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How To: Shop Locally for Mixers

tioned margarita, the classic Tom Collins, pisco sours, caipirinhas, gimlets, and any number of sours, punches and daisies. Make sour mix by juicing roughly equal parts lemon and lime, and mix it in a one-to-one ratio with simple syrup. Citrus juice does not keep well, but the addition of sugar stabilizes the juice and this mix will keep for several days in the fridge. The earliest sodas were concentrated syrup diluted at home with still or carbonated water.


By making a strongly flavored simple syrup and thinning it with fizzy water, one can bypass the cost of buying a soda siphon and the trouble of carbonating with yeast. Wonderful and strange sodas can be made in this way. Try boiling down cider with spices, or ginger with brown sugar, or make a simple cream soda with a vanilla simple syrup and a one-liter of sparkling water. Another widely used, pre-made mixer is Bloody Mary mix. Many ingredients in this drink are added in such minute quantities it can be nearly impossible to make the drink one at a time

FTEN, THE DIFFERENCE between a nice cocktail and a superlative one lies in the most oft-overlooked ingredient, the mixer. Slip someone a top-notch, freshly squeezed margarita, and they will pay no attention to the plastic handle of tequila behind the curtain. Usually the available mixers are a wan array of sodas and reconstituted juices, which are so easy to top there is no reason not to try. Sour is the single most important mix in the fridge. It makes the aforemen-


and still retain a proper balance of flavor. Bottled mixes vary widely, and the greatest difference between a bottle and homemade tends to be textural. Made from scratch, many Marys lack the mouth-feel and viscosity of the pre-made. This problem is easily corrected by the judicious addition of tomato paste to juice. Beyond that, the vagaries of the Mary are such that no recipe can be given which will satisfy every drinker. As in every other drink, the joy of the Bloody Mary is making it your own. n

by Lydia Clowney |


E’VE SPENT MUCH TIME discussing recently the qualities and method- makings of different cocktail

ingredients, but resorting to ready-mades does not mean abandoning quality and thrift. Perhaps the single best venue for exciting mixers is the ethnic market, and we will focus our discussion there. Today, we shall venture out into the world of bought mixers and their more elusive hiding grounds. Medi terranean Island (4301

Kalamazoo Ave., Grand Rapids) is a gleaming, wide-aisled supermarket and an entry-level stop for the timid consumer. Exotic juices rub elbows with strange sodas and brightly colored syrups. Spices run cheap and unusual, and more experimental drinkers might find inspiration in such treats as Turkish coffee, pomegranate molasses, and “yogurt drink.” For the martini drinker, the deli counter stocked with myriad olives is a draw.

PHOTO: LYDIA CLOWNEY 24 | REVUEWM.COM | MARCH 2011 Kim Nhung Superstore (4242

Division Ave., in Kentwood) is known for their shellfish and pig parts, but that’s not all. Front coolers are stocked with cans of White Gourd Drink, Grass Jelly Drink, and Black Soy Drink. One can find juice box-style chrysanthemum and green tea and coffee spiked with condensed milk there, as well as punch bowl-worthy exotic fruits. National Supermarket 2’s (1000 W.

Fulton St., Grand Rapids) name may not sound promising, but this and the other Hispanic markets that dot the west side of Grand Rapids are pockets of great food and drink in what can otherwise be a desert. Drag yourself away from the intoxicatingly well-stocked butcher counter (tripe! fresh chorizo!) and find

the inevitable stack of Jarritos. These not-quite-two liters come in flavors rarely found in American pop, like tamarind, pineapple and mango, and they are perfect if it is a “just add liquor” kind of night.

WINE AND SPIRITS Around the World:

Adventures in Wine and Food Bar Divani, Grand Rapids; March 24, 6:30 p.m. $50;, (616) 774-9463

Travel around the world without leaving West Michigan. This is the first in a six-dinner series hosted by Bar Divani that will showcase wines and food from various regions of the world. The four-course dinner will feature wine pairings from South America. $50 a person before tax and gratuity.

Wine Down Wednesday The B.O.B., Grand Rapids; Wednesdays from 5-8 p.m., (616) 356-2000

Sometimes the simplest events are the best. Enjoy 50 percent off all wine by the glass Wednesdays at J Bar and Gilly’s in the B.O.B.

Mardi Gras Everywhere; March 8, all day

The last day before Lent means a last chance to indulge before a month of self-denial. Just because we’re stuck in the Midwest doesn’t mean we can’t party like New Orleans. Make your own Mardi Gras with whisky, beads and your favorite porch.


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