You wouldn’t dare serve anything for dinner that you didn’t make yourself, so why shouldn’t the same care be put into the mixers and bitters that you use for your cocktails?
With a little extra time, you can create a truly custom liquid experience without the additives and make those drinks tastier than what you’d have at the local bar.
Truth be told, you’re not going to whip out your own pot still and come up with your own vodka brand (and that's good – best leave the spirits making up to the professionals!). But, if you want to add your own twist to that bottle, grab a mid-tier or premium brand and infuse it yourself.
Homemade infusions don’t contain weird chemical ingredients and they taste more like the fruits you’re using than store-bought flavored.
If you want to go to the next level with your homemade vodka, try housemade bitters. You will have to start this one in advance – the proper blend of spices will have to sit in grain alcohol for two weeks, or if using vodka, at least three weeks.
The idea is to create a pungently-spiced ingredient that will add a punch of flavor to your drink with only a few dashes – kind of like the pepper you grind over your pasta before taking a bite.
Here's two ways to get started...
- It's simple to have bitters on hand, if you would like an aromatic bitter, check out DIY Aromatic Bitters to get rolling.
- Another good base starts with one cup of vodka, a handful of allspice (approximately 1/2 cup) and half a handful of star anise (approximately 1/4 cup). Let that sit in a sealed jar for three weeks, and use sparingly in bourbon-based drinks. It's all about what you like. A good drink to start with is the Manhattan Cocktail.
Two words: fresh squeezed. The simple way to improve those mixed drinks is to do away with store brought juice. Prep the ingredients about 30 minutes or so, before you start to craft those cocktails (if you plop them in the fridge you can squeeze even earlier). Fresh grapefruit juice will make that one greyhound to remember, while some right-off-the-tree orange juice will transport that screwdriver to the next level. Fresh-squeezed lemon and lime also gives an essential tart twist to any number of drinks – do not use the stuff that comes in the bottle!
The good thing about having all this fruit on hand is that you will have plenty left over for garnishes, or for a nice pitcher of Basic Sangria
for those who want something wine based.
Check out Tablespoon's Guide to Soda Infusions
If you’re looking to make a selection of drinks with some fizz, you can go one step beyond the fresh juice and prepare homemade sodas. These mixers range from sweet to tart and (most importantly) are inexpensive with a bottle of flavorless seltzer to use as a base. You can also make a selection – that same fruit you squeeze for the fresh juice can be muddled for your soda infusions.
nybarfly knows his drinks and also where to get the best sauce in Manhattan. Check out his blog site, NYBarfly
and his Tablespoon profile
– be sure to continue to check Rock UR Party for more tips and suggestions for discovering new bevvies.