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20+ Cocktail Hacks to Take Your Cocktail Skill to The Next Level!

bartender points a lighter at a big block of clear ice to temper it

Hello Friends of Cocktails. I've worked behind the bar for over 18 years and in that time I've learned countless tricks and hacks that have transformed the way I mix drinks, so today I’ll share with you 20 of my favorite secrets of the trade. If you’re a regular here on Cocktail Time, you’ll know some of these already, but there are some I’m sure you haven’t seen before. Whether you're a seasoned professional or a home bartender, these hacks will not only streamline your workflow, but also elevate the quality of drinks you make.

Before we start though, I’ll quickly make myself a Doc Giovanni to have something to sip on throughout the episode. It’s a simple cocktail made with parmesan liqueur and white creme de cacao, allspice bitters and topped with FIOL Prosecco. With that, cheers, it’s Cocktail Time! 

two cocktails being served at once using a espresso double spout portafilter

DOC Giovanni

● 90mL · 3oz FIOL Prosecco

● 7.5mL · 0.25oz Parmesan Liqueur

● 7.5mL · 0.25oz White Cacao Liqueur

● 2 dashes Pimento Bitters

● 3 drops White Peppercorn Drops

● Ruby Chocolate Drops

Add the garnish to the side of the glass by holding slightly melting it from far away with a blow torch, using tweezers to protect your hand! Then stick that on the side of the glass before placing it in the freezer. Once it’s chilled, take it out and add a piece of fresh ice into the glass, followed by the rest of the ingredients besides the prosecco and the White Peppercorn Infusion. Now give this a quick stir to mix and chill the ingredients, then take the ice cube out. Gently mix ingredients again, then our White Peppercorn Infusion on top, and enjoy this low ABV, flavorful cocktail!

With that we’re ready to start with our first cocktail hack while sipping on a nice cocktail, and this is quite on brand for it too! Hack number 1 is to measure your carbonated ingredients with a scale. I never measure sparkling wine, tonic or even soda water with a jigger. For one, it’s harder to measure precisely because of the bubbles, but even if you did, you’d lose carbonation and we want to keep as much of it for the cocktail as possible. So either eyeball it if you’re just topping up the cocktail, or place the cocktail on the scale and measure the amount with grams, if you want to be precise.

Up next, something that should probably be number one by the amount of times I use it on Cocktail Time, use saline solution to boost flavors in your cocktails. Salt can enhance sweetness and acidity, tone down bitterness, and in general, enhances the flavors, which you know from cooking. Imagine eating unsalted pasta or french fries without salt.. it would taste empty. And for cocktails all you need to do is dissolve 20g of salt in 80g of water, then add a couple of drops to all cocktails from now on!

Speaking of flavor - what if your cocktail is too acidic? Especially if you made a large batch, and you can’t fix it with more sugar and spirit? Add baking soda to bring down the acidity of your cocktail. I used it to make a less acidic shrub, but adding it in small batches to something like a milk punch can bring down the acidity without adding any additional sweetness. Just make sure you have room for the bubbles and let the CO2 disperse, then enjoy your balanced cocktail. 

Speaking of baking soda, it’s also the ultimate solution to reusing beautiful bottles you’ll need for DIY ingredients or batched cocktails. Mix baking soda with cooking oil to remove label glue from bottles. Hot water and soap, rubbing alcohol or nail polish, or even a knife and razor can all be used to remove some labels and their glue, but I found that when nothing else works a simple 1:1 or 2:1 mix of baking soda and cooking oil will do the trick. 

Rub it on the residue, leave it to sit for 10-20 minutes depending on how much glue you’re trying to remove, then scrub it down and wash it with hot water and dish soap. Now you have a beautiful bottle for your next DIY project. Now, we’ve cleaned the outside, what about the inside? That pesky spot below the neck of the bottle can be hard to reach with any brush, so use a small chain or small pebble stones to clean the inside of bottles.

I learned this at a really young age, when I’d have to go pick up small stones, so that my mom could clean the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies of used bottles. A small chain works great for this as well, and I still use this technique to clean out old bottles that might have old syrups or purees in them. Add a little hot water, agitate it well and it will do the hard work for you. After that, make sure to dry off the stones, so you don’t have to go out in the yard the next time.

Now, using a Sous Vide for DIY ingredients isn’t really a hack anymore, but just good practice. But since we’re on the subject of cleaning… add vinegar to your sous vide bath to keep limescale from your sous vide cooker! I live in an area where tap water contains high levels of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. These can form deposits of limescale on surfaces and appliances over time. Limescale is primarily composed of calcium carbonate, which is insoluble in water.

However, by adding a little vinegar, the acetic acid will cause a reaction that breaks down the limescale, causing it to dissolve into the vinegar solution, keeping your sous vide cooker clean as a whistle. With that, let’s move on to serving your drinks, starting with glassware. Always chill your glassware before adding the cocktail. A cold glass will prevent a well-chilled cocktail from warming up, and it only takes a few seconds.

