If there’s a point to this collection of recipes, it’s this: experiment. Try things. Get creative in the kitchen and behind the bar. Cooking, cocktailing, preparing meals for friends and family should be fun. Yes, there are science and chemistry to cooking and mixology. But there are also whimsy and on-the-spot inspiration and trying techniques just outside your abilities.
A lot of friends and family come to me seeking advice about decision-making in the kitchen, because I’m someone who’s been semi-seriously home-cooking for two decades now. Most queries can be answered with a simple, Relax. Enjoy yourself. But also push yourself and, as your knowledge builds, occasionally rely on impulse and just go with it. After all, the greatest thing about cooking is—and will always be—that you get to eat your mistakes. (Just don’t over salt.)
Now, because I can almost feel the collective eye roll a cocktail recipe collection such as this inspires, I’ll start with my defense.
Why olive oil cocktails? Because I’m finding the 4pm sunsets a bit tough to take and need creativity to keep my spirits soaring. Because you’ve been looking for something new, haven’t you? Because local ingredients are still criminally overlooked in mixology. Because Butte County olive oils are world renowned; globally revered for their oliveness. Because why not try out a few new techniques and drink your mistakes? But really, make and imbibe olive oil cocktails because they’re delicious.
Now maybe it’s just me, but I sometimes sneak a spoonful of a particularly tasty vinaigrette. It’s how I started making EVOO cocktails. I’d made my standard dressing of lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper, and good olive oil. (Great on thinly sliced Napa cabbage with feta, kalamatas, and croutons, by the by.) Anyway, I tasted some, and it was so good I tasted more. And then I thought to make a quick vodka drink, and so I made one and it was great. It was a dumb version, sure—basically dressing plus vodka on ice— but it was bracing and tart and with a distinct and delicious olive oil finish. I knew immediately I was onto something.
So I’m going to offer you two techniques, four drink recipes and a few alterations/substitutions. We’re going to go from the simple (an olive oil shot!) to the more sophisticated (a fat-washed whiskey sour), but I do recommend trying one of the upper tier (new technique-oriented) cocktails. The added step is worth it and if nothing else you learned something new to mess with in the kitchen.
TECHNIQUE ONE: BRINY OLIVE OIL BALLS
TECHNIQUE TWO: FAT-WASHED BOURBON
EVOO/EGG WHITE EMULSION
For these next two adult beverages, you’re going to emulsify the olive oil with egg white. In my opinion, this technique best brings out the olive oil flavor. While some people shutter at the idea of raw egg white in their beverages, those who’ve tried the creamy, frothy creations (that in no way taste of egg) are usually converts. That said, use cold, fresh eggs. And one egg white is enough for at least two drinks, so plan accordingly.
Maybe you make all of these cocktails, maybe you make none. No matter. What does matter is that you remain on the lookout for local ingredients to bring to both your kitchen and your bar. (Citrus season is just now here so why not glean a few blood oranges from your neighbor’s laden tree and squeeze out a quick screwdriver?) And most importantly, have confidence to try new things. An uncertain cook can only look backwards, but a self-assured one takes risks, pushes boundaries, and, most importantly, has fun.
Stephen David Caldes is a writer, home cook, and assistant professor in the Journalism and Public Relations Department at CSU, Chico. He has many hobbies, but eating with friends is his favorite.