Have you been longing for a cocktail in your favourite Bristol bar during lockdown? Us too.

Thankfully, it won’t be long until they can safely reopen and welcome you back for that much-awaited drink. But to keep you going until then, we’ve asked some of Bristol’s top bartenders for advice on perfecting your home cocktails.

Shake up your lockdown evenings with these tips and show us how you get on by using #BristolFromHome on Instagram or Twitter.

Ben from The Milk Thistle

The Milk Thistle is a decadent four-floor drinking den, hidden behind the façade of a grand old building on Colston Avenue. There’s also an outdoor terrace – newly added in 2020 – overlooking the city centre that will reopen on 12 April.

Piano and bar at The Milk Thistle, Bristol

Image - The Milk Thistle

And on top of the stand-out setting, the bar is known for its award-winning cocktails, some of which you can currently get a delivery of through Hyde at Home.

Who better to pass on some cocktail making tips than General Manager Ben Peacock? Here’s what he told us about upping your home bar and drinks game.

“When stocking your home bar, keep one bottle of each white spirit: vodka, gin, rum, tequila and Cointreau. This will make life easier for yourself when you’re choosing which recipe to make. The three best glasses to have for home cocktails are the 7oz or 8oz coupe glass, the 10oz highball glass and the 9oz Old Fashion tumbler.

Cocktail in a tall glass from The Milk Thistle on top of an old book

Image - The Milk Thistle 

“Keep to the classics at first, which are easy to manipulate and riff off. For example, a simple margarita is tequila, Cointreau, lime and sugar. But to jazz this up you can remove the sugar and replace with a strawberry syrup. Half the Cointreau and add strawberry liqueur.

"For extra flavour, muddle a few strawberries and you have yourself a fresh tasting strawberry margarita.”

Kit from The Clockwork Rose

The Clockwork Rose is a cocktail bar with an unusual twist. It’s steampunk themed and the watering hole of choice for the legendary Captain Sebastian Commodore, whose tales of adventure inspire the drinks menu.

Cocktail in a tea cup from The Clockwork Rose, Bristol

Image - The Clockwork Rose

Here you’ll find creative concoctions, expertly crafted by owner Kit Stutt and his team. While they’re closed right now, you can still get a taste of these at home thanks to their cocktail kits.

When it comes to your home bar, there’s one ingredient no one should be without according to Kit: vermouth. He explains why here.

“One of the most versatile ingredients in a bartender's arsenal is vermouth. A flavoured and aromatised fortified wine, vermouth comes in a few variations, most commonly sweet and dry.

“Sweet vermouth is a deep red in colour and is a staple ingredient in some popular classics such as the Negroni, Manhattan or Americano. Its dry counterpart is pale and clear and is used in the Vesper, Gibson and all manner of martinis.

Glass of vermouth in front of bottles of spirits at The Clockwork Rose

Image - The Clockwork Rose

“Regardless of what spirits you have in your cabinet, stocking a bottle of vermouth will guarantee there will always be a cocktail you can make. Own a bottle of gin? Dry and even sweet martinis are easy to make and only require those 2 ingredients! Whisky? Again, add dry or sweet vermouth and you've made a Manhattan (a dash of angostura bitters is recommended here too).

“The Negroni itself can be made into alternative cocktails based on your stock. Replace the main spirit (gin) with bourbon to make a Boulevardier, or swap that out for cognac or brandy to make a French Negroni. You can even make it with rum, vodka or scotch…the list is endless. But the one constant is always vermouth!”

Will and Josh from Brozen Bar

Frozen cocktails are the star of the show at Brozen, the St Nicholas Street bar where you can watch as they mix impressive drinks using liquid nitrogen. There’s a combination of science, invention and serious mixology skills at work behind the bar.

Making cocktails with liquid nitrogen at Brozen Bar, Bristol

Image - Brozen Bar

While you can’t whip out the liquid nitrogen in your own kitchen, Brozen bartenders Will and Josh do have plenty of advice on making cocktails at home. Have fun with these tips and their at-home kits until you can join them for a drink on their outdoor seating come 12 April.

“Fresh is best when making cocktails at home. There’s a night and day difference between using fresh ingredients like hand squeezed lemon and lime juices for the citrus component in your cocktails, compared to the lemon or lime juice found in many supermarkets, typically in plastic bottles.

Frozen cocktail at Brozen Bar, Bristol

Image - Brozen

“The most effective shortcut to a tasty drink is to knock together a fruit syrup. When it comes to making fruit or berry-based syrups from home, there is a general rule of thumb which we typically use. A generic ratio by weight:

  • 2 parts berries
  • 2 parts sugar (preferably caster as it absorbs more easily)
  • 1 part water

“As an example, muddle equal parts raspberries to white caster sugar until there’s no pulp remaining and a paste is formed. Add water to the paste which should be exactly half the weight of the raspberries.

“Simmer over low heat for five minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve and stir occasionally. Strain off the remains, discard the pulp caught in the sieve, bottle and refrigerate the syrup.

“Juicier fruits such as pineapple or peach can simply be sliced and sat in the sugar, while drier fruits such as apple or banana benefit from some time on the stove. Fruit peels sat in sugar make a delicious sweet oil, great for big serves like punches.”

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