2 oz Barrel Aged Gin [Caledonia Spirts Tom Cat]
1/2 oz Maple Syrup
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
Shake with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.
A few weeks ago I went on a ski trip with some friends for the weekend to Jay Peak in Vermont. Knowing that I enjoy a good cocktail now and then, one of them suggested I come up with a drink we could all enjoy. Having to manage a range of tastebuds can sometimes be challenging, so I often start with the classics. In this case, the Bee’s Knees was my inspiration.
Being the lover of whiskey that I am, I wanted to bring things closer to the brown spirit end of the spectrum. Instead of the traditional gin, I swapped in a barrel aged version for slightly more depth and roastiness. And since we were in Vermont, maple syrup seemed like the obvious choice for the sweetener. In fact, I even went one step further by grabbing a bottle of Bar Hill Tom Cat gin from Caledonia Spirits in – you guessed it – Vermont.
Top of Jay Peak
They take their normal gin (made with some local raw honey, so it’s already a good start for a Bee’s Knee’s variation) and age it new American Oak barrels. The botanicals definitely still shine through, but I really enjoy the way the honey bridges the gap from flowers to wood. PSA: This gin also makes a mean Martniez.
As for my Bee’s Skis, all I needed was the usual lemon and the drink was complete. The aroma was very floral, with some citrus notes coming through as well. The sip had more botanicals and brightness from the lemon, complimented by the syrup and wood. I actually added a touch more lemon than my usual Bee’s Knees to account for the sweeter maple syrup. The balance was lovely, and I definitely need to find other ways to pair this gin and maple. Even better, all my friends enjoyed it and I ended up mixing up a few rounds over the weekend.
Next time someone suggests you make a special drink, start with the classics. What’s more, pick one that has a few ingredients but is easily customizable. I could have taken the Bee’s Knees template in a number of directions, but I let the Vermont setting be my guide, and it turned out just fine.
2 oz Dark Rum [Havana Club 7 yr]
3/4 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz house toasted coconut syrup
Shake with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime twist.
I’m headed down to Florida on Friday, so I figured it’s a great time to dust off my semi-recurring Better Know a Classic series with an entry on the humble Daquiri (the Fightin’ Daqs). Now, we’re not talking about the frozen, fruity, sweet concoctions served on a cruise ship or the beach of an all inclusive resort. No, we’re talking about the more refined, and just as flavorful combo of rum, citrus, and sugar.
So why does my impending Florida trip inspire me to write about daquiris? Because they are thought to have originated in Cuba and named after a local beach. Various accounts (read: Wikipedia) attribute its creation to either an American mining engineer working in Cuba, or a Congressman who owned a mine in that country. Either way, somewhere at the turn of the 20th century Daquiris started gaining localized popularity. It really began to blow up in the end of the Aughts when Rear Admiral Lucious W. Johnson tried the drink in Cuba and brought it back to the Army and Navy Club in Washington D.C, from which it began to spread around the country.
At it’s heart, a daquiri is really just a basic sour drink, with rum in place of whiskey. There are no hard and fast rules on which type of rum to use – it’s more of a personal preference. That’s the beauty of this simple drink. You can get a whole range of flavors by using a clean white rum all the way up to a woody, heavily aged rum. It all depends on your mood.
Standard simple syrup and lime juice round out this classic. The recipe is dead simple – 2 oz of rum, 3/4 oz each lime juice and simple syrup. Really though, this is just a starting point. Feel free to tweak the proportions if you prefer things more tart or more sweet. It’s all about hitting that perfect balance of rum, citrus, and sugar.
Another great thing about the daquiri is its customizability. Use grapefruit in addition to lime and add a quarter ounce of Maraschino liqueur and you got yourself a Hemingway daquiri (the man was quite a fan, what with living and Cuba and all). Or do what I did and get funky with the syrup. I added some toasted coconut to my simple syrup, and it really took things to an uber-tropical level. Coconut is already at home in many tiki drinks, and here it brought in some earthy sweetness. I also decided to use an aged rum (from Cuba because: Daquiri) to play off the roastiness of the syrup. Point is, whether you stay traditional or put your own spin on it, it doesn’t get much simpler or tastier than this classic.
