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Friday, December 7, 2018

Bottle Swap: St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur

Spiced Pear Punch

It's high time that Mr. Muddle and I did another bottle swap! This is when we each buy a bottle of something new for our bars and trade half. If you've got friends who like making cocktails at home, this is a great way to try twice as many new ingredients! In the past we've swapped Ancho Reyes, The King's Ginger, Suze, and Giffard Banane du Bresil. Today's bottle is the perfect holiday liqueur, St. George Spiced Pear.

If you're not familiar with St. George Spirits, they're a California-based distillery that produces some incredible stuff. They're probably best known for their gins, but you may have seen their Bruto AmericanoAbsinthe, or Green Chile Vodka on the liquor store shelf as well. Their Spiced Pear Liqueur is another winner. To make it, they start with their Pear Brandy and add additional fruit juice and spices. It's positively bursting with fresh pear, cinnamon, and cloves, and has just the right amount of sweetness to be sipped on its own or mixed into a cocktail.

Spiced Pear Punch

St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur

Alcohol content: 20%
Price: $40
Popular cocktails: Check out St. George's suggestions here

My cocktail with this liqueur is a little riff on the classic Philadelphia Fish House Punch. This is a drink with a long history, going back to the early 1700's. It's traditionally made with aged rum, Cognac, peach brandy, lemon, and sugar, and served in a large format from a punch bowl. For my Spiced Pear Punch, I replaced the peach brandy with the Spiced Pear Liqueur, used maple syrup as the sweetener, and added a dash of vanilla. Since it was just me drinking this one, I stuck to a single serve, but this would be a great big-batch cocktail for your next holiday party!

Spiced Pear Punch

Spiced Pear Punch

1 oz. aged rum (Jamaican recommended - I used Appleton Estate Signature Blend)
1/2 oz. Cognac (Pierre Ferrand 1840)
1/2 oz. St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur
1 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. maple syrup
1 dash vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a punch glass or rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a pear fan.

Check out Mr. Muddle's cocktail, the Decoder Ring!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Holiday Gift Guide 2018

Cocktail Gift Guide 2018

The holidays are officially in full swing! I still have a ton of shopping to do before Christmas. If you're in the same boat, here are some of my favorite gifts for cocktail lovers this year! I always have a fun time putting this list together. Some of these are things I have and love, and others are things I'd really love to have. A note I feel I should include since I have done a lot of sponsored work with brands recently: I am not being paid or compensated to promote any of these products. Some (numbers 1, 3, 7, and 11) are from brands that I have worked with, but they are only being included here because I really really liked them.

1. The Elan Collective Rocks Glasses. I'm pretty obsessed with glassware and these rocks glasses from The Elan Collective are truly unique. $35 for two glasses or $55 for one of each of their four styles. Each glass comes with an ice sphere mold.

2. Love & Victory Whiskey Cufflinks. Why wear your heart on your sleeve when you can wear a glass of whiskey instead? If you're more of a gin drinker, they make Negroni cufflinks as well. $28.

3. Bouvery Chocolate Vodka. I don't think I've ever finished a bottle of anything as quickly as I went through my Bouvery. It's like drinking melted dark chocolate. $30 for a 375 ml bottle (you'll wish it was twice as big).

4. Jackson Cannon Bar Knife by R. Murphy Knives. I received this as a gift from my in-laws last year and I'm obsessed with it. It's perfect for cutting garnishes. The square tip allows you to do some really detailed work if you want to. $79.

5. The Bitter Truth Bogart's Bitters. Bogart's Bitters are the first bitters ever mentioned in a cocktail book, Jerry Thomas' Bartender's Guide. This reformulation is sold in a gorgeous, vintage-style bottle that is just begging to be gifted to your favorite bitters lover. $36 for a 350 ml bottle.

6. Cocktail Codex: Fundamentals, Formulas, Evolutions. Since Death & Co: Modern Classic Cockails is basically my cocktail bible, I'm confidently recommending their second book after having only flipped through it briefly. It has a different structure from the first, breaking down cocktails into six major templates. A great gift for both experienced and beginner home bartenders. $32.

