Easy Cocktail Upgrades
Juice Up Your Ice Cubes
What you pour your cocktail over is becoming just as important as the drink itself, says Feizal Valli, bar manager at Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, AL."Recent ice trends include perfectly spherical ice and crystal- clear cubes -- and some bars even have their own 'ice butchers' now."
Valli's favorite new trick: freezing juices (such as blood orange), condiments (like worcestershire or hot sauce) or even olive brine into cube form. "The color and taste get more pronounced in the drink as the ice melts," he says, and they won't water down your beverage.
DIY Bacony Booze
Using a technique called "fat-washing," bartenders are lending meaty undertones to alcohol with pork products. "It's not like biting into a pork chop," swears Drew Davis, beverage manager at Má Pêche in New York City, of his bacon- and pork-belly-infused Pig Liqueur. "The taste is more of a smoky background note rather than a smack-you-in-the-face sip of bacon." Bourbon and tequila stand up to the robust flavor best.
While cream is the main ingredient in several classic drinks, Natalie Bovis, mixologist and author of Edible Cocktails: From Garden to Glass, took the dairy trend in a different direction: "Yogurt brings a thicker, creamy viscosity and adds an unusual, lip-smacking tartness to cocktails and mocktails," she says.
While Bovis believes the technique is still fairly new, popular health trends suggest that it may take off in a big way. "Many home entertainers tend to err on the side of making drinks too sugary. Yogurt's tanginess helps to balance out sweet fruit or liqueurs."
Marmalade is the latest way to add a touch of sweet -- without diluting your drink. "It's shelf-stable, widely available and found in so many delicious flavors," says Douglas Derrick, bar manager at Nostrana in Portland, OR. He swishes a small amount into drinks to add flavor, richness and body. "Use a shaker to integrate the marmalade, then strain to remove any fruit chunks."
Just Add Produce
Mixologists are experimenting with the unique flavors and textures that fresh muddled veggies and fruits can add to drinks, according to Perez Klebahn of Mr. Rain's Fun House in Baltimore. He models one of his signature cocktails after guacamole. "Avocado has a distinct texture, a subtle sweetness, and a richness that pairs well with tequila, mescal and certain rums," he says. A few slices smashed into the bottom of the glass impart a strong flavor. We've spotted this trend using red and yellow bell peppers, too.
Garnishes From Your Grocery Bag
1. Swizzle with Pickles
Crack open a jar of pickled veggies, like okra, baby carrots or asparagus spears, in addition to cucumbers. Skewer and leave out for guests to use as edible stirrers.
2. Rim with Fresh Herbs
Rinse and dry fresh herbs completely, then finely chop. Mix them with salt or your favorite ground spice to rim cocktail glasses.
3. Float in Sliced Veggies
Leap beyond lemons and limes: Try thinly sliced vegetables, like fennel in a martini or a firm green tomato in a bloody mary.
Make a batch and store it in a squeeze bottle or small jar -- it keeps forever in your fridge. You can also use this soluble sweetener when a recipe calls for agave syrup.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 2 cups each sugar and water. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 1 minute, then pour into a heatproof glass jar. Let cool, then refrigerate before using. Makes 3 cups.