Ina Garten's 16 Essential Tips For The Best Cocktails

If you've seen any of Ina Garten's shows, you'll know that she loves cocktails almost as much as she loves food, if not more so, and that she puts just as much gumption and attention to detail in her drink recipes as she does in her dishes. Just as with her meals, each of her cocktails is a testament to her unwavering commitment to quality ingredients and a profound understanding of flavor combinations. Drawing inspiration from her East Hampton home and the bountiful gardens surrounding it, Ina's libations embrace a harmonious blend of fresh, seasonal produce that shine brightly in each of her concoctions.

Through her ingredients, methods, and formidable palate, she is able to strike the perfect balance between sweet and tangy or smooth and spicy. To figure out how she does this, in this article, we will explore some of her most successful drink creations and unpack the ingredients she uses to make them and the methods she employs to elevate them to legendary status. Just be warned that there is one type of cocktail we won't be covering: single serving. Our consummate entertainer and dinner party maven really don't like those, and we'll soon see why.

Swap raspberry liqueur for creme de cassis in a Kir Royale

The Kir Royale, and its simpler cousin, the Kir, are staples of French aperitif life. They're practically required drinks when you're out with friends in Paris or Grenoble, and definitely, Dijon, where they were invented. The defining feature of both drinks is the crème de cassis, a blackcurrant liqueur that is then combined with white wine in the case of the Kir, or champagne or another type of sparkling wine in the case of the Kir Royale. But unless you live in France or have some kind of miracle procurement chain, it's not necessarily easy to find crème de cassis.

Ina Garten to the rescue. Although she has been known to make a fine Kir Royale in the traditional method, as she's done for her husband in romantic Valentine's Day gestures, she suggests using raspberry liqueur instead, which is much easier to spot on American liquor store shelves. And to add a touch of class, you can even add a few raspberries to your cocktail. Just pop a few right in your champagne flute, or you can skewer them on a toothpick and balance them on the rim of the glass. And since the ingredients are so simple here, be sure to use good quality ingredients: opt for your favorite type of bubbly, and confirm that your raspberries are nice and fresh.

Add vodka to your pomegranate spritzer

If you love cooking but think it's too hot to fire up the stove right now, consider redirecting your mixing and stirring skills toward the creation of a fine cocktail. Ina Garten's recommendation for this type of weather is her pomegranate spritzer recipe, which is refreshing, fun to make, and can be prepared with or without alcohol. In fact, Ina's original version of this drink is made with just sparkling water, pomegranate juice, and lime juice.

But she also avows that if you're in the mood for something with a kick, you can always spike this concoction with a bit of vodka. This mild-flavored spirit will give your drink some grit without taking away from the refreshing taste of the pomegranate. And don't forget to garnish your pitcher and a few glasses with some fresh pomegranate seeds and lime wedges. Between the fresh flavors and the bright colors, everything about this drink just screams summer.

Chill your cocktail glasses

The last thing you want to do after preparing a nice, fresh cocktail is pour it into a hot glass that has been sitting out in the sun all day. Even a room-temperature glass might not be ideal if you want to truly savor a cold cocktail the way nature intended. But there is a simple fix for this age-old dilemma. All you have to do is stick your cocktail glasses in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before you plan on savoring your drink.

This step in the cocktail-making process is especially important for drinks that are best taken straight up. The cold glass can even replace ice, keeping the drink at the perfect temperature without diluting it as the ice melts. But if you forget to chill your glasses ahead of time, there is a hack you can use to speed up the process. Just pour some ice and soda water into your glass while preparing the cocktail, then toss them out before you pour.

Use the right ingredient ratio in big batches

As mentioned previously, Ina Garten is no fan of individually prepared cocktails. If there are going to be cocktails, there's going to be a party, and if it's a party, everyone should have a drink at the ready at any given time. She is nothing if not a true hostess.

To make sure all your party guests always have a drink in their hand, you'll have to make a big batch of cocktails, or you'll be stuck behind the bar all night without the time to enjoy your event. But making a big batch is not always the same as making an individual cocktail. It's more complex than just quadrupling a recipe. To make Ina's famous cosmopolitan, for example, you'll have to combine 2 cups of vodka, 1 cup of Cointreau, 1 cup of cranberry juice, and ½ a cup of lime juice. And knowing this ratio can help you prepare other similar cocktails in large quantities without having to do any crazy math and potentially getting it wrong.

Add watermelon to your mojitos

Due to its fresh mint and lime, mojitos are the ideal summer cocktails to beat the heat. But with Ina Garten's special tip, you can make your mojitos even more refreshing. Her secret is to put some watermelon in a food processor and add the purée to your mixture of rum, simple syrup, fresh lime juice, and mashed mint leaves. True to form, Ina Garten's recipe yields six glasses of the cocktail, which you can garnish with mint leaves, watermelon spears, or lime wedges.

