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Grilled margaritas, and the simplicity of 'one-bottle' cocktails

A grilled margarita uses little more than tequila,

A grilled margarita uses little more than tequila, citrus and honey syrup, with a rosemary garnish. Credit: Kelly Puleio for Ten Speed Press

Are craft cocktails at their most complicated? Maybe. With a fully stocked bar to work with, bartenders can create (and exhaustively test) finely tuned, complex drinks — and we’re the better for it. Trying to create those same cocktails at home, though, might mean carting home a hundred bucks worth of spirits, such as Cynar or Pernod or crème de violette, that may consequently sit around ‘'aging'' from underuse.

“There has never been a time when what we’ve been drinking in bars has been further from what we’re able to make at home,” said Maggie Hoffman, author of the 2018 book “The One-Bottle Cocktail.” Hoffman, the former drinks editor of the website Serious Eats, challenged some of the country’s most talented bartenders to come up with drinks that use one spirit only. Instead of relying on Gran Classico or a Chartreuse float for verve, the drinks in “The One-Bottle Cocktail” instead call for flavors you may already have in your cabinets, or can easily find: Molasses, harissa, fig preserves, hazelnuts.

“[Bartenders] make these complex things with 10 ingredients, and it makes sense for them to do it in a bar. If you’re home, you have spices, you have tea, you have honey, so those things make more sense as a purchase,” Hoffman said.

This translates to vodka blended with jasmine tea, or tequila with grilled lemons, as with grilled margaritas — easy to assemble and a super-smooth drink to boot.

(Condensed from “The One-Bottle Cocktail”)

2 large or 3 small lemons, plus 2 lemon slices
4 ounces reposado or añejo (aged) tequila
1 1/4 ounces 2:1 honey syrup*
2 rosemary springs and flaky sea salt (optional)

Preheat grill to medium-high; halve lemons and place, cut sides down, on grill, along with lemon slices. Cook until lemons are nicely charred,  4 to 6 minutes. Remove and let cool. Juice lemon halves and measure out 2 ounces of grilled lemon juice; combine with tequila and honey syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into 2 chilled coupe glasses. Garnish with grilled lemon slices (charred sides up), rosemary and pinch of salt. Serves 2.

* To make honey syrup, stir 2 parts hot water into 1 part honey; stir until dissolved. Cool before using.

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