5 Elaborate Ingredients to Level Up Your Cocktails!

Elevate your next sip with these expert techniques!

Ready to kick your cocktails up a notch? We’re breaking down a selection of advanced at-home ingredients that’ll bring your sippable creations to new heights! Whether you’re looking to impress your guests with your mixology know-how or keen to take on a challenge, these five show-stopping additions will put your skills to the test.

Pictured cocktail – Bramble 2.0 by @jfdesfosses (R)
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  1. Shrubs
  2. Oleo Saccharum
  3. Acid-Adjusted Juice
  4. Cordials
  5. Cocktail Foams

1. Shrubs

If you checked out our previous article on cocktails from your pantry, you’ll remember that one of our favourite ways to use vinegar is for shrubs. As a refresher, these are basically fruit syrups with added vinegar for tangy and savoury complexity, historically made for preserving fruit.

Our tried and true way of making shrubs involves macerating fruits in sugar for 24-48 hours, straining the syrup, and stirring in a vinegar of choice. You can do either a 2:1:1 or 1:1:1 ratio of fruits to sugar to vinegar by weight, depending on your preference.

Whip up a strawberry shrub to create @jfdesfosses‘ twist on the Enzoni, the Ensoleggiato!
  • 1 oz Empress 1908 Indigo Gin
  • 1 oz Campari
  • ¾ oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • ½ oz Simple Syrup
  • ¼ oz Strawberry Shrub*
  • 3 Strawberries
  • 1 Egg white
  • Dehydrated Strawberry Dust, for garnish

To a cocktail shaker, add Empress 1908 Indigo Gin and strawberries, and muddle. Add Campari, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white. Shake with ice, then dry shake (without ice). Pour into a coupe glass and garnish with dehydrated strawberry powder.

*To make the shrub, add 250 g strawberries and 125 g cane sugar in a sous-vide bag. Seal the bag and let sit at room temperature for 24 hrs. After 24 hours, strain the strawberry-sugar mixture into a bowl, removing solids. Add 125 g white balsamic vinegar, and stir to combine. Transfer the strawberry shrub to a clean, airtight bottle. Store in the refrigerator.

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2. Oleo Saccharum

Do you have a bunch of citrus on hand? Make an oleo saccharum! This is perfect for maximizing your fruits by using the peels in a fragrant syrup. We’ll show you an example, but know that the method works for any citrus of choice. You can even get creative and mix different types in one syrup!

Elevate your next sip with @highproofpreacher’s Royal Bramble, featuring a grapefruit oleo saccharum!
  • 2 oz Empress 1908 Indigo Gin
  • ½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • ½ oz Grapefruit Oleo Saccharum*
  • ¾ oz Crème de Mûre
  • Fresh Blackberry, for garnish

Combine gin, lemon juice, and oleo saccharum in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed or pebble ice. Drizzle the top with crème de mûre and garnish with a skewered blackberry. Optional: cover the blackberry in edible gold leaf for the royal touch.

*To make the grapefruit oleo saccharum, peel your grapefruit (recommended three minimum) with as little pith as possible and add to a container. Feel free to simply cover the peels in sugar, but you can also measure an equal amount by weight. Mix the peel and sugar mixture and give it a bit of a muddle to get the oil extraction started. Cover and let rest for at least 24-48 hours. Strain out the syrup and optionally add a quarter to half the amount of sugar by weight in hot water to the undissolved sugar and mix. Add to syrup, seal in container, and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

  • The yield can be improved by vacuum-sealing your mixture for more peel-to-sugar contact.
  • This maceration method is also a great way to make fruit syrups since the flavour will be much more vibrant than the typical cooked method! You can simply follow the same steps and ratios.

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3. Acid-Adjusted Juice

This may sound complicated, but we’re just adding acid powders (notably citric and/or malic) to juices and stirring to combine until they’re as acidic as lemons or limes. We often add citrus to our cocktails for fresh acidity, but with this technique, the possibilities become endless as you apply it to any juice of your dreams!

The key comes with figuring out how much acid to add, which you can do in one of two ways:

1. Taste and adjust! Here, you add a small amount of powder at a time and taste until it’s as acidic as citrus. This method is obviously not precise and takes practice to get consistent, but it’s accessible and requires no special tools!

