Simple Kitchen Hacks To Elevate Classic Cocktails
What differentiates a great cocktail from the rest is sometimes just a few simple ingredients or tweaks that can turn an average drink into one worthy of an Oscar. In the world of mixology, the kitchen emerges as a playground of possibilities, offering myriad ingredients that can elevate classic cocktails. While purists may dismiss the idea of straying from convention, if you’re an experimental bartender eager to test your creative flair, all you need is some basic herbs, spices and zests, and you can easily transform time-honoured libations into unforgettable cocktails your friends would swear by.
Beyond the traditional spirits and mixers, the savvy bartender knows just how to blend art and science to create something out of the ordinary. Here are some simple kitchen secrets that will let you dazzle your friends as you elevate classic cocktails to unprecedented heights.
1. Fresh Herbs: A Botanical Symphony
Everyone knows that herbs can be reliable garnishes to toss into drinks.But they can also produce a botanical symphony when introduced to classic cocktails. Picture a Mojito with fragrant mint leaves muddled to perfection, or a Basil Smash that marries the herbaceous notes of basil with the citrusy zest of lemon. Herbs definitely help add layers of complexity but they also effectively create a sensory experience that can tantalise the taste buds. Just like their ability to season various dishes, including them in cocktails can be a simple way to add immense flavour and substance to cocktails.
2. Spice & Everything Nice: Stir The Senses With Spices
Who hasn’t tried to introduce a festive feeling to the standard dark rum cocktail by dropping a cinnamon stick in it? Well, if you haven’t, it’s never too late. The easiest way to venture beyond the ordinary is by infusing cocktails with the warmth of kitchen spices. For example, a Whisky Sour can acquire a distinctly sweet and woody flavour merely by adding a hint of cinnamon to it. In the same vein, throw a cardamom into an Old Fashioned to tease the palate with exotic undertones. Spices lend depth, inviting one to a realm of rich, aromatic indulgence. Don’t trust us? Give these pointers a go and you’ll be in for a spicy surprise.
3. Fresh Citrus Zest: A Burst Of Sunshine
Citrus zest, carefully peeled and expressed over a cocktail can result in a burst of sunshine. The oils release a cascade of vibrant aromas, transforming classics such as the Martini or the Negroni into vibrant concoctions. The essence of lemon, orange, or grapefruit zest introduces a citrusy zing capable of invigorating the senses. Don’t have zest lying around in your kitchen? Just peel the skin off a lemon or any citrus fruit, ideally into long shards, and toss them in your drink after giving them an inward squeeze — and you’re good to go.
4. A Sweet Revolution
Most popular cocktails pack a sweet undertone that complements the drink’s definitive flavour. So it’s evident that the ingredient that helps them acquire this distinct sweetness would be infused syrups. The most popular ones include the vanilla-infused syrup which is commonly used in Bourbon Sours and the lavender-infused syrup that can help elevate a classic French 75. These syrups introduce bespoke sweetness, marrying the cocktail with nuanced flavours that transcend the ordinary.
You can also embrace the woody sweetness of maple syrup to sweeten your cocktail. A Maple Bourbon Smash or a Maple Apple Cider Cocktail captures the essence of autumn, adding a comforting touch to seasonal libations.
Don’t have these syrups in your kitchen? Then you can just pour a tablespoon or two of honey into your cocktail to give it that extra sweet kick. Natural sweeteners can harmonise with spirits, imparting a velvety sweetness that lingers on the palate. (Yes, we are dreaming of a Honey Bourbon Smash.)
5. Find Your Bitter Half: A Dash Of Complexity
Bitters, often the unsung heroes in cocktails, undeniably add a dash of complexity to drinks giving them an edge over the rest. Explore beyond the classic Angostura with flavours such as chocolate, cardamom or lavender, that can turn your basic cocktail into an iconic one. Just a few drops can redefine a Whisky Ginger, imparting a subtle twist that teases the palate and leaves a lingering, memorable impression.
6. Juice Wisely
While not a revolutionary concept, the use of freshly squeezed fruit juices cannot be overstated. Picture a pineapple-infused Margarita with the vibrant essence of freshly squeezed pineapple or a Watermelon Basil Smash that encapsulates the essence of summer. Fresh fruit juices bring vibrancy and authenticity to classic cocktails and going for the seasonal option also lets you sample the flavour du jour.
7. The Zesty Surprise Of Ginger
Ginger is the most reliable and easily available kitchen ingredient that can introduce a zesty kick to a range of cocktails. Muddle ginger and add it to a Moscow Mule for an extra layer of spice or infuse it into a simple syrup to add warmth to a Dark & Stormy. The unmistakable heat of ginger complements a variety of spirits, offering a spirited twist to classic concoctions.
8. Specialty Ice: The Silent Architect
Consider ice as more than just a means to chill a drink. Large, slow-melting cubes in an Old Fashioned or flavoured ice spheres in a sophisticated Negroni: the right ice transforms not only the temperature but also the dilution, maintaining the integrity of the cocktail from the first sip to the last.
9. The Heat Is On
Just for those with a fiery appetite and who love their drinks to be extra spicy, it’s time to reach for those jalapeños lying in your fridge. Infusing cocktails with the heat of jalapeños can result in cocktails such as Jalapeño Margarita or a Spicy Pineapple Mojito. These spicy creations tantalise the taste buds, infusing a burst of heat that plays provocatively with the sweetness of the drink.
10. A Sophisticated Twist
For an elegant touch, incorporate coffee into your cocktail repertoire. A coffee-infused Martini or an Espresso Old Fashioned marries sophistication with a caffeine kick. The rich, complex flavours of coffee add depth and intrigue to classic libations. And if you’re in love with coffee as a flavour, well you don’t need any convincing.
11. Adding A Floral Flourish
Those who are particularly fond of floral flavours would want to include a drizzle of rosewater in their cocktails. This can result in cocktails such as a Rosewater Gin Fizz or a Floral Mojito. The subtle floral notes add an air of elegance and mystery, elevating the drinking experience substantially — with little effort.