Monday, August 10, 2020

Rangoon Swoon

What a funny combination of spirits and juices that make up this cocktail tribute to Myanmar's Rangoon River. If anything makes sense, and they usually don't when it comes to cocktail names, bananas seem to go with the idea of an Asian river region. That and oranges in the triple sec: not the pineapple, not the bourbon.

I use MurLarkey banana whiskey for creme de banane. It allows you to control for sweetness and you avoid cheapening a drink with fake banana flavor. MurLarkey distills whiskey, and that pairs well with bourbon and tropical fruit juice. There's character there, not to mention real banana flavor from dried bananas soaked in the whiskey. 

The overall reception of this cocktail is very positive. The glass is large, the alcohol is potent, and the crushed ice feels like a luxury when drinking with a straw. The recipe isn't specific on garnishes, but just about any flower or fruit slice will do. 

  • 1 oz. bourbon
  • 1 oz. creme de banane (MurLarkey banana whiskey used)
  • 1 oz. triple sec
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1 oz. sugar syrup (if not using creme de banane)

Combine all ingredients in a blender with ice. Flash blend and pour into a large wine glass using a gated strainer to catch large ice chunks.

Red Rover

There's something cosmopolitan (small "c" cosmopolitan) about then name Red Rover. As with all kids games and playground rhymes, we can all identify with the sensory details of those early life moments where we had fun with friends. 

As an adult, I appreciate this cocktail with its fun, juvenile flavor of sloe gin (which tastes like an Icee) and the color of the drink, which looks exactly like Clifford's red coat. Interestingly, the Red Rover game is called Ali Baba in Russia, where you'd think the word "red" would make an appearance. 

Anyway, if you like a Bourbon Sidecar with a peach slice and a brilliant red hue, this one is for you.
  • 1 1/2 oz. bourbon
  • 1/2 oz. sloe gin
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar syrup
  • lemon slice
  • peach slice

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with fruit slices. 


Hanley Special

You don't find tangerine juice cocktails on every menu, and there's a reason for that. You pretty much have to juice tangerines: there's not canned substitute, and if you find it, it is probably sweetened nectar, not the natural fruit juice itself.

Tangarine tastes noticeably different from orange juice. It is tropical tasting, and in a drink like this with Falernum and so much tangarine, it can totally disguise itself as tropical ambrosia. 

With falernum being a spice driver here, the gin option is flexible. The vodka is doing the work in terms of alcohol, but you can choose the gin botanicals that suit your tastes. Here a dry gin is appropriate, but might come through as too much juniper for a tropical cocktail.  Vitae's Old Tom gin is probably as good a choice as any, with a touch of sweetness and a sugar (i.e. rum) base to give the drink a Caribbean feel.

  • 2 oz. vodka (Smirnoff 57 used)
  • 1 oz. gin (Vitae old Tom used)
  • 2/3 cup tangerine juice
  • falernum to taste 

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake and pour into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. 

Mother's Whistler

Who's whistling at Mom? I can't make sense of this drink, other than someone thought it was the expected outcome when their mother started drinking. This is an all-out pineapple and vodka drink with the help of the dry fruitiness of kirsch. 

I don't have any pineapple sticks, as is recommended in the recipe, because I only have canned pineapple juice. But a little garnish goes a long way in signaling tropical flavor in this vacation-in-a-glass.

  • 1 1/2 oz. vodka (Smirnoff 57 used)
  • 4 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz. orgeat syrup
  • dash kirsch
  • pineapple stick

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake briefly and pour into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with pineapple stick or whatever tropical flair you have around. 

Kurant Juice Break


This cocktail doesn't lie. It is a juicy drink. It is actually a proprietary Absolut Kurant vodka recipe that I've adapted to using my red currant liqueur and Smirnoff vodka. I also substituted Royal Combier for Grand Marnier because you can totally switch one spiced orange cognac for another. 

The Juice Break is best if you are using fresh squeezed orange juice as shown here. You can safe an orange slice from one of the oranges to garnish with.
  • 2 oz. vodka (Absolut Kurant suggested but Smirnoff used)
  • 1/2 oz. currant spirit (if you don't have Absolut Kurant)
  • 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier or Royal Combier
  • 2 oz. Orange Juice
  • orange slice
  • maraschino cherry
Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and pour into a Cooler glass or a highball. Garnish with cherry and orange slice.

Swiss Manhattan


I love a good Manhattan, but sometimes they are too rich for summer sipping. This Swiss version has the dry vermouth of a summer Dry Manhattan with equally dry cocoa whiskey. Kirschwasser and a cherry suggest a chocolate covered cherry, but there's none of the sweetness you associate with chocolate drinks. 

That is because MurLarkey cocoa whiskey is white whiskey rested on bitter cocoa nibs. It is just as strong as whiskey with a bitter chocolate finish. 

I was disappointed with the New American Bartender's Guide recipe that not only didn't have chocolate, but included such a small proportion of whiskey. I've simply upped the size of the drink by adding cocoa whiskey, but kirschwasser does not add the sweetness that this old recipe anticipates--not the real kirschwasser, anyway. A few drops of sugar is preferable in the large size recipe. 
  • 1 1/2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 1/2 oz. MurLarkey cocoa whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth
  • 1/2 oz. kirschwasser
  • several dashes aromatic bitters (Hella used)
  • maraschino cherry
Combine all liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry. 

Crescent City Special


While its name describes a California coastal town, this drink is all New Orleans in style. Look at the evidence--Peychaud's bitters is quintessentially New Orleans, as is Herbsaint, the spirit that gives cocktails that herbal absinthe zing.
New Orleans cocktails usually combine bourbon, the American South's favorite spirit, with French ingredients. Bourbon and Herbsaint is a combination that is strong and aromatic with overtones of anise, licorice, vanilla and fruit. In small proportions, the anise is noticeable, but it doesn't overwhelm. Balance is central to a New Orleans cocktail.

