It might seem frivolous to break out the shaker in the current circumstances but we shouldn’t underestimate the morale boost that comes with a well-timed cocktail. This is why people all over the world are hosting virtual happy hours with friends and family to prove that lockdown doesn’t have to mean isolation.
Just as well ,because there’s a school of thought that says the wellbeing benefits associated with moderate drinking owe a lot to the social aspect of raising a few glasses with your friends. Here what to drink at home as you acclimatise to those zoom drinks dos:
Invent your own ‘quarantini’
At the time of writing it’s still possible to order supplies online, but it’s likely that at some point you’ll have to get smart with the contents of your booze cabinet. Don’t worry if you don’t have everything you need to make the drinks you read about online. Bartenders have launched entire careers off of subbing tequila for the base spirit in a classic and you can do the same.
Most cocktails that have stood the test of time follow formulas rather than recipes so you can plug in whatever you have laying around and play with different combinations. A basic sour is 4 parts spirit, 2 parts acid, and 1 part sweetener shaken with ice – perhaps with a modifier of some kind, a dash of bitters or some fresh herbs. Each one of those elements can be subbed or played with. Here’s few more basic templates to work from and tweak as you see fit.
Strong and stirred
1pt Vermouth, fortified wine, or similar
Dash of bitters or other flavour modifier
Stir over ice, strain into a chilled glass, and garnish if you fancy
1pt Vermouth, fortified wine, or similar
Combine in a rocks glass with ice and stir to chill
Combine in a glass with ice and additional flavour stuff if you have it (fruit or fresh herbs work well) and top with something sparkling, dropping some of the sweetener for balance If necessary.
Being your own bartender and making use of what you have to hand just requires you to break down our favourite drinks and think about what function each ingredient serves. Don’t worry if you have a few hilarious failures, you’ll have plenty of time to work out your new signature drink.
Homemade lockdown liqueur
This is the perfect time to take on that big project, you keep saying. Perhaps you’ll repaint the hallway, really crack the second draft of your screenplay, or get bang into knitting. These are noble endeavours all, but you can’t exactly drink any of them, can you?
For short term gains you can simmer perishable fruits with equal parts sugar and water until combined – then strain out the resulting syrup and you’ve got a flavoured sweetener for your virtual happy hour cocktails. Mix in some spirit to give it some ABV and extended shelf-life and you’ve made liqueur. Otherwise add a dash lemon juice or citric acid (off the internet) a bit a time until it’s a level of tartness that tastes good to you. Then congratulate yourself because you’ve gone and made cordial which can be stirred down with gin or really any white spirit to produce a gimlet.
Tinctures and cocktail bitters
For longer term pay offs, you can try making your own tinctures and cocktail bitters. Raid the spice cupboard and think about the flavours you like in a drink, then steep away in a mason jar with alcohol for at least a week before tasting to see how your creation is getting on. Anything goes when making your own infusions though it’s worth knowing that dried ingredients tend to work better and that patience will be rewarded.
Once suitably infused, strained, and bottled – your proprietary tincture can be dashed into whatever cocktails you like. If any of the above sounds complicated there’s a wealth of reading material to steer you in the right direction. Brad Thomas Parsons’ excellent book Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure All is available electronically and should give you all the theory and recipes to inspire you on your way. Good Things to Drink by Ryan ‘Mr Lyan’ Chetiyawardana is likewise excellent and full of recipes for homemade ingredients to fuel your virtual happy hour. Share your experiments, have fun, and enjoy the sweet boozy distraction of it all.
These are tough times for sure, but they needn’t be faced without the odd cocktail.