1 1/2 oz Brandy [Monteru]
3/4 oz Creme de Menthe [Short Path]
1/2 oz Homemade Bailey’s
1/4 oz Creme de Cacao [Tempus Fugit]
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake, and stain into an ice filled rocks glass.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and I have the perfect gift idea. Sure, flowers or chocolates are pretty traditional, but booze is way more fun. DIY gifts are always more personal and meaningful, so what if I told you there was a way to create a delicious, sweet, boozy gift for your SO that could be ready RIGHT NOW.
I’m talking about homemade Bailey’s Irish cream, which I got from Smitten Kitchen. I often head to Deb’s site for dinner ideas, but this was my first drinkable recipe from her. And man, did this thing deliver. The ease of prepartation-to-deliciousness on this one is through the roof. All you need is cocoa powder, whipping cream, condensed milk, vanilla extract, and some irish whiskey (natch). I used an Irish whiskey from Boston because…drink local. You can even add in a bit of instant espresso if that’s your thing Whisk together the cocoa powder and a bit of cream, slowly adding more until it’s a thick paste. Then add everything else, whisk to combine, and you’re good to go. Put it in a fancy bottle for style points and amaze your partner with a handmade gift.
Of course, this stuff is super delicious on its own, but this is a cocktail blog…so let’s make a cocktail! I wanted to capture some of that Valentine’s day spirit so I knew some creme de cacao would be involved. Knowing the Bailey’s already had some whiskey in it, I opted for some Brandy as the base spirit. Finally, creme de menthe added a lovely cooling sensation to everything to lighten it all up. In fact, it bascially ended up being a cross between a Brandy Alexander and a Grasshopper, with the cream in both replaced with the homemade Irish cream.
The silkiness of this drink is amazing. The brandy and creme de menthe give it just enough kick to counterbalance the sweet irish creme and creme de cacao. And you know what, probably not bad idea to gab some chocolates to share with your special someone after you pour this over ice. After all, what is Valentine’s Day without a bit of indulgence?
1 oz Rock and Rye [NY Distilling Co]
1 oz Amaro Angeleno
1/2 oz Averna
1/2 oz Drambuie
Stir with ice, strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with lemon (or orange) twist.
Low ABV drinks are totally a thing, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Not every drink needs to be a split base stiff sipper with overproof rum and bottled and bond whiskey (wait, that actually sounds kind of good…). Sometimes you want to be able to have a few but still keep your wits about you or enjoy an early afternoon drink and get on with your day.
That doesn’t mean they need to be laden with fruit juice and syrups to lighten the load either. And sure, you could go the Spritz route with a lively aperitif and soda combo, sometimes you still want the strong, stirred experience without all the booze.
I often reach for Amaris in this situation. They bring plenty of flavor to the table while usually sporting an ABV of somewhere around the 30% mark. Pair them with a whiskey or rum based liqueur, and you can have yourself a complex drink that won’t bowl you over.
Case in point, this little number I put together. It uses one of my other favorite low ABV secret weapons, Rock and Rye. I love this bottle. It’s got enough whiskey notes to almost fool you into thinking it’s the real deal, complimented with bitter orange flavors and a unique sweetness from rock candy. Playing off the bitter orange notes, I split the base with Amaro Angeleno. This California amaro brings in more oranges, plus a bright bouquet of other herbs and the perfect amount of bitterness as a counterpoint the Rock and Rye.
Averna and Drambuie are the supporting players, and bring in some low notes to balance the high notes of the Rock and Rye and Angeleno. There is a similar interplay here, with the sweetness from the heather honey in the Drambuie pushing up against the bitterness of Averna. Side note, I need to make more drinks with these two bottles.
