By Megan McGrath, Punch Palate Correspondent
I dabble in drinking cocktails, but I’ve never really spent much time making them.Â Â My dad and myÂ friend are former bartenders, so I’m usually just in charge of the food.Â Sometimes the standard beer and wine selection can get a bit dull.Â Especially, when I’m throwing a dinner party.Â Labor Day anyone?Â Â Thankfully, I attended a Simple Syrups class last week at One LoungeÂ withÂ entertaining extraordinaire, Dana Onyewu from casaKCD.com, and mixology mastermind, Anthony Rivera from dldglg.com.Â Â The two of them taught me there was nothing to fear, and that simple syrups are not only easy to concoct, but also extremely versatile!
Did you know that a basic simple syrup isÂ just equal parts water and sugar, and has a shelf life ofÂ up to four weeks?Â Dana and Anthony’s class also taught me that there are four easy ways to infuse or add flavors to syrups.
4 Ways to Infuse a Simple Syrup:
1.Â Â Substitute basic ingredients.Â You can replace the sugar in your simple syrup withÂ agave or honey, or replace the water with a flavored water or juice.
2.Â Use spices.Â Crush and toast whole spices and steep them with your simple syrup, thenÂ simmer for 5 mins.Â Use hard spices like cloves or star anise.
3.Â Use essential oils.Â These are 100 percent organic, and are steamed to push all of the oil out of a spice.Â Add just a drop or two to your sugar water and then give a good shake.
4.Â Add an aromatic.Â Examples of these include rose water or orange blossom.Â Add a tsp at a time so as not to over-power the drink.
After explaining these methods, Anthony and Dana let the class sample some of their creative cocktails employing these techniques.Â Please note Dana’s adorable stirrers!Â Full recipes will be posted onÂ Dana’s blog casaKDC.comÂ and the the syrups will be available on Athony’s blogÂ dldglg.com.Â Mix and match to find your new signature drink!
First up, a new take on the Old Fashioned.Â Their version of this drink included whiskey, a simple syrup of maple and star anise, orange bitters, and apple vinegar (don’t be scared-it’s a shrub, more on that later).
Second, was my favorite cocktail of the evening!Â Anthony named it the Wascally Wabbit, and thank goodness a similar version of this drink is served at PS7, where he works.Â This drink was a combination of Blue Coat gin, lime juice, a carrot and allspice syrup, a little egg white for the froth and a fresh sprig of mint.Â Sweet, with a hint of spice, and it had a fresh from the garden taste.
The third and final drink was a Grog.Â Anthony and Dana called this drink tiki-style, and it featured Chairman’s Reserve rum, lemon and lime juice, and a cinnamon and clove simple syrup.Â I can picture myself pool-side or beach-side sipping on this fruity drink.Â Where’s my umbrella?
I felt like there were so many clever take-aways from this class!Â I loved the casual vibe and all questions are welcome format.Â Â Participants even left with their own craft syrup after experimenting with essential oils.Â Here are a few terms and tips from Anthony and Dana.
Anthony’s cocktail terms of art.
- Flips are drinks using egg whites and yolks.
- Shrubs areÂ simple syrups with a small portion of vinegar,Â toÂ give it depth.Â Don’t go overboard here or you’ll definitely come off as a rookie.Â We’re talking a half oz of vinegar to about 2 oz of syrups.
- GrenadinesÂ are actually pomegranate juice-based, and are mixed in equal parts with raw sugar.Â AnthonyÂ recommends stepping up yourÂ grenadine by addingÂ pomegranate molasses.
Dana’s tips for simple syrup-based entertaining.
- Perfect your party by prepping your glasses in advance.Â Put a small amount of simple syrup in them andÂ store them in the fridge.Â Once your guests arrive, top them off with some fizzy prosecco or champagne.
- Make your drinks in advance by using a simple syrup in a punch.Â Think a spicy sangria,Â where flavors blendÂ together a day in advance.
- Plan your party using one theme that can be found throughout the course of the meal and in your beverages.Â Try a fresh citrus fiesta!
I can’t wait to test some of these out!Â Must place my next spice order from Penzeys stat!
Punch Palate Correspondent Megan McGrath is a serious foodie turned avid food blogger. Megan believes that food is fun, and is always looking for the next big thing on the DC food scene! She is the Assistant Director of Employer Outreach at a local law school in Washington DC, and works with all different types of legal employers and law students. Megan lives in Arlington, and can often be found experimenting in her kitchen for her blog http://imperfectlydelicious.com. Follow her on Twitter @imprfctlydelish.