7. Empress 1908 Indigo Gin. Why gift a typical bottle of gin when you can gift purple, color-changing gin? This gin tastes as beautiful as it looks and makes a striking gift. Just add tonic or citrus to see it turn pink, or make yourself a martini the color of amethyst. $35.

8. Stephen Kenn Travel Cocktail Kit. I've been wanting one of these ever since I saw it on the Instagram feeds of @apartment_bartender and @highproofpreacher. I've tried to find a better or cheaper one and failed utterly - this is the perfect travel kit for cocktails on the go. $295

9. Cocktails + Chickens Pillow. Speaking of Instagrammers I love, @drinkingwithchickens has all-new merchandise for the cocktail and/or poultry lover in your life. I seriously want a couple of these pillows - also available in pink! $30.

10. Homestia Flamingo Martini Picks. I stumbled across these on Amazon and fell in love. Perfect stocking stuffer! $11.

11. Bittercube Bitters Variety Pack. Variety packs of bitters make perfect gifts. This one has a nice selection of unique flavors that go especially well in Old Fashioneds and other whiskey cocktails. $54.

Past holiday gift guides: 2017, 2016, and 2015.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned

Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned

It's a little hard to believe it's already Thanksgiving. Wasn't Halloween like last week? And to top it off, my extended family is celebrating Christmas on Thanksgiving day this year because most of us will be out of town in December. Definitely a condensed holiday season.

Thanksgiving is a perfect cocktail holiday. It already centers around sharing food and drink with friends and family. And there are so many fantastic flavors that we associate with autumn and Thanksgiving: cranberry, cinnamon, pecan, sweet potato, maple... and of course pumpkin! I've never put pumpkin in a cocktail before, but I did have a guest post on pumpkin cocktails a couple of years ago. I've been meaning to make one myself ever since. And since the pumpkin spice trend doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, it's high time to hop on the bandwagon.

This is a very simple Old Fashioned recipe made special by a pumpkin spice syrup. I tried a couple of recipes I found online and didn't think any of them had enough pumpkin in them, so this one is my own creation. You're going to want to whip up a big batch, because it is good in everything - try it in coffee or on ice cream! A jar of it would make a great gift for your host this Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 dash cardamom
OR 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice - I used Trader Joe's

Combine water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Lower heat and add pumpkin and spices, whisking to combine. Let barely simmer for five minutes, whisking frequently. Then cover and let cool. Once the mixture has cooled, strain it through cheesecloth to remove the pumpkin solids. Store in the fridge.

Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned

2.5 oz. bourbon
2 barspoons pumpkin spice syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash pecan or walnut bitters (or another dash of Ango if you don't have this)

Build the drink in a rocks glass. Combine bitters and syrup, and then add bourbon and stir. Add a large piece of ice and stir briefly. Twist an orange peel over the drink and discard. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Bottle Buy: Luxardo Bitter Bianco

Sbagliato Errato and Luxardo Bitter Bianco

Hello again! I haven't posted in a couple of weeks, though I've been quite active on Instagram - if I want to just snap a single photo of a drink it often ends up there instead of on here.  I've also had the opportunity to partner with some additional brands like The Elan Collective and Coco Sky on recent (and upcoming!) recipes. So be sure to check it out if you want some additional drinks and pictures!

Today I want to introduce one of my new favorite bottles: Luxardo Bitter Bianco. This herbal liqueur is a bitter like Campari, Aperol, or Suze. In fact, the popularity of swapping Suze for Campari to make White Negronis seems to have been one factor that influenced Luxardo's creation of the colorless Bitter Bianco. It's made with a number of different botanicals, including wormwood, quinine, rhubarb, cardamom, bitter orange, and three mystery herbs. While it is definitely a bitter liqueur, it has notes of bright citrus and a good bit of sweetness to it.

Luxardo Bitter Bianco

Versatility is usually one of my main criteria when I add a new bottle to my bar, but with this one I had a single drink in mind. I absolutely love a Negroni made with Luxardo Bitter Bianco. Called a Negroni Bianco, it's usually made with blanc or dry vermouth to keep it entirely colorless (while one made with Suze is called a White Negroni, even though it's actually yellow). I've got recipes for both of these in the Negroni Round-Up I posted not long ago. I honestly prefer the Negroni Bianco to a traditional Negroni, and if you're a Negroni newbie I think it's a perfect gateway cocktail. It's definitely less polarizing than the classic, while still keeping with the spirit of the drink.

