It is so satisfying to cook a dish you have learned by heart. A little know-how saves time, reduces stress, and frees you to be more creative. Whether you love to cook or just need to solve the dinner problem, this repertoire of how-tos gives you confidence to add personal style and hopefully makes life more tasty.
There are so many ways to prepare the same dish. These are recipes for dishes and drinks you’ll make again and again, pared down to the essential ingredients and steps. They include tips to take out guesswork, choose the best tools, answer the most common questions we hear, and amp up the qualities that make us love each food in this series: to make crispier, faster chicken; creamier, tastier beans; fearless squash, more pro-looking layer cake; cocktails you can memorize; and eggs, precisely how you like them, every time.
Let’s get cooking.
Three easy recipes for how to make classic cocktails - an Old-Fashioned, Tom Collins and Daiquiri.
At some point, you will find yourself in a situation that requires a cocktail. This scenario crosses demographics. These recipes eliminate the conversation-killing act of looking it up on your phone.
Memorizing at least three cocktail recipes, these or another set of favorites, and having the ingredients on hand to make one, instantly boosts your status as an adult.
Cocktails are not difficult nor mysterious. Their formulas are so pared down that they’re a good canvas for experimenting with different brands and idea twists.
Special tools are not technically crucial but they’re stylistically important. The sound of ice clinking in a shaker or clunking in a glass, the glint on a stirrer, the way you turn a shimmery jiggerful of liquid into the cup, are all part of the cocktail experience. If you are making a cocktail, you might as well have the right tools — ones you like that feel good and look swanky.
Here are several tips for making good ones:
Small ice dilutes your drink and gets it cold more quickly. Big ice sticks around for longer without watering down your drink. I like smaller ice in a shaker and bigger ice in a glass. You can use a large cube mold or make a big cube in a container and break it yourself.
All of the Cherries are Invited
Bright red maraschino cherries are adorable like cocktail candy. Fresh cherries provide some sustenance but no sweetness. Dark, dense, fancy maraschino cherries may be expensive, but worthwhile, since a single jar upgrades a few dozen drinks.
To get max juice from citrus, roll it on the counter to get things flowing. Then use a juicer to get it all out.
You can hack a muddler from a rolling pin or the end of a bottle, but a real muddler used to squish aromatic ingredients before adding liquor to them does a better job.
Usually, drinks that contain juices or eggs are shaken to emulsify them (really mixing things together). Shaking with ice nicely chills drinks, makes them thicker and more cloudy.
The shape and size of a cocktail glass accentuates the drink itself. You can absolutely drink a Tom Collins from a dad mug, or an old-fashioned from a juice glass, but they will definitely taste different.
This is refreshing in the same way as lemonade but with a bite. It’s usually made with gin but is also nice with vodka:
2 ounces dry gin
1 ounce simple syrup
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
- Squeeze the lemon juice into a cocktail shaker. Add gin, simple syrup and a cup of crushed ice and shake vigorously. Strain into an ice-filled Tom Collins glass, top with club soda and garnish with a slice of lemon and a cocktail cherry. Enjoy.
A very straightforward bourbon cocktail with ingredients to make the bourbon colder, rounder, sweeter and more fragrant. Some people like a cherry in this, too:
1 sugar cube
3 dashes bitters
2 ounces whiskey or bourbon
1 large cube of ice
1 strip orange peel
- Muddle the sugar cube with the bitters and a splash of water at the bottom of a single old-fashioned glass until the sugar is dissolved. Add whiskey and stir to combine well. Add large cube of ice and stir. Squeeze orange peel over the glass to extract fragrant oils and add it to the glass. Stir and serve.
The pared down, non-slushy version of this balanced rum drink:
Juice from ½ small lime (about 1 tablespoon), plus 1 slice for garnish
1 teaspoon raw sugar
2 ounces white rum
- Squeeze lime juice into a cocktail shaker. Add sugar and rum. Add a cup of cracked ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lime slice and enjoy.