Cocktail Ingredients

Words by Simon Difford

Cocktail Ingredients image 1

Cocktails are made from practically anything which is edible, alcoholic or otherwise. The range of spirits and liqueurs available is vast, as are the variety of juices, fruits and vegetables. If this did not already present bewildering potential combinations, bartenders also use herbs, spices, sugar and practically anything retailed in a jar, can or packet. Where should the home bartender start?

We'd suggest with these essential items...


Buy copious amounts of ice bags from the supermarket. A standard domestic ice-cube tray will barely hold enough ice to make two cocktails. To make crushed ice, simply wrap your cubed ice in a tea-towel and bash with your muddler or rolling pin on a stout surface.

The 14 essential bottles

1. Vodka
2. London dry gin
3. Light white rum
4. Tequila (100% agave blanco or reposado)
5. Blended Scotch whisky
6. Cognac (V.S.O.P. or better)
7. Bourbon whiskey
8. Triple sec liqueur
9. Coffee liqueur
10. Bols apricot brandy liqueur
11. Berry flavoured liqueur (black raspberry or crème de cassis)
12. Dry vermouth
13. Sweet vermouth
14. Brut Champagne

Fridge & cupboard essentials

The recipes in this guide call for the following ingredients. Please note the importance of juicing your own fresh fruit. Juice poured from a carton simply does not taste the same.

Oranges (or freshly squeezed juice)
Grapefruit preferably pink (or freshly squeezed juice)
Pineapple (or freshly pressed juice)
Fresh Lemons
Fresh Limes
Cranberry drink
Pressed apple juice (the real cloudy stuff)
Tomato juice
Mint leaves
Maraschino cherries
Double/heavy cream
Milk (semi-skimmed / 2%)
Angostura aromatic bitters
Sugar syrup
Pomegranate (grenadine) syrup