How to Make French Press Cocktails

  • 01 of 07

    The French Press Is for More Than Coffee

    French press cocktails - The Grape Press
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

    The French press is a fantastic way to make a rich cup of coffee or a soothing cup of tea, but have you used it to make a cocktail? It's actually a great tool for creating a quick infused mixed drink and it's perfect for the creative home bartender.

    Using a French press to mix drinks is not entirely new and creative bartenders have been using this trick for some time. It's great when making small-batch cocktails for just two to four people. Some bars are even incorporating presses into table service, much like the local coffee shop when you order tea.

    The drinks you get out of a French press have a unique flavor that is unlike any traditional bartending techniques. Plus, it can be used to create a great variety of drinks. This method is all about creativity, personalization, and experimentation. It's quite fun so let's see how it's done.

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  • 02 of 07

    Why Mix Drinks With a French Press?

    French press with blueberries
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    There are many reasons why you might consider using a French press to make cocktails and mocktails. First of all, if you have experienced the difference between drip coffee and French press coffee, you understand that the two are polar opposites. The press creates a richer, more flavorful cup and it does the same thing when we use it to mix liquor, juices, and fresh produce.

    There is also a convenience factor to French press cocktails. You may already own one or have one that's sitting idle because you gave up coffee. The potential to make a few drinks at one time is a bonus as well. 

    You also have to appreciate the ease of straining ingredients using a press. If it can keep grounds out of your coffee, it can surely keep fruit pulp, seeds, and herbs out of your cocktails.

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  • 03 of 07

    Why Does a French Press Work With Cocktails?

    French press and cups of tea
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    The French press is an extremely easy concept. A (typically) glass carafe holds an infusion ingredient (coffee grounds or tea leaves) and you add liquid on top of that. These two elements are allowed to steep and when the plunger is pressed, they become one flavor-filled beverage.

    Just as with coffee and tea, you can place any solid ingredients you like in the base of the press. You will then add liquids, allow it to steep, then plunge away. The pressure gently mixes the ingredients together and slightly aerates it at the same time.

    The result is a richly flavored drink that is multi-dimensional. For instance, if you're going to drink a full press yourself, you'll notice that the first drink has a lighter flavor than the last. That's because the infusion continues with whatever liquid is left in the carafe until you pour it out.

    It's quite brilliant, actually. You get the benefits of a rapid infusion, the flavors are thoroughly mixed, and you avoid over diluting your drinks.

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  • 04 of 07

    Hot or Cold Cocktails, Your Choice

    Coffee cup
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    Normally, we think of using the French press for hot drinks, but you can use it for cold cocktails as well.

    Hot Drinks in the French Press

    For hot drinks, the press works much as it does with coffee and tea. The infusion is quick and the flavor is maximized. It's a fantastic way to mix up any Hot Toddy. This is especially true if you're using whole leaf tea or adding ingredients like ginger, cloves, allspice, or cinnamon to enhance the flavor. 

    The key is that the water you add is hot—tea brewing temperature—and not boiling. Some bartenders will heat the liquors as well. Do this separately from the water and go slow and gentle so as not to ruin the aromatics.

    The infusion can be somewhere around three to five minutes before you press the plunger.

    Cold Drinks in the French Press

    Cold drinks will not have the same intensity of flavors, but the way the press mixes them makes up for that.

    Because you are not relying on heat during the infusion, it is best to let it rest for a little longer. Depending on the ingredients and the flavor you're going for, that could be anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. 

    For your whole ingredients like fruits and herbs, you'll want to use more than you may think you need. A full sprig of rosemary or two sprigs of mint will have more of an impact than a small bunch of leaves. Likewise, a single handful of mashed grapes is barely distinguishable with other fruit juices, so it's better to use twice as much.

    Chilling Your Pressed Cocktail

    Starting off with chilled ingredients will knock the temperature down right from the start.

    You can add ice under the plunger if you like. If you do so during the infusion, you will have more dilution (not necessarily a bad thing). A better option may be to add it during the last minute so it gets a quick chill. In either instance, just a couple of ice cubes should do.

    However, you might find it better to simply pour the drink over ice in your serving glass. The drink will chill almost instantly and you have better control over the dilution, which is one of the benefits of French press cocktails. 

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  • 05 of 07

    6 Tips for French Press Cocktails

    Muddling lime wedges
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    There really is no art to French press cocktails, it's mostly about experimentation and tweaking things as you play around. It's also difficult to produce a bad drink, so have fun with this method. Yet, a few tips will help you out along the way.

    Mash or muddle whole ingredients. The majority of French presses cannot actually press the juice out of whole fruit or sufficiently bruise herbs to release their oils. For this reason, it's best to muddle or mash whole ingredients first. 

