If there’s anything the past two years have taught us, it’s that sometimes entertaining in the comfort of your home can be just as fun as going out. But imitating the well-crafted cocktails or mocktails from your favorite local spot is sometimes easier said than done. We went to one of the Twin Cities’ experts on eating and drinking out for advice on how to bring the experience home—Jason DeRusha.
The current host of WCCO Radio’s Drive Time with DeRusha, Jason DeRusha is a long-time Twin Cities food critic. For DeRusha the home cocktail experience is a creative outlet. “Most cocktails are some variation of the classic: if you learn how to make a martini, old fashioned, sidecar, daiquiri and whiskey highball — you can play with those drinks forever and be thrilled. Martinis are so simple but can be made a million ways: vodka or gin? What happens if you flip the proportions and do 2 ounces vermouth to 1 ounce spirit? What if you just rinse the glass with vermouth and then shake 2 ounces of gin to dilute it? Add an olive, or lemon twist, or add more bitters? I love the creative process.”
The starter kit
The starter kit is pretty simple: A shaker and a jigger. Most bartenders use a Boston shaker — which is a large metal cup and a small metal cup that fit together (the small cup is sometimes a pint glass). I use a Cobbler shaker, which is easier to use and shake, and the lid has a strainer in it to keep the ice shards and bits of herbs or fruit from shaking into your drink. Make sure you go larger than 16 ounces so you can fill it with ice and shake a couple drinks at once. A jigger is key for keeping proportions in check. You can use a scale to get exact measurements, but it doesn’t really matter — making sure your ratio is on the money will give you drink success every time. I like a jigger with 1/4 inch measurement markings on the inside.
The add ons
If you want to get fancier, you can add a few more elements to your home bar tool kit. A good mixing glass is useful for those drinks you want stirred, not shaken. You can use a regular spoon, but a bar spoon is usually longer and gives you more control in swirling your ingredients together. A cocktail strainer is nice to use with your beautiful mixing glass or to give you better control when straining out of your shaker. I also recommend a muddler (to smash fresh mint for mojitos).
Don’t waste money on crazy spirits: a starter bar should be vodka, tequila, gin, bourbon, and rum, each bottle need not cost more than $25. You can buy simple syrup although making your own is so easy – just boil 2 parts water to 1 part sugar, bitters (Angostura and Peychaud’s will get you started), and fresh fruit. Purists will tell you to squeeze your own lemon and lime juice, but I usually use store bought stuff. Using an organic juice like Santa Cruz (widely available at grocery stores) is a significant upgrade from the green plastic lime bottle stuff.
Jason’s favorite Paloma recipe
- 2 ounces blanco Tequila
- 1 ounce grapefruit juice
- 1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1/4 ounce simple syrup
- 1 ounce grapefruit soda (Fresca works, Fever Tree makes a pink grapefruit soda)
Combine all ingredients (except soda) in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake it big time. Strain into a tall ice-filled Collins glass, top it off with a splash of the soda and garnish with a lime or grapefruit wheel (slice a lime or you can buy dehydrated citrus at many liquor stores). The Paloma can also make for a delicious mocktail. Just skip the tequila!
Cheat code: Minneapolis distiller Earl Giles makes a Paloma mixer with the grapefruit and sweetener, you just have to add 2 ounces of tequila, 2 ounces mixer, and top with soda. Easy!
Jason’s local favorites
Of course, Jason DeRusha the food critic has some recommendations to grab a great cocktail or mocktail.
TWIN CITIES COCKTAILS
In the suburbs
- Margie’s Kitchen | Andover
- Lolito | Stiilllwater
- Tequila Butcher | Chanhassen
- Mr. Paul’s Supper Club | Edina
- 6 Smith | Wayzata
- 3 Squares | Maple Grove
- Tattersall Distilling
- Elusive Botanical Bar by Dashfire
- Stillwater Proper
- J. Carver Distillery
- Earl Giles
- Tattersall Gin | Minneapolis & River Falls
- Vikre Juniper Gin | Duluth
- Far North Solveig Gin | Hallock
- J. Carver Distillery | Waconia
- Loon Liquors Silver Rum | Northfield