5 drinks every home bartender should know how to make

Our editor’s essential cocktails

An Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail every home bartender should know how to make. Getty images photo

Now that we’re all spending so much more time at home, this is a good opportunity to brush up on our home-bartending skills. That means learning at least a few recipes to serve to the people in your bubble and, eventually, all the many friends you’re making on Zoom.

The most important drink you should know how to make is the one you like best. That’s also the best advice for stocking your liquor cabinet, though for your sake I hope it’s something simple, like a highball, rather than, say, a Ramos Gin Fizz, which requires egg whites, orange blossom water and a seltzer bottle, among other things.

After that, it’s best to start with classics. They are, after all, classics for a reason—they taste good, and they work—but they are also a good place to start experimenting if you want to get creative. Here are five drinks every home bartender should have in their repertoire.

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Champagne cocktail

A classic Champagne Cocktail. Getty Images photo

One of the world’s oldest cocktails, this dates back to the mid-1800s. This recipe is part of The Alchemist‘s series of cocktails you should know. 

• 1 sugar cube, preferably cane and brown
• 1 to 2 dashes Angostura bitters
• Splash of Cognac
• 3 oz Champagne or sparkling wine
• Garnish: lemon zest (optional)

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Bicicletta

A classic Bicicletta. Getty Images photo

The way the story goes, this mid-20th-century drink was named for the elderly Italian men who swerved all over the road while cycling home after drinking in the local café. This recipe is part of The Alchemist‘s series of cocktails you should know. 

• 2 oz Campari
• 1.5 to 2 oz dry white wine, preferably Italian
• Soda water
• Garnish: citrus slice (optional)

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Gibson

A classic Gibson. Getty Images photo

This savoury take on the Martini dates back to late 1800s San Francisco. This recipe is part of The Alchemist‘s series of cocktails you should know. 

• 2.5 oz gin or vodka
• 0.5 oz dry vermouth
• Garnish: 2 cocktail onions, skewered

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Margarita

A classic Margarita. Getty images photo

“Margarita” is Spanish for “daisy,” and this is likely a tequila-based 1930s variation on the even older drink of that name. This recipe is part of The Alchemist‘s series of cocktails you should know. 

• 2 oz blanco tequila
• 1 oz orange liqueur such as Cointreau
• 1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
• Garnish: Salted rim, optional lime wedge

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The whisky whisperer

How Reece Sims shares her love of the water of life

As the Whiskey Muse, Reece Sims shares he love of wine, beer, cocktails and, above all, whisky. Photo courtesy of Reece Sims

When Reece Sims graduated from the University of Victoria, in 2009, with a Bachelor of Commerce, she thought she might go on to become a lawyer. Instead, after tenures in marketing for the fashion and architecture industries, a part-time bartending job at a Vancouver pub led to a multifaceted career in which she shares her love of spirits, wine and beer. Under the name the Whiskey Muse, Sims provides accessible education about “the water of life” to curious consumers (especially women) in their 20s and 30s—a demographic typically overlooked by distillers in favour of deep-pocketed older men. Most recently, she launched Stave+Still, a whisky-themed jewelry collection.

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Four’s the charm: Results of the 2021 Canadian Artisan Spirits Competition

For the fourth year in a row, a B.C. craft spirit has won the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition: raise a toast to Vancouver Island’s Ampersand Distilling, makers of Nocino!

Ampersand Distilling Company’s Nocino! is the Canadian Artisan Spirit of the year for 2021. Supplied photo

The Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year is the Nocino! from Ampersand Distilling Company on Vancouver Island. Founded by the Schacht clan, Ampersand operates from a Duncan-area farm, using stills that were designed and built by father and son Stephen and Jeremy; Jessica Schact is instrumental in product development; and Ramona Froehle-Schact manages the farm and more—a true family affair.

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DEVINE Distillery’s Glen Saanich

Ken Winchester’s single-malt legacy

Besea photo

The fifth and largest-ever release of DEVINE Distillery & Winery’s coveted Glen Saanich Single Malt Whisky (1,016 bottles) quickly sold out this fall. “Ken [Winchester] and Kevin [Titcomb] put that beautiful whisky into the barrel in 2017,” says general manager Kirsten Titcomb of the ultra-local Saanich Peninsula bottling. Winchester, a trained winemaker and master distiller who founded the Island’s first craft distillery and created Victoria Gin, is a legendary name in B.C. distilling. Although he plans to step down by the end of 2020 at DEVINE, his legacy will endure.

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Cinnamon Smoked Old Fashioned

Cinnamon Smoked Old Fashioned. Supplied photo

Here is a simple twist on a spirit that is typically sipped neat. This recipe was developed by Soren Schepkowski, head bartender at Wind Cries Mary in Victoria.

• 1 cinnamon stick
• 2 oz DEVINE Glen Saanich Single Malt Whisky
• 0.25 oz toasted pumpkin seed orgeat (see note)
• 10 drops Ms Betters Chocolate Bitters
• 2 dashes Angostura bitters

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