Side Dish: Homegrown cocktails

Two days of seminars and events at the 10th annual Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans in July left one aware of how many flavors and ingredients used in cooking also are popular in craft cocktail making. Refreshing fruit juices and puré es, fresh herbs and unusual spices are all being used by today’s mixologists.

A new book by sommelier Katie M. Loeb, “Shake, Stir, Pour: Fresh Homegrown Cocktails” (Quarry Books, $24.99, spiral bound hardcover), offers 50 original recipes and plenty of tips for anyone who wants to develop his or her own creative cocktails.

The 160-page guide features step-by-step instructions and full-color photographs of the distilling and infusion processes and tips on how to enhance your ingredients’ flavors, color and presentation.

Loeb divides the book into four sections. The first, called Taking Stock, looks at spirits used in making cocktails, bar tools, glassware, kitchen tools and staples, and purchased mixers and garnishes.

Next comes Syrups — how to make simple, herbal, spice and fruit or vegetable syrups. Not only does Loeb provide the syrup recipes, she gives recipes for cocktails using the syrups. For example, the recipe for celery syrup is followed by one for Jalisco Cel-Ray, a tequila drink she describes as “what I imagine would be served at a delicatessen in Mexico to accompany your pastrami sandwich.” She suggests using rosemary syrup in lemonade or a paloma, a nonmargarita tequila cocktail.

The third section, Bar Basics, begins with how to make both cold and hot process homemade grenadine. It also covers fresh citrus cordials, ginger beer, cocktail starters and syrups, and garnishes.

How to make infusions makes up the final section. It goes from vodka and gin infusions to orange and spice bitters. A resource guide also is included. This book is a good choice for anyone interested in learning more about cocktail making.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is

Ginger Syrup

Makes about 2 cups. Recipe is from “Shake, Stir, Pour: Fresh Homegrown Cocktails” by Katie M. Loeb (Quarry Books, 2012).

1/2 cup peeled and thinly sliced ginger

11/2 cups sugar

2 cups water

1. Combine the ginger, sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

2. Lower heat and continue simmering for 20 minutes, then remove from heat and cool completely, allowing the ginger pieces to steep in the syrup.

3. Strain the syrup through a fine strainer. Transfer to a clean glass bottle and refrigerate.

Note: This syrup keeps refrigerated for 2 weeks, but is best used as quickly as possible, since the flavor begins to lose its sharpness over time.