If no one told you, you wouldn’t know this drink was low ABV. The two whiskey based bottles and two Amaris bring some much flavor to the glass. Bright Citrus form the Rock and Rye and Angeleno jumps out on the nose and on the sip, and then the warming tones of whiskey and sugar work their way in. The drink has a silky, medium body, and the bitterness is nice and sharp on the finish. This could work in the middle of the day or for a nightcap that won’t ruin your morning.
Moral of the story is: Don’t sleep on those low ABV drinks!
1 oz Swedish Punsch [Kronan]
1 oz White Rum [Privateer]
1/2 oz Bully Boy Amaro
1/2 oz Oloroso Sherry
Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist.
Wow, has it only been a month since the last Bottle Swap post? Time flies when you’re not posting much (I know, I know…I’ve been a little lax lately). Anyway, here we are, talking Swedish Punsch. As usual, head over to Garnish Girl’s corner of the internet to see what Katie did with her half of the bottle in the Doctor Bird.
Let’s start with the basics – that is, what the hell exactly is Swedish Punsch? First things first, it’s not a “punch” at all, not in the way most people are familair with the word. Punsch actually refers to the method of creating this liqueur – combining alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, and spices or tea. The alcohol in this case is a blend of Batavia Arrack and rum, along with a healthy dose of island spices. After all, this stuff was created in the early 1700s by the Swedish East Indies Co. They were already importing Batavia Arrack from Java, and their sailors started taking their rations of booze and combined them with the local spices. The interplay of the of the spirits and spices was quite tasty, and a new drink was born. Eventually, companies started bottling these concoctions for sale, and Swedish Punsch was born.
Given its components, Swedish Punsch is both familiar and odd at the same time. The classic molasses sweetness from the rum is certainly there, but with a little extra funk from the Arrack. All the spices take that familiarity in a different direction, and even to different places depending on your mindset. You could easily drift to a tropical tiki paradise, or get cozy under all the warm spices. This makes it a rather versatile bottle.
For the Field Promotion, I doubled down on the rum component and split the base between the Punsch and a local white rum. High notes came in the form of Bully Boy Amaro (more local love), which has citrus and hops flavors abound. Finally, a nutty oloroso sherry provided a complex foundation for it all to rest on. There were lots of aromas swirling above the glass, from the spices in the punsch to the citrus and botanicals in the Amaro. The sip was smooth at first, but the sharp edges from the Amaro worked their way through. Sherry brought out the cozier side of the spices in the punsch, helping everything finish with an inviting warmth on the swallow.
I’m certainly excited to have this bottle in my arsenal, and I can wait to try to take things in a more tiki direction. Reaping the rewards of the Bottle Swap never gets old, so find a friend, pick some bottles, and gets to swapping yourself (and don’t forget to check out Katie’s drink)!
1 ½ oz Mezcal [Fidencio]
.75 oz Spiced Pear Liqueur [St. George Spirits]
.75 oz Licor 43
Stir with ice, strain into a cockail glass. Garnish with pear slice.
Guess what? It’s time for our 5th (!) installment in the bottle swap series. As a brief refresher, the Bottle Swap is that thing Garnish Girl and I do where we each buy a bottle of something, and then trade half of that bottle with the other person. So, for the price of one bottle, we each end up with two things on our wish lists. It’s a win win. Previous installments included gingerliqueur, AnchoReyes, Suze (hers; mine), and bananaliqueur. Now it’s time to get down with St. George Spiced Pear! Be sure to check out Katie’s Spiced Pear Punch before you read any further!
I’ve stared this bottle down on the shelves during many a trip to the liquor store. Probably cuz I’m always seeing other people’s tasty posts on the ‘grams. For what ever reason though, I never actually pulled the trigger. Lucky for me, it’s bottle swap to the rescue.
