Every website and every book that covers anything about cocktails has a section on mixology. Once you understand the basics of mixology, you too can create great cocktails. The main thing is to savor and appreciate your concoctions. There’s no need to worry about much more. Keep it simple!

For the most part, mixology is just cool and interesting. That’s because, with a basic understanding and a little experience, you’ll find your best cocktails are probably improvised.  The Tiki Bar Is Open helps give you that understanding by bringing you the history, stories and culture behind every cocktail presented to you on this site. So, if you prefer a cocktail as you go over this information, click here and come back to this page in a few minutes. Otherwise relax, enjoy and escape as you learn all you need to know about mixology.

The Basic Gear

Shaker The standard shaker has three parts: a jigger, a strainer and a container. Stainless steel is best as it is the most durable and actually helps to make you drinks colder.

Strainer The strainer that comes with a 3-part shaker does a good job, but can actually strain more than is necessary and they can pour slow. A spring-edged strainer that can be held over the bottom of your shaker as you pour is the way to go.

Spoon Any long-handled spoon will do. You may need one to measure incredients, stir your ingredients, or to take something out of a glass after you pour.

Muddler One of the most important instruments to making a great cocktail! Use the flat end to do the work (some people don’t know this), but there’s no better way to release oils and flavors from your non-liquid ingredients ingredients. Use an unvarnished wood or bamboo muddler for the best results.

Jiggers Used strictly for measuring, you’ll need at least a 1 ounce jigger. If you’re as serious about drinking your cocktails as you are making them, you’ll want a 1 and 2 ounce jigger. You may even consider 1 1/2 ounce, 3/4 ounce and 1/2 ounce jiggers as well.

Measuring Spoons Until you are good enough to “eyeball” your ingredients, you’ll want a Tablespoon, a 1/2 tablespoon, a teaspoon and a 1/2 teaspoon.

Knife Any sharp knife for cutting fruits.

Cutting Board A nice small bamboo board is nice for cutting your citrus on.

Peeler For anything that uses a twist from a citrus peel.

Juicer Squeezing by hand is find, but you can get the most juice possible by using a juicer.

The Liquor

Rum Our favorite! Rum is made from distilled molasses or from raw sugarcan juice. There are many varieties of rum. They are all wonderful and each serves a different purpose when making cocktails. There are light rums, dark rums and a bunch in between. The main styles include : pirate style – your typical dark Jamaican rum, Cuban style – light and smooth, modern style – medium bodied rum that can be sipped much like a bourban, and French style – made from sugarcan instead of molasses. Always spend a little extra to buy a quality rum!

Tequila Made from the blue agave plant… a type of aloe. First it is roasted, then it can be bottled as 100% agave or sugars can be added. Some are bottle straight, others are aged in wood. Aged for two months, it is “repoado” (rested) or for a year it is “anejo”. We say the best bet is to stick with pure agave as other methods of making tequila can through of the balance of whatever you add to your cocktail.

Whiskey A low poof mash of fermented grains that is aged in oak and unfiltered. In the US, whiskey is mostly made from corn and often refrered to a bourban. In Canada, it is refered to as “whisky” and is usually a blend from corn, rye, wheat and barley. Scotch whisky is peat-smoked malted barley. Irish whiskey is similar toScotch but made with both malted and unmalted barley and no peat.

Vodka Vodka is raw alcohol distilled from just about anything but the most typical are grains, potatos or sugar cane. It is very high proof and heavily filtered before it is bottled. What your vodka is distilled from doesn’t matter as long as you go with a quality vodka. There are many flavored vodkas now, but as always we recommend taking the extra time to go with fresh and hand made flavoring.

Gin There are actually a few styles of gin. For cocktails, the London dry gin is the most prevalantly used. This gin is made the same way as vodka, but bubble through botanicals such as berries, orange peel, etc. before it is bottled. Then there is Genever gin which is more malty than dry. There also Plymouth gin which is similar to but not quite as dry as London dry gin. All are very high in proof.

Liqueurs High proof liquor that has been sweetened and flavored and made specifically for blending. The includes but is not limited to your curacaous, fruit liqueurs, nut liqueuers, cream liqueurs and even spice and herbal liqueurs.

The Other Stuff


The most common ways to sweeten a drink are with syrups. This could be a simple syrup you make yourself or something you may prefer to by such as orgeat (an almond syrup). There are many varieties that we may mention in our recipes. We’ll tell you how to make them or when you should by them.

Sour Cocktails are about balance… if you add something sweet to a cocktail, you must balance it out with something sour. This is generally where citrus fruits come in. Other things may include oils from twists.

Bitters Bitters go way back to when a balance of herbs, seeds, flowers, peels, barks, etc were mixed with alcohol for medicinal purposes. Bitters are great for balancing out just about any cocktail. You’ll find we use them alot in our recipes. Angostura is the most common.

Cold Many cockails are best cold… use lots of ice. Crushed works best and like we mentioned earlier… shake in a stainless steel shaker for maximum coldness.

Fizzy Some drinks taste better a little bubbly! This is your seltzer or club soda. It will help lighten the drink and balace out the after taste when added in the right proportions.

Garnish One of the most fun parts of mixology is presentation! Fancy glasses and such are cool and fun, but nothing is as classy as taking an ingredient from you drink to create ornamentation to place your signature on your concoctions. This can be mint leaves, olives, citrus slices, sugar can sticks… you name it!


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