Sbagliato Errato and Luxardo Bitter Bianco

But my love for the Negroni Bianco doesn't mean that Bitter Bianco isn't versatile. It's similar enough to Campari in spirit that you can safely try substituting it anywhere its bright red friend is called for. It's more approachable and less bitter than Campari, which might even make it more versatile. I haven't played with mine nearly enough because I can't stop making the same few delicious recipes with it.

Luxardo Bitter Bianco

Price: $25-30
Alcohol Content: 30%
Popular Cocktails: Negroni Bianco

Sbagliato Errato and Luxardo Bitter Bianco

Since I love the Negroni Bianco, I wanted to use the Luxardo in another riff on the Negroni, the Negroni Sbagliato. Translating roughly to "mistaken Negroni," this drink was supposedly invented when a bartender poured prosecco into a Negroni instead of gin. It doesn't exactly seem like an easy mistake to make, but we can suspend belief in favor of a good story.

The Negroni Sbagliato is usually made with equal parts sweet vermouth, Campari, and prosecco. Before I looked up the recipe, however, I had it in my head that it must be equal parts gin, Campari, and prosecco, and I was excited to take advantage of the Luxardo's lack of color to let the gorgeous purple of Empress Gin shine through. When I realized my mistake I decided to go ahead with my recipe anyway. And it's quite good - a lovely, bitter, sparkling aperitif. You can substitute a non-purple gin, or go with a more classic Sbagliato using dry or blanc vermouth instead.

Sbagliato Errato

Sbagliato Errato

1 oz. gin (Empress)
1 oz. Luxardo Bitter Bianco
2 oz. prosecco

Combine gin and Luxardo in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a champagne flute and top with prosecco. I garnished mine with dried orchid petals.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Aztec Marigold with Sparkling Ice

Aztec Marigold with Sparkling Ice

I've got a cocktail for you today that tastes like autumn sunshine! I was inspired by Halloween and Day of the Dead coming up to make this citrusy tequila drink with a spicy kick. It gets its gorgeous color and fizz from Orange Mango Sparkling Ice, a zero-calorie, zero-sugar sparkling water.

Aztec Marigold with Sparkling Ice

To be honest, I'm not usually a fan of zero-calorie anything (besides water). But Sparkling Ice is something special. After I took a sip I actually turned the bottle around to check the label and make sure I wasn't mistaken about the calorie count! Its fresh, vibrant flavors and hint of sweetness are perfect for cocktails. It really compliments other ingredients without overpowering them, giving you plenty of room to get creative. And of course it adds that perfect fizz. I like that you can go crazy and make a really elaborate drink with it, but it's still tasty enough that a splash of vodka and a squeeze of lime would be utter perfection. (Utter, low-calorie perfection at that!)

Obviously, though, I usually like to go a bit crazier than that when it comes to my cocktails.

Aztec Marigold with Sparkling Ice

With Day of the Dead next week, a tequila cocktail seemed like the perfect pairing for Orange Mango Sparkling Ice. And my favorite thing to do with a tequila cocktail is add a bit of spice. So I infused some reposado tequila with jalapeño overnight before mixing it with pineapple juice, lime juice, and a blood orange syrup (because if winter has to come, then we'd better at least take advantage of some beautiful winter citrus). Topped off with Orange Mango Sparkling Ice, it's a super refreshing cocktail with just a bit of bite!

Aztec Marigold with Sparkling Ice

I named this drink the Aztec Marigold for its bright, sunny color. These marigolds are also called Mexican Marigolds or flores de muertos ("flowers of the dead"). They're often used during Day of the Dead celebrations to decorate graves and attract or guide the souls of the dead. Lacking any marigolds, I garnished the drink with yellow chrysanthemums and slices of blood orange.

Aztec Marigold with Sparkling Ice

Aztec Marigold

2 oz. jalapeño-infused reposado tequila*
1 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. blood orange syrup**
3 oz. Orange Mango Sparkling Ice

Combine tequila, pineapple juice, lime juice, and syrup in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a tall rocks glass filled with ice. Top with Orange Mango Sparkling Ice and enjoy!

