cocktails

10 Craft Cocktails You Can Make at Home

Bartenders across the country share the stories behind—and recipes for—some of their favorite concoctions.

We regularly highlight innovative cocktails on our Drink page. The following recipes were originally published in print in 2018.

Double Dutch

When Sundry and Vice in Cincinnati tasked its bartenders with crafting seasonal drinks based on their favorite childhood flavors, the request resulted in a menu of nostalgia-inducing beverages, each named for a classic game. There was the Red Rover, the Truth or Dare, the Chutes and Ladders, the Mother May I—be sure to watch out for the Spin the Bottle. For Jakob Kramer-Jensen, the ask meant recreating a carrot, thyme, and ginger dish his mother used to make. Fresh carrot juice gets a kick with aged rum, and ginger syrup brings both sweetness and spice. A garnish of thyme adds one more twist. Now finish your vegetables.

MAKE IT

Combine 2 ounces Brugal Añejo rum, ¾ ounce fresh carrot juice, ½ ounce ginger syrup,* ½ ounce lemon juice, and an egg white in a shaker; dry shake until emulsified. Add ice, and shake again to combine and chill. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a sprig of thyme.

*Combine 3 parts sugar and 4 parts freshly juiced ginger; warm over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Cool and use.

Bangalore Old Fashioned

Walking into Curry Up Now in San Jose, California, the first thing you notice isn’t the floor-to-ceiling neon mural, or even the blaring Bollywood soundtrack—it’s the smell. Cardamom, cumin, and fennel fill the air, hinting at the culinary bent of the menu. Those flavors also find their way into the drinks at the restaurant’s Mortar & Pestle Bar. The Bangalore Old Fashioned switches out the usual rye for aged Indian rum and upgrades simple syrup with garam masala, a blend made from the aforementioned spices, plus cinnamon, nutmeg, and a host of others.

MAKE IT

Combine 1½ ounces Amrut Old Port Deluxe rum, ¼ ounce Plantation O.F.T.D. overproof rum, ¼ ounce garam masala syrup,* a dash of Bittercube Jamaican No. 2 bitters, and a dash of Bittercube Blackstrap bitters into an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir until chilled, and then strain into a short glass with ice. Garnish with lemon and orange peels.

*Bring 1 cup water to a simmer. Remove from heat, and add 1 cup sugar and 25 grams of garam masala powder. Stir until sugar dissolves, and then let the mixture steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a cheesecloth, cool, and use.

Bring the Heat

Worm salt. The phrase doesn’t exactly sound appetizing. But sal de gusano? Now we’re getting somewhere. The traditional Mexican spice blend—made, yes, with dried worms—finds its way onto the edge of your drink at Jalisco Norte in Dallas. The menu’s stuffed with 15-plus agave-spirit cocktails, but hotheads reach for the Bring the Heat margarita. Pineapple-jalapeno tequila, green chile liqueur, jalapeno-infused agave nectar, and a healthy portion of mole bitters are balanced with a blend of citrus fruits and capped with sal de gusano. You may never go back to kosher salt.

MAKE IT

Combine 1½ ounces Dulce Vida pineapple-jalapeno tequila, ½ ounce Ancho Reyes Verde liqueur, ½ ounce lime juice, ¼ ounce orange juice, ¼ ounce lemon juice, ¼ ounce jalapeno-infused agave nectar,* and 8 dashes mole bitters into a shaker tin. Add ice and shake vigorously. Rim an ice-filled glass with sal de gusano. Pour contents of shaker tin into glass. Garnish with a jalapeno slice.

*Take equal parts agave nectar and jalapeno-infused water and stir until combined.

Garden Variety

Picture yourself in a backyard garden. There’s a row of cucumbers, a row of hot peppers. Maybe a lemon or lime tree if you’re feeling fancy. Lemongrass stalks … OK, maybe that’s a bit overboard. But that tilled patch of soil is the inspiration for the Garden Variety cocktail from State Fare Kitchen & Bar in Houston. The drink has become a staple on beverage director Laurie Harvey’s menus since she created it a few years back, and she often serves it to many of her patrons as an introduction to spicy drinks. That heat comes from chile-infused vodka but is balanced by the earthiness of a house-made cordial, complete with lemongrass, cucumber, and ginger. A perfect cocktail to sip while tending that garden.

MAKE IT

Add 1½ ounces Thai-chile-infused Deep Eddy Vodka,* 1 ounce lemongrass cordial,** ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice, and ¾ ounce fresh lime juice to an ice-filled shaker. Shake to combine, and then strain into a Collins glass with crushed ice. Top with a splash of club soda, and garnish with a lemongrass stalk, lime wheel, and Thai chile.

*Add 6 to 8 sliced Thai chiles to 1 liter vodka. Let sit for up to 24 hours, depending on preferred spice level. Strain out peppers and use.

**Bring 1 cup water to a soft boil, and then stir in 2 cups sugar until dissolved. Add 5 cleaned and pounded lemongrass stalks, the skin of 2 English cucumbers, and 2 ounces skin-on ginger (cut into slices). Let gently boil for 5 minutes, and then remove from heat. Let steep for 2 to 4 hours. Strain and use.

