A man’s guide to mastering the cocktail.

Welcome to the Blake McKay Journal. We believe style should be for everyone. While taste is as personal as you are, there are a few areas where a little help can go a long way. Which is why every two weeks, we’ll publish a feature exploring a different aspect of style.

Everything from buying a suit, picking the right colours, to knowing which footwear to wear when and why. This week: a solid foundation on things you need to know about cocktails.

By now you’ve probably got a pretty solid list of favorite cocktails to order while at a bar. But how well does that translate when there’s not a mixologist to hand, say at home or a friend’s?

Allow us to help. Below is a solid foundation to entering the world of making your own favorite drinks. You’ll find the fundamentals of flavor, the equipment you’ll need, the right glassware and five absolute classics to hone your craft.

A Balancing Act

Cocktails come in many forms, and as such the best way to master them is to understand that a drink, a good drink at least, is all about balancing flavors. At its most fundamental level, a cocktail is an interplay between strong and weak, and sour and sweet.

The strong part is referring to the alcohol component: gin, vodka, whiskey etc. Weak is the everything from sodas and fruit juices to liqueurs and fortified wines, the lesser alcoholic elements.

Sour flavors come from citrus fruits and sweet from sugar and syrups. The best way to think about this all, is lemonade. To make lemonade you start with a strong flavor, lemon juice, then add sugar to reach your preferred taste. To lengthen that drink, add soda water and ice. Those four ingredients, when varied open a door to all kinds of different cocktails.

For example, add passoa and vodka to the above and you have a Passionfruit Collins. Hold the soda and you’re tiptoeing towards a Pornstar Martini. We’ll get into the foundations of good cocktails, but for now all you need to know is strong, weak, sour and sweet.  


In order to get access to all those awesome flavors and combinations, you need some tools. The following will unlock 99 percent of all cocktails.

  • Measure/Jigger - lets you measure out your flavors
  • Cocktail shaker - if you’re planning on making a whole bunch over the festive period, it’s worth investing in a high quality version of these
  • Muddler - lets you crush fruits and flavors together in the bottom of the glass
  • Juicer - pretty self explanatory
  • Mixing spoon - a long, metal spoon, preferably with a twisted shaft to help mix drinks more evenly
  • Strainer - helps remove all the bits out of your drink for a smoother finish


Now that you’ve got the right equipment, you need the right glasses to pour things in. Below will cover off pretty much all you’ll need.

  • Cocktail glass - the one most of us recognize. This inverted cone bowl normally comes in one of two sizes, three or six ounces. In this you’ll find martinis, cosmopolitans and other short drinks.
  • Highball glass - as it sounds, this is a tall glass and used to serve long drinks, or those that come with a non-alcoholic mixer. There are taller variants of this glass, like the Collins, but this does the job for most drinkers. Expect gin & tonics, mojitos and Bloody Mary’s in these glasses.
  • Lowball glass - this is the glass used by actors in films after a late night on the job. It’s the classic ‘on the rocks’ accompaniment. Typically the glass will have a solid base to help with drinks that require muddling. Alternatively they’re used to serve drinks neat. Expect OId Fashioneds, Negronis and White Russians. 
  • Martini glass - Martinis were quite happy being served in cocktail glasses, until things like Martini Espressos came along and lead to the classic drink increasing in size. Now the martini has a glass all of its own. It’s slightly larger and has a conical - as opposed to a triangular - bottom.

The Classics

Now that you’ve got the gear, where do you start? Below are five classics that should keep you going for a while.


You'll need:

  • Highball glass
  • 50ml rum
  • 25ml gomme syrup or two teaspoons of brown sugar
  • Half a lime
  • 4 sprigs of mint
  • Soda water
  • Crushed ice

Step 1 - Cut the lime in half, and squeeze the juice into a highball glass. Add your sugar or gomme syrup, along with your rum. Take your muddler and mix them together.

Step 2 - Once mixed, fill with crushed ice and top up with soda. Take your mint sprigs and slide them to the bottom of the glass with a spoon, and lift the lime, sugar and rum upwards to mix. Serve immediately.



You'll Need:

  • Low ball glass
  • 50ml dark rum
  • 25ml lime juice
  • Ginger beer
  • Ice

Step 1 - Add the rum and the lime juice to a glass. The limes you used for the juice, rub them around the rim.

Step 2 - Fill with ice cubes, top up with ginger beer and serve.









You'll need:

  • A cocktail glass still works nicely for the classic
  • A mixing glass
  • Strainer
  • 50ml of gin or vodka, depending on preference
  • 25ml dry vermouth
  • Crushed ice
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish of your choice - lemon peel, cherry, olive etc.

Step 1 - Put the crushed ice into your cocktail glass and set to one side.

Step 2 - Pour ice cubes into your mixing glass and let that cool, too. Once it’s cool to the touch, discard the ice.

Step 3 - Pour your gin or vodka, as well as the vermouth into the glass, stir slowly allowing any ice and cold water to slightly dilute the drink to taste.

Step 4 - Discard the ice in your cocktail glass. Strain your cocktail into the cocktail glass. Garnish with whatever you wish. Serve immediately.



 You’ll need

  • Highball glass
  • 50ml rum or whisky, depending on preference
  • Two teaspoons of caster sugar
  • 4 mint sprigs
  • Crushed ice
  • Soda water

Step 1 - Add the mint sprigs, caster sugar and some crushed ice into your glass. Mix them together with a muddler, but don’t put too much pressure on the mint. Crushing mint makes it taste sour.

Step 2 - Add half your rum or whisky, some more ice and continue to stir. Repeat the process until you’ve used up all your rum or whisky, and top up with soda to complete the drink.



You'll need:

  • Cocktail glass
  • Cocktail shaker
  • 5ml tequila
  • 5ml lime juice
  • 25ml cointreau or triple sec
  • 2 teaspoons agave syrup
  • Ice cubes
  • Salt

Step 1 - Fill your glass with ice and set to one side. Pour the rest of your ingredients into a shaker, add ice and shake for 45. seconds.

Step 2 - To salt the glass, grab a plate and add a layer of salt. Discard the ice from your glass when you’re ready to serve and dip the rim in lime juice. Roll the rim in the salt and set to one side.

Step 3 - Strain into glass and enjoy.


Style, like your favorite tipple, is all a question of taste. Here at Blake McKay, we appreciate that finding your own way can be a challenge. When it comes to footwear, we provide an extensive range of shoes, cuts, and colors to suit every man, and every taste.