No matter how great your home bar’s spirit selection is, you still need other quality ingredients to make great cocktails. And as the craft booze market has grown, so has the list of artisanal mixers and garnishes you can find on the shelves. Below are a few of my favorites in the genre, fun stuff to keep on hand for your next cocktail party, or just because it’s Wednesday and you feel like mixing a drink.
DIRTY SUE PREMIUM OLIVE JUICE
$6 for 375 mL
Yes, it’s olive juice in a bottle. No, it doesn’t come with olives (though the company also sells tasty olives). So why is this not a stupid product? Because it’s so delicious. You don’t realize how bad the brine most olives soak in tastes until you try it next to Dirty Sue, created by Los Angeles bartender Eric Tecosky. The stuff is delicious in a Dirty Martini of course, but it’s a great addition to a Bloody Mary or any kind of savory cocktail.
AMARENA FABBRI CHERRIES
$20 for 600 g
You probably know that there’s a wide gulf between those cheap florescent-colored “maraschino” cherries and the artisanal candied fruits made in Italy. The most popular brand in the genre is Luxardo, and while its cherries are pretty tasty, I prefer Fabbri. The complex confections turn a humble garnish into a delicious reward at the bottom of your Manhattan. And don’t overlook the syrup left over in the jar—it’s a formidable cocktail ingredient in itself, or you can just pour it over ice cream.
OWL’S BREW THE CLASSIC
$17 for 32 oz.
Incorporating tea into drinks is one of my favorite mixological trends of the past few years, and Owl’s Brew took it a step further, creating a line of teas blended specifically for cocktails. The Classic is a blend of strong English breakfast tea with lemon peel, plus citrus juice and agave syrup for a good balance of sweet and sour. It’s ready to mix over ice with any kind of spirit for a simple beverage, or you can use it for much more creative concoctions.
B’LURE BUTTERFLY PEA FLOWER EXTRACT
$10 for 100 mL
The butterfly pea is a plant native to Asia with brilliant blue flowers. They don’t really have much flavor, but they do perform cocktail magic: They’ll turn liquids a deep blue that changes to a pinkish-purple when you add acid. Made by an Australian company that specializes in floral ingredients, B’lure is the first commercially available butterfly pea extract, and it makes it easy to put on a fun party trick. Just mix up a cocktail, leaving out the citrus or any other acid and adding a few drops of B’lure. Then stir in the acid when you serve and blow your guests’ minds. It’s especially perfect for drinks at a kitschy tiki party.
COCKTAIL & SONS HONEYSUCKLE & PEPPERCORNS SYRUP
$15 for 8 oz.
Throughout a career behind the stick in New York and New Orleans, bartender Max Messier created a wide variety of custom syrups for his cocktails, and now he’s turned his talent into a business. Cocktail & Sons makes four different syrups, but the Honeysuckle & Peppercorns is my favorite, with a great combination of earthy spice and floral fruitiness. It goes really nicely in anything that includes a bubbly mixer, from a Tom Collins to a Mimosa, and it’s especially good with tequila.
$30 for 750 mL
This is a concentrated syrup made with real quinine, citrus, herbs and cane sugar—high-quality, organic versions of all the stuff that goes into tonic water, only you don’t have to worry about it going flat. You can turn it into traditional tonic water by mixing it with club soda (a 3:1 ratio works best) or use it straight in cocktails for a serious bittersweet bite. Concocted by New York barman Tom Richter, Tomr’s got into the artisanal-mixer game early, way back in 2007, and it’s still highly regarded by in-the-know drinks experts.
AND NOW, A WORD FROM SOME BARTENDERS