Whether you’re stirring, shaking, layering or muddling, with the soaring popularity of cocktails and the trend for complex infusions, there's plenty of fun to be had by experimenting with these visual treats at home.

In my little black book of cocktails, good quality vodka and gin are paramount to any bar, along with Angostura bitters and some basic implements such as a Boston shaker, a strainer, a long bar spoon and a jigger for measuring alcohol.

Ice is the most important ingredient to any recipe, and you can never have too many ice cubes. Not only does it chill the glass, but it opens up the flavours in spirits and they should always be served ice cold.

Beyond the timeless classics, here are some interesting cocktails to build over the party season.

A Manhattan with a twist, this vintage cocktail hails from New York’s Manhattan Club and, traditionally speaking, rye whisky makes the finest Manhattan.

But then, of course, that’s before you’ve started experimenting with a white spirit such as Belvedere Unfiltered Polish Vodka (£38.95, 70cl, thewhiskyexchange.com). Full, smooth and textured, the rich flavour married with sweet vermouth and delicate lavender creates a bittersweet seduction.


60m Belvedere Unfiltered

10ml sweet vermouth

dash lavender bitters

Half fill a mixing glass with ice.

Add the Belvedere, sweet vermouth and bitters.

Stir well and strain into a chilled martini glass.

Garnish with a lemon twist.

Bison grass imparts a honeyed sweetness to vodka, and Polish rye vodkas such as Zubrowka (£19.39, 70cl, thedrinkshop.com) have been blending it to great effect for many years. Extremely fragrant with soft vanilla scents and a freshness on the finish, the natural herbaceousness of Zubrowka complements the citrus flavours of prosecco.


30ml Zubrowka

20ml peach puree

15ml ginger & chilli syrup (see recipe)

60ml prosecco

Pour the Zubrowka, peach puree and ginger & chilli syrup into a chilled champagne flute, then slowly top up with prosecco. Garnish with physalis orange fruit.

Flavoured syrups are easy to make by mixing one part boiling water with one part sugar, blending with the flavour agent and straining.

For this recipe, boil 1ltr of water, 2kg of white sugar, ginger and chilli and simmer for around an hour.

The flying geese on Grey Goose Original (£35, 70cl, Waitrose) signal the silky smooth clean flavours of this famous French wheat vodka, and while some purists may say it’s too good to mix with, ‘the world’s best-tasting vodka’ certainly complements the subtle sweetness of Toussaint Coffee Liqueur (£13.84, 50cl, drinkfinder.co.uk).


35ml Grey Goose

17.5ml Toussaint

30ml espresso

splash of sugar cane syrup

single cream

Half fill a mixing glass with ice.

Add the Grey Goose, Toussaint, espresso and sugar cane syrup. Stir and strain into a chilled coupette.

Slowly pour the cream over the back of a teaspoon directly into the drink and sprinkle with a light dusting of chocolate powder.

Rarely drunk neat, gin lovers will agree the refreshing botanicals in versatile gins such as Bombay Sapphire (£20, 70cl, Tesco) hold the secret to old-school glamour cocktails.

To help spread the love and create a delicious winter serve ahead of the party season, here’s a recipe using Tuaca (£20.99, 70cl, thedrinkshop.com), an Italian brandy with a vanilla profile that can be used in any number of cocktails.


200ml Bombay Sapphire

50ml Tuaca liqueur

200ml ginger beer

200ml cranberry juice

1 lime cut into wedges

Fill a large jug with cubed ice, then squeeze in the lime wedges.

Pour in the Bombay Sapphire, Tuaca and cranberry juice and give it a stir.

Top off with ginger beer and stir gently in an uplifting motion for a final time.

Garnish with a large mint sprig. Pour into small tumbler glasses filled with ice and a mint sprig. Serves four to six.