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Expert Bar Hacks for the Couch Mixologist

Add professional oomph to homemade cocktails with oleo saccharum—Latin for “oil sugar”—made by extracting the natural oils from citrus peels. Try it with lemons, limes, yuzu or whichever citrus you fancy. For extra complexity, add herbs, spices and kitchen scraps. Dolly Trolley Drinks’ Kelsey Ramage jolts an orange oleo with spent coffee grounds for her Trash Tiki Revival.

The general rule of thumb: cocktails that contain only liquor or ingredients of similar density are stirred to chill and dilute. Drinks that contain juice, syrups, dairy or egg whites are shaken to aerate and integrate.

Orange-Coffee Oleo
4 small oranges
60 ml (¼ cup) sugar
4 g (1 tsp) spent coffee grounds
Dash of hot waterDIRECTIONS
Wash oranges. Peel with a vegetable peeler (reserve oranges for another purpose). Leave a little pith on the skin, to taste (the pith generates bitterness). In a bowl, combine peels with coffee and sugar. Cover and rest overnight at room temperature. Add water (just enough to dissolve any remaining sugar) and strain through a coffee filter.

40 ml (1 ½ oz) Havana Club 7 yr
10 ml (2 tsp) Novo Fogo Cachaca
15 ml (1 tbsp) coffee and orange oleo
15 ml (1 tbsp) grapefruit juice
5 ml (tsp) lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bittersDIRECTIONS
Combine ingredients in a tiki mug over crushed ice.

Steep a fistful of herbs in one cup hot water for 10 minutes. Strain into a jar, add one cup of sugar, close and shake. Store in the fridge. Use as a flavour booster for cocktails, lemonade, cold coffee or pretty much any drink you like.

It’s a long schlep to the grocery store these days so don’t let any fruit go to waste. Turn it into a shrub, also known as drinking vinegar. Simple to make and less sour than it sounds, a shrub adds quenching splashes of sweet acidity to cocktails and sparkling water. Eraj Jayawickreme, executive chef of Hawthorn Dining Room and Bar, shares his cold-process recipe, which takes a little more time than the hot-water method but produces a zingy syrup.
500 ml (2 cups) diced fruit or berries
250 ml (1 cup) sugar
250 ml (1 cup) white or apple cider
Mix berries with granulated sugar in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for five days, stirring every 12 hours. Strain the syrup, pressing down hard on solids. Mix the syrup with vinegar. Store in a lidded jar and refrigerate. Can be used immediately, but the flavours will improve after a week.

The Keefer Bar’s Keenan Hood keeps a batch of shake-and-pour martinis in his freezer: 5 parts gin, 1 part dry vermouth, 2 parts water. “Just add a cocktail onion and you’re ready to rip any time of day,” says Hood. He also recommends stocking the freezer with 2-oz stemmed cordial glasses for civilized mini-pours in case of emergency.

ICE 101
Elevate your cocktails with large blocks of crystal clear ice. In addition to the functional benefit of slower melting, they look lovely and feel luxurious. “And right now, we all deserve something fancy and nice,” says Pablo head bartender James Grant. All you need is a small, insulated cooler, freezer, water and the patience to follow Grant’s instructions:

  1. Fill your clean cooler with clean water (distilled is not necessary) to within two inches of the top.
  2. Place the lidless cooler in your freezer. The water will freeze from the top down, pushing air pockets and impurities to the bottom.
  3. The trick is to remove the cooler once three-quarters of the water has frozen. Try around 24 hours to start.
  4. Remove your large, beautiful block of clear ice from the cooler and discard remaining water. Ice should be perfectly clear.
  5. Temper the block for 15 minutes. This will allow you to cut it more easily.
  6. Score the block with a knife tip, place the edge along the lines and gently tap the spine with a mallet. The ice should break cleanly.
  7. Trim for perfect cubes or try (carefully) to carve an ice sphere.
  8. Place the portioned ice in a sealed container or freezer bag; it will keep indefinitely.

“It’s a privilege and an honour to step behind the bar even if you’re doing it from home. Just please do me and every other bartender a big favour: don’t pour yourself a triple [at home] and come back to our bars after this all over and say you can’t taste the alcohol in a double.”


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