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.
1 1/2 oz Old Tom Gin [Hayman’s]
1 oz Etrog Liqueur [Sukkah Hill Spirits]
1/2 oz Gential Amaro [Lo-Fi Spirits]
Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon leaf.
Monday was the start of one of the less splashy Jewish holidays, Sukkot. It’s a holiday that celebrates the last harvest of the year, and the three walled structure, called a sukkah, represents the temporary dwellings constructed by farmers in the field. The inside is decorated with, among other things, leaves from date, myrtle, and willow trees, as well as etrogs. These are fruits from the citron tree, and are one of the original citrus fruits from which all other citrus originated.
My friends at Sukkah Hill Spirits produce a wonderful etrog liqueur, so I figured it’s time for a Sukkot cocktail. When thinking about constructing this drink, I decided to take inspiration from the most recognizable symbol of the holiday, a sukkah. These three sided, temporary structures are a place for the family to gather and celebrate the holiday. Along with representing farmers’ dwellings, they also represent the temporary structures the Israelites built while wandering the desert for forty years. So, a three ingredient drinked is a perfect way to tie everything together.
Now back to the traditional etrog. What I love most about this liqueur is while it has plenty of citrus going on, there is also a strong floral aspect to it you don’t often find in fruit liqueurs. I wanted to play on that botanical aspect even more, so I pulled in some Gentian Amaro from Lo-Fi spirits. While there is a slight bitterness in this bottle, the perfumey aromas and floral bouquet of flavors is really what stands out. It’s a great compliment to the etrog liqueur. Lastly I used some Old Tom gin, again to highlight the botanicals but also bring in some much needed sweetness.
The Three Walls is very aromatic on the nose. Flowers, herbs, and spices all dance above the glass, with a hint of citrus. The etrog works its way through on the sip, combining with the bitter amaro for a strong, zesty kick. Gin keeps everything from turning into a flower shop, while also complimenting the citrus of the etrog. The sip is smooth and delicate, but this is still a pretty boozy drink. The finish has a some alcohol bite, but the citrus and botanicals finally usher everything down.
It was pretty fun to incorporate a traditional Sukkot ingredient into this drink. Maybe by next year I can take things to the next level and grab a bottle of Mirto Liqueur. It’s made from the berries of the myrtle tree, whose leaves are another traditional decoration of a Sukkah.
3/4 oz Mezcal [Fidencio]
3/4 oz Drambuie
3/4 oz House Mango Kiwi Shrub
3/4 oz Lime Juice
Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with kiwi and dried mango.
As I’ve mentioned before, Mrs. Muddle rides hard for Mezcal. If we go out and there is a mezcal drink on the menu, smart money says she’ll order it. Likewise, when we’re making drinks at home, she’ll often request one with that agave spirit. I feel like I’ve made a mezcal drink with almost every other bottle in my bar.
After such extensive research, I feel confident in declaring the mezcal and Drambuie combo a true winner. There is something that happens when the succulent smoke of mezcal combines with the warm whiskey and honey notes of Drambuie. It almost doesn’t matter what else you put around it. Stirred spiritous drinks are always a good bet, but this week I wanted to lighten things up.
Over the summer I made a mango kiwi shrub, and I figured it would provide some lovely hight notes to a mezcal and drambuie drink. Some lime juice also added a citrusy punch.
The Victory Formation starts out with the trademark smokey aromas of mezcal. Mango and kiwi notes add a ripe fruit scent, as some herbs from Drambuie peek through. The sip starts smoky, but then the acidic punch of citrus and vinegar cuts through. An earthy vegetal quality seeps in too, as the Drambuie and mezcal join forces. Then the sweetness from the Drambuie accentuates the fruits for a bit of tropicality. The finish is smooth and full, with all the flavors coming through for one last hurrah.
Remember the combined power of mezcal and Drambuie next time you think of a drink with either one. It’s a pairing that doesn’t seem to work on the surface, but after a few sips you realize the whole is truly greater than the sum of their parts.
1 1/2 oz Ginger Whiskey [Misunderstood Whiskey]
3/4 oz House Blackberry Cinnamon shrub
1/2 oz Licor 43
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
Shake with ice, strain into an ice filled rocks glass. Garnish with crystalized ginger and blackberries.
My parents really seem to have this whole retirement thing down pretty well. They are pros at keeping themselves busy. Adult education classes at local colleges, random performances in and around town, along with traditional hobbies like biking, knitting, and reading all fill their day. Real talk though, the activity that gets me most excited about retirement is their wine, beer, and booze tasting circuit.
They know when all their favorite liquor stores have various tastings during the week, and usually hit a few over a couple of days. When it’s a spirit tasting, they don’t hesitate to act as my de facto street PR team and talk up Mr. Muddle to whoever is pouring that day. On their latest trip up to visit, they brought me a bottle of Misunderstood ginger spiced whiskey they tried before they left NJ. In fact, when I posted a quick story to instagram and tagged @misunderstoondwhiskey, the owners replied and mentioned how nice it was to meet my parents. I couldn’t help but laugh.
Misunderstood starts with a solid whiskey made from a mostly corn mash, with a little rye and malted barley to round things out. As a result of the corn, the whiskey is just on the slightly sweeter end of the spectrum, lots of toffee and vanilla notes here. Then it’s infused with ginger, which brings a whole different flavor profile to the bottle. In a way, the ginger takes the place of rye as it provides its own spiciness, but it also tempers the finish and makes the swallow nice and smooth. It’s quite tasty on it’s own or with some club soda as a warm weather sipper.
