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I don’t know if I can speak for everyone, but 2019 was a year that required–nay, demanded–I consume more than a few cocktails. This was bad news for my liver, but great news for my readers, as all that drinking resulted in a lot of cocktail-related pondering and testing, as well as some truly great cocktail hacks.
I’ve used jam in gin-, vodka-, and cognac-based beverages and each time I’ve thought “I could drink this for breakfast.” I’ve also yet to find a preserve that doesn’t work in a cocktail format (though mango was a fave). It’s a mix-and-match beverage that lets you switch out both booze and fruit, with the ratios staying the same. Horseradish vodka is a sneaky beast (assuming you like horseradish). The bite and burn of the horseradish obscures the bite and burn of the alcohol, meaning your brain does not really comprehend how much you are drinking. It is dangerous, and it is one of my favorite things. Bartenders are in the hospitality business. They are not your babysitter, your therapist, or your date. If your attempts to start a quick conversation fizzles out, don’t take it personally; they might have a sudden rush of orders (read the room), be trying to count money, are busy working on a staffing issue, or are thinking up new menu drinks. Figuring out what additives you can and cannot legally mix into a cocktail is trickier than looking up a law. The FDA and the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) set federal guidelines for food and alcohol ingredients, respectively, but they’re just that—guidelines. Enforcement at the retail level is up to state, county, and/or city regulatory agencies. This is why you can get a CBD lattefrom seemingly any café in Portland or LA, but not one in Brooklyn. If you crave the truly bitter and herbaceous—and I often do—consider leaving the spritz behind completely, and combining three bitter liqueurs to make one, aggressive though—in my bitter-loving opinion—entirely sippable. The amaro triple threat of Campari, Cynar, and Fernet is like a Ferrari, but a little more mellow, as the Cynar adds a little woodsy sweetness to the other two. It’s polarizing, but if you have an extremely mature and refined palate that simply cannot abide by the saccharine, it might be your new favorite. Photo: Sattish Bate/Hindustan Times via Getty Images Ordering a “something and soda” is always a safe route, particularly if you can pick the brand of your spirit, but the most airport friendly drink, in my not excessively humble opinion, is the kalimotxo. A true sour has a layer of frothy, fun foam. This is usually achieved by the addition of egg whites but some people are squicked out by raw egg in their drink (and some people have allergies). Aquafaba (chickpea liquid) is a popular alternative but, according to Camper English of Alcademics, burrata water is an egg-citing new alternative. I don’t know if you’ve combined these two flavors before, but they work surprisingly well together. In fact, the first time I took a sip of this beverage, I said to myself “Mmm! Peach! Mint!” because those were the flavors I was tasting, you see. (Say it with me now, see how it feels.) Could it be argued that this sweet, summery beverage would have been appreciated earlier in the year? Sure, but at least we have it now, and that’s what matters, I guess. Photo: Jeffrey Morgenthaler This nog is light, perfectly sweetened, and somehow slightly refreshing, something I thought impossible for a dairy- and egg-based beverage. Instead of starting with a thick, cooked custard, it’s made entirely in a blender (or stand mixer) and requires no cooking of any kind. It can also be made well in advance. Infusing tea into spirits, liqueurs, or aromatized wines is nothing new, though it is certainly having a moment in the craft cocktail universe, and for good reason. Many herbs, botanicals, barks, and roots present in herbal teas overlap with ingredients in herbal liqueurs and amaros, so in certain cases you’re just doubling down on time-tested flavors. Unlike other, often poorly or incorrectly utilized ingredients, tea is literally made to infuse, and therefore does so quickly, with relative ease.