So, you’ve invited the gang around to your house for an evening of fun and beverages. The liquor cabinet is well stocked and you have all the necessary mixers. Everything is set, right? Not necessarily.

Having the right ingredients and knowing what to actually do with them can make the difference between great cocktails and paint thinner. Here are some tips that will make you a mixology magician.

Measure your pours

Free pouring may look all kinds of cool at your local bar, but you don’t have Einstein’s eye for measurements and believe it or not, experts use jiggers. If you don’t want even the simple gin and tonic to make eyes water and a cosmopolitan to resemble moonshine, get your jigger out and use it with pride. Your guests will thank you for it.

Proper glassware

You don’t have to fly in Baccarat crystal, just keep a collection of glasses that fit most cocktails, such as martini, rocks and highball. Serving up Champagne? Flutes were created for a reason. Beyond the fact that glassware is so much classier than plastic tumblers, know that glasses are designed specifically to bring out the best in the beverage they carry. They ain’t just there for the looks.

Strain, strain, strain

When shaking some drinks with ice, such as a martini, that is the only time they should be near ice. Strain them into a glass and let them be. Ice is a great cooling agent, but it can also water down cocktails quickly if it just sits in them. A lot of shakers come with a strainer accessory, but if yours doesn’t, get one, stat!

Shaken, not stirred, or vice versa

Again, there are reasons for everything. If a drink recipe calls for being shaken, not stirred, don’t question the James Bond theory – just do it! Each method can make a difference in how your cocktail tastes.

Ice, ice, baby

Who would have thought that frozen water could be such a big deal? But it is, particularly in the bartending world. Using filtered water will get you fresher tasting cubes, and try to chisel chunks off a big block rather than going so-last-season with those refrigerator trays. Go big, or go home.

Garnishes

Unless you’re planning to party with Toby Keith, keep the red Solo Cups in the cupboard.

This is probably one of the main items in home mixology that gets chucked to the wayside. Why should you bother with garnishes? Because they can make a difference not just to how your drink looks (awful purdy), but also the aromas that surround it. Olives, limes, lemons, orange peel…all seem fairly innocuous, yet they can lift a drink from mediocre to marvelous.