These days it takes more than a custom iPod playlist, gourmet snacks and a well-stocked bar to impress your holiday party guests. To make your soiree really memorable you need a signature cocktail. So we asked Ryan Magarian, president of consultancy Liquid Relations and co-Founder of Aviation Gin, for some tips. Every year he comes up with dozens of recipes for bars and restaurants around the world.
Creating a cocktail involves a lot of trial and error and can take Magarian hours or even days to get it just right. Before you start shaking, conceptualize the finished product. Think about the flavors you want, the base spirit, the glassware and even the color of the drink. Also consider whether it has to pair with food.
One way to speed up the process? “Begin with a classic cocktail,” says Magarian. Take a favorite recipe—Martini, Manhattan, Daiquiri—begin swapping in different ingredients, from the alcohol and the fruit juice to the garnish. You’ll be amazed by how different one drink can be made by substituting, say, cognac for rum or pineapple juice for orange.
To start completely from scratch, Magarian uses a number of basic drink formulas. In a lemon-based cocktail, for every 2 ounces of spirit add .75 ounce of fresh lemon juice and .75 ounce of simple syrup. In a lime-based cocktail, for every 2 ounces of spirit add 1 ounce of fresh lime juice and .75 ounce of simple syrup. For other fresh juices, including orange, grapefruit and pineapple, he rarely uses less than 1 ounce in a recipe.
Now the easy part: naming your creation. “Give the drink a fun and catchy name that creates an emotional reaction from a guest,” Magarian says. Some of his most successful names: the Amazonian Love Honey, Pepper Delicious, Celery Superstar and the Maverick Blackberry.