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Aug 28, 2014
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By the Book: Kevin Liu’s Something Fruity, Not Too Strong

January 7th 03:01pm, 2014



If you’re the kind of person who peppers the bartender with questions, chats up the liquor store guy about new spirits, and has a growing collection of shakers, OXO measuring cups and vintage barware, then Kevin Liu’s new book, Craft Cocktails at Home, should be on your shelf.

Liu explains at the outset that his self-published book “began as an attempt to document some of the exciting things happening with cocktails from 2008 to 2012. I was inspired by the cocktail blog of three PhD students who were thinking about drinks in ways that completely changed my view of what a cocktail was.” In the course of his research, Liu came to understand cocktails as “a vehicle for embracing the mindfulness it takes to execute any ‘craft.’”

The 250-page, 65-recipe book is filled with above-average tips for at-home mixing and includes ambitious projects like building a cold-smoker or making a universal temperature controller for fast infusing that will delight cocktail geeks and engineers alike. In addition, Liu explains the science behind processes such as dilution, carbonation, foaming agents and aging cocktails that can be helpful to the professional bartender who doesn’t have a chemistry degree.




In looking for a recipe that would appeal to the masses, I flipped through the section titled “Drinks to Convert the Cocktail Novice.” The Craft Strawberry Daiquiri piqued my interested because it called for strawberry preserves. I settled on Something Fruity, Not Too Strong because it’s made with just four ingredients: sparkling wine, homemade grenadine, elderflower liqueur and lemon juice.

Liu says you can make homemade grenadine simply by microwaving pomegranate juice for 10 minutes. Well, after 8 minutes in the microwave, the juice started to boil over with red splashes all over the microwave. At that point, I reread the recipe and realized that Liu called for microwaving on medium – not full – power. Since I rarely use the microwave, it took a few minutes to figure out how to change the power settings. Even so, it took a total of 30 minutes to reduce the juice to syrup. I think I could have done it faster on the stovetop.




Homemade grenadine at hand, elderflower liqueur and lemon juice measured and at the ready, it was finally time to put the Boston shaker to work. The recipe does not explicitly say to add ice, but considering Liu’s scientific discussions about ice and dilution in an earlier section, I assumed he wanted me to add ice. So I did.

The result is a well-balanced drink. It’s not overly sweet nor acidic nor boozy. And the formula stands up to other combinations I experimented with, particularly when substituting blood orange liqueur for elderflower liqueur. That version, with its deeper flavor and color, felt spot-on for winter.

Liu accedes there are many aspects to cocktail-making that he is still trying to understand and improve upon. Craft Cocktails at Home reminds me of Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation, published in 2003, and how much he honed those ideas when he published The Art of Fermentation in 2013. I hope Liu continues hacking away with cocktail science and sharing the results with curious cocktailians.



Something Fruity, Not Too Strong
1 serving

1 oz. sparkling wine
1 oz. homemade grenadine*
½ oz. elderflower liqueur
1 oz. lemon juice

Shake all ingredients except the wine. Strain into a coupe glass. Top with sparkling wine. Twist the oils of one lemon peel over the glass and discard the peel.

* To make the grenadine, pour 2 cups POM brand or similar quality pomegranate juice into a Pyrex measuring cup and microwave on medium for 10 minutes, or until the syrup reduces to 1 cup.

Special thanks to Planter’s House for its donation of sparkling wine and elderflower liqueur for use in this recipe.

What is the most memorable cocktail you’ve ever tasted? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a SIGNED copy of Craft Cocktails at Home. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Anna, whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of I Love New York: Ingredients and RecipesAnna, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew!



By Ligaya Figueras

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15 Responses to “By the Book: Kevin Liu’s Something Fruity, Not Too Strong”

  1. Emily Barklage Says:
    January 7th, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    I had a drink at BC’s Kitchen that was St. Germaine, homemade limoncello and soda. It was the most refreshing and delicious drink I’ve ever had.

  2. Sue Says:
    January 7th, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    In 2009, at the St. James Hotel and Club in London I ordered a special drink with Hendricks Gin, St. Germaine, and handcrafted bitters that had won an award for best new drink. The ingredients sounded extremely appealing and it truly was well balanced and tasty, I thoroughly enjoyed the drink but about died when I got the bill for 17 pounds, which converted to about $24! To this day the most memorable and expensive cocktail I’ve had the pleasure of tasting.

  3. Hao Says:
    January 7th, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Sanctuaria, September-ish 2013. I had a cocktail with green chartreuse and basil. The basil was perfectly balanced with the chartreuse and I realized I had been missing that liquor all my life. I loved how herby it was and not overly sweet and definitely not too strong. I still haven’t acquired a bottle of green chartreuse for my cabinet, but it’s definitely next on the list.

