Matthew Kelly / Supercall

Entertaining
Pressed for Success: French Press Cocktails

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There’s a high-tech super-infuser hiding in your kitchen right now. It’s probably shoved into a corner or hiding behind the flour. You’ve maybe used it a few times, never recognizing its full potential. Well it’s high time the French press left the breakfast table and took its rightful place on the bar.

Bartenders across the country are using French presses to infuse cocktails before serving them tableside, where guests can pour for themselves. “Everyone loves the do-it-yourself thing,” says Sean Potter, head of “Eat and Drink” at Stoke in Charlotte, NC. Giving guests the prepped French press, filled with a cocktail base and aromatics like fruits and herbs, gives them the chance to customize their drinking experience. “You are your own chef for your cocktail,” he says. Stoke features an entire section of “Pressed” cocktails, including the Southern Swag (rum, tea, raspberry, lemon and rhubarb) and The Evolution (scotch, tea, mint, lemon and orange). Dani Davis of Crafted in St. Louis, believes that the French press’s appeal lies within its versatility. “You can press it down right away and have the cocktail immediately, or you can let it steep longer to create a drink that’s really different,” she says. “It makes many cocktails in one.”

One of the first bars to experiment with French press cocktails was Chicago’s boundary-pushing Aviary. There, Charles Joly (now one of the founders of Crafthouse Cocktails) created his celebrated Yuzu cocktail by combining ingredients including yuzu cordial, gin and chamomile in a small French press. While Joly agrees that the technique engages the guests, he admits that press pot’s wow-factor is also part of its charm. “The amount of expectation we form visually before we taste is huge,” he says. “When food hits your table, the chef has thought about everything—the same should happen with your drink.” Joly also likes to use the French press to put a simple seasonal spin on classic cocktails. His take on a Whiskey Sour, for example, uses baked apple, chai tea and cloves to craft a cold weather version of the old school drink.

So dig out the old French press and give it new life as a bar tool. Here are three great ways to use your French press to create deliciously customizable and beautiful cocktails.

Matthew Kelly / Supercall
At Stoke in Charlotte, NC, this super-sized scotch cocktail is poured from a French press into a coffee cup. “So you can drink it at breakfast,” Sean Potter, the restaurant’s head of Eat and Drink, jokes. As the cocktail sits and steeps, the heavy, peaty scotch flavor dissipates, balanced by the herbaceous, savory thyme. Drink it how you like: Let it sit or plunge and pour right away. The choice is yours, as is the decision of whether or not to share it.

The Essentials

scotch
Mint Tea
Lemon Iced Tea
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
At Crafted in St. Louis, the French press cocktails change with the seasons. This bright, wintery drink features the piney flavors of juniper and gin, along with tart cranberries and earthy thyme. For owner Dani Davis, this cocktail is both a refreshment and a learning experience. Try pressing it down right away for a bright, crisp cocktail or let it sit for more pronounced juniper and thyme flavors. Still not sure how you like it? You’ll just have to whip up another pot.

The Essentials

Gin
Lemon Juice
elderflower syrup
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
This seasonal Whiskey Sour from Crafthouse Cocktails founder Charles Joly is a play in textures and spices. “You have a soft ingredient that you can physically smooth,” he says of the baked apple. The rosemary releases its ultra-herbaceous oils into the infusion as the chai tea and cloves enhance the overproof bourbon’s natural spice. “There are no rules to the press pot,” Joly says. So use this recipe as a jumping off point and tweak as you please.

The Essentials

bourbon
apple
chai tea

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