“You know craft cocktails are in demand when Denny’s starts offering a full cocktail menu!” exclaims Kendra Kuppin, co-founder of Spice & Spoon. While craft cocktails appear in bar menus all over the world, very few people make them for themselves, which is what spawned Kuppin to launch her startup. Spice & Spoon wants to teach you (and at least five of your friends) how to make your own cocktails in the comfort of your own home.
We were curious what making cocktails like a pro entails, so we asked Kuppin to help kick off some summertime libation inspiration by sharing her top cocktail-making tips. Time to break out the shaker — and raw eggs.
Get Comfortable with Bitters
Bitters are a very concentrated infusion of spices, dried fruit, citrus, roots, bark and other botanical agents that bring aroma and flavor to a cocktail. In other words, bitters are to cocktails what spices are to meals. Bitters are made by combining high-proof alcohol, typically vodka, and your botanicals of choice, which are left to sit and infuse over time. The alcohol works to break down the botanicals and release the flavors, acting as a preservation agent along the way. The time it takes to infuse your bitters can range from days to weeks depending on what kind of botanicals you’re using. Use the strength of the aroma to judge when the bitters are ready for use, then strain your bitters into a tincture. You will only use one or two drops per cocktail, as the bitters will be quite potent. Of course, you can always purchase bitters as well, there’s no shame in that! Bitters are widely available at markets, the most popular being Angostura. You will also find hundreds of varieties online, so get creative!
Infuse Your Own Simple Syrups
Simple syrup is as it sounds…simple. To make simple syrup, combine one part white sugar to one part water in a pot, bring it to a boil and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Simple syrups are used in cocktails because they dissolve easily in cold beverages, unlike granulated sugar. They are also a great way to infuse other flavors into your cocktail. Step up your cocktail game by infusing your own simple syrups with lavender, ginger, fennel, strawberries…the possibilities are truly endless.
Dress Your Cocktail to Look the Part
Aesthetically speaking, a rum and Coke looks like a pretty boring drink — and that’s because it is! Proper cocktails dress the part; they are elegant and polished. After all, you wouldn’t make a gourmet meal and put it on a paper plate, right? Right. Well, cocktails deserve the same respect. There are three main tools used to dress up a cocktail; the glass, the ice and the garnish. Glasses come in all shapes and sizes: martini, coupe, rocks, collins, margarita, flute and so on. Which glass you use is dependent on the cocktail you are using it for. The same principle is applied to the ice; you may want to use crushed, cubed, no ice or a king cube depending on your cocktail. Note: A king cube is a single, large cube that dilutes your beverage more slowly than normal ice because there is less surface area. Finally, whether you garnish with a maraschino cherry, smoked rosemary branch or artfully shaped lemon peel, adding this simple element will make your cocktail more visually stimulating.
Don’t Be Afraid of Egg
The idea of adding raw egg to cocktails can freak a lot of people out and concern over salmonella is a common hesitation. While salmonella is always possible, as it is with a variety of food items, it is rare and is generally not something to worry about as a healthy, non-pregnant individual. When adding raw egg to cocktails, you will always use the egg white only. The egg white is shaken with the other cocktail ingredients to give your drink a frothy, rich and smooth texture. That layer of foam at the top of your cocktail, that’s the egg white.