When it came time try something a little more creative, I decided to build a drink around the whiskey and a homemade blackberry cinnamon shrub I had in the fridge. Cinnamon and ginger is a can’t miss combo, and I had high hopes for the low notes from the blackberries. Finally, to add more citrus and a touch more sweetness, I grabbed Licor 43 and some lemon.
The Hot Mic started with the warm aroma of ginger and cinnamon, underscored by the classic caramel notes from the whiskey. The spices continue to lead the charge on the sip, but then the whiskey and berries kick in and start to round things out. Vanilla plays off the berries and whiskey to add a floral sweetness, and the citrus adds to the already present zing from the ginger. The finish is smooth, with more ginger and toffee notes. It’s dangerously drinkable.
Misunderstood whiskey is definitely a whiskey first, and a tasty, drinkable one at that. The addition of fresh ginger really adds a welcomed new dimension, and certainly lends itself to refreshing drinks. However, I’m looking forward to seeing how it will play as the warmer weather sets in. I bet it will perform just as well in that setting too. If you are a whiskey lover (or even if you’re skeptical about the brown stuff), I highly recommend grabbing a bottle.
2 oz Everything bagel shake infused rye whiskey
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
1/4 oz Lemon juice
Few Dashes Black Cloud Bitters Garden Party Bitters
Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray celery soda
Rim Collins glass with everything bagel shake, set aside. Add everything but soda to a mixing glass with ice. Shake, strain into ice filled Collins glass. Top with ~3 oz celery soda, garnish with lemon spiral and celery.
After 15+ years of living in Boston, there are tons of things I love about this part of the country. The history, proximity to skiing, abundant seafood, and such. But there is one thing this Jersey boy still misses desparately…Bagels. Even the best bagel in Boston is a mediocre NJ/NY bagel at best.
So every time we go visit family in Jerz, we bring back a dozen PROPER bagels (we’ll even get family to bring some up when they visit). Usually a mix of everything, sesame, poppy, onion and garlic. Now, obviously the bagels are the best part – with a schmear, in a breakfast sandwich, with butter and melted cheese – it’s all truly delicious. However, just like the Native Americans used every part of the buffalo, I won’t let any part of this sack of goodness go to waste. That includes the bagel shake at the bottom of the bag.
All the seasonings that aren’t strong enough to cling to the dough end up gathered at the bottom. After the bagels are done (or sliced and put in the freezer), I’ll dump out all this tastiness for future use. Try it in mashed potatoes, you’ll thank me later. Or you can channel a nice deli breakfast and season a salmon fillet with it and throw it on the grill. This leftover gold has found it’s way into many foodstuffs, but this year I decided to take to the next level and infuse it into some booze.
I did two infusions – vodka, which made a mean bloody mary; and rye whiskey, again channeling the flavors of a classic deli. Also, it just so happens a few months back I bought some Dr. Browns Cel-Ray, and have been struggling to make a cocktail with it. This savory soda is a staple at Jewish Delis across NYC. It’s peppery, slightly vegetal flavor is somewhat of an acquired taste, but once you get into it you’re hooked.
My everything-infused rye was a perfect match for this oddball of a drink. I decided to keep things simple and basically do a riff on a whiskey highball, adding some lemon and simple syrup to round things out. The nose was a lovely combination of whiskey notes, the soda, and hints of the bagel bag. On the sip I was thankful for the lemon, as that cut the savoriness enough to make it quite sippable. The spiciness from the rye played off the everything seasoning nicely. The finish was more of that classic Cel-Ray taste, followed by a boozy bite from the rye.
I’m so excited I was finally able to combine to of my greatest loves…booze and bagels. Next time you get a dozen bagels (even if they’re not from NY/NJ), keep that delicious shake at the bottom. You’ll be surprised in how you can use it.
2 oz Amber Rum [Albany Distilling Co]
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth [Dolin]
1/4-1/2 oz lime juice (to desired tartness)
Few dashes Dry Sarsaparilla Bitters [Bad Dog Bar Craft]
Shake with ice, strain into an ice filled rocks glass. Garnish with lime twist.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my bar. Over the years, I’ve amassed a nice variety of bottles that allow me plenty of options when it comes time to mix a drink. Sometimes though, those endless options can be paralyzing (see: The Paradox of Choice). I’ll stare blankly at the bar trying to formulate various combinations in my head. This can be exhausting (first world problems, I know – but still).
So when I was away last week with some friends, I had a somewhat liberating experience. We rented a house on a lake in the Adirondacks, where many a beer was consumed. Of course, I couldn’t roll up there sans booze, so I brought some stuff to make Perfect Manhattans. As a bonus, one of the other guys brought a bottles of amber rum from Albany Distilling Co.
At some point on the second night, my friends called me into duty, requesting a cocktail with said rum. I walked into the kitchen, and upon seeing the limited bottles to work with, came up with something in what felt like record time. I grabbed the sweet vermouth and a lime, added a few dashes of bitters and a new drink was born.
The Rum at Me, Bro is a nice balance of sweet and tart. Citrus and molasses dominate the nose, and continue to mingle on the sip. The sweet vermouth and rum play off each other’s sweetness, while providing a counterpoint to the zesty lime. Sarsaparilla bitters highlight the vanilla notes in the rum, and everything ends with a cool, refreshing finish.
The crew agreed this one was a keeper, the only thing left was to give it a name. Puns flew around left and right, but as soon as one of my friends yelled “Rum at Me, Bro”, I knew the discussion was over.
You can surprise yourself when you need to create a drink under certain constraints. It’s worth remembering that next time you’re stuck staring at your own bar. Maybe try setting some artificial boundaries to try to get you out of the decision loop.