Buy It or Do It Yourself – How to Decide

Along with the craft cocktail renaissance has come a booming movement for bartenders and home mixologists to make their own ingredients. Recipes abound for making syrups, liqueurs, and the like. I've linked to several of them in the past, and Serious Eats runs a regular feature on this subject.

Let's face it, though, making your own ingredients is a lot of work. It's not a step that the casual imbiber is going to take. However, there are some very good reasons why you might want to consider it, at least in special cases.

  • You can’t find the ingredient you're looking for. Many syrups, especially the ones that go in Tiki drinks, can be difficult or impossible to find in stores. They can usually be bought online, although that can up the price significantly. The same goes for liqueurs, like Amer Picon (or Torani Amer), which in many places can't be bought online. So if you really want it, you've going to have to make your own.
  • The ingredient you want isn't commercially available. Maybe you have a craving for macadamia nut orgeat or cherry-lime liqueur. You're probably not going to find it in the store. Time to experiment!
  • The ingredient is easy to make. If all you need is simple syrup, honey syrup, or grenadine (for example), you can make your own with a minimum of effort, and it's likely to be better than the stuff you can buy.
  • The quality of ingredients available to you is not good enough. Again, this is true of many syrups, like demerara syrup, grenadine, or orgeat. The commercial stuff is often junk, so you're better off making your own.
  • To learn more about the flavors, aromas, etc. of the ingredient. If you're going to be a serious mixologist, you're going to want to learn as much as you can about the nuances of taste and smell that the ingredients you use possess. What better way to explore those nuances than to make the stuff yourself?
  • The ingredient is too expensive. This would be a valid reason to DIY, although no products readily come to mind. (If they're too expensive, they're probably also too hard to make.)
  • Because you enjoy doing it! This is probably the most important reason of all. Personally, I hate cooking or doing anything in the kitchen beyond mixing a cocktail, so I only do it under duress. But some people, including my brother and spirit partner Bob, enjoy it. If you're one of those people, get to work! And send me some of the results to try.

  Orgeat

One thought on “Buy It or Do It Yourself – How to Decide

  1. “The ingredient is too expensive. This would be a valid reason to DIY, although no products readily come to mind. (If they’re too expensive, they’re probably also too hard to make.)”
    Counter-example: Orgeat Syrup. A decent bottle of this costs $15 for 8.5 oz, and doesn’t keep very well. I hate paying a lot of money for ingredients I won’t use terribly often, and I hate wasting expensive ingredients due to spoilage even more. You can make your own batch for closer to $6, and add in some vodka to help it keep.

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