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Jam Should Be Your New Secret Weapon For Cocktails

Summer drinking often centers around crisp ales and pilsners, perfectly-chilled rosés and white wines, and cocktails that highlight the flavors of seasonal produce. While it’s undeniably worthwhile to whip up some warm-weather drinks featuring fresh berries and melons, you may find yourself searching for a way to get the sweetness and tanginess of these fruits into your drink in a more concentrated and easy-to-mix form. The good news? There’s an easy solution to this issue, and it can be found in jams, jellies, and preserves.

“Personally, I love using jams and preserves to add a little extra punch to the flavor profiles and builds of different cocktails,” insists Diana Novak, the national director of craft spirits education at Palm Bay International. She goes on to say that “depending on the flavors desired, [with preserves,] you are able to get a beautiful representation of the concentrated fruit essences that stays bright, but also provides a touch of sweetness.  I love using [preserves] in place of some syrups to really accentuate the brightness of the flavor, [and] with so many combinations of fruits and herbs available in jam and preserve form, you have a vast array to use and experiment with.”

Bartenders have long looked to jams and preserves as quick flavor agents for their drinks,  but if you’re wondering how to make this jelly-based cocktail wizardry work in your own home, read on for 7 recipes that make excellent use of different jam varieties.

The Jam

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(By Brian Freed, co-owner and beverage manager, C.W.S. Bar + Kitchen, Lake Worth, Florida)

Beverage manager Brian Freed uses his aptly-named cocktail to showcase two key ingredients that achieve perfect harmony in this beverage: fig jam and tequila. “The fig jam we use really pulls the flavors together in this cocktail.  There are so many layers in this drink, from the strawberry and white balsamic to the margarita[-like] setup. Just a bar spoon of the jam lends a lovely mouth feel when you sip on it and brings a burst of deliciousness,” Freed explains.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz blanco tequila (Freed prefers Corazon Blanco)
  • 1 oz citrus juice
  • 1 oz agave
  • .5 oz strawberry puree
  • 1 tsp fig jam
  • 1 bar spoon white balsamic vinegar (or one squeeze of a bottle)
  • 1 fanned strawberry, for garnish

Method:

  1. Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake for 10 to 15 seconds to fully combine.
  2. Strain into a double rocks glass over ice, add garnish, and serve.

The Apple Bonnet

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(By Diana Novak, national director of craft spirits education, Palm Bay International)

This apple cider and vodka cocktail may sound a bit autumnal at first, but the inclusion of apricot jam, lemon juice, and sparkling wine brightens it up and turns it into an ideal sipper for warm summer afternoons.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz vodka (Novak prefers Ravo Vodka)
  • 1.75 oz apple cider
  • .5 oz cinnamon syrup
  • .5 oz lemon juice
  • .25 oz apricot jam
  • 1.5 oz sparkling wine (Novak prefers Marquis de la Tour Ice)

Method:

  1. Add all ingredients (except sparkling wine) to shaker tin with ice and shake to blend the flavors and chill the cocktail.
  2. Double strain into your chosen glass. If serving on the rocks, make sure that they are fresh ice cubes.
  3. Top with sparkling wine.

The Garden Jam 

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(By Martin Mejia, head bartender, Osteria Morini, Washington, D.C.)

“At Osteria Morini, we receive a lot of amazing farm fruit, and I’ve historically turned a lot into jam so I can continue to access those flavors throughout the seasons. The chefs and I go to great lengths to avoid waste, and jam is a fantastic way to really make the most of the leftover berries and fruit,” says head bartender Martin Mejia. Mejia tells us that the key to making drinks with jam involves finding “that balance between tart and sweet,” and with the Garden Jam, he truly nails that combination.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • .75 oz simple syrup
  • 2 bar spoons mixed berry jam
  • 5 drops of mole bitters (Mejia prefers Bittermens Xocolatl Mole)
  • 1 drop aromatic bitters

Method:

  1. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake to combine.
  2. Strain into a rocks glass with ice and garnish with fresh berries and orange.

The Old School

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(By Eric Trousdale, beverage director, Arbella, Chicago)

Peanut butter and grape jelly make for an iconic pair, as anyone who’s ever eaten a PB&J in their elementary school cafeteria can attest. Beverage director Eric Trousdale sought to recapture that childhood nostalgia and translate it into a very flavorful and very adult cocktail, and his efforts culminated in the Old School, which features Concord grape jelly because, as Trousdale says, “the key to transporting tastebuds back to childhood is Concord grape jelly.”

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz peanut butter-infused vodka*
  • 3 oz Concord grape jelly
  • 1 Concord grape ice sphere**

Method:

  1. Add vodka and grape jelly to a cocktail shaker and shake to combine.
  2. Put a Concord grape ice sphere in a glass and pour the shaken cocktail over it.

