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Star Mixologist Julie Reiner's Tips for Crafting Perfect Cocktails

Food & Wine welcomed Julie Reiner on Facebook for a live chat as part of our Kitchen Insider series. The force behind New York City’s most revered cocktail bars including Flatiron Lounge, Brooklyn’s Clover Club and Lani Kai shared quick cocktail recipes and party-planning tips. Here are a few of the highlights.

Party Cocktails

Hi Julie! We’re tailgating this weekend and I’m brainstorming some good drinks for a group! Any favorites come to mind?
When I am entertaining a large group of people, I like to serve a punch, or a pitcher-style drink. They are easy to batch out ahead of time so that you can enjoy yourself as well. I have been making raspberry Tom Collins all summer for groups of friends at the pool. Very simple, but a real crowd pleaser! Gin, fresh lemon, raspberry syrup and club soda.

What beverages/mixes should I have on hand for my guests to make their own drinks?
It’s always nice to have a selection of juices, sodas and vermouth. You may also want to put out a cocktail shaker so that your guests can mix their cocktail if they would like to.

Summer Cocktails

What is a perfect poolside cocktail? I want to use St. Germain.
My sister-in-law is obsessed with St. Germain! She has been making a pitcher drink with Gin, St. Germain, grapefruit and lime juice, and soda. I like to mix a little bit of St. Germain with champagne or white wine as well. It is a great product, and pretty easy to mix with.

Hi Julie, from Dallas where we are almost to our 60th day at or above 100 degrees. What do you recommend as a great cocktail that not only the ladies but also the guys would enjoy while hanging by our pool in this insane heat? Thanks!
Wow! That is hot. The Southside Royale would be great, but you may want to substitute club soda for the Champagne. With that kind of heat, it’s better to cut the alcohol content a little bit. With soda, it is called a Southside Fizz. A Pimms Cup is another good one, or a simple daiquiri. Also, I made a daiquiri last weekend with Rhum JM Blanc, which was delicious! It’s an Agricole rum. Margaritas are my favorite cocktail with bbq!

Hi, how about something fun to do with watermelon?
Watermelon is certainly refreshing. I find that it blends best with white spirits, but be sure to muddle it into the drink. I once put a watermelon drink on my menu and realized that if you juice the watermelon ahead of time, it begins to taste like cucumber in a very short time frame.

Fall and Winter Cocktails

Julie, what can I mix with fresh apple cider to make a good spiked cider for my bar customers? Hot and cold.
I have a punch called the Harvest Punch that we serve at Clover Club every year in the fall and winter. I make a mulled cider, and mix it with cognac, aged rum, fresh lemon juice, and cane syrup. We top it with freshly grated nutmeg. This is great hot or cold!

Do you have other drink recipes for tequila other than my favorite margaritas!?
Tequila is one of my favorite spirits to work with. I love a tequila old fashioned in the winter time: two ounces reposado tequila, orange and Angostura bitters, and a bar spoon of agave syrup. This is a boozy stirred drink, so it’s a strong one!

Mixology 101 and More Cocktail Recipes

What’s the difference between Sloe Gin, Old Tom gin and regular gin?
Old Tom is a lightly sweetened gin that was popular in the 18th century. Ransom Old Tom is my current favorite. Old Tom is sweeter than London Dry Gin. Tanqueray is a good example of a classic London Dry. Sloe Gin is a liqueur that is flavored with sloe berries, and is only 15%—30% alcohol. Plymouth makes a fantastic sloe gin that I use in all of my bars.

Are there any new spirits that you are currently inspired by?
I have been working a great deal with rum lately at Lani Kai. Not necessarily newly-released rums, but ones that I haven’t worked with before. Cockspur 12 year, Banks 5 Island Rum, El Dorado Rums, Plantation Jamaican Rum, Flor de Cana, to name a few.

What are some fun syrups you can make at home? What are your thoughts on a fruit-based cocktail made with Bacardi 8 vs. Appleton VX?
We make a lot of syrups at my lounges. Pineapple-Demerara syrup, jalapeño, raspberry, ginger, and many more. Appleton VX is one of my favorite mixing rums; we use it in our house Mai Tai at Lani Kai. It has a lot of depth to it, and plays well with other rums. The Appleton Reserve is also a fantastic mixing rum. I make a punch with Appleton Reserve, pineapple juice, lime juice, all-spice syrup and Champagne that is very popular at Lani Kai. It’s called the Gold Coast Punch. Yes, a difference can be tasted. I do blind tastings with my staff all the time. We will make 10 margaritas with different tequilas to see which we like best and why.

What are some cocktail applications for sage, lavender and basil?
I have a great savory tequila cocktail that uses basil:

Maria Sin Sangre Recipe

Muddle 6-7 cherry tomatoes & 6 Basil leaves in 1/2 oz Simple syrup
1/2 oz Lemon juice
1/2 oz Dry Sack
2 oz Silver Tequila
Pinch salt & pepper

Shake and fine strain into a coupe glass

Garnish: cherry tomato & basil

Pineapple-Demerara Syrup Recipe: Cut up a whole pineapple and place it into a quart of Demerara sugar syrup. Let it sit for 24 hours and then strain out the pineapple. You can add an ounce of vodka to any of these recipes to fortify them. They will last longer in your refrigerator.

Gold Coast Punch

8 ounces Appleton Reserve
3 ounces Pineapple juice
3 ounces Lime juice
2 ounces Simple Syrup
2 ounces All spice syrup

Shake and strain into a punch bowl

Top with 4 ounces Champagne

Garnish: lime wheels

Video: Julie Reiner

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