Re-creating at home that deliciously smoky, salty variation on a margarita you sampled at your favorite Mexican dive bar seemed like a good idea a few months back, but now you have two-thirds of a bottle of walnut liqueur on your hands—plus a fifth of mezcal. Pair that with the Campari your friend brought over—and the bottles of Tia Maria, Sour Apple Pucker, and honey-flavored whiskey that have been in your liquor cabinet so long they’ve almost grown in to the wood and you’re just one or two steps away from your own episode of Hoarders: Hooch Patrol.
Since nobody wants to throw away spirits even when they can’t bear to drink them—it’s still liquor abuse!— it’s time to put all that booze to use. We quizzed our favorite bartenders, scoured dozens of menus, and even did some mixology of our own to come up with four creative ways to burn through your leftover alcohol reserves.
COOK WITH IT:
FLAVORED WHISKEY AND TEQUILA
“Whiskey and tequila pair perfectly with meat,” says Southern California Bartending School owner Laura Milham. Mix a shot of either one into barbecue sauce before grilling; add some to a marinade; pour a bit into the pan when oven-braising pork or chicken; stir a teaspoon into your salad vinaigrette; or add a dash when sautéing onions or other vegetables.
FLAVORED VODKAS AND FRUIT LIQUEURS
Great-tasting punch has a formula: one part alcohol, two parts nonalcoholic beverage. “The ideal mixer is half-carbonated, like Sprite or 7UP, and half noncarbonated, like fruit juice,” says Milham. For example, try Midori, club soda, and pineapple juice, or peach schnapps, ginger ale, and orange juice.
GINS AND OTHER NEUTRAL SPIRITS
Infuse leftover booze with fresh fruit or vegetables to give it an entirely new flavor. Just chop your food of choice—melon, cucumber, serrano chilis, bacon—into one-inch cubes, put a cup or two of them in a jar, top it off with the liquor, then let it set for a few days in the fridge. Gin and blueberries or vodka and bacon are good starting points.
JUST ABOUT ANYTHING YOU’VE GOT
Shooters are the mixed drinks of the shot world. They’re taller than shots—about three ounces—and usually contain two or three ingredients in equal proportion. They’re also a great way to get creative, says Milham. With a cocktail, you want something you can sip for a while. With a shot, it’s here and gone—so it’s the perfect time to experiment. Try a mix of banana liqueur, absinthe, and coconut milk; or ouzo, peppermint schnapps, and Tabasco—or whatever other crazy combo you can dream up.