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Create the Ultimate At-Home Cocktail Experience

Advice and recipes from one of this year’s “25 Best Bars in America”

By Sabrina Medora

Young Blood Bartender

Young Blood

It’s hard not to swoon over the warmly-lit, lavishly decorated, 30-seat room that is Youngblood—Consortium Holdings’ speakeasy, which is located behind their other speakeasy. It recently earned a place on Esquire’s list of 25 Best Bars in America thanks to its opulence in both decor and offerings, and its throwing out of the playbook.

Youngblood demands rules be left at the door. There is no menu and ideally no inhibitions—just a three-course cocktail tasting menu, created on the fly by the bartenders based on your whims and fancies (each session lasts 90 minutes).

“In Youngblood we curate a complete experience for each individual based on their tasting preferences,” says bar director Eliza Hoar. “Some people come in and they’re like, ‘I want to taste a dusty leather-bound book from Italy.’ We make a drink based on that.” Turns out that drink is a play on the old fashioned—a combination of scotch and bourbon with Amaro Sfumato and Benedictine with orange bitters.

Young Blood Bartender

Young Blood Bartender

After a glass of bubbly, the liquid tasting menu starts. “The first course is like an appetizer,” says Hoar. “We use a lot of fortified wines and vermouth, but you can have lots of flavors to open up the palate. Then you go into the main course, where you find takes [on classics like] martinis or old fashioneds or Manhattans. The dessert round has creamy, decadent cocktails like a bourbon banana flip.”

With limited space and a reservations-only policy, Youngblood is a hard table to grab. So while you wait for your time to come up, or if you want to recreate the magic, Hoar offers some guidance. The trick is keeping everything balanced. Start off with spirits that have low ABVs or cut your liquor servings in half to avoid being sozzled out the gates. The pours should go from light to heavy, same with flavor profiles and textures.

It’s best to begin with a ‘fix’—a lighter cocktail. “Always use fresh juice and fresh fruits,” she says. “It’s going to, by far, blow people out of the water.” Hoar recommends combining a tequila of choice with a fortified wine like Cooking Americana, a lemony simple syrup, and a summery fruit served over crushed ice.

The main course is about restraint and creativity. Build upon your favorite classic cocktails by experimenting with different ingredients. It can be as simple as replacing one type of citrus with another, or getting adventurous with new liqueurs, like adding artichoke liqueur to a Manhattan instead of Amaro.

“That’s a riff that’s going to give it a little bit of bitterness but also brighten the drink up and give it a funky vibe,” says Hoar, an avid reader of spirits books and frequent Googler of ingredients to identify unusual pairings.

Young Blood Dessert Drink

Young Blood Dessert Drink

Dessert can be the heartiest drink of the evening, using anything from fernets to chartreuse or shaking up variations on sours. Use heavy cream or whipped egg whites to add heft to each sip. And, remember, a dessert cocktail doesn’t have to be tropical or heavy; it can be a twist on any classic. “It’s up to [the drinker] and I think that’s the other part of this is that it’s really fun to just even take one category and go on a journey with it,” says Hoar.

If the idea of three completely different cocktails doesn’t tickle your fancy, one could essentially create a three-part tasting menu for old fashioneds. To do so, use a combination of fortified wine with rye, bourbon, or Japanese whiskey and topped with a little Amontillado sherry to start; a scotch with some bitter orange flavors for the main; and a bourbon with notes of vanilla and smoke for the grand finish.

Below are some of Hoar’s favorite riffs to get the party started.

Appetizer-Style Cocktail

  • .75 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • .75 oz simple syrup (1:1 ratio of water to sugar)
  • 1 oz SOTO Sake (Junmai Daiginjo)
  • 1 oz Blanc vermouth
  • 4/5 muddled blackberries

Add all liquids to the shaker. If done over crushed ice, muddle blackberries in the bottom of glass, then top with liquid and add ice.

Entree-Style Cocktail

  • 1 egg white
  • .75 oz lemon juice
  • .75 oz ginger cordial (4:3 fresh ginger juice to sugar)
  • .5 oz Ancho Reyes
  • 1.5 oz bourbon of your choice

Add all ingredients to the shaker and dry shake with egg for 10-15 seconds. Then add ice and shake.

Dessert-Style Cocktail

  • 1 oz heavy cream (or milk alternative)
  • .75 oz Giffard Vanille De Madagascar
  • .25 oz Cointreau
  • 1.5 oz Pedro Ximenez sherry
  • 1 strawberry muddles

Add all ingredients to the shaker and shake for 8-10 seconds. Strain.

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