For these swaps, I like to try to get bottles with flavors that aren’t well represented in my bar. I have a fair amount of your standardish fruit liqueurs (like orange and cherry), as well as some more esoteric bottles (eg Slivovitz plum brandy and arctic cloudberry), but nary a bottle of pear anything up until now. Which is a shame really, cuz I love pears.
This particular bottle is from St. George Spirits (you might want to check out their gin, or Bruto Americano, coffee liqueur, or anything really), and is actually an amped up version of the Pear Brandy, made with almost 30 lbs of Bartlett pears per bottle. They add some warm baking spices to the base to change the profile a bit. Those spices make this spirit perfect for crisp fall days are even to for joining in on all the holiday flavors flying around right now. Don’t be fooled by it’s festive nature though, this is still a pear forward sip.
Using Mezcal as a base felt like an intriguing proposition. The smokiness would blend well with the spices, and I had a hunch about the pear and agave combo. I wanted to keep things pretty simple, so the only other bottle to join the party is Licor 43. Let’s be honest, vanilla and pear are totally a power couple.
The Decider Ring started off with lots of smoke and pear on the nose, rounded out by hints of cinnamon and clove. Pear comes through on the sip, highlighted nicely by the vanilla in the Licor 43. Agave brings in some earthiness as it rides with the spices, and vanilla keeps it all smooth. The finish is more pear, which is rather impressive considering it’s sharing a glass with that loud mouth Mezcal. As for the name – well, that’s just another on I pulled off my long list of potential names. Always works in a pinch.
Don’t forget to head over to Garnish Girl’s blog to see what she did with her half of the bottle. Even better, find a friend to do a bottle swap of your own! And stay tuned to see what else we traded in the next installment.
2 oz bacon fat washed Pisco [Macchu Pisco]
.5 oz Parmesan cheese infused Dry Vermout [Dolin]
.5 oz Crushed red pepper and pasta water simple syrup
1 whole egg
Combine ingredients in a shaker, dry shake to emulsify the egg. Add ice and shake again. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with parmesan crisps and bacon pieces.
For those who mostly frequent my blog, let me tell you about a little monthly instagram contest run by @homebarawards. Every month, they pick a different theme, then amateurs and professionals across the interwebs submit recipes based on said theme. Passed contests have been low-waste based, Bowie based, story based, and even Star Wars based (obvs). Oh, and I may have come in third in that last one.
Anyway, it’s a great opportunity to really think outside the box and challenge myself creatively and culinarily. This month the theme is savory cocktails. As luck would have it, I recently went to Better Sorts Social Club here in Boston shortly after they opened, and their cocktail menu is on point. The drink that really caught my eye was the Cacio e Pepi Martini. This twist on a classic was inspired by the simple yet flavorful pasta dish of the same name, which is an amazing combo of parm cheese and black pepper that you should go eat right now. For their drink, they used vodka, gouda-infused dry vermouth, and pasta water and black pepper simple syrup. And let me tell you, they nailed it. The kick from the black pepper (the signature flavor of the dish) was right up front, and the pasta water simple syrup really brought all the savory elements together.
Upon the first sip, my wheels started turning. How else could I use this pasta water simple? What other dishes can I cocktailify? Eventually, I thought of pasta carbonara. The classic dish of egg, bacon, and cheese was the perfect candidate, mostly cuz I could just make the drink a flip to incorporate the egg. And who doesn’t like infusing booze with bacon? Or cheese?
With my rough plan put together, time to talk about the spirits. I wanted to loosely keep with the Martini drink template, so that meant some dry vermouth got a hunk of parmesan thrown into it. For the base spirit, I wanted to take things in a different direction and avoid the classic (albeit delicious) trope of bacon infused brown spirits. First I thought genever could work, but there were too many botanicals swirling around the bottle. Next I popped open my bottle of Pisco and took a whiff and sip. Nice alcohol heat, clean flavors with a hint of grape that should mesh nicely with some bacon fat. I kept the pasta water simple pretty…simple – just adding a pinch of red pepper flakes for some heat.
