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How to be a cooler shaker

Got a crowd coming? Need some advice on how to prepare all your drinks for the rabble? Our top tips will light your way...

1. Keep it simple! Making complicated, fiddly cocktails for a crowd is no fun at all, and might lead to a disastrous flap. So stick to straightforward recipes with minimal ingredients.
2. Do as much of the work ahead of the guests arriving: squeeze and chop the fruit or decorations; polish the glasses; get all the liquid ingredients and cocktail-making kit ready; bring out the bottles and you’ll be set to go.
3. Invest in the finest spirits you can.  You’ll need premium products to get the best results. The initial cost might seem steep, but remember that spirits stretch a long way – often a large splash is all you need.
4. Use fresh spirits, bitters and liqueurs – not old ones that have been hanging about in the back of a cupboard for years. These drinks lose their flavour and aroma over a long period, so if in doubt, dump that dusty bottle and get a new one.
5. Buy top-quality, organic, fresh fruit for squeezing and/or making into decorations. In particular, try to source unwaxed citrus (it often says so in the shop, or ask) when using the zest.  
6. Don’t fret too much about having the right glasses. Although serious mixologists (cocktail-makers to you and me) make much of exactly the right shape, nothing can go terribly wrong if you use a normal, fairly large wine glass, or a glass tumbler. If you buy one cocktail glass, make it the classic, pyramid-shaped martini style.
7. Make your ice cubes out of still mineral water, especially if you live in an area with unpleasant tap water.
8. Cut long stalks off any herbs (especially mint) or fruit you use in a cocktail or as a decoration – the stalks can release bitter flavours into your drink. And always use ultra-fresh, well-washed cuttings.
9. Avoid rich, creamy cocktails at a party, especially when you’re serving light food. Cream-based cocktails clash badly with many savoury snacks.
10. Instead, for a hot, crowded house party, major on clean-tasting, tangy, fruity cocktails. Your guests will really appreciate the lift they get from an elegant, deeply refreshing cocktail.

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