Alfieri highball glass, Luigi Bormioli ($5.19). Bloomingdale’s, King of Prussia Mall, 610-337-6300
In the dark, pre-proprietary-grenadine days, mixologist Katie Loeb had few compatriots. While others poured sour apple and espresso martinis, she poured tipples flavored with house-crafted lemon cordials and berry shrubs, shaping the cocktail lists at Amada, the former Chick’s Café & Wine Bar, and Oyster House—and, in the process, the city’s modern thirst.
“Making my own cocktail ingredients started when I realized that fresh syrups taste both more consistent and better than the commercially available stuff,” explains Loeb, the self-proclaimed “Mama Bear” of Philly’s cocktail renaissance. “A lot of my recipes come about when I taste something and want to re-create that flavor in a glass; I created a rhubarb syrup for daiquiris, for example, after having a slice of rhubarb pie out in Lancaster County.”
You will find Loeb’s rhubarb syrup recipe, along with dozens of others, in her new book, Shake, Stir, Pour: Fresh Homegrown Cocktails, a gorgeously photographed guide to the world of from-scratch drinks. The tome schools enthusiasts on making everything from orgeat syrup and ginger beer to pimento dram and aquavit, then offers clear cocktail recipes that incorporate those enhancers. One of the easiest to master is Loeb’s Herbal Cooler, a tall drink of summertime sweetened with her mixed-herb syrup; made from mint, cilantro, and basil, three herbs even amateur gardeners can easily grow in their backyard or window boxes, this syrup is among the most versatile in the book.
“I first saw the syrup as a delicious sweetener for lemonade or iced tea,” she explains. “And since my brain is wired for spirits, I immediately made a batch and started playing around with it.”
Loeb blends up this elixir for parties when she doesn’t feel like being anchored to the bar all night. “This syrup goes really well with all different sorts of spirits and mixers,” she says. “A pitcher of this syrup, a small selection of various spirits, some fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice, and a variety of carbonated mixers, and there’s a drink for virtually any taste—and a serve-yourself party waiting to happen.”