Key to the Liquor Cabinet

If you’ve come this far, you’re a bona fide cocktail hobbyist. You appreciate the hand-crafted, nuanced concoctions you’ve had at the country’s best bars, and want to replicate these drinks at home. We’re not talking margaritas anymore, but rather Red Chile–Guava Margaritas with Chile-Infused Tequila and cayenne-spiked salt edging.

In Level 3, the ultimate pimped bar, we give you suggestions for more unusual liquors and mixers that top bar chefs around the country are using right now. You’ll be able to make cutting-edge drinks and obscure favorites. You’ll also get instructions for creating your own pickled vegetables and dried fruit for garnishes, homemade infused liquors and simple syrups, and fancier bar snacks.

Amaro, such as Averna, Amaro Nonino, or Ramazzotti

Anise-flavored liqueur, such as Herbsaint, pastis, or Pernod Ricard

Apéritif, such as Amer Picon, Dubonnet, Lillet, or Torani Amer

Fortified dessert wines like port, Madeira, muscat, or Sauternes

Homemade infused alcohols (see below)

Unusual bitters, such as Fee Brothers, Peychaud’s, or Regan’s Orange Bitters

Special ingredients and unusual alcohols: Bénédictine for Artillery Punch, Cachaça for Caipirinha, Galliano for Harvey Wallbanger, Gosling’s Black Seal rum for Dark ’n’ Stormy, Luxardo maraschino liqueur for Aviation Cocktail, Milk vodka for the Quaker Shaker, orange flower water for Ramos Gin Fizz, Pimm’s No.1 for Pimm’s Cup, Velvet Falernum for Full Moon Punch, Licor Cuarenta y Tres, Mezcal, Nocino, Pisco, Unicum, Zubrowka
Mixers and Garnishes
Agave nectar
Sugar cubes

Decanters for wine and liquors
Food dehydrator for making edible dried-fruit garnishes
High-end cocktail shaker, such as this Bauhaus reproduction
High-end ice bucket like this one from Moss
Personalized napkins or coasters from
Soda siphon
A Wine Saver for preserving open bottles

Fresh Stuff to Buy Last Minute
Heavy cream
Whole milk
Fresh eggs

Homemade pickled garnishes: Pickled Jalapeños

Homemade salts to rim the glass of your margaritas: Cayenne Salt, Cumin Salt

Home-dehydrated fruit. Try a slice of dried strawberry in a glass of Champagne.

Infused simple syrups: Bay Leaf Syrup, Blackberry Syrup, Ginger Syrup, Lavender-Thyme Syrup, Mint Syrup

Infusing alcohol with herbs, fruit, and spices is an easy way to gain major points with your guests. Here are a few of our favorites:

Bourbon infused with a vanilla bean to make a vanilla Mint Julep
Ginger-Infused Vodka to go in our Clear Ginger

Spicy Chile-Infused Tequila for our Red Chile–Guava Margarita
Spiced Rum
Oat and Honey Vodka

If you want to go all out, try these recipes for some great snacks—courtesy of our favorite watering holes.

Arancini with Tomato and Mozzarella from Cafe 2 at MoMA

Bacalao Croquetas from Nacional 27

Montaditos with Boquerones and Olive Relish from César

Here are more recipes, adapted from some of our favorite chefs:

Wok-Charred Edamame with Spicy Miso and Ginger, by chef Chris Santos from The Stanton Social

To make the sauce, combine 1 cup each miso and sake with 1 teaspoon each fish sauce, five-spice powder, and hoisin sauce. Whisk to combine. Then add 1 tablespoon Sriracha and 3 teaspoons ginger juice. Season to taste with soy sauce and add a little sambal for spiciness if desired. Pour some grapeseed oil into an extremely hot wok or sauté pan. Add 1 cup of shell-on edamame per person and cook until lightly charred. Add 2 tablespoons water to help steam and cook the edamame. Once the water has evaporated, add enough sauce to coat the edamame. Cook until slightly reduced. (The final product will be saucy.)

Chorizo-Stuffed Dates, by chef Joshua Perkins from The Globe

Buy some high-quality fresh chorizo and some medjool dates. Remove the pits from the dates and fill them with chorizo. Wrap each date with smoked bacon, and sear the bacon-wrapped dates on all sides in a hot skillet until crisp, about 15 minutes, and serve.

Piquillo Peppers with Avocado Goat Cheese, from Ciudad

In a food processor, pulse together 4 ounces of soft goat cheese with the flesh of 4 ripe avocados, the juice of a lemon or lime, a few dashes of Tabasco, and some salt and pepper. Drain a jar of piquillo peppers and pat dry with paper towels. Place the goat cheese mixture into a piping bag or Ziploc bag with one corner cut off. Stuff the peppers by filling each with the goat cheese–avocado mixture and serve.


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