Shake it up with a remix

Quick tips for clearing out your liquor cabinet in the summer

Photo By scott feldstein (via flickr)

In the endless partying that is 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—Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Milagro tequila, Johnny Walker Black—never quite matches what actually shows up. By the end of summer, your overflowing liquor cabinet looks 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? Problem is you’re always left wondering what to do with 1.75 liters of vodka. Try turning boring vodka into myriad flavors by 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 (a drink at Las Vegas’ now-closed Star Trek Experience, inspired by a foggy drink from an episode of Deep Space 9), which is sure to lower your shields right before you crash into the planet. Mix the following 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. Açaí and passion-fruit sports drinks, such as Vitamin Water or SoBe Lifewater.

Add additional sports drink to taste. Serve in cups full of ice. For the full experience, carefully add a chunk of dry ice to the punch bowl. (Warning: Don’t drink any dry ice.) Makes 10 servings.

Extra flavor, less money

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. Or try out this “Martini Pork” pork-chop recipe.

2 pork chops

1/2 small onion, chopped

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

5–8 green olives soaked in sweet vermouth, chopped

1 Tbsp. sweet vermouth

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 tsp. corn starch

1/4 cup half-and-half

1 Tbsp. each: fresh thyme, sage, parsley

Heat oil in a skillet. Season pork with salt and pepper and brown on either side; remove from pan. Add the onions, mushrooms, garlic and olives and sauté until mushrooms are soft, 2–3 minutes. Add vermouth, stirring until almost evaporated. Add stock, corn starch and half-and-half. Stir and bring to a boil. Add the pork back into the pan, reduce heat and cook, covered, at a low simmer, for approximately 15 minutes.