Smoky Old Mate

smokyoldmateThe idea of aging a cocktail in a barrel (similar to how whiskey is aged) has always sounded like an intriguing experiment, but I’d sipped some aged cocktails before with mixed results. Some didn’t stand out or seem worth the trouble. A few were damn tasty but also damn expensive, since the bar had to store a bunch of barrels for a month or more and charged for the effort. So I’ve never tried the DIY version.

But The Black Grouse sent me a cocktail aging kit, a recipe, and some of its scotch—the perfect incentive to give barrel-aging cocktails a try. Instead of a whole barrel, this kit came with some barrel staves (tiny aged barrel sticks!) and a small bottle. All I had to do was pop a stave in the bottle, pour in the drink ingredients, and wait a week.

Verdict: Delicious! I sampled the drink before aging it, and while it tasted good, the aging mellowed the flavors and made them deeper. The combination of bitter and sweet flavors seemed more integrated after a week in the bottle. Continue reading

Low-Calorie Blueberry Tarragon Cocktail

2014! Let’s celebrate the new year with a drink … one that is light AND delicious. Savvy Housekeeping and I got together for a January cocktail. In keeping with New Year’s resolutions, we kept the calories on the low side (and the deliciousness on the high side).
blueberrytarragoncocktailBlueberry and tarragon are a delightful combination! The tarragon adds complexity that makes it taste like you added some fancy liqueur to the mix. We used real sugar—just not a whole lot of it–to boost the natural flavors. (I can’t stand artificial sweeteners.) Our version is about 160 calories. If you cut the sugar in half, it goes down to 145 calories. If you’re doing the “Dryanuary” abstaining-from-alcohol-this-month thing, you can skip the vodka and add more club soda. (Skipping the booze makes it a 65 calorie drink.) It’s really a flexible drink–you could use a bit of honey, or gin, or another herb, or whatever floats your boat.

This was so tasty, I could have downed a few more. But I suppose that goes against the whole light, low-cal business.

Blueberry Tarragon Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces vodka
1/3 cup blueberries (one large handful)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoon fresh tarragon
1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
Club soda to top (about 2 ounces, or more to taste)

Muddle all ingredients except club soda at the bottom of a mixing glass. Add ice and then top with club soda.

Photo by Savvy Housekeeping

Holiday Cheer

holidaycheerchampagnecocktailThe holidays are a time when, dammit, you want something super fancy and wonderful but don’t have a lot of time to make it. This Holiday Cheer cocktail I made with Savvy Housekeeping is perfect for this time of year because it’s exactly that—festive, delicious, and easy.

We used store-bought raspberry sorbet, but you can use any flavor you like. (Perhaps homemade cranberry sorbet, which I think would be great in this) If you want something a little sweeter or just don’t like hard liquor, you can skip the rye and just make it a Champagne Raspberry Float.

Holiday Cheer

1 scoop raspberry sorbet
1 ounce rye whiskey
Sparkling wine

Scoop the sorbet into a champagne flute, add the rye, and then slowly pour in sparkling wine to top. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Photo by Savvy Housekeeping

Cranberry Margarita

cranberrymargaritaIn honor of Thanksgiving, I got together with Savvy Housekeeping for a turkey-day-appropriate cocktail: the Cranberry Margarita! Aside from the gorgeous, deep red color, this drink has a refreshing tartness that is just the thing for a holiday built around heavy savory foods.

We used 100% cranberry juice for that true cranberry pucker. However, if you like things a little sweeter you can either add a little simple syrup (or agave) or you can use sweetened cranberry juice cocktail. Hey, this could even be a job for cran-apple, cran-raspberry, or another cran-juice.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Margarita

1 1/2 oz cranberry juice
1 oz tequila
1/2 oz triple sec

Shake ingredients over ice, then strain into a cocktail glass. Spear fresh cranberries for garnish.

Fresh Apple Cocktail: High & Dry

High & Dry(credit Emmanuel Cayere)Let me say it again: Hurray for fall! If you’re looking for a refreshing drink that has a touch of fresh apple and spice, this is the recipe. The bubbles from the club soda made this a good choice for day drinking.

This recipe was developed with Brugal Especial Extra Dry rum, and I’ve found that, as the name says, this really is an extra dry rum without as much sweetness as most silver rums. That worked really well with Demerara (or raw sugar) syrup. With a little tasting and adjusting, you can use a silver rum and/or a rich simple syrup (which is a syrup made with regular white syrup in a 2 parts sugar, 1 part water ratio). Falernum is a liqueur made with lime, cloves, almonds, and rum. Velvet is THE one you’ll see around commercially, but it’s easy (and delicious) to make your own.

High & Dry

2 ounces rum
1/2 ounce Velvet Falernum (or make your own falernum)
1/2 ounce cane syrup or simple syrup made with Demerara sugar
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce club soda
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Apple wedge

Muddle apple wedge in the bottom of a mixing glass or cocktail shaker. Add all other ingredients (except club soda) and shake with ice. Strain into a highball glass over new ice and top with club soda. Garnish with an apple slice.

