10 Tips & Tricks for a Perfect Cocktail

Cocktails have made a huge comeback in Belgium, we finally caught on with the rest of the world and cocktail bars are popping up left and right. We have not quite favoured them over our traditional glass of bubbly but we seem to be open to trying a cocktail from time to time. Charismatic bartenders, now called mixologists, concoct out of a few pours and shakes the loveliest elixirs bearing some magical name. I am a fan! So when Njam! (a Flemish food network) invited me to a cock- & mocktail tasting at Sips Cocktail Bar with Manuel Wouters in Antwerp, I was soooo there! And on top of that Grohe Blue, a tap water filter and chilling system, demonstrated their home model for us. I share the tips and tricks and recipes.

WHAT IS A COCKTAIL – It’s not quite clear when the cocktail made it first appearance and in what shape or form. One thing is clear a cocktail is a mixed drink containing alcohol.  A mocktail, a recent invention, is a drink without alcohol, not to be confused with a juice or smoothie, as it is flavours have been build up like a cocktail and shaking not blended. The roaring 1920 were famous for it’s speak easies due to the prohibition law on alcoholic beverages in the US, in the 60ties it seemed every household had a little bar in their house and come “cocktail hour” drinks were served up. Of course James Bond’s famous line about his Martini “shaken, not stirred” rings in my ears each time I order one.

10 TIPS & TRICKS – Now whether you want to try your hand at making a few cocktails this weekend or surprise your guests at your next dinner party, here some tips and tricks from Manuel :

  1. Start by building up gradually the flavours of the cocktail and getting the balance between sweet and sour just right.
  2. Use filtered water to obtain a neat and clean taste, free from excessive calcium or other natural metals in tap water that may alter the taste. Below more details.
  3. Use lower priced alcohols; as the overall taste will stand out, not the individual liquor. It would be a shame to use a fine single malt masked by pear juice and cinnamon.
  4. When adding lemon or lime, remember: lime adds freshness and lemon sourness.
  5. To make your own sugar syrup is easy: add to 1 part of water, 2 parts of sugar, bring to a boil. Let chill before using.
  6. When shaking; shake vigorously for minimum 10 seconds. Yep, it’s a work out!
  7. To open the shaker: hold it at navel level, tap the shaker with heel of your hand on the edge where it meets to loosen and to avoid spilling.
  8. Always use a strainer to sift your cocktail when pouring into the glass so no particles are transferred.
  9. Most cocktails are served over ice, there is no real rule, but when you prefer it neat than chill your glass with ice chips while preparing the cocktail, this makes for a pleasant drink. Nobody likes a lukewarm cocktail.
  10. Crush the garnish slightly to release the aromas, so when served you get that hint of a scent, setting you up for something lovely to reach your lips a few seconds later.

USE FILTERED WATER by Grohe Blue Home – as an advent tea drinker ( see my post on tea here) I already filter my water as I hate that calcium gunk drifting on top of my tea. Using filtered and cooled water in cock-& mocktails, makes sense as well.  I was very impressed by Grohe Blue Home; it provides you with chilled still, mildly sparkling or sparkling water. It’s an off-the-shelve compact unit with dual tap, fitting underneath your kitchen sink and easy to self-install. Using a replaceable filter cartridge and CO2 refillable containers for bubbly water, you can enjoy chilled water and use regular tap water for cooking or doing the dishes as well. Let’s face it, our oceans are full of plastic and we need to make a change that starts with us, today! I use about 40 plastic bottles of water per month, and I hate I contribute to the mountain of plastic waste. However I truly despise the taste of my tap water, luckily also there Grohe has a solution, they can add a magnesium filter to alter the taste.

RECIPES – The cocktail and mocktail recipes Manuel made for us can be found on Njam in Flemish click here: Strawberry Gin Fizz, Ginger & Matcha Mocktial, Apple & Elderflower Cooler, La Poire and Bitterol Fizz.I translated my favourite for you : La Poire – a pear, cinnamon and bourbon cocktail, perfect for those chilly fall nights we have been enjoying this season.


Photos by Njam, Recipe by Manual Wouters, Text by Sandra

La Poire - Cocktail by Manuel Wouters


  • 3 cl Pear coulis
  • 2 cl Lemon juice
  • 2 cl sugar syrup
  • 4.5 cl Bourbon Whiskey
  • 3 cl Filtered chilled water
  • 1 cinnamon stick


  1. Add the ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice. 
  2. Shake during 10 seconds
  3. Strain the cocktail into a tumbler filled with ice.
  4. Garnish with a cinnamon stick (crushed slightly)


Recipe by Manual Wouters, Translated by Sandra Slawinski on www.leeksandhighheels.com

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