If a lack of ingredients has ever stopped you from mixing cocktails at home, it’s time to look again. According to Jessica Arnott, World Class bartender, chef and MasterChef finalist, our cupboards are already bulging with potential cocktail ingredients.
“Eggs and honey are two things most people have in their pantry,” Arnott says. “Honey makes a great cocktail sweetener – just thin it out with a little hot water first. Egg whites can be used to make sour cocktails, or anything with that nice foamy top. Whole eggs you can use to make flips, which go great with dark spirits for a more wintery drink.”
Another unexpected ingredient that can be used in cocktails is quince paste. “Quince paste is one of those things you buy for a cheeseboard, and you end up with three-quarters of the jar left sitting in the fridge,” she says.
Try adding whatever you have to a small saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of boiling water and slowly cook it down, mashing it with a fork until it’s melted and syrupy. Leave the consistency thick for a shaken cocktail, or add more hot water to thin it out for a long drink. Top with gin, a few wedges of lemon and soda.
“Quince paste has a really nice sweet-and-sour flavour that goes well with citrus, gin and those lighter-flavoured things,” says Arnott. “It’s pretty versatile. Use it in the same way you would hibiscus syrup, or something similar.”
Arnott’s ultimate kitchen-cupboard cocktail is the Bloody Mary. “Basically, you can use whatever you can find,” she says. “You just need to make sure the flavours are balanced.”
This includes the Australian pantry staple, Vegemite. “You want to have a salt element in a Bloody Mary,” says Arnott. “But that can come from soy sauce, minced anchovies or Vegemite for an extra hit of umami. It sounds weird, but it tastes delicious.”
A good Bloody Mary will have some sourness, which Arnott says you can get from citrus juice, or even balsamic or sherry vinegar. It should also have a little heat to it, but try using harissa paste, chermoula, chipotle or other spicy condiments instead of chilli.
Dried herbs and spices, such as cumin, coriander seeds, thyme or oregano also work well.
Arnott only has one rule when it comes to a kitchen-cupboard cocktail: “You can pretty much use anything you like,” she says. “Except bottled lemon juice.”
Jessica Arnott’s Quince Paste Sour
Makes one. Approximately 1.7 standard drinks.
50ml Tanqueray No. TEN gin
25ml quince syrup
20ml fresh lemon juice
5ml honey (a scant tsp)
1 egg white
1 strip of orange zest
1 whole nutmeg
Add all the ingredients except the zest and nutmeg to a cocktail shaker (or a big mason jar with a screw-top lid) and shake vigorously to emulsify the egg white. Fill the shaker with cubes of ice and shake again until cold and fluffy. Strain into a chilled coupe (if you're using a mason jar, try fitting a tea strainer across the mouth of the jar to strain the ice out). Twist the strip of orange zest over the top of the cocktail so the oils spray out, and add it to the glass. Finish with a little freshly grated nutmeg.
*To make the quince syrup, add quince paste with an equal amount of hot water to a pan over low heat. Stir constantly, melting the quince paste into a smooth syrup. If there are chunks in the paste, strain out before using.
**It's a good idea to put honey in the microwave before it’s used in drinks. It’s more easily dissolvable that way.
This article is presented in partnership with World Class.