It is commonly known in culinary circles that fresh ingredients yield better flavor. The same is true in the cocktail world.
I know many of you have an old bottle of margarita mix in the back of your fridge. Do yourself a favor and throw it away. On your next grocery trip, fetch some fresh limes. Then take five minutes to bring equal parts sugar and water to a simmer, then turn off. Once this simple syrup has cooled, you have all the fresh ingredients to make a stellar margarita.
Likewise, those same two ingredients — simple syrup and fresh lime juice — can be used to craft a daiquiri or a gin or vodka gimlet.
Right there are three cocktails in your home bar arsenal already that don’t rely on pre-packed mixers. Sure, it’s a heck of a lot easier to open a bottled margarita cocktail filled with preservatives and corn syrup, but again, it’s about fresh ingredients. It’s about elevating your taste buds.
Take grapefruit for instance. At Capitol Bar, we squeeze fresh grapefruit juice to create a remarkable greyhound or salty dog. Not only do my guests take one taste and give me that same approving nod that The Wolf gave Quentin Tarantino’s character in Pulp Fiction after one sip of his gourmet coffee, the guests near the juicer can smell the oils releasing in the air, and never fail to comment on the wonderful aroma. You can’t get that without fresh juice.
Another great use of fresh grapefruit is in the Paloma, traditionally in Mexico a cocktail made by combining tequila, salt, lime juice and grapefruit soda (usually Squirt).
If I am anything, I am traditional when it comes to cocktails. Not so with the Paloma. I preach the use of fresh juice, so rather than buying a can of Squirt, I use fresh lime and grapefruit juices, simple syrup and soda water to craft my version of the Paloma (and a touch of mezcal if you like it more complex).
Eventually, when the weather warms up to 100-plus, you’ll wish you clipped this article and taped it to your fridge. Think hot thoughts.
You can find Kevin Hopper clinging to cocktail traditions most nights at Capitol Bar on West State Street.
The My Way Paloma
2 ounces of premium tequila (Espalón is an affordable option)
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Pinch of salt
In a tall glass filled with ice, add tequila, simple syrup, lime and grapefruit juices and salt. Top with soda water and stir to combine.