After letting everything get to know each other for a few days, I strained out the booze and got to mixing. Obviously a whole egg went into the tin because: carbonara. After a dry shake and a wet shake, I was rewarded with a creamy pale gold drink that captured the dish in a glass.
The aroma was slightly smoky and funky, as the bacon fat and Parmesan worked their way through. The first thing I noticed on the sip was the velvety smooth body, then I picked up some alcohol heat from the Pisco and more smoke and umami from the bacon. The cheese added a sharp edge to things. Just like in the Cacio e Pepi martini, the starchy pasta water simple did a wonder job of holding everything together, adding just the right amount of sweetness and heat.
At the time of publishing, I have no idea how this will fair in the friendly competition. But that’s not really what matters. It was super fun to be so inspired by someone else’s drink, and take that template and make it my own. The lesson here is you never know when inspiration will hit you, so keep your mind engine running so you can get the creativity rolling quickly.
1 1/2 oz Blanco Tequila [Espolon]
1 oz Ginger Liqueur [Barrow’s Intense]
1/4 oz Grapefruit Liqueur [Giffard]
1/4 oz Lime Juice
Shake with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with ginger slice and lime twist.
Sometimes it’s nice to have other people get the ball rolling for you. When friends come over, I’ll ask them to give me some of their preferred flavors before making their drink. This way I not only get a sense of what they like, but can think about other drinks with those flavors.
A few weeks ago, I asked my friend what she usually drinks. She responded with two pretty specific answers that set me on the right path. First, she said she likes tequila with a bit of lime and agave. She followed that up with, “also, I’ve been very into Moscow Mules lately”.
Perfect, I could definitely work with this. I decided to throw together a sort of Mule-ified margarita. Tequila and lime provdied the classic marg base. Instead of ginger beer that you’d see in a Mule, I used ginger liqueur for even more bite. Lastly, some grapefruit liqueur to ensure I couldn’t screw things up.
The Mule-arita started off with classic Margarita notes of tequila and citrus. On the sip, you could immediately tell something was up. The ginger raced to the front with it’s trademark kick, and grapefruit provided a welcomed zesty change of pace. Depending on where you focused, you could act like this was a straight margarita variation, or something altogether different. Plus, it was dangerously drinkable, and I ended up making a few more for some other friends before the night was over.
Next time you are playing host, be sure to listen carefully when your friends describe their tastes. Think about some classic drinks that have those flavors, then use it as a launching pad to take things in a new direction. It’s an easy way to lighten your creative load, and expand your personal catalog in the process.
2 oz Gin [Catoctin Creek]
.5 oz grapefruit Oleo Saccharum
.5 oz Italicus
~4 oz hoppy pale ale [Lord Hobo Glorious]
Combine first three ingredients, stir with ice. Strain into a tall glass, top with beer. Garnish with grapefruit twist.
Recently one of my instagram friends @drink_specialistsgr_ offered up a challenge to make a cocktail featuring grapefruit. Perfect, I love grapefruit. I even have some Giffard Pamplemousse liqueur which is so tasty its practically cheating. But I wanted to take things in a different direction, so I decided to make a grapefruit oleo saccharum.
What is oleo saccharum, you ask? Well, *pushes glasses up on nose*, oleo is latin for oil, while saccharum means sugar. So essentially it’s a sugary oil, and was once a key ingredient in punches of yore. It’s a great way to bring that citrus essence to a drink.
