How to SHAKE things up this New Year’s Eve

How to SHAKE things up this New Year’s Eve: Helen McGinn reveals the best cocktail recipes for a twist on classic tipples

  • Helen McGinn says gadgets aren’t necessary to impress guests with cocktails
  • She suggests using an empty jam jar as a makeshift shaker and chopsticks to stir
  • She shared a selection of recipes for classic and new style tipples 
  • Her recipes include The Negroni, Martini and Gin & Tonic 

Few things can add instant glamour to proceedings quite like a perfectly made cocktail. And, thanks to the recent cocktail revolution, they’re becoming increasingly common sights in our homes, as well as at swanky bars.

But while there’s an increasing number of fancy (and often expensive) gadgets, ingredients and glasses on offer to help amateur bartenders whip up flawless martinis, you don’t really need them to impress your guests and shake up your New Year’s Eve party.

An empty jam jar makes an excellent makeshift shaker and a chopstick will do when it comes to stirring ingredients before serving.

Instead of splashing out, try these easy recipes for the classics, and my top tips for a stylish new twist — from an Earl Grey G&T with homemade syrup to a stylish Negroni made with blood orange gin.

Drinks expert Helen McGinn (pictured) shared a selection of cocktail recipes for putting a twist on classic tipples at New Year’s Eve celebrations 


The classic Italian aperitif, this really wakes up the taste buds. A word of warning: serve chilled in small glasses, as it’s extremely strong. To make one, fill a small tumbler with plenty of ice and pour in 40ml gin, 40ml Campari and 40ml sweet vermouth. Give it a quick stir and add a thick twist of orange peel.


Blood oranges are in season, so now is the perfect time to make this particular infusion. Slice up one large blood orange and put it into a clear jar. Add 50g sugar and 500ml standard London Dry Gin. Seal the jar and leave it to infuse for 12 hours or overnight.

Strain the liquid through a sieve into a bowl and either back into the jar or into a clean bottle. Seal and store in the fridge to be used in place of regular gin in your Negroni — or just serve it to sip with lots of ice, topped up with soda water and with a thick slice of blood orange.

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Made for perking up dark winter nights, this cocktail brings together the molasses and raisin flavours of dark rum, with ginger and a dash of lime. To make one, put a handful of ice in a tall glass or tumbler. Add 50ml dark rum and 25ml fresh lime juice, give it a stir and top up the glass with chilled ginger beer. Add a wedge of lime, giving it a squeeze over the glass before dropping it in.


Homemade pineapple rum makes for a more party-friendly twist on the intense Dark & Stormy — I call it a Light & Stormy.

To make it, cube a small pineapple (about 300g) and put the pineapple chunks into a clean jar. Pour over 20g sugar and add 500ml of white rum. If you have some to hand, peel a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger and chuck it in.

Seal and leave overnight, then strain the liquid into a jug and pour it back into the jar or into a clean bottle. Seal and store in the fridge. To make a Light & Stormy, fill a tall glass with ice, add 50ml of pineapple rum and top it up with ginger ale. Or replace the ginger ale with soda water and add a sprig of mint to serve.

Helen suggests serving homemade pineapple rum instead of an intense dark & stormy cocktail at parties (file image) 


Perhaps the most iconic cocktail, this is ever so simple — just gin and vermouth. But the devil is in the detail.

First, put your cocktail glass in the freezer to get it really cold. Then grab a shaker or jar and fill it with a good handful of ice. Add gin and dry vermouth and stir for 30 seconds.

The greater ratio of gin to vermouth, the drier your martini. I like mine on the dry side, so use 50ml gin to 15ml vermouth, but you can adjust the ratio according to taste. Strain the mix into the chilled glass and add a strip of lemon peel, twisting it over the glass to release the oils before dropping it in.


Turn a martini into a lemon martini by switching the gin for vodka and adding some limoncello. To make the lemon martini, pop the glass in the freezer for five minutes while you make the drink.

Put a handful of ice in the shaker/jar and pour in 50ml vodka, 15ml of fresh lime juice and 25ml of limoncello. Stir or shake and strain into the chilled glass, topping it off with a twist of fresh lemon peel.

Helen says a classic martini can be turned into a lemon tipple by swapping gin for vodka and with the addition of limoncello (file image)


Perhaps the simplest cocktail of all and there are now endless flavour combinations thanks to the new abundance of gins. But because many come with a hefty price tag, here’s how to make your own — from vodka. Yes, really, because essentially gin is vodka flavoured with juniper berries.

For a basic ‘bathtub gin’ recipe — so called because it was made in bathtubs during Prohibition in the U.S. — pour 500ml standard vodka into a clean glass jar and add 1tbsp of juniper berries, four lightly crushed cardamom seeds, half a teaspoon of white peppercorns, three teaspoons of sugar and three strips of fresh lemon peel.

Seal the jar and give it a gentle shake. It doesn’t need long — 24 hours is enough. Once you’re happy with the balance of flavours, strain the liquid into a clean bottle.

. . . Or A G & TEA

A great way to jazz up your G&T is with a homemade sugar syrup — I love this elegant Earl Grey-tea flavoured one.

Put 500g of sugar in a pan and pour over 250ml water. Add an Earl Grey teabag — or whatever your favourite brew is — and give it a gentle stir before putting it on a low heat. Simmer for around 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally and tasting as you go. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool in the pan. Strain into a clean jar or bottle, then seal and store in the fridge.

Add a dash to your usual G&T — or mix in a tall glass with lots of ice, 50ml gin, 20ml fresh lemon juice, and topped up with soda water for a teatime twist on a Tom Collins.

Helen McGinn’s new book, Homemade Cocktails, out now (£10.99, Robinson)

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