With the new term starting, and my bank account as empty as a 08:00 am lecture, I’ve been trying my best to make predrinks on the cheap that don’t involve drinking vodka mixed with tap water from a plastic bottle.

A lot of cocktail guides will list off brand names like Cointreau, Angostura bitters or Advocaat. However, if you’re anything like me, right now you need something you can make with the half-bottle of pink gin left over from Christmas Eve.

Cocktail kits are sold everywhere these days – even discount stores are getting in on the action. A good quality, bar-standard set could set you back anything from 20-40 quid depending on the amount of equipment, but if you had that kind of cash you wouldn’t be reading this guide, would you?

Here are all the things you actually need to make good drinks:

A Measure

This can be anything from a measuring jug to a plastic medicine measurer from a chemist, as long as it has measurements in millilitres from 0ml to 100ml.  If you want to splurge, I recommend a 25/50ml Japanese style “jigger” (just a fancy word for measure).

A Shaker

While bars use metal shakers (called Boston shakers if you want to look legit), a protein powder shaker is a perfectly fine alternative if it’s clean. Almost all of us have at least one mate, partner, mate’s partner or partners mate who’s New Year’s resolution was to go to the gym more, so you should have one handy if you’re willing to ask.

A Strainer

While bars use two strainers – a Hawthorne strainer to keep out large ice cubes and a fine/tea strainer to keep out ice chips – the small hole at the top of that protein shaker should keep out the cubed ice. With some of these recipes you may need to use a sieve to strain out fine ice chips. If you need to use both methods, I’ll tell you to double strain, and if the recipe involves keeping the ice, I’ll tell you to dump.

Simple syrup

This can be store bought, but is usually more expensive than its ingredients would suggest. To make cocktail quality simple syrup, mix 2 parts granulated white sugar with one part boiling water in a pan on a low heat. Stir while cooling gradually then pour into a bottle and store in the fridge. To make enough syrup for a cocktail party, I recommend 400g of sugar with 200ml of boiling water.  This recipe will last a month in the fridge, and goes great in coffee too.

Stay tuned for cocktail recipes in Part Two next week!