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How to Make Fancy Cocktails When You're Broke as Hell

Felicia Alberding

We talked to mixologist Tess Posthumus about the best craft cocktails to make at home if you're on a tight budget.

This story was originally published in Dutch on MUNCHIES NL in October 2016.

A few reasons for abstaining from alcohol while you're broke: it's expensive, it makes it harder to wake up in time to make it to your underpaid job, and it slowly destroys your body.

But let's be honest, alcohol is a great social lubricant and nobody's most memorable night of their life started with a cup of herbal tea.

tess-posthumus-buiten-met-moscow-mule

All photos by Rebecca Camphens.

Still, getting drunk on a budget can be hard.

Luckily, struggling 20-somethings can turn to current mixologist and former broke-ass student Tess Posthumus for guidance. While Tess was doing a double major at the University of Amsterdam, she made some money on the side by working as a bartender at cocktail bar Door 74. It wasn't long before she started to enter mixology competitions, which she won so easily that she eventually made a career out of mixing drinks. Now she travels the world to make cocktails and judge the competitions she used to win.

We invited Tess to the VICE office in Amsterdam to learn how to make a better cocktail without going bankrupt. And while she was here, we asked some questions about shots, mixing different kinds of liquor (totally fine, apparently), and the best cure for a tequila hangover.

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MUNCHIES: Hi Tess. What are we starting with? Tess Posthumus: With a classic genever cocktail, the Collins. I have a thing for genever, I even wrote my master's thesis about it when I studied sociology. It has such a long history. A Collins should be made with genever, but because they started calling genever "Dutch gin" abroad, it's now often made with regular gin.

What's the difference between those two? Genever is actually the ancestor of gin, which misses the malted spirit. Most people know whiskey and gin. Genever is the missing link between those two. It has the herbal touch of gin and the body of whiskey.

What is the purpose of all the shaking you're doing? You need to force the ice and liquid to rub against each other. It makes the liquor cold, adds dilution and changes the texture; you create tiny bubbles. It's almost like you're shaking the liquor to life.

Why is this an ideal drink? It's easy, refreshing, and you won't be drunk after just one round.

tess-posthumus-met-een-collins

Collins2 oz. genever 1 oz. lemon juice 0.5 oz. simple syrup 2 oz. club soda

Make your own Collins: Pour the genever, lemon juice, and simple syrup into a shaker. Fill the shaker to the brim with ice cubes and shake vigorously. Fill a tall glass with ice cubes. Pour the cocktail through a strainer into the glass. Top it off with soda water and garnish with slices of lemon.

Estimated price per cocktail: $2.25

negroni-tess-posthumus

What are we going to make now? A Negroni. It's an Italian drink typically consumed before a meal. It helps to get your appetite going.

Any pro-tips to make a fool-proof Negroni? It's important to stick with the recipe. Only three ingredients: gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. I take 30 milliliters of everything, but you can also use a shot glass to measure it out. It's also very nice to add some orange peel. I squeeze the peel firmly above the glass, which releases some oil. You can rub that oil on the edge of the glass for a delicious smelling drink.

tess-posthumus-met-negroni

Negroni 1 oz. gin 1 oz. Campari 1 oz. sweet vermouth

Make your own Negroni: fill a mixing glass with ice cubes. Add the gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. Stir all the ingredients until a thin layer of frost starts to form on the outside of the glass. Pour the cocktail into a second glass filled with ice cubes through a strainer. Garnish with a slice of orange peel.

Estimated price per cocktail: $2.75

moscow-mule-tess-posthumus

Onto the next: a Moscow Mule. Why? Because it's a drink everyone likes. If you need to get drinks for a big group, this is the safest choice.

How do you go about choosing the best vodka? I compare it to steak: if you want to grill a steak and you buy hamburger meat, best of luck to you trying to get a steak on your plate. It's best to choose a bottle at eye level in the store. Those are the mid-range brands and they're fine. Between mid-range and expensive the differences aren't very big; it's mostly a matter of personal taste. But cheap alcohol is often poorly distilled and it's made of cheap ingredients. If you feel slightly disoriented after taking a sip, it's bad vodka. It shouldn't burn in your throat. Generally speaking: the smoother, the better.

But if you don't buy cheap liquor, drinking becomes expensive. I look at it like this: drinking isn't healthy, so it's better to drink something you truly like. For a bit more money, you can makes something much more tasty. And one bottle goes a long way.

Can you make a Moscow Mule without this copper cup?Definitely. If you don't have a cup like this, a whisky glass works fine. As long as there is room for ice cubes.

moscow-mule-drinkende-tess-posthumus

Moscow Mule1.5 oz. vodka ½ lime 2 dashes Angostura bitters 4 oz. ginger beer

Make your own Moscow Mule: fill a copper cup or whisky glass with ice cubes. Add the vodka. Squeeze the juice of half a lime into the glass. Save the lime. Add two dashes of Angostura bitters. Lastly, add ginger beer. Stir quickly and garnish with the lime and Angostura bitters.

Price per cocktail: $2.00

daiqiri-tess-posthumus

Last thing we're making: a Daiquiri. If you ask me which four types of liquor everyone should have in their home at all times, I would say: whisky, rum, gin, and vodka, because you can do a lot with them and they keep well. If you then buy limes and make simple syrup, you can make a Daiquiri. Simple syrup is very easy to make, by the way. You combine two parts sugar and one part water and cook it until the sugar dissolves. This syrup can be kept in the fridge for a long time.

Can you use store bought lime juice from a bottle? No, please don't. Those bottles are very cheap, but the flavour doesn't even comes close to real lime juice. Don't try to save money by buying those. Always use fresh juice.

Do you ever get a hangover? Unfortunately, I do. And I don't have a secret tip for preventing a hangover, either. For me, it's best to avoid things with a lot of sugar. It also helps me to eat a heavy meal after I go out, like a döner kebab or something like that. Tequila hangovers are caused by cheap tequila. They have words like "silver" or "gold" on the bottle, instead of "100 percent agave."

Speaking of mixing: how do you feel about drinking different kinds of liquor in one night? Is that a good or a bad idea? My theory: it doesn't matter. What matters is making sure you drink quality products.

Daiquiri2 oz. white rum 0.5 oz. simple syrup 1 oz. ml lime juice

Make your own Daiquiri: Pour the rum, simple syrup, and lime juice into a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice cubes and shake vigorously. Pour the cocktail into a glass through a strainer. Garnish with a slice of lime.

Estimated price per cocktail: $1.50