Fireworks In Your Mouth: Secret Ingredients L.A. Mixologists Will Use in July 4th Cocktails

By Kirk Pynchon

It is a historical fact that when our founding fathers created this great nation they celebrated with a round of Old Fashioneds (okay, that’s not remotely true but it would be really cool if it were). Regardless, this Independence Day is the perfect occasion to try something a little different in your cocktail creations. We asked L.A.’s top cocktail creators what is the best ingredient that a home bartender can use to make their July 4th libations stand out from the norm. Get ready for an explosion of fireworks — in your mouth.

Daniel Warrilow of Son of a Gun: “My favorite ingredient for summertime is freshly cut pineapple. The best part about pineapple is the texture it leaves in your drink. If you muddle a few cubes of pineapple in your shaker, add your ingredients and shake, there will be a beautiful froth on your cocktail. I would choose either gin or tequila. Both add another layer of complexity that you won’t find with vodka.”

Karen Grill of Bestia: “Balsamic vinegar. Nearly everyone one has it hiding in their cabinets, so why not put it to some use and give a refreshing summer cocktail a kick? Depending on the balsamic you use, it adds a touch of tang, acidity and a natural sweetness to cocktails. I like to make balsamic simple syrups or shrubs with fresh fruit and herbs to amplify the flavors of the spirit I’m using. Anything goes, but I love balsamic best with tequila, gin and bourbon.”

Cari Hah of Cole’s Red Car Bar: “Watermelon! It’s perfect for the fourth of July and outdoor picnics, it is in season right now and has so many applications. You can cut it into chunks and freeze it to use as ice cubes for an awesome punch, or you can hollow it out and stick a spout on it and use it as a fancy serving vessel. You can also juice it and make all sorts of drinks with it; my favorite is tequila with watermelon.”

Vanessa Kemling of Bigfoot West: “El Guapo Pure Vida Sangrita Mix from Mexico is the best house ingredient to use. It’s like bloody Mary mix but way better. It’s a mix of 50 plus herbs and spices, can be used in cocktails, food, etc. It’s a lot of fun to cook and drink with.”

John Paul Romeo of Fig
: “Falernum is an ingredient folks should make at home if they want to impress their friends with cocktails. It’s found as the sweetener in many classic Tiki drinks, perfect for a BBQ. We make our own Cox’s falernum (white rum, lime zest, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, sugar) and the best spirits to mix with it would be rum, of course, yellow and green chartreuse or gin.”