To mix great drinks, start with great ingredients, many of which you can make yourself.
How to make liqueurs
Start with a high-proof, mild to no-flavored alcohol. For a 750 ml. bottle of limoncello, you’ll need the peel of 7 or 8 lemons. Just the zest—none of the white part. Put the peel in the alcohol in a glass bottle and close tightly. Set it aside in a dark place for 5 or 6 days. If you want it stronger, let it steep longer. When the alcohol is lemony enough, add some simple syrup (sugar and water boiled to the syrup stage), about 1 part syrup to 3 parts alcohol. Strain it through a sieve, strain it again through a coffee filter, and store it.
How to make flavor pearls
Mix 1 teaspooon sodium alginate with 1 cup desired liquid (we used Campari). Stir vigorously until dissolved. Mix 2 teaspoons calcium chloride with 2 cups of distilled water. Chill thoroughly. Using a squeeze bottle or plastic syringe, push drops of the flavored liquid into the calcium water. Let set a few minutes, then strain off liquid and rinse gently. Float on a drink. Impress everyone.
How to make bitters
Bitters are essential to mixology. Keep a bottle of Angostura on hand, but try making your own—Frida’s Stephanie Hatfield makes chocolate-chipotle bitters. Here’s a simple recipe—but the fun is experimenting. Place 8 oz. citrus zest in a mason jar. Add a teaspoon each of whole cardamom and coriander, some star anise or caraway. Cover with 2 cups of high-proof white alcohol, seal the jar and let stand in a cool, dark place for two weeks. Strain through cheesecloth and use.