Make better cocktails with these bartending tips from an expert

craft cocktail bartending tips edited

Every time you pay your tab at the bar (and die a little inside over the hit to your wallet), you might think about how much money you’d save if you made your own cocktails at home. Well, here’s your chance, because we convinced bartender and drink slinger extraordinaire Jax Donahue to give us a quick DIY cocktail masterclass.

Admittedly, watching Jax will only make you want to master your bartending skills more. He’s cool AF, wildly knowledgeable, and makes one hell of a drink. But hearing his bartending tips will also make you realize just how much time and energy goes into creating one cocktail. Basically, those high bar tabs will start to look a lot more reasonable.

MORE: How to infuse tequila & make 3 awesome cocktails

You can’t just dump a bunch of stuff into a highball glass, give it a quick shake, and hope for the best. Making better cocktails is about ratios and rules, chemistry and, above all, nailing the fundamentals.

To work your way toward DIY cocktail mastery, you’ll need a few basic categories of ingredients:

  • Bitters: liquor-based flavoring agents
  • Citrus: lemons, line, orange, grapefruit — your preference!
  • Sugar: examples include demerara syrup, turbinado syrup, cane syrup, agave nectar, and sorghum syrup
  • Modifier: a fortified wine or liqueur used to soften the base spirit and add flavor
  • Base spirit: the main alcohol in the cocktail, such as amaretto or vermouth

MORE: These 2-ingredient cocktails are easy and party-worthy

So, see? It’s a little more complicated than just grabbing a bottle of vodka, tossing in a lime wedge and calling yourself a cocktail master. In fact, as you’ll be able to tell from the video, creating a well-balanced cocktail is an art form.

Start here, with the essentials. Before you know it, you could be turning out Jax-class cocktails from the comfort of your own home.

Share your cocktail creations with us. Tag us on Instagram @makeitgrateful and #makeitgrateful!