*For jalapeño-infused tequila, cut a fresh jalapeño in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Slice it thinly and add it to a mason jar with 1 cup reposado tequila. Let sit overnight, shaking occasionally. Strain out the jalapeño slices before using.

**For blood orange syrup, combine 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add one blood orange, sliced and then cut into quarters, leaving the skin on. Let simmer for a couple of minutes, smashing the orange pieces with a spoon to release the juice. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain out the orange slices and let cool completely before using. Store in the refrigerator.

This post was sponsored by Sparkling Ice. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

London Calling

London Calling

Earlier this year, my sister and I went on an epic weekend trip to London. When the immigration the officer asked us what we were planning on doing in the UK, she replied, "A lot of drinking, to be honest with you." And it was true. We did our best to hit all of my bucket-list London bars, including Nightjar and the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel. We also went to Milk & Honey, a Soho branch of the famous New York speakeasy that essentially started the modern craft cocktail movement. It was here that we tried the London Calling.

It was an appropriate cocktail choice for a number of reasons. First, the name, obviously. Second, we had been picking sherry cocktails off of every menu we saw (the Jerezana at Happiness Forgets was another favorite). And third, it was actually invented at the very bar in which we were sitting in 2002, and is the only drink to have stayed on their menu ever since. It's a perfect choice for right now as well, because it's International Sherry Week. Social media has been full of awesome sherry cocktail recipes, and I'm happy to add this new classic to the mix. If you're a sherry newbie, it's a great place to start. There's only a half ounce of Fino (a very dry sherry) in the recipe - just enough to give the drink some complexity and introduce that light, nutty flavor. If you like a Bee's Knees, you'll love a London Calling.

London Calling

History: The London Calling was invented at Milk & Honey in London in 2002 by Chris Jepson.

London Calling

1.5 oz. gin
1/2 oz. fino sherry
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a grapefruit twist.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Cucumber Basil Smash

Cucumber Basil Smash

I can't believe it's October already. I thought I would be ready for some cool fall weather after the sweltering summer we had here in Boston, but I'm a little reluctant to give up the long days and warm evenings on our balcony. I'm sure I'll be embracing autumn with apple picking and spiced cocktails before long. But for now I'm still trying to squeeze a few more summery drinks in.

I don't know what it was about this year, but my backyard garden and the potted plants on my balcony did not thrive. I've only gotten three tomatoes, whereas last year I was freezing huge leftover dishes full of sauce. I tried planting broccoli for the first time, but I clearly didn't know what I was doing and it bolted before producing anything. I trimmed it back and it looks like I might be getting some stalks - we'll see. My zucchini plant put all its effort into one monster zucchini while we were away on vacation and then died. Etc. My basil is one thing that really thrived, and as it flowered I thought I definitely needed to use some in a cocktail.

Basil Flowers

Cucumber and basil is a really winning combination. I've used it before in my Cucumber Basil Gimlet. Since I'd already done the combo with gin, I reached for vodka instead for this drink. On the one hand, I'm not a huge fan of vodka because I don't think it adds much to a cocktail besides alcohol. But on the other hand, sometimes this is exactly what you want. There's enough great flavor in here that vodka felt like a good choice. Not to mention that Thursday, October 4th is National Vodka Day.

A "smash" is a category of cocktails somewhat similar to a julep. In fact, at one time a Whiskey Smash and a Whiskey Julep were basically the same thing - whiskey, sugar, and mint. But a Smash has come to include lemon juice or other citrus as well. Think of it as boozy flavored lemonade. The "smash" part comes in when you muddle your herbs and/or fruit. It's a fun drink template to play around with. Try it with your favorite spirit and some different flavors and see what you can come up with!

Cucumber Basil Smash

Cucumber Basil Smash

2 oz. vodka
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
3 slices cucumber
6 basil leaves

Combine cucumber, basil, and simple syrup at the bottom of a shaker and muddle gently to bruise the basil and release juice from the cucumber. Add vodka and lemon juice and fill shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cucumber slice and a basil flower.