2020’s home bartenders now have the know-how to make a fancy New Year’s Eve cocktail

(Note: In the video above, Tory Pratt is shown making a French 75.)

A year ago, on New Year’s Eve, would you have considered staying home to relax while making a craft cocktail like a French 75, Goldrush or Miss Congeniality?

If you’re like a lot of people who enjoy being social and going out to bars and restaurants, the answer probably was “no.”

But 2020 has been a little different. When cocktail establishments closed in the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, lots of people began mixing up their own drinks at home.

So now, as the year comes to a close, you may have gained the experience and patience to craft a fancy cocktail at home. After all, searches for “cocktail” in the D.C. area just about doubled in late March, and then stayed higher compared to the same time in 2019, according to Google Trends.


Gallery: DC’s cocktail experts offer their New Year’s Eve-at-home favorites


Tory Pratt, whose D.C.-based cocktail syrup company, Pratt Standard, aims to make home bartending more accessible, said she’s been busier than ever due to a surge of new mixologists. She makes makes 11 different cocktail syrups in flavors like old fashioned, grenadine, cranberry orange, earl grey vanilla and tonic.

“We’ve tripled in size this year because of the pandemic,” said Pratt. “And of course I can never be grateful for a pandemic and I’d like to be out of this in a heartbeat, but it has given people the opportunity to make cocktails at home and kind of to prove out our model.”

Pratt Standard started doing cocktail classes over Zoom, some days hosting 15.

GOOD DRINKS, GOOD RIDDANCE: Say goodbye to 2020 with these cocktails you can make at home

Tracie Franklin, a whiskey ambassador who is studying to become a master distiller through a program called the Nearest and Jack Advancement Initiative, said she thinks at-home cocktails are here to stay.

Tracie Franklin, a whiskey ambassador. (Courtesy Tracie Franklin)

“(The pandemic) is going to change the way we drink. It’s going to change the industry,”  Franklin said. “We’re going to be looking at people who don’t go out quite as much, or when they go out, they don’t have as many cocktails because they pre-gamed at home. They had that really delicious aperitif at home because they learned how to make it online.”

Tastes are changing, too. People expanded their palates during the pandemic.

“People’s back bars are growing,” said Frank Mills, the beverage director for D.C.’s Roy Boys chicken restaurant. “More people are going to stores to pick up ingredients they’re seeing on cocktail menus or they’re learning about during virtual happy hours … Now that they have it at home, they’re trying to figure out how to use it.”

Pratt said cocktail fans have been tiptoeing into stronger flavors, experimenting with unique gins and bitter European liqueurs, like amari from Italy.

“I heard from somebody who works at a liquor company that the thing that’s most-searched from Total Wine is gin and amaro,” Pratt said. “If people are searching for gin and amaro, that means people’s tastes are expanding and people are getting into very niche, different, things and I’m excited to see where it goes.”

Mills said the low-alcohol mixing ingredients are captivating the palates of those drinking at home. Some of the traditional accent liqueurs range from the traditional — like Campari, Aperol and sweet vermouth — to artichoke-inspired Cynar and the American-made St. Agresti’s inferno red bitter.

“People are getting into the quality ingredients behind mixers,” Mills said. “The port, sherry, the Pineau des Charentes, as well as your amaro, vermouths — people are really digging deeper into those ingredients.”

Franklin is excited to see how the new wave of adventurous and knowledgeable home bartenders is going to change cocktail menus in the future. Once the pandemic ends, she said, bar-goers who know every ingredient that goes into a traditional Manhattan or Boulevardier are going to require bartenders to raise their games.

<p>Tory Pratt — the founder of Pratt Standard, a D.C. cocktail syrup company — started making her craft syrups after one day making a gin and tonic.</p>
<p>&#8220;<span style="font-weight: 400;">It turns out the tonic water is full of high fructose corn syrup and synthetic additives and all those weird things. So I looked into the history of tonic water, and came up with my tonic recipe in 2014,&#8221; she said.</span></p>
<p>With a French 75, Pratt suggests making sure you use lots of ice, a chilled glass, fresh juice and be sure your simple syrup is made with an equal ratio of sugar to boiling water. Most people, she said, lose some water volume to evaporation, which makes their syrup too sweet.</p>
<p>&#8220;<span style="font-weight: 400;">You can make tons of variations on this cocktail that are worth toying with,&#8221; Pratt said.  &#8220;You can use whiskey, you can use rum, you can use a ton of different bases for it. Pick a different simple syrup, pick a different citrus, pick a different booze. It&#8217;s an incredibly adaptable recipe and it also feels decadent, which is a really lovely thing to have on New Year&#8217;s Eve.&#8221;</span></p>
The beginnings of a French 75. Lemon, gin, simple syrup and sparkling wine.

