When you find yourself with a bit of time on your hands, focusing on refining your craft is something to consider—especially when it also satisfies a need to be creative as well.
For dedicated bartenders, and enthusiasts, who want to tackle some cocktail projects at home, here are a few recipes to consider trying.
Coffee-Infused Sweet Vermouth
Since vermouth is lower in ABV, it does not pull an abrasive bitterness from the coffee beans, but rather a gentle, enticing coffee flavor that is perfect in a Negroni-style cocktail.
- 1 L Sweet vermouth
- 1/4 cup Medium-roast coffee beans
Preparation: Add the vermouth and whole coffee beans in an airtight container and infuse at room temperature for 45mins. Check and taste to make sure it has pulled enough coffee flavor (max infusion should be an hour). Then strain the mix into a funnel and back into the vermouth bottle, and refrigerate. Save the beans for another use.
Coconut Oil-Washed Gin
Gin has long been the underdog spirit of tropical cocktails. Try this coconut oil-washed gin in a Saturn, or add a half-ounce to a Garibaldi for a riff on the classic two-part Aperitivo, and you are in for a treat.
- 750 ml gin
- 1 cup unrefined coconut oil
Preparation: Add the oil to a sauce pan and lightly temper the coconut oil with a mix of direct and indirect heat—allow the saucepan to get hot, and then remove from the heat and stir until it melts—then mix with the gin. Sous vide the mixture for 4 to 6 hours at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Freeze for 4 hours and then strain the gin through a nut milk bag.
If you don’t have a sous vide at home, you can heat some water on a stove in a saucepan, then put the mix of gin and oil in a tempered glass jar, and sit the jar in the water bath for a shorter amount of time. Ideally, at least 4 hours for optimal flavor.
Grapefruit Oleo Saccharum
“Oleos” are versatile sweeteners that provide balance and high-note flavors simultaneously. The spritz is an excellent application for this specific oleo.
- 2 cups cane sugar
- 2 grapefruits (peels)
Preparation: Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the grapefruit, avoiding as much of the white pith as possible. Combine sugar with the grapefruit zest in a bowl. Toss to coat the peels and distribute them evenly through the sugar. Place the mixture in a vacuum bag (or ziplock) and seal the bag. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for up to 24-36 hours, or until all the sugar is dissolved by grapefruit oil. Then strain the grapefruit oleo into a container and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Note: You can also add ~1/2 C boiling water to the mix before straining to increase yield.
This type of fermentation is incredibly easy to do at home, and is a way of creating unique flavors and acid (lactic acid, specifically, which lends a creaminess and roundness to cocktails). You can use the brine from the ferment on its own in a cocktail, use the fermented fruit for a purée or for garnish—the possibilities and uses are very versatile. The most important thing to note here is safety, so definitely make sure to do some additional reading on the subject as well.
- 300g fruit
- 7 1/2 g non-iodized salt (preferably fine sea salt)
Note: The salt should always be at least 2% of the weight of the fruit. If the weight of the fruit changes, or you’d like to add more, then make sure to adjust the salt content.
First weigh your fruit on a gram scale. To do so, place the container you plan to weigh them in on the scale and “tare,” or set to “0,” then mark the weight of the fruit. Add your desired amount of salt by weighing it in the same way you weighed the fruit, but it’ll be a percentage of the fruit’s weight (preferably between 2-3%). Then mix the salt with the peaches in a bowl to make sure they’re all covered evenly. If you don’t have a vacuum bag and sealer (which is the preferred option), add the mix into a sanitized mason jar and add a weight to keep the fruit submerged in the brine that forms. Make sure you scrape all the salt from the bowl into the jar as it is important for a healthy fermentation. Leave out of direct sunlight and in a warm place for 5-7 days, then strain the brine into a separate jar and use the solids accordingly (i.e. Make a syrup, purée, garnish, infusion, etc.).
Hickory-Smoked Honey Syrup
This syrup is a whiskey’s best friend. Bourbon cocktails, like the Gold Rush, get a layer of nuance from this bold honey syrup.
- 1g Hickory wood chips
- 1qt honey syrup (2:1)
Preparation: Add the chips to the smoking gun. Have your syrup in a container larger than 1qt so the smoke can occupy enough space to properly fuse with the syrup. Light the chips and start the gun, inserting the hose into the container with the syrup and smoke until it is milky white; then remove the hose and close the container. Leave in the fridge and wait until all the smoke dissipates (approx. 1 day) before using.