While the prospect of sitting in an actual cocktail bar is a reality once again, it’s still easier than ever to create exciting drinks at home.
Lockdown saw a boom in sales for premium spirits. And drinks market analysts International Wine and Spirit Research have forecast a 13 per cent increase in market share by 2024 – something which is, at least in part, due to a surging interest in at-home cocktail-making.
There are now a dazzling array of kits on offer to help aspiring mixologists with their happy hour kitchen experiments, and we spent 16 hours finding and testing the best on the market.
How we tested
The focus of our research was on kits that allow you to make your own drinks from scratch, rather than pre-made cocktails. Some of our selections come with bits of cocktail-making kit – like shakers, jiggers, stirrers and occasionally glasses – but all contain the base spirits and mixers for the suggested cocktail. You’ll need your freezer well-stocked with ice, and may need to add the odd fresh ingredient, like a lemon, but that’s about it.
One thing to look out for when choosing your kit is how many drinks it makes, as this varies considerably and naturally impacts on price. Many cocktail boxes are made using miniatures, allowing customers to take a chance on something new without committing to a large bottle of spirit which might end up languishing in the cupboard.
Other kits do offer full-sized bottles, so a seemingly expensive option might actually end up good value in terms of cost-per-drink. In each case, we’ve specified what you’re getting for your money.
The best cocktail making kits for 2021 are:
Best overall – Taste Cocktails the mojitos discovery kit: £35, Tastecocktails.com
Best for negronis – The Cocktail Man rhubarb and ginger negroni cocktail experience: £34.99, Thecocktailman.co.uk
Best value for money – The Whisky Exchange Manhattan gift collection: £69.95, Thewhiskyexchange.com
Best for sustainability – The Moose Drink raspberry martini cocktail box: £44, Themoosedrink.com
Best for expresso martinis – Mr Black espresso martini kit: £49.99, Mrblack.co
Best for simplicity – Enemigo lemon margarita set: £59.95, Buyenemigo.co.uk
Best a fun gift – Not Another Bill the full emergency bloody mary kit: £80, Notanotherbill.com
Taste Cocktails the mojitos discovery kit
This company offer a dazzling array of kits to make everything from bramble to a Long Island ice tea, but perhaps their most accessible is the mighty mojito. Containing all the necessary spirits for the classic Cuban version as well as two variations – a mint julep and a Bolivian mojito – this kit will make six drinks (coming in at under £6 each). Each of the three versions is genuinely distinctive, so sampling them all does indeed feel like a bit of a voyage of discovery.
Handsomely packaged, we also loved the apothecary-style bottles the booze comes in, and the informative booklet which – as well as recipes – contains cultural and historical insights and serving tips. You’ll need to provide your own mint and limes, but these really add to the fresh taste that’s so central to the drink’s appeal.
Buy now £35.00, Tastecocktails.com
The Cocktail Man rhubarb and ginger negroni cocktail experience
Best: For negronis
Specialising in letterbox-sized luxury cocktail boxes, Cocktail Man kits arrive beautifully-packaged in an Art Deco-style blue box. This one contains Conkers Port Barrel Gin, Campari Bitters and their own rhubarb and ginger “sliqueur”: a portmanteau for signature and liqueur, this is a mildly boozy vermouth-based syrup that gives the drink its unique flavour.
From these ingredients you’ll be able to conjure four generously-proportioned drinks – each garnished with the dehydrated orange slices provided – plus one extra for a garden party gatecrasher (working out at £7 per drink). The company’s other kits cater to a range of tastes, from a fruity mango and passion fruit mojito to a more classic cosmopolitan – plus there’s a changing roster of seasonal offerings.
Buy now £34.99, Thecocktailman.co.uk
The Whisky Exchange Manhattan gift collection
Best: Value for money
A heady, complex drink very evocative of the city for which it was named, the Manhattan is made with four key ingredients. This kit contains full-sized, premium bottles of the spirits, Woodford Reserve whisky and Cocchi vermouth di Torino, plus Angostura Bitters and a delightfully retro-looking jar of Luxardo Maraschino cherries.
You can really taste the quality of the ingredients on offer here and –although at the upper end of our price spectrum – this kit offers excellent value for money. Depending on which recipe you use (there’s a follow-along video on The Whisky Exchange website), you’ll get up to 15 cocktails out of this bundle: less than £5 a drink. If whisky isn’t your thing the company offers plenty of alternative kits, from more classic cocktails to Bellinis and Pina Coladas.
