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Pro mixologists say these 9 ingredients will upgrade your home cocktails

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A glass of blue, shimmering liquid behind two jars of Sugar Mama Shimmer spilled out, next to a bottle of Fee's Brothers Bitters and an old fashioned
  • Even a simple garnish can take your cocktails up a notch, says Iverson Guo, Karma Asian Fusion cocktail director.
  • Garnishes like Amarena cherries, edible glitter, and blue cheese stuffed olives add visual appeal.
  • You can get a more complex flavor with rimming salts, flavored bitters, and infused honey.

The COVID-19 pandemic fueled a full-on home mixology movement. Now, most establishments have reopened and those quarantinis have reverted back to regular old martinis. But let's be honest: you just can't beat the convenience and affordability of a homemade cocktail.

What often separates a homemade cocktail from one you'd get at a bar are those subtle but special touches that add complexity and visual appeal. So, if ginger ale in your whiskey or cranberry juice in your vodka isn't cutting it anymore, maybe all you need is some alcoholic boba or fruity bitters to instantly punch up your drinks.

"When experimenting with creating cocktails at home, I love to begin by choosing my favorite spirit and finding a seasonal fruit to use," says Iverson Guo, owner, head chef and cocktail director at Karma Asian Fusion. "Square or sphere ice molds and fresh fruit garnishes can take your cocktails to the next level."

Ready to embrace your inner bartender? Below, pro mixologists share some of their favorite ingredients for elevating your home cocktails.

Rimming salts with a kick
A few drinks in reds and oranges on a white tablecloth with open jars of Osmo seasoning salts, cut open fruit, and a bowl of lemon and lime wedges

Osmo Rimming Salts, from $16.99 at Osmo

Vladymyr Buryanov, a pro mixologist and bartending content creator, frequently reaches for these salts to enhance the flavors of sweet and sour cocktails. 

Buryanov recommends using the grapefruit lime salt for palomas, and strawberry lime salt for margaritas and daiquiris. If you don't drink alcohol, Buryanov says these salts pair nicely with nonalcoholic drinks. You can make your own mocktail by combining fresh lime juice with agave nectar and sparkling water, finishing the glass with OSMO's mango chili rimming salt. 

Flavored bitters from a classic brand
A line up of Fee's Brothers Bitters including cherry bitters, cranberry bitters, and grapefruit bitters

Fee Brothers Lemon Bitters, from $7.99 at Amazon and Total Wine

Vikki Elliott, bar manager at Yellow Door Taqueria in Boston, depends on Fee Brothers' legendary bitters line to balance the flavors of any cocktail.

Specifically, Elliott loves adding a dash or two of lemon bitters to any drink with a bright citrusy profile, like a Bee's Knees or lemon drop. Bitters can also lend some zest to a simple vodka martini or level up a lemonade.

Amarena cherries to make any drink luxe
A cocktail glass with a Fabbri Cherries and an orange slice on a pick, next to a cocktail glass with three Fabbri Cherries on a cocktail pick

Fabbri Amarena Cherries, $23.74 at Amazon

Amarena cherries should be on everyone's home bar cart, according to Erin Miller, owner of Urban Hearth. "The cherries and syrup can be muddled into drinks and also used as garnish," she says.

For Urban Hearth's "Say Anything" cocktail — featuring bourbon, angostura bitters, amaro, and orange bitters — mixologists add a spoonful of syrup for a touch of sweetness, and garnish the drink with a single Amarena cherry on a spear.

Tangy shrubs made from vinegar and fruit
Three bottles of Twisted Shrub concentrated syrups laying on a wood table

The Twisted Shrub Strawberry Lime, $14.99 at Amazon

Shrubs are concentrated syrups usually made from fruit, vinegar, sugar, and aromatics. "The vinegar is the key ingredient that differentiates it from a simple syrup," says Arpit Patel, owner of Baramor. "It not only preserves the fruits, extending its usable life, but also adds a bold tangy taste to the cocktail without overburdening the sweetness."

