That Zero Review: Back Bar Pt. 1

Zero breaks up the recipes into big categories: basic syrups (see last post), back bar (15 recipes), classic cocktails (13 recipes), modern cocktails (38 recipes), wines (15 recipes), and et cetera (11 recipes). I’m going to break these up in roughly groups of 5 so, well, I don’t have to take a ton of time writing up a given post.

The first big section is Back Bar – those basic liqueurs and other liquids the bar tender uses to make drinks. The stuff you use more than an ounce of in a given drink. This was one of the sections I was most excited about as NA beer and wine of good quality are easy to purchase but there are few making back bar alternatives outside of the more basic vodka, whiskey and tequila. But that’s another post.

Each recipe in the book starts with “In the style of….” which I’m not going to repeat below. Obviously none of the protections on geographic areas or ingredients have been followed. More inspired by.

Also, I’m including online ordering from Penzeys Spices in the B category for ingredients. They have fast shipping, cheaper-than-McCormick prices, and very high quality spices and dried herbs. If you cook often, you’ll easily be able to get an order together to qualify for free shipping. You may also be lucky enough to live near one of their brick and mortar locations and able to do contactless pickup. They don’t give me anything to point you their way, I’ve just loved their products for a dozen years.

Change to Grading Scheme

So, after some though, I decided to remove the “Sounds Good” category as, really, who am I to judge what others would like? Overall grades will now be a simple average of the equipment points of each category.

Recipe Grades

To see the grades of all recipes reviewed so far, open the Google Sheets here.

Gin

  • Equipment: Blender, fine strainer, sealer/sous vide OR saucepan, scale – B
  • Ingredients: Odder items are glycerin (B, stocked at Whole Foods), star anise (B, bigger grocery stores or Penzeys), juniper berries (B, bigger grocery stores or Penzeys), and angelica root (C, $10 online for culinary type) – averages to a B
  • Technique: A
  • Overall: B

American Whiskey

  • Equipment: Oven, cookie sheet/sheet pan, parchment paper, sealer/sous vide OR sauce pan – A
  • Ingredients: Odder items are barley (C, homebrewer supply store), dried peaches and dried figs (B Trader Joe’s if you have one nearby), fenugreek seeds (B, Whole Foods), and vanilla bean (B, Whole Foods or Penzeys or sometimes in bulk from Costco but they are priceyyy), Oak chips (B, good hardware or BBQ supply store) – C
  • Overall: B

Tequila

Note: Someone in an NA drinks group posted that they made this and it was quite minty right away. They recommended letting it sit for awhile before consuming it unless you want to use it in place of rum in a mojito.

  • Equipment: knife sharp enough to cut a pineapple, sealer/sous vide or saucepan – A
  • Ingredients: Odder ones are a whole pineapple (A-B, depending on season and how close to the Tropics you live), apricots (A if in season, you’re SOL otherwise), agave syrup (A), vanilla beans (B, see above), fresh bay leaves (C – unless you have a store/market that serves the Latinx community, you’ll need to look online) – averages to a B
  • Technique: hardest part is cutting up a whole pineapple which seems scary to me, though you only need the outside for this – B
  • Overall: B

Orange Liqueur

Note: I made this myself and it is easy and quite tasty. If you live the vanilla bean in the mixture when it “cooks” it’ll be very vanilla. If you’re not as into vanilla, consider using just the seeds, half a bean, or a bit of vanilla extract.

  • Equipment: Sealer/sous vide OR large pot and Ziplock (look here for the water displacement trick for sealing a bag with as little air inside as possible) – A
  • Ingredients: Odder ones are whole cloves (B, Whole Foods or Penzeys), vanilla bean (B, see above) – B
  • Technique: A
  • Overall: B+

Mezcal

  • Equipment: grill or gas burner (to char outside of a pineapple), sealer/sous ide or saucepan – B
  • Ingredients: Odder items are whole pineapple (B unless in Tropics), apricots (B in season), black cardamom pods (B – green are easier to find, Penzeys), Szechuan peppercorns (B – Whole Foods or Penzeys), Lapsang Souchong (C – smoked black tea, tea shop), fresh bay leaves (C, see note on Tequila recipe) – C+
  • Technique: De-bark pineapple, char said pineapple – C
  • Overall: C+

Next time: Back Bar, Pt 2 with Spanish rum, two types of bitters, bitter amaro (Cynar), and Jamaican rum

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