Mix it Up



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Forget about celebrity chefs. Chef-bartenders are the new foodie darlings. Across the country, creative bartenders are co-opting the kitchen's techniques and top-of-the-line ingredients to mix up unique -- and delicious -- cocktails. Try their tricks at home for a memorable cocktail party

Watermelon Martini

There's a reason why vodka continues to rule the contemporary cocktail world: it's a blank canvas for the most innovative bartenders. This martini's twist? The addition of new favorite elderflower liqueur and a little sugar and spice.

Makes one cocktail
4 ounces watermelon juice 2 ounces vodka 1 ounce elderflower liqueur Ice cubes
Chile-lime sugar (recipe below) Combine watermelon juice, vodka, and elderflower liqueur in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into an oversize cocktail glass rimmed with chile-lime sugar.
Chile-lime Sugar
Makes enough for four cocktails
4 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 tablespoon salt 1 fresh red chile, minced 2 teaspoons minced lime zest
Combine all ingredients in a mortar and grind with a pestle until well combined and aromatic.

Hints from behind the bar:

  • Watermelon easily becomes watermelon juice in a food processor or blender. (Don't forget to remove the seeds!) For a more polished drink, strain the juice through cheesecloth.
  • Tailor the chile-lime sugar to your own tastes. Seed the chile for less heat or add another to amp things up.

Cucumber Fizz

Cucumber FizzSimple syrup -- a combination of sugar and water—is a standard cocktail ingredient. But the modern bartender relies on less-than-simple syrups like the sweet- savory lemon-herb syrup that makes this fizz a new classic.

Makes one cocktail
2 ounces gin 2 ounces lemon-herb syrup (recipe below) 2 ounces cucumber juice 2 ounces club soda Ice cubes
Combine gin, lemon-herb syrup, and cucumber juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a large highball glass with ice. Top with club soda.
Lemon-herb Syrup
Makes enough for four cocktails
4 lemons, juiced 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar 2 sprigs rosemary
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine lemon juice and sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add rosemary sprigs and remove from heat. Steep for 10 minutes. Remove rosemary sprigs and cool syrup.

Hints from behind the bar:

  • Don't look for cucumber juice in the grocery store. To make your own, peel and grate the flesh (not the seeds) of a European cucumber into a colander set over a bowl. Squeeze the flesh to extract more juice.
  • Rosemary isn't the only choice for the lemon-herb syrup. Experiment with aromatic herbs such as lemon verbena.

Peach Sour

Abartender's signature cocktail is so last decade. Now the country's best bartenders are making their mark with infused liquors. Ginger-infused whiskey makes this updated sour distinctive.

Makes one cocktail
3 ounces ginger-infused whiskey (recipe below) 2 ounces peach nectar 1 ounce lemon juice Ice cubes
Combine whiskey, peach nectar, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into an old- fashioned glass with ice.
Ginger-infused Whiskey
Makes enough for four cocktails
11⁄2 cups whiskey 1⁄2 cup peeled and chopped ginger
In a glass or ceramic container, combine whiskey and ginger. Cover and store in a cool, dark place for two weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain out ginger before serving.

Hints from behind the bar:

  • The recipe for this ginger- infused whiskey can easily be multiplied, and the finished liquor stores well.
  • Sweeten up the cocktail with a sugared rim. Run a wedge of lemon around the top of the glass and dip the rim in superfine sugar.
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