When you're looking to impress guests at a dinner party, Patel recommends giving margaritas a little extra flair by adding some strawberry lime shrub, a couple of fresh jalapeño slices, and Aperol.

Citrus-infused honey
A squeeze bottle of Calamansi Juice With Honey next to a glass of Calamansi juice in a clear jar

Pick & Squeeze Calamansi With Honey, $12.59 at Umami Cart

Also known as Philippine lime or Philippine lemon, calamansi is a hybrid citrus fruit cultivated in Southeast Asia; its characteristic tartness perfectly offsets the sweetness of honey.

According to Lisa Fernandes, a mixologist with Mace and Rule of Thirds, calamansi-infused honey is surprisingly versatile: you can use it as a substitution for lemon or lime juice, or even for agave syrup. 

For a simple yet refreshing summer beverage, Fernandes suggests combining gin, calamansi honey, and sparkling water. It also works well in a hot toddy with bourbon and in citrus-heavy white wine sangrias.

Mexican seasoning that goes with everything
A bloody Mary in a tall glass next to a sliced lime and a bottle Tajin seasoning

Tajín Clásico Seasoning, $9.52 at Amazon

It is no surprise that this ultra-flavorful Mexican seasoning has exploded onto many cocktail menus across the country: made with ground red chilies, dehydrated lime juice, and salt, it offers a nice tang to a variety of beverages.

"Our bartenders use a Tajín rim on margaritas, mezcal cocktails, and palomas," says Carmen Grau, general manager of Cosmica. "The seasoning is the perfect balance of salty, citrus, and mildly spicy flavors that compliments vacation-inspired cocktails perfectly." Spice up your next bloody mary, mango margarita, or Mexican mule with a Tajín rim. 

Glitter that you can drink
A woman holding a small jar of edible glitter close to the camera, next to a champagne glass of silver, glittery liquid

Sandalita Silver Shimmer, $15 at Sugar Mama Shimmer

When Chef Guo is looking to take his cocktails to the next level, he relies on edible glitter. It's ideal for celebratory and festive occasions.

According to Guo, edible glitter works best in bubbly cocktails — think mimosas, Bellinis, prosecco punch, or a St. Germain Spritz. Just add a pinch to champagne or sparkling rosé for an extra special toast.

Stuffed olives for a savory twist
A blue cheese stuffed olive on a cocktail pick balanced on top of a martini in a coupe glass

Filthy Food Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives, $24.99 at Amazon

When your drink needs a savory garnish, Gui Jaroschy, co-founder of Unfiltered Hospitality, highly recommends looking to Filthy Food's extensive lineup — which also includes pimento-, pickle-, and pepper-stuffed olives.

These blue-cheese stuffed olives are a no-brainer for bloody marys and dirty martinis alike. They also work nicely in an herbaceous gin gimlet with cucumber and dill. Just thread two onto a cocktail spear for a tasty garnish.

Boozy boba that adds flavor and texture
A table with jars of Cocktail Caviar in the strawberry and grape flavors, with a glass of champagne

Strawberry Cocktail Caviar, $19.99 at Total Wine

Think of this quirky ingredient as boozy boba, says Tao Group Hospitality beverage director Craig Schoettler, who frequently uses it as a martini garnish. "It's a great way to add an element of surprise and a burst of flavor to your cocktail," he says.

Schoettler suggests spooning cocktail caviar into homemade cosmopolitans and daiquiris. It also livens up glasses of champagne, rosé, and dry white wines.

Insider's takeaway

Just one unexpected ingredient can liven up any homemade cocktails, making them both look and taste more interesting.

Whether you're trying to save money by drinking at home, or just looking to step up your mixology game for entertaining, there are lots of fun ingredients to try from boozy boba and stuffed olives to fruit-infused syrups and salts.

Read the original article on Insider

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