If you really, really love to drink (and saying so isn’t a subtle cry for help), then it’s high time you upped your game from imbibing whatever to putting in the time and effort to craft a well-balanced cocktail made from the highest quality ingredients. Spoiler Alert: Specifying “highest quality” ingredients could mean that some of the mixers and syrups currently on your bar cart are not, and more like liquid Skittles. (Skittles have their place of course, and that’s in your hands while watching Matt Damon Jason Bourne his way across the screen.) Best of all, this approach to mixology yields great taste while making good sense.

The best way to make sure your cocktails set the bar high is to toss out the neon green, red and blue goos (how old are those bottles anyway?) and make your own add-ins for libations that will taste way better than the imitation stuff and potentially reduce your hangover by 278%. They keys? Simple syrup that avoids chemicals and artificial aftertastes in favor of bold natural flavors that will wake up your senses—all of them (the best bartenders know that a drink should look and smell at least as good as it tastes). It’s time to start thinking outside the bottle.

As your foundation, start with the on-trend ingredient experiencing it’s “moment”…light agave nectar. Not only is it a blank slate all-natural product that’s now available everywhere, but unlike processed sugar or high fructose corn syrup, enjoying it won’t get you a lecture from your doctor during your next check-up. Best of all, your drinks will no longer have those freeze pop colors and cloyingly sweet overtones of too many college party punch bowls. (No judgements—we were there, too.)

Basically, use the following approach as a template…unleash your inner booze scientist, get creative, and become the most loved bartender since Isaac on The Love Boat! (The moustache is optional, but strongly suggested.)

Superior Simple Syrup

Step 1: Combine 12oz light agave nectar and 12oz filtered water (a little heat may help speed the process). Step 2: There is no Step 2…you’re done! You should always have some of this around whenever a cold drink needs sweetening, alcoholic and otherwise. (Sugar granules never completely dissolve in cold liquids.)

Now The Fun Part

For instance…blend/food process 8oz of fresh peeled ginger, and add that to your new simple syrup mix. Lightly toast a palmful of peppercorns in a dry saucepan, then add your new ginger syrup. Bring the whole thing to a boil, then remove from the heat and let stand covered for about half an hour. A shot of this, a shot of lime juice, and some dark rum and you’ve got Dark and Stromys better than any bottled ginger beer could hope to deliver.

Get Weird(er)

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to choose your own adventure. Instead of ginger, use chilies or mixed berries or apples…swap peppercorns for allspice or cinnamon or cloves. Think basil. Dabble in mint. Dare lavender. There are (OK, almost) no wrong answers, and visionary takes on the Margarita and Mojito and Mule lie ahead (ice and club soda can mute overambition). Warning: Once you get used to this, the artificial flavors in someone else’s drinks will be so noticeable that they’ll jump out of your glass and punch you in the face. Share what you’ve learned—with great knowledge comes great responsibility, and prepare yourself to get “elected” bartender at parties where you’d rather be drinking than mixing.

PS You realize that if you put the zest of two lemons (or grapefruits or oranges or limes or any combination thereof) in a 750ml bottle of vodka or gin, let stand for a week, strain and remove zest and rebottle your new citrus infusion, it will taste 463% better than any citron-l’orange-fancy-brand vodka you’ve ever tasted, right?

What is your most favorite drink or do you have any recipe that wants to share with us? Leave us a comment below!

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