I don't have Herbsaint, but I've opted to swap one absinthe substitute for another. Ricard, like Pernod, is a French herbal liqueur that imitates absinthe. When shaken with ice, it gets cloudy and brown. Orgeat, an almond syrup, also adds cloudiness that is desirable in this type of cocktail.
  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 1 tsp. Herbsaint (Ricard used)
  • several dashes Peychaud's Bitters 
  • several dashes Orgeat or to taste
  • lemon twist
Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass Twist a lemon peel over the glass and drop it in.

Prohibition Bramble

We all know what to do when you have lemons, right? Well, when you have blackberries and lemons and gin, you make Brambles.

It's been a while since I've used my muddler.  But blackberries alone don't make the flavor of this cocktail. It is the combination of the berry and lemon juice, sugar and herbaceous gin that do the trick. I used my Prohibition-style bathtub gin, that simulates how people would flavor raw spirit back when buying gin was illegal. Despite the steeped, less refined gin, the Bramble is more interesting for it. 

You have to start with muddled berries for this drink. Fresh lemon juice and simple syrup are the ingredients that help you taste the berry juice. Have a fine mesh strainer in addition to the strainer you use for your shaker when you make this. You don't want the mess of all those seeds showing up in the drink.

  • 2 oz. gin (homemade steeped gin used)
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 5 blackberries
Muddle four blackberries in a shaker with lemon juice and simple syrup. Add the gin and cracked ice and shake. Double strain into an Old Fashioned glass full of fresh crushed ice and garnish with the remaining berry.



Friday, August 7, 2020

Vintage Martinis With Homemade Gins

Here aret two new gins I've been making at home. After several batches, I've settled on the recipes and I am ready to share them, knowing that they are pretty solid. It was a matter of proportions of botanicals to spirits, as well as a tricky trial and error period for infusion time.

Let me be clear, I don't have a still. I wouldn't mind getting into the weeds of how to make gin completely from grains. But I don't have the equipment and it is unlikely that my readers do either. Instead, I'm offering recipes for bathtub gin or steeped gin. These are neutral (or mostly neutral) spirits infused with gin botanicals. The types of gin, their recipes and cocktails I've used them in can be found below:

Dry Gin

Most gin drinkers are familiar with dry gins. There's no added sugar or juices, just dry fruit peels, berries and seeds. Feel free to adjust the recipe to your liking, but know that this method is safe.

In a large jar with an airtight lid add the following and allow to steep for three days. Strain out solids through mesh and store in a bottle with an airtight stopper or cap.

  • 1/4 cup juniper berries
  • 1 tbsp. angelica seeds
  • peel of 1/2 of a lemon
  • peel of 1/2 of an orange
  • 1 tsp. anise seeds (1/2 anise pod is okay but not ideal.)
  • 2-3 sprigs of basil
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 750-ml. bottle of 100-proof vodka  
Dutch Courage or Shiedam Gin

Steeped gin is kind of a Dutch tradition. The original Dutch genever was made with a malted barley mash with juniper berries fermenting in it. Then the mash was distilled and later flavored by steeping more botanicals. To replicate this malt distillate, I used moonshine rather than vodka. Climax Moonshine from Virginia has the perfect flavor that I'm looking for. It is made from corn, sugar and malted barley, so it has that beery nose that a Dutch gin needs. Finally, after steeping the botanicals, I added 1 1/2 oz. of malt whiskey. This is because Dutch gin is often aged for a few months. Malt whiskey like Copper Fox single malt or Virginia distillery whiskey will work. If you cant get these, use a single malt Irish whiskey. There's no peat in Dutch gin, so a malty and even slightly smoky whiskey will do, but not Scotch. 

Add the moonshine and all dry ingredients to a jar with an airtight lid and allow to steep for ten days. Strain out solids using a mesh strainer and add malt whiskey. Store in a bottle with an airtight stopper or cap.

  • 1/4 cup juniper berries
  • 1 tbsp. angelica seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. corriander
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed cardamom 
  • 1 pinch fresh rosemary
  • 1 pinch fresh basil
  • 1 tsp. dried birch leaves
  • 3 cups of Climax moonshine or other white whiskey with malt character
  • 1 1/2 oz. malt whiskey 

Classic Martini With Homemade Dry Gin:

This is classic Prohibition style Martini with classic proportions. Lots of gin and a fair amount of vermouth.  

  • 3 oz.  homemade dry gin
  • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • olives or lemon twist garnish

Stir liquid ingredients on ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish according to preference.  

Classic Martinez With Dutch

You want a gin that plays like whiskey for a Martinez. It's a lot like a Manhattan, or more so than a Martini. 

  • 3 oz. homemade Dutch courage
  • 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • several dashes Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • one dash orange or aromatic bitters
  • orange twist garnish

Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist the orange peel over the glass and drop it in. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Night Train

How do you spice up a pretty typical Gin Sour cocktail? By making it with a prohibition-style bathtub gin and a touch of kirsch.

Truthfully, this cocktail has a lot of trappings of the pre-Prohibition era: it's a potent gin drink with fresh juice and a name that suggests rail travel. Kirschwasser just happens to be one of the international spirits that bars would have had in the U.S. and a well-traveled person would know of its ability to lend potent fruit-scented punch to drinks when they are served up.

It's the large flat surface of a coup glass that really gives off whiffs of evaporating alcohol that is pleasing to drinkers. Gin itself, with its herbal and citrus botanicals really dances under the nose. Kirsch, which is distilled cherry juice, is a little darker with a smoother flavor and a rustic taste similar to pisco.

Making your own bathtub (steeped gin) is easy with 100-proof vodka, some juniper berries and citrus peels. Just throw about 20 juniper berries in a jar with just a peel of lemon and orange. I like a dozen angelica seeds and a dozen anise seeds as well as a sprig of basil and rosemary, but that's my preference. I've learned that understeeping is better than oversteeping, though, so strain out the solids after about three days.

The result is a green colored gin that is pretty dry and strong. It has the hearty flavor profile of a Prohibition era gin made the same way (hopefully not in a bathtub).    
  • 2 oz. gin (homemade dry gin used)
  • 1 oz. Cointreau (triple sec used)
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • dash kirsch
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Port Light

This is one of those majestic tasting cocktails that are only possible with highly specialized ingredients like La Grande Passion and honey whiskey. Of course, I make a lot of my own ingredients, so what you see here is a cocktail made almost entirely from my knocked off spirits collection. And honey whiskey isn't a requirement at all. The recipe I'm providing allows you to use hone and whiskey separately.

