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16+ More Cocktail Hacks for Bartenders and Home Enthusiasts!


Two cocktails being served at once using a Hawthorne strainer

Hi, Friends of Cocktails! I love it when Friends of Cocktail write in and help with the content we’re creating, so when we posted the Cocktail Hacks episode we got a lot of comments and DMs with tips and tricks you use, or started to use, to elevate your cocktail game. Some of you even pointed out a few things I use regularly, but forgot to mention in that episode, so here’s Part 2 with 16 new cocktail hacks!


I’ll start with making myself a quick drink, for something to sip on as I talk, but also to show you the first hack: dash or rinse potent ingredients so they don’t overpower your drink. Some ingredients, like mezcal, peated scotch, overproof rum, and absinthe, are known to have really powerful flavor profiles, but also some liqueurs like Green Chartreuse, Maraschino, Cointreau and Suze can quickly take over your cocktail if you add too much.


The good news is that you can find some of these liqueurs in half sized bottles that are perfect for adding a dasher top, and that way you have greater control than adding half of a barspoon, for example. A lot of historical cocktail recipes call for dashes of these ingredients too, or like in the case of the Sazerac, to rinse your glass and discard the liquor afterwards. So let’s test this out in a “Whiskey” Highball, it’s Cocktail Time!


homemaded sous vide setup

Whiskey Highball

● 60mL · 2oz Etoh Atlantis

● 90g Chilled Soda Water

● 3 dashes Cointreau

● 2 drops 20% Saline Solution


Into a chilled highball glass filled with clear ice add the spirit, saline and Cointreau before topping it off with chilled soda. Give it a stir and it’s almost ready, just add a spray of orange essential oils on top… But what if you don’t always have fresh citrus on hand? Make yourself a spray of essential oils and vodka for quick and easy replacement of citrus peels.

 

You can use any citrus or even mint essential oils, but like always with essential oils, make sure to use those that are all natural and always follow the recipe so they get properly diluted. For my orange mist I mixed 6 drops of orange essential oil with 1oz or 30mL of overproof vodka, gave it a good mix, then transferred it to a spray bottle. Always give it a shake before use and spray 2-3 times over the cocktail, to add a nice, sweet orange aroma. 


As we give the cocktail a try, and before moving past the topic of dashing ingredients for more control, the next hack is to get dasher bottles for more precise dashing of bitters. I decided to compare the dashes of 3 bitters bottles - Angostura, the short-neck dasher bottle I usually use, and the well known japanese style dasher bottle - using a scale to measure how much you can pour from each one.


Dashes of Angostura bitters can vary significantly if you have a full or a nearly empty bottle, with a nearly empty bottle giving you around 22% bigger dashes than a full one. The dasher bottles I use are a lot more precise, with only a 3% difference from full to almost empty due to a shorter neck, but the dashes are about 33% smaller than the average Angostura bottle. 


With a japanese style dasher bottle you get even smaller dashes, and you need at least 3 times as many dashes to get to what Angostura bottle gives you. It also doesn’t work well at all if you feel it up too much, so go for the bitters bottles with a shorter neck. So let's move onto the next hack: freeze citrus husks after juicing them


I showed this trick in the Drink Masters episode to grate orange zest on top of a cocktail, adding a rich orange aroma without having to use essential oils. Typically when you grate citrus zest the essential oils make the zest clumpy and it sticks to the grater, but if you place citrus halves in the freezer the zest becomes easier to grate, making for a great topping for frothy sours. I learned this hack from my mom’s baking skills, so you can also keep this hack in mind for your next cake or pie!



And to finish the subject of garnishing sour cocktails, use a hawthorne strainer or even cookie stencils to garnish the foam on your sour cocktails. Freeze-dried fruits like berries, pineapple, or dried herbs can be a great pairing to many cocktails and make for a beautiful presentation. So place the stencil on top of the cocktail then sprinkle your powder through it. You can create your own stencils as well of course, to match it to your cocktail. 


Store your powders in an airtight container, so it doesn’t clump together from the moisture in the room, and since we’re already talking about the hawthorne strainer, let’s clarify one hack we mentioned last time. You can separate your egg white from the yolk by using a hawthorne strainer, but you might need to adjust it slightly. 


If your coils are really tight and close to the back plate it might prevent the egg white from dripping through, so push the coil away slightly and that will do the trick. Now staying with the hawthorne strainer here’s another thing a lot of you suggested when I showed you can pour two cocktails using a spouted portafilter: use a hawthorne strainer to pour two cocktails at once!

 

You’ll find this hack in Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Bar Book as well, and the trick is to really close the hawthorne strainer tightly and to have two glasses that can touch rim to rim. This doesn’t work with every hawthorne strainer, so if you want to use this hack, make sure you get one with a double slit, but speaking of a glass rim, there's a fun alternative to cutting up a citrus, just to rub it on the glass as glue for rimming - especially if you’re using super juice and you don’t have a citrus fruit already cut in half. 


