Creative Single Spirit Cocktails

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Mix your sweetheart a custom cocktail for Valentine's Day! Maggie Hoffman, author of The One-Bottle Cocktail: More than 80 Recipes with Fresh Ingredients and a Single Spirit (which will be published by Ten Speed Press in March 6th) joined us to share three delicious drinks.

For more information, visit Maggie's website.

NEAR MISS

Makes 1 drink Benjamin Schiller of The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group in Chicago counters the simple sweetness of fresh raspberries and mint with the power of the peel: both lemon and grapefruit peels, to be exact. Muddling half a lemon and two swaths of grapefruit brings out their aromatic oils and a little bitterness, which keeps this juicy, fruity whiskey cooler in balance. The result is a gorgeous magenta drink that wakes up your taste buds and keeps your mouth watering.

  • ½ lemon, cut into 3 wedges
  • 7 ripe raspberries
  • ¾ ounce 1:1 simple syrup (recipe follows)
  • 2 grapefruit twists
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • Leaves from 1 sprig mint
  • 2 ounces chilled club soda
  • GARNISH: mint sprig

Combine lemon wedges, raspberries, simple syrup, and grapefruit twists in a cocktail shaker and muddle until raspberries are well broken up. Add bourbon and mint and fill with ice. Shake until very well chilled, about 15 seconds. Double-strain into an ice-filled collins glass, pour the club soda down the side of the glass, and give it a brief, gentle stir. Garnish with a mint sprig.

SIMPLE SYRUP: IT’S SIMPLE

Many folks are intimidated by the idea of simple syrup. It’s time to get over our fears: no one wants a grainy mouthful of sugar in their drink. Plus, making simple syrup is actually crazy easy, especially if you happen to have a resealable jar (such as a mason jar) around. For 1:1 simple syrup, add equal parts sugar and hot water, seal, and shake until dissolved. Let cool before using and store for up to several weeks in the fridge. For 2:1 simple syrup, mix two parts sugar to one part hot water and proceed as above. Easy-peasy. Your simple syrup needn’t be so basic, though; many grocery stores offer entire shelves of different types of sugar. Less-processed cane, turbinado, and demerara are a few great ways to add a touch more complexity to your drinks.

SASSY FLOWER

Makes 1 drink Alan Ruesga-Pelayo of Cosme in New York grew up in Mexico enjoying his mother’s and grandmother’s homemade aguas frescas. His favorite was always the hibiscus-flavored version, agua de jamaica, which inspired this drink. Tangy hibiscus tea is steeped with fresh rosemary, giving you a piney flavor that draws out the woodsy side of mezcal. If you prep the syrup early and stash it in your fridge, finishing the drink is a snap.

  • 2 ounces mezcal
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce hibiscus-rosemary syrup (see recipe)
  • GARNISH: rosemary sprig

Combine mezcal, lemon juice, and hibiscus-rosemary syrup in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 12 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and garnish with a rosemary sprig. HIBISCUS-ROSEMARY SYRUP MAKES ABOUT 14 OUNCES, ENOUGH FOR 18 DRINKS 2 hibiscus tea bags (such as Traditional Medicinals) 1 rosemary sprig 1 cup boiling water 1 ½ cups sugar Steep tea bags and rosemary in boiling water for 5 minutes. Strain into a resealable container with a tight-fitting lid, then add sugar and stir or shake until dissolved. Let cool, then refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

TANGO NUEVO

Makes 1 drink If your salted caramel affogato were a cocktail, well, this is what it would taste like. Roasty coffee and aged rum were made for each other, but the really brilliant part of this drink from Andrew Moore of Ox in Portland is the addition of two pinches of smoked sea salt. One gets stirred in, the other is sprinkled on top of the ice just before serving. This drink practically turns your tongue upside down, hitting all the right notes: savory, salty, sweet, dark. Consider serving it after a meal, alongside good vanilla ice cream garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and a little more of that salt if you’re really going over the top. If you truly can’t find smoked salt, you can also make this drink with Maldon or other flaky salt.

  • 1 ½ ounces aged rum
  • ½ ounce 1:1 honey syrup (recipe follows)
  • ½ ounce unsweetened cold-brew coffee (such as Stumptown)
  • Pinch smoked sea salt Splash chilled club soda
  • GARNISH: pinch smoked salt and lemon twist

Combine rum, honey syrup, coffee, and smoked salt in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Stir until well chilled, about 30 revolutions. Strain into a rocks glass over a big ice cube and add club soda. Sprinkle a pinch of smoked salt on top of the ice cube and garnish with a lemon twist.

1:1 HONEY SYRUP Mix one part (say, 1 ounce) honey with one part (again, 1 ounce) hot water and stir until dissolved.