Certain ingredients are simply better at fixing bad cocktails than others.
And this whole post is devoted to those mirages of flavor – ingredients that are occasionally esoteric but frequently simple, yet all able to mend nearly any cocktail mishap no matter how foul its ichor. If you’ve ever joined us for a Thursday Drink Night, you have no doubt seen these cheater ingredients sprinkled and doused on original cocktail attempts like kewpie mayonnaise on spicy Korean food.
Note: This post is not intended to convince you to make bad drinks and mask them with sludgy syrups, gallons of over-proof rum, or anything else that will only lead to volcanic intestinal fury. You’d be doing no better than … well, JMo does say it best.
So, You’ve Made a Bad Cocktail…
That extra 1/4oz of Zirbenz you thought would save your newest potion made it palatable to only Dr. Bamboo?
Simply add a full ounce of Cruzan Blackstrap and top with ginger beer. It’ll taste just like RumDood made it, and it’ll be drained into your mouth and not the sink.
You thought making a drink with more than 1/4oz of maraschino liqueur was a good idea and quickly discovered you weren’t Murray Stenson?
Try adding grapefruit juice or even some quality rye whiskey and see what happens.
Your version of a “dash” ended up being a 1/2oz of absinthe, utterly desecrating your otherwise perfect Sazerac?
Do as cocktailnerd would and add in a healthy glass of Carpano Antica. Ooh… a sazerac with Carpano does sound intriguing – or like a Manhattan.
Cheater Ingredients (and why they work)
Cocktail too boozy or just lacking balance? Add grapefruit juice.
Grapefruits are the Lady Gaga’s of the citrus world. At first, their not-too-sweet-not-too-tart vibe strikes you as blasé. “Why not just use a real fruit, like Journey limes?” you ask yourself. Well, even small doses of lime can drastically modify the tartness of your cocktail. Or if your potation needs some sweetness, just drop in some scissor sisters simple syrup. Well, as any aficianado or adamant dictator of the sazerac will tell you, even the slightest hand of simple can be too much.
So why grapefruit? Grapefruit juice contains approximately half1 the citric acid of lemon and lime juice, which allows you to apply it as one would add salt to pomme frite. A little too much only makes it tastier. So though you might not warm to grapefruit right away, I guarantee you’ll soon be applying its superstar tones with a heavy hand.
(All happy with my grapefruit/gaga analogy, I posed it to my good friend and composer/metal lover, Joel. Here is what he had to say: “Amusing, though to resurrect an overused word, I find Lady Gaga to be cloying and artificial.”)
The Count’s Watch
- 1 1/2oz white rum (used Oronoco)
- 1oz amaro Nonino
- 1oz grapefruit juice
- 1 dash orange bitters (used Bitter Truth)
- 1/4oz high-proof whiskey (used George Stagg), floated
- lemon twist, for garnish
Shake with delicate intensity, and strain into a fanciful cocktail glass. Float the bourbon (oh my it’s delicious), and garnish.
Rick from Kaiser Penguin
A creamy, white rum mixed with a fashionable amaro and dotted with orange bitters sounded delightful, though it fell flat like a Johnny Weir triple axel. But adding some Lady Gaga and a float of high-proof spirit made everything dandy. This romantic cocktail was named after Count Odette Philippe who brought grapefruits to Florida in 1823.
More to come…
Quickly realizing I could turn this post into a series and make my life easier, I have chosen to do just that. So expect more on cheater ingredients in the future, namely: Ginger Beer, Ting, high-proof spirits, Cruzan blackstrap, bitters, cinnamon syrup, and citrus twists.
- What are your favorite cheater ingredients?