*Peanut Butter-Infused Vodka:

  1. Spread a layer of peanut butter inside a long and wide plastic container
  2. Pour a bottle of vodka over the peanut butter (the goal is to get as much vodka exposed to the peanut butter as possible) and let this sit for a day.
  3. Turn the peanut butter with a spatula on Day 2. You will notice that the peanut butter exposed to the vodka is a pale color, while the bottom is a nice rich brown. Turn to expose the rich brown peanut butter.
  4. On Day 3, strain the peanut butter vodka and start steps 1 and 2 over again using the strained peanut butter vodka and additional peanut butter.
  5. Repeat step 3
  6. On day 5, strain the vodka through cheesecloths to capture any peanut butter remnants.
  7. Once strained, let the vodka sit, which will allow the oil and vodka to separate. It will be very clear as to what part is the oil (transparent and brown in color compared to the thick, pale infused vodka). Pour only the infused vodka into another container and set aside until you’re ready to mix the cocktail.

**Concord Grape Ice Sphere:

  1. Mix concentrated Concord grape juice and water (use the proportions that suit you) and pour the mixture into a silicone ice mold. Place in the freezer until completely solid. 

Saved By The Bell Pepper

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(By Sara Bradley, chef/proprietor, freight house, Paducah, Kentucky)

Fans of savory spreads, this one’s for you. A jam does NOT need to be sugary and fruit-based to function beautifully in a cocktail. Chef and proprietor (and Top Chef alum) Sara Bradley uses a pepper jelly for her Saved By The Bell Pepper cocktail, telling us that “it’s about the balance of flavors — the pepper jelly has heat, acidity and sweetness. It brings a totally savory, vegetal flavor to your beverage of choice.”

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz bourbon (Bradley prefers Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel)
  • .5 oz green chile-infused vodka (Bradley prefers St. George Green Chile Vodka)
  • .75 oz honey syrup
  • 1 dash celery bitters (Bradley prefers Bitter Truth)
  • 1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
  • 1 heaping bar spoon pepper jelly  (Bradley makes her own house-smoked version)

Method:

  1. Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake vigorously.
  2. Strain into a glass over small rocks and garnish with fresh basil and a Chile de árbol.

I’m So Shandy

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(By Zachary Snyder, bartender, The Restaurant at 1900, Mission Woods, Kansas)

The beer cocktails known as shandies traditionally consist of beer mixed with a lemon-lime beverage (like lemonade or citrus soda). However, bartender Zachary Snyder likes to up the ante by adding ginger liqueur and raspberry jam. “I think this cocktail really benefits from the jam because jam can bring intense sweetness and fruit flavor to a cocktail without bringing a lot of volume. The jam provides a great balance in this drink against the tart lemon and spicy ginger flavors,” he explains.

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz ginger liqueur (Snyder prefers Domaine de Canton)
  • .25 oz lemon juice
  • 1 mounded tbsp raspberry jam
  • 3-4 oz lager beer
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Fresh mint sprig, for garnish

Method:

  1. Add ginger liqueur, lemon juice, raspberry jam, and orange bitters to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake the mix for 8 to10 seconds, or until cold.
  2. Strain the contents of the shaker into a Collins glass and top it off with the beer.
  3. Slowly add ice until the glass is full. Garnish with fresh mint.

The Easy Bucket

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(By Kent Thompson, bar director, The Tasting Kitchen, Venice, California)

This refreshing gin cocktail utilizes cherry jam, which, while a very seasonally-appropriate pick for a summer beverage, involves some distinct challenges. Of course, the higher the risk, the higher the reward. Bar director Kent Thompson breaks it down: “Cherries are a tough ingredient. They’re very mild and hard to hold up in a cocktail. On top of that, when most people think of cherry [flavor], they think of Shirley Temples or something fake and sweet. This cocktail has a cherry flavor for adults. The base of the drink is very savory with the aquavit, pepper, and cardamom. The cherry jam adds the perfect amount of fruit to balance this out. This summer highball is one I’ll be enjoying all season.”

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz dry gin (Thompson prefers Old Raj)
  • .5 oz aquavit
  • .75 oz fresh lemon juice
  • .5 oz black pepper-cardamom syrup*
  • 1 heaping bar spoon cherry jam
  • 2 dashes cherry-vanilla bitters
  • 1 oz soda water

Method:

  1. Add all ingredients except soda water to a shaker tin. Add ice and give the cocktail a short shake, just to slightly chill and mix ingredients.
  2.  Fine-strain the liquid into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with about 1 oz soda or until full, then garnish the cocktail with a lemon twist and a skewered Luxardo cherry.

*Black Pepper-Cardamom Syrup:

  1. Add 1 pint of water and 1 pint of refined sugar to a saucepan and bring to a boil. 
  2. Once the water-sugar mixture boils, remove from heat and add 4 tbsps toasted cracked black peppercorns and 1 ½ tbsps toasted green cardamom seeds.  Cover and allow to steep for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Fine strain the syrup into a separate container and allow to cool completely. 
Taylor Tobin
Taylor Tobin is a freelance food, drink, and lifestyle writer based in Brooklyn. She's contributed content to publications…
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