John deBary may currently be best known for cofounding the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, an advocacy group which has taken on an outsized role during the pandemic by launching Restaurant Workers COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund to help support restaurants and their workers impacted by stay-at home orders across the country.
But deBary is also a renowned mixologist who has crafted cocktails for some of the hottest venues in New York City, from the speakeasy PDT to the restaurant group Momofuku. He recently served up Drink What You Want, a mixology guidebook that breaks the science down for novices, while offering insights even a pro can learn from.
The book’s recipes include the classic cocktails of Mad Men— pared down to their most essential ingredients—and inventive new drinks with delightfully esoteric names like Death in the Afternoon and Getting Weird at the Beach. There’s also a section of nonalcoholic cocktails (a nod to Proteau, deBary’s nonalcoholic botanical drinks company) and one to inspire the creativity born of desperation when there’s nothing in the liquor cabinet but moth balls (for example, the Ketchup Michelada made with hot sauce, beer, and lime). Once you’ve mastered the craft, deBary teaches you how to break the rules and invent something outside the traditional cocktail glass (like The Stonewall Baby).
This exclusive excerpt from Drink What You Want introduces deBary’s delicious writing and his choice of inspired pairings.
MY HUSBAND AND I throw a party every year that is kind of a mash-up of Halloween and Christmas, in both timing and theme. I prance-wobble around, incapacitatingly high on MDMA, in a Santa Claus cloak while wearing a jock strap, red fishnet stockings, and six-inch heels. Needless to say, this party is debauched. (You literally can’t spell “debauchery” without “deBary,” by the way.) But why stop there? I thought it a wise idea to make a punch with weed*- infused absinthe. If that does not scream “party,” I don’t know what does.
Serves about 12
• 6 ounces | ¾ cup weed-infused absinthe (recipe follows)
• 6 ounces | ¾ cup gin
• 4 ounces | ½ cup fresh lime juice
• 4 ounces | ½ cup mint simple syrup (recipe follows)
• 16 ounces | 2 cups sparkling water
• 1 (750 milliliter) bottle sparkling wine
• 2 large ice blocks
• 1 English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
In a large bowl or a 4-quart Cambro, combine the weed absinthe, gin, lime juice, and mint simple syrup and stir together. If you have time, let the mixture chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two.
Transfer the mixture to a punch bowl and pour in the sparkling water and sparkling wine. Add the ice blocks and cucumber slices. Perch a ladle on the side of the bowl and don’t walk away. You need to keep an eye on your friends for this one.
MINT SIMPLE SYRUP
Makes about 1½ cups
• 8 ounces | 1 cup filtered water
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 10 to 15 fresh mint leaves
In a blender, combine all the ingredients and blend on high speed for two minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. Strain through a gold coffee filter, discarding any solids. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to six months.
The only problem, I find, with edible weed is that it generally is not appetizing. It kinda tastes like burnt skunky grass, which, well, it is. I use weed-compatible flavors green and vegetal to mask the skunk by bundling it up with similar but tastier things. Think of it as hiding a wilted flower amongst a bouquet of fresh ones. You can apply this strategy anywhere you’re dealing with a challenging flavor that you’re looking to integrate into something more accessible.
Makes 6 to 7 ounces
• 600 milligrams marijuana, crumbled
• 8 ounces | 1 cup absinthe, such as St. George
Preheat the oven to 220°F.
Place the marijuana in a small oven-safe saucepan, cover it, and heat in the oven for one hour. The weed might look slightly brown but shouldn’t look burnt.
In a double boiler, or in a large metal bowl set over a medium-size pot of simmering water, combine the toasted marijuana and the absinthe. Cover the bowl loosely with aluminum foil and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and let it sit at room temperature for one hour.
Strain the infused absinthe through a gold coffee filter into a glass container, discarding the solids. Use immediately or store the container at room temperature for up to one year.
*NOTE: The thing about weed infusions is that you can’t just toss the dry weed into something and call it a day. Well, you can, but the psychoactive molecule won’t be active and you’ll just have weed-flavored spirits. You need to heat it to about 220°F in order for it to have the desired effect.
I am of the belief that weed should be legal everywhere. In certain places in the United States it is, and this recipe is only for people who are in those states.
To read more, grab your own copy of Out's Pride issue featuring Atlanta-based musician Damez as the cover on Kindle, Nook, Apple News+ and Zinio today, and on newsstands June 30. Preview more of the issue here. Get a year's subscription here. The issue was guest edited by photographer Alex D. Rogers.