Stocking Your Bar for Summer

Friday, June 5, 2009

In researching this story, we found that a few trendy spirits turned up again and again. We asked the experts how home bartenders can work these ingredients into their repertoires and knock the socks off of any backyard barbecue. ( Don't forget to visit the spirits' Web sites, which have a trove of recipes.)

-- Lillet Blanc This citrusy French wine aperitif is a classic ingredient that's making a comeback. "Because of the aromatics and complexity, it's delicate enough to drink on its own, on the rocks," says Room 11's Dan Searing, who used it to sweeten and blend his L'Enfant Lemonade. Searing encourages mixing it with spirits; try it in a martini, James Bond-style, instead of the more herbal vermouth.

-- Domaine de Canton Ginger isn't the latest thing in cocktails, but this cognac's balanced flavoring (it's made with "Vietnamese baby ginger") has made it one of the hottest liqueurs around. PS 7's Gina Chersevani uses it in three drinks, and credits it for helping to blend her Thai's the Limit unusual mix of gin and coconut flavors. "It probably goes best with gin," she says. "Second, champagne, and some pineapple juice."

-- Elderflower liqueur Taste this mild and sweet liqueur, and lychees, or perhaps pears, come to mind, but it's actually derived from the fragrant blooms of European elder trees. Just a few years old, St-Germain is the brand you'll see on the shelves of better bars across the city these days. PX's Todd Thrasher made his own homemade elderflower spirit, which he works into a gin and tonic cocktail. Says Firefly's Alice Gaber: "I think it's great with gin, but if you don't like gin, vodka is good." Or champagne.

-- Gin (yes, gin) Gin, it turns out, is simply vodka infused with botanicals and herbs, making it an ideal ingredient for an aspiring mixologist looking to take flavors up a notch from vodka cocktails. And no longer is gin relegated to gin and tonics; three of our five nojitos were built around the spirit, and not one tasted of juniper. "I always thought the taste of gin was the taste of tonic," Gaber says, but manufacturers are now using different herbs and infusions, so each gin is different. Hendrick's, for example, is scented with roses and cucumbers. Chersevani's heady concoction: Top a floral gin with ice, lime and a couple of drops of rose water.

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