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A great cocktail doesn’t necessarily have top-shelf liquors—you’re not going to put a $50 bottle of champagne into mimosas! If you look at most recipes, the alcohol is only half your drink. The other half is juice, soda, or sweetener, so why not make your mixers top-shelf?
Juice: Unless you’re making a pitcher of margaritas, you don’t need an electric citrus juicer. Fresh is better. You know it, I know it, your guests know it. If you use a bottled juice, remember it’s probably a bit stronger than it is off the tree. Most importantly, use a juice you’d want to drink on its own. If you look through your juice aisle, you might spy pomegranate concentrate, cherry juice, and other neat things you never looked for before. They can be pricey, but if they last…
Sodas: Sometimes it’s just a little club soda for the fizzies, but other times you’re looking for a flavor that complements your liquor. Instead of Coke, why not step it up a quarter or two and get yourself a Fentimans? Ginger ale will get you where you’re going, but wouldn’t you rather arrive in a spicy ginger beer? Sparkling ciders aren’t just made from apples anymore. You can find all sorts of neat things when you allow yourself to. And so what if you’ve never seen a cocktail recipe involving blood orange cider? Make one up!
Sweeteners & Syrups: You’ve probably got some agave nectar in your cabinet already. How about fruity syrups for coffees? Flavored syrups of all sorts are great in both cocktails and mocktails (or even iced tea). Last week, we showed you how to make your own grenadine. You can make your own simple syrup, too, by boiling water and adding an equal amount of sugar, heating and stirring until completely dissolved. Completely. Then flavor (if you like) and pour it into a clean glass jar, storing it in the fridge.
Now you’ve got no excuse for a boring old Rum & Coke.