Forget flashy brands – it’s homemade ingredients that are getting bartenders’ hearts a-flutter right now. But what exactly has gone into that unmarked bottle of brown liquid? Alice Lascelles asked some top mixologists to tell us a bit more about what they made in their holidays
Homemade ingredients are nothing new, as any reader of 1920s cocktail books will know. But while they used to languish on a dusty shelf behind the glacé cherries, homemade bitters, syrups, marinades and macerations have lately become selling-points in their own right, tapping right into the trend for all things seasonal, artisan and ethically sourced. Inspired by old recipes and exotic new ingredients, bartenders are now as creative in the kitchen as they are behind the stick…
Many thanks to Paul Mathew and The Hide in London SE1 for hosting the event.
Tom Foxwell The Loft
‘I decided to make a raspberry syrup as lots of classic cocktails call for it. I like this recipe because it is lighter than a normal syrup with a much fresher raspberry taste – almost like a coulis. Today I’m serving it in the Savoy Knickerbocker (rum, curaçao, orange juice, lemon juice and raspberry syrup) and the original cosmo from 1933 (gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and raspberry syrup).’
- 3 punnets raspberries
- 500g sugar
- 70ml of lemon juice
Method: Simmer until the required concentration is reached. Strain and bottle.
Chris Bray The Hide
Chris’s ‘Shake Me’ bitters
‘When we were making these bitters we put them in a bottle on the bar marked ‘shake me’ and every time you went past you had to give it a shake – we had everyone doing it, even the customers! I like to use a couple of dashes in a rum manhattan I make with Diplomatico rum and Antica Formula vermouth.’
- Skin of a pink grapefruit
- 3 inches finely chopped lemongrass
- 1 inch of ginger, chopped
- Two cloves
- 300ml Wray & Nephew
Method: Leave in small bottle marked ‘shake me’ behind the bar for six weeks. Decant, add two teaspoons sugar and 50ml water. Bottle.
Florian Pomaret The Bar at the Dorchester
Pineapple, Ginger & Lemongrass Jam, and Crisped Pineapple Garnish
‘We were looking to make a rum-based, tropical punch-style drink, so we created this jam to go in it, and the pineapple slices as a garnish. We serve them in our Perfect Pear cocktail: Havana Club Añejo Especial, Belle de Brillet Poire liqueur and organic pear juice, sweetened with pineapple, ginger & lemongrass jam, served over crushed ice with a Goslings Old Rum crown and pineapple garnish.’
- 1 pineapple (750g peeled, quartered)
- 200g ginger, sliced
- 1 stick lemongrass, smashed
- 500g maple syrup
- ½ litre water
- 400g brown sugar
Method: Cook everything in a pan for an hour and a half. Remove everything but the pineapple and blitz.
For the crisped pineapple:
Slice thin wheels of pineapple, paint with water and sugar glaze (with a touch of vitamin C powder, available from chemists, to preserve the colour), and cook them overnight in an oven on a very, very low heat. Remove and place on a chef’s hotplate to crisp. Slices will last for around two weeks in an airtight container.
Rich Hunt Mahiki
‘Today I’ve brought a new recipe called Mangroovy Falernum, plus some tamarind water which is good for punches as the “weak” element, because it’s not too sweet. At Mahiki we like to take the flavours of rum and enhance them: Green Island rum has some apple notes so we do a maceration of it with Granny Smith apples, and La Mauny rum with lemongrass and mango. We don’t even use all these macerations in cocktails, we just let people taste to help them understand the rum better, which is important as we have 3-400 rums on the backbar. Another reason for making your own ingredients is that you know your drinks will never taste like anybody else’s.’
- Fresh mango
- Powdered lemongrass, kaffir
- lime and galangal
- Crushed chilli
- Star anise
- Liquorice stick
- 2 cloves
- Coriander seed
- Orange peel
Method: Start off by simmering the first four ingredients for 15 to 20 minutes and then fine strain into a bottle containing all the other ingredients, fortified with a little Wray & Nephew Overproof rum. Leave to stand for about 12 hours.
‘You can strain it, but the peels and stuff look wicked and it helps people to know what it’s made with,’ says Rich.
Esther De Medina Bureau
Sweet Potato Paste & Juice
‘The sweet potato paste (pictured, right) is very rich, almost like a date paste – today I’m using it in a tequila old fashioned with Don Julio Blanco. The sweet potato juice could be used for longer drinks, served from a soda siphon as a fizz with bitters and tequila, or as a Collins, with a chilled shot of my coriander, lemon and chilli juice on the side (pictured, left). The juices taste good but they’re also very healthy – we’re really pushing the health advantages of ingredients at Bureau at the moment and the customers love it. We say we’re gonna get you pissed but gonna make you healthier at the same time!’
- Sweet potatoes
Method: Bake the potatoes in the oven for an hour at 180oC. Mash, add water and sugar and reduce to the required consistency.
Stuart Hudson Sake No Hana
Hudson’s Holiday Bitters
‘Just a few years ago there were so few bitters around, and brands like Peychaud’s were nearly extinct, so it’s great to see them coming back. My Holiday Bitters was inspired by childhood memories of Christmas and plum pudding. Today I’m using it in a calvados toddy and a rum flip.’
- Dried Haitian orange rinds
- Raisins & sultanas
- Orange and lemon zest
- Polish pure spirit
Method: First, infuse the Haitian orange rinds in vodka as a base. Then separately marinade the remaining ingredients (except the spirit) in a little port and reduce to half on the stove. Then cut with the orange infusion and reduce again to about one third. Put back in bottle with orange rinds overnight and then cut with some of the Polish pure spirit for more texture and alcohol.’
