5@5 - Non-traditional ingredients to spice up your cocktail
October 11th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Sure, it's five o'clock somewhere - but that doesn't mean you have to subject yourself to Happy Hour's half-priced bottles of light beer and "specialty cocktails" made with bottled sour mix.

Mix things up a bit with Zeb Stewart of Hotel Delmano, Union Pool and Cafe Colette.

Five Non-traditional Ingredients to Spice Up Your Cocktail: Zeb Stewart

1. Infusions
"Infusions offer an incredible opportunity to preserve the flavors of a season. While chefs are canning and pickling all sorts of summer fruits and vegetables, bartenders are taking those same ingredients to create infusions for our cocktails. Fresh juices and purées are wonderful, but they don’t last more than a week in the fridge, and infusions allow you to extend that season.

Some favorite finds in the market now that make for wonderful infusions - fragrant concord grapes, tart apples, late harvest peaches and stone fruit, and even the last of the batches of tomatoes for Bloody Marys in the middle of winter. The trick with making infusions at home is to ensure the fruit is completely submerged in alcohol, so they’re not exposed to air."

2. Syrups
"Instead of buying flavored vodkas and mass-produced sodas, try making your own simple syrups to add to cocktails. Use ingredients like herbes de Provence and chamomile to create interesting flavor profiles for cocktails.

Some of my favorites for the upcoming winter incorporate warmer spices like cinnamon and vanilla, and ginger and clove. We use the ginger and clove syrup in a Hot Toddy.

To make your own simple syrup, take equal parts sugar and water, and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add your flavor component like fresh herbs, spices, whatever you like, stir and reduce by half. Then strain and keep on your bar for cocktails."

Hot Toddy
1/2 ounce lemon
1/2 ounce ginger clove syrup
1/2 ounce honey liqueur (I recommend Bärenjäger)
1 1/2 ounce bourbon whiskey
Hot water to taste

Add hot water to a coffee mug, and mix in other ingredients stirring to incorporate. Garnish with an orange peel and star anise.

3. Beers
"Beyond the classic Michelada and shandy cocktails, beer is becoming increasingly popular as a cocktail ingredient. It’s a way to enjoy a cocktail that isn’t too high in alcohol, and you can get as creative as you like since there is such a variety of beers to choose from.

Try making, what we call, the 'Ginger Spike' – it’s a combination of fresh lemon juice, ginger syrup, a Belgian-style white ale, stirred and garnished with a slice of candied ginger."

4. Teas
"Teas are a wonderful ingredient for cocktails that can be used in so many ways. Fruit teas like hibiscus and elderflower can be spiked with your favorite spirit, along with a bit of simple syrup, while more traditional teas like Earl Grey can be added to simple syrup. Tea cocktails can add a whole other dimension to your afternoon tea time, and they make for a great afternoon drink."

5. Chili peppers, and specifically yuzu kosho
"Yuzu kosho is a traditional Japanese product made from chili and yuzu, and is sold in cans as a paste. People often cook with it, and it brings a great flavor to meat, fish and in sauces. We loved this flavor and just started playing around with it at the bar. It provides both citrus and heat to the cocktail, so it’s more complex than just lemon juice or jalapeño peppers.

You don’t need a lot of it - a little goes a long way. Add a quarter teaspoon to a traditional margarita for a kick, or even mix it with salt to line the rim of your margarita glass. It’s a flavor that works well with tequila, as well as gin or mezcal."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Cocktail Recipes • Sip • Spirits • Think

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Maryann

    Everywhere we are bombarded with don't eat this eat this it is healthy. You are fat. You aren't cool. How about the COOL people that drink. News Flash booze is a mind altering drug. It effects judgement and reason. I think it is about time we did something about it, instead of making it cool. Stop inventing new ways to use drugs.

    October 14, 2011 at 5:35 am |
    • Ginger@Maryann

      There's nothing wrong with an occasional indulgence. There is, however, something wrong with your Carrie Nation, preachy attitude. Stick it back in the 1800's where it and you belong.

      October 14, 2011 at 7:13 am |
    • WTH?

      Contrad!ct yourself often? First you complain about being "... bombarded with don't eat this eat this it is healthy. You are fat. You aren't cool. " Then you tell people that they should do something about cool people who drink. Make up your mind: do you want to be told what to do or don't you? FTR, schmendricks drink, too, honey. It just looks cool to you because you aren't yet old enough to do it yourself. When you finish middle school, your corpus callosum matures and you can form a cohesive thought, come back and give us another shot.

      October 14, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • Jerv

      Interesting. Did you know what was the first thing Moses did when he got the hell off of that ark? He grew a vineyard, made some wine and got drunk. Try it sometime and maybe you will get laid and lighten up.

