DIY Cocktail hours
Fresh lime juice and simple syrup are the basis for many creative mixed drinks that don’t taste artificial and won’t give you a stomachache. Essentially, these two ingredients work well with nearly any type of liquor. Rather than buying margarita mix or even Rose’s lime juice, pick up a bunch of fresh limes— they cost less than a package of Hot Pockets. Cut the limes in half and squeeze their juice into a glass, using a fork to extract the pulp.
To make simple syrup, boil equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves completely. If you don’t have a stove, Jen Salucci, a bartender at Allston’s Deep Ellum, has a simple, dorm-room friendly substitution for homemade syrup: Sprite. Deep Ellum’s inventive, delicious drink menu is proof of how many drinks can result from these two key ingredients.
Salucci has a formula. First, “1-3/4 to 2 ounces of booze” — the amount in an average shot glass — “is the most booze you’ll need in any drink,” she contends. “Otherwise, it won’t taste good.” Drink proportions per glass should generally be one third ice, one third alcohol, and one third mixer. She also recommends investing in a decent shaker, for mixing up your fancy dorm-room libations. It can be easily found at Target or someplace like that.
Armed with these ingredients, you can, for example, make a Moscow Mule or a Margarita. For a Mule, mix equal parts vodka (try to buy at least one shelf above the bottom-of-the-barrel, plastic-bottled variety), lime juice, and ice, and add a few teaspoonfuls (to taste) of the sweetening agent of your choice. For a margarita, do the same with tequila (this time, you reeeally don’t want the cheapest kind).
If you can track down the rare (and sometimes expensive) Brazilian rum variety called cachaça, you can also make your own version of Brazil’s tasty, official drink: the caipirinha, with the same recipe. Or, you can make a classic daiquiri with any kind of rum, lime, sweetener, and grenadine — a sugary red syrup stocked in most supermarkets and liquor stores.
The more adventurous types should go a step further and make a mojito. Salucci says to chop up some fresh mint — about a teaspoon’s worth — and combine it in a cup with a shot glass-worth of lime juice and sweetener, then use a spoon to “muddle” it (smash it up a few dozen times). Add one shot of rum, and a shot or so of soda water, then mix it all together.
Of course, there are also a lot of delicious beers out there, just waiting to delight your taste buds in a non-chugging way. Beer selection is a matter of taste, however, so I won’t venture to recommend. “Someone who likes Guinness is probably not going to like the same thing as someone who likes Blue Moon,” says Salucci. She recommends that those looking to venture beyond red cups of keg-issued weasel piss consult their local bartender.
“Most bartenders love to shoot the shit about beer.”
For those who can’t set foot in a bar until the Amethyst Initiative gets this whole pesky drinking-age problem sorted out, the Ratebeer (ratebeer.com) and BeerPal (beerpal.com) Web sites, devoted to user-generated beer reviews, can be excellent resources.