Step into Bar Amá and one of the first things you’ll notice is the bar itself: Painted tiles and reclaimed wood provide the backdrop for an impressive, tequila-focused liquor collection and bartenders that are busy shaking up house cocktails every night of the week.
Beverage director Jeremiah Doherty created the cocktails on the Bar Amá menu by focusing on the balance between big flavors, like spice and citrus, and simple ingredients. “My favorite cocktail trend right now is just the tremendous amount of creativity that’s going into new drinks, whether it’s barrel-aged cocktails or carbonated cocktails,” says Doherty. “But my least favorite trend is the overthinking and overdoing of it all. I see cocktail lists with drinks that have way too many ingredients. Not only does that take 15 minutes to make, but all the individual flavors gets lost.”
Here, Doherty reveals the best ways to make cocktails that are simple enough for the at-home bartender but delicious enough to pass for professional.
“My number one tool is the jigger, because measuring is one of the most important aspects of making drinks. Every cocktail is a recipe and, if the ratios are off, it’s not going to work. It’ll be too sweet or too sour or too something.
“I also like using a muddler. Muddlers are great because you can smash fruit or peppers or cucumbers. That makes a big difference. Take a cucumber, for example, When you break it up you get all of the juice, the flesh, the seeds – you get it all. Then you shake it up and suddenly you have cucumber in every sip. It’s really smooth.
“My third most important tool is a small, sharp knife. I keep it right at the bar and use it for cutting fruit and citrus. It’s essential that it be really sharp because you don’t want to be wrestling with a dull knife — that’s when accidents happen.”
“The best drinks are just three ingredients; spirit, citrus, and sweetener. Within those categories, the options are endless, but the key is to always balance the three. Maybe add a dash of things here and there, like fresh herbs or bitters. But when you start using six or eight ingredients in a single cocktail, everything gets lost. It’s like painting: Sure you want to use great colors, but if you use too many it will just all turn brown.”
“If you’re really keeping your cocktail simple, every ingredient counts. No more going to the drugstore to buy a ten-dollar bottle of liquor. Go to a good spirit shop and spend the money on some good tequila and good agave, and you’re more than halfway to the best margarita you’ve ever made.”
“Spicy cocktails are really popular at Bar Amá and it’s an easy way to add unexpected flavor. My favorite fresh peppers are the red Fresno chiles. I take two slices of those and muddle them up real quick and they add a good kick of spice to the cocktail, along with some color. Jalapenos are another popular chile, but they have this sort of green bell pepper flavor, whereas the Fresno chiles are very straightforward and firey with their spice.”
“Honestly, most garnishes are decorative. The functional ones are the twists, like a strip of lemon zest, but the rest are there just to let you see what the drink is going to taste like. That’s why I’m not a big fan of lots of complicated garnishes. I keep it to a bare minimum so you can have an idea of the flavors, but nothing gets in the way of you taking that first sip.”