Quick and Easy Tips To Improve Your Home Cocktail SkillsBy Jake Emen
When you’re stuck at home for longer than you typically enjoy, you might have to learn to be resourceful in order to keep drinking well. The good news is that you likely have enough basic ingredients in your kitchen to make delicious at home cocktails. Best of all, these quick and easy tips can always come in handy making you the cocktail MacGyver of your social group.
Simple Syrup Is Your Best Friend
Simple syrup, also known as sugar syrup, is as versatile and essential of a cocktail ingredient as there is. Best of all, you almost certainly have what you need to make it: water and sugar. Any type of sugar will do. Measure an equal 1:1 ratio of sugar to water. Then heat it up without letting it come to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. For a rich simple, use a 2:1 sugar to water ratio. Leftover simple syrup can then be safely stored in an airtight container in the fridge for at least 1-2 weeks.
You have even more options at your disposal if you have honey or maple syrup on hand. What you don’t want to do is try to mix with either sticky substance as is, because you’ll have a difficult time integrating the ingredients together. Instead, simply follow the same 2:1 recipe of either ingredient with water to create a more soluble and stir-able sweetener for your home cocktail.
All Citrus is Good Citrus
Lime, lemon, grapefruit or orange—whatever type of citrus you have on hand can be put to use in your home cocktail. Juice the citrus while reserving the peels for garnishes. It’s also a great way to make use of fresh fruit before it goes bad.
Mix & Match
Now that you have a basic arsenal of citrus and sweeteners, you’ve multiplied your potential home cocktail concoctions. Mix and match to discover your personal preferences. Of course, remember that when you add sour to a cocktail, you need to add sweetness as well. And vice-versa.
Maple syrup and whiskey together? You betcha. Grapefruit and tequila? You’re almost all the way to a Paloma. Rum and lime? You’ve got yourself a Daiquiri. Gin and lime? Now it’s a Gimlet. These patterns are at the foundation of sour cocktails throughout history, and will serve you well, even when you don’t have the same fancy ingredients as your local watering hole.
Another useful tip is to start with a classic cocktail’s ratios and adjust based on your preferences and available ingredients. Take the aforementioned Daiquiri, which comes in around 2 ounces of rum, 1 ounce of lime juice and 1/2 ounce of simple syrup. You can turn those knobs as needed for more or less sweet and sour, and then use that tried and true formula to put your other spirits, citrus flavors, and syrups to use together.
Pro tip: Keep in mind that you ideally want to shake rather than stir any cocktail with citrus and simple syrup.
What Else is in the Pantry?
Now that you have simple syrups and citrus you’ve got a wide range of options to play with already. But open up the pantry to see which other staples you have on hand. Cinnamon and ginger are two common cocktail ingredients, for instance, that can be used for garnishing. At the same time, these staples can be heated up with the simple syrup to quickly infuse flavors.
The same concept goes for frozen or leftover fruit you have on hand. Those berries you threw in the freezer two months ago while vowing to make smoothies for breakfast? Yeah, you still have them. First, throw the berries in a pot and heat them up at a 2:1:1 ratio with sugar and water. Then allow the mixture to simmer together and mash the berries. Finally, just strain and you’ve got a berry syrup.
With eggs on hand, you can mix frothy, textural sours. Leftover coffee can go together with numerous spirits and ingredients. Don’t throw out those fresh herbs, either. Namely mint and rosemary are commonly used, but many others serve ably in numerous libations. Think about other flavor combinations you already enjoy and don’t be afraid to get creative and mix a few things together.
Certainly there’s nothing wrong with drinking your spirits neat. But when you’re not able to pop into your local bar, these home cocktail tips will give you a bit more variety.
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