  4. Lindsey Says:
    January 14th, 2014 at 9:29 am

    A few years ago, in the wee hours of the morning in New Orleans my best friend and I stumbled on a Soviet kitsch bar tucked streets away from the touristy part of the French Quarter. It was tiny, sparse, and magical. The bartender wouldn’t take your order – he just sized you up and delivered the perfect drink. I received what he called a Green Opal, made with a very herby gin, anise and honey liqueur, and absinthe. A few of those and the night was a blur of beignets and watching the sunrise in the St. Louis Cathedral square.

  5. Megan Luepke Says:
    January 14th, 2014 at 9:51 am

    My favorite drink is made at Taste in the central west end. It is called blood and sand. This cocktail includes scotch whiskey, sweet vermouth, orange juice and cherry brandy. My favorite part is the flaming orange peel that is extinguished over the drink before serving to release the oils. It adds a note of sophistication.

  6. Anthony Panozzo Says:
    January 14th, 2014 at 10:12 am

    The most memorable cocktail I ever tasted is the China no. 6 at Balena in Chicago. Balena’s cocktails are an exploration of Italian Amari and other bitters, which I have never seen another bar specialize in. This drink created my monster of an interest in amari, bitters and apertifs. The China no6 is made with Amaro Ramazzotti, Bonal, Cherry Herring and mole bitters. I loved how mixologist Debbi Peek took the staple of Italian amari, Ramazotti and mixed it with the very clean French apertif Bonal. Italian and French apertifs are very different but can be balanced very well together. The Cherry Herring and the mole bitters added a touch of sweetness along with a bit of spice and the orange peel garnish was a perfect finish to a very balanced and tasty cocktail. This cocktail sparked my interest into the application of apertifs in cocktails and how they can be used to create amazing cocktails on their own. This is by far the most memorable cocktail I have ever had.

  7. Debby Says:
    January 14th, 2014 at 10:13 am

    I flew to London to celebrate a friend’s birthday, my first international trip on my own. We met one day at the Tate Modern’s 6th floor bar and had Pimm’s cups. The flavors in the drink were a revelation, so fresh and sharp and British. Out the panoramic windows, I could see St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Thames with the Millennium Bridge stretching across it. I felt like I was on top of the world!

  8. Bill Says:
    January 14th, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Several years ago in San Francisco I had a Manhattan that used a walnut liquor; It was unbelievable. I tried to replicate it and I asked local bartenders to try to make it and it never seemed as good. That is until my wife and I went to Taste of Niche while Ted Kilgore was still there. The funny part is that I think the one I had at Taste was actually more memorable than the one I had in San Francisco. He got it exactly as I had remembered it.

  9. Ronny Says:
    January 14th, 2014 at 11:08 am

    My favorite cocktail was from a little speakeasy bar in Vegas called the Laundry Room. It was called the Cats Pajamas. Only one other drink has come close and that was a “special” made for me at Planter’s House. Trust me, I really wish I hade more information!

  10. Ben DeClue Says:
    January 14th, 2014 at 11:20 am

    I was in Santa Barbara for a wedding a few years ago and had a series of amazing Gimlets. I haven’t been able to replicate the taste since

  11. Stephen Says:
    January 14th, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    The most incredible surprise I ever had in a cocktail was at Table 310 in Lexington, KY. The cocktail they made for me that absolutely blew my mind was a sort of long-forgotten recipe called a Coffee Cocktail. It’s not actually coffee at all, but instead is made of cognac, ruby port, egg, and simple syrup, garnished with nutmeg. Phenomenal.

  12. Kim Says:
    January 14th, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    When I was 21 and taking a semester in London, I had my first Pimm’s Cup. It wasn’t too strong, nor too sweet and came w/ fruit. I loved it then and still do. One of my all time favorites.

  13. Mark Says:
    January 14th, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    I was flying to pre-Katrina New Orleans for a job interview, my anxiety high because the flight was delayed (weather) and dinner reservation pushed back (10 p.m.) Waiting for our table at Clancy’s, my host asked if I wanted a drink from the bar (yes, please!). I asked the bartender what a local specialty might be; he replied “Sazerac” without skipping a beat. My host ordered one, too. I’ll never forget that glass, rye 2 fingers deep with a twist and an absinthe wash. I was 25, it was my first time in New Orleans, and I didn’t know jack about whiskey, much less rye. I nursed that drink as we shared small plates of sweetbreads, tasso, and eventually lemon icebox pie. I slept horribly, woke up feeling rough. And I got the job!, thanks, I still believe, in large to that little gem, the Sazerac at Clancy’s. I had no idea then how much that cocktail would change my life forever.

  14. jan Says:
    January 14th, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    I loved the “south side” cocktail that I had at Vin De Set. Gin, mint, lemon juice and simple syrup.

  15. Margee Says:
    January 14th, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    I have been a beer snob for a long time, so when it comes to cocktails, I have been drinking like a college kid well past my college years. Then I tried an old fashioned at Taste and it changed me forever- hopefully for the better, but I’ll let you know when my bender comes to an end.

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