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Raising the Bar: How to Make Better Cocktails at Home with Audrey Saunders

Audrey Saunders

Audrey Saunders

December 26, 2013


Audrey Saunders of New York City's Pegu Club

We tapped the Pegu Club owner and 2013 JBF Gala mixologist to share her tips for better at-home mixology.

Simple Syrup, Simply Put

When it comes to cocktails, we don’t want to cook simple syrup; that increases its viscosity. There are exceptions, but we generally don’t want heaviness in a cocktail. Fill a bottle halfway with superfine sugar, which is gritless and dissolves instantly. (I like to repurpose 10-ounce glass soda bottles. They’re ideal for home use and a speed pourer fits perfectly into them.) Fill the other half with filtered, room-temperature water. Cap and shake well. The mixture will appear cloudy at first but will quickly settle. Top off with more water. When it’s transparent, it’s ready for use.

Vermouth: Smaller Is Better

Would you drink wine that’s been sitting around for a couple of weeks or months? Treat your vermouth the very same way that you would treat wine. For home use, I purchase 375-milliliter bottles. Smaller is better, fresher, and more cost-effective.

For Exotic Effect, Add Scent

Customize Champagne or other sparkling wine by adding your own layer of aroma. Combine 2 tablespoons of your choice of scent (organic rose petals, verbena leaves, or cinnamon, for example) with 8 ounces vodka. Refrigerate for 2 weeks. Strain into a dropper bottle. Squeeze a few drops onto a sugar cube, place in a flute, add Champagne, and the bubbles will carry the aroma up to your nose.

Don’t Let Fruity Equal Flabby

Whenever I‘m given a cocktail that contains a fruit juice in addition to lemon or lime, it almost always tastes thin and flabby. This occurs because fruit juices, especially the more ethereal, lower-acid flavors like apple, peach, or watermelon, are notorious for diluting into mere holograms of themselves after shaking. My remedy is called “the add-back.” Many recipes tell you to add the juice to the rest of your ingredients in your shaker, but don’t do it. Leave out the fruit juice while you shake. After you’ve strained your drink, add the undiluted juice. It will taste lively, and your cocktail, vibrant.

Edited by Anna Mowry