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Be Your Own Bartender: Cris Dehlavi dishes out the key to great at-home cocktails

Be Your Own Bartender: Cris Dehlavi dishes out the key to great at-home cocktails

Mitch Hooper

It’s during times like now that some normalcy is much needed. Sometimes, it’s the simple things in life that can serve as a reminder that not all is lost. And if that simple thing can also provide a buzz, that’s what we call a win-win.

However, amid all the quarantines and shut downs, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to find relics of a normal, non-coronavirus related society. Cris Dehlavi—head bartender at the M at Miranova, founder of the Columbus United States Bartenders Guild, and perennial winner of our Columbest Best Bartender Award—knows this sentiment all too well.

“Normally tonight I would be behind the bar at M at Miranova, where I have worked since the fall of 2002,” Dehlavi said. “I miss my regulars, my coworkers, and the stage in which I have been given the ability to let my
creativity flourish.” 

It’s times like these where we learn each other’s strengths and how we can help each other. And while we can’t stop in and visit Dehlavi for one of her award-winning-cocktails, we can try to take a few pages out of her playbook that she so graciously is sharing with us.

“You probably don’t realize it, but you likely have the ingredients you need right there in your cabinets,” she said. “Mixology is a lot like baking, and if you follow this simple recipe, you can make hundreds of variations.”   

The formula is as follows:

  • 2 parts spirit (whatever bottle of liquor you have, this will work!)
  • 1 part sweet (if you like it a little less sweet, drop this down to ¾ or even ½)
  • 1 part sour (always fresh juice, and this can be lemon, lime, grapefruit, sour orange.  This can also be dropped down a bit if you prefer your drink a bit more sweet and less tart. Be creative.)

This formula will open the door to better tasting drinks for at-home bartenders. Dehlavi said the key to your sweet element is simple syrup and that’s the crux of these cocktails. Just add equal parts of sugar and water in a saucepan and heat on low until it’s all dissolved. Looking to change up the complexity of your simple syrup? Try out different sugars or sugar alternatives—white table sugar, brown sugar, agave, nectar, and maple syrup are all options. And if you want to take your syrup to the next level, infuse herbs, baking spices, or fruits to add extra flavor. 

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So, are you ready to whip up a batch of cocktails and settle in for some Netflix and quarantine, or what? Here are some recipes you can add to your repertoire and rest easy knowing they are from a bartending expert.

Whiskey Sour

Love whiskey, but can’t handle the powerful flavors of it straight up? This whiskey sour provides the perfect amount of pucker to mask the whiskey without becoming an overly tart mess.

  • Two parts whiskey (*this also works great with bourbon, rye, Irish whiskey, or scotch)
  • One part simple syrup
  • One part fresh lemon juice

Tom Collins or Vodka Collins

These two options are great ways to use middle shelf liquor to save some money without sacrificing taste. This part is important, though: add the club soda in last once the drink has been shaken. If you shake with club soda in it, your at home bar will be hit like a tidal wave.

  • Two parts gin or vodka
  • One part simple syrup
  • One part fresh lemon
  • Splash of club soda

Gin or Vodka or Tequila Gimlet

The great thing about simple cocktails is the versatility you can get through similar ingredients. For this drink, swap out the fresh lemon juice for fresh lime juice and instead of a Tom/Vodka Collins, you’re sipping on a gimlet!

  • Two parts gin or tequila
  • One part simple syrup
  • One part fresh lime juice

Classic Daiquiri

If your travel plans have been put on hold, you’re in a category of folks who truly need a beach drink. While this classic daiquiri can’t take you to a sandy shore, it can at least trick your brain for a few blissful sips. *Drink umbrellas not included.

  • Two parts rum
  • One part simple syrup
  • One part fresh lime juice

Mojito 

While this drink requires one perishable ingredient—mint—its addition is worth it. The cool sensation mint provides to this cocktail is refreshing and perfect for those times cuddled up on the couch with your significant other. Again, add the club soda as the last step.

  • Two parts rum
  • One part simple syrup
  • One part fresh lime juice
  • Muddled mint leaves
  • Splash of club soda
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