The advantage of honey whiskey for a bartender, however, is huge. Honey is very hard to work with in an environment where you cannot easily produce heat. Now that I'm mostly bartending in my kitchen, I have electrical burners. But you won't often see a bar where the bartender heats up something before adding it to a drink, which is what you have to do when you use honey.

Cold honey becomes a chunk of sugar when you shake it on ice. It gets left behind in the shaker and the drink comes out too tart. That is why honey whiskey exists in the first place. You skip a step when building a drink if you don't have to add hot water to your honey. And there are a lot of honey whiskey products out there--Irish Mist being my longtime favorite. But get your own bottle of whiskey and add two tablespoons of honey to it and let that expand into the spirit. You'll have your own infinitely more drinkable (if it was cheap) whiskey and a go-to sweetener to boot.
  • 2 oz. bourbon (or honey whiskey)
  • 1/2 oz. La Grande Passion
  • 1/2 oz. honey (50:50 mixed with hot water if you don't have honey whiskey)
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 egg white (or double the recipe, make two and drink them both)
  • several mint sprigs
Combine liquid ingredients including egg white in a shaker with cracked ice. Shake vigorously and pour into Collins glass. Garnish with mint.

Pere Bise

In French, this cocktail is called "Father Kiss." I'm hoping it is a chaste kiss, which is why I am showing off my Sacre Coeur Basilica coaster. I got it from the gift shop there years ago.

This is another one of those cases where blended whiskey is the recommended base spirit, but feel free to take it in any direction you want with the exception, maybe, of blended scotch. Blended whiskey is usually very malleable in terms of a spirit category. So I usually opt for flavors that compliment the rest of the ingredients. You could use Bourbon and send it sweeter, and a scotch would add sweetness and smoke. But this is already an herbaceous and citrusy drink. With an egg white in it, I wouldn't want to risk going too rich. That's why I've got the lemon whiskey out for it.

Overall, this is a very classy Egg Sour kind of cocktail with the pastis there just to suggest French herbs de Marseilles. It is interesting that in this instance the recipe calls for keeping the ice, which I think tames the foam. Next time I'd like to see what would happen if I really got a foamy top on this glass. Without ice, I'd have the room to do that.
  • 1 1/2 oz. blended whiskey (MurLarkey lemon whiskey used)
  • 1/2 oz. Cherry Herring
  • 1/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 egg white (or double the recipe and make two so you can drink them both)
  • several dashes Pernod (Ricard used)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a Sour glass

Peach Smash Margarita (Original Recipe)

Technically this is closer to a Smash than a Margarita, but I wanted to have a tequila drink, and Bird Dog doesn't actually add much whiskey flavor because the artificial peach flavor is so strong.

I've finally bought a bottle of my favorite tequila, Corralejo! It is a reposado with a lot of caramel notes that come through even better than Patron Anejo or Don Julio. Why does this matter? I like a tequila that is just as good by itself, neat, as it is in a cocktail. And the price, which is always a factor when I say something is my favorite, is very reasonable. It's no wonder that my former favorite tequila was Sauza Anejo.

This cocktail is the first I've needed a muddler for since covid-19 hit this year. I'd prefer not to be too fussy with my drink preparations if I can help it, and muddling seems like an extra step. If you are going to do that, you might as well get out a blender. But it is high summer now and I feel like the fresh ingredients require the respect of fresh muddling.

It was an easy drink to make, despite all that. Muddle in the shaker with your juice and add liquor. I recommend removing the peel from the peach because this drink isn't going to be strained--it's a smash.
  • 1 1/2 oz. tequila (Corralejo used)
  • 1/2 oz. peach liqueur (Bird Dog peach whiskey used)
  • 1/2 oz. triple sec
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 pealed ripe peach sliced
  • tsp. of sugar syrup or to taste.
Combine sugar, juice and peach in a shaker and muddle until the peach slices are nicely pulverized. Add liquors and ice and shake. Pour into a chilled Old Fashioned glass and garnish with a peach slice from the remaining half of the fruit.

Chocolate Soldier

This cocktail has an enigmatic name until you realize that Chocolate Soldier is a breed of peony that has this exact color. The color comes from Dubonnet Rouge, a rich--and appropriately chocolatey--fortified wine from France.

The other ingredient, besides lime juice, is gin. For this post I decided to show off my homemade bathtub gin. My first batch of the stuff was questionable: oversteeped and bitey, it had all the tannin and none of the freshness of a proper gin. I'm happy to say that this latest batch came out remarkably well.
  • 1 1/2 oz. gin (homemade used)
  • 1 oz. Dubonnet Rouge
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
 Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Mandarine Fizz

What a nice fruity cocktail for a hot day! I was pleasantly surprised, though I shouldn't have been, at how good fresh mandarin juice tastes in a fizzy gin drink. This cocktail bursts with fruit and spice, but is juicy and light for summer drinking.

As I've said before, I can't get Mandarine Napoleon in Virginia, but I made it using my own recipe and, even if it isn't a perfect knock off of the original, it is pretty good stuff all the same. Together with Monkey 47 gin, there's a bright spicy kick behind that refreshing juice and soda.
  • 1 oz. dry gin (Monkey 47 used)
  • 1 oz. Mandarine Napoleon (homemade recipe used)
  • 2 oz. mandarin orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. sugar syrup
  • club soda
  • mandarin orange slice
Combine sugar syrup, juice and spirits in a shaker with ice. Shake and pour into a chilled highball glass. Top with soda and stir. Garnish with the orange slice. 

Berry Rose Sangria

This was a bit of an ad-hoc Sangria, as I think most Sangrias are. It started with overbuying on berries at the Farmer's market, some of which I turned into strawberry syrup that I've been using in cocktails and with red wine vinegar to make salad dressing. The weekend was the hottest so far this summer and I needed a ready-made drink for the pool. Then a lackluster rose ᷎᷎᷎᷎᷎᷎that purports to be "dry and crisp" is really flat and boring. Sangria was the weekend zeitgeist!