‘I use this in a 2:1 gin Martini with a barspoon of the bitters and a grapefruit twist. It’s in the simple, classic drinks where bitters really shine.’
- Cherries (50/50 fresh and glacé cherries)
- Red wine
- Orange rind and vodka infusion (as above)
Method: Boil and macerate the cherries with some red wine, the spices and some port, and then cut with the orange/vodka infusion.
Julian de Feral Bureau
Chopping Board Marinade
‘At Bureau we only cut fruit to order, so at the end of the night we have a lot of leftover fruit and I pretty much just scrape all of that in. It’s great not just in rum drinks but also whisky-style drinks – you can use it in a whisky sour instead of sugar. There’s no set amount of time for how long you marinade it – every day I just stick a straw in and see how it’s going. And then at the end you can eat the fruit too! Today I’m serving it in my Longitude Swizzle (Patrón Añejo, Cointreau, agave syrup, lime juice, chopping board marinade and a dash of Bittermens Xocatl Mole bitters), and my Latitude Swizzle (pisco, Chardonnay, pineapple, lime, marinade and sugar syrup to taste).’
- ¾ of a ripe pineapple, cut into chunks
- 1 large pink grapefruit, sliced
- 2 limes, sliced into wheels
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- 1½ oranges, sliced
- ½ a Granny Smith apple, sliced
- 10 dried organic, un-coloured apricots
- 1 good handful of cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 150ml Wray & Nephew rum
- 1300ml (approximately) sugar syrup (1:1)
Method: Marinade for at least four days, taste daily and adjust to balance.
Damien Brun Barrio North
‘I had tried several ready-made hibiscus syrups but they were normally too sweet and didn’t have much flavour. Then I found these dried hibiscus flowers in The Spice Shop (www.thespiceshop.co.uk). And this syrup has so much more flavour – you can taste cherry, vanilla, rhubarb – and it’s a beautiful colour too. Pink drinks always sell very well. It’s also really cheap to make – the ingredients in this bottle cost me about 50p. I’ve used it in the Barrio North Hibiscus Margarita: Ocho Blanco tequila, lime juice, hibiscus syrup, maraschino liqueur
and Licor 43.’
- 15g dried hibiscus flowers
Method: Infuse the flowers in 30cl water for 10/15 minutes, strain and then reduce the infusion with sugar and water until the right consistency is reached. Bottle.
Joe Tilton Fifteen
‘We use this ginger pressée in all our rum punches and Dark ‘n’ Stormies. We make a lot of our own ingredients, including lemonade and lime & lemongrass cordial, and we’ve created our own crème de cassis. We’re aiming to make a whole range of Fifteen cordials eventually. The ingredients here are for 20 bottles – fortunately it’s not my job to do the grating!’
- For 20x70cl bottles:
- 4kg grated ginger
- 8 litres water
- 4kg sugar
- 1 litre lemon juice
Method: Soak the grated ginger overnight in 8 litres of water, then boil down with the sugar.
At the last minute add the lemon juice, then strain, allow to cool, and bottle. It will last around two weeks.
Emily Williamson Light Bar
Pineau and Strawberry Jam
‘I’ve mixed Pineau des Charentes with organic strawberries to make a jam that’s not as alcoholic as a liqueur and not as sweet as a gomme. I use it in my Charentes Crusta: XO cognac, vanilla liqueur, Angostura bitters and Cointreau, sweetened with the jam.’
- 1 punnet organic strawberries
- 150ml Pineau Jules Gautret
- Fructose (jam sugar)
Method: Soak the strawberries in the Pineau overnight. Cook on a slow heat on the stove for around 2 hours. Sprinkle with a little fructose, as this helps it to gel. Strain and store in a jar.
Paulo Brammer The Botanist
Spiced Bloody Mary tomatoes
‘My first challenge with these was trying to buy the syringes from the chemist – I had to take my business card down there and explain to them what I was doing! Another time the police came by and found me behind the bar with all these syringes which took a bit of explaining. I serve them with a kind of celery-based martini made with fresh apple and a touch of Sauvignon Blanc. People find it a lot of fun and it makes good theatre.’
Bloody mary spice mix – I use pepper, celery, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, fresh horseradish and a little celery.
- Cherry tomatoes
- Fine syringes
Method: Sweat the cherry tomatoes overnight on a chef’s hot plate (so that they don’t explode when you inject them) and then inject a maximum of 2ml of the spice solution.
Paul Mathew The Hide
The Hide house rum blend
‘This has only been in the barrel a short time so far. I don’t know yet how long we’re going to age it for – I’ll probably wait until it’s really old! It’s a blend of Havana 3 Year Old, some Woods 100 to give it bite, a little La Mauny élevé sous bois woody agricole rhum to add some ‘funk’ and a selection of obscure 9-15 year old rums left over from a rum tasting session. I’m also looking at doing an aged Old Tom-style gin at some point. I got my barrel from www.oak-barrel.com.’
‘This is a variation on the traditional recipe using walnut, cloves, lime and Wray & Nephew, so far unsweetened but I’ll probably sweeten it with some sugar syrup. Today I’m using it in a daiquiri.’
If you’ve got any recipes to share, why not email email@example.com
And look out for Imbibe’s very own guide to making your own tinctures, syrups and bitters coming up in the New Year.
Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – September / October 2008