Belfast Telegraph

DIY cocktails: Top tips to make delicious drinks on a January budget

Northern Ireland brands offer their advice on making bar-quality cocktails from the comfort of your own home.

Let’s face it - January is a tough month. We’ve had one too many mince pies over the festive period and feel rubbish for it, the weather is colder than ever and to top it off, payday can’t come quick enough.

Thankfully, we might have the answer to brighten up your winter blues - DIY cocktails.

You probably think that making cocktails at home isn’t worth the hassle. You have to buy the right tools and then you have to invest in premium spirits, mixers and garnishes, and they never turn out as good as they do on your night out.

But we caught up with some of Northern Ireland's most-loved brands to bring you fool-proof recipes, tips and tricks for at-home cocktail-making. So get the glassware out and the gang round and say no to the January blues.

Aim for the element of surprise.

Davy Uprichard, founder of locally-produced, Tempted Cider said: “Cider isn’t an obvious cocktail choice but when used in the right way, a good quality craft cider makes for a deliciously fruity and refreshing creation.

“Surprise your guests with our Elderflower and Prosecco creation - not only is it a crowd-pleaser, it’s also an affordable option as you only need one bottle of Tempted for four to six cocktails.”


  • Tempted Elderflower
  • Prosecco


  1. Set out your champagne flutes, and pour Tempted Elderflower about two-thirds of the way into each glass.
  2. Top up with your favourite, mid-tier Prosecco.

Gerry White, founder of Jawbox Small Batch Gin said: “We’re very lucky to live in Belfast, surrounded by talented bar-folk and creative cocktail menus. Of course, we can’t re-create every cocktail at home, but a few simple tricks will deliver an exciting, bar-quality experience, every time.

“Try incorporating the unexpected and unusual for the surprise factor. Simple changes like chilling your mixers will make a huge difference too. Our Perfect Swerve is as simple as it gets - we use ginger ale as an alternative to tonic for a new taste experience and lasting impression.”


  • 35ml Jawbox Small Batch Gin
  • 100ml Fever Tree Ginger Ale or any other premium ginger ale
  • Lime to garnish


  1. Pour Jawbox into an ice-filled mug.
  2. Top up with refreshing, chilled ginger ale, squeeze and drop in a wedge of lime.

Work with what you already have.

Gerry also has advice for those more adventurous. He said: “If you want to create something more complex, the majority of the tools that bar people use can be substituted for everyday household items so cocktail-making at home, doesn’t have to be expensive.

“A shaker can be replaced with a jam jar or protein shaker, and instead of a juicer you can squeeze by hand.

"To smash and bind ingredients, you can use a wooden spoon instead of a muddler and a tea strainer will work just as well as a cocktail strainer.

"Our Negroni is a great one to try with the kitchen utensils you already have at home.”


  • 35ml Jawbox Small Batch Gin
  • 35ml Campari
  • 35ml Sweet Vermouth
  • Orange peel to garnish


  1. Add the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice until chilled.
  2. Stir with a wooden spoon.
  3. Strain through your tea strainer into a glass and garnish with orange peel.

A little effort goes a long way.

“The joy of cocktails isn’t just their taste, but their appearance too. When it comes to presentation, you can make an Instagram showstopper with just a little effort.

“Make your ice from bottled water to deliver a clean, shiny finish. For extra impact, add lemon juice, mint, basil, lavender, fruit, or spices such as cinnamon before freezing. Not only do the cubes look great when frozen, they also add a little kick to your flavour profile.” says White.

When it comes to saving money, Gerry reminds us to use ingredients wisely.

He said: “If you’ve already bought a lime, or a lemon or any other fruit to add to your cocktail, don’t throw the remainder away and always hold on to the peel. From curls, to wheels, to zest, the peel is great for decoration. Don’t forget to freeze any leftover fruit so you have it to hand the next time too.”

Don’t splurge on the unnecessary.

Set to shake-up the gin-scene in 2018, Braemble is developed by industry heroes, Mike Aikman and Jason Scott, along with gin-genius Craig Harper. Already a firm favourite with local cocktail hotspots, The Ivory, Love & Death and Town Square, Braemble is a lush mix of blackberries and superior London Dry Gin.

The guys at Braemble said: “You’ll find most of your favourite cocktails follow the same formula so if you’re clever about it, you don’t need to buy a full bar to make a selection of impressive cocktails.

“The cornerstone of cocktail-making is understanding the difference between strong and weak, and sour and sweet.

"When we say ‘strong’, we’re talking about the base component of the drink, the main spirit such as gin. When we say ’weak' we’re talking about complementary additions like liqueurs or fortified wines. 'Sour' means your citrus fruits and sweet is your sugar and syrups.

“Almost all of the cocktails you're likely to make will consist of both strong and sour so invest there, but you can save a lot by making your own sugar syrup from sugar and water which will keep for about three weeks in the fridge. Fresh limes and lemons are much cheaper and much tastier than bottled juices.

“Braemble is unique in that it can be enjoyed both as a on its own or in cocktails - a great choice for entertaining in January. For a simple, yet sublime experience, enioy 50ml Braemble on its own in a rocks glass over ice or try The Braemble.”


  • 25ml of your favourite gin
  • 25ml Braemble
  • 20ml fresh lemon juice
  • 10ml sugar syrup


  1. Pour gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup into a rocks glass, fill with crushed ice and stir.
  2. Top with more crushed ice and cap with Braemble.


Research before you invest.

Industry experts have predicted that 2018 will be the year of rum. UK sales of rum reached £991m for the nine months to the end of September in 2017, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

Red Bonny Rum, a dark rum produced in Guyana and inspired by one of Ireland’s most adventurous female pirates, Anne Bonny, has experienced continued growth locally over the last 12 months.

Steven Pattison of Drinksology, the Belfast-based company behind the brand’s success, said: “The rum category is definitely the category to watch this year. We are still in the middle of the huge gin revival but rum is an interesting category set to increase in popularity and accessibility in the coming year. Most of the best-loved cocktail bars both locally, and across the world now stock a wide selection of premium rums on their menus.

“The good news for those making cocktails at home this month and into 2018 is that rum is incredibly versatile. It can be used in a variety of drinks and will please a variety of palates. From white rum in classic favourites like mojitos and daiquiris to dark rum in tiki-style, Mai Tais and Pina Coladas that are emerging as the comeback cocktail trend of the year ahead.

“To experience the unique flavour profile of a dark rum, try Red Bonny’s ‘Fire in the Hole’, an easy to make at home and affordable option for those new to rum or indeed new to at home mixology.”


  1. Pour 50ml Red Bonny Dark Rum and the juice of one fresh orange into an ice-filled, old fashioned glass.
  2. Garnish with the remaining orange wedge.

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