We were a bit intimidated by the whole cocktail thing at first, but the drinks the experts at various bars and restaurants were making or us were so amazing we knew we had to figure out how to do it at home. Here are a few things we've learned along the way to make it a bit easier for you.
Simple Syrup - You'll find a lot of recipes call for simple syrup. Fortunately, they are not kidding, it's really simple. Add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool. TADA!
Muddling - If you like using fresh fruit and herbs in your drinks, muddling is what you need. Put fresh fruit, mint leaves, or whatever needs a bit of work before becoming part of your drink in a large metal shaker. Using a muddler, which is like a large pestle, you give it 5-6 good mashes, using a twisting action. No need to pulverize the stuff, but you do want to release the flavors.
Shaking - If you've been using a metal shaker to put your ingredients in, you're ready to shake and serve. Put a glass over the shaker - a 16 oz beer glass works well - at a slight angle. Hold the bottom of the shaker and the top of the glass fairly tightly together or you'll end up with a shoulder full of mess. Shake the glasses forward to back sort of over your shoulder. To release the glass, bump the side with your hand to break the vacuum.
Straining - Using a strainer over the shaker, strain into your waiting glass. You did have your glass and ice ready.
Enjoying - Seriously, did you need this helpful hint?