Recipe by Trevor Schneider, Goldbar
Photo by Emmanuel Cayere

Hot Buttered Pumpkin Rum

pumpkinhotbutteredrumNow that it’s finally starting to feel like fall, it’s time to get cozy with some hot drinks. I got together with Savvy Housekeeping to mix up this delightfully autumnal pumpkin variation on Hot Buttered Rum. It has a pleasant spice mix and satisfying consistency, in addition to helping to keep you nice and warm. Use a dark or gold rum for the right flavor.

Hot Buttered Pumpkin Rum

2 tablespoons Pumpkin puree (canned is fine)
1 teaspoon Brown sugar
1 teaspoon Ginger
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Allspice
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 tablespoon Butter
2 ounces rum
Hot water (enough to fill the mug)
Cinnamon stick for garnish

Combine the pumpkin and spices in a mug and mix thoroughly so that they are completely integrated. Add the rum. Put the butter on top so it is floating in the rum. Carefully pour hot water over the drink. Stir with a cinnamon stick or spoon.

Photo by Savvy Housekeeping

Apple Brown Bourbon Cocktail

applebrownbourboncocktail
Fall is here! I got together with Savvy Housekeeping to celebrate with a cocktail that brings together the seasonal flavors of apple, maple syrup, and ginger in a lightly spiced cocktail. It’s sweet enough to be a treat without veering into sugary territory, thanks to maple syrup. This delicious apple drink made us think of crisp apple desserts.

(‘Tis the season, so here are even more apple cocktails, including one made with gin.)

Apple Brown Bourbon

1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounces ginger liqueur (such as Domaine de Canton or a DIY version)
1 ounce apple juice
1/2 ounce maple syrup
1/4 ounce lemon juice

Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Photo by Savvy Housekeeping

Fall Gin Cocktail: Apple Business

Apple Business4 (credit Alice Gao)It’s fall … even though the weather where I am doesn’t quite feel like it yet. To get a little of that autumnal atmosphere into my life, I mixed up an apple cocktail. It’s simple to make, but has a lot of complex flavors going on. The floral notes in the gin really went well with honey. Come on, fall! I’m ready for you!

It’s no secret Nolet’s is one of my favorite gins, so I was more than happy to try this recipe when they sent it to me. I just used plain old clover honey (like the kind that comes in a squeezy bear), but this would be excellent with some blackberry honey or orange honey.

Apple Business

2 ounces gin
1 ounce fresh apple juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce honey

Shake all ingredients over ice, and then strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with apple slice.

Recipe by Theo Lieberman, Milk & Honey (NYC)
Photo by Alice Gao

Cynar Cocktail: Red Letter Day

redletterdayI didn’t realize what Cynar could do until I went to Buenos Aires, where it’s a more popular cocktail ingredient than vodka. Even though Cynar is made with artichoke leaves, it doesn’t actually taste like artichokes. It has more of a bittersweet herbal flavor that adds a little kick to drinks. (The Cynar folks tell me it’s named after cynarin, a property of artichokes that makes your tastebuds perceive food and drink as sweeter.)

Speaking of the Cynar folks … they sent me a lovely package that included Cynar and some other cocktail ingredients. I don’t post recipes sent by brands unless I like them. And this one was a big hit with me! It’s light and refreshing (perfect warm for late-summer nights) but with a sophisticated depth and hint of sweetness that doesn’t take over your palate like sweeter Mojito-style cocktails can.

Cynar isn’t as whammo bold as Campari, though they are both aperitifs. But it still offers that touch of Italy and bitterness that is perfect for before a meal (or after).

Red Letter Day

1 ounce Cynar
1 ounce Applejack
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce ginger syrup
1/4 ounce grenadine
Club soda to top (about 4 ounces, according to taste)
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Pour all ingredients except the club soda and bitters into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Then strain into a Collins glass filled with ice and top with soda and bitters.

I used Laird’s Bonded Applejack, Morris Kitchen ginger syrup, and Fee Brothers grenadine. But you could make your own ginger syrup by cooking upĀ  2 cups sugar, 2 cups water, and a six-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced. As for grenadine, I recommend making DIY grenadine.

Recipe by Tonia Guffey of Dram in Brooklyn

Cucumber Basil Gimlet

cucumberbasilgimlet

The garden at Savvy Housekeeping is overflowing with cucumbers! So we got together and made this lovely, late-summer cocktail with some of the bounty. It has a delicate and sweet flavor that’s a good antidote to the muggy weather we’re having now. We used lemon cucumbers and purple basil, but you can also use English cucumber and whatever your favorite basil variety is.

Cucumber Basil Gimlet

1 English cucumber or 2-3 small lemon cucumbers
8 basil leaves
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
2 oz gin

Peel the cucumbers, then chop into chunks and discard the peels. Muddle basil, cucumber, lime, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and gin, then shake for 15-30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Photo by Savvy Housekeeping