A COCKTAIL party shouldn’t start with the first brandish of a shaker; it should start with a menu. Curating a short list of drinks, instead of casting around for something novel to mix with that gin, allows you to serve drinks that will please even your most discerning guests, and to be a more nimble host.
Take inspiration from any bar that prides itself on its cocktails. Survey the back bar. What will stand out is a selection of what bartenders call modifiers: liqueurs, bitters, vermouths and fortified wines.