Take Your At-Home Happy Hour to the Next Level
Award-winning bartender, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, shares his tips, inspiration and a recipe for making drinks at home like a pro.
Like most of you, I’m currently locked up in my house alone. I’ve always wondered what this would be like, and, quite honestly, I always thought it sounded kind of great in a way. No responsibilities, no job, just forced to hang around the house all day. And when faced with the reality of the situation, it’s really hard. It’s lonely, it’s boring and, for the love of all that is holy, I’m tired of eating and drinking the same thing every day.
So, I’ve tasked myself with adopting a simple routine. I take a walk in the morning, do some work on the computer all afternoon, and then around 5 PM I reward myself with a little cocktail. And rather than making the same thing every day, I’ve been trying to flex my creative muscles as much as possible.
For those of you struggling with what drink to fix yourself at home, I’ve got a few, hopefully, helpful recommendations. Because, remember, in these very trying time, we’ve only got two things: each other and booze.
First of all, get yourself a video conferencing app like Houseparty, so that you can get together with other like-minded friends, virtually, for a happy hour. It’s a great way to connect, have some laughs, and kill some time—from a safe distance.
Look, normally I recommend picking up a few bags of ice at the store when you’re going to be making cocktails at home. It’s usually fresher, colder and more plentiful than whatever has been lurking in your freezer for the past month. But desperate times call for desperate measures, so I recommend before you head to bed each night you make a fresh tray or two of cubes and pop them in the freezer.
If, like me, you stocked up on fresh lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges when all of this started looking really bleak, then you might have a surplus of fresh fruit sitting in the fridge and starting to go bad. Listen, what a lot of people won’t tell you is that once juiced, citrus juice will keep in the freezer almost indefinitely. Just juice your citrus fruits, strain the pulp, seal the juice in an airtight container and pop it in the freezer until you’re ready to use it.
Your fridge is full of ingredients you might not think of when mixing up cocktails. Like adding a teaspoon of jam or preserves to a sour (Whiskey Sour, Margarita, Penicillin, etc.) can add another layer of flavor to a drink you, quite frankly, might be getting a little bored with.
A dash or two of hot sauce can also spruce up an otherwise dull drink. And would anyone in their right mind turn up their nose to a Spicy Mezcal Margarita at a time like this? (For more Margarita inspiration, check out these tips from my friend Ivy Mix.)
I’ve also been using up those leftover bottles and cans of soda in the back of the fridge this week, too. A Gin Sour, served long with a big splash of berry LaCroix, was just what the doctor ordered this weekend while I sat on the front porch. (If you’re feeling super ambitious check out my fellow Half Full columnist Max Watman’s story on making your own sodas at home.)
And even beer is getting an upgrade at my house. Surely, you’ve got a can of cheap beer you can mix with some citrus, simple syrup, and hot sauce for what is probably the best Michelada recipe in the world, courtesy of the brilliant Erick Castro.
Fresh herbs, such as mint and basil, are going to go bad first. So, I immediately took mine and, using a technique I featured in The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique, turned them into delicious herb simple syrups that will maintain their color and flavor for weeks.
You can do it, too. Simply blanch your herbs for 15 seconds in boiling water, then plunge them into ice water. Then all you need to do is blend the herbs with simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water), strain and bottle. These infusions will keep in the fridge for weeks.
And finally, I’ve been making one-bottle batches of cocktails, pre-diluting them, chilling them in the fridge and then bringing them over to the neighbor’s house to pass around in the front yard, again, at a safe distance.
Here’s my favorite this week:
- 6 oz Gin
- 6 oz Sweet vermouth
- 6 oz Campari
- 6 oz Water
- Glass: Tumbler
- Garnish: Orange slices (optional)
Add everything to a 750 ml bottle and chill overnight in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, simply pour over ice and garnish with an orange slice, which is, of course, optional.