In the Spirit
Infused syrups for myriad libations
By Tony Cross
The holidays are upon us. I know, I’m rolling my eyes, too. Time flies, and whether you’re ready or not, ’tis the season. The struggle is real, and so it begins.
These next two months can be an excuse for having a few more drinks than we normally would (you know who you are), so why not have some fun with it? If you’re playing host to family and friends, or just relaxing at home after being dragged to holiday get-togethers, here are a few syrups you can have ready in your fridge. They mix well with a variety of cocktails (shaken and stirred), and pair quite nicely with non-alcoholic beverages, too.
The syrups aren’t hard to make. The key is using fresh ingredients — sourcing them locally and being organic helps as well — and measuring your specs. Once you have these ready to go, you can interchange them in an arsenal of drinks. Included with each syrup is a cocktail that incorporates the former. Feel free to interchange some of these syrups with different spirits.
Syrup: Ginger and Honey
1 part fresh ginger juice
1 part honey
Combine both ingredients into a blender and turn on high until honey is completely incorporated. I highly recommend sourcing local honey, and organic ginger. A quick note on juicing ginger: If you don’t have a juicer at home, stop by your local health food store or juice shop. Chances are you can buy the ginger there and have it juiced on the spot. Either way, make sure your juice sits in the fridge for a couple of hours before straining it. Ginger juice is very fibrous and you want as much of that fiber as possible to settle at the bottom of your container before using. This is called “racking.” Some might think that organic ginger is a bridge too far but I’ve been working with cold-pressed ginger juice for over five years now and I can attest, organic ginger tastes and looks better. Try it and see. Syrup holds for 2 weeks.
2 ounces blended Scotch
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce ginger-honey syrup
1/4 ounce Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
In a shaking vessel, combine blended Scotch, lemon juice and ginger-honey syrup. Add ice and shake until vessel is ice cold. Double strain into a rocks glass over ice. Float your 1/4 ounce of Islay Scotch over the cocktail. Garnish with candied ginger. You can also use this syrup with gin and tequila sours.
Syrup: Brown Sugar/Cinnamon
10 grams cinnamon sticks
1 part brown sugar
1 part cane sugar
1 part water
1 ounce Everclear grain alcohol 151 proof (optional)
Place cinnamon in a blender and blend quickly for 10 seconds. In a small pot, combine brown and cane sugars with water. Place heat on medium and stir until sugar has completely dissolved. Place the syrup in the blender with the cinnamon, and blend once again for another 10 seconds. Let the syrup cool in a container, and then strain out the solids. Refrigerate until ready to use. Syrup holds for one month — or many months if Everclear is used.
Cocktail: Old Fashioned
2 ounces bourbon
1/4 ounce cinnamon syrup
3 dashes Angostura bitters
In a stirring vessel, combine bourbon, syrup and bitters. Add ice and stir until your cocktail is both cold and water is diluted. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Express oils from orange peel over your cocktail, dropping peel into the drink with cinnamon stick. You can use this syrup in rum and tequila old fashioneds. It also works well with tequila sours.
Syrup: Vanilla (Makes 2 cups)
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/4 vanilla bean
In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar and vanilla bean and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth into an airtight 1-pint glass container. Seal the container and store in the refrigerator for up to one month. This syrup goes well with whiskey sours and vodka sours (add muddled strawberries for the latter).
Non-Alcoholic Cocktail: Haikara Mugicha
3 ounces charcoal-roasted barley and lapsang souchong tea (recipe below)
1/2 ounce vanilla syrup
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Build the drink in a double rocks glass by adding the tea, syrup and bitters over hand-carved ice. Stir well until chilled. Garnish with an orange twist.
Charcoal-Roasted Barley and Lapsang Souchong Tea
4 cups water
1/4 cup charcoal-roasted mugicha (or barley tea)
1 1/2 teaspoons loose lapsang souchong tea leaves
Fill a 1-quart container with the water, add the teas, and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes. Strain through a coffee filter into an airtight 1-quart glass container. Seal the container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This recipe is courtesy of famed Japanese bartender, Masahiro Urushido’s book, The Japanese Art of the Cocktail. Your ice does not have to be hand-carved unless you feel obliged. PS
Tony Cross is a bartender (well, ex-bartender) who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.