One of my favourite things about summer is sitting on a patio and sipping an ice-cold drink while the sun shines down. Whether it’s a cocktail, a coffee, or some other tipple, that first sip washes over me like a wave and soothes my sun-beaten soul.
Sadly, getting out to bars isn’t easy right now and, let’s be honest, it gets expensive. But there’s an easy way around this—make your own cocktails! Craft cocktails can seem a bit elitist, but, at the end of the day, making a great cocktail is as simple as measuring some liquid and shaking it up. Sure, part of the fun is playing around with exotic ingredients and obscure techniques, but the basics are all you need to make a fantastic drink.
Those basics are measuring carefully, using fresh ingredients, and, most importantly, making it your own. The six recipes below offer a starting point for the aspiring cocktail maker. They are simple, use basic ingredients, and focus on BC producers. Whether you’re a seasoned cocktail drinker or just diving into this creative outlet, you’ll find a drink for you!
Ingredients: Quality of ingredients is important for cocktails; you get out what you put in. You can make a decent cocktail with pre-squeezed lime and lemon juices, but fresh is best when you can get it.
Liquors: I chose these cocktails for a few reasons (beyond the deliciousness). First, each spirit is flexible and works in a variety of drinks. Second, these bottles are standard at most liquor stores. Lastly, there are local producers making fantastic versions of every bottle on this list. So, if you like supporting the local guys, you’ll be making “West Coast” versions of all of these drinks.
Measuring: I list everything in oz because it’s how I learned, and adding in all the conversions really muddies the recipes. If you want to convert the recipes, two tablespoons (30ml) is equivalent to one ounce.
Tools: While cocktail making can undoubtedly be expedited with the correct tools, all you really need is something to shake with and a measuring tool between ¼ oz and 1 oz. A mason jar works well as a shaker, and you probably have one lying around.
Making simple syrup is extremely easy. You take equal parts sugar and water, heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then let it cool. Boom! You have one of the most common cocktail ingredients. You can go wild with syrups—swap the white sugar for brown sugar; add a few cinnamon sticks; soak some raspberries overnight—but the goal of these recipes is the ease of production, so a basic simple syrup will do.
o 1 Cup Sugar
o 1 Cup Water
o Add both ingredients to a pot and heat
gently, stirring occasionally
o Mix until you no longer see granules of
sugar in the liquid
o Cool and store in the refrigerator
Honey is a delicious ingredient for cocktails with its delicate variations and comforting sweetness, but in its traditional form, it’s a little too thick for mixing. The solution is to make honey syrup! This is even easier than simple syrup. You just add some water to the honey to remove some of its viscosity, and you’re done.
o ½ Cup Honey
o ½ Cup Water
o Add ingredients together and mix until
o Store in the refrigerator
BRIGHT & REFRESHING
This batch of cocktails is perfect for the summer. All of them have a bit of fizz to them, which keeps all the drinks light and refreshing.
MOCKTAIL: PEACH FIZZ
This mocktail was inspired by childhood trips through the Okanagan. We would come home with flats of peaches, and my mom would spend an afternoon canning them for year-round enjoyment. If you can get your hands on some local peaches, this cocktail will taste that much better! It’s sparkly and delicious, with a sweetness balanced by the tart lemon juice.
o Half a Peach, peeled
o 1 oz Lemon Juice
o ¾ oz Simple Syrup
o Sparkling Apple Juice
o Peach Slices for Garnish
o Place the peach half, lemon juice, and
simple syrup to a highball glass
o Muddle the peach until it is a pulp
o Add as much ice as you like, top with
sparkling apple juice, and enjoy!
APPROACHABLE: CASSIS 75
This is a simple riff on a French 75—champagne with a healthy dose of gin, balanced by syrup and lemon juice—that adds a splash of Crème de Cassis, a delicious fruity liqueur. It’s light, full of flavour, and dangerously drinkable.
o 1½ oz Gin
o ¾ oz Lemon Juice
o ¾ oz Crème de Cassis
o ¼ oz Simple Syrup
o Sparkling Wine, about 2 oz
o Lemon Twist for Garnish
o Add the gin, lemon juice, crème de cassis,
and simple syrup to a shaker tin. Fill with
ice and shake for 12 seconds
o Strain into a champagne flute and top with
o Garnish with the lemon twist, and enjoy!
