Before we go too much farther, we need to address a critical topic: juice. A good home bar must have fresh squeezed juice. I don’t care how much you spend on highly advertised super-premium liquors and $25 cocktail glasses, if you’re using bottled lemon juice for your sidecar, it will taste like cat urine.
This rule goes double for pre-made mixers. Convenience is what killed cocktail craft the first time, and I refuse to let it die again. So I don’t care if you’re talking about Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Mix packet or a bottle of Skinny Girl Margarita Mix – pre-made mixers are evil! And if you’re going to use one, just close this blog right now. And save yourself some money and mix it with the cheapest bottle of Gilbey’s in the store. You won’t notice any difference.
Here’s the breakdown: You must fresh squeeze your lemon, lime, and grapefruit juice. I would highly recommend that you fresh squeeze your orange juice as well. But I will let you in on a secret — the single serving size of Simply Orange are now available in most supermarkets and they are an acceptable substitute. Still not as good as fresh squeezed, but the results are nowhere near as catastrophic as they would be if you used canned grapefruit juice in a Perro Salado.
1 1/2 oz plata (silver) tequila
Wet rim of highball glass with lime wedge then salt rim with kosher salt. Fill with ice, then squeeze and drop lime wedge into the glass. Combine tequila and juice and serve.
And some juices you can and should use from a bottle: pineapple, tomato/V8, cranberry. See? I’m not crazy, and this post won’t digress into how to make your own cranberry juice.
You do not need expensive equipment to do this. A counter-mounted press juicer is a nice-to-have, nothing more. I’ve hand juiced every drink in my home bar using the equipment below. Really, all you need are 2 hand-squeezers (lemon and orange sized), a small strainer, a couple of containers to hold the juice you’re processing, and some squeeze bottles to refrigerate it in until you use it.
The process looks something like this:
Once squeezed, it keeps for up to a week in the fridge, although you will taste a slight decline in the freshness after the first 48 hours. So if I’m hosting people over a weekend, I’ll make juice as far ahead as Thurs night, but no more than that.
Some questions remain. for example, how much juice do I get from each piece of fruit?
- lime = 3/4 – 1 oz
- lemon = 1 – 1 1/2 oz
- orange = 1 1/2 – 2 oz
- grapefruit = 2 oz
Also, what do I use it in?
You’ll get plenty of opportunities. In fact, you can go back to the Bronx Cocktail, Tequila Daisy, and Spicy Sunrise in earlier posts. But of all the drinks I’ll discuss here, there are two for which fresh juice is most critical.
A Greyhound is a classic highball from the 1960’s — vodka and grapefruit juice. A Salty Dog is a Greyhound with a salted rim. And a Perro Salado (Spanish for Salty Dog) is a Salty Dog with tequila instead of vodka — a variation I much prefer. Especially with the lime wedge, this drink has a lot more character than the traditional Greyhound while remaining light and refreshing. Pretty self-explanatory recipe, but I challenge you to make it with both fresh and canned juice and let me know your thoughts.
TIP: When salting any rim, use a wedge of fruit to wet the glass. The sugar in the fruit juice will keep more salt on the rim than water. Oh yeah, and don’t waste money on a margarita salter – just spread kosher salt on a plate. It works better and is free if you already have salt in your kitchen.
You want the salt on the outside of the rim – no one wants salt floating in their drink. Also, I usually only salt 1/2 of the rim of any glass – this gives the drinker the option of taking each sip with or without salt.
The second recipe is one of my top 5 drinks. A Daiquiri — and by that I mean a real Daiquiri – is a treat. According to legend, the drink originated in the Caribbean as a way to administer malaria treatment. The malaria treatment in question was of course the rum, and to make it go down smoother, it was mixed with a little sugar and lime. Ernest Hemingway made the drink famous when in Cuba in the 1940’s, and as someone who both writes and drinks, I have a certain fondness for the drinks that Hemingway liked.
2-3 oz silver or cuban style rum
Combine ingredients in shaker and shake vigorously for >30 sec. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish would only detract from this one.
The Daiquiri met a fate common to many drinks in this book, as convenience and the notorious American sweet tooth turned it into a day-glo adult slushy served quickly from a modified soft serve ice cream machine. Amazingly, people still pay $8 for such a sloppy mess. But then we pay $4 for coffee too.
For a long time my favorite Daiquiri recipe was from Good Eats. It used a 1:2:4 ratio (1/2 oz syrup, 1 oz juice, 2 oz rum). David Embury, at the other extreme, recommends a 1:2:8 ratio for this drink. He actually says even this isn’t strong enough, but that anything with a smaller alcohol content isn’t really a cocktail at all.
Today I tend to be somewhere between the two. My current recipe is 3 oz rum, 3/4 oz juice, and <1/2 oz syrup (probably around 3/8 oz). I would never tell you that you need to make your drinks strong, but I will admit that at some point, the 1:2:4 ratio became a bit too sweet/tart for me.
The beauty of this recipe is that by varying the ingredients by a relatively small amount you can make dramatically different drinks. So I would suggest starting with the Good Eats version and trying variations until you find something that you like. Then post it here with your comments.