Basically, you can just make your usual mojito recipe, if you have one, and add the watermelon pulp at the time of serving. Just be sure to remove the rind and seeds before you start blending. And now that you've been inspired to use watermelon, why not try with other juicy summer fruits? For example, consider blending up some extra ripe mango pulp or using mango nectar, as in this minty mango mojito recipe.

Garnish your whiskey sour with dried cherries soaked in bourbon

If you drink whiskey sours, you probably like various forms of whiskey, so for you, we recommend Ina Garten's trick for including an extra dose of bourbon in your cocktail. She does this by garnishing it with bourbon-infused dry cherries instead of the traditional orange peel or maraschino cherry.

But don't go scouring the grocery store shelves for this ingredient. Chances are, you're not going to find it there. Luckily, you can make it yourself at home, though you will need to get hold of some dried cherries. Combine ½ cup of these dried cherries with 4 ounces of bourbon and zap this mixture in the microwave for 60 seconds. Then spear the cherries with a toothpick and use them to garnish your cocktail. For the whiskey sour itself, you can use your favorite recipe, or follow our classic method from Tasting Table, made with simple syrup, egg whites, whiskey, and lemon juice.

Include blood oranges in your Cosmopolitan

We've already talked about the wonders of Ina Garten's cosmopolitan, but we would be remiss if we didn't mention her blood orange version of the classic cocktail. And the good news is that you don't have to be a seasoned mixologist to add this Cosmo twist. On her website, Ina Garten notes that even beginners will find this recipe approachable.

The recipe varies only slightly from her instructions for a big batch of Cosmos. Here you'll want to combine 2 cups of vodka with 1 and ½ cups of freshly squeezed blood orange juice, 1 cup of Cointreau, and ½ cup of freshly squeezed lime juice. Garnish with the peels of your squeezed blood oranges. Now, there's no reason why you can't make this recipe with regular oranges, or any type of orange for that matter, but the blood orange really adds the perfect combination of sweet, tart, and depth of flavor, all while giving your drink a mesmerizing, intense color.

Maintain a well-stocked bar

If you have a well-stocked pantry and can whip up delicious meals any time, any day, then you'll understand why it's important for cocktail lovers also to have a well-stocked liquor cabinet. Ina Garten, for example, has admitted to always having gin, Scotch, vodka, and bourbon on hand, all of which she can pair with a readily available selection of mixers, which include club soda, tonic, and ginger ale.

While few things can beat a fresh cocktail made with fresh ingredients, like that watermelon mojito or blood orange Cosmo, if you have a few good quality spirits and mixers lying around in your home bar, you can always put together a fine, last-minute cocktail for that unexpected guest. In fact, if you want to be really prepared, you can even keep those cocktail glasses chilled in your freezer at all times, ready to be pulled out and filled with gin and tonic water whenever the occasion arises.

Use the proper measuring tools

Just as in baking, proportions in cocktail recipes need to be precise, down to the last drop. Otherwise, your cocktail might end up becoming too sweet, too sour, too bitter, or, god forbid, too strong. To avoid this problem, Ina Garten suggests using the proper measuring tools when preparing your cocktails.

If you're a big cocktail drinker, you might already have some of these tools hiding away somewhere. Maybe they were part of a bar shaker kit someone gave you. But if you don't, make sure you stock your bar with a mini-angled measuring cup. These typically hold only two ounces but should also have markings for tablespoons, cups, and milliliters, in case you're following a recipe that calls for those. And be sure to get one with a tiny spout, so you can confidently pour your spirits into your cocktail without spilling precious nectar.

Keep the vodka in the freezer

If you've ever put a beer in the freezer and then forgotten about it, you'll know it's not a good idea to put carbonated drinks in there, even if they are somewhat alcoholic. But vodka is a whole other story. Because its ethanol content is much higher than in beer, it lowers the freezing temperature of the water contained within it so that you can safely put your vodka in the freezer without it actually freezing and expanding.

This is a great trick if you're preparing a vodka-based drink that should be served very cold. You already know about the chilled glass trick; now it's time to take it further. So next time you whip up that pitcher of cosmos, remember to use the vodka that you've been keeping in the freezer, especially if you're dealing with an especially hot day. Or you can make Ina's Limoncello vodka Collins with vodka and Limoncello that have been kept in the freezer.

