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 (Tempus 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.