Well, well, well…here we are again just a month out from my annual Christmas party. So to get back into posting again (hopefully) here’s the last cocktail I designed and the first one to post. As per usual I pick one cocktail for each core spirit to highlight and make for my guests throughout the evening. I found this year however, that picking a solid whiskey drink to be the most challenging. Thusly, after a few iterations I settled on this spirit forward creation using Maker’s Mark 46 Bourbon and some homemade ginger syrup.
The Ginger 46 is all about the right presentation, since it’s a simple brown bourbon sour style drink it doesn’t looks like much on it’s own. Adding a skewer of crystalized ginger not only adds a little extra flair, but creates a difference in the flavor experience entirely. On the nose you’re mostly just smelling the bourbon. Maker’s 46 has a wonderful oaky sweetness that is a pleasant start. The cocktail (like any good one) has a threefold layer of flavor. It begins with sweet ginger, moves to the mellow but complex taste of the bourbon, and finishes with another round of ginger, but a bit more tart thanks to the lime and bitters. This cocktail really transforms however, when you take a nibble of the crystalized ginger and chase it with a sip of the cocktail. The ginger comes in sweet thanks to the coating of sugar, but by the time the cocktail hits its tail flavor notes, the spice of the root comes full force at you! Like a slap of gingerbread in the face, the experience is sure to delight your guests this holiday season.
Alcohol Taste Rating: 7.8/10 Overall Rating: 8/10
To be begin start by making a batch of the ginger syrup: 1.5 Cups (360mL) of Water 2 Inch (5-6cm) Peeled Ginger Root 2 Cups (400g) Granulated (White) Sugar
Slice the ginger and add it to a pot of water. Bring to a boil and be sure the water has taken on a light brown color from the ginger. It should also be very fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in sugar until dissolved. Pour into a glass container (preferably disinfected with a little vodka), and seal. Store in fridge and use within 2-3 months.
Ginger 46 2 oz (60mL) Maker’s Mark 46 Bourbon 1/2 oz (15mL) Ginger Syrup 1/4 of a Lime (Squeezed for Juice) 3 Dashes of Orange Bitters Crystalized Ginger
Mix everything but the ginger in a shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain into a small cocktail glass or coupe. Skewer 2-3 pieces of Crystalized Ginger on a pick, and balance on the edge of the glass. Serve and enjoy responsibly!
So, I am simultaneously proud and embarrassed that the “kick off” 2020 post is not a cocktail, and is taking place as late as July! I’ve been meaning to get back to posting cocktails at the very least monthly, but things have routinely gotten in the way this year. Most notably was the COVID-19 pandemic, which shuttered liquor stores in my native Pennsylvania for a solid month and a half. That closure quickly depleted my regular stock of spirits and liqueurs and I’ve been slowly building back to a (smaller) working set.
One particular spirit however that I got the chance to try by ordering directly from a local distillery was “Wigle Pennsylvania Straight Bourbon.” Now I was at first taken aback by the name “bourbon” as I as well as many lovers of the spirit (including my cocktail book) mistakenly thought (think) that bourbon has to be made in Kentucky. However, despite the bulk of the American spirit being produced in KY, that is not the case. Unlike other regional favorites such as Scotch, Irish Whiskey, Tequila, or Champaign, The legal definition of a Bourbon is a spirit distilled from at least 51% corn with a combination of grains including wheat, barley, and rye. It cannot be distilled beyond 160 proof, and cannot be bottled at any less than 80 proof. It also must be aged in NEW charred oak barrels at no more than 125 proof. Outside of those specific stipulations it just has to be produced in the United States…and that’s it.
Ok enough Bourbon lessons, onto the spirit. From my native city, Wigle Whiskey crafts a 92 proof (46% ABV) spirit that is sure to catch the attention of even the most die hard bourbon purist. It’s smokey and sweet on the nose hints of cinnamon. Those hints become more pronounced the more you sip as it permeates your senses. The spirit starts smooth and sweeter leaning toward fruitier flavors but quickly moves to a stronger smoky oak with an intense burn on the back end (with hints of caramel). This isn’t you’re grandfather’s bottom shelf bourbon either. At between $40-55 for a standard 750mL bottle, it’s an investment in a local craft distillery, with the flavor and complexity of an even more significantly pricier product.
Overall it’s nothing spectacular, but it is great choice if you’re looking to step up your game with a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned. I would avoid using it for more complex or juice based mixes though or else the flavor will easily get lost among your mixers. Pick up a bottle if you’re feeling a little adventurous, but do note that you can get similar tasting bourbons for much less.
