Grapefruit bitters do double duty, giving a cocktail a little citrus lift along with the bitterness. These bitters go especially well with effervescent drinks or tequila and gin cocktails.
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Asking me to pick my favorite cocktail is sort of like asking parents which of their kids is the best. It's a hard question to answer, but deep in my heart, I know. Sorry, Sazerac and Martini, even though I love you so, the Manhattan is easily my favorite drink. So I was surprised that a simple change to this classic drink made me love it even more.
Swapping in cherry bitters for Angostura bitters can give your cocktails a subtle yet delightful boost, adding a hint of fruit while still delivering the bitterness your drink needs. The best part about making your own is you can customize your bitters to your cocktailing needs.
There's just something cozy about pumpkin and spice, and once autumn's arrived, I want to cram pumpkin into everything I eat and drink. Getting pumpkin into a cocktail can be a little messy and goopy, so I like to whip up a batch of pumpkin liqueur to ensure that I can conveniently drink pumpkin pie cocktails for months to come. This recipe doesn't take long, so you can even finish it in time for that Halloween party you're having.
Who doesn't want to drink alcoholic pumpkin pie? DIY pumpkin liqueur involves the same ingredients as pumpkin pie—only instead of crust, there's vodka.
Prohibition did more than inspire an HBO gangster drama about how Steve Buscemi is rich and sleeps with showgirls while people get shot. Making booze illegal changed the way America drank, banishing a lot of popular ingredients to obscurity. One of the cocktail casualties was Swedish Punsch, a liqueur made with citrus, spices, rum, and a southeastern Asian liquor made with sugar cane and red rice called Batavia Arrack.
The traditional way to serve Swedish Punsch is to warm it and pair it with a bowl of pea soup. Though that didn't exactly catch on in the States, Swedish Punsch is a key ingredient in many pre-Prohibition cocktails because of its funky, spiced flavor.
Making your own honey liqueur is dead simple. You don't have to do anything but heat the honey with some water and then mix it with vodka. I like to let the liqueur sit overnight to ensure the flavors are totally integrated, but if you're truly impatient you can use it right away. As much as I love Bärenjäger, when I compared it side-by-side I liked the homemade stuff just as much and it was a hell of a lot cheaper.
One sure-fire way to start an argument with me is to say that absinthe makes people hallucinate. It doesn't. But if you think it does, you have something in common with French regulators in the early 1900s. Back then, everyone was panicking that absinthe would drive people insane because it contained wormwood. Before more people could succumb to absinthe madness and chop their ear off à la Vincent van Gogh, they outlawed the spirit. (The fact that absinthe was 140 proof and people were drinking it like wine had more than a little to do with the crazy behavior, but I digress.) With absinthe out of the picture, people needed another delicious anise-flavored alcoholic beverage. That's where pastis came in.
Bananas don't get much play in the cocktail world because they're mushy and fibrous, making them impossible to juice and gross to muddle. Even when the blender is out, poor old banana is frequently left out of the cocktail party. But the vibrant, tropical flavor of bananas tastes amazing in drinks, especially ones made with rum.
Homemade banana liqueur will show you that, when it comes to tropical drinks, the simple banana can taste just as exotic as the more elusive coconut and pineapple.
The first time I tried cherry liqueur, I thought it tasted like cough syrup. For years, I avoided anything made with the stuff because I don't want my cocktails to remind me of sick children. Then one day I ordered a Singapore Sling without really knowing what was in it. When I found out that cherry liqueur played a big part in making this drink so good, I realized that maybe I had stereotyped all cherry liqueurs because of one that was particularly bad (and probably cheap).
Fresh, sweet summer cherries transform into something deeper in this simple cherry liqueur.
Once upon a time, simple syrup wasn't so simple. Instead of using a mixture of just sugar and water, old timey barkeeps would sweeten cocktails with a more viscous sweetener known as gomme or gum syrup.
A little extra effort to make gomme instead of simple syrup will give your cocktails a silky texture you can't get from plain simple syrup.
A good melon liqueur can turn basic club soda into a sophisticated summer cooler or add another layer to a complex tiki drink.
Even if you've had bad Midori sours, you shouldn't discount the deliciousness of melon liqueur.
Sometimes when I read about big city bars, I get a little jealous. Part of what inspired me to learn to mix a good drink is that most of the bars within walking distance of my house have deer heads mounted on the wall and bartenders who get a little confused if your cocktail isn't a Rum & Coke, Gin & Tonic, or other drink whose name is its ingredients. But then I make a batch of DIY blackberry liqueur with fresh berries, I mix myself a Bramble, and all envy dissipates.
Blackberry liqueur, also known as creme de mure, is a summer must! It has the brightness of berries and the richness of a sophisticated liqueur all rolled into one.
Love of Nutella is one of the things that connects us as a species. And while chocolate is fantastic, it's the humble hazelnut that elevates Nutella from delicious to life-changing. That's why I'm surprised that hazelnut liqueur (also called noisette) flies a bit under the radar compared to its nutty cousin amaretto.