It’s finally 85 degrees out on this spring day as I write this post after one of the coldest, longest New England winters I’ve felt in a long time. We didn’t necessarily get a lot of snow, but it wasn’t until this past week that the weather warmed up passed ‘miserable.’ That’s what you’ve got to love about New England, long winters that skip over spring and jump straight into the 90’s.
So what does this streak of nice weather mean? You bust out those refreshing summer cocktails. The mojito is one of my favorite warm weather go-to cocktails—super refreshing, fresh, and not too sweet. The best part is you can make so many variations by simply adding different muddled fruits. I introduced the blackberry mojito a while back, but today I’m tackling the even better strawberry mojito.
There isn’t much of a science to this Cuba born cocktail, but I will recommend you always use fresh ingredients for most authentic results. Fresh mint, fresh lime wedges, and of course, fresh strawberries. I always use simple syrup over sugar because it easily dissolves into the drink. Table sugar tends to settle on the bottom.
I’ve been spinning these up a lot lately because Patty is pregnant (surprise—we are very exited!) and they make the ultimate mocktail. Seriously, you can barely tell the difference without the rum. At least we can both (sort of) enjoy the same cocktail.
for the rest of us, grab your favorite white rum and get ready for summer!
I was all about the sazerac before I went to New Orleans and jumped on the sazerac train. A classic cocktail originating in NOLA’s French Quarter in the mid 1800’s. Yes the 1800’s. Something I find to this day, absolutely fascinating. Maybe I’m a nerd, but the idea of sipping a cocktail created nearly 200 years ago as if it had been created yesterday is amazing. There are so few things in life that really survive the test of time as deliciously as classic cocktails.
New Orleans was a blast. Patty and I flew down with her sister and brother-in-law to visit her other sister who was travel nursing in the city. Patty had been a handful of times but this was my first New Orleans experience. We landed at 11PM, exhausted on a Friday night and somehow managed to pull off a crazy, 5AM night out at the bars. Enter sazerac.
You bet you can order yourself a sazerac (or unique spinoff) at any bar worth it’s salt in New Orleans and get it made beautifully. Bourbon Street and all the wild NOLA traditions aside, the food and cocktail scene is off the hook. New Orleans is truly a city that appreciates the art of the craft cocktail…oh and food—don’t even get me started on the beignets (I still see them in my dreams. More on that later).
The sazerac is an interesting combo of rye whiskey, sugar, absinthe, and lemon peel, all pulled together by Peychaud’s bitters. The bitters gives the cocktail a distinct reddish hue and floral aroma. Don’t try to substitute or leave it out. It’s the most essential ingredient. The sazerac is bold, smooth, and refreshing with a fresh lemon aroma and taste. Somewhat similar to the old fashioned in terms of makeup, but with a more prominent citrusy flavor.
If you’re serious about making the sazerac, buy some absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters, and Mardi Gras beads, and hit the ground running. You’ll thank New Orleans and New Orleans will thank you.
Now I’m not trying to confuse the world or freak everyone out, but I’m posting another Manhattan cocktail recipe. I guess you know I’m obsessed when I cover one drink three times. Not to be confused with the perfect Manhattan (which uses both sweet and dry vermouth), the classic Manhattan cocktail only uses sweet vermouth.
So although I think all Manhattans are “perfect”… a true Manhattan only contains sweet vermouth, bitters, and rye whiskey or bourbon. As the self-proclaimed Manhattan man, here are a few quick tips on how to make the “perfect” Manhattan.
ALWAYS stir with ice, never shake. Whiskey cocktails should always be stirred, otherwise you’ll introduce unwanted oxygen into the drink. The ice will add just enough water to take the burn off without diluting the cocktail.
Pick up some good vermouth. There’s no point in wasting nice whiskey with crumby vermouth. I like Dolin or Punt E Mes.
Experiment with different types of bitters and garnishes. Angostura bitters and a cherry garnish is the most traditional approach, but I like to switch it up with cherry bitters, orange bitters, Peychaud’s bitters and an orange peel garnish. I like the subtle twists that add different aromas and flavors.
Simple right? It amazes me how simple wins every time.
P.S. Shoutout to my wonderful Nana for giving me her vintage cocktail glasses. They must be twice as old as I am but I swear they will never go out of style. Putting them to some serious good use.
Just two months removed from a life changing Italy trip with Patty and great friends and I’m already scheming to go back. How do we keep these once in a lifetime trips with us long after they’re over? We try to recreate the good times. Which I’ll be honest, is nearly impossible when you’re talking about sipping an Aperol spritz 1,000 feet above the Amalfi coast in a Positano restaurant.