I made this batch with the majority of a dry-ish bottle of rose᷎᷎, so you will have to adjust the sweet sugar syrup according to taste. I believe that Sangria improves with time, so allow it to rest in the refrigerator for several hours if not for a full day. Since this is an ad-hoc Sangria, feel free to use any fresh berries you have on hand. You don't need to have strawberries or strawberry syrup, but don't use a dark colored syrup like blueberry, which will change the color. Simple syrup will work in a pinch.
  • 1 bottle of rose᷎ wine
  • 1 cup of assorted berries (raspberries, blueberries and strawberries used)
  • 1 oz. strawberry or simple syrup
  • 3 lemon slices
  • 2 oz. triple sec
Combine all ingredients in a large container with a lid and refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Serve on ice ladling berries and fruit into glasses.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Vina Del Mar Cooler

I love a summer cooler. You need to hydrate while drinking your booze when the temperatures go up. What better way to relax on the porch than to enjoy a fruity and strong cocktail that cools you off.

This particular cooler feels very Caribbean with ginger beer from Jamaica, orange juice and lime zest and a piratical rum like Blackbeard's Point. I followed the recipe exactly in my use of kirsch, but I feel that the cherry brandy is lost with all of the other bright flavors. One might experiment with Cherry Heering or cherry flavored brandy, or even maraschino liqueur and see if you get better results. My feeling is that if the proportion of kirschwasser in a recipe is below a half ounce, you are probably not going to notice it and a spirit with stronger cherry flavor is going to be better.

Also a note on the ginger beer. Some ginger beers like Fever Tree are really spicy. I'm looking for a sweeter ginger beer because this recipe contains no added sugar and kirsch is actually very dry. Fever Tree ginger ale is exactly what I'm looking for. A homemade ginger beer that is lower carbonation and spice will also work.
  • 1 1/2 oz. light rum (Blackbeard's Point used)
  • 1/4 oz. kirsch (Kammer kirsch used)
  • 4 oz. orange juice
  • ginger beer (a sweet one like Jamaica's finest or a spicier ginger ale recommended)
  • lime twist
Combine juice and spirits in a shaker with ice. Shake and pour into a double Old Fashioned glass. Top with ginger beer, stir and twist lime zest over the glass and drop it in.


Sometimes an exotic tasting cocktail is really a simple balance of rum, citrus and triple sec. This is one of those kinds of drinks. I'm showing off Blackbeard's Point rum from Blue Sky Distillery. The lemon twist is a nice touch. You could just as well use a grapefruit twist, but you lose the aromatics of lemon that are so much brighter than its pink cousin.
  • 1 1/2 oz. light rum (Blackbeard's Point used)
  • 1 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz. triple sec
  • lemon twist
Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist lemon peel over the glass and drop it in.

Keeping Currant (Original Recipe)

This cocktail makes use of the red currant syrup I made this summer and MurLarkey orange whiskey for a sweet and juicy tasting drink. Of course you can use any whiskey or swap out the main spirit for gin, but you miss out on the orange zest and vanilla that goes so well with ginger beer.

The fun thing about this cocktail is that it is low in acidity. That means it tastes sweet and strong, with a fizzy tingle of ginger beer. The effect is like having an alcoholic flavored soda with orange, berry and ginger notes and just a whiff of citrus.
  • 2 oz. whiskey (MurLarkey orange whiskey used)
  • 1/2 oz. red currant syrup
  • ginger beer
  • lime twist
Build drink with currant syrup and whiskey in a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Fill with ice and top with ginger beer. Stir and twist lime zest over the glass and drop it in.

Homemade Bathtub Gin

It's counter intuitive that a well-stocked spice cabinet can ensure that you have a well-stocked bar. Usually if the two stashes are related, they deplete each other in equal measure, but when it comes to spice and herbal infusions, you can sometimes expand your liquor selection by sacrificing a handful of items that are commonly found in the kitchen.

Bathtub gin or steeped gin is one of the most basic methods of flavoring spirits by infusing herbs and spices in neutral grain spirits like vodka. It is brownish in color and strong on flavor in was that mass-marketed gin is not. Today's gin, which is predominantly flavored with juniper berries, is a clear spirit with a clean dry taste. Modern distillation practices remove solids and impurities of the botanicals added to the mash or percolated in an infusion basket. This process takes a lot of precise equipment that is out of the range of most hobbyist bootleggers.

But a steeped gin, while it takes the color of the botanicals, is an easy, low-tech way to get a refreshing spirit. It's also a fun craft to experiment with and perfect. Outside of juniper berries, you are free to dabble with whatever flavors you want in your gin. Here are a few categories items to consider when making your own gin recipe.

Citrus: Lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit are common gin flavors. For the most part you are going to use the peels of these fruits, not the juice, but adding slices of fresh fruit is a surefire way to punch up the acidity and citrus scent of your gin. Feel free to use as much as two to three fruits worth of citrus peels or zests.

Spice: A small but outsize component of gin comes from spices. Just a pinch of these dried flavors go a long way, so use them sparingly. Common gin ingredients include nutmeg, black pepper, allspice, clove, cardamon, cinnamon, ginger, and anise seeds or pods. For your first batch, start small. One peppercorn in a whole bottle can have a noticeable presence. A whole stick of cinnamon will blow out your recipe; you won't taste anything else but cinnamon.

Herbs: Fresh and dried herbs add complexity of flavor and even alter the texture of the spirit. You can use more fresh ingredients than spices as they tend to be more forgiving in infusions. Depending on what herbs you use you can make your gin more floral or more savory. Obviously use edible flowers like roses, orchids or lavender if you want floral flavor. Cooking herbs like thyme, parsley, sage, rosemary, dill, and basil are a wonderful choices and you can use a lot of them without harming the recipe. Seeds add flavor and texture. I like angelica for body. Angelica is a great unifier: It has a way of tying desperate flavors together. Corriander, fennel, cumin, and carraway, if used in moderation, can keep your homemade gin dry-tasting.

