Today’s subject: the cocktail fail.

Amateur mixology is a lot like being a teenager. You experiment. You do some uninformed, ballsy, and otherwise stupid things. If you’re lucky, your friends shut the hell up about your mistakes and reminisce fondly about your triumphs. I have the luxury of just throwing out crap that doesn’t work. But bar owners generally discourage their bartenders from doing this too often.

Today’s topic: diving catches (a.k.a., fix yo’ shit).

I’m no expert, but here’s what I’ve learned so far about cocktail improv.

  • Better to riff on some recipe you already like than try to reinvent the wheel.
  • If you have to invent your own stuff, keep a list of go-to flavor pairings.  I’ll share the ones that I’ve figured out so far soon.
  • St Germain fixes a lot of mistakes.
  • If all is truly lost, put it on the rocks.
  • If the rocks don’t fix it, put it on crushed ice.
  • If the crushed ice doesn’t fix it, add something carbonated.
  • If the sparkling wine / ginger ale / club soda / tonic doesn’t fix it, you’re fucked.

To that end, here’s something I screwed around with tonight that started out unpalatable, but ended up kind of nice.

Four kumquats
2 oz Cruzan white rum
2 oz sparkling wine
1 oz orange juice
.25 oz cinnamon syrup

Muddle the kumquats and the cinnamon syrup. Add the Cruzan and orange juice. Shake with crushed ice. Add a little additional crushed ice to a Collins glass, then pour the whole thing unstrained into the Collins glass. Add the sparkling wine and give it a gentle stir.  Stand behind the bar and look like you know what you’re doing.

If you’re keeping score, that’s crushed ice AND something carbonated. Shhhh.