I want to start by saying that “Fire Water” Liqueur is one of the single worst buys I have ever made. It tastes like liquid atomic fireballs wrapped in big red gum. I’ve had it pretty much since I started drinking and it’s not even 1/4 gone yet. That said, this is one of the VERY few uses of it that I found actually palatable, and very surprisingly so.
So, I knew I wanted to post a new drink to the blog, but I had NO IDEA that this would be it. This was the most surprising drink recipe I’ve had to date. I was fulling expecting a negative drink review for this one, but honestly after trying it I’m shocked!
A subtle orange color is all you really have to start with. No garnishes or anything to make it more inviting. The drink smells mildly of bourbon and cinnamon and not much else. You’re greeted with the sweetness of the orange juice, followed by a mellow rum, and then it finishes with a cinnamon burn, but not as harsh as pure Fire Water. This cocktail really took me off guard in that respect. Most of the time whatever Fire Water touches in less than a dash turns into cinnamon candy insanity that is flat out difficult to drink either in sips or all at once. This however is not only half decent, but it’s something that I might actually make again.
Perhaps if you’re looking for a “classier” (if you can call it that) version of this, you may want to use a cinnamon whiskey or some Aftershock for a more pleasant taste. However at that point I think you might miss the name of the drink being “hell.”
Looking back through the blog recently, I was shocked to find that I hadn’t made a single Manhattan in the nearly 4 years since starting this page. I have had no excuse to ignore this quintessential classic cocktail, so I apologize for my oversight.
The Manhattan is said to have first been made (or at least) introduced in the United States by the request of Winston Churchill’s Mother in a bar in NYC. Since those days the drink has become a true classic recipe known by even the most humble of bartenders. Plus it’s a great example of how a truly masculine drink can be presented in a fancy cocktail glass.
For a drink this simple if you’re not using quality ingredients you’ll be doing yourself and your guests a disservice. A cheap whiskey (traditionally bourbon or rye) will be far too harsh on the palette, while a cheap vermouth will leave quite literally a bad taste in your mouth. No, a good Manhattan is all about the right ingredients all coming together beautifully.
With a deep reddish brown color and garnished cherry this drink feels both classy and intimidating at the same time. With sweet vermouth on the forward aroma, it’s is as inviting to the senses as such a simple cocktail can be. Masked by the mixing of flavors you’re greeted with a pleasant mellow bourbon on the front of your palette. It quickly moves into the vermouth (again get a good one, you’ll thank me), and leads to an oaky bourbon and bitter finish. If you chose rye over the bourbon I imagine you’ll get of its flavor than you do the oak of your favorite bourbon.
The bite is strong, but the flavor keeps you coming back for more! It’s hard to hate a drink like this (unless of course you’re not a whiskey lover).
Alcohol Taste Rating: 8/10
Overall Rating 9.5/10
The Classic Manhattan
2 oz Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
3/4 oz Sweet (Red) Vermouth
2-3 Dashes of Aromatic Bitters
Stir with ice for about 45 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a maraschino cherry.
So it’s been nearly 4 Months since you heard from me last and I thought it was about time for an update. Since early December I’ve been in the process of moving which as you may have guessed has put a damper on the bar considerably. I went from a strong 36+ bottle set, to a set of 1 (and some extras that no one uses anyway…like Campari.) In the process of moving from July to December I scaled back the home bar significantly, and now I’m starting from (near) scratch once again. The time in between however has allowed me to both learn and expand what I want this blog to contain.
While I started this blog with the intention of introducing a new cocktail every week, it has become more of an outlet for culinary creativity in the “craft cocktail” realm. My exploration of good and near perfect cocktails, has lead me to pursue a set of drinks that is both fine in its quality of ingredients, as well as in its creation. From about 2015 on it has been less about “new” drinks and more about ones that I feel are worth highlighting.
This concept of the “craft” cocktail is something that has stuck with me throughout though. Part of the artistry of the drink is more than just a new recipe, but also about the ingredients that you use. Subsequently one of my favorite YouTube channels – Common Man Cocktails expand their branding into a new channel called “The Craft Cocktail” There seems to be a trend of those that make cocktails, calling their art “craft” to mimic the exponential growth of the craft beer industry. That said, I think this blog is a unique reflection on that concept. In short I think a new tagline for the blog should be “Craft cocktaisl with an artist’s touch”
[Food for thought] But I digress…
I want to talk briefly today about the garnishes in cocktail, specifically the use of mint or fruit in some drinks. I have found over time that I really relish the maraschino cherry, or lemon wedge in a cocktail, as it adds not only color and contrast to a drink, but a unique bit of sweetness before or after finishing the cocktail. Finishing a whiskey sour (as I type) and having an orange or lemon slice and a cherry to finish the drink feels oddly satisfying. Fruit garnishes go a long way to making a drink both presentable as well as making it more well rounded.