You can make any combination of these flavors and more to make your gin. The sky is the limit! Think outside the box: try a pinch of salt, an unusual spice like masthia or sumac, and play around with unusual berries and barks. Cubeb berries and birch bark, twigs and leaves are often found together in schnapps recipes. They will make your gin earthy.

Proportions: All these flavors above and more are easy to find and great for making gin, but don't go completely wild with your first batch. Overdoing it will only give you a bottle of undrinkable spirits. Start small: try four botanicals and keep your proportions small. Be patient and allow the flavors to infuse over time rather than overcompensating with too much of any ingredient. The recommended proportions below should keep your gin balanced.
  • 1 750-ml bottle of 100-proof vodka
  • 1/4 cup juniper berries (required)
  • any combination of botanicals including up to 1/4 cup of citrus peels or fruit, 1 tsp. total of all spices keeping in mind that anise and cinnamon are strong and should not be a majority of the spice category, 1-2 tbsp. herbs.

DIY Allspice Dram

I've got lots of time on my hands and a stockpile of basic liquors from which I can produce a variety of specialty items. This summer, I decided it would be nice to have allspice dram for tiki cocktails. Allspice Dram has  tropical spice profile similar to Angostura Bitters, but it is less bitter and more forgiving if you overpour. In fact it is delicious by itself, and some drinks can be done with allspice dram as the principal spirit.

Making allspice dram requires more patience than many other liqueurs, especially those made of fresh ingredients. The allspice flavor comes from infusing dried allspice berries, and that takes time. The spirit has to be rum, but preferably a 100-proof rum with a little character, so something slightly aged. Demerara rum is probably the best option, but if you only have white rum, a higher proof means a better infusion and a higher proof for your liqueur.
  • 1/4 cup allspice berries
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar 
  • 2 cups 100-proof rum
This simple infusion starts with toasting 1/4 cup allspice berries in a saucepan (medium-high heat) for about five minutes. This releases a lot of the flavor and it will make your kitchen smell amazing. Allow the berries to cool before crushing them with a mortar and pestle or by using a rolling pin on a cutting board. I've had some success with a large wooden spoon.

Put the berries and rum in a sealable jar and store it in a dark place for 15 days or longer. Give the jar a shake every few days to stir things up.

After the infusion is complete, strain out the solids and pour the infusion into a sauce pan. Heat on medium (higher heat evaporates too much of the alcohol) and add the brown sugar. Stir slowly for fifteen minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved. After the liqueur is cool you can store it in a bottle for six months. Flavor appreciably dissipates after this time.

Homemade Red Currant Syrup / Liquor

Sometimes I come across recipes involving red currant syrup or a sweet liqueur made from red currants. You won't find these on the market. There just isn't enough interest in producing such a niche item. With so many drink recipes calling for creme de cassis, which is made with black currants, there's no room for this brighter tasting berry.

The good news is that the berries themselves are not such an unusual summer crop, and they are in season this summer. This recipe does not make a lot of syrup or liqueur--it takes a lot of these little berries to make much of anything. But if you happen on a bumper crop of red currants, feel free to scale up the recipe. 
  • 1/2 pint red currants
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup 100-proof vodka (for liqueur)
Clean and remove the stems from the berries and put them in a saucepan with water. Heat on medium-high until boiling, then reduce heat to simmer. Add sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the berries break up and release their juices. Strain the mixture with fine mesh and allow it to cool.

At this point you can seal it in a container and use this syrup as a sweetener. But you can add a cup of vodka and bottle it as an alcoholic creme de cassis rouge.

Monday, July 6, 2020


This cocktail comes across as bright and tropical with spicy notes from Angostura bitters and sweetened by herbaceous kummel.

It's not the a common combination; and a drink with kummel is not the first thing that comes to mind with a name like Mexicano. Wouldn't tequila be more fitting? But that belies the dominance of rum throughout the Caribbean. That's where Blackbeard's Point rum comes in. It's made in Virginia, but like Blackbeard himself, it is at home along all of the Americas' coast of the Atlantic.

This Blue Sky Distillery product is a dry and balanced blend of rum that can easily accommodate flavors of fruity drinks as well as spicy or pickled drinks like rum Martinis. The Mexicano is a little bit of both with pickling herbs like caraway, fennel, and corriander of kummel (which is sweetened by honey) and the clove and allspice of aromatic bitters.
  • 2 oz. light rum (Blackbeard's Point used)
  • 1/2 oz. kummel (homemade used)
  • 1 oz. orange juice
  • several dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 


I really liked the intense orange and nutty flavors of this cocktail. Yes, there is orange in there, but it is not a citrus drink at all. Triple sec is flavored with orange zest, not juice, and egg white and creme de noyaux soften and sweeten the drink. What you get is a burst of liqueurs with a silky texture and a pretty pink color.

I doubled down on the orange zest by substituting MurLarkey's orange whiskey for plain blended whiskey. It really improves the cocktail. You have to try it to understand.
  • 1 1/2 oz. blended whiskey (MurLarkey orange whiskey used)
  • 1/2 oz. triple sec
  • 1/2 oz. creme de noyaux (Tempis Fugit used)
  • 1/2 egg white (Or one whole egg white for two)
  • lemon or orange twist or both
Combine all ingredients except for citrus zests in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain to remove ice. Return liquid to a shaker without ice and shake again to increase foam. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lemon or orange twists. 

Park Lane

Every so often, a sloe gin cocktail really hits the spot. I recommend a hot day where a Manhattan served up doesn't sound appealing. That is because sloe gin has that berry flavor that I associate with Slushies. It bends the flavor of a whiskey drink to something snappy and sweet and somehow familiar.

You can use any whiskey to do the Park Lane, however I recommend using an understated whiskey. Your good scotch or bourbon is wasted here, while citrus flavors are complimentary. So Canadian or Irish whiskeys are best, but for a change, try a citrus flavored whiskey like MurLarkey's lemon whiskey. 
  • 1 1/2 oz. blended whiskey (MurLarkey lemon used)
  • 1/2 oz. sloe gin (Mr. Boston used)
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar syrup or to taste
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 


There's no snakes in Ireland, so the legend of St. Patrick says. I also think it has something to do with Irish Whiskey. There are no Rattlesnakes because the people drank them all.