    You can use your muddler in the bottom of the carafe, though be careful not to exert too much pressure. Though it's tough glass that can handle the heat, it's not necessarily designed for the full force you might put into the muddle. If you're working with tough fruit, muddle, mash, or puree it before adding it to the press.

    Use any liquor you like. Dark spirits like whiskey, brandy, and aged rums and tequilas are fantastic for hot French press cocktails, though any of them can work in cold drinks as well. 

    Gin is a favorite in the press because you can build on its natural aromatics. Vodka can be used as well, though flavored vodkas will certainly add more to the drink's overall taste. Don't forget to add liqueurs for flavor accents, either.

    Carbonated ingredients are okay. It is possible to get a great tasting drink if you add carbonated beverages to the press while infusing.

    You will notice that the plunger action makes sodas and sparkling wines a little flatter, but it still has a nice effervescence. It's a bit like a party punch: you know there's carbonation in it but it's not overwhelming.

    Clean your press well. You can certainly use the same French press for your morning coffee and evening cocktails. It must be cleaned thoroughly to avoid carrying over any flavors. 

    Some people choose to buy a second press just for non-coffee drinks and that's not a bad idea. This is especially true if you're going to play around with intensely flavored ingredients.

    Sample as you infuse. The other benefit to French press cocktails is that you can sample it as it's infusing. You won't press the plunger all the way down, but enough to push some of the drink above the filter. 

    This is a good way to gauge how your infusion is going, especially when you're new to the technique. Yet, you must remember that the flavor will intensify slightly once fully pressed.

    The size of your press matters. French presses come in a variety of sizes, from three cups to 12 or more cups. Which size of press you use will determine how many drinks you can make at one time. Most of the time you can expect to get two to four drinks at a time.

    Remember that a "32-ounce" capacity in a French press does not take into account the volume taken up by the solid ingredients.

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  • 06 of 07

    Ingredients to Try in Your Press

    Fresh fruit
    Maximilian Stock Ltd. / Getty Images

    As with any mixed drink, use distilled spirits, syrups, and juices to add to the flavor.

    Keep in mind that you want to have a good balance of liquid and solid ingredients. If you rely on too many whole fruits, you will not get the volume needed to create an actual drink: the French press is not a juicer.

    Tea is another great addition and you can simply add a tea bag or whole-leaf tea to the press. You can also warm-brew tea, chill it, then add it to the French press as one of your main liquid ingredients.

    Selecting Fresh Ingredients

    If you can find it in a garden or the market's produce section, it's likely that it can be added to your French press. Think of all the ingredients we use in other cocktails and prepare them in a way so the flavors will be released under the pressure of the plunger.

    Berries, pomegranate, and grapes can be mashed; apples, mangoes, and pears can be sliced; citrus fruits can be added as squeezed wedges or as the peel alone. You can also puree or finely chop ingredients like beets, carrots, and rhubarb. Herbs should be muddled, torn, or bruised.

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  • 07 of 07

    A French Press Cocktail to Try

    Caipirinha cocktail
    Veronica Garbutt / Getty Images

    Grapes are one of those fruits that have tasty juice trapped inside, and yet, it can be hard to get it into our drinks. Each grape has only a little juice and muddling alone won't fully tap their delicious resources. This is why it's a great candidate for your first French press cocktail. 

    We'll call this drink the Grape Press and it can be made with or without the gin. It's a delightful fruity mix and has a fun zip for a hot summer day.

    To Make the Grape Press 

    Thoroughly muddle 2 good-sized handfuls of fresh red grapes to create a grape mash in the bottom of your French press. Add 1 part mango nectar, 1/2 part pineapple juice, 1/2 part gin, and a sprig of torn rosemary leaves.

    Cover with the top of the press and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Press down the plunger and pour into a chilled glass over ice, leaving enough room to top the drink with tonic water.

    Of course, if you have fresh mango or pineapple around, use the fruits along with the liquids to maximize the flavor.

    Try Your Favorite Cocktails

    Almost any of our favorite cocktails can be made with a French press. Those that work best are ones that use fruit juices and fresh ingredients. For instance, you can get a mint-free Mojito by making it in the press. Likewise, you can mash some pineapple to intensify the fruitiness in a Bay Breeze.

    Keep in mind that cocktail recipes use small volumes for the ingredients and you're going for a small-batch of cocktails. You will need to make some adjustments and potentially cut back on the liquor so it's not overpowering. Plus, if you learn how to translate a drink into "parts" it will make converting a recipe much easier.

    Essentially, let your imagination run wild and have fun pressing.