French 75
The final product, a French 75.

<p>Tracie Franklin, a former whiskey ambassador who is studying to be a master distiller, loves a whiskey sour because it&#8217;s so versatile, she said. It&#8217;s good for New Year&#8217;s Eve because a home bartender can handle the basic preparation, but it can be made festive with an infused syrup.</p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;When you&#8217;re making a whiskey sour, do you want to have a bourbon or a rye?,&#8221; she asked. &#8220;Do you want it to be an overproof? Then you get to choose which citrus. I went with lemon. We come to our sweetener. That&#8217;s where we can really get creative because making a simple syrup and infusing those is so easy.&#8221;</span></p>
<p>If you&#8217;re making a goldrush, bump up the volume of your ingredients. If you&#8217;re going to top it with sparkling wine, decrease the goldrush components and top with wine before serving. <em>See the variations in the slide below</em>.</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
A Goldrush adds honey or cinnamon to the whiskey sour. Sparkling wine makes it a French Goldrush.

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Goldrush</strong>:</span></p>
<ul>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">2 oz bourbon-style whiskey (less if the whiskey is high proof)</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">3/4 oz syrup (or infused syrup, see below)</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">3/4 oz fresh lemon juice</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lemon peel garnish</span></li>
</ul>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>French Goldrush</strong>:</span></p>
<ul>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">1 oz bourbon-style whiskey</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">1/2 oz simple syrup (or infused syrup, see below)</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">1/2 oz fresh lemon juice</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">3 oz chilled sparkling wine </span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lemon peel garnish</span></li>
<li>Shake the first ingredients with lots of ice, strain into a glass, top with wine</li>
</ul>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Cinnamon simple syrup recipe</strong>:</span></p>
<p>Add two cinnamon sticks to a cup of water and bring to a boil. (Be sure to have enough water, per Tory Pratt&#8217;s advice above, that you still have a cup at the end of the boil.)</p>
<p>Add one cup of sugar and stir until dissolved.</p>
<p>Allow the mixture to cool, then strain into an airtight container. The syrup can be stored in the fridge for a month.</p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Honey syrup recipe</strong>:</span></p>
<ul>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">1/2 cup honey</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">1/2 cup water</span></li>
</ul>
<p>Heat in a saucepan until the honey is dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool. It can be stored in the fridge for a month.</p>
The cinnamon simple syrup and whiskey adds a little spice to the French 75, making it a French Goldrush.

<p>&#8220;M<span style="font-weight: 400;">iss Congeniality, it really is an enjoyable cocktail,&#8221; Mills said. &#8220;You can replace the base spirit and it still works wonderful. It&#8217;s typically made with gin as its base spirit, but it can be done with any white or clear liquor: vodka, gin or tequila.&#8221;</span></p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Miss Congeniality recipe</strong>:</span></p>
<ul>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">1 1/2 oz base spirit (usually gin)</span></li>
<li>3/4 oz St. Germain liqueur</li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">3/4 oz fresh lime juice</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">1/2 oz lime cordial syrup (see below)</span></li>
<li>Shake the first ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Top with sparkling wine. Serve with a lime wheel float.</li>
</ul>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Lime cordial recipe</strong>:</span></p>
<p>Combine an equal amount of sugar, lime juice and water in a sauce pan. Add lime peels and bring to a boil. Reduce heat for five minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Strain out lime peels and let chill.</p>
Limes are a key ingredient in Frank Mills’ “Miss Congeniality” cocktail.