You can of course use ice before you make the drink, but if you have the space, it’s always best to have a few glasses in the freezer - you'll save on time and on using extra ice. Some bars have freezers just for glasses and their clear ice, but they’re not like your typical freezer. Those chill to -10 °C or 14 °F, while your typical freezer goes down to around -18 °C, or 0 °F. That’s why you have to temper your clear ice for a few minutes, but there’s a hack for that.


Torch your ice to temper it faster. Even when you have a chilled cocktail, the difference in temperature between ice at -18°C and the cocktail at -2°C can easily crack your ice. Instead of waiting for the ice to temper in the glass you can temper the ice quickly with a blow torch. Besides always being careful with fire, it's important to torch the ice quickly and not for too long, as that could have the same effect as pouring the cocktail onto it.

Gently torch the ice from all sides until it becomes clear all around. At that point, it's ready for serving… but speaking of clear ice, make cheap and clear ice at home with a DIY cooler. All you need is a few things you probably already have, even if you don’t have a lot of freezer room. And when it comes to cutting up the ice you don’t need specialty tools either, just go to your local hardware store and get the tools there for a fraction of the price.

If you’re really in a pinch for space though, try using an insulated tumbler for smaller blocks of clear ice. Once you have your ice and your cocktail ready, and you want to pour it into two glasses, you can use this next hack. Use a double spout portafilter from an espresso machine to pour two cocktails at once. Fittingly I first saw this in Venice, Italy, where the barlady used it to split-pour a stirred cocktail into two glasses.

I’d suggest you have the spout cold as well, and well cleaned of course, unless you want to give the cocktail a coffee note in the process. This might be more for show, but if you’re serving something like a Revolver, it fits perfectly. Speaking of tools that are not primarily meant to be used for cocktails, there’s another one you’ve probably seen me use before: a potato ricer! Use a potato ricer to squeeze out liquid when filtering infusions.

This hack allows you to squeeze out the maximum amount of liquid when filtering your DIY ingredients for a faster and more efficient yield. Now let’s get on to hacks that will improve your ingredients: use a juicer for maximum flavor and color of your ingredients! Instead of infusing ingredients like pineapple,  or melon use a juicer to get the most flavor. For fruit juices also you can concentrate that flavor and sugar content with freeze-contentration, so there’s even no need to add extra sugar to your liqueur.

For the most flavorful and spicy ginger in your next syrup, liqueur or even fermentation, juicing is the way to go too, plus you’ll get a bright yellow color… but what if you want to add other colors? Do you have to add artificially colored liqueurs? No! Color your ingredients with natural colorants. For red color you can add hibiscus, or beetroot juice/powder. For yellow or orange you can add turmeric powder, carrot juice, or saffron, but that can get a little pricey.

For blue and green you can go with both kinds of spirulina, with blue having less of a sea-like vegetal taste. Another option for green is matcha powder. For all these, use small quantities and you’ll get color with not much of a flavor change. Let’s now move on from the appearance to the mouthfeel. We know egg whites add a silky texture to the drink, but working with them can be messy, so use a hawthorne strainer to separate the egg white from the yolk. 

Fresh egg whites are also proved to be the best when compared to powdered and pasteurized versions, but you can easily break the yolk into your egg white when separating, so what I like to do is break the egg into a separate shaker, using the upside down hawthorne strainer to separate the egg white and the yolk with ease. And if you need something to use the yolks… make some eggnog

Now that we have the egg white separated I want to measure out the right amount, which can be tricky, so break apart the egg white for easier and precise measuring. You’ll want to break apart the proteins that hold the egg white together, which are important for frothing up the drink. This can be done with a fork or using a milk frother, then you can easily measure out as much egg white as you want, as easily as if it was a syrup. 

When you have the cocktail with the right amount of egg white it’s time to give it a dry shake, right? Or a reverse dry shake? Both can get messy, so neither. Use a milk frother or a stick blender instead of a dry shake. It emulsifies the egg and adds plenty of aeration into the drink, making quick work of something that can otherwise break apart your shaker if you’re doing a dry shake. Then just add ice to chill and dilute the cocktail and you’re golden. 

What about if you’d like to avoid eggs in your cocktail? Use Super Syrup or Super Foam to make vegan alternatives to egg whites. And now, for a hack from a friend, here’s Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s latest great idea: use a cheese slicer for safer peeling of citrus. If you’ve worked with peelers you’ve probably nicked a finger or two while trying to get that perfect peel for your garnish, but recently Jeffrey said this is one his favorite hacks behind a bar - cheese slicer is a lot safer and produces big, wide peels of citrus peel.

With that we’ve made it to The Bottom of The Glass, and the final hack for the day is the best kept secret since the earliest days of cocktails: make a big batch of cocktails to minimize mistakes. Whether it’s a batched cocktail, or a punch bowl, making multiple cocktails at once allows you to socialize with your guests without having to mix cocktails all night. Plus, with larger quantities, there's less chance of making mistakes or pouring too much or too little, as it can be divided into smaller portions more discreetly.

And so that’s it, let me know what your favorite cocktail hack is and if I missed something important. Also, if you don’t know about the best hack to save on time and money when you need citrus juice, check out how to make Super Juice here. Until next time, cheers, friends of cocktails!

1 comentário

d ste phens
d ste phens
21 de abr.

Where can I get the flash paper garnish? I assume it is food safe?

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