If you’re like me, and if you are, I’m sorry, then you aren’t really satisfied with the hum dum of everyday life. For example, I would dare to try something that I normally would never have tried when I go out for dinner. Peanut butter and jelly pizza? Sure. Fried pickle dipped in horseradish? Why not? Day old sushi? Bring it!! Tummy ache and violent vomiting aside, I am especially intrigued when I am introduced and encouraged to try a new and different kind of drink. As a bartender, I might have an inside edge in choosing one, but watching something out of the ordinary being put together in front of me is always exciting as is the results. Which got me thinking, I am invited to dinner parties frequently and after mixing up my own drinks for myself because I’m selfish, my friends have started asking me to make specialty cocktails when we get together….for everyone. So I want to share some small moves you can do at home that will spice, sweeten, and ultimately enhance your drinks so that I don’t have to be the topic of conversation every time. I’m kidding.
One very simple ingredient than can defiantly sweeten up any drink that is less than sugary is simple syrup. Anybody can go to the supermarket and buy a bottle for seven bucks but one of the things about Mixology is the joy and creativity of making as much as you can on your own. And making simple syrup is the easiest and a good starting point. It is just equal parts sugar and water. So, on average, one quart sugar and one quart water. Combine both in a pot and bring it to a boil as your stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Beware if you don’t, the sugar will caramelize on the walls of your pot and you have to start all over. After the sugar has dissolved, just let it simmer on low for about ten to fifteen minutes then let cool for about an hour. Use this sparingly just to give a drink a slight boost in sweetness. Trust me, a little bit goes a long way.
Another simple ingredient you can do once you perfect making simple syrup is making several syrups with different dried chile peppers. I have the fortune to make them at my main spot, Mercadito (yes that was a shameless self-promotion plug). One simple, yet tasty syrup to make is Morita syrup. You can go to any super market and buy a bag of morita peppers. Then cut about four or five, depending on size, in half or in threes. No need to dice them up but don’t discard the seeds or stems. Use every part of the pepper. Start with equal parts sugar and water, mix until sugar is dissolved and once that is ready add the peppers. Again, let it simmer on low for a bout twenty to twenty five minutes and let cool for about forty five minutes. With this, like all good things, use just a little bit and keep tasting the drink until you get the heat level you want. This is good to go with any fruit cocktails to give them a nice kick.
Lastly, many people skip out on the garnish. Now, I’m not talking about some radical, complex fruit, pepper, cheese, red, white blue with a sparkler garnish, which I will admit, would impress me. No, just simple ingredients like, mint leaves, cut up fruits on a skewer or something that adds color to it. I like to use contrasting colors such as a lime for a yellow colored cocktail. Looks and presentation are important and will always look and make you look good.
So there you have it. I believe that is a good starting point for all of you who will never admit you don’t know how to make a different cocktail but secretly wished you did. I will periodically drop some easy recopies and little tidbits of information to help improve you from awful to moderately terrible until you reach that, “WOW this is delicious” level that I love to hear. Of course that might come from my ‘only child syndrome’.
Please comment or email and get back to me your opinions or feel free to share anything with us that you might just want to add. I crave feedback. Again, only child.