Like any practice, there are levels to at-home bartending. Stocking up on the best tools, spirits for mixing and classic recipes may be one tier of mastery, but building an entire carbonation rig in your kitchen is probably the ultimate home bar flex. If you’ve nailed the easy cocktail projects, it’s time to take things up a notch. Here are five next-level cocktail projects to try.
First employed in the famous Benton’s Old-Fashioned at PDT in 2007, fat-washing has evolved to encompass a whole wave of spirit-infusion techniques. At its simplest, fat-washing requires melting a fat—say, coconut oil or animal fat—infusing it into a spirit, freezing the mixture, then straining out the solids for a bolder, fuller-bodied flavor. Try the technique with coconut oil, chile oil and even peanut butter.
Transform everything from Daiquiris to Cuba Libres into crystal-clear liquid—no centrifuge necessary—with one of several techniques: Allow the solids within a cocktail to gel with the addition of agar-agar before straining them out; curdle them with milk, as is often seen in clarified milk punches; or simply filter out those particles with a sieve or muslin.
Fermentation projects shouldn’t be relegated to sourdough starters and pickles. Equipped with a packet of wine yeast, you can transform teas, juices or jams into wine-like ferment. The final product can be treated as a finished cocktail or mixed with other ingredients to enhance the complexity of even the simplest formula. Try lacto-fermenting cherries for syrups and garnishes, celery soda to top mezcal highballs or raspberry cordial for an elevated Kalimotxo.
According to Jack Schramm, a highball is never just two ingredients—that is, if you consider that carbonation is an ingredient unto itself. To unlock the best highballs, bartenders turn to force carbonation, a technique that creates better, longer-lasting bubbles. At home, go beyond the SodaStream, which doesn’t allow for personalization of pressure, or an iSi siphon, which generates waste through its single-use cartridges, and make your own maximalist carbonation rig.
This Frankenstein approach to spirit infusion requires freezing the spirit’s water content to separate it from the alcohol, then replacing it with just about any liquid. Iain McPherson, one of the primary advocates of the technique, has experimented with grapefruit gin and watermelon bourbon. So long as you have a freezer that can reach –27ºC (–17°F), there’s plenty of room for experimentation.