The Best Ingredient for Your Home Bar Is Hiding in Your Kitchen Cabinet

Jam is a quick and simple way to elevate your cocktails, according to Death & Co’s Alex Day

December 14, 2021 6:17 am
Assortment of jams on grey background with copy space. Top view. Jam is an easy hack for cocktails, according to Death & Co's Alex Day.
Those fancy jams in your fridge can be an ideal cocktail ingredient
Василий Авраменко / iStock / Getty Images Plus

If you’re like me, you somehow have 4-5 variations of artisanal jam in your fridge or cupboard that you rarely use but feel bad about throwing away (especially since they last for quite a while).

A quick kitchen hack that’s a lot more fun than topping off your toast? Put that fruity jam in your cocktail.

“Jams are packed with intense, concentrated flavors of a fruit that can add a unique character to drinks,” explains Alex Day, co-owner of the cocktail haven Death & Co and co-author of the new recipes and home entertaining book Death & Co: Welcome Home. “But they also contain high concentrations of pectin, which, when shaken or stirred, can create wild textural changes in drinks.”

As Day explains, adding jam to citrusy, shaken cocktails like a Daiquiri can make it frothier, while adding a teaspoon of jam to a boozy, stirred cocktail like a martini adds “a lusciousness — a deep, comforting silkiness.”

Death & Company owners Alex Day, Devon Tarby and David Kaplan
Gin & Luck
Death & Company owners Alex Day, Devon Tarby and David Kaplan

Which sounds fun and, for a lazy home bartender like myself, ideal for a holiday season where I intend to be indoors and at home as much as possible. A few other jam tips from Day, in his own words, below:

Start small 

When using jam in cocktails, be mindful that it will contribute not only flavor, but sweetness. I tend to start by adding one teaspoon, seeing the result relative to other ingredients, then adjusting from there. If I need to add more jam for its flavor to come through, I’ll likely need to pull back on any other sweeteners — say, simple syrup — to keep balance in check.

Strain yourself

If shaking, make sure to shake hard to integrate the jam, and double strain to filter out seeds or skins.

Keep it real

With jams, look for ones made from real fruit without much added – if made with care, this will simply be a base of quality, organic and non-GMO fruit with sugar, cooked down. There are plenty of artisanal jams out there to explore, some local from your farmers market, and others more widely available — Polaner, Briermere — but also don’t shy away from the ever-present and delicious Bonne Maman.

Jam can be a helpful way to deepen a flavor already found in a classic cocktail. Take the Clover Club (gin, lemon, raspberry, egg white); add a teaspoon of raspberry jam and you’ve not only created a more dynamic texture thanks to the pectin; it’s raspberry in Technicolor.

A stock image of the Clover Club cocktail
Drinks like the Clover Club can be radically reimagined with a bit of jam
viennetta / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Improvise with the classics

Certain jams pair well with certain spirits. Vodka and gin pair well with strawberry and raspberry. Apricot and peach are perfect matches for bourbon, rye or Scotch. More esoteric or challenging jams — think, carrot, rhubarb and so on — the cocktail’s other ingredients will help find the right spirit. For example, a tequila buck (tequila, ginger, lime juice, seltzer) would be delicious with a carrot jam.

Start your jam here

A favorite of my co-author Devon Tarby is the Blind Ambition cocktail, which is perfect for this time of year. It’s a light, pre-dinner cocktail.

  • 1 oz Vodka
  • 0.5 oz Lemon Juice
  • 0.5 oz Simple Syrup
  • 0.5 oz St-Germain
  • 1 barspoon Apricot Jam
  • 3 oz Dry Sparkling Wine

Shake all ingredients (except sparkling wine) with ice, strain into a flute, top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a grapefruit slice.


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