Jewish Mixologists Offer Advice for at-Home Bartending

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home bar
David Strauss’ home bar. His tip? Make sure you’re stocked up on ice. (Photo by David Strauss)

Working from home, in the same place that you relax, can get a little bit tedious. How do you unwind, when your place of rest has suddenly, and indefinitely, become your place of work?

For some, virtual happy hours is the perfect way to kick back and connect with friends. Center City Sips may be out this year, but there’s always drinks and the computer screen. To bolster your drink options, we spoke to Jewish mixologists to get some tips for keeping your cocktail rotation interesting, how to efficiently stock a home bar and how to create at-home substitutes for pricey drink ingredients.

L’chaim!

What do you keep at home?

Kailey Jenkins, the general manager at CookNSolo’s latest Israeli restaurant, Laser Wolf, is used to spending a lot of time trying out new restaurants all over Philadelphia. Quarantined at home now, old habits die hard.

“We are definitely drinking a lot more at home these days,” she laughed.

Jenkins recommends starting with base spirits — alcohol that’s made to be the foundation of a cocktail. She keeps rye whiskey and gin at home to start, which gives her the canvas to create a whole host of drinks. Alongside those two, she keeps sweet vermouth, dry vermouth and bitters like Campari, Aperol and amaro.

“From there,” she said, “you can make a lot of different classic cocktails” — like a Manhattan, Negroni or Sazerac.

One of the most essential elements of any home bar is also the one you’re most likely to forget, according to David Strauss, head bartender at The Sheppard in Washington, D.C. He’s talking, of course, about ice.

“By the time you realize that you need ice, you’re hours away from being able to have it,” Strauss said.

To address that problem, Strauss will often use otherwise idle time in the kitchen — while, say, a pot of coffee is brewing — to fill an ice tray. He’ll even use plastic containers to create larger ice blocks, to chip later on.

Strauss tries to keep the number of actual ingredients he has low. But, as with Jenkins, he’s able to draw from a “pretty vast cocktail repertoire” from just those few bottles. Strauss and his wife typically go with bourbon, gin, sweet and dry vermouth, Aperol and Maraschino.

Joshua Frankel lives in Center City with his family and tended bar in Israel and in college. Frankel likes to keep it simple. Vodka, he says, is the way to go. You shouldn’t go too cheap, but you hardly need to grab the most expensive thing on the shelf; if you want to experiment, it’s the perfect canvas. It’s the “vanilla ice cream” of liquors, as Frankel put it.

“If you’re making cocktails, vodka is great and fine and wonderful,” he said.

Tips and tricks

Jenkins typically keeps a lot of fruit around the house, but not necessarily for drinking purposes. Now that citrus is being put to good use. What better way to add some instant flavor to a drink than by juicing an orange, freezing it into cubes and then dropping it in a drink later on? It’s a simple way to brighten up whiskey, she said.

Frankel recommends that if you haven’t yet given bitters a try, now’s the time. Just a drop or two from the highly concentrated alcohols can add “depth, flavor and character” to a drink, he said. And you don’t need to buy an expensive, small-batch brand, he said: Angostura bitters are reasonably priced and kosher.

Another money-saving tip from Frankel: Make your own sour mix. Take equal parts sugar and warm water. After the sugar has dissolved and the mixture cools, mix the syrup you’ve just made with lemon juice and refrigerate.

Cocktails for the Coronapocalypse

Patti Brett, the owner of Center City mainstay Doobies at 22nd and Lombard, came up with these pandemic-specific drink recipes, which she named “Cocktails for the Coronapocalypse”

The Quarantini

  • 2 ounces Bombay Gin (or another suitable gin)
  • ¼ ounce dry vermouth
  • lemon peel zest for garnish

Chill a martini or coupe glass with ice and water and set aside.  Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with ice and vermouth. Swill vermouth until the ice is covered. Strain the vermouth and add gin. Stir well (or shake). Discard the water from martini glass, take lemon zest around the rim of the glass and strain the martini into a glass.

Thoughts and Prayers

  • 1½ ounces Old Grand-Dad
  • ½   ounce peach schnapps
  • 1½ ounces cranberry juice
  • Ginger ale to top
  • Lemon twist

Chill a martini or coupe glass with ice and water.  Fill the mixing glass with ice and add Old Grand-Dad, peach schnapps and cranberry juice. Shake well. Top with ginger ale. Discard the ice and water from the glass, run the lemon twist around the rim of the glass and strain the cocktail into the glass.

The Fauci

  • 2 ounces George Dickel Rye Whiskey
  • Agave syrup
  • Dash of orange bitters
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • 2 orange slices, 1 to muddle, 1 for garnish
  • Maraschino cherry

In a rocks glass, muddle 1 slice orange, cherry, orange bitters, Angostura bitters and squirt of agave (to taste). Add ice and rye. Garnish with
an orange slice.

The I Wanna Go Outside

  • 2 ounces Pimms Cup
  • Lemonade

Fill a highball glass with ice, pour in a shot and top with lemonade.

The Coronapocalypse

  • 2 ounces Tito’s Vodka
  • ¼ ounce fresh lime juice

Put the ingredients into a copper mug or highball glass. Top with 5 ounces of ginger beer and garnish with a fresh lime wedge.

The Masked Italian

  • 1 bottle Miller High Life (with 2 good swigs taken out)
  • 1 ounce Aperol
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Gloved Hands
  • 1¾ ounces Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey
  • ½ ounce sweet vermouth
  • Dash of Angostura bitters

In a rocks glass, add the ingredients and mix. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

[email protected]; 215-832-0740

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