How to be a bar star at your next cottage party


It’s May Two-Four. That means it’s time to throw an epic party—or at least get together with a few lake neighbours. Why not bust out some bartending tricks of the trade for the occasion? No one’s asking you to juggle flaming bottles of Bacardi or dance, Coyote Ugly–style, on your kitchen counter, but simple tactics—using the right gadgets and garnish—add something special to any dockside drink. “It takes a little more prep, a little more love—but it goes a long way,” says Jeremy LeBlanc, an expert mixologist and the co-author of The Best Craft Cocktails & Bartending With Flair.

Keep cool

Use pre-chilled, clean glasses. Put them (while wet) in the freezer, until an opaque layer of frost forms. Serving beer in a glass? Residue from soap or other substances can mess with the brew’s taste and appearance. One way to test whether a glass is “beer clean” is to note how foam adheres to the inside. In a clean glass, it’ll form even rings, not a random pattern.

Stock this

Erick Rosende, the director of The Ultimate Bartending School in Edmonton, says you’ll be covered with the basics: vodka, rye, rum, gin, and tequila. But the right drinks also depend on the age range of your guests and the type of food you’re serving. Pay attention to what’s popular. “I’m selling a lot of Canadian and American whisky these days,” says Jeremy LeBlanc. “Also, Scotch and Kentucky bourbon.” And in case you’ve been living under an alcohol-free rock for the last five years, local craft beer is really hopping. (Get it?)

Garnish it

Match flavours and use common sense. “What’s in the glass should go with what’s on the rim,” says Rosende. White spirits work with lime, and dark spirits with lemon; olives and cocktail onions enhance savoury cocktails; sweet, rum-based drinks go with tropical fruit. And, heck, everybody loves a little umbrella.

Invest in tools

The pros recommend a muddler (for mashing fresh fruits, spices, and herbs), a 32 oz shaker, a strainer, an ice scoop, and a jigger, for measuring. Cost: about $30 to $45 for a multi-piece kit.

Use the right ice

The smaller the ice pellets, the faster they’ll melt and dilute your drink. Cubes, the kind you make in a regular old tray, are usually best for cocktails—shaken, stirred, or on the rocks. You can also buy trays for extra-large ice cubes. For perfectly clear ice, make it with distilled water.