08 October 2018, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Tim Mayer, bartender at Jigger & Spoon, mixes a drink. The bar is located in a former vault of a bank and won the Mixology Bar Award yesterday evening in Berlin. Photo: Christoph Schmidt/dpa (Photo by Christoph Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Bartenders Spill On The Most Underrated Fall Cocktail Ingredients

Photo: Christoph Schmidt/picture alliance (Getty Images)

The holidays are quickly approaching like the train in Back to The Future Part III and it feels like the track that is our lives isn’t long enough to contain all of the food, presents, good times, and overall jolly excitement barreling towards us at an obscene speed. But, since it’s technically fall, there’s still time to get your cocktail game on point before the holidays officially arrive. How can you possibly determine what cocktails to make for your friends and family with only a few weeks to spare? Well, your best bet is to buy a bottle (or two) of vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, and tequila, and then stock up on our favorite bartenders’ most underrated cocktail ingredients.


“Beets and root vegetables in general still get the, ‘Oh, that’s only for a bar with ‘farm’ in the name’ reputation. It’s a miss, though, because they have so much character and can open up very unused territory.” – Josh Cameron, head bartender at Boulton & Watt in New York City


“It feels like genever is finally getting its due on the back bar in a way that’s been a long time coming. There are some new brands coming on the market as well as Bols, which has been distilling genever in Amsterdam for hundreds of years and has long been the standard-bearer in the category. Genever is incredibly versatile. A lot of the gin-based cocktails that we consider to be classics actually originally called for genever. Try it in simple cocktails like a Red Light Negroni, which is equal parts Bols Genever, bitter Italian liqueur like Campari or Galliano L’Aperitivo, and sweet vermouth.” – Dylon Tubb, bartender at Tavern Law in Seattle

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“What’s the most underrated cocktail ingredient? Salt. A few drops of saline solution really works to tie together flavors and bring out subtle nuances in almost any cocktail.” – Grace Bernotavicius, bar manager at Ludlow Liquors in Chicago


“The most underrated fall ingredient, in my opinion, is Falernum. It’s got all the fall flavors that you think about: orange, clove, cinnamon, it’s a good cocktail rounder.” – Kalani Parducci, lead bartender at Rosswood inside River’s Edge Hotel in Portland, Oregon


“I find that majority of bars forget about their bitters on the bar and that’s a great shame as, for me, bitters are the seasoning on a cocktail and are an essential part of balancing and bringing the flavors together.” – Anton Ulaj, bartender at ETARU in Fort Lauderdale, Florida


“Orgeat is a great sweetener that can be used in applications where people are not expecting it and it adds that note that makes them say, ‘That’s delicious, what is that I’m tasting?’ A surprising number of people don’t even know what it is. It’s a staple on the bar at Elixir.” – H. Joseph Ehrmann, bartender at Elixir in San Francisco

High-quality botanicals

“What’s the most underrated cocktail ingredient? Mixers. I am biased, but a better mixer makes a much better cocktail. Real sugar and high-quality botanicals make a difference.” – Mary Pellettieri co-founder of Top Note Tonic

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Fresh grapefruit juice

“I would say fresh grapefruit juice. There is nothing obscure about it and almost every bar carries it in some form. But I do think that it is underrated in the sense that a little bit of grapefruit juice can change the profile and complexity of a simple drink. And that’s all it takes.” – Sol Trece, lead bartender at La Cuevita in Los Angeles

Soda water

“What’s the most underrated cocktail ingredient? I would have to say that the most underrated cocktail ingredient is soda water. The type of soda water you choose can make a big difference in the mouthfeel of the drink.” – Leo Enriquez, food and beverage manager at Torali in Chicago



“What’s the most underrated cocktail ingredient? I don’t think vermouth gets its time in the sun like it really should. It is a great substitute for sugar and that helps balance the drink but brings way more flavor than sugar ever can.” – Jeremy Martin, beverage director at Workshop Lounge in Asheville, North Carolina

The proper garnish

“A beautiful, thoughtful garnish that enhances the drink aesthetically but also contributes to flavor or aroma can be the difference between a pretty good drink and an amazing one. Justin Park at Bar Leather Apron, Honolulu, Hawaii has committed to a garnish game that is unmatched. I’m regularly inspired by his creativity.” – Dusty Gable, beverage director at Merriman’s Hawaii in Honolulu


“I feel Curacao is very underrated. When people hear Curacao they immediately think of Blue Curacao, thus disregarding Dry Curacao. The light orange tones add something very special to the right blend of ingredients.” – Sonny Wallace, beverage director at The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens in Saint Augustine, Florida

Vegetable juice

“I personally believe that freshly squeezed citrus and vegetable juices are the most underrated cocktail ingredient that many bars overlook and see as an inconvenience to prepare. There is a distinguishable difference when a cocktail is made with mass-produced and pasteurized juices rather than taking an extra step to have freshly squeezed juices.” – Ross Lewis, bar manager at Mahina & Sun’s in Honolulu


“The most underrated ingredient is absinthe. A little absinthe can go a long way in most cocktails. People may hate the black-licorice taste, but when you use a dash or two, it could be the ingredient the cocktail was missing the whole time.” – Saeed House, lead bartender at Ever Bar in Los Angeles


“Coconut. There are so many ways to incorporate it into cocktails: cream of coconut, coconut milk, coconut water. It flavors spirits and the sweetness brightens up cooler weather cocktails.” – Thierry Carrier, Beverage Director from Avenue in Long Branch New Jersey


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