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Cocktail Hour: Sour Your Spirit 101

It’s Tuesday night and your boss was up your ass all day about that pointless report you submitted three times this week. All you want is a drink while you watch Alex Trebeck and ponder the stages of his ’stache. You take inventory of your booze, uncovering a random beer your buddy left in your crisper that smells like regret, a $7 bottle of red that is mostly vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and a random half-bottle of rum. Now taking the rum to the face is always an option; however, it’s just Tuesday, not Fat Tuesday.

I’ll take “Home Buzzes” for a thousand, Alex. For the lead and a chance at Double Jeopardy, how do you catch a home buzz without blinding yourself?

Enter the craft cocktail.

I know what you are thinking: I don’t know how to make a fancy enough cocktail to get me through a round of Double Jeopardy. Well, it’s about time you learned. When you are done reading this, you are going to run to the liquor store, spend less than $20 and get everything you need to make a fresh and impressive drink.

The classic sour is the foundation for countless drinks and can be effectively combined with most every spirit short of turpentine. A basic sour mix is going to require the following ingredients:

Acid Not the stuff your parents took when they met Dr. Leary in the ’70s. What we are talking about here is citrus fruit, most commonly lemons and limes. At less than a dollar apiece, citrus is an inexpensive staple for any home bar. Take a lemon or lime; beat it up (think G.I. Joe Kung-Fu grip squeeze, not Tyson’s Punch Out) before you cut it open; and squeeze it into a measuring cup.

Fat This is the sweet element of the drink. The fat will balance out the tart flavors from the acid – usually simple syrup, which is equal parts sugar and water; honey or agave nectar are unique substitutes. Mix a cup of sugar with a cup of water and stir until it is dissolved. Presto-f*cking-change-o: you have simple syrup.

Spirit This is what makes you think you can dance, allows you to enjoy White Castle sliders, and creates mystique around hooking up with a sexually ambiguous carny from the Franklin County Fair. When selecting a spirit to pair with sour, start with one of the big five: whisky, gin, tequila, rum, or vodka.

Ice No ice, no party. Large-format cubes that could take out a charging pachyderm if thrown correctly are preferred. Large cubes quickly chill the drink without watering it down. Two of the three aspects of a correctly prepared drink are temperature and dilution – ice determines both. The final aspect is balance, which was touched on above. I get my one-inch by one-inch ice cube trays at Bed, Bath & Beyond because I’m gangsta like that, but you can buy them online.

It’s time to complete the cipher. Get out a shaker tin, Mason jar, or anything with a lid that can be sealed tightly. Pour in 3/4 of an ounce of acid, 3/4 an ounce of fat, and two ounces spirit. Add five 1-inch by 1-inch cubes or a handful of whatever ice you have in the icebox. Seal up the shaker and give it hell for about 11 to 17 seconds. Strain into a glass and drink up.

This is a foolproof method for turning your whiskey into a whiskey sour (3/4 lemon, 3/4 simple, two whiskey), or your rum into a daiquiri (3/4 lime, 3/4 simple, two rum). It works with damn near any spirit as long as long as there’s the right balance, temperature, and dilution. Once you have the classic sour, downplay it a bit by adding fresh herbs, muddled fruit or berries, and bitters to create your own sour spirit.

Cheers, Alex!

Veteran Columbus bartender Grant Bain has been fine-tuning the science of spirits in town for years. Now he can teach you, through his on-site, private cocktail business, Speakeasy Kitchen, which is for hire atwww.facebook.com/SpeakeasyKitchen.