Bar 101: The Basics pt 3: Mixing Liquors and Cordials

Here comes the fun part!


Now, this is what caught my attention when I first took my bartending classes. Mixing, and the pretty colors of drinks themselves. The thing is, their is a science to it all. That’s the thing you don’t realize until you began to create drinks.

To mix, you need the basics.

Vodka, Rum, Tequila, Whisky, and Gin. I have them all in my cabinet, but I’m not a gin drinker. It’s nasty in my opinion. I keep it because one rule I have about bartending, true bartenders know, it’s not about you. At the end of the day, it’s about who you are serving. I tend to lean more towards female taste, but I always remember that.

As I posted two of the tipsy bartending videos, they cover a lot in a matter of minutes explaining what you should have in your home bar. Their are TONS to choose from once you get the basics. I always keep soda and juice on hand. You have the basics, cranberry, orange, pineapple, and apple. I tend to get more experimental with mine though. I also keep in mind that some, if not most, like to have an healthy alternative.

Once you began to get into really mixing, the secret is matching flavors. Your cordials(liqueurs) tend to have certain tastes, and colors. So if you are trying to get a certain mock taste, or make the drink to appear to look like something, you need to keep this in mind as you write the recipe. Also, keep an open mind to texture, and that ANYTHING can be mixed into a drink, as long as you’ve done your research.



Secret number two bartenders don’t tell you about. We do a ton of research. Going to other bars, reading about trends, and going to conventions to learn about new products. I wouldn’t say you need to go on trips to learn things, but reading in cookbooks or bar books helps out a lot.

When I’m prepping for Bar 101 for you guys, it’s a weeks long process. I have a theme, and then I read up on the theme I’m going for. It gives me ideas of how and where I want to try new drinks. I go explore my local stores, markets, and beverage depot to see what I can come up with. I take my inventory as well. You want to make sure you keep things stocked up as well.

In any case, I read a lot. Each base liquor has a certain taste to it. In my opinion, vodka and run are easier to mix opposed to whiskey, but all can be mixed. It’s mainly your cordials you have to pay attention to.

Example: Bailey’s is very sensitive to mix since it’s like a cream. In some cases, mixing with the wrong things, or not cooling it enough will get you the cottage cheese result, and trust me, it don’t taste good at all.

My recommendation: buy a bar mixing book. You can google info, but in most books, they have a list of the cordials and their flavors in the back. Just like liquor, they have high shelf cordials, and house cordials. In some case, like liquor, buying the expensive stuff is better, but in most cases, it just depends what you are trying to achieve with the drink itself. This proves to be true once you getting into layering especially.

bbook1 bbook2

I still have my school book that I refer to when I’m writing out things. I have these books, and they are lifesavers. Also, if you buy from, they send a complementary book of recipes, and basics to read up on. You can find a ton of books out there to read, but I always keep a recipe book handy. Their are apps you can download too.


As you see here, this book has been though the ringer, but I always have it with me to take notes. It was the gateway of trying to cook with liquor as well. Today, for example, I’m making angry orchard chicken. I’ve made my barbeque sauce, spaghetti sauce, and multiple things this way.

That’s why I stress the research, you tend to find out things about mixing that you can use in other ways. I use red wine in my crockpot roast. Their are cooking wines, but as I read, I found out that cooking wines are full of salt, and it’s healthier to cook with the real wine itself.

Cooking and baking kill the alcohol, depending on how much you use, and brings out the flavor itself, which also cut down on seasonings if needed.

With all that said, mixing is actually every simple, just takes some reading, and figuring out what it is you want to achieve. Get a pen and paper, and take notes on what it is you want to make. Makes sure you get the basics before venturing off into the flavored stuff, and keep your books and apps handy. They help move then you know when you first start off.

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