Can You Cocktail Freestyle?

If you're a cocktail lover, you probably have a repertoire of drinks that you love to make and know by heart. It's a nice feeling when you can roll up to your home bar and whip up a Negroni or Martini or Paper Plane without flipping to some recipe database or watching a YouTube video. But, let's face it, a routine repertoire can sometimes become...well, routine. So, what's the remedy for cracking the craft cocktail rut? We call it "freestyling."

Freestyling is really more of an attitude than it is a technique. The idea is to dedicate some time once in a while to being adventurous with ingredients, with trying things you've never tasted or even heard of. It's about the joy of experimentation and the thrill of discovering a new drink combination that you'll love for years to come.

Mamajuana. Accompani. Passoã. These are all ingredients we discovered simply by making a trip to our local liquor shop and perusing the shelves for spirits unknown. Turned out that Mamajuana (Dominican spiced rum) makes an incredibly delicious version of a lemon Coke when combined with Batch 22, lemon, and soda. Accompani, a richly herbal peppercorn liqueur, made an earthy, complex cocktail that had layers of sweetness and savory. The Passoã (passionfruit liqueur) was a wonderful partner for Batch 22 that complemented the citrus notes in the aquavit and added richness to the finished cocktail.

Want to try some freestyling of your own? Set aside some time to walk up and down the aisles of your favorite liquor store and keep your eyes peeled for spirits and ingredients that you don't recognize. Our recommendation is to spend most of your time with the cordials, liqueurs, bitters, and non-traditional spirits, as well as the mixers and the accompaniments (syrups, olives, onions, cherries, etc.). The vodka, whiskey, and tequila aisles will likely not offer a whole lot of new possibilities.

Find three new spirits that you'd like to experiment with. If you have your smartphone handy, you can look up the basic flavor profiles of the spirits you've identified. Then head to the mixers and the accompaniments. Add a few of these to your cart before checking out.

Borovicka. Horilka. Mirto. These are some of the spirits we've recently discovered and are currently playing with. Borovicka is a gin-like spirit made in Slovakia and the Czech Republic with primary flavors of juniper berries. Horilka is a Ukranian spirit usually distilled from wheat or rye, with a spicy, peppery version called Petsivka. Mirto is a type of bitter that's made from the myrtle plant—specifically the variety that grows on the Italian island of Sardinia. Each of these unique and relatively unknown spirits provides the cocktail explorer with a great opportunity to play, expand knowledge, and to discover.

If you find a great new spirit or create a great new cocktail, we'd love to hear from you. Send us a photo and the recipe and we'll post it with a credit on our website and offer you a special coupon for your next purchase.