After getting home from work, all you want to do is put your feet up, cuddle with a furry friend, groan your way through yet another Netflix revival, and drink away your long day. With takeout secured, you just need to make a drink. That means whipping up some simple syrup, cutting and squeezing fresh citrus, running out to get that ginger beer you forgot, washing the barware you failed to wash last night, dry shaking the drink with an egg white, reshaking with ice, straining over fresh ice—aaaaand it’s time for bed. A cocktail recipe more complicated than a missile launch sequence completely defeats the purpose of relaxing with a drink. So take it easy on yourself, and stock your pantry and fridge with these lazy bartending essentials that make cocktails crazy easy.
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A high quality cocktail mix is a lazy bartender’s best friend. You may have used Bloody Mary mix or even Michelada mix, but a bunch of new cocktail mixes have entered the fray in the last several years as more everyday drinkers have aspired to home bartending. Swig + Swallow ($6-17) produces mixes for classic cocktails like Cosmos, Mojitos and Moscow Mules. Morris Kitchen ($10) focuses on mixers for Fizzes in flavors like Grapefruit Hibiscus and Ginger Spice. And there’s even one brand, Owl’s Brew ($7-13), that specializes in tea-based mixers like Pink and Black (Darjeeling tea with hibiscus) and White and Vine (white tea with watermelon and pomegranate).
Instant cocktail cubes are one of our favorite drink hacks, allowing you to create a drink in seconds by pouring your preferred booze over a pre-frozen cube of non-alcoholic ingredients. While you can DIY your way to cocktail cubes based on classic cocktails like the Sazerac and Negroni, we recognize that process requires a lot of prep work. Luckily, a company called Herb & Lou’s ($18 for 12 cubes) has begun marketing a commercial version of the hack. Flavors like peach with Benedictine; watermelon and cucumber with clover honey and thyme; and blood orange with ginger allow you to mix drinks with any spirit you choose (though each cube does come with cocktail recommendations).
The next step up from mixes and cubes are fully formed, pre-bottled cocktails. These packaged concoctions are worlds better than anything you might lazily whip up from the contents of your fridge, especially with options like Mr. Lyan’s line of classic cocktails ($28-54), designed by one of London’s most renowned bartenders. Even major brands have begun bottling signature cocktails, like Campari’s bottled Negroni ($30). Just stir with ice and serve.
Making simple syrup is about the simplest thing you can do behind the bar. But if you’re batching out syrup for a large event like a wedding, or you’d like to use a syrup flavored with an ingredient that isn’t in season or readily available (or you simply can’t muster the energy to touch the stove—we’ve been there), there are a number of commercial syrup lines that can jazz up your cocktails. Eli Mason ($12-14) holds down the bedrock sweeteners like rich simple syrup, gomme syrup and demerara syrup, while companies like Liber & Co., Small Hands Foods and Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. offer everything from orgeat and tonic syrup, to Texas grapefruit syrup and raspberry gum syrup.
Vinegar-packed syrups known as shrubs are one of bartenders’ favorite secret ingredients to elevate the flavors of a fruity, spicy or herbaceous cocktail, but you can inject the same level of flavor into your own drinks without all the prep by buying premade shrubs. Pok Pok Som ($15), a line of drinking vinegars from the famous Thai restaurant chain, adds sweet-tart acidity to any drink, along with intense flavors like tamarind, Chinese celery, turmeric, black pepper and, of course, Thai basil.
Using fruity jams and marmalades in place of syrups is one of our favorite cocktail hacks. Simply shake your preferred preserve along with the rest of the ingredients and ice, and—as long as you stay away from cement-thick jams—the fruit will integrate seamlessly into the liquid, adding a pleasingly velvety texture to the cocktail. Pick up any jar from your local corner store or farmer’s market, and play around to explore all the fruity possibilities.