One of my signature drinks. The Port of Call.
Why I Wrote This Site
I came up with the idea for this site in 2013 while I was putting together a little cocktail recipe booklet as a Christmas gift for my family. Initially, it was just supposed to be a few recipes and brand recommendations, but it ended up having 70+ recipes and full sections on tools, techniques, and different spirit categories.
I named the booklet “Social Hour”, which is the term my family uses for "cocktail hour", a tradition started by my grandparents. It is the designated time that we convene for drinks, snacks, and general at family gatherings big and small. I’ve always loved the term Social Hour because it gets right to the heart of how I feel about cocktails. It’s not about the drinks themselves, which are of course very nice, but the company you share them with. To me, cocktails are family, and family is everything to me.
After Christmas that year, the seed for this site had been planted. Over the last three years it has sprouted, grown, wilted at times, and now, finally, blossomed.
The Social Hour Philosophy
My hope is that Social Hour will be a place where both curious cocktail novices and experienced bartenders alike come to for information that's straightforward and easy to understand but also comprehensive and not dumbed down. Social Hour is not just about recipes, but also the craft of making cocktails, which I think much more important than a list of ingredients. So, while there are plenty of recipes, you'll find in-depth sections on everything from how to hold a jigger to the various ways you can make crushed ice, and this is just the beginning.
In the coming months and, if all goes as planned, years, I’ll be posting new cocktail recipes, and adding a guide on all types of alcohol, plus a whole bunch of other stuff that I have planned. There is much, much more to come. I hope you’ll be along for the ride.
Professional Bartending vs Home Bartending
Throughout many of these pages, I distinguish between professional bartending and home bartending, because the two settings precipitate different needs. But I don’t mean to suggest that professional bartenders are superior or more skilled in any way than home bartenders. To invoke Ratatouille once again, this time refashioning a quote from the fearsome food critic character Anton Ego, “a great [bartender] can come from anywhere.”
At home, you’re making drinks in your kitchen on your own time. You pick the drinks and do all the prep. When working a shift behind a bar, you’ve got a bunch of prepped ingredients and are cranking out a variety of cocktails on the clock. The home environment benefits from simplicity and convenience, while professionals need to be more concerned with speed, efficiency as well as showmanship - the bar is a stage. Of course, in both scenarios, the goal for both is the same. Great drinks.
Across the pages of this site, I'll note when a tool or technique is better suited for one or the other, but usually it’s not black and white. Many home bartenders prefer to use the tools and techniques that professionals do. I certainly did when I started out making cocktails at home. How you make your drinks is up to you (or your boss’, if you’re working in a bar).
Remember What Effects the Drink and What Effects the Show
First and foremost, my goal with everything I explain and demonstrate across these pages is to help make your cocktails taste as good as possible. There are some tools, techniques which make a cocktail, or the bartender preparing it, look better, but don't necessarily have much of an impact on what's in the glass.
For example, a professional bartender who takes the time to master the "professional stir" which looks extremely cool, will probably want a cool barspoon and mixing glass to show it off. But if you know what you're doing, you can stir a cocktail with a chopstick in a plastic cup end up with a fairly similar result.
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with a fancy mixing glass and barspoon, I have a few of both and love each and every one. Aesthetics and presentation are, of course, extremely important for a bartender to consider, particularly a professional one. But it's important to keep in mind what directly affects the cocktail and what is part of the show. Both elements have their places, and a good bartender keeps them firmly secluded there.
On this site, I'm most concerned with what's in the glass.
Hello and welcome to Tom Macy Cocktails! My name is, as you may have guessed, Tom Macy, and I'm the creator and author of this site. I wrote this site from 2015-2017, and have been making sporadic updates since. My career has been centered around leading people to drink better cocktails whether I post recipes to this site, prepare them myself (I am part owner of two cocktail bars in Brooklyn: the Clover Club, where I originally bartended, and Leyenda), or starting a canned cocktail business - my new company Social Hour Cocktails launched in August 2020! I live with my (wonderful and astoundingly supportive) wife Ellen, and our three daughters: Willow - 7, Violet - 6, and Wren -3, in Blauvelt, NY.
One of my deepest passions is teaching people to make better cocktails themselves, whether they're preparing them at home or as professional bartenders. I like to fashion of myself as a cocktail version of the fictional chef Gusteau from the Pixar film Ratatouille - one of my all-time favorite films.
Never Made a Cocktail Before?
Don’t Be Intimidated.
The charms of the typical modern cocktail bar - exotic ingredients, vested bartenders, tiny bottles filled with house-made syrups and bitters - are a large part of why they are fun to go to. That, and they have very tasty drinks, of course.
However, while this is certainly not our intent, this mysterious atmosphere can be intimidating which I think leaves people with the impression that making cocktails should be left solely to professionals.
This could not be further from the truth. Making cocktails is something anyone can learn how to do. It's not unlike cooking at home. In both cases, you’re in the kitchen, combining and manipulating an assortment of ingredients to create something that’s greater than the sum of their parts. But making cocktails is far less complicated than cooking. There are a whole lot of different things you can do with food when you add heat, whereas you can only do so much with ice and booze, and 99% of the time it’ll either be shaking or stirring.
To learn to make cocktails all you really need is some time to familiarize yourself with the routine, then it’ll quickly become second nature. I think of it like making pasta, which most of us don’t have to think twice about because the routine is so ingrained in us. But what if you’d never made pasta before, and had no point of reference? There are a lot of ways it could go wrong. How much water? How much pasta? What’s al dente? What does salting the water mean? How much salt? Should I cover the pot? When?
When making a cocktail for the first time, you’ll encounter lots of little questions like this, and that’s what this site is here for. To get started, look at the fundamental guidelines laid out on the How to Make a Cocktail and 11 Simple Tips pages. Before you know it, a margarita will be as automatic as a bowl of spaghetti. Only much quicker.
One of three copies of the original Social Hour booklet I made three years ago as a Christmas gift for my family that led to the inspiration for this site.
This is where I wrote a good portion of Social Hour and took just about all of the photos. As you can see, the wainscoting background seen in many images throughout the site is not my actual wall, but a bunch of panels I painted and command-stripped together.
The family! (before Wren's arrival)