This specific recipe is a Rattlesnake #1 of maybe five very similar concoctions. Irish whiskey is an appropriate choice, since blended whiskey is needed to keep the flavors milder than the bite of rye or the vanilla of Bourbon. Rattlesnakes are very old American cocktails, way back in a time when almost all American whiskey was bootleg and rum and brandy were more commonly used for cocktails. Irish whiskey was available for those 18th century drinkers who knew about it, however, and it was well regarded by bartenders like Jerry Thomas.

The drinks is basically a traditional sour with egg white and flavored with anise spirit--an amazing combo if done in moderation. It is more relaxed, however, in its being served on the rocks instead of neat in a Sour glass.
  • 1 1/2 oz. blended whiskey (Proper Twelve Irish whiskey used)
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar syrup
  • 1/2 egg white (or one whole egg white for 2 drinks)
  • several dashes Pernod (Ricard used)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Puerto Plata

What a delicious cocktail! The Puerto Plata is a surprisingly refreshing, and an inspired recipe that takes you out of the norm of tropical drinks and transports your taste buds to the Puerto Rico's tourist district. The interplay of orgeat and banana is brilliant for a vodka drink. This iteration, however, does not feature fake flavors: only real stuff like Liber & Co. orgeat and MurLarkey banana whiskey will do.

And I'm pleased that this is one time where MurLarkey Banana whiskey can be used without modifying the recipe at all. Orgeat that is rich and nutty will sweeten the whiskey and give the banana flavor something to stick to. The vodka is there only to boost the alcohol without overwhelming with flavor.
  • 1 1/2 oz. vodka (Smirnoff #57 used)
  • 1/2 oz. banana liqueur (MurLarkey banana whiskey used)
  • 1/2 oz. orgeat (Liber & Co. used)
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. 

Moonshine Margarita

It's not a stretch to use moonshine in place of tequila in a cocktail. Bootleg boys of Virginia have been doing it since they've been making their own spirits in makeshift stills in the Virginia highlands. Done right, a Margarita will not suffer for having no tequila. You might even like it better, depending on the quality of the tequila you usually enjoy.

I want to point out that Climax Moonshine is a great pot still spirit made with a medley of corn, barley, and sugar. It is easy to drink chilled, but it isn't neutral like Belle Isle's moonshine. It is a white whiskey, filtered no more than twice, with character--the pinnacle of Virginia's spirit.
  • 2 oz. white whiskey or moonshine (Climax used)
  • 3/4 oz. triple sec
  • 1 tsp. sugar syrup
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • kosher salt for rim
 Rim an Old Fashioned glass with salt by pouring the salt on a flat saucer and wetting the rim of the glass with lime juice. Dip the glass into the bed of salt. Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime slice.

Danish Manhattan

Okay! I get it. Peter Heering was a Danish liqueur producer (though now his cherry liqueur is made in Sweeden). So I understand the temptation to take a whiskey cocktail and name it a Manhattan even though there is no vermouth and no bitters. The concept is good, but it doesn't taste too much like a Manhattan after all is said and done.

Seagrams 7 Crown is so mellow and Cherry Herring is so sweet, I am unable to find that bite we usually associate with a Manhattan. In keeping with the cherry theme, there's a bit of kirsch here, which does provide a little alcoholic traction, that trenchant fruit brandy flavor that is usually associated with grapa. It's not a bad drink, but maybe a little bit unnecessary. And if I'm feeling that about the name, then maybe a new name is all the Danish Manhattan needs--and maybe some cherry bitters!
  • 1 1/2 oz. blended whiskey (Seagram's 7 Crown used)
  • 1/4 oz. kirschwasser (Kammer Kirsch used)
  • 1/4 oz. Cherry Heering
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

Windward Passage

On first look, this cocktail seems a little like a variation on the Tradewinds that includes Slivovitz. It really is its own thing, however; especially when you consider it being served up with pineapple juice, kirsch, and creme de cassis.  The Windward Passage, nevertheless, is a well balanced tropical drink that deserves more attention.

First, it's balance: there's not a lot of sugar here, and grapefruit juice takes it in a tart direction. Yet you can count on the small proportion of creme de cassis and the outsized gob of pineapple juice to soften the acidity and alcohol presence. That again is helped by the kirsch, which really makes it easier to taste the alcohol through the large juice components.

Then, there's the look--foamy pink without using an egg white or grenadine. You can get away with using that pale canned grapefruit juice here if you like and it will still look nice. (I almost always use fresh squeezed so I can garnish with a slice of grapefruit.)
  • 1 1/2 oz. light rum (Vitae platinum used)
  • 2 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 3 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1 tsp. kirsch (Kammer Kirsch used)
  • 1 tsp. creme de cassis (G.E, Massenez used)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Tom Neuberger's Toddy

Contrary to popular belief, a Toddy is not a hot drink (that's the Hot Toddy). It is actually mixture of spirits, water, honey and lemon that is used as a curative. Tom Neuberger's Toddy is the kind of cure you need on a hot day.

My first inclination was that adding equal parts spirits and water to a recipe will create something that tastes watered down, and that does happen to an extent. But that is just what you need when looking for a refreshing rocks sipper. All spirits and ice don't go over well when you are sipping in the sun, at least not for very long.

Another thing to consider is making any cold drink with honey means you get a lump of honey that doesn't dissolve into the cocktail like it does when the water is hot. It actually takes a lot of work and creates too much variation when mixing multiple drinks. Bartenders resort to a half-honey/ half-hot water solution that further dilutes the cocktail. You can do that or you can just use MurLarkey honey whiskey.

