Bitters, liqueurs and infusions sound like the stuff you’d only find at fancy bars, but they aren’t too difficult to make at home. Adamo Balsamo, the head mixologist at KA Hospitality, lets us into his Mumbai bar, CinCin, to demonstrate how you can make your home bar more exciting.
Pink grapefruit bitters
Start by heating some pink grapefruit juice in a pan. Add the fruit’s zest and peel, a variety of botanicals (curry leaves, coriander, cardamom seeds, allspice dram) followed by alcohol. Vodka is ideal, because it doesn’t mask the flavours of the ingredients. Let it slow cook for four hours. Strain the final product and use as required.
Pink Gentleman Mix 40 ml Johnnie Walker, 20 ml Amaretto, 30 ml lemon juice, 5 ml pink grapefruit bitters, 30 ml pink grapefruit juice, 15 ml grapefruit and thyme syrup with egg white and serve.
Tip: Make ginger bitters by replacing pink grapefruit juice with ginger juice and
following the same procedure.
Simply blend fresh pomegranate juice with sugar, preferably castor sugar. The special thing about this syrup is that it can be sweeter and thicker than the others. It releases a beautiful pink colour into any light coloured drink, and has a natural sweet taste. It’s better to make it fresh every two days. Grapefruit and thyme syrup Gently cook 200 gm of fresh thyme with some skin of grapefruit, which releases a lot of essential oil into it. Then, leave it in sugar syrup to aromatise for a week or more.
This sweet liqueur is obtained by the maceration, in ethyl alcohol, of lemon peels and other citrus fruits, all mixed with a syrup of sugar and water. Gently wash and dry lemons. Remove the yellow zest, taking care to avoid the bitter white pith. Set aside the zested lemons. Place the zest in a large glass jar and add one bottle of vodka. Seal tightly and let the mixture steep, shaking it daily, until the peels lose their colour and the liquid turns bright yellow and very aromatic. This takes at least two weeks. Strain the infusion through a double layer of moistened cheesecloth into a clean jar or bowl. Be sure to squeeze the last drops of intensely flavoured liquid from the peel. Add a second bottle of vodka. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, and the syrup just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and let it cool.
Add the syrup into the infused vodka. For cloudy limoncello, add the syrup while still slightly warm. Using the funnel, pour the liqueur into sterilised bottles, seal tightly and let it rest for at least one week. Additional ageing will result in a smoother marriage of flavours.
Start by macerating fresh almonds with an alcoholic mixture and sugar for at least 2-3 weeks. Strain and mix with blended almonds and set this mixture aside. After a few hours of stabilising, cook everything for a few hours until the product you obtain is not completely thick and brown, and has a clear colour.
Mix 60 ml Amaretto with 40 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, 20 ml lime juice, a little sugar and a few dashes of Angostura bitters, and serve.
Add lemongrass to a container filled with gin and leave it in a dark spot. Keep it away from sunlight until the colour starts changing from transparent to yellow, which means it is ready.
Tea infused gin
Take some black Darjeeling smoky tea and infuse it for a minimum of 30 days with a good gin, in which the botanicals are not too complex and strong.
More easy hacks to try
This is literally as easy as popping fruits, flowers or herbs with water in an ice tray, or adding juices and syrups straight up and freezing them. The flavours will seep gently into your drink as the ice melts, and can range from subtle to bold. Using colourful flowers and fruits will also look great.
DEHYDRATED FRUIT WHEELS AND DUST
Dried citrus wheels are easy to prep in advance and can be stored for a few weeks. They add a delicate flavour, while also making for an attractive garnish. Making them is easy – cut oranges and limes into thin wheels and place them on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Put them in the oven at 200 degrees F, and let them dehydrate for a day. Check on them every few hours so they don’t over-dry, but avoid opening the oven door too often. You can make candied garnishes by dipping the wheels in sugar syrup before popping them into the oven. The same can be turned into fruit dust by blitzing the dehydrated fruits in a food processor.