The method is pretty simple. Zest a citrus of your choice, add in a bunch of sugar…and wait. After about a day, the sugar will have extracted the oils from the peels, which you then strain out, pressing the peels to get all the goodness out of them. That’s it. I gave the peels a quick rinse with hot water to dissolve the remaining sugar and combined it with the oil. The result is intensely citrusy with a hint of sweetness. If you use lemons, it’s a killer base for good ol’ lemonade
Mine would be a more adult application. While reading about them, someone mentioned using a lemon oleo saccharum in place for the sugar and lemon normally found in the classic French 75. This got my wheels turning, but instead of the traditional champagne, I grabbed a double dry hopped pale ale from Lord Hobo Brewing. It uses galaxy hops which have a very strong citrus note that paired wonderfully with the grapefruit. And to double (triple?) down on the citrus, I added in some Italicus Bergamot liqueur. With all these changes, I kept the base traditional with a gin.
The Railway Howitzer ( named after a different type of WW1 field artillery) was all citrus on the nose. It was almost like the aroma of a freshly sliced grapefruit. The sip was bright and bubbly, with more of the grapefruit and bergamot notes dancing around. Maltiness from the beer crept through, while the botanicals of the gin played off all the citrus. There was just enough sweetness from the oleo saccharum and beer, but this was a zesty ride through and through.
Oleo saccharums are an easy little DIY project that is fully customizeable and very versatile. Now that citrus season is just around the corner (at least here in the northeast), it’s the perfect time to try your hand at one.
1 oz Creme de Menthe [Short Path]
1 oz Americano Blanc [Short Path]
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
Few dashes Garden Party Bitters [Black Cloud Bitters]
Combine ingredients and shake with ice, strain into an ice filled Collins glass. Top with ~3 oz club soda. Garnish with mint and thyme sprig.
It’s really no secret that I ride pretty hard for local spirits (#drinklocal). And not just because of the proximity, but because there plenty of distilleries in and around Boston that are turning out some great bottles. From Bully Boy to Grand Ten to Privateer, they are all bringing something different to the table. Recently though there is one that is taking things to the next level, venturing outside the usual gin/whiskey/rum/vodka world (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
I’m talking about Short Path Distillery, based in Everett just north of Boston. Don’t get me wrong, they definitely nail the fundamentals. I’m particularly a big fan of their Amber Rum and Gin. What I really love is they explore the corners of the booze world. Their Pommeau is a barrel aged apple cordial, and their Rosid is a white rum infused with lemon and hibiscus. They even make their own triple sec. (Also, those bird labels though!)
But I’m really here to talk about my latest purchases from them. First is their Creme de Menthe, which I purchased from their CSA program, (Community Supported Alchohol -see what they did there). For CSA releases, they make small batches with limited supply, only available at the distillery. This allows them some room for experimentation, and some spirits even graduate to full on production. Forget what you know about creme de menthe from college. No sticky sweetness here, just punchy mint with a light botanical overtone in both the nose and sip.
Second is Americano Blanc. This amaro inspired spirit really straddles the line between amaro and dry vermouth. Made from a brandy base using vidal blanc wine, they then add a host of roots and botanicals. Chamomile, bitter orange, and star anise cover the high notes, while classic amaro additions like gentian and angelica cover the low notes. A perfect bottle that evokes the forests of New England.
Each of these bottles has bold flavors complimented by smooth, floral edges, so I decided to see what happened when they joined forces. I added in some Green Chartreuse to up the botanical ante even more, and then lemon juice for a citrusy kick.
The Santili Spritz (named for a road right near the distillery) really did justice to these unique offerings. Mint, herbs, citrus, blossoms all danced around on the nose. The sip was crisp and refreshing, the cooling mint a nice foil to the bracing bitterness. Some of the herbs in the Chartreuse even underscored earthy notes hiding in there. The finish was bright, bitter, zesty, and kept you coming back for more.
Exploring local spirits is always fun. Visiting the distilleries is even better. Here in Massachusetts, they are allowed to have a bar and serve cocktails. The catch is anything alcoholic has to be made on site, so they get pretty creative. I love seeing what Short Path, or any of the local distilleries, are doing with their bottles in different drinks. So get out there and see what your ‘hood has to offer. And take home some boozy souvenirs while you’re at it.