By Ron Fisher

<Dear ROTR,

I love reading about all the drinks I can make if I want to mess up my kitchen, but aren’t there any mixes I can buy that you simply pour and stir?>

Dear Simplify,

The answer is yes. I understand that not everyone needs to do things the hard way, even if I view making a mess as part of the process. That said, Whole Foods has a terrific collection of cocktail mixes, bitters and simple syrups. As with anything you buy prepared, you need to read the list of ingredients on the label. If it includes things that you would reasonably have in your drawer at home, you’re on solid ground. If there is lots of salt, sorbic acid, or other stuff you can’t identify, stay away. I have the Ginger Spice and Spiced Old Fashioned mixes, and I think they’re wonderful.

Here’s a serving suggestion when you’re having people over: pour the mix from the jar into a small pitcher and put a spoon into the pitcher, with the handle leaning against the pitcher’s rim. A bottle of the appropriate spirit is standing alongside. When it comes time to mix a cocktail, say, “Here’s something you might enjoy,” give the spoon a quick twirl through the liquid, and prepare according to the instructions on the jar. As your guests take a sip, give them an inquisitive look; they say, “Wow, that’s good;” and you smile knowingly, opining, “It’s one of my faves.”

<Dear ROTR,

I want to make some cocktails, but I don’t have the bar equipment that I need. What should I buy?>

Dear Gearhead,

Here are the basics you should have, although I will warn you, as a gearhead myself, there are more accoutrements in the cocktail world than you would imagine.

The first thing I would recommend is a Cobbler shaker.

It comes with a cap (that can be used as a 2 oz. jigger) and the top has a strainer.

You will need another jigger, as well, which measures smaller amounts. Buy a Japanese jigger that measures ½ ounce and ¾ ounce. It’s easy enough to figure what is half of a 2-ounce jigger, which is what comes with your shaker, but smaller than that is tough to measure.

You will also need a swizzle spoon. There are numerous occasions when a cocktail must be stirred – recall that not every martini is shaken – and an iced-tea spoon just doesn’t cut it.

Lastly, I would recommend having a citrus press. They’re quick, efficient, and they are cleaner than any other means of squeezing lemons and limes.

If you really want to kit out your bar with equipment, you can find everything you could ever imagine at www.cocktailkingdom.com.

<Dear ROTR,

I am a recently divorced man in my late-forties, re-entering the dating scene after many years. I enjoy cooking, and find that preparing dinner at my house is fun for both my date and me. It would be nice to have a cocktail to add to the presentation. Any thoughts?>

Dear Re-entrant,

Great question! Plunking down a bottle of bourbon on the counter and asking, “Straight up or on the rocks?” is not going to win many hearts. She might like a Cosmo, but it’s not exactly a guy’s drink, and you want something that you can enjoy together. Let me suggest a Pegu Club Cocktail, a tasty drink that is easy to make that you both will enjoy. Originally a warm-weather cocktail, the Pegu Club is good any time of year. That it comes with a story is an added plus.

As you are mixing the drink, here is the story you can tell: The Pegu Club was an opulent, Victorian-style Gentlemen's club in Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar), named after the Pegu, a Burmese river. The club was built in the 1880s to serve British army officers and civilian administrators. In its day, it was one of the most famous clubs in Southeast Asia. The recipe appeared in the Savoy Cocktail Book of 1930, and there is now a trendy bar in Manhattan called the Pegu Club.

<<The Pegu Club Cocktail>>

2 oz. gin (or vodka, if you must)

¾ oz. curacao or Cointreau

¾ oz. lime juice

A dash of bitters

Sweeten with simple syrup to taste

Shake with lots of ice and serve straight up in a martini glass. For those really in the know, you will realize that a Pegu Club is basically a Cosmo without the cranberry juice. However, keep this to yourself when telling the story.