Make your own flavored glue for rimming with liqueurs and sweeteners. For this example I’ll mix 0.75oz or 22.5mL of Cointreau, 15g of honey, and 0.5g of citric acid. Experiment with flavors that pair with the cocktail you’re making, so if you’re making a Margarita, use agave syrup. This mixture will be shelf stable and can be stored in a small jar, and then applied to the glass with a brush. Thin or thick strips, circles, whatever you like, then dip it or sprinkle it with salt, sugar, or our next hack. 


Don’t settle for just salt and sugar for your rims and garnishes, use powdered liqueurs or fruits on the side of the glass to add flavor to your cocktail. We already mentioned and showed freeze dried fruits, but another thing  that can really elevate your cocktails is powdered liqueur. We made powdered Campari dust when I made the Fluffy Jungle Bird, and it’s still good after more than a year. I’ll combine it with dried Red Dragon fruit to create a stunning garnish.


As for adding flavor to your cocktails, flavored syrups are always great to have, but if you have a limited storage space one of you suggested a great alternative: use tinctures to flavor your base syrup instead of making a lot of special flavored syrups. TimMcFisher suggested baking spices or masala spice tinctures, but you can also make a syrup flavored with citrus tinctures, vanilla, cinnamon, you name it. 


This hack works for simple, rich, and even gum syrup - which we’ve made before on Cocktail Time - but the easiest way is to get Liber&Co’s Classic Gum Syrup. It’s a 2:1 syrup and the addition of gum arabic gives it a silky and more luxuriant mouthfeel when compared to the regular simple syrup. Gum arabic will also work as an emulsifier for the tinctures when we mix them together with the syrup, just keep in mind that different tinctures might give you different results.


So start with a small amount, 50mL or 1.66oz of the gum syrup and add a few dashes of orange tincture. Mix and taste it, then adjust as needed, and remember to write the right ratio for the next time. And don’t be afraid to experiment with tinctures in other stuff as well, like tea, milkshakes, creme brulee, baked fruit, and so on. If you plan to make a ginger tincture though - or the Zero Gin we made a few weeks ago - you’ll want to use this next hack: peel ginger with a spoon and cut it thinly with a peeler.



Peeling ginger with a spoon is well-known by now for good reason, it really works the best, but to make the surface area as large as possible you want to cut it as thinly as possible, so a peeler really comes in handy for this. This will make for a really efficient infusion, and the peeler is of course a great tool for other fruits and vegetables, like a cucumber, if you want to add a strip on the inside of your highball glass.  


Another thing I forgot to mention last time, because I use it so often it’s not even a trick or a hack, but it will save your wine-based ingredients. Seal wine, wine-based aperitifs and of course vermouth, with vacuum stoppers, and for sparkling wine use pressure stoppers. These stoppers will make it possible to suck out excess oxygen, which is usually the enemy of wine. It will keep your wine-based ingredients fresh for longer, but as you’ve probably heard before, always store them in the fridge once opened.

 

Pressure stoppers for sparkling wine on the other hand are meant to build pressure in the bottle to keep the bubbles in the wine. Now, if you’ve been a reader of Cocktail Time for a while, you may have noticed that a sous-vide is a staple tool  for our DIY Liqueurs, bitters and more, but today I’ll show that you don’t need a vacuum sealer or a sous vide cooker to achieve the same effects with 2 hacks in one!

 

Use a zip-lock as a sous vide bag and use the pressure of water to vacuum seal your ingredients. So once you have your zip-lock sous vide bag filled with the ingredients you’ll slowly submerge it in water. The pressure will push the air out of the bag, and you can seal the bag as you do that. Then all you need is a pot and your stove to begin the magic, using a cooking thermometer to control the right temperature during cooking


Remember to make sure you have the water at the right temperature before placing your infusion in it, then just clamp the bag to the side of the pot so it doesn’t touch the bottom. Also, not all zip-lock bags are made equal, so really make sure your bags are suited for cooking. As you wait for your infusion to be ready, you’ll want an organized space to place it in after it’s done, but keeping track of your DIY ingredients can be a challenge once you dive into the world of mixology.


So the next hack is to always label what you’re making, especially when it’s ready to be placed on the shelf or the freezer. I was happy when somebody asked what label-maker we use on Cocktail Time. It’s just a cheap one we got off Amazon, but it works well and it has a great DIY feel to it. Lastly, something I learned when making the coffee-fat-washed vodka for the Clear Espresso Martini: a paper towel can be used as a filter in place of a cheesecloth or a coffee filter


Make sure it’s large enough, fold it twice in half, then twist it in the shape of a coffee filter, and place it on your funnel. It worked great with the coffee oil we made, so I’m sure it can work with some other infusions as well, but with that we have reached the Bottom of The Glass, and it’s time for the most important hack to improve your cocktail game: homework before pourwork!


Always write down what you’re making, before you start with experimenting and pouring ingredients. Something I learned in college is that you need to start with a blueprint, a jotted down idea, as the base for your R&D. That will help you learn about ingredients, create less waste, and waste less time in the prep work. And if you’re not happy with the result, you go back, write that down, and change something for round 2, so you’ll see progression and learn from it.

 

Oh, and use half measurements when experimenting with new recipes, especially if you’ll need to try several variations. You’ve got to keep a clear head, after all. Now go on and use these hacks to create new recipes, and I’ll see you next time, with more recipes and tricks. Cheers!




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