If you’ve been reading the style pages of glossy shelter magazines, you may have noticed that cocktails are back in style.
When it comes to making cocktails at home, Cuisine NW beverage director Andrew Gumprecht has a thesis: “The key is in consistency,” says the veteran bartender who oversees the lively beverage menus at area hotspots like Bluefish, Soleil and the new Artisan Room.
“Anyone can make a great drink – it’s making it several times consistently where the magic is.”
Lounging on a low sofa in the dimly lit back bar at Bluefish, Gumprecht talks about cocktails with the casual acumen of a postdoctoral philosophy candidate discussing Foucault, elevating the act of imbibing to that of academic subject while breaking down the cocktail into its most fundamental parts.
“In deconstructing what we do and how we do it at home, the key to a cocktail is more the simple syrup than anything else,” he says, describing a concoction that involves boiling equal parts sugar and water.
For example, he says, “Let’s say you want to do a lemon-drop party – you set it up so all the framework is in the citrus and sugar.”
While most lemon drop cocktails are mixed using orange liqueurs like Triple Sec or Cointreau, Gumprecht prefers simple syrup.
“Unlike the orange liqueurs, it is flavorless,” he says. “With Triple Sec or Cointreau, you always have to overcome that flavor.”
Gumprecht’s lemon drop mix starts with fresh, unpasteurized lemon juice, though a touch of fresh orange or lime juice can be added to taste. He then adds simple syrup to form a pre-made mix that should be more tart than sweet.
“Then the only variable is the amount of alcohol you want to use,” he says. “Shake it, pour, done.”
Gumprecht’s lemon drop-based cocktails all rely on this same basic recipe, including the classic lemon drop, the Cosmo Drop, the Orange Blossom, and his signature Secret Knock, which incorporates vanilla vodka and a black raspberry liqueur with the basic lemon drop mix.
Gumprecht says he has used such pre-made drink mixes to host parties of up to 200 people.
“We had gallons and gallons (of mix), huge tubs,” he recalls. “It really wasn’t hard.”
For serious at-home cocktail enthusiasts, Gumprecht recommends investing in a Hamilton Beech fruit squeezer, available at Williams-Sonoma.
“It’s not the prettiest, but it’s a bartender’s best friend,” he says.
He also suggests using flavored vodkas – any of the “Stoli” brand vodkas are good, he says.
“You can make 20 different drinks in your home – blueberry, peach, pear, strawberry,” he says.
And don’t forget to sugar your cocktail glass – take a wedge of orange, run it once around the rim and turn it upside down on a plate of sugar.
For the finishing touch, add a garnish with flair - Gumprecht says star fruit is one of his signatures.
“It’s an entertainer’s dream,” he says, describing the flavor as a cross between an apple and a grape. Although star fruit can be pricey, a single fruit will garnish up to 10 drinks.
“Slice it down the middle and chop end to end – it’s the ultimate party garnish,” he says.