Shake It Up
Throw unexpected cocktail ingredients into the mix
In a cocktail rut? Check out these simple ingredients, found in just about any grocery store, for a unique spin on your favorite drinks.
Sweet and Sour
In addition to a base spirit, most cocktails contain both sweet and sour ingredients that work together to create a balanced flavor. On the sweet side, this usually entails simple syrup— equal parts sugar and water—and/or a liqueur of some sort. However, there are a number of ingredients you can use to sweeten your drink. Agave nectar, maple syrup and honey can all be easily swapped into your libation. Citrus juices—primarily lemon and lime—are most often used as the sour component in drinks, but consider giving your cocktails a tangy twist with vinegar instead.Vinegars of all sorts can be introduced into a recipe to balance out the sweet, and they can also be combined with sugar and fruit to make a sweet and sour shrub. Specialty vinegars, usually reserved for basting or dressing meats and fish, often consist of a vinegar base and some sort of additional flavoring that pair quite nicely with spirits.
Eggs and dairy products such as cream have long been used to marry flavors and create softer textures in cocktails. Take this idea one step further with ingredients like goat’s milk, which can be used to add texture and unique flavor notes. The produce section is always chock-full of inspiration. Fruits and vegetables of all sorts can be pureed into flavorful bases to build your drink upon. Sometimes there are almost too many choices as you peruse the aisles. If creating your own flavor combos has you stumped, refer to a guide like “The Flavor Bible.” And don’t limit your flavor explorations to your corner grocer—international and ethnic markets are a great source for new elements to incorporate into your liquid creations as well.
Photo credit: Christopher Gibbons