Bottled vinaigrettes could use a little TLC. I’ve personally never bought one that didn’t need some doctoring to match the flavor of a fresh from scratch one. If you know of one that is just perfect straight out of the bottle, please share with us.
The first thing most bottled vinaigrettes need is a shot of vinegar. It doesn’t have to be the same vinegar that the bottle is based on, but that certainly helps. A pinch of sugar usually helps, too, or a squirt of honey or something to balance the salt, which most bottled vinaigrettes have too much of.
I pour out of a bottle as much vinaigrette as I need to dress my salad. I taste, and then start adding – a teaspoon of vinegar and perhaps a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar, and whisk. Taste. Still not right? Add a little more vinegar and/or sugar. If it is still not right, then perhaps a drop of mustard. If it is still not right after that, I’ll never buy that brand again; because at that point, it’s just as easy to make your own, from scratch.
All you need is oil (olive, canola) and acid (vinegar, citrus) and flavorings (crushed garlic, salt, pepper, mustard, sweetener). I make my vinaigrettes with half oil/half acid, which makes for a vinaigrette with a bite. But the traditional French ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar is just too oily for my tastes.
I’ve also been known to mix a couple of bottled vinaigrettes/dressing together. For example, one of my favorite combinations is a couple of brands from Annie’s—I love to mix the Shiitake Mushroom Vinaigrette with the Gingerly Vinaigrette. I still add a pinch of sugar, but that’s it.