve met does the same thing.” It’s never out of bad intentions, though. 

“Everyone loves learning new things and improving their cocktail making skills, especially so they can show off next time. It’s always appreciated and welcome from their side.”

If none of your friends have experience in cocktail making, consider Vasil your friendly mixologist pal pointing you in the right direction. 

“These tips will help you become aware of the mistakes you’ve been making, and eventually get you on your way to the ‘Mixology Hall of Fame’ – at least on a smaller scale.”

One of the most important things to remember is that practice really does make perfect. So, invite some friends over and try your hand at cocktail-making with all the new tricks you’ve learned. If worst comes to worst and your drinks taste awful, your friends will probably be too drunk to care and you can always try again next time!