Ingredients Liqueurs Mixology

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.



New Booze: April and May 2012

The redoubtable Camper English has a regular feature on where he rounds up the New Booze that's coming out. It makes for an interesting read, both to admire the latest cool stuff, and to cringe at the dreck the marketeers are foisting on the public.

Here's a list of the last two months' worth of new products. Click through to read more about each item.


Spirits Reviews

Year in Review: Best Spirits and Liqueurs of 2011

Simon Difford and CLASS Magazine round up the 50 best spirits and liqueurs of 2011. They combed through their reviews of the past year and culled out only those spirits that receive a "5+" review (out of a possible score of 5). In Difford's words, "not only do we consider them faultless, but they also have that something which makes them extra special."

Only one of the spirits on the list is in my collection: Ron Zacapa XO Solera Grand Special Reserve, an aged rum from Guatemala. I haven't cracked the bottle yet, so I can't give you my opinion, but it gets very high marks across the board.

Several other spirits that CLASS singles out are ones that I've had my eye on.  High West Double Rye Whiskey. Pierre Ferrand "Selection des Anges" 30 Year Old Cognac. Dolin Dry Vermouth. Plantation Extra Old Barbados Rum. Gonzalez Byass Sherry.

Some others that I'd like to try: Hakshu 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky. Adnams First Rate Gin. Sipsmith Summer Cup 2011. De Kuyper Apricot Brandy XO. Giffard Muroise du Val de Loire

Finally, for those who have an extra $700 to drop on a bottle of booze, there's Grand Marnier Quintessence. One can always dream…