Do you have those friends who are impossible to buy for? They seem to have everything: every electronic gadget, every kitchen tool, every cookbook? Do they also have a drinking problem? Perfect. We’ve got the solution. A personalized, custom-created cocktail just for them! (Note: if they do have a real drinking problem and not just a cute, fun drinking “habit,” then maybe give them a book about addiction and a hug.) But if not, continue on to our five steps to making a custom cocktail for your favorite friend:
1. Base spirit: Decide what kind of alcohol they like
If your friend is a die-hard bourbon drinker, perhaps don’t force your beloved gin on them for this gift. Likewise if your pal loves vodka and you want them to appreciate Scotch. The key is to choose a base spirit that will get them excited: either their favorite brand of hooch, or something similar but with a twist. Perhaps a new flavored vodka, a nice floral gin, an aged tequila, or pick up an interesting flavored liqueur that’s reminiscent of their favorite dessert. Just keep in mind if they have a major sweet tooth or tend towards bitterness. Then steer the cocktail in their preferred direction.
2. Tattoo this magic cocktail formula on your body. Thank us later.
- 2 ounces base spirit
- ¾ ounce of citrus juice
- ½ ounce of simple syrup
- 1 oz liqueur (There are approximately one million varieties and flavors of liqueurs. Alternatively, you could substitute a bitter aperitif or fortified wine).
This magic formula works for almost any combo of your favorite spirits and liqueurs. And don’t overlook herbs: sometimes a drink is perfectly accessorized with a simple mint leaf, a sprig of rosemary, or a peel of citrus. Rule of thumb/nose: If the ingredients smell good together, they’ll usually taste good together.
Now, if it seems daunting to create something totally new, don’t freak out. You could always look up the recipe of their favorite classic cocktail and hijack it by adjusting the ingredients — like use a new flavor of bitters, or a flavored simple syrup, or change up the base spirit entirely and see how it tastes. That way, you’ve given their favorite standby a radical makeover and a new name and thus can pass it off as your own. We won’t tell.
3. Citrus is your friend
For viscosity, flavor and sweetness, fruit juices are great in cocktails. Duh. But when creating your own signature drink, many people instinctively reach for an orange or cranberry juice. Beware, as reliance on those two can lead to a cloyingly sweet, less balanced drink. Rather, opt for about ¾ oz of fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice. Your new drink will have a bright pop, a wonderful sour note and a taste more like a classic cocktail instead of, say, a juice box for alcoholics.
4. Test it
So, you’ve picked a base spirit and a liqueur that pairs well. You’ve squeezed some citrus juice for brightness, and perhaps picked up a bottle of interesting bitters. It’s time for some testings/tastings. Make sure you have plenty of ice on standby, fill your shaker with the ingredients and shake that sucker up.
Is it too sweet? Go lighter on the liqueur or simple syrup or add more citrus or bitters for balance. Too sour? Add ½ simple syrup or go lighter on the citrus. Too strong? Balance the booze with a little more juice and liqueur. Or add a little seltzer water to mellow it. Just make sure to take notes on the amounts you’re using for each try and what was good or bad about it. That way, if you’ve tested a few iterations and you can’t remember which one was best — and you can’t find your pants or remember your cat’s name — at least you have your notes to rely on.
5. Name it
This is kind of the best part. Oh god we love it. It’s always great to start with your friend’s name — first, last or even a nickname — and make up a ridiculous drink moniker that does them justice. For a long time, Alie’s signature drink — a vanilla vodka concoction — was dubbed the Wardscicle, which didn’t make sense because it wasn’t frozen. But one of her friends made it up after a night of cocktails and it seemed to make sense. If we had to create a drink for Georgia, it might be Irish whiskey-based and called the “Hard & Stark.” Inside jokes and/or shameless puns are essential to a good cocktail name. (See: Georgia’s Peachy.)
Congratulations: you are now a cocktail inventor and an awesome pal. Simply present the necessary ingredients — alongside a recipe card — in a cute little basket or a gift bag, and you’ll have a happy friend who owes you a kickass present back. And a round of their new signature drink.
Bonus: Here are some tips for working a signature drink into a cocktail party:
Alie & Georgia
Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark are best friends who met outside a tragically hip dive bar in Los Angeles. Together, they created the cocktail abomination called the McNuggetini. You can find them on Cooking Channel stirring up Drinks with Alie and Georgia, getting schooled on Classy Ladies and devouring desserts for Unique Sweets. Find out more about them here.