The Americano was first mixed sometime in the 1860s and has been a staple in cocktail culture ever since. This is probably due to its simplicity and complex flavour profile. It is the precursor to the famous Negroni cocktail and is a perfect way to develop your palate for that beautiful drink. This drink is sweet and light with a pronounced bitter character from the Campari.
o 1½ oz Campari, Woods Distilling’s Amaro,
or Roots and Wings Olitais Bitter
o 1½ oz Sweet Vermouth or Esquimalt Wine
Co.’s Rosso Vermouth
o Sparkling Water, about 3 oz
o Add the two ingredients to a highball glass
o Add as much ice as you want
o Top with sparkling water and enjoy!
UNIQUE & COMPLEX
This batch of recipes gets a little funkier and pushes your palate a little more. Be careful, as these drinks can open your eyes up to the rabbit hole that is cocktails. And believe me, that tunnel is long!
APPROACHABLE: PINEAPPLE GROG
The Navy Grog is a cocktail that has been around for hundreds of years. It was initially a drink that mixed a few rums, citrus, and water. It has evolved since then, but it has remained a top choice for tiki bartenders ‘round the world. This version simplifies the rum blend and adds a splash of pineapple for some tropical feel. It may seem like a ton of ingredients, but trust me, it is well worth the shake.
o 1½ oz Dark Rum or DeVine’s Honey Shine
o 1½ oz White Rum or DeVine’s Honey Shine
o ¾ oz Grapefruit Juice
o 1 oz Pineapple Juice
o ¾ oz Lemon Juice
o ¾ oz Lime Juice
o 1 oz Honey Syrup
o Mint, for garnish
o Add all the ingredients except the mint
to your shaker tin
o Fill two-thirds full of ice and shake for 12
o Empty the entire shaker into your glass,
ice included, garnish with the mint, and
CHALLENGING:BLOOD ORANGE SOUR
This drink follows a basic sour recipe but adds a splash of blood orange and bitter. These two additions bring in a ton of flavour and create a well-balanced cocktail. Fruity, sweet, sour, bitter, this cocktail has become my go-to on hot days. This drink, in particular, blends well with the Woods Amaro, as it has beautiful notes of citrus that play well with the blood orange.
o 2 oz Gin
o 3/4 oz Lemon Juice
o 1 oz Simple Syrup
o 3/4 oz Blood Orange Juice
o 3/4 oz Campari or Woods Distilling’s Amaro
o Add all the ingredients to your shaker tin
o Add ice and shake for 12 seconds
o Strain into your glass and enjoy!
MOCKTAIL: MOCK PENICILLIN
The penicillin is a whiskey cocktail with ginger, honey, and smoky Islay Scotch. This version swaps the liquor for lapsang souchong style tea, which brings the funk and smoke character to the drink. This is an excellent mocktail for fans of more complex cocktails, as the flavours are truly unique.
o 3 oz Lapsang Souchong Tea
o 1 oz Lemon Juice
o 1 to 1½ oz Honey Syrup (to taste)
o 1 tsp Ground Ginger
o Make three ounces of tea using the lapsang
souchong, add the honey and ginger, and
let steep for 10 minutes
o Strain the tea into your cocktail shaker, add
the lemon juice, and shake with ice for 12
o Strain into your glass, add some fresh ice
There you go! Six cocktails that feature a little something for everyone. Hopefully at least one of these drinks has inspired you to experiment and try something new. Remember, these recipes are starting points and you should adjust them to suit you. Say you try the Cassis 75 and find it a little too sweet, reduce the Crème de Cassis to half an ounce the next time you try it. Maybe you have a bottle of Amaro that’s gathering dust, try adding a splash to the americano. Part of the fun of making cocktails at home is tailoring them to your tastes. My favourite cocktail producer, Greg from HowToDrink, has said “if the drink you like is in the glass, you did it right.”
“If the drink you like is in the glass, you did it right.”