Cocktails Demystified

Cocktails are nothing new, unless you live in Utah. The very word conjures up a feeling of mystery and intrigue because well, being a native of Utah, I was not used to the idea at all. I mean it wasn’t as if I could walk down the street in any given town in the state and see a cocktail bar or lounge. Those places were part of the seedy underbelly of the state and were generally found only in Salt Lake City.

Nowadays, cocktail bars, distilleries, wineries, and the like are popping up all over the state introducing the art of liquor, beer and wine to its citizens, who are (no pun intended) thirsty for drinks. These beverages and spirits are crafted into a virtual art form that can be fully experienced by literally, drinking them in. Personally, I love it! So much so that I decided to start a business around craft cocktails, mocktails (non-alcoholic drinks), and even sodas. The only catch for me was I don’t want to spend a fortune on a drink I can make at home for a fraction of the cost. I also don’t want to sacrifice on taste or quality of ingredients used in a craft cocktail.

So, my mission was to figure out how to make craft cocktails at home, without having to become a certified mixologist or bartender, and make them with ease, superior taste, and quality ingredients. So, I started researching the art of making cocktails. I took a course, bought and read books, started finding out everything I could about drinks, spirits, and bar tools. You name it, I am learning about it. As I researched, I began to come across makers of small batch cocktail syrups, mixers, bitters and tonics. There was a bunch of them too! Small businesses across the country making excellent products using whole ingredients and luscious, fresh new flavors I never imagined could go in drink.

I started buying them and trying them and I fell in love with these products because they make making cocktails at home easy, affordable, and fun! In addition to the convenience of these syrups & mixers, I found they were extremely versatile as well. I discovered they can be used to make sodas, marinades, mocktails, and even added to baked goods. The bitters, which are like vanilla extracts you would use to bake with, are used in all the above.

Long story short (and I hope it is) I began The Tipzy Gypzy and am selling all these products. I love educating people about the uses of these products and on a broader spectrum I am happy to support these small businesses across the country, along with my own. The people running these businesses are truly artisans of their craft and take pride in their products.

Now, without further ado, let me share a few easy recipes using some of my favorite flavors (so far), and the syrups, mixers and bitters I used in creating them. First off is one I find perfect for Spring. It is light, refreshing, and not too sweet. Of course, all these recipes can be altered to suit individual tastes.

Sweet & Sassy Seltzer
1 oz. Grapefruit Honey syrup
1 oz. Ruby Red grapefruit juice (100% pure juice, unsweetened)
1 oz. Tanqueray gin
3 oz. seltzer water
2-3 dashes orange bitters
Combine all ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake and pour into your favorite rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with grapefruit slice.

The second recipe I wrote is my version of the quintessential brunch beverage, the Bloody Mary. My version is a Spicy Virgin Mary (without the booze), you choose which version you like. Either way, this drink is a meal in a glass and is one of the only cocktails socially acceptable to drink in the morning.

Spicy Virgin Mary
1 fresh jalapeno washed and sliced (with seeds)
kosher salt
5 oz. low sodium tomato juice (high quality)
2 oz  Roasted Jalapeno Syrup
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 oz. fresh lime juice
2 oz. vodka (optional) couple dashes of hot sauce, if you want it s
Garnish with celery stalk and pimento stuffed green olives.
Slice jalapenos (about 4-5 coins) and put in highball glass with a couple pinches of salt, muddle well. Add lemon and lime juice, syrup and tomato juice, vodka and hot sauce, mix well. Crack some fresh black pepper to taste on top, mix again. Strain into your favorite tall glass such as our Gnome or Motorcycle glass, garnish with celery stalk and olives.

Another cocktail you cannot go wrong with is the classic Margarita. This recipe makes 4-6 drinks, each about 7 oz. So you can mix this up ahead of time in a pitcher and put it in the fridge and when you are ready to serve, pour the mixture into a shaker with ice, shake and pour into a rocks glass with fresh ice and the rim rubbed with lime and dipped in salt or even Tajin which is delicious!

Citrus Agave or Pineapple Lime Margarita
One 16 oz. bottle of Citrus Agave Margarita mix OR you can use the Pineapple Lime mix
1 cup of 100% agave tequila reposado
4 oz. Cointreau
Juice of one fresh lime
Additional lime wedges for garnish
Salt or Tajin
Combine margarita mix, tequila, Cointreau and lime juice in pitcher and stir. When ready to serve, rub lime on edges of rocks glasses, (our cactus or desert rocks glasses are really cute for this cocktail) and dip in salt or Tajin, add ice to each glass. Stir the mixture in the pitcher before pouring into rocks glasses. Garnish with wedge of lime or pineapple.

Finally, I have a family friendly soda that two different syrups would work great in. The one with cardamom may be more of a “grown up” flavor, so test it out on the kids first before making a whole bunch of them. You can make movie night a little more interesting and fun with a drink making party and popcorn to enjoy the movie with. It goes like this:

Hibiscus Pineapple Lemonade Soda
1.5 oz. Sirop Co. Hibiscus syrup (a Utah company) or Hibiscus Cardamom syrup
.5 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 oz 100% pure pineapple juice
4 oz. club soda
Put all ingredients in a tall glass with ice and stir. Garnish with lemon or pineapple wedge, or a beautiful Hibiscus flower if you should happen to live in Hawaii! For the Cocktail version, add 2 oz. of your favorite spirit (gin, vodka or tequila).

I hope whoever reads this article has found out something new about the cocktail world, I know I have. It is an artform professionals worldwide take very seriously. This is not about going on a bender, this is about a segment of the culinary world that has not had its day in Utah, yet.

Do not worry though, you do not need to consume alcohol to enjoy these beverages! Everyone can enjoy the extraordinary flavor combinations with these drinks. But since we can’t all be mixologists and professional bartenders; we can at least try to replicate a little bit of what they do at home when we want to. Get creative, experiment with flavors and ingredients, have fun with it and most of all, enjoy responsibly and mindfully.


Brandi Horton
The Tipzy Gypzy