GRID Eats

How to Be Your Own Bartender

Yes, you can enjoy a good cocktail anywhere—even at home.

Photography by

Sonny Thakur

Est. Read Time

Even as virtual happy hours become the norm, there’s nothing quite like the Filipino inuman. But in place of the typical wine and beer, a great way to spice up your at-home drinking experience is to create your own cocktails.

Cocktails can be intimidating—but the team behind Craft Me Up assures us that it’s not nearly as difficult as it seems.

“I used to mix Amaretto and Whiskey together without knowing it was called a Godfather,” says co-founder and head bartender Mark Princesa.

A longtime fan of spirits, Mark’s passion for cocktails led him to establish Craft Me Up with cousins Anna Princesa and Chris Escalante. Now, they’ve made it their mission to encourage others to learn more about the art of mixology at home.

“Mixology is about more than just getting drunk.We want to help people appreciate the spirits, the flavors, and the craftsmanship behind how it’s made.”<callout-alt-author>Chris Escalante<callout-alt-author></callout-alt-author></callout-alt-author>

At-home mixology is a simple way to customize your drinks to suit your taste. And you don’t have to worry about knowing everything before you start—trying new things is part of the fun!

“The best part of making cocktails at home is the discovery,” Mark says. “That you don’t have to leave home to try something new.”


Tandauy Asian Rum with pineapple garnish on a balcony overlooking Vigan's Kalye Crisologo.
Photo by Mike Dee, as seen in Tanduay Cocktail Culture: Vigan.


START WITH WHAT YOU KNOW

It might seem like a fun idea to dive right in with the fancy liquor, but the best way to start your mixology journey is to use liquors and flavors you already know you enjoy.


SPIRITS

“Don’t jump off the deep end with strong, bitter [liquor] if that isn’t your thing,” says Mark. To help you hit your bartending stride, identify which spirit you like best—whiskey, gin, rum—and try making a few cocktails using that as a base.

TIP: You don’t need to build a 30-bottle liquor collection from the get-go (as cool as that sounds). Start off with two or three variants of your spirit of choice, then start to branch out when you feel ready to give other ones a try.

“Start with something familiar and comfortable; if you like sweet drinks, let that be your guide.” <callout-alt-author>Mark Princesa<callout-alt-author></callout-alt-author></callout-alt-author>

FLAVORS

A good cocktail is all about balance: the correct mix and proportion of quality ingredients that brings out the best flavor notes in each one. But at-home mixology is also about what appeals to you: start off with something familiar (like a Cuba libre—which is really just rum and Coke), and work your way up to more adventurous flavor combinations. (Coffee! Chili peppers! The possibilities are endless.)

A good rule of thumb is to make the drinks you would want to drink.

Mixology kit including a jigger, shaker, and a cocktail strainer.

Tools of the Trade

Now that we have the booze, let’s talk tools: Bar tools are great because they’re designed for convenience and efficiency (and they also look really cool). But aside from being pretty pricey, a lot of bar tools are hard to find. Luckily, you can start off by making use of what’s already in your kitchen.

Jigger

If you have to spend on one piece of at-home bar equipment, get a jigger. Most cocktail recipes call for them, so having one in your arsenal will help make sure you get your measurements right.

Shaker

A shaker is a basic bar tool that’s used to mix and cool your drink (with ice) at the same time. If you don’t have one, a tightly sealed, insulated tumbler will do just fine.

Cocktail Strainer

A cocktail strainer removes excess ice chips, seeds, and other small particles from your drink. Pouring your cocktails through a small kitchen strainer works just as well.

Bar Spoons

Bar spoons are unique for their twisted handle design, which helps bartenders stir drinks quickly and efficiently. While a good tool to have, using a normal long-stemmed spoon will get the same results.

“Most bar tools are there for convenience and for speed, but if you’re just [starting out], most of them can be substituted with home items.” <callout-alt-author>Chris Escalante<callout-alt-author></callout-alt-author></callout-alt-author>

Tanduay Cocktail Culture Ambassador, Dondz Bolante stirring. Photo by Mike Dee.
Ken Alonso shaking up a cocktail at Proudly Promdi's traveling bar. Photo by Miguel Nacianceno.


From left to right: Tanduay Ambassador and mixologist Dondz Bolante prepares a cocktail. Photo by Mike Dee. Ken Alonso prepares a cocktail behind Proudly Promdi’s mobile bar. Photo by Miguel Nacianceno.

FIND THE RIGHT MIX

Before you get to mixing, remember this: like any other skill or craft, learning mixology takes some time and effort to get right.

The CraftMeUp team recommend: The Educated Barfly and Steve the Bartender.

“[Mixology] is a quick way to churn out a drink, but it still involves a lot of practice and learning, and that’s what drew me in.” <callout-alt-author>Anna Princesa<callout-alt-author></callout-alt-author></callout-alt-author>

But from muddling herbs to whipping up the perfect Ramos Gin Fizz, you can only become a master mixologist with practice. Try different things and, when you feel like you have the basics down, experiment with new techniques, spirits, and flavors.

And final thing: make sure you never run out of ice.


RECIPE

It always helps to know the classics. Here’s a simple whiskey drink you can make at home!

Recipe: Whiskey Sour by Craft Me Up PH
Recipe and photo by Craft Me Up PH. Save this image for later!
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