Buy now £69.95, Thewhiskyexchange.com
The Moose Drink raspberry martini cocktail box
Best: For sustainability
Blending botanical extracts and Alpine herbs, Austrian-made spirit Moose works well in a variety of different cocktails and the company sell kits to make their spin on drinks from mules to espresso martinis. Its cheapest starts at £9 and is sold through Amazon).
We tried one of the brand’s more complex offers: the raspberry martini. Although containing seven different ingredients it’s straightforward to make, merely a matter of using the supplied jigger to measure the right quantities from various dinky bottles into the stainless steel cocktail shaker. The resulting drink is moreish – fruity without being excessively sweet – and an alluring ruby red in colour.
The kit will make at least four cocktails, with plenty of Moose left over to experiment with – an enclosed cocktail booklet provides ample ideas. Promoted as “the mountain spirit”, Moose puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to sustainability, planting ten trees for every bottle purchased.
Buy now £44.00, Themoosedrink.com
Mr Black espresso martini kit
Best: For expresso martinis
Mr Black is a cold brew coffee liqueur made with arabica beans blended with Australian vodka and cuts a lot of the faff out of making espresso martinis, which ordinarily require freshly-brewed coffee. The kit contains a 700ml bottle of Mr Black, plus one litre of solo coffee concentrate – all you need to make 11 cocktails.
With an exceptionally rich and smooth taste, these are slightly less alcoholic than espresso martinis made using the conventional recipe, which generally also feature a double shot of vodka. But what’s lost in booze is more than compensated for in both flavour and caffeine, and the included cocktail shaker will make a useful addition to any home bar.
Buy now £49.99, Mrblack.co
Enemigo lemon margarita set
Best: For simplicity
Although margaritas are usually made with limes, this kit pairs Tequila Enemigo 89 with a lemon mixer made by Two Keys using Spanish lemons, which have a comparable sweetness to the traditional Mexican citrus. It’s a very fresh and drinkable combination, ideal for a summer picnic, and has the simplest serve of all our featured cocktails: just add crushed ice.
The kit comes with some nicely-designed monochrome coasters and a bottle opener, plus enough mixer to make around eight margaritas - with plenty of tequila leftover. A multiple award-winning brand, it’s named for the number of iterations it took perfect it and is surprisingly sippable neat, with a rounded mineral taste and vanilla undertones.
Buy now £59.95, Buyenemigo.co.uk
Not Another Bill the full emergency bloody mary kit
Best: For a fun gift
Part stylish joke, part cocktail kit – this would make an excellent gift for a friend who’s over-indulged at the home bar. The distinctive red steel tin evokes a vintage first aid kit – Alka-Seltzer and Berocca tablets are thrown in for good measure – and can be personalised with a name or date.
Inside you’ll find two classic LSA highball glasses (each worth at least £10) and enough Absolut Vodka and Big Tom spiced tomato juice to fill them with generous servings of bloody mary – just add Tabasco to achieve your desired level of heat. Not-Another-Bill also offers an Emergency Cocktail Kit, filled with your choice of premixed drinks and miniature spirits, plus an espresso martini gift set.
Buy now £80.00, Notanotherbill.com
The Verdict: Cocktail making kits
Just nudging the top spot are Taste Cocktails discovery kits, which offer plenty of bang for your buck. It’s good fun being able to string out the tasting process, trying a different version of the drink each evening – you could even buy one for a friend and compare notes over Zoom. The boxes are clearly put together by a cocktail-obsessed team, careful about getting the details right.
We also enjoyed our first taste of the genuinely original The Moose Drink, and experimenting with the leftovers to make adapted versions of classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned.
Worthy of special mention, too, is In The Loop’s crisply intoxicating vesper martini. This is perhaps the closest you’ll get to recreating the peerless version of the drink served at Dukes Hotel in London, Ian Fleming’s favoured haunt while he was writing the James Bond novels, and will doubtless leave you shaken – in a good way.
For the latest discounts on spirits and other alcoholic drinks, try the link below:
If you are looking for a slightly less complicated tipple check out our round up of the best gins to add to your home bar cart