Either option is good. I enjoyed how much honey presence MurLarkey gave the drink without adding too much sweetness. There's only a twist of lemon in the drink, so it isn't so much a question of balance as it is about having honey represented alongside cinnamon, lemon and whiskey.
  • 1 tsp. honey (or 1/2 oz. MurLarkey Honey whiskey)
  • 2 oz. water
  • 2 oz. blended whiskey (Seagram's 7 used)
  • dash maraschino liqueur
  • lemon twist
  • cinnamon stick
 If using honey, add honey and water to a chilled Old Fashioned glass and stir until the honey dissolves. (For better results try a 1:1 ratio of honey and hot water syrup plus the 2 oz. of cold water.) If you have honey whiskey skip the first step and use the honey whiskey. Add blended whiskey and maraschino liqueur to the glass and fill with several ice cubes. Stir well before twisting the lemon peel over the drink and dropping it in. Garnish with the cinnamon stick. 

Tommy Latta

Is there any chance that this cocktail was named after the Scottish-born doctor who invented the saline solution drip method for the treatment of patients? If not, it is pure coincidence that this Manhattan variation is so easy to drink, I might consider enjoying it bedside from a drip straw.

All jokes aside, I felt that the cocktail itself was a conservative approach to a Perfect Manhattan, both in the ordinary selection of ingredients and its overall size: it was rather small for a cocktail and fit neatly in a cordial glass.

After trying it, however, I recognized that there was an excellent balance of acid and sweetness. The bite of the whiskey was diminished in part because of the sugar syrup and lemon juice and also because of my choice of whiskey. I still stand by an Irish or perhaps unpeated scotch whiskey, as I think that this is an old world kind of recipe designed to make early distilled spirits more palletable for new drinkers. That would also explain the small proportions. This is a great cocktail to be swallowed in one go after a toast, a practice far more common in the British Isles even to this day.
  • 1 1/2 oz. blended whiskey (Proper Twelve Irish whiskey used)
  • 1/2 tsp. dry vermouth
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet vermouth
  • several dashes lemon juice
  • several dashes sugar syrup or to taste
 Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

Flavio's Special

As long as this drink was going to take a deep dive into orange flavors, I felt it was appropriate to complete the journey--by substituting MurLarkey's orange whiskey for the regular blended stuff. Flavio's Special already has orange liqueur and bitters, and I was correct that the taste from the whiskey, particularly the vanilla notes, could be enhanced by this local Virginia whiskey steeped in orange peels and vanilla.

Now the only question is who is Flavio? There are several restaurants and even a food critic and chef who share the same name, but I'm not sure that the title can be traced back to any one individual person or place. Names like these are lost to time, a particular bartender, guest or owner of an establishment who comes up with a Manhattan Variation that is a hit for a short while. What is more likely is that the name is intended to evoke an Italian theme that fits a restaurant, and the orange flavor is an echo of common Italian aperitifs. We may never know the full story, but we don't have to. Make this drink with orange whiskey or a mild blended whiskey and enjoy the spice and orange flavors rolling around your tongue.

One other thing of note: the recipe calls for Grand Marnier (which is French) but I made an equally acceptable substitute of Royal Combier, a competing orange cognac liqueur. With all of these substitutions, I have come a long way from the original recipe, but I think it is an improvement on a recipe that otherwise hews too closely to a standard Manhattan. 
  • 1 1/2 oz. blended whiskey (MurLarkey orange whisky used)
  • 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth (Cocchi Dopo Teatro used)
  • 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier (Royal Combier used)
  • dash orange bitters (Hella used)
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

Orly Bird

This cocktail is named after Paris' famous Orly airport or the aircraft that land there. It is also classically Franco-American in that it resembles a Manhattan with just hints of spirits representing the Paris spirit scene in the 1900s. For the traditional Manhattan drinker, I recommend it over more bitter anise flavored cocktails with the same ingredients. The Orly Bird is milder and more whiskey-forward than the Waldorf or the Hearn's Cocktail, which use a higher proportion of Pernod.

Rather than use a rich cherry brandy--or cherry flavored brandy of dubious make--I decided that this cocktail was really calling for the dry maraschino flavor of Luxardo. The results proved me correct. You will not notice the flavoring effect of a few dashes of cherry brandy or Herring like you do a similar amount of Luxardo maraschino. In doing this, I made something classic and close to the whiskey version of the Martinez.
  • 1 1/2 oz. blended whiskey (MurLarkey Heritage used)
  • 1 tbsp. sweet vermouth (Cocchi Dopo Teatro used)
  • several dashes cherry brandy (Luxardo used)
  • several dashes Pernod
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

7 Stinger

A good Stinger is a work to be treasured. I never felt that I'd come across one that I like as much as a Brandy Stinger. If you don't know, these are pretty basic cocktails that involve white peppermint schnapps and some other strong spirit to space it out. They have been done frozen and on the rocks. Stingers make good shots and awesome dive bar drinks. So it is not surprising to find America's most mixable whiskey in a Stinger recipe.
  • 1 oz. Seagram's Seven Crown whiskey
  • 1 oz. peppermint schnapps (white creme de menthe used and recommended)
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 


This is not the German spirit that we grew up taking "dare" shots of at dive bars, but it is close. This vodka cocktail goes for sour and earthy flavors just like the famed Jagermeister, which means master of the hunt. That might lend insight into the green color scheme of this recipe.

Kummel and Jager (as it is called) are similar Germanic sweet and herbal infusions. Jagermeister has a lot more clove and licorice root and a number of ingredients that are secrets to all except a small few who work for the distillers. My addition to the cocktail recipe is intended to balance the brightness, a heavy dash of clove and spice aromatic bitters by Hella.
  • 1 1/2 oz. vodka (Smirnoff #57)
  • 1/2 oz. kummel (homemade recipe used)
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice 
  • lime twist
  • dash aromatic bitters (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a lime peel over the glass and drop it in.

Tortola Gold

What a discovery! I really enjoyed the interplay of tropical flavors, enhanced by rum and spread out and fortified by vodka. This long frozen drink really fits into the category of boat drinks, blended tropical drinks that get you smashed in the sun. The funny thing is that La Grande Passion used to be considered the easy solution to getting passion fruit flavor into your boat drink, something so commonplace at one time that it was served up to tourists. Now you can hardly find it and I have to make it myself to be able to pull off this one time mass marketed cocktail!
  • 1 oz. vodka (Smirnoff #57 used)
  • 1 oz. gold rum (Vitae barrel aged rum used)
  • 1/2 oz. la Grande Passion (homemade used)
  • 2 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz. oz. lemon juice
  • mint sprigs
Combine liquid ingredients in a blender with ice. Blend until smooth and pour into a chilled Collins glass. Garnish with mint sprigs. 

