After the party

Give new life to your leftover booze

photo by marcos silva via istock

During the partying that is to come this summer, you’re bound to host a shindig and hear, “What can I bring?” The easiest, and most lucrative, answer is always, “Booze.” Unfortunately, what you imagine your guests will bring—the latest seasonal offering from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Milagro tequila, Johnny Walker Black—never quite matches what actually shows up. As the season progresses, your overflowing liquor cabinet begins to look like a clearance rack in the booze aisle. Never fear, with a bit of creativity you can clean things out and make room for the next bottle, or box, of gifted wine.

From confusion to infusion

Who can resist buying the 1.75 liter of Smirnoff when it’s only $2 more than the 750ml version? But what to do with 1.75 liters of vodka? Try infusing it with other ingredients—fruit, vegetables, herbs or spices. For fruits and vegetables, expose the flesh by peeling and removing any skins that may add a sour taste, such as orange rinds. Throw in herbs and spices whole. Stronger flavors, such as citrus, cinnamon or rosemary, need to sit only for a few days. Subtler flavors, such as pear, peach or hibiscus, will take at least one or two weeks. Taste along the way, and when you’re happy with the result, strain off the liquid and enjoy.

Or how about a chili vodka? Remove the seeds from one Thai chili and add to 375ml of vodka. Let sit for three days, taste, strain and then mix up a sweet and spicy chili martini by combining 1 oz. chili vodka and 1 oz. peach juice in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass and garnish with a peach slice or by sugaring the rim.


Popular in colonial times, punch is a perfect way to get rid of the last dregs of a rum collection. Mix and match flavored rums, light and dark rums, fruit and fruit juices to make a big self-serve bowl of punch. Note: If you wouldn’t mix it in a fruit salad—say, lemon and peaches—don’t mix it in the punch.

For the adventurous, take a shot at Warp Core Breach—inspired by a foggy drink from an episode of Deep Space Nine. It’s sure to lower your shields right before you crash into the planet. Mix in a large punch bowl:

9 oz. light rum

7 oz. lemon rum

3 oz. dark rum

3 oz. spiced rum

3 oz. Chambord black raspberry liqueur

2 oz. Bacardi 151

60 oz. tropical (açai, passion fruit, etc.) sports drinks

Adjust to taste. Serve in cups full of ice. For the full experience, carefully add a big chunk of dry ice to the punch bowl.

Garnish to gourmet

Even if you don’t drink, chances are you have a half-empty bottle of green olives buried in the fridge. You can transform this popular garnish for martinis into something special and clean out your liquor cabinet at the same time. Vermouth-soaked olives sell for twice the price of green olives at the store, but with a little patience, you can make them at home. Place the olives in a canning jar, cover in vermouth, and let sit for a few weeks. Infuse extra flavor by adding chilis or rosemary to the mix before tucking them away to soak.

They’re good enough to eat by themselves, but you could also chop them up with some garlic, capers, anchovies and lemon to make a martini-inspired tapenade.