      October 14, 2011 at 7:57 am |
  2. NicM

    I love adding chipotles to my margaritas. Ginger infused syrup for mojitos is really good too.

    October 13, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  3. fruit tea

    I truly appreciate the content of your blog.. Keep going.

    October 13, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  4. Soulerman

    Last experiment of my imagination was mixing Jamieson with blue "monster" and a splash of sweet tea. My 20y.o kid took a glass by mistake (he thought it was juice) and took a sip. He started laughing and said that he needed to stay at home for extra hour to drive safely. But his face showed that it was good.

    October 13, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  5. C, Sheen

    I always wondered why they're called cocktails. Mine just has feathers.

    October 12, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  6. MedicMax

    I developed a drink while deployed to Africa. I called it the VBIED (Vehicle Bourne Improvised Explosive Device). Is is basically an Irish Carbomb, but with Amarula instead of Baily's and a local stout instead of Guiness. Hakim Stout (Ethiopian beer) was my preferred choice.

    October 12, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  7. Wastrel

    Try shaking up a slice of jalepeno in a margarita or kamikazi and see how you like that instead of lime. After the first sip, it's quite flavorful, but after 10 or 15 minutes the sweats start. You jaw loosens and your feet start to shake. You contemplate horrible fates for people you barely know. Then, have another.

    October 12, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Greg

      Nice! Parttttttty!

      October 13, 2011 at 5:54 am |
    • George

      Place two coarsly chopped jalapenos in a clean quart jar and pour a 750ml bottle of decent vodka (not cheap, not expensive) over and allow to steep for two days. Strain. Can also be done with tiquila.

      October 13, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  8. Multi-Tasking @ Work

    It's 5 O'Clock somewhere.....Cheers

    October 12, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  9. john

    I'm always suckered into clicking on a link on CNN's main page taking me to an Eatocracy story and the information provided is always uninteresting and uninsprired. I think CNN needs to beef up this section of its site, it's pretty lame.

    October 12, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Janie

      About as lame as what hangs between your legs.

      October 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
      • bristoltwit palin... America's favorite dancing cow

        Let's get the double dong out.

        October 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  10. bristoltwit palin... America's favorite dancing cow


    October 12, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  11. ShutUpHippie

    I enjoy Jack Daniel's straight from the bottle. Who needs mixers?! Those stupid hippies throwing words at me like, "alcoholic," "rehab," "problem," and "jaundice!!" That's who!!

    October 12, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • no hippie here

      Haha! Amen to that! And yes, Jesus drank alcohol, had to in order to deal with being the savior of this messed up world!

      October 12, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Brad

      classic knuckle-dragger. unfortunately, you have probably already reproduced, haven't you?

      October 12, 2011 at 11:22 am |
      • JoJo

        The sweet dram from me still is fine enough straight, aye!

        October 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
      • Greg

        Unfortunately, Brad's internet sarcasim detection skills are terrible.

        October 13, 2011 at 5:56 am |
  12. bristoltwit palin... America's favorite dancing cow

    Nothing like a glass of MD 20/20 to wash down a big plate of fresh, steaming road apples.

    October 12, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • SRA

      What are steaming road apples?

      October 12, 2011 at 10:21 am |
      • bristoltwit palin... America's favorite dancing cow

        Still warm horse droppings.

        October 12, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  13. sockpuppet

    now these actually sound good

    October 11, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  14. JoeWilly

    They all sound good. I have to try a beer martini . Make sure you use a real white Belgium ale like Hoegaarden witber. It is far better than any domestic wanabe Belgium ale. However some of the American brewed ales do come close to the Belgium's . It must be the water.

    October 11, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • JLP55

      It is Belgian's not Belgiums.

      October 12, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  15. Christopher Cohrs


    October 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • Chris Matthews


      October 12, 2011 at 11:05 am |
      • Chris Columbus


        October 12, 2011 at 11:52 am |
      • Jerv2@Chris Columbus

        Hahaha! Is that you, 2?

        October 12, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
      • Chris Columbus@Jerv


        October 12, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  16. Kahuna Kevin

    I use Aged Balsamic of Modena, Grey Poupon Mustard and Smoked Chipotle Tobasco amongst other exotic ingredients in some of my rum cocktails. Sounds really gross until you taste them. Check out my first book at kahuna Kevin dot com

    October 11, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • SRA

      Book looks fun, website music a bit much!

      October 12, 2011 at 10:20 am |
      • Jerv

        Well, I don't know about that. That music was in one of Quintins movies, right? Pulp Fiction?

        October 12, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
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