Mandingo Gringo

This drink is bananas! It is also a nod to Jamaica distilling and, in my rendition, a recipe very local to Virginia. Here the aged Vite rum and MurLarkey banana whiskey make for a tropical escape. And why not? Virginia is an old colony state that engaged in the rum trade and whiskey rebellion. You can find palm trees here and hot, tropical weather. We even put pineapples ornaments on gates and door frames as a sign of welcome.
  • 1 1/2 oz. Jamaica dark rum (Appleton would be perfect, but having none, I used Vitae barrel aged rum)
  • 1/2 oz. creme de banane (MurLarkey banana whiskey used)
  • 2 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1 oz. orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
 Combine all ingredients in a blender with ice. Blend until smooth and pour into a chilled Collins glass. 


I didn't know that this Martini variation even existed. As far as Martini's go, it's not overly extravagant, just sweet and herbal. But I have to say that if you haven't had a black olive with kummel, you are missing out. It is the sweet honey and herbal flavors with the dark scent of black olive and vodka. Don't pass up the chance to make this especially dank and very Russian cocktail.
  • 1 1/2 oz. vodka (Smirnoff #57 used)
  • 1 oz. kummel (homemade used)
  • black olive
Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the black olive. 


You don't see too many Grasshopper taste-alikes made with whiskey, or with white creme de menthe for that matter. The effect is a snow-white cocktail that has the exact, if not better, mint and chocolate flavor of a classic Grasshopper with a whiskey kick. What I like, though, is that it isn't as sweet or as creamy. There's milk and a lot less of it, and the cordials are held in balance as well. You can do this drink anytime--and I mean breakfast is not off limits--and it won't fill you up.
  • 1 1/2 oz. Seagram's Seven Crown whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. white creme de cacao
  • 1/2 oz. white creme de menthe
  • 1 oz. milk
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

Martinique Cooler

I feel that if a cocktail is called a Cooler, it needs to be a long drink. That's just me. This short one is still terrific. It is pretty much a blended Margarita made with rum and Mandarine Napoleon. Because I can't get Mandarine Napoleon, a spiced cognac and mandarin spirit, I made it by a process of estimation (below). I'm still keeping my recipe a secret until I've perfected it, because there was a lot of trial and error.

Martinique is a French speaking island in the Caribbean known for its fresh pressed sugarcane rum. I don't have any of that, but the cocktail doesn't specify this. Vitae Platinum is a good substitute anyway, with a fresh taste not unlike Martinique rum.
  • 1 1/2 oz. light rum (Vitae Platinum used)
  • 1/2 oz. Mandarine Napoleon
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. orgeat syrup
  • lime slice
Combine liquid ingredients in a blender with ice. Blend until smooth and pour into a chilled highball glass (maybe if you double the recipe. As printed, it's not enough for a highball and I used and Old Fashioned glass). Garnish with a lime slice. 

Poolabanga Sling

A tropical Sling, very much like the Singapore Sling, is a fizzy and fruity cocktail that is easy to drink on a hot day. The substitution of aged rum and falernum made me want to put it in a tiki mug--and that's a good impulse. Slings aren't especially pretty in clear glasses, the Herring and lime juice tend to make them look a little brown. The glass itself, then becomes the decoration. Just be sure to pick a large glass because a lot of tiki mugs don't have room to top with soda.
  • 1 1/2 oz. aged rum (Vitae Barrel Aged used)
  • 2 oz. orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. falernum (homemade used)
  • tsp. cherry brandy (Herring used)
  • club soda
  • mint sprigs
Combine all ingredients except soda and mint in a blender with ice. Flash blend and pour into a highball or tiki mug. Top with soda and garnish with mint.


For Eastern European feudal societies the Boyar was the highest ranking aristocrat. This cocktail features some of the spirits that these guys used to put back with abandon. Vodka--a strong one, too-- is a standard for Eastern European heavy drinking. It's better if the vodka is very clean tasting, or no taste at all, so that it is almost creamy. A well-filtered Smirnoff does the trick for me.

Kummel is a celebratory flavored spirit that is savory and sweetened with honey. Often drunk at Christmas parties, Kummel's caraway, dill, and any number of random spices make it the defining characteristic of this cocktial.

I added cocktail onions in this recipe because their vinegar zing goes along with the other ingredients, and you can eat them, as they are commonly enjoyed with vodka toasts.
  • 2 oz. vodka (Smirnoff #57 used)
  • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth (Carpano dry used)
  • 1/4 oz. kummel (homemade used
  • cocktail onions (optional)
Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with onions of preferred. 

Pepper Tree Punch

Spicy, sweet, bitter, fruity--this drink's description covers it all. I feel that while the flavor execution is on point, the garnish game needs work. Why go through the trouble of blending a cocktail just to put it in an Old Fashioned glass. It doesn't make a lot of sense. Then again, these old recipes often don't.

One thing that Pepper Tree Punch has going for it is the blend of rums. Real tiki style recognizes that you have to have a balance between richness and fresh cane flavors. That and fresh juice, spices and Angostura bitters really set this one apart.
  • 2 oz. dark rum (Vitae Barrel Aged used)
  • 1 oz. light rum (Vitae platinum used)
  • 1 tsp. orgeat syrup
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • several dashes Angostura bitters
  • one pinch of cinnamon
  • one pinch cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. 

Seven Veils

Outside of the Playing Cards series of cocktails, there are only a few other whiskey recipes that specify Segram's Seven Crown. This cocktail is very tropical with pineapple juice, creme de cacao and grenadine. It is also the kind of cocktail that you could pull together at just about any dive bar, which I have to admit that I like: unpretentious in a coup glass.
  • 1 1/2 oz. Segram's Seven Crown whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. creme de cacao 
  • 1 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. grenadine
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.