Bartenders’ Secret Home Bar Weapons

Syrups, liqueurs, cordials and ingredients give bartenders an edge over the competition.

Christopher Osburnby Christopher Osburn

Every bartender has a secret weapon. That spirit, syrup, herb or other ingredient that they utilize to give their cocktails an extra edge. For some it’s an infused spirit, for others it’s flavored syrup and for some, it’s a berry or herb. Regardless of the tricks up their respective sleeves, bartenders tend to find a way to put their signature on everything they do.

Dirty Sue Premium Olive Juice

William Cutting, Head Bartender at The Front Yard in Studio City, Los Angeles, California has a salty, briny secret weapon. Cutting likes to use Dirty Sue Premium Olive Juice in his cocktails.

Also: Bitters: A Bartender’s Salt and Pepper

Cutting says that he fell in love with Dirty Sue completely by accident. “I was traveling for a race in Temecula in southern California and took an extra few days for a mini vacation.” He already had everything he needed accept for his mini bar. “As I walked into a tiny liquor store near the old town area I mentally prepared myself for an ample supply of the same liquor brands I see everywhere.” He flung open the doors and was instantly met with an overwhelming feeling that he was home. “(There were) Beautiful bottles everywhere, like old friends and so many new ones I hadn’t met.”

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He found a great bottle of gin and decided to take a look at the mixers. This is when he discovered Dirty Sue for the first time. “I had one simple thought, genius.” He quickly fell in love with his new dirty gin retreat and has used it ever since. “The difference between Dirty Sue is like comparing beef jerky to a NY strip.” He says that although both are meats and both are salted, the difference in quality is undeniable. The same goes for high quality olive juice. “Dirty Sue gives just the right flavor to enhance the briny, umami profiles without being overbearingly salty.”

Dirty Santo

By William Cutting 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz El Tesoro reposado
  • 3/4 oz Dirty Sue Premium Olive Juice
  • 1/2 oz Noilly Prat Extra Dry
  • 1″ cucumber slice
  • 1 pinch pepper

Preparation: Muddle cucumber in a mixing tin. Add remaining ingredients. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with skewered Dirty Sue blue cheese stuffed olives and cracked pepper.

Optional: For a spicy kick add a pinch of Cyan pepper or a slice of muddled jalapeño.

Cocktail & Sons Spiced Demerara Syrup

Chris Hannah, bartender at Arnaud’s French 75 in New Orleans, Lousina and Michael Neff, bartender at Clifton’s Cafeteria in Los Angeles share a spicy, sweet secret weapon. They both utilize Cocktail & Sons Spiced Demerara Syrup in their respective cocktail creations. “Bartenders have bars, and all the tools that go along with them,” says Neff.

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“When you’re making drinks at home, you need something that is readily available and will last a while between uses.” He likes Cocktail & Sons syrups because he believes that they are the most legitimate way to make an authentic Old Fashioned at home. He also likes that every time he enters a liquor store, he can always count on finding this bar staple on the shelf. “It will be there when you need it,” he says.

“Old Fashioneds usually have a sweetener with bitters to make them, but with Cocktail & Sons Demerara, the whiskey expounds the mouth feel to the point you’re happy holding the glass your cocktail is in,” says Hannah.

Old Fashioned

By Chris Hannah 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 oz Rye whiskey 
  • ¾ oz lighter amaro such as Amaro Nonino, Amaro Florio, Amaro del Capo, or Harry’s 
  • ¼ oz Cocktail & Sons Spiced Demerara 

Preparation: Stir all ingredients, strain over ice filled old fashioned glass, garnish with orange peel and rosemary sprig

Pierre Ferrand Curacao

James MacWilliams, bartender at Canlis in Seattle has a sweet secret weapon. He uses Pierre Ferrand Curacao in lieu of other citrus flavored liqueurs. Curacao is made from dried peel of the laraha citrus fruit that is native to the island of Curacao. “My new bartenders know it as the stuff that goes in everything,” says MacWilliams. He uses it instead of the basic Triple Sec that is found behind most bars. “For a few dollars more, the classic drinks calling for Curacao are elevated.” It adds character to many classic drinks bartenders make at your local bar and people make at home for their friends. 

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“Margaritas, cosmos, lemon drops, sidecars. Heck, a splash in a Manhattan is great.” It’s also a space saver on the back bar and at home. “Most home bars have Cointreau, Triple sec and Grand Marnier. This one bottle can replace them all.” He adds, “This sounds like I should start a liquor infomercial.”

Manhattan 

By James MacWilliams

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Rye Whiskey
  • 1 oz Sweet vermouth
  • 2 or 3 drops Angostura Bitters
  • Splash of Pierre Ferrand Curacao

Preparation: Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass. Fill mixing glass with ice. Stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Galliano Ristretto Liqueur

Kate Gerwin, bartender at Humpback Sally’s in Bismark, North Dakota has a coffee flavored secret weapon. She uses Galliano Ristretto Liqueur to give her cocktails a sweet, Italian jolt. “Italians know coffee, and for that reason this is one of the best coffee liqueurs out there,” says Gerwin. “It actually contains a decent amount of caffeine, so a chilled Galliano Ristretto shot is a great pick-me-up at the end of the day – or morning if you wish.”

Espresso Martini 

By Kate Gerwin

Ingredients: 

  • 1 ½ oz Vodka 
  • ¾ oz Galliano Ristretto 
  • 1 shot of Espresso 

Preparation: Shake with ice vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass 

Optional: For those who like sugar in their coffee – and a dash of sugar syrup

Cocktail & Sons Oleo Saccharum

Danny Neff, bartender at the Holiday Cocktail Lounge in New York has a subtly citrus flavored secret weapon. He uses Cocktail & Sons Oleo Saccharum to give them a sweet, lemony boast. “The hint of lemon grass in this particular Oleo is soft, but adds a great depth to this cocktail, while the syrup itself adds a silky viscosity,” says Neff.

Holiday’s Deluxe Long Island Iced Tea

By Danny Neff 

Ingredients: 

  • ¼ ounce Breakfast Tea infused Vodka 
  • ¼ ounce Gin 
  • ¼ ounce Rum 
  • ¼ ounce Tequila 
  • ¾ ounce Cocktail & Sons Oleo Saccrum 
  • ¾ Ounce Lemon 

Preparation: Shake ingredients and pour over pebble ice. If at home without pebble ice, crushed or regular cubed ice works just fine.