Savoury cocktails are having a moment, but the fancy concoctions you see in magazines always seem to involve three custom infusions and a hand-crafted garnish. If that's not quite your style, check your fridge — you might already have what you need for complex, savoury adult beverages.
Whether you consider them marinades, dressings, or brines, the intensely flavourful liquids left over from macerated salads are technically infusions — and they're right at home in a cocktail. You can use just about anything you have that sounds good, but stick with options that are mostly acid, salt, and sugar, with little or no fat.
For best results, treat the brines like bitters or drinking vinegar: a little goes a long way, and you'll probably want a non-alcoholic ingredient for balance. With that in mind, any of these combinations would be stellar:
Tomatoes and vodka: The juice from a marinated tomato salad makes sense in a Bloody Mary or Michelada, of course, but I think it's got great potential as a riff on the dirty martini.
Cucumbers and soju: Thinly-sliced cucumbers doused in seasoned rice vinegar and extra salt is a desert-island salad for me, and I can't stop thinking about mixing the dregs with soju.
Watermelon and tequila: A good watermelon and feta salad is fresh, fruity, tangy, and funky all at once. The leftover marinade would be a delicious, unexpected addition to a margarita — or a great shot chaser.
Start experimenting with flavour combinations that sound good, and look for inspiration in pleasant surprises along the way. Whatever you do, don't pour that homemade pickle juice down the sink just yet; it could be the start of your new favourite cocktail.