2. Use the acid ratios for reference and calculate the amounts accordingly. This requires knowing the acid composition of lemons and limes, which are typically as follows:

  • Lemons – 5% Citric
  • Limes – 4% Citric and 2% Malic

You can find the details on fruit juice acidity online, which leaves us to add the remaining percent of acid in grams needed to bump it up to the above proportions. Using lemons as a reference will result in a juice with a brighter and tart finish while limes will be a bit more astringent and sharper because of the malic. A precision scale is best for this task, but you can also use a regular kitchen scale for good results!

Try a twist on the Empress Mai Tai with a lime-adjusted pineapple juice!
  • 1½ oz Empress 1908 Indigo Gin
  • ½ oz Dark Rum
  • ½ oz Triple Sec
  • ½ oz Orgeat
  • ½ oz Lime-Adjusted Pineapple Juice*
  • Lime Wheel & Edible Flower, for garnish

Shake ingredients on ice. Strain into a chilled rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a lime wheel and edible flowers.

*To make the lime-adjusted pineapple juice, measure 100 g of pineapple juice and add 3.2 g citric acid and 2 g malic. We’re choosing these measurements as pineapple typically has 0.8% citric acid, so we have to add 3.2% of citric and 2% of malic. Stir together until acids are dissolved and keep sealed in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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4. Cordials

There are many definitions of cordial, so for simplicity, we’ll be referring to it as an acidified syrup. Like with acid-adjusted juices, you can use citric, malic, or even both. We love how the added acidity brings so much life to the syrup without the need for citrus!

Whether you treat it as an all-in-one sweet and sour ingredient or simply another tool to add to your repertoire, cordials are sure to broaden your cocktail horizons! Here, we recommend adding acid to taste, especially depending on the use case of your cordial. Feel free to go heavier if you intend to omit citrus in a cocktail recipe or lighter for more versatility.

@cheerstohappyhour creates the Flowers x Chocolate with a lovely coconut lime leaf cordial for exotic layers of flavour!
  • 1½ oz Empress 1908 Elderflower Rose Gin
  • ½ oz Coconut Lime Leaf Cordial*
  • 1 dash Rose Water
  • 10 drops Saline Solution (10:1)
  • 2 dashes Chocolate Bitters
  • Tonic Water, to top
  • Mint Sprig & Cherry, for garnish

Build the cocktail in a collins glass and stir briefly with ice to chill. Top with tonic water and garnish.

*To make the cordial, add 700 ml coconut water and 20 g lime leaves (ripped) to a heat-safe container and sous-vide at 68˚C for 2 hours. Strain out the mixture and stir in 4 g citric acid and 220 g sugar until dissolved. Once combined, seal and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

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5. Cocktail Foams

Aren’t foams fun? If you’re feeling especially daring for your next tipple, look no further than this showstopping final touch! They work incredibly well as a core ingredient to introduce certain flavours to your cocktail, as well as a supporting-role garnish. The decadent texture makes your drink the perfect treat!

Combine the best of two summer icons with @jfdesfosses‘ Empress Gimlet Colada, featuring a luxurious pineapple & coconut foam!
  • 2 oz Empress 1908 Indigo Gin
  • 1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • ¾ oz Simple Syrup
  • Pineapple & Coconut Foam*
  • Toasted Coconut, to rim and garnish

Rim your glass with toasted coconut, and set aside. Add Empress Indigo Gin, lime juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice, and shake for about 10 seconds. Double strain into your chilled prepared cocktail coupe. Top with the foam, and sprinkle a pinch of toasted coconut over top.

*For the foam, add 175 g unsweetened coconut water, 115 g pineapple juice, 1.3 g malic acid, 1.2 g methyl cellulose , and 0.5 g xanthan gum to a blender and blend at high speed for 30 seconds. Pour in a pint sized cream whipper and charge with a N₂O cartridge. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Charge one more time with a N₂O cartridge and shake again. Place in the fridge 1 hour before using. This will top about 6 to 8 cocktails and can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days.

You can also make the foam by using the same amount of coconut water and juice along with an egg white and 20 ml lime juice, all while using the same method.

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There’s always a time and place for a minimal and easy drink, but sometimes we’re feeling particularly ambitious with our cocktails. It’s extra fun to craft a sippable work of art at home, so why not make it especially impressive with these five delicious ingredients?

For more cocktail inspiration, check out our Instagram, Cocktail Page, or Blog!

Sip responsibly!

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