Sucking on a lemon peel, or eating the pulp of an orange can make the taste of a drink really come to life! The “artistry” of craft cocktails is more than just spirits and bitters, but the garnishes as well! Don’t forget my fellow mixologists, that the garnish can be just as important as which whiskey you choose in your sours.
Yes, ok there’s tons of Bourbon Slush recipes out there, but I doubt you’ve ever had one like this! Instead of something from one of my regular cocktail books this is an old family recipe.
Sweet, a little sour, and a whole lot of bourbon this drink is the perfect summer drink for a crowd. You can’t make these in a smaller batch so get out a solid gallon tub to make this in! I’d talk more about the taste, but it’s just something you have to try for yourself. FYI though, don’t waste good bourbon on this, the cheap stuff works just fine.
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Can (6 oz) of Frozen Orange Juice
3/4 Can (9 oz) of Frozen Lemonade
2 Cups of Hot Tea
2 Cups of Bourbon
6 Cups of Water
Mix ingredients in a large bowl. Be sure that sugar and juice concentrate have all dissolved. Freeze overnight. Scoop out with a spoon or ice cream scoop into the glass of your choice. (Optional) Tops with Coke or another soft drink of your choice (Sprite and Ginger Ale are great options). Garnish with Orange Slice and a Cherry.
*Note do not use liquid or fresh juices. It’s designed to work with frozen concentrated juices.
I’m back in the new year for a classic cocktail that in many ways isn’t even a cocktail. The Mint Julep is basically just an excuse to drink 4 ounces of Kentucky straight bourbon. Not that you really need a good excuse, but either way it’s one of those drinks that’s perfect as long as you buy the right product. Pick up your favorite bourbon and make this sometime. Need a suggestion on which one? Old Granddad, Wild Turkey, or Makers Mark. Ok? Good. Now drink up.
Here’s something a bit different to close out “Blended Cocktail Week.”
I realize it might seem a bit redundant to say “Frozen Blizzard” but it it important to note that this drink can be make shaken with ice, or blended with it. The drink also calls for 3 ounces of bourbon or blended whiskey which are two very different categories of whiskey which could shift the drink to either side of the taste spectrum. For this variation I decided to mix both the blended whiskey and the bourbon for a more well rounded taste (and also because my bourbon is 100 proof).
The drink has a strong and unblemished whiskey aroma which to any lover of the spirit is quite welcoming. This unique blended cocktail starts off a little sour, then leaves you with a tart whiskey taste on the mid palette and the finish. I do think the drink lacks a bit of flavor complexity despite the mixing of blended whiskey and bourbon. However, if you’re looking for something to blend that isn’t a vodka or rum based drink, this is well worth the try.
Alcohol Taste Rating: 8/10
Overall Rating: 8/10
3 oz Bourbon (or Blended Whiskey) [1 1/2 oz of each used]
1 oz Cranberry Juice
1 oz Simple Syrup
1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Combine all ingredients in a blender with 1/2 cup of ice. Pour into a tumbler or wine glass. Garnish with a lemon slice (wheel).
Well this is certainly an interesting drink for my return from another blog hiatus. The “Flaming Blue Blaster” starts out by breaking a simple rule of mixology: “Don’t shake drinks that are alcohol only. Stir them.” NOPE we’re shaking this drink for some weird reason.
An interesting blue-green color starts you off questioning what is even in this drink (besides curacao). You’re greeting with a pleasant peppermint aroma, with a subtle note of oaky bourbon. The drink starts out sweet and tangy thanks to the curacao, it moves to an oaky alcohol taste in the middle (thanks to the Oakheart Rum, and if finishes in two segments; first a bourbon taste then a refreshing mint. I think my use of both the 100 proof bourbon and 100 proof schnapps for this drink fit the name quite well. For a less intense variation you could easily move to a more moderately proofed variation of either. Even with the intense flavor and proof components it’s still a very good drink and not too overpowering. I’d recommend giving this one a try for a slow sipper style cocktail.
It’s the first day of Fall and we’re rolling in the season with an interesting bourbon drink. Now I’m not one for coffee in general, but I will tolerate Kahlua on the occasion, and this makes an interesting use of the liqueur. The oaky taste of bourbon and Kahlua begins this drink and it ends on a refreshing peppermint blast. Presentation is pretty simple, and its slight mint and earthy bourbon aromas. If you have the ingredients it might be worth a try, but personally I’ll be ranking this one lower as coffee doesn’t sit well on my palette.
3/4 oz Bourbon 3/4 oz Vodka 3/4 oz Peppermint Schnapps 1/2 oz Kahlua
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled sour glass.