It's no secret that I love drinking almost as much as I love eating. Give me a good Aviation and I am good to go. In my not-so-distant collegiate past, there were many a nights filled with Miller Lights and Smirnoff vodka, but then I discovered a place of wonder called The Violet Hour. Everything changed. There I learned you could do more with vodka than mix it with orange juice, more with gin than gin and tonics, and more with tequila than shots.
I actually still love tequila shots, or Employees Of The Month as I like to call them (that's where you come home from a long day at work and yell "I'm employee of the month!" before downing the shot and feeling slightly better about your life)...but I digress. Besides having tried my hand at cocktail making, though the boy is the one who makes drinks more often than not, I've also given homebrewing a few go arounds. I'm no expert on the art of drinks, simply an enthusiast.
Outside of liquor and the right equipment, some of the essential things you'll need to make good cocktails are bitters, fresh citrus (for the peel and juice), a good set of basic liqueurs and aperitifs (Vermouth, Campari, Grand Marnier, Luxardo, St. Germain, Chartreuse, etc), and some high quality syrups, preferably homemade.
We'll be focusing primarily on that last one in this post. You could buy syrups in stores, but it tastes infinitely better if you make them yourself. Take as an example: store bought grenadine is usually sugar water and red dye, which doesn't even remotely taste like the real thing made with pomegranate juice.
So, without further ado, I present to you three syrups to make and three drinks to make with those syrups:
Adapted from Speakeasy
Each syrup yields approximately 1 & 1/2 cups.
Demerara simple syrup:
1/2 lb (about 1 & 1/4 cup) demerara sugar
1 cup water
Bring sugar and water up to a boil then turn down heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool, transfer to a bottle, and store in fridge.
Notes: You can use demerara simple syrup as you would regular simple syrup made with granulated or superfine sugar. The only drawback is if you are making a drink that is lighter in color, it will appear darker than usual.
1 & 1/2 cup pomegranate juice from 2 large pomegranates
3 oz (scant 1/2 cup) granulated sugar
2 tbsp brandy
1/2 tsp orange blossom water
Bring pomegranate juice and sugar up to a boil, turn down heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly. Turn off heat, stir in brandy and orange blossom water and let cool. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, transfer to a bottle, and refrigerate.
Notes: You can find orange blossom water at Middle Eastern grocery stores, or sometimes in the international section of Whole Foods.
1 & 1/2 cups fresh squeezed lime juice
1 cup light agave nectar
20 kaffir lime leaves, bruised (I used a mortar and pestle to lightly smash the leaves)
Place lime juice, agave nectar, and kaffir lime leaves in a small saucepan. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, turn down heat to medium low, and simmer for 20 minutes or until syrup has thickened enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Turn off heat and let cool. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, transfer to a bottle, and refrigerate.
THREE DRINKS TO MAKE:
Each recipe yields one drink.
2 oz whiskey
1/4 oz demerara simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
orange peel for oils and garnish
Fill a large tumbler with ice. Add bourbon, simple syrup, bitters and swirl with a bar spoon a few times over. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass containing a large ice cube. Squeeze the orange peel over drink to release oils and place upright between ice cube and side of glass.
Notes: I know, I know, some people might consider it blasphemous to use simple syrup instead of a brown sugar cube in an Old Fashioned. This is simply a way of making life easier for myself since a girl doesn't always have the time (or patience) to muddle a sugar cube every time she wants some bourbon.
2 oz 107 proof bourbon (I use Old Weller Antique)
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 oz simple syrup, depending on how sweet you like it
1/2 oz grenadine
1/4 oz absinthe
lemon wheel for garnish
Fill a large tumbler with ice. Add bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, grenadine, and absinthe. Cover and shake for about 10 seconds until well combined. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a lemon wheel.
2 oz gin
1 oz lime cordial
lime wheel for garnish
Fill a large tumbler with ice. Add gin and lime cordial. Cover and shake for 5 seconds. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass containing a large ice cube. Garnish with a lime wheel.