How to make homemade jam jar cocktails
With summer around the corner, we asked some of SA’s top bartenders for their tips and tricks to creating killer jam jar cocktails at home.
Jam jars are cheerful cocktails that you make, well, in jam jars. They’re pretty straightforward, usually involving some booze, mixer and fresh fruit, and livened up with umbrellas and pretty straws (biodegradable or reusable, please). We chatted to three award-winning bartenders from some of the country’s favourite bars to find out how to up our jam-jar game: Brent Perremore from Art of Duplicity, Peter Good from Smoking Kills and Tanealé van der Merwe from Niks Bar.
What’s the most important thing to know when creating jam jar cocktails for a party?
Brent: Use nice new jars. They’ve got to look the part. Don’t use ex-mayonnaise or -beetroot jars. Sometimes no matter how clean, they impart the flavour and smell of the previous contents.
Peter: Two things. Firstly: fruit! Fresh, fresh fruit. Making a cocktail is like making food: the better ingredients you have, the better the cocktail will be. Secondly, for beginners, use a somewhat-neutral alcohol like vodka, gin or white rum to really bring out the flavours of the fruits – this way you’re guaranteed to make something simple and delicious. For something more advanced, look into flavour notes of more “complex” spirits like scotch, aged brandy and dark rum.
Tanealé: The most important thing to remember when creating any beverage concoction is that too much of anything is a bad thing. Specifically, with jam jars you need to make sure you have just enough of everything; for example, an excessive amount of alcohol can turn anyone away.
Any other good tips and tricks?
Brent: If adding mint or herbs to the cocktail, never leave them sitting in the jar with the liquids too long, as they tend to go brown. Add those just before adding ice and shaking.
Peter: Make it look nice; use fresh and good-looking mint or a beautifully sliced fresh-looking slice of fruit. Putting effort into the visual aspect will make your drink taste and smell a hundred times better. Also, making drinks is all about balance. A drink that is too strong is as bad as a drink that is too weak; same with it being too sour or too sweet.
Tanealé: Syrups and citrus are solutions when creating jam jars. Both elements can liven up your jar quite easily and are easily accessible. Many retail stores offer a variety of syrups – or they can easily be made at home. Never forget about the garnish in your drinks; as well as making them look good for Instagram, it also adds small flavour profiles. You want to enhance what’s already existing, not put a fruit salad into your jam jar – less is more.
What prep can you do in advance?
Brent: I personally like to keep it as simple as possible. I just add jams, marmalades or compote directly instead of syrups.
Peter: I’m all about maximising the flavours of what you have [like a fruit syrup for a jam jar]. Cut your fruit up into small pieces and cover in sugar for two or three days. The dry sugar will start to absorb the liquid from the fruit. Then you dilute it into a syrup and strain the pulp out. Infusing alcohol is always a great way to get more easy-going flavours. Infuse gin and rosemary, rum and pineapple, or vodka with literally anything. This is a great way to add complexity to your drink without having overpowering flavours.
Tanealé: Prep your jam jar 30 minutes prior to your party starting – this is of course without dilution (traditionally jam jars have a lot of ice, which will provide you with more than enough dilution). Syrups are relatively easy to make even when adding additional elements such as a herb or spice. One can use the simple ratio of 1:1 sugar to water and then adding botanicals as you see fit – just ensure that the botanicals in your syrup do not overpower everything. Again – everything in moderation.
What is your go-to recipe for a sure-fire crowdpleaser?
Brent: We used to make this Southern Comfort one at Asoka that I really liked and guests seemed to like too. It’s simple but really tasty and refreshing.
Peter: Definitely try infusing bourbon with chargrilled peaches. Once done, strain the peaches out and blend them into a puree (strain very well), then do this.
Or something you cannot beat is this little guy.
Tanealé: A rum jam jar with some grapefruit juice and a cheeky little cinnamon syrup (or standard syrup, if you prefer) topped with soda water, garnished with a grapefruit peel and cinnamon stick.
For me, this ticks all the boxes. It can be light, easy-breezy and refreshing – definitely something that can be enjoyed throughout the day or night. The great thing about this jam jar is that anyone can make it – all the ingredients are readily available.
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