The house is decorated. The music is on. And the appetizers are in the oven. The doorbell rings and your guests head straight for the kitchen for a drink.
Cocktail season is back and the goal in the kitchen is to keep it simple: around three ingredients per drink.
You may have noticed a proliferation of new cocktail and syrup mixers on the shelves of your local liquor store. I have bought and tasted almost 30 of these products from almost a dozen different brands. Many were terrible. (I could make a better drink with NyQuil.) Some were just weird. A few were good but required five or six (or more!) Additional ingredients to make one of their recommended recipes, which defeats the point.
After tasting too many recipes, a few brands have reached the top: Proof Syrups, Woodford Reserve, Runamuk Maple, Liber & Co. and Shaker & Spoon.
The following two and three ingredient cocktails * taste like they were made by expert mixologists.
(* Shaker & Spoon’s drinks actually require multiple ingredients, but their kits come with everything you need – except alcohol – pre-measured, including toppings, so their recipes are incredibly fast and effortless.)
Leather & Velvet
The mixer: Runamok smoked maple syrup (8.5 ounces, $ 18). How to do it: Pour 1/4 ounce of smoked maple syrup and 2 ounces of whiskey into a highball glass. Add an extra large ice cube and stir for at least 10 seconds. Garnish with a slice of dehydrated orange or lemon. Buy online: runamukmaple.com
The mixer: Woodford Reserve Old Fashioned Cocktail Syrup (16 ounces, $ 22). How to do it: Pour 1/3 ounce of cocktail syrup and 1 1/2 ounce of bourbon in a highball glass. Add an extra large ice cube and stir for 10 seconds. Garnish with orange zest. Buy online: Amazon.com
The mixer: Proof Orange Syrup (16 ounces, $ 33). How to do it: Pour 1/2 ounce of orange syrup into a flute. Fill with sparkling wine. Garnish with a zest of cherry or orange (or both). Buy online: proofs syrup.com
Shimmering champagne cocktail
Mixers: Sparkle Syrup (8 ounces, $ 18) and Maple Orange Bitters (3.4 ounces, $ 12) of Runamuk maple. How to do it: Pour a teaspoon of sparkling syrup into a flute. Add 2 dashes of orange and maple bitters. Fill with sparkling wine. Garnish with a crab apple (or lemon zest). Buy online: runamukmaple.com
The mixer: Liber & Co. Toasted Coconut Syrup (9.5 ounces, $ 11). How to do it: Add 3/4 ounce of coconut syrup, 2 ounces of light rum and 1 ounce of lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice cubes and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Filter into a chilled cut glass. Garnish with a lime. Buy online: liberandcompany.com
The mixer: Brush of the Bush Shaker & Spoon Kit ($ 12, makes 2 drinks). How to do it: Combine 2 ounces of mezcal or tequila reposado with the provided sage-agave syrup, cherry-vanilla bitters and shake with ice until cool. Filter into a highball glass over cool ice. Spritz with the white sage hydrosol provided. Garnish with sage leaf. Buy online: shakerandspoon.com
The mixer: Theobroma Shaker & Spoon Kit ($ 30, makes 8 drinks). How to do it: In a shaker, mix 1 1/2 ounces of mezcal with the supplied cold brew coffee, agave nectar and bitter moles. Stir for 20 seconds, then strain into a glass with ice cubes. Garnish with a dash of orange bitter and garnish with a citrus wheel. Buy online: shakerandspoon.com