(1/5)
<p>Tory Pratt — the founder of Pratt Standard, a D.C. cocktail syrup company — started making her craft syrups after one day making a gin and tonic.</p>
<p>&#8220;<span style="font-weight: 400;">It turns out the tonic water is full of high fructose corn syrup and synthetic additives and all those weird things. So I looked into the history of tonic water, and came up with my tonic recipe in 2014,&#8221; she said.</span></p>
<p>With a French 75, Pratt suggests making sure you use lots of ice, a chilled glass, fresh juice and be sure your simple syrup is made with an equal ratio of sugar to boiling water. Most people, she said, lose some water volume to evaporation, which makes their syrup too sweet.</p>
<p>&#8220;<span style="font-weight: 400;">You can make tons of variations on this cocktail that are worth toying with,&#8221; Pratt said.  &#8220;You can use whiskey, you can use rum, you can use a ton of different bases for it. Pick a different simple syrup, pick a different citrus, pick a different booze. It&#8217;s an incredibly adaptable recipe and it also feels decadent, which is a really lovely thing to have on New Year&#8217;s Eve.&#8221;</span></p>
French 75
<p>Tracie Franklin, a former whiskey ambassador who is studying to be a master distiller, loves a whiskey sour because it&#8217;s so versatile, she said. It&#8217;s good for New Year&#8217;s Eve because a home bartender can handle the basic preparation, but it can be made festive with an infused syrup.</p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;When you&#8217;re making a whiskey sour, do you want to have a bourbon or a rye?,&#8221; she asked. &#8220;Do you want it to be an overproof? Then you get to choose which citrus. I went with lemon. We come to our sweetener. That&#8217;s where we can really get creative because making a simple syrup and infusing those is so easy.&#8221;</span></p>
<p>If you&#8217;re making a goldrush, bump up the volume of your ingredients. If you&#8217;re going to top it with sparkling wine, decrease the goldrush components and top with wine before serving. <em>See the variations in the slide below</em>.</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Goldrush</strong>:</span></p>
<ul>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">2 oz bourbon-style whiskey (less if the whiskey is high proof)</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">3/4 oz syrup (or infused syrup, see below)</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">3/4 oz fresh lemon juice</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lemon peel garnish</span></li>
</ul>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>French Goldrush</strong>:</span></p>
<ul>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">1 oz bourbon-style whiskey</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">1/2 oz simple syrup (or infused syrup, see below)</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">1/2 oz fresh lemon juice</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">3 oz chilled sparkling wine </span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lemon peel garnish</span></li>
<li>Shake the first ingredients with lots of ice, strain into a glass, top with wine</li>
</ul>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Cinnamon simple syrup recipe</strong>:</span></p>
<p>Add two cinnamon sticks to a cup of water and bring to a boil. (Be sure to have enough water, per Tory Pratt&#8217;s advice above, that you still have a cup at the end of the boil.)</p>
<p>Add one cup of sugar and stir until dissolved.</p>
<p>Allow the mixture to cool, then strain into an airtight container. The syrup can be stored in the fridge for a month.</p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Honey syrup recipe</strong>:</span></p>
<ul>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">1/2 cup honey</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">1/2 cup water</span></li>
</ul>
<p>Heat in a saucepan until the honey is dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool. It can be stored in the fridge for a month.</p>
<p>&#8220;M<span style="font-weight: 400;">iss Congeniality, it really is an enjoyable cocktail,&#8221; Mills said. &#8220;You can replace the base spirit and it still works wonderful. It&#8217;s typically made with gin as its base spirit, but it can be done with any white or clear liquor: vodka, gin or tequila.&#8221;</span></p>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Miss Congeniality recipe</strong>:</span></p>
<ul>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">1 1/2 oz base spirit (usually gin)</span></li>
<li>3/4 oz St. Germain liqueur</li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">3/4 oz fresh lime juice</span></li>
<li><span style="font-weight: 400;">1/2 oz lime cordial syrup (see below)</span></li>
<li>Shake the first ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Top with sparkling wine. Serve with a lime wheel float.</li>
</ul>
<p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Lime cordial recipe</strong>:</span></p>
<p>Combine an equal amount of sugar, lime juice and water in a sauce pan. Add lime peels and bring to a boil. Reduce heat for five minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Strain out lime peels and let chill.</p>

But some drinks are still going to be left to the pros.

“There are certain cocktails none of us are prepared to make, there are certain infusions that none of us are prepared to make,” Franklin said. “That’s something that we’re going to be seeking out even more. What are those flavors and techniques and combinations of ingredients that I wasn’t able to think of? We’re going to look to be awed, to really be inspired.”

Mills put it this way:

“There will always be bartenders like there will always be mechanics,” he said. “People do cherish the effort it takes to build a beverage program.”

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2020 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up