One particular drink that will forever take me back to Italy (besides the wine of course), is the Aperol spritz. The Aperol spritz is an Italian classic and by far my favorite Italian cocktail (besides maybe the limoncello) but that’s a story for another post…
The Aperol spritz is a refreshing concoction consisting of prosecco, Aperol, soda water, and an orange slice garnish. This cocktail is an “apertivo” staple, which is essentially a 2 hour post-work cocktail hour with light dishes. Apertivo serves as a pre-dinner drink to build up your appetite before crushing even more cheese and wine. I’d be hard pressed to say our entire trip wasn’t one giant apertivo because we were eating the ENTIRE time.
What is Aperol? An orange flavored Italian Apertif with a mix of sweetness, bitterness and spices—similar to Campari but with a sweeter twist. Combine that with prosecco and soda water and you have the most refreshing, easy sipping Summertime cocktail that will take you straight to the beaches of Positano. Ciao, prego, prego!
Please take me back to Italy.
View as we pulled up to the shores of the village of Positano in the Amalfi Coast. Does it ever rain in Positano?
Pepper crusted blue cheese burgers are OUT OF THIS WORLD. I’m telling you, arguably the world’s greatest patty (besides my wife). The method consists of combining garlic, salt, and blue cheese in a colossal 3/4 inch thick grass-fed beef patty and coating the edges in cracked black peppercorns, for a spicy, peppery exterior.
This burger is big, bad, and loaded with flavor. My friend bought the original inspiration for this burger at a local butcher shop. The beef patties were of course formed with crumbled blue cheese and coated in cracked peppercorns. You wouldn’t believe how thick these burgers were. They seriously looked like a 2 inch thick tenderloin steak. We had to flatten them out on the grill so they would actually cook.
This burger needs to be kept relatively simple—the flavor is all in the beef patty. Chipotle mayonnaise, leaf lettuce, grilled red onion and cheddar cheese on a toasted, buttered brioche bun. I suppose you could plop this bad boy on your own favorite burger combo, but this is just how I do it. I can’t say it’s the ultimate burger, but it could be the perfect burger.
Let’s talk about grass-fed burgers for a minute. A lot of upscale restaurants serve grass-fed beef over grain-fed beef. The beef is more flavorful (in my opinion), it’s juicer, and it’s usually leaner. Who doesn’t love a good hockey puck burger, right?
If you’re looking for a trusted grass-fed beef that is 100% grass-fed and true to the burger flavor you love, then PRE Brands has got you covered. As a grain-fed burger guy the majority of my life, I can tell you PRE’s beef will not disappoint. Check them out here. One last perk—grass fed burgers won’t crumble apart on you when grilling. It’s like magic.
If you live in New England you can grab PRE at Shaw’s or Star Market. Also Jet.com and Amazon Fresh.
Now, if you’re looking for a complementary cocktail for your burger, look no further than the classic whiskey sour—and when I say classic whiskey sour, I mean made from scratch. No shortcuts or sour mix. Nasty. The true whiskey sour is made with fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and an egg white for a frothy finish. The bourbon and beef combo is a match made in heaven (is there honestly anything better?), and the whiskey sour is the perfect Summer cocktail for all my whiskey lovers out there. Side note, Hudson Baby Bourbon is my new go-to.
1 pound PRE 92% Lean Ground Beef, made into 2 8 oz patties (or 3 5oz)
2 brioche buns, buttered and toasted
2 slices sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 inch thick cut red onion slice, grilled
leaf or romaine lettuce
2-3 tablespoons cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons chipotle mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch of salt
melted butter, for toasting buns
Classic Whiskey Sour
2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 egg white
Combine ground beef, blue cheese, salt, and garlic powder in a bowl. Thoroughly mix all ingredients together using your hands and form into 2 8 ounce burger patties (roughly 3/4 -1 inch thick). Lightly coat the edges of the burger with about 1 tablespoon of cracked black pepper (or to taste). More pepper will be slightly spicier.
On medium-high heat, grill for 6-7 minutes per side, flipping once, until fully cooked through (for medium).
Grill the entire slice of red onion for 2-3 minutes per side, separate slices when serving. Lightly toast the buttered buns flat side down. Top each burger with a slice of cheddar cheese for the last 30 seconds of grilling if desired.
Assemble burgers with leaf lettuce, beef patty, grilled red onion, and chipolte mayonnaise.
For the whiskey sour
Combine all ingredients except for the cherry in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Pour into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with cherry.
