2. Give your family history a role. If you have hungrily embraced your grandmother's love of Greek food, create a drink made with Ouzo. If your mom always sips a certain type of red wine or sherry, include it in your mix. Maybe your grandfather had a penchant for lemons or almonds -- put lemon-flavored vodka or amaretto on your ingredient list.
3. Don't forget your hometown. Where are you from? Perhaps your hometown is known for a specific fruit or vegetable -- try adding that fruit or vegetable to your cocktail or use a liquor with similar tastes.
4. Use your taste buds and cravings. Think about what you like to drink and create a drink around your taste buds. If you like drinks that are fruity or tart, your drink should taste fruity or tart. Do you like sparkling or still drinks? Light or strong drinks? Clear or brown drinks? Answer these questions and you will have a clearer guideline for your unique and tasty cocktail.
5. Follow the trends. Peruse restaurant menus or current food magazines for flavor trends. Pomegranate juice and mint are hot right now – make your own version of a Pomegranate Cosmopolitan or Mojito.
6. Buy local and in season. Use seasonal ingredients fresh from your farmer's market to make your cocktail locally sourced and eco-friendly. And let the season dictate your drink ingredients – apples or warm spices in fall, espresso in winter, berries and herbs in spring, and peaches or tomatoes in summer. (Flavored vodkas give you a delicious array of flavors to match any time of year or occasion.)
7. Don't be afraid to think outside the box. You can use traditional recipes as guidelines, but bravely tweak the ingredients to reflect your cocktail desires. For example, if a drink recipe calls for pureed fruit, opt for pureed vegetables, instead. Using vegetables in cocktails is very popular right now.
8. Be considerate of your guests. Be adventurous but stay within the comfort zone of your guests. You may end up with many unhappy friends and family members and a large amount of mixed drinks left over.
9. Let a destination be your inspiration. For example, if you are celebrating your best friend's acceptance into a school out of the country, create a cocktail for her destination. If she is jet-setting to Italy or France, use a regionally-specific wine in your signature drink. If your cousin has decided to gallavant to the Caribbean after graduation, create a drink featuring pineapple, mango and other tropical flavors.
10. Get nostalgic. Look at old cocktail books for classic drink ideas. A lot of once popular drinks, like the Sidecar, Martini and Manhattan are making comebacks.
11. Simple flavor combinations. Any drink can go terribly wrong if you add too many different flavors. Choose one or two liquors with one or two fruits and maybe an herb or spice. And stop there.
12. Taste test! Before you dive into making improvisational drinks for your guests, purchase a variety of flavors you think will go together and start mixing and testing. You will be able to find the perfect combination of ingredients and concoct a palatably pleasing drink for you and the rest of the party goers. Words of warning: Just try not to taste and test too many before you get the party started!
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