Three Ways to Impressive Drinks
A couple of weeks ago, we returned to the K Street WeWork to offer a fall update on our cocktail class. As we were unpacking all of our supplies for the evening, the WeWork staff person was clearly impressed. Every time she passed our table, she couldn’t help but say something like, ‘so cool,’ ‘so interesting,’ ‘so amazing.’
After the class, we asked a friend who attended what she thought, and she said, ‘The class was so great. It was eye-opening to see just how easy good cocktails are.”
Impressive, or easy?
We think they’re both right. It was, in fact, a fascinating collection of things we brought to the class, a fun assortment of different sized jars containing homemade grenadine and cinnamon syrup, pumpkin chunks and spices floating in rum, ginger slices floating in vodka. It looked like a cross between grandma’s kitchen during canning season and a biology lab. BUT that crazy-looking laboratory was unbelievably easy to assemble.
If there’s one thing we want to get across here at Roberts & June, it’s just that. High quality cocktails that wow your guests aren’t things that only a special class of people with secret knowledge can do. In fact, they’re often pretty simple. Many of the most sophisticated-looking ingredients–and indeed the ones that make the most difference in the quality of the drink–can be made at home with little more trouble and far less cost than a trip to the store for their inferior-tasting and much less cool-looking off the shelf alternatives.
Try out any of the following three suggestions. If attempting all three seems a little overwhelming, choose just one to start with. We guarantee you three things: 1) you can do them–they don’t really take any time or skill at all; 2) your reputation as a bartender will go way up; and 3) your drinks will taste great.
1. Infuse Your Own Spirits
We posted a while ago about how fun and easy experimenting with infusions is. It really just takes a little bit of a spirit, a little bit of the infusion ingredient, a jar, and time. That time, we mostly focused on trying out unexpected flavor combinations, but you don’t need to be so fancy. Straightforward infusions work well too.
We strongly feel that there’s nothing more unnecessary than flavored vodkas. They’re expensive, and take up space in your bar you could use for something else; and it’s basically no trouble at all to make your own. Have a recipe that calls for citron vodka? Two or three days before, put however much vodka you think you’re going to need, and two rings of lemon rind per ounce into a jar. Voila, you have your citron, and the admiration of your guests when they see that cool infusion jar on your bar.
2. Make Your Own Simple Syrup
We talk all the time about just how easy it is to make simple syrup. Don’t spend money on this, and waste a trip to the store when you have everything you need in your own kitchen basically all the time. Making a plain simple syrup makes good sense, but it doesn’t necessarily impress your guests. It might, though, when you take a small step further into the realm of flavored simple syrups.
Do you have a recipe that calls for sweetened lime juice or grenadine? Those are both simple syrups with fruit juices instead of water. One part lime juice, one part sugar, and a day or two on the counter or a few good shakes get you sweetened lime. The same process with pomegranate juice gets you grenadine. We discovered that you can do the same to delicious effect with a tart cherry juice.
Mass producers will happily sell you expensive bottles of this stuff that contain high fructose corn syrup, garishly artificial color, and almost none of the actual fruit. Make your own for half the price, with no trouble, for a product ten times more delicious; once again you’ll gain tremendous bartender cred as a bonus.
3. Make Your Own Slightly Less Simple Syrup
Sometimes time alone won’t be sufficient to draw out the flavor you’re looking for in your syrup. This makes the process slightly more complicated, but still way on the easy end of the scale:
- Pour one part sugar, one part water, and whatever flavor you’re trying to syrup (we’ve done this with lavender and cinnamon) into a small pot;
- Boil until the desired consistency and flavor, which is usually only a handful of minutes;
- Let cool for a few minutes;
Having to turn on the stove for a few minutes is a small price to pay for the look on your guests’ faces when you say you made your own hazelnut syrup. And again it’s a lot cheaper and tastier than the commercial options.