The most versatile ingredients for cocktails

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When it comes to cocktail making, some ingredients work harder than others. It's rare
to find a cocktail that requires tamari sauce or mustard seeds, for example,
but believe us when we say, those drinks are out there somewhere! We don’t
recommend you buy these ingredients just for cocktail-making.

But, if you want to have a few ingredients in, just in case, you’d be sensible to buy the below. These ingredients are found in more cocktails than any others. So, whatever taste you are aiming for, one of these will almost certainly be included!


The most popular spirit by far, every alcohol shelf needs a bottle of good vodka. It’s a great base ingredient for lots of cocktails, including Singapore Sling, Margarita, and Long Island Iced Tea. And if all else fails, vodka with any kind of mixer works a treat!

White Rum

There is something about rum that lets you know it's time to party! Bacardi is a great all-rounder, but there are plenty of flavours to choose from. You’ll find white rum in cocktails such as Pina Colada, Mai Tai, and all the Daquiris!

Sugar Syrup

What do you do when you’re cocktail is a little on the bitter side? Give it a spoonful of sugar syrup! There are lots of cocktails that rely on this simple mixture of sugar and water to make them more palatable. Mojitos, Sours, and the winter classic Hot Toddy all require a little sugar syrup.

Orange Juice

The most popular fruit juice around, orange juice can be used in so many different cocktails. And if your recipe calls for any other kind of fruit juice, it can usually be substituted for orange – so make sure you’ve always got some to hand. Orange juice is used in Mimosas, Sex on the Beach, and Tequila Sunrise – all classics, we think you’ll agree!

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Soda Water

Almost any cocktail can stretch a little further when you add soda. Adding hydration without altering the taste of the drink too much, soda is a key ingredient of Mojito, Tom Collins, and Sangria, to name just a few. Of course, you’ll also find it in any cocktail with ‘Soda’ at the end of its name!

Finally, make sure your ice cube trays are always fully stocked – you’ll always want more ice than you think. A single ice cube will melt much faster than a stack of cubes, diluting your drink faster. So fill up your glass or cocktail shaker, and you’ll enjoy a nice cool cocktail for longer!

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Bartender's top tip

The key to a great cocktail is balance. Ensure that the sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and alcohol are in harmony. Use fresh ingredients whenever possible, and don't be shy about adjusting the proportions to suit your taste. For instance, if you find a drink too sour, add a bit more sweetener, or if it's too sweet, balance it with a bit of citrus or bitters.

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