Make sangria with rosé and pomegranate juice

Most sangria we see in restaurants across the U.S. and especially in Spain are made with red wine and come in that deep, dark, burgundy color. But there are plenty of sangria recipes out there that call for white wine or rosé, and they're honestly just as good.

One such recipe is Ina Garten's summer rosé sangria, prepared with one whole bottle of good rosé, your favorite pomegranate juice, freshly squeezed lemon juice, superfine sugar, Grand Marnier, Cognac or brandy, water, ice, and fresh fruits, such as raspberries, strawberries, and red plums. The fun thing about this recipe is that it's as light and bright as a Provençal rosé, but because of the pomegranate juice, it still looks like a traditional Spanish sangria made with red wine. Just be sure to store the mixed ingredients in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving to give the juices, spirits, and fruits time to blend fully.

Mix bourbon into your hot apple cider

Warm apple cider is a delicious drink in and of itself. It's sweet, slightly tart, fruity, and cozy. But it is all of that and more when you add bourbon to the mix. Ina Garten knows this, which is why she recommends pouring 2 tablespoons of bourbon into your heated apple cider, along with some whole black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, star anise, dried cloves, a navel orange, and crispy apple slices.

Wondering why Ina chose bourbon instead of some other spirit? Good question. If you've ever had a warm apple cider with some caramel sauce, you'll know how well those two flavors pair together. And it just so happens that many bourbons naturally come with this delicious caramel flavor that just seeps right into your warm apple drink like a charm. To drive home the warm, caramel feeling of this drink, garnish it with a stick of cinnamon and a whole orange slice.

Prepare your sidecars with Grand Marnier

Ina Garten makes no secret about the importance of using good quality spirits in her cocktail recipes. She never ceases to remind us of it on her Instagram posts, her various television appearances, and her own website, where every recipe calls for "good cognac," "good vodka," or "good," whatever it may be.

So it's no surprise that when it comes to her orange liqueurs, for sidecars, for example, Ina reaches for the cream of the crop, which is the Grand Marnier. According to, this drink is "the gold standard of orange liqueurs for its high-quality sourcing and careful process." So next time you prepare a sidecar, switch out the Cointreau or other orange liqueur for Grand Marnier. Or you can follow Ina's recipe straight up, which calls for the "good Cognac" to be mixed with freshly squeezed lemon juice, Grand Marnier, and the Cognac in which you marinated the dried cherries you will inevitably use as a garnish, just as with the whiskey sour.

Freeze your Paloma ingredients before serving

We've all had a frozen Margarita at some point or another instead of the classic on-the-rocks version. The novelty here is that the same can be done with Palomas, but the trick for getting it right might be a little different.

While many frozen cocktail recipes call for all the ingredients to be blended together with ice, Ina takes it one step further and requires the ingredients themselves to be frozen beforehand so that everything is cold and frozen through by the time it hits the blender. This ensures that the drink remains cool and refreshing for longer. Her method, nevertheless, remains simple: Just combine grapefruit juice, tequila, lime juice, and simple syrup in a container and freeze the mixture until it becomes solid, which usually takes at least 6 hours. Then just break up the iced mixture and blend it until smooth. Just don't forget to add a pinch of salt to lower the freezing point of the ice and help break it up a bit.

Spruce up a vodka Collins with Limoncello

The good, old vodka Collins is an easy and delicious cocktail to make, and this is just as true in the case of Ina Garten's vodka Collins with Limoncello, where the only real change is the addition of the famous Italian liqueur, which of course fits right in.

To prepare this concoction, combine your good quality vodka, such as Grey Goose or Belvedere, with freshly squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup, club soda, and only a quarter cup of Limoncello, which will bring your drink an extra layer of lemony goodness. Just be aware that the Limoncello will make this drink extra strong, as it's actually just vodka, or other grain alcohol, infused with plenty of lemons, a bit of water, and extra sugar. So when you add Limoncello, you're really adding vodka on vodka. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, but since this drink goes down easy, it's nice to know what's in there!

Introduce orange-flavored vodka to your espresso martini

An espresso martini is the ideal drink if you're looking for a pick-me-up in the evening or trying to get a second wind after an afternoon nap. And sure, if you're up for it, you might even have one for brunch because, after all, it's 5 o'clock somewhere, right?

But while you're at it, why not play around with the flavors of vodka you introduce into your espresso martini? Ina Garten, who loves playing around with flavors, recommends an orange-infused vodka. Just pick out your favorite espresso martini recipe, and when it comes time to shake together the vodka with the simple syrup, Kahlúa, and espresso, swap in your orange version, which pairs well with the deep and full coffee flavors in the espresso and the Kahlúa. For even more citrus flavor, serve the drink with an orange peel.