Cactus Campfire

To get to Joshua Tree National Park from Los Angeles, head due east out of the city on California State Route 60. When the lights of the suburbs give way to the arid stillness of the Mojave Desert, pull over, pitch a tent, and spark a fire. Can’t get away? No worries. The folks at STK Los Angeles have recreated that experience in a glass. The agave-forward drink evokes memories of s’mores: smoky mezcal, vanilla syrup, and chocolate bitters, all with a tequila base. All the benefits of camping, with none of those pesky bugs.

MAKE IT

Combine 1½ ounces Dulce Vida blanco tequila, ½ ounce Ilegal joven mezcal, ½ ounce vanilla syrup, and 8 dashes chocolate bitters in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Stir until cold, and then pour into a chilled glass. Garnish with a rosemary sprig and an orange peel.

Ruby Red Paloma

If you’ve ever had a paloma before, odds are it didn’t take long to make. A little tequila, some grapefruit soda, a squeeze of lime—that’s it. A perfect drink. At Academia in Austin, though, they wanted to try the impossible: to improve perfection. So out went the grapefruit soda and in went fresh grapefruit juice. To double down on that grapefruit flavor, the traditional tequila is joined by Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka. The entire mixture is then carbonated. Craving citrus yet?

MAKE IT

Combine 1 ounce Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka, 1 ounce blanco tequila, 1½ ounces grapefruit juice, ½ ounce lime juice, ¼ ounce simple syrup, and 1 dash orange oil in an ice-filled shaker. Shake to combine, and then pour into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with 2 ounces club soda, and garnish with a candied grapefruit peel.

Hideout

In a town known for its stars, Chamberlain West Hollywood hotel is betting its newest restaurant will steal the spotlight. With a peaceful garden patio and sleek décor that draws inspiration from the fashion industry, Fits in West Hollywood, California, is a space that tempts you to while away the day there—a feeling embodied by one of the drink menu’s most refreshing options. A light thirst-quencher with a Deep Eddy Original Vodka base, the Hideout fuses the natural flavor of kiwi with a touch of basil, and then adds ginger syrup for something both spicy and sweet. We’d say that has all the makings of a blockbuster hit.

MAKE IT

Muddle 1 peeled kiwi, 3 basil leaves, and the juice of 1 lemon in a shaker. Add ice to the shaker, along with 2 ounces Deep Eddy Original Vodka and 1 ounce ginger syrup.* Shake vigorously and serve with a peeled cucumber. Garnish with a basil leaf.

*In a sauce pot, add 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and ¼ cup chopped ginger. Bring to boil on medium heat until the sugar dissolves.

Sing Like a Bee

When it came time to decorate at The Haymaker in Raleigh, North Carolina, bar manager Josh Gagne wanted “to make it feel like we threw a party at Grandma’s while she was out of town.” That means old-fashioned light fixtures, plush armchairs, and wood floors paired with big windows and a soundtrack of ’90s hip-hop. That blended style is epitomized by the Sing Like a Bee: Earl Grey–infused gin with citrus for acidity and honey for sweetness, served in a vintage-style teacup. The result is a light cocktail that Gagne promises “will make you want to stick your pinky out.” We guess it’s time to raid the china cabinet.

MAKE IT

Add 2 ounces Earl Grey–infused gin,* ¾ ounce freshly squeezed orange juice, ½ ounce honey, and ½ ounce lemon juice into a shaker. Shake and strain into your favorite tea- cup. Serve with an orange twist.

*Pour any gin into a 1-quart container. Add 5 bags of Earl Grey tea and let steep at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours. Then, strain it back into the bottle, squeezing the tea bags for the richest flavor.

Cactus Cosmo

Nestled in the Sonoran Desert, the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix features more than 50,000 plants for visitors to discover. But if it’s not enough just to see the flora, guests can venture to Gertrude’s restaurant, where the cocktail menu showcases beverages with a botanical bent. Found inside the garden, the eatery offers this take on the classic cosmopolitan, adding potassium-packed cactus water and introducing earthy notes through the fruit of prickly pears. After all that exploration in the garden, a refreshing drink sounds like just deserts.

MAKE IT

In a martini shaker filled with ice, add 2½ ounces Dripping Springs Texas Orange Vodka, 3 ounces True Nopal cactus water, 1 ounce cranberry juice, ¼ ounce Monin Desert Pear syrup, and ¼ ounce fresh lemon juice. Cover, shake well, and then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with an orange wheel.

Roman Holiday

According to the philosopher Bertrand Russell, “Italy and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy.” Cornerstone Tavern in New York City may be far from Rome, its bartenders don’t control the seasons, and you won’t necessarily find love, first or otherwise, on the menu. The sports bar’s Roman Holiday, however, is the Italian getaway you’ve been looking for. Start with a base of Deep Eddy Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka, then add Campari and prosecco. It’s la dolce vita in a glass. And as our pal Bertrand put it, “The good life … is a happy life.”

MAKE IT

In a glass, combine 1 ounce Deep Eddy Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka and ½ ounce Campari over ice. Squeeze 1 lemon wedge into drink, then float 2 ounces prosecco. Top with soda water and garnish with lemon wedge.


Photography by Nick Cabrera