Folks, it’s happening. Summer in Chicago has arrived, the masks are finally coming off, and at long last, there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon. This calls for a drink.
After a year-and-a-half of being our own bartenders, we’re all excited to get back to drinking the good stuff. I’d venture to say I’m not the only one whose cocktail “skills” were wildly disappointing when compared to those of the professional drink makers of the world (shout out to the hospitality industry!) but I have picked up a few tips over this last year. As we get into the final stretch and start inviting folks over for drinks on the patio, try these easy summer cocktail hacks to get you through to the days of holing up at your favorite bar all night are back.
1. Start with the cheap stuff.
When you’re mixing a cocktail for yourself or for others, always start the recipe with the cheapest ingredients. This especially applies when you’re mixing more complicated drinks, but as someone who has been known to misread recipes and ruin entire batches of brownies in one fell swoop, I find that it’s best to use this cardinal rule in any cocktail making experience.
Mixing a mint julep? Start with the mint and simple syrup. Throwing together a daiquiri? Start with the lime juice and sugar. That way, if something goes wrong, you’re not tossing a glass full of your dad’s favorite scotch.
2. Drink local!
One of the easiest ways to level up the drinks you make at home is to invest in delicious local products with a unique taste and a cool origin story. You likely don’t have to look far from your front door to find spirits, simple syrups, and bitters that are made by the passionate beverage industry folks right here in the Windy City. Some of my favorites? 11th Orchard Bitters, Apologue Liquors, Koval Distillery, and FEW Distillery.
3. Try something savory!
My biggest pet peeve with homemade cocktails is that they are far too sweet. Sometimes a girl just wants a nice, flavorful, spicy cocktail to end the night. That’s when you should give this saffron and grapefruit cocktail a try. Made with saffron liqueur from Apologue Liqueurs and a deeply sweet and spicy hot pepper-infused simple syrup, this drink is like nothing you’ve ever had before at home.
4. Experiment, but don’t forget those classics.
Over the last year, everyone has gotten more imaginative with their home cooking. We’ve had to — we would’ve gone crazy if we’d eaten only the staple meals we know how to cook over and over again! The same can be said for drinks, and I’ve heard of experimentation that resulted in delicious drinks (a spiked golden milk latte? Hello!) but I’ve also heard tell of unusual cocktails that were a big fat fail. We’re almost there, friends. If you have to stick with a house-made G&T for a few more weeks, you’ll survive. They’re classics for a reason!
Luckily, The Chopping Block is here to help with all of your summer cocktail needs. Our cocktail classes are virtual so you can enjoy them in the comfort of your own home or patio and join with a group of friends, wherever they may be. Check out one of these upcoming classes with our Spirits Expert Christophe Bakunas:
- Summer Vodka Party Friday, May 28 5pm CST
- Sweet vs Sour: How to Customize Cocktails Saturday, June 12 5pm CST
- Sparkling Cocktails Saturday, June 26 5pm CST