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Gift Ideas for the Cocktail Lover

Posted by Reese On December - 17 - 2012

Guest post by Elisabeth, Cocktail Hacktress in training.

Tis the season to wander around the mall hopelessly looking for last minute gifts for those who are hard to buy for. Would they love the Bad Kitty calendar? Another red sweater? I, myself, have a difficult-to-buy-for Cocktail Hacker and feel for you. But, should your gift recipient love alcohol, you are in luck. We found some great books for a cocktail lover –Throw in a bottle of something tasty and you have a great gift!

Gingerbread Eggnog

I was super excited when I saw the Never Cook Sober Cookbook by Stacy Laabs and Sherri Field. What could be better than combining a love of cooking with a love of booze? This book has 100 recipes that incorporate booze. To help guide your cooking each recipe is given a “jug rating” for how much alcohol content is in the final product. What I loved most about this book is that it has everything you could want to cook meat-wise, but also includes items from scrambled eggs to desserts. Every recipe sounds delicious and I find myself trying to figure out which recipe I can cook from the ingredients in my house. Reese and I ended up cooking the Honey I’m Home Whiskey Chicken. Very tasty! If you have a cocktail loving cook on your Christmas list, grab this book! Buy one for me too!

If you are looking for a complete, modern cocktail book, we recommend Edible Cocktails by Natalie Bovis. This book includes a little education on ingredients, recipes for specialty homemade ingredients and, finally, recipes for a good variety of cocktails. This book is not limited to cocktails, but also includes recipes for shrubs, preserves, and syrups that would be great for every day drinks also. The recipes feel very farm-to-table calling for fresh seasonal ingredients when possible. This would also be a good book for someone willing to put time into making their own bitters (see Reese’s Hell Fire and Coronal bitter posts if this is you!) in order to make a cocktail with great impact. Serve up this book with a new muddler or beautiful bottles for storing shrubs.

The American Cocktail by the editors of Imbibe Magazine is sorted by region of the U.S.A. As would be expected from experts that spend their days writing about cocktails, the editors compiled only the best of modern cocktail recipes from around the country. In each recipe, the ingredients evoke a feel of their home region of the U.S., such as the cherries, walnuts and apples found in the Midwest recipes. We recommend this book for a seasoned cocktail fan that is in search of fresh recipe inspiration. Pair with a nice bottle of artisanal Rye.

For your farmer’s market attending cocktail lover, I recommend Artisanal Cocktails by Scott Beattie. This book is uniquely laid out by seasons, with fresh ingredients highlighted in each recipe. As a fan of fall flavors, I drooled over the Autumn Apple cocktail, complete with dehydrated apple chip accents. Nothing screams fall more than spiced apple beverages. The recipes vary from classics such as Mint Juleps (Summer) , Cuba Libres (Spring), and Margaritas (Winter) to more creative recipes such as the Rhubarbarella (Spring), Gin Kimchi (Spring) and Grapes of Roth (Fall). The recipes are very thorough, including recipes for any ingredients you need to complete the cocktail. This would be a delightful cocktail book for someone who likes to pair their cocktails with farmer’s market finds—Pair with a nice reusable shopping bag for when those markets open again.

Buying someone a SodaStream or other type of seltzer maker? You may want to include The Artisan Soda Workshop by Andrea Lynn, currently around $10 on Amazon.com. This book gives a great selection of recipes for shrubs and syrups that would be great with seltzer water. Only a few of the recipes in the back contain alcohol, but with a great tasting shrub and a little creativity, great cocktails aren’t far away!

Reese and I realize there are just as many beer lovers in Colorado as there are cocktail lovers. We are spoiled by the Great American Beer Festival and many large and small breweries in the area. For those that may not have the same access to the brew process as us, we recommend Short Course in Beer by Lynn Hoffman. This introduces the reader to all things important to know about beer, including terminology, process, home brew techniques and even a few recipes to pair with your beer. Throw in a 6-pack or a New Belgium Lips of Faith bomber and your beer lover is set!

Hopefully these suggestions help ease your anxiety about what you buy those hard-to-shop-for cocktail lovers. Anyone with suggestions for the Cocktail Hacker that has everything, I welcome help!


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

Posted by Reese On November - 11 - 2012

Irish Whiskey (making note of the ‘e’) is a category that I enjoy, but haven’t explored much.  Some time back I received a bottle of Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey for review and what struck me most was their claim that this whiskey is distilled in the oldest operating distillery.  Operating under license since 1757 (holy awesome!) the old distillery as it’s called only recently began producing Kilbeggan whiskey again but it’s just as tasty as ever.

Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey – 40% ABV

As you fill your glass you’re first greeted with a light amber/honey color and an aroma that is distinctly whiskey.  Subtle earthiness and notes of vanilla and spices with a light sweetness throughout.  The mouth feel and flavor are tremendously smooth.  While there are notes of clove and cinnamon with a vanilla caramel sweetness, this whiskey isn’t super complex.  Rather, Kilbeggan is very drinkable and approachable.   I’d happily offer some to any whiskey drinker knowing that they’re certain to enjoy the dram.

So, given that this whiskey isn’t overly bold I wanted to craft a cocktail that played off the spices without overwhelming the whiskey itself.  With fall at hand, something using fresh apple cider seemed like a great plan.  Here is the result.

Irish Harvest

Irish Harvest
2 oz Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey
1 oz Spiced Apple Syrup
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
1) Shake with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass 
2) Garnish with an orange twist 

The spiced apple syrup brings even more spice to the party and a tangy sweet apple flavor that plays really well with the whiskey.  The cocktail is drier than you’d initially expect which is perfect for my tastes.  Very reminiscent of spiked apple cider, but with the whiskey taking center stage.  Finally, the lemon juice adds brightness to the cocktail and the amount should be considered a suggestion only.  Based on the cider you choose for the syrup you may need more or less acidity to add the right level of sourness.  This is a great fall cocktail that I’ll definitely be making more of in the coming weeks.

Spiced Apple Syrup
2 c Apple Cider (fresh if possible)
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Star Anise
10 Allspice Berries
3 Cloves
Peel of 1/2 Orange (minus the white pith)
1) Bring the mixture to a low boil
2) Boil until reduced by half
3) Strain out the spