Today I’m so excited for another guest blog post, this time from Corrie at GirlandTonic.co! I’ve already made The Novelist’s Garden cocktail below multiple times and can tell you that it’s so good! It’s become my new go-to and I’ve already made a batch of lavender simple syrup to keep on hand. This recipe is perfect to make for this upcoming weekend and using the tips below, you can get started in home mixology yourself.
Hey, my name’s Corrie and I spend a lot of time creating and testing cocktails over at GirlAndTonic.co. I’m stoked to be featured on MaddieDeer.com. When she reached out to me about creating a custom cocktail for her, I jumped on the opportunity. Maddie is absolutely killin’ it in the blogosphere and working with her has been a breeze. She’s genuine, easy-going, and exudes life. I’m sure you can pick up on all that from reading her blog.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. If you buy a product via my affiliate link, I will receive a commission. This is at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I actually like!
The Novelist’s Garden was a fun project for me. I’ve been itching to create a custom cocktail for a brand and Maddie gave me that opportunity. I sent her a word board for her to select some words that lined up with her brand and went from there. Some of the words she chose were earthy, steady, and sophisticated. If you’re familiar with her blog, you’ll see those words totally align with her vibe. Let me know in a comment if you think The Novelist’s Garden does, too.
This is the cocktail I imagine Maddie sipping on while she works on her novel. But, before I get to the recipe for The Novelist’s Garden, I want to give you some tips for making cocktails at home.
5 Tips for Making a Killer Cocktail at Home
I’m passionate about getting other people passionate about home mixology. So many people assume that making cocktails at home is too complex, too technical, and too expensive of a hobby to take on. But, real talk, the main reason I started mixing up drinks at home is because craft cocktails at bars are expensive. I love ordering fun drinks when I go out but your girl’s on a budget. I think you’ll be surprised by how easy and affordable it is to get started. Here are my top 5 tips for making incredible cocktails at home.
1. Invest in a cocktail shaker
While some cocktail aficionados might tell you that you need several different tools, you really only need a cocktail shaker to get started. This cocktail shaker is only $16 and then there’s this gorgeous golden option that’s $26 AND it comes with a bar spoon and a jigger. That’s a pretty sweet deal. (It also comes in rose gold– swoon) I got the vintage-looking copper one below from Target but they don’t carry it anymore. Sad day.
Now, if you’re on a really tight budget and can totally use a major jar with a lid. But, you’ll also need to make sure you have a small strainer so you can strain out ice, fruit pulp, etc. Cocktail shakers usually have a small strainer built-in already. Just buy one 😉
Many cocktail recipes are meant to be shaken and while simple stirring does a good-enough job of incorporating some ingredients, shaking them makes your drinks extra cold and helps further infuse ingredients like herbs, fresh fruits, and thicker syrups.
Another tool I would invest in is an ice mold. While not totally essential, bigger ice cubes make your drink colder and melt slower which keeps your drink from watering down too quickly. Plus they’ll make your cocktail look legit.
2. Use Fresh Citrus
Y’all. This is so important. This is my number one tip for making GOOD cocktails at home. I’ve had so many friends message me and tell me they made a Margarita or a Daiquiri at home and that it didn’t taste right. The first question I always ask is “Did you use bottled lime juice?” Their answer is always a sheepish “yes”.
Citrus is a key ingredient in SO many drinks and the quality of your citrus juice will make or break your drink. There’s a naturally-occurring chemical in citrus fruit that reacts with air and actually makes the juice taste more bitter. So, the longer the juice is exposed to air, the worse it’s going to taste. That’s why bottled lemon juice and lime juice taste so different compared to their fresh counterparts. Not to mention they usually come from concentrate and are chock-full of additives. Yuck.
The only exception I make to pre-squeezed citrus juice is grapefruit. Since it’s already bitter to begin with, I really don’t mind the bottled stuff. But, fresh grapefruit will always taste better. I make it a point to buy 2-3 lemons and limes a week. They’re cheap, so this only adds about $1-2 to my grocery bill. Plus, if you have fresh citrus laying around, you can use it in cooking and for your garnishes (see tip #5).
Before I move on to the next tip, I need to say it again for the people in the back– USE FRESH CITRUS JUICE!
3. Opt for Non-Flavored Liquors
I know, I know. The pineapple vodka looks sooo good in the liquor store. You picture yourself sipping on some kinda pineapple paradise while you’re poolside. But then you bring home your $25 purchase and it just sits in your cabinet most of the year.
Flavored liquors are kinda one-trick ponies, unless you’re a skilled mixologist who knows how to incorporate a lot of flavors to make a complex drink. I think they’re really fun to experiment with (who doesn’t like the sound of coconut rum or apple brandy?), but if you’re going to invest in liquor, go for plain.
If you buy traditional vodka, you can use fresh pineapple juice to make that divine drink you’re envisioning for summer. And then you can use that same bottle of vodka to make a rich and decadent White Russian or a floral Rose Darling.
Pick 3 liquors you know you’re gonna like. You’d be surprised by how many cocktails you can
make with only 3 types of alcohol on hand. Here’s what I recommend:
- vodka (a MUST in my opinion- it’s got a clean taste that blends well with all flavors)
- whiskey or rum
- gin or tequila
Non-flavored liquors are going to expand your recipe options and encourage you to experiment with your own custom cocktails.
4. Keep Mixers on Hand
If you keep these ingredients on hand, you’ll be able to make a whole slew of cocktails whenever
the urge strikes.
- ginger beer
- tonic water or club soda
- flavored sparkling water (I prefer unsweetened brands like LaCroix, Bubly, and Spindrift)
- simple syrup (don’t ever buy it! it’s way too easy to make)
- citrus juice (in the form of actual lemons and limes, please!)
I love buying the small cans of club soda and tonic water. I can never use a whole liter bottle up before it goes bad and the small little guys are easy to store.
5. Don’t Skip the Garnishes
In addition to making your homemade cocktail Instagram-worthy, garnishes add a great deal to the experience of drinking a cocktail. Besides being visually appealing, some actually do add aromatic value. Smelling the mint, citrus, or chili powder that’s gracing the top of your beverage can really enhance the taste of it. After all, research says that 80% of the flavors we taste come from smell.
I’ve also found that adding a garnish to a cocktail acts as a visual reminder to stop and savor each sip instead of just chugging the whole thing because it tastes so dang good.
I hope these tips leave you feeling inspired to jump into the world of home mixology. If you’re looking for some easy recipes that require minimal ingredients, check out these 17 simple cocktail recipes for beginners. Each recipe has four ingredients or less.
While Maddie’s cocktail has more than 4 ingredients, it’s still very simple to make. I hope you’ll try it out and think of Maddie Deer while you do!
Maddie, thank you for trusting me to create a cocktail tailor-made for you and your brand!
Cheers to your next happy hour at home!
Ingredients for the Novelist’s Garden
- 2 oz vodka (gin is also great in this & creates a more botanical feel)
- 3/4 oz freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 3/4 oz lavender simple syrup- here’s my homemade recipe
- 5-7 fresh basil leaves
- splash of citrus sparkling water (unsweet)
- 1 drop of orange blossom water– optional but it adds a floral perfume
How to Make The Novelist’s Garden
- Add the basil and vodka into a cocktail shaker and muddle the leaves. you don't need to
destroy them–just bruise them well so that they release their oils.
- Add a generous amount of ice, the lemon juice, the lavender simple syrup, and the DROP
of orange blossom water (literally a drop, the stuff is potent).
- Shake well, 20-30 seconds.
- Strain into a coupe glass.
- Add a splash of citrus sparkling water.
- Garnish with an extra sprig of basil.