Fire up a round of spicy jalapeño margaritas! If you’re a tequila lover and you like spicy food—the spicy jalapeño margarita won’t disappoint.
Patty and I went to one of my favorite cocktail bars in Boston called ‘Drink.’ The allure is they don’t have a cocktail menu. Instead, you tell the bartender what flavors you like or what you’re in the mood for, and they will surprise you with a cocktail using the elements you describe. It sounds risky, but they do a really good job and appeal to the masses. If you’re from the Boston area, I recommend you check it out.
Anyway, when it was my turn to order I said I wanted something with tequila, to which our bartender replied with “how do you feel about spicy?” And of course, I said let’s rock and roll. The drink was a spicy jalapeño infused tequila cocktail served straight up in a martini glass. From that moment on, I found myself craving spicy cocktails. I’ve tried spicy manhattans, spicy chocolate martinis, and now the spicy jalapeño margarita. You’d be surprised how popular spicy cocktails are. It’s a rather unique way to mix up a cocktail, but if done with just the right amount of spiciness, it’s a very refreshing twist.
I started this recipe with a classic margarita, added honey in place of simple syrup (sugar) and elderflower liquor in place of triple sec. This is a from-scratch cocktail that uses no artificial sweeteners or mixes. The result is really fresh margarita with natural jalapeño spice. The heat is very subtle if you ONLY use the jalapeño as a garnish. If you prefer more spiciness (LIKE ME), shake the jalapeños in the shaker along with the ice to fully infuse the cocktail. Now if you’re addicted and want to make your own homemade infused jalapeño tequila (ME), you can soak 3-4 jalapeño slices (or more) in a fifth of tequila overnight.
A quick note, not all jalapeños are created equal. Some are duds and some are hot. I recommend you pick up 2-3 and try a small bite to gauge the heat before you burn your house down or are left wondering why you just taste vegetables in your margarita.
For the salted rim, take a lime wedge and coat the rim of a rocks glass. Dip in margarita salt, rotating until coated.
Combine all ingredients (except for the ice) in a cocktail shaker. Stir until honey fully dissolves into the cocktail.
Add a cup of ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Pour straight into the old fashioned glass with the (now crushed) ice from the shaker. Garnish with a lime wedge. (for less heat, don’t shake the jalapeño into the cocktail, only add as garnish and stir).
Be sure to dissolve the honey into the drink before adding ice. This is to prevent the honey from freezing/clumping when shaking.
This is a very special post because it officially marks the 100th Kitchen Swagger recipe! I thought the occasion called for a celebratory drink, so Patty and I set out to create an original cocktail in honor of our mini milestone.
The number 100 cocktail.
Because of our intrigue with classic cocktails, we wanted to come up with something that had a vintage feel. Patty originally was looking for a 100 year old cocktail we could feature, but we couldn’t quite find anything. We did come across a very rare, and famous cocktail bible that was actually published in 1917, 100 years old this year. The book is called Recipes for Mixed Drinks, by Hugo R. Ensslin, the head bartender of a New York City Hotel.
The 75 page book was written as a simple guide of current popular cocktails served in New York City at the time. In 1917, you could buy a copy directly from Ensslin for 50 cents. The Washington Post actually called it the most influential cocktail book to date, because it accurately portrays what people were drinking during the Prohibition era. It was also the last published cocktail book before Prohibition started.
Ensslin’s book got us to thinking. Many of the early 20th century cocktails contained maraschino liqueur (see Aviation), an interesting cherry liqueur made from sour Marasca cherries. Further, on page 12 there is a classic champagne cocktail that is still popular today. Champagne is the perfect celebratory drink, so we decided it would be the perfect foundation of our celebratory cocktail.
After nearly killing a bottle of champagne with trials, we reached our original champagne cocktail that incorporates maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, and simple syrup. The number 100 cocktail does have a very vintage feel. It’s slightly sweet, but not too sweet. The maraschino liqueur and lemon lets you know you’re drinking more than just a glass of champagne. This would be the perfect drink to kickstart your cocktail party or any special occasion.
So cheers to Kitchen Swagger’s 100th recipe and cheers to you, the loyal readers, for making all of this possible.
The Aviation cocktail will give you wings. Seriously. I stalked the Aviation cocktail for months before trying it at a local speakeasy cocktail bar. It’s a Prohibition-era martini, consisting of gin, maraschino liqueur (cherry), crème de violette, and fresh lemon juice. It’s got a slight violet hue and it’s nothing short of amazing. Half of the ingredients are ordinary, the other half are…say that again?
