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A do-it-yourself guide for creative cocktails. 

From seasonally inspired infusions to housemade bitters and sodas, fresh cocktails have been shaking up the bar scene lately. This philosophy is central to the menu at Barrel House American Bar in Beverly, which crafts an array of uniquely delicious concoctions courtesy of Sean Maher, managing partner and bartender. One glance at the lineup of hand-labeled jars and bottles resting on the bar and you know you’re in for a treat.

Maher has mastered everything from homemade grenadine to cherry-infused bourbon to a recipe for Amer Picon, a French aperitif no longer available in the United States. “As far as infusions go, the trick is usually to use fruit or herbs in season for the most intense flavor extraction,” Maher says. “Higher-proof spirits will more completely extract the flavor from what you’re infusing.” For home mixologists, Maher shares his recipe for simple herb syrup, used in a Barrel House original cocktail called the Côte d’Azur.


Fresh Herb Syrup: Combine one cup of sugar and one cup of water in a saucepan over heat and mix until syrup is just about to boil. Pour syrup into a container with a few sprigs each of fresh oregano and thyme, along with one-third of a sprig of rosemary and a few bay leaves. Let cool completely, stirring occasionally. Strain herb syrup through cheesecloth. Syrup should have a clear gold/green color. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month. Use to sweeten teas, drizzle over sorbet, or in the Côte d’Azur cocktail.

Côte d’Azur cocktail: makes 1 serving

  • 1    oz. vodka
  • 1    oz. St. Germain
  • 1    oz. herb syrup
Stir all ingredients over cracked ice until cold. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.