With stress levels running high and stay-at-home orders in place, happy hours are what you make of them, quarantinis and all.
What’s a quarantini? That depends on what’s in your pantry.
We asked Canyon Shayer, bar manager at Philadelphia Distilling, for advice on how to make tasty cocktails with everyday ingredients. Check out Shayer’s recipes below. All revolve around basic ingredients, like frozen fruit and seltzer. If your liquor cabinet contains more dusty bottles of rum than bitters and grenadine, this guide’s for you.
“The saving grace for pantry-style cocktails are definitely teas,” says Shayer. “You can get really creative with all sorts of varieties and create tea syrups, or just brew them into a hot cup, with a little citrus, honey, pinch of salt, and booze.”
If you choose to experiment on your own, one staple ingredient Shayer says not to discount is salt.
“A very small pinch can go a long way to bring out flavors,” notes Shayer. “It’ll trick your brain into thinking there’s more going on than, for instance, just lemon, honey, and seltzer.”
Other ingredients to play around with include dried herbs and spices. Add a tablespoon of basil, thyme, or oregano to a simple syrup (one cup water to one cup sugar), or line the rim of your spritzer with a little cinnamon or nutmeg. Citrus peels are also great for rubbing around the rim of a glass.
“Have fun with it. If it’s in a glass and it tastes good, it’s a cocktail,” says Shayer. “There doesn’t need to be any other pretentiousness or rules around making a drink, especially when you can’t leave your house.“
“Frozen fruit will keep the drink cold without diluting it too much, slowly adding more and more fruit flavor as the drink sits,” says Shayer.
Fill a tall glass with equal parts frozen strawberries and ice. Sprinkle in a very small pinch of sea salt (the smallest amount you could pinch between your index finger and thumb).
Squeeze one lemon wedge over the ice and fruit. Add gin. Top with sparkling water until glass is full. Gently stir with a spoon or chopstick. Garnish with remaining lemon wedge.
“For a lighter, brighter version of this cocktail, use an herbal tea, like chamomile, Earl Grey, hibiscus, or green tea,” says Shayer.
In a mug, combine honey, liquor, and juice from one lemon wedge. Stir until honey and lemon juice dissolves. Fill the mug with steeped tea, and stir to combine. For a spicier cocktail, stir in a dash of cinnamon. Garnish with the remaining lemon wedge.
“This works well with most spirits. It’s kind of like a plug and play,” says Shayer. “For a light, floral variation, go with gin or vodka. For a more robust, earthier cocktail, try Irish whiskey or bourbon.”
For the cold brew: Combine 10 bags of peppermint tea with 4 cups of water. Steep for 4 to 24 hours. Remove the tea bags. (If the mix tastes too concentrated in the cocktail, sweeten with sugar or honey, and dilute with more water, as necessary.)
For the cocktail: In a tall glass, squeeze one wedge of lime. Add the honey and liquor. Stir until the honey starts to dissolve. Fill the glass a little less than halfway with the cold brew tea, and stir. Fill the remainder of the glass with ice. Stir, and then garnish with the remaining lime wedge.
“You can use either of the following syrups in place of the sweeteners in any of the cocktail recipes,” says Shayer. “For each cocktail, start with a ¼-ounce or a small spoonful of the tea syrup, and add to taste.”
Pour the sugar into hot tea. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Let the syrup cool to room temperature. Store in a food-safe container in the fridge for up to a week.
“Blended cocktails are a great way of getting through the spirits at the back of the liquor cabinet. If you find old liquors, cordials, or amaro, start by tasting them to make sure you have any interest in using, and then add ½-ounce to ¾-ounce measures at a time,” says Shayer. “The options here are endless — tequila, vodka, unaged rum, spiced rum, bourbon, Irish whiskey — which you can experiment with combining.”
To a blender, add all of the ingredients, excluding the ice. Blend on high for 30 seconds. Add ice, and blend until the mixture is smooth. Taste, adding more ice if desired. Pour and garnish with a lime wedge.
*For a smoother consistency, crushed ice is highly advised. If your refrigerator doesn’t churn out crushed ice, make your own. Place cubes in a heavy Ziploc bag and beat them up with a wooden spoon or muddler, or use a food processor to pulse the cubes a few times until they’re smaller.