Making your own drinks from scratch is easier than you think, and whether it’s syrups and liqueurs to boost your cocktail-making skills, delicious alcohol-free drinks or whipping up your own plant-based milks, we’ve got plenty of inspiration and ideas for you.
Tangy and fizzy, kombucha is a fermented, non-alcoholic sweetened tea that’s exploded in popularity in the last few years as drinkers discover its funky charms – it makes for a sophisticated alternative to sickly soft drinks, or works as a versatile cocktail ingredient. There are many excellent kombucha brands out there (see our kombucha taste test of the best) but making your own from scratch is much easier (and often cheaper than buying ready-made) than you think. Just check out our DIY kombucha step-by-step guide, which will show you how to make a base kombucha and then flavour it – lime and ginger booch, anyone?
Shop-bought cordials can often be teeth-achingly sweet, and making your own couldn’t be easier, with minimal ingredients and time needed. We love making the most of gluts of spring and summer produce by turning them into vibrant syrups for drinks. These super-summery cordials are delicious with tonic or sparkling water, or try using them in cocktails – we’d suggest using the cucumber and lime in a margarita; the peach and basil with bourbon; and strawberry and cardamom in a spritz with sparkling wine.
In a rush? This quick ginger cordial is delicious with lemonade or with whisky.
Infusions and liqueurs
It’s a cinch to make liqueurs with whatever spirits and ingredients you have to hand once you know what you’re doing. Seasonal fruit is a great place to start. In spring and summer, try infusing rhubarb or gooseberries, along with a little sugar, in gin. The former makes for a tart, rosy-hued rhubarb gin perfect in a G&T, while chilled gooseberry gin tastes like an elegant dessert wine. Other soft fruits like raspberries and strawberries also work well with clear spirits such as vodka and tequila. In autumn, the bounty of hedgerow berries offers even more possibilities, from classic sloe gin to blackberry whisky. Check out our guide to autumn berries for more inspiration.
You can also raid your spice rack for ingredients to make quirky infusions. Vanilla pods infused in vodka make a spirit perfect for passionfruit and espresso martinis, while cacao nibs in rye or bourbon add delicious cocoa notes to this chocolate old fashioned recipe. Chillies and agave spirits are a bulls-eye match – this cucumber and jalapeño margarita jug cocktail infuses jalapeño in tequila for a spicy kick. Just remember to exercise caution when it comes to chillies and spices as the flavours can be very strong – start with infusing for short periods of time and taste regularly to make sure you happy with the end result.
The rise of the zero- and low-alcohol drinks movement has sparked a vogue for funky, tangy drinks that offer complexity of taste without the booze – think kombuchas, switchels and shrubs. The latter – syrups made with fruit, sugar and vinegar – can be diluted with sparkling or tonic water for a refreshing, grown-up drink. We’ve got some must-make shrub recipes here, from grapefruit and cardamom to pineapple flavours.
Make your own plant milks
Whether you can’t drink dairy or choose not to, the variety of plant-based alternatives has never been better. However, many brands can be expensive, and if you’re looking to save then making your own ‘mylks’ is a cinch. We have recipes for oat milk, rice milk and almond milk (you can also check our our taste test for the best shop-bought almond milks here)
DIY Irish cream
Irish cream isn’t just for Christmas – use it to spike coffee for a boozy brew, drizzle over ice cream, swap for cream in a super-powered white russian or it makes for a versatile baking ingredient – check out our favourite baileys bakes.