Cocktails 101: How to Mix Your Own Craft Libations

Want to learn to mix your own craft cocktails? Here's how.

So you don’t want to take off your sweatpants or deal with crowds—but you still want a great cocktail? Some Colorado Springs bartenders are making it easier to learn to create your own boozy concoctions through classes at local bars or in your own home.

Brooklyn’s on Boulder offers monthly themed classes at its gin speakeasy. Bartenders talk cocktail history and recipes, why specific liquors work better for certain drinks, and tips for cocktail crafting—you taste whatever they make.

“One of the first things [to learn] is a basic understanding of ingredients,” says Stephen Winchell, former head bartender at Brooklyn’s. “One of the strangest things about cocktail culture is a lot of it is more like mythology than fact.” So a seasoned pro can offer insight into precise recipes or why you want to use particular spirits.

If you’re more of a hands-on learner, Montana Horsfall, president of Craft Cocktail Inc., offers small, intimate classes in your own home. You can choose the subject, whether it’s a specific cocktail, spirit or just the basics. She brings tool kits and liquor, so you can try it on your own.

“Most of the time I teach three cocktails,” Horsfall says. “They’re tasting each of the three and then deciding which one they want to learn themselves as I coach them.”

Whatever your preferred learning style, the most important tip when it comes to at-home cocktails is to find out what you enjoy and use that as the basis for everything.

“Do what you like,” says Carlos Garcia, Brooklyn’s tasting room manager. “At the end of the day, you’re the one drinking it.”

Build Your At-Home Bar

Here are Montana Horsfall’s recommendations for stocking your bar basics.
Three Main Spirits: gin, bourbon and rum.
Bar Tools: stir spoon, juicer, cutting board, knife, a muddler, a jigger, a pour spout and shaker.
Kitchen Ingredients: white sugar, honey and fresh fruit, mostly lemons and limes.

Go Impressively Pro

Add a higher level of flavor and professional flair with a smoked old-fashioned.

montana horsfall uses torch for craft cocktails
Photo by John Mortland Photography

1. Use a butane torch to heat a charred oak slab or cedar plank.

montana horsfall mixes craft cocktails
Photo by John Mortland Photography

2. While capturing the smoke in a rocks glass, mix your old-fashioned.

montana horsfall pours craft cocktails
Photo by John Mortland Photography

3. Before the smoke dissipates, add ice and pour your impressive libation.

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