Simply put, a shrub is a vinegar-infused fruit syrup, an old-time mixer for sparkly summer drinks. Tart, sweet, and acidic, a basic shrub uses one part fruit, one part sugar, and one part vinegar, but the possibilities for experimentation are endless. Try this Strawberry Balsamic Shrub cocktail. It’s like drinking summer.
If you’re like me, you’ve indulged in your share of mojitos, but mint is only one herb you can take your muddler to. Basil and sage are both fantastic in cocktails, but don’t be afraid to get adventurous. Anything you grow in your herb garden — like thyme, rosemary, or tarragon — can find a home inside a cocktail shaker. Click for a killer Basil Cucumber Gin Gimlet recipe.
Yup, olive oil. It’s all the talk these days at cutting-edge cocktail bars around the country. It’s sweet without being sugary, and mildly earthy. Most importantly, it creates a silky cocktail unlike any you’ve tried before. Various ways of getting olive oil (or any other oil, for that matter) into your booze include “fat washing” your spirits, rinsing the inside of your glass with oil, or, like in this recipe for a drink I’ve called Popeye’s Girl (get it? Olive Oyl?), mixing the oil directly into the drink itself. Click for the Popeye's Girl Cocktail recipe.
Eggs have been cocktail ingredients since people started mixing drinks. Traditionally, a cocktail containing just an egg white is known as a “Fizz,” while one with an egg yolk is a “Flip.” Some people get weirded out by the idea of consuming a raw eggs, but those people should get over it. Eggy cocktails are sexy, delicious, and often otherworldly, and the liquor in them keeps the e. coli away. Their only drawback is how much, and how vigorously, they have to be shaken. Do your stretches before trying my Negroni Fizz.
The unguent, earthy flavor of black pepper has graced a few brands of infused vodkas, but has stopped short of becoming a regular bar ingredient. That should change. Black pepper brings out some beautifully balanced characteristics in cocktails, especially those that use cherries, watermelon, or berries. Try this Raspberry Black Pepper Champagne Cocktail, and see for yourself.
The Pickleback is the hipster shot of choice these days — crappy well bourbon followed by a shooter of pickle brine — and I don’t care what anyone says, it’s gross. That said, you can find pickled stuff in every bar in the world. They’re called olives. Why not branch out and experiment with the rest of the pickle universe? Try The Dirty Pickle, a variation on a dirty martini that uses dill pickle brine instead of olive juice. Despite its name, this is a really elegant cocktail.
Mustard? I know. A step too far, right? You’ve got to trust me here — a little bit of mustard mixed with the right ingredients, and you’ve got a spicy and refreshing summer cocktail. I prefer to use reposado tequila when mixing with mustard as it stands up well to the salty heat the Dijon imparts. Try it out with my recipe for El Jardín for a unique and delicious departure from your normal cocktail fare.
Hot sauce in cocktails is nothing new — we’ve all had our share of Sunday brunch Bloody Mary experiences — but that’s just tip of the celery stalk. Hot sauces of all kinds, from Tabasco to Sriracha, mix beautifully into any number of different drinks. Make up a pitcher of Watermelon Sriracha Sangria for your next pool party, and see for yourself.
Smoke flavor is an amazing addition to a cocktail, and can be imparted in any number of ways. Some of the cool guy bartenders out there have taken to cold smoking their ice, while others infuse smoke directly into the cocktail using handheld smokers. The Medicine Man, a cocktail sold at San Francisco’s Bourbon & Branch, uses paprika for a gently spiced and smoky rum drink that you’ve got to try to believe.
Bacon has found its way into everything from candy bars to lip balm. Now, it’s in my cocktail glass, and I couldn’t be happier. Getting bacon into your booze takes a little time, but is totally worth the effort. Bourbon is my spirit of choice for infusing bacon, and requires a simple technique called “fat washing.” Make a brilliant Old Fashioned or Manhattan with your bacon bourbon, or try my recipe for The Figgy Piggy.
This one ought to be a no-brainer — we add fruit and sugar to our cocktails all the time — but good luck finding a jar of good preserves behind most bars. This really ought to be the next revolution in craft mixology. From sweet berries and apricots to tart orange marmalade, the possibilities for mixing are infinite. Try The Bluegrass, my take on a blueberry summer spritzer.
Experimenting with different sweeteners has given the bartending world miracles like agave nectar, infused simple syrups, and sugar cane syrups. Another prominent sweetie behind a lot of bars these days is rich, toasty maple syrup. With many different grades ranging from Extra Light to the very dark Grade B, maple syrup goes beyond just sweetening a drink, adding wide array of flavor characteristics that deepen and complicate the way a cocktail tastes. To get you started, try my hard cider cocktail made with maple syrup, bourbon, and Applejack, the Maple Cider Cocktail.