The more I experiment with cocktails from the 1900’s, the more I appreciate the 1900’s in general (seriously, hear me out). It’s amazing to think that a lot of our favorite cocktails we drink today have stood the rigorous test of time.
You probably don’t even consciously realize it, but your weekend go-to, be it the margarita, gin and tonic, cosmopolitan, old fashioned, you name it, was probably created by a bartender nearly 100 years ago. These drinks feel mainstream until you really think about the history. But why are some cocktails so popular while others seem like forgotten treasures?
The Aviation is one of those unheard of treasures. It’s a cocktail you’ve probably never heard of, but need to get to know RIGHT now. Up until a year ago, I had never heard of the Aviation. I started to see it in TV shows, online, in restaurants, EVERYWHERE. It’s one of those things you don’t notice until you actually notice it—and then you see it all over the place.
The Aviation cocktail is smooth, flowery, assertive, yet sweet. Like nothing you’ve ever tasted—so I honestly don’t know what to compare it to. The key ingredient is Luxardo, maraschino liqueur. It adds a very subtle boozy, cherry finish. It’s worth picking up because it appears in so many other classic cocktails. If you don’t believe me, you can read a whole host of cocktails here.
Give the Aviation a shot and see if you sink or soar. It’s one of those cocktails, Patty and I can both agree on. I’m whiskey, she’s fruity, this one is right down the middle.
Have you ever had a Bohemian cocktail? Most of you probably haven’t, but it’s a classic cocktail that consists of gin, fresh grapefruit juice, elderflower liqueur, and Peychaud’s bitters. Up until this past Summer I hadn’t heard of it either. Patty and I went to one of our favorite cocktail bars in Boston, called Drink. This place is famous for its interesting take on a cocktail menu, or lack there of. You tell the bartender what flavors or liquor you like and they surprise you with a well-crafted cocktail. Just give me anything tequila.
Patty asked for gin and elderflower and received the Bohemian cocktail. After some research, I was able to recreate this delicious cocktail at home, but with my own personal twist—a foamy egg white head.
I’ve always been intrigued by egg white foam in cocktails. It wasn’t until I tried it in a San Francisco bar, that I realized how much character it introduces to a cocktail. It adds zero flavor to the drink, but adds a very unique frothy and velvety texture to any cocktail. It’s also very easy to make.
Let’s talk more about the elderflower foam. Elderflower foam is the combination of egg whites shaken with elderflower liqueur. This adds a hint of elderflower flavor to the foamy head. I’ve made egg white foam with fresh cracked egg whites, but I typically use pasteurized liquid egg whites sold in a carton. The pasteurizing process kills any bacteria so it’s safe to consume raw. Liquid egg whites are also easier to deal with—picture disaster scenario fishing egg yolks and bits of egg shells out of your egg whites while your guests eagerly await your new drink!
To make the foam, simply pour one ounce of egg white into a cocktail shaker and dry shake (no ice) like a crazy person for about 30 seconds until thick and foamy. Finish off your Bohemian cocktail with a classy white crown and enjoy.
1 ounce egg white (I use pasteurized liquid egg whites)
1/2 ounce elderflower liqueur
Combine first 4 ingredients in a cocktail with a cup of ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass.
Combine egg whites and elderflower liqueur in the cocktail shaker and dry shake vigorously (with no ice), for 30 seconds until egg whites are foamy. Top the Bohemian cocktail with egg white foam and serve.
Hook me up to an IV of eggnog – I love this stuff.
Eggnog is my official holiday drink. It was always our family’s tree decorating tradition when I was growing up as a kid. It was a HUGE deal. I still drink it every Christmas to this day. I guess it’s a nostalgic tradition at this point, however I still love the taste.
So with Christmas right around the corner, I thought I would introduce the eggnog holiday cocktail (this is a little different than what I was drinking when I was 7—that variation used whiskey. KIDDING). The eggnog cocktail consists of chilled eggnog, baileys/Irish cream, and vanilla vodka, sprinkled with ground cinnamon. Tis the season in a glass. The eggnog cocktail tastes like a creamy, frothy twist of chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. But Shawn, what if I’m not a huge fan of eggnog like you? I think you should try it anyway. The eggnog flavor is not overly present and simply adds a hint of creamy vanilla flavor. So it’s much more than just sipping on spiked eggnog. If you need more convincing, Patty was never an eggnog drinker and now she’s a true believer.
Serve on the rocks or straight up in a glass—this is entirely up to you. Just don’t forget to shake it up.