Pour Like A Pro

(above) photo by Rich Smith

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By Brenda Shafer

Ever wondered how to make your own syrups and mixers? When you shake and when you stir? And how do bartenders get that perfect foam at the top of the cocktail? We asked the pros for their secrets and compiled our favorites. Check out these tips and take your home bar to the next level!

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To make a caipirinha, muddle limes to release the natural oils from the rind, but be careful not to incorporate the bitter found in the pith. The best technique is to use your wrist to turn the muddler as you are pressing down into the lime. Be sure to shake well before serving, so sugar dissolves into the liquor and lime and doesn’t overpower you.”


DeAnna Boss, Boathouse

Pro Tip: Muddling is a barkeep’s technique for extracting flavor from solid ingredients, like fruit or herbs. Pith is the white spongy layer between the fruit and the peel. Its bitter taste can quickly ruin a cocktail, so perfecting your muddling technique is key.

Photos by Rich Smith

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“Always make your own syrups and mixers using seasonal, local ingredients when possible. This makes a huge difference in the quality of the drinks. For our Fig Fizz, we make fig-infused vodka in-house with local figs, and the honey rosemary syrup is made with fresh local honey and rosemary.”


Megan Brown, The Foundry

Pro Tip: To infuse vodka with fruit, start simple: combine 2 cups of your choice of fruit + 2 cups of vodka. Cover and seal; let sit for 3 to 5 days.

Photos by Lanewood Studio

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“Simplicity is the most important thing. Simple ingredients make for amazing cocktails. It may sound boring, but, when done right, all it takes is three ingredients to make a delicious drink. For example, many bars flood a daiquiri with things that just mask what the drink is supposed to taste like. A refreshing drink like the daiquiri takes only three ingredients: rum, lime, and sugar. With this concept of simplicity, a bartender can create amazing cocktails without much trouble.”


Dio Lemos, Embargo ’62

Pro Tip: A traditional daiquiri is not frozen, and you don’t need a blender. Just fill a cocktail shaker with ice, rum, lime juice, and sugar. Shake vigorously and strain into cocktail glass.

Photos by Lanewood Studio

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“Adding St. Germain elderflower liqueur to pear vodka takes your pear martini to the next level. This delicate flower liqueur pairs perfectly with pear, giving you an elegant cocktail with a fresh, floral feel.”


Jason Miller, FoodWorks

Pro Tip: Serving in a chilled glass allows you to skip the ice and not worry about ice watering down your perfectly mixed drink!

Photos by Terry Henson

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“My three keys to bartending are quality, consistency, and simplicity. Quality comes from the freshness of ingredients. For our 423 Iced Tea, we squeeze juice from lemons before making each drink. We use iced tea made daily in the restaurant, and we use rosemary straight from our Bluff View Herb Garden. For consistency, I always measure when crafting drinks. It may take more time, but nothing can ruin a drink faster than too much of any one ingredient. Lastly, keeping a drink recipe simple allows us to focus on quality and consistency.”


Chris Adams, Back Inn Café

Pro Tip: Rosemary pairs well with sweet, acidic flavors like citrus, cranberry, and tomato.

Photos by Lanewood Studio

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“When I make a Ramos Gin Fizz, I use a technique called reverse dry shaking. I shake the ingredients with ice first, then strain it, and then shake it again with just the ingredients. No ice. What that does is help the egg white emulsify, and without the ice, you get more air and a nice froth.”


Joel Rosario, 1885 Grill

Pro Tip: A Ramos Gin Fizz calls for orange blossom water, but if you don’t have it, don’t worry! Just shake the ingredients with a fresh orange peel.

Photos by Lanewood Studio

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“I use a long pour from a Hawthorne strainer into a fine strainer to create the perfect cocktail. This rizzo contains green chili vodka, Tempus Fugit kina, pink peppercorn syrup, lemon juice, summer berry bitters, and raspberries. To capture the liquid without the ice and fruit skin, two strainers are essential.”


Rachel Holland, Easy Bistro

Pro Tip: A Hawthorne strainer has a little spring around the edge, which fits into a shaking tin and many mixing glasses. It helps strain out little pieces of ice and other solids. However, it can’t capture tinier pieces of ice, so pairing it with a fine mesh strainer is essential to capture everything.

Photos by Lanewood Studio

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“Anything that can be made from scratch is better. Experimenting with drinks and tastes gives me the upper hand in knowing what ingredients mesh together. Of course, I always need to try the new drink I make.”


Lizzy Kruske, Bald Headed Bistro 

Pro Tip: A giant ice cube, like what Lizzy uses, is perfect for drinks that you sip slowly and don’t want diluted. Because it melts slower, it won’t cool your cocktail as fast, but it will preserve the flavor.

Photos by Terry Henson

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“Always use fresh juices when creating your cocktails, not store bought if possible. Also, if you are able to use local ingredients or fruits, that is the best for creating unique and fresh cocktails.”


Lauren Masters, St. John’s Restaurant 

Pro Tip: For fruit and tough herbs like rosemary, a broad muddling tool with teeth works best. You can also use the back of a wooden spoon or a mortar and pestle. For herbs, use a small, flat tool without teeth, and press and twist lightly. Mint, basil, and other soft leaves release bitter flavors when crushed or torn apart, so be careful not to tear leaves.

Photo by Lanewood Studio

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