Is your hometown still closed for business? Or maybe it’s just too much a hassle to head out? The Happy Hour can be chez vous to much success and easily, too. Jon Taffer of Bar Rescue fame, is much more than a hospitality consultant. He uses the businesses he saves as a microcosm for the owners’ lives, setting them back on track.
Since he’s worked with many of the finest establishments around the world, you can feel confident about serving his mixes. I was happy to be hosted to experience them! Taffer worked in conjunction with mixologist and award-winning cocktail book author Brian Van Flandern to create Taffer’s Mix.
So many people stick with beer or mixed drinks (soda + spirit) at a bar, because the recipes can be disappointing. Lots of places are using some generic canned stuff that shouldn’t be: I saw it at a globally known luxe brand hotel selling cocktails for over $20, as well at resorts in the Caribbean and the South Pacific where they could just walk outside and pick a fresh fruit. People don’t want those candy-sweet, chemically tasting and weirdly colored mysterious swill.
So, do what I did here: make it a project to treat yourself and your loved ones well! I read in a vintage estate management book that the “mark of a gentleman is how he (drinks) when he’s alone.” So, live life to the fullest and get out the good glassware and bar tools! I’m a little embarrassed to say that I had to wash dust off my shakers for this article. I looked in the Kitchen Drawer That Nobody’s Looked In for 10 Years — everyone has them. For everything I couldn’t locate (like my cute single serve shaker), I found some things I couldn’t identify (“Was this a wedding present or something?”), as well as some things I forgot I had (“Hmm! This ain’t bad. Ooh, look, I was gonna buy these!”).
As for drink garnishes, I’m a firm believer in using what you’ve got. Check out your fresh herb garden, spice rack, fruit and veggie crispers. Use leftover gift ribbons to tie around the stems, fun straws, souvenir stirrers. If it doesn’t work, no big deal. I tried to use these exotically shaped ice cube trays today and quite frankly, that’s just not worth the effort.
Skinny ‘Rita Mix has lots of tart citrus, it’s not too sweet. Unlike other “skinny” lines I’ve tasted, it’s not chemical or bitter tasting. This is very thirst quenching! This is a balanced –and using his recipe — is not obviously boozy. I used a good tequila and the mix was complimentary.
As to the recipe, I did look up the “pour counts” per ounce of everything, something that’s given great attention on Bar Rescue. But I decided that my whole life is a “stress test” and it’s just easier at home to use a clear measuring cup with ounce marks. For the Skinny ‘Rita, I garnished the rim with “Cha Cha Chile”, which is form of the famous Tex-Mex seasoning, Trechas. Swipe a piece of citrus fruit around the glass rim, turn it upside down on a little plate filled with spice and swirl, swirl, swirl. I added a couple of lemon basil leaves from my window sill farm and a lime wedge.
Strawberry Margarita Mix highlights the quality of the line: it’s real tasting, not like bubble gum. It’s the flavor of fresh, ripe fruit. There’s some tang. Unless you’ve got a hankering for peaty Scotch, this drink would appeal to anyone. Mix with tequila or for a daiquiri, use rum. I used rum . . . a dark rum, as a matter of fact. It was still very balanced and spirit enhancing. I used the “pro tip” of adding egg white to the shaker, just like my dad used to do. They suggest to shake hard and that’s no yolk! Seriously, if you don’t shake hard enough, you’ll get eggies sliding out with your drink. I also garnished with some “berries and cream” mint from my window sill farm, as well as “wild” strawberries/frais de bois that I replanted from the road and a lime wedge. They have some very tempting recipes on the website, including a frozen strawberry mango margarita that I could really go for just about now.
Original Bloody Mary Mix has all the stuff I’d put in, if I were making it myself! Tomato, Worcestershire sauce, lime, horseradish, black pepper, Tabasco and some other goodies, too. It’s very veggie-forward (there’s roasted bell pepper in there) and the mix is more savory than most blends I’ve tasted. Probably the good hit of Worcestershire and black pepper flavors!There’s a bit of alcohol bite, but it’s still balanced. It’s very sippable, not thick.
Their pro tip is: when in season, use a pickled vegetable (okra, ramp, or fiddlehead fern) instead of celery to garnish. Fiddlehead fern! That’s fancy. I was looking around for what I could whip up. I had a nice, fresh local carrot that I quick pickled into coin shapes for Rosh Hashana. Then, I saw that one of my veggie plants cooperated for once: jalapenos grown from scrap veggies I threw into the farm box! I grilled it on my stove top in a ridged pan. I also added a lime wedge. This mix goes very well with pickled veggies.
Spicy Bloody Mary Mix has more heat, but it’s not kill your palate for the next hour hot. It’s highly savory — Tabasco habanero sauce is quite complex — almost meaty! I paired it with a really good garnish: a “hot shot” stuffed cherry pepper. You could do bacon, but I wouldn’t do candied bacon. The tomato flavors are intense, like Roma tomatoes. It stands up to an alcohol bite.