Tis the season to make fresh syrups, purees, and mixers for your favorite cocktails or non-alcoholic beverages. This is the time of year when many fruits and veggies are fresh and at their peak and what better way to add some life and freshness to your drinks.
Fresh Lemon Sour
Also known as bar mix, sour mix, collins mix, or margarita mix. I would advise you to stay away from the purchased and store-bought stuff...It is heavily concentrated with preservatives and be careful that it doesn't contain lime juice as well (that's the greenish-colored bottles, like Chi Chi's Margarita mix). If you ever book me for a party and plan on serving collins or sour drinks, Long Island Iced Teas, or Margaritas, I would highly encourage you to allow me to make it homemade for just a small fee.
To make fresh lemon sour, simply mix two parts fresh, filtered (no pulp and seeds) lemon juice with one part simple syrup (explained later in post). You will be able to extract only about 1.5 ounces of juice from one decent-sized lemon. Ideally, lemon sour should be the made the day you plan to serve it or the day before. You can keep it refrigerated up to three days.
I use this sometimes in cocktails. Mix 1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (minus seeds but not pulp) with 1 cup simple syrup and 2 cups of cold water. Good for 3 days refrigerated.
I use this in my 'Watermelon Margarita', which I will be serving up on Friday at a Happy Hour party. Pick a seedless watermelon with a nice dark green skin color. Once rinsed, cut off the rind and slice into small pieces to fit into juice extractor or bar blender, then juice. Try to use the same day again.
Purees are a bit tricky to prepare because you should use a food processor and not many people have one, including me, but you can get by with a blender. I also recommend fresh frozen purees available for purchase online, such as Boiron or Napa Valley's Perfect Puree. You can get almost every imaginable flavor of juice without the hassle.
This is by far my favorite and one of the most popular purees in cocktails today, including the famous Bellini. Start off with very ripe white peaches and blanch them in boiling water for about a minute, then transfer to an ice bath. Peel them, remove stones, and slice each into about 5 or 6 pieces. Place them in the food processor or blender and puree. Sample them because you may need sweeten them up with simple syrup (about 1 ounce per pound of peaches). You can also add other fruits, like blackberries or red raspberries while pureeing to achieve color and flavor. Same procedure for apricots and nectarines.
Syrups allow you to sweeten up your cocktail while adding some unique flavors to the mix. Easily made at home. Very few need to be purchased. I will let you know about them.
The most popular syrup in cocktails and made simply by dissolving 1 cup of granulated sugar into 1 cup of boiling water (1:1) which will yield about 1.5 ounces of syrup. Let cool and store up to a month. Some people use a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water - I think this is too sweet. In a pinch, you can always shake up the sugar and hot water in a container.
Brown Sugar Syrup
Same as above. Just changes the color of the final product.
One of my favorite syrups and very versatile. I use it in my 'Honey Espresso', 'Gold Rush', and 'Bee's Knees'. Sweeter than sugar, honey adds complexity to cocktails, such as lavender, clover, orange blossom, and apple. Prepare the same as simple substituting honey for sugar. Be careful not to over-cook and have it boil over - this can be messy and sticky. Store up to a month.
Basically, it's cinnamon-flavored simple syrup. I use this in my 'Spiced Apple' and 'Cable Car'. Add 2 cinnamon sticks to water and begin to heat it. Remove cinn sticks when cool and store up to a month.
This is syrup is less common and very strong and bold. I use it in my 'Red Ginger' but a very small amount. Making this syrup can be time-consuming and messy because you need to peel and slice ginger root - not an easy task. Add 1/4 cup of ginger root to water as you heat it.. Add sugar and boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 mins. Once cooled, remove ginger by straining through a sieve. Store up to a month.
Vanilla Bean Syrup
You will need to purchase vanilla beans, which can be a difficult task trying to find, but worth it if you like to add some nuances to beverages. Simply half a whole vanilla bean, sliced along it's length, to the simple syrup recipe, putting it into water as you begin heating. Remove bean when cools and store up to a month. For a more intense flavor, you can keep vanilla bean in the bottle.
More on this in another post. It has a very complicated process, but basically uses pomegranates, water and sugar to make. Much better than store-bought. The myth is that it is cherry juice so some bartenders put it into drinks like the Manhattan and Shirley Temple. It is not. You've been warned!
This syrup looks and smells beautiful with its floral sweetness and takes on a ruby red hue. I love using it in floral cocktails and cold and hot tea. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil - add 1 cup of dried hibiscus flowers. Reduce heat and allow flowers to steep for 7 mins. Add 2 cups of sugar, return to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20 mins. Allow to cool and fine strain into a bottle. Store up to a month.
Some other great syrups for all types of beverages that you will need to purchase include -
Agave Nectar (great in Margaritas and in my 'Skinny Tea' cocktail). Recommended to be diluted with water - too thick for cocktails.
Cane Syrup - diluted with water
Maple Syrup (great in 'Applejack' and on pancakes)
Orgeat Syrup (great in a Mai Tai tropical drink)
Rose's Lime Juice - not recommended to be substituted for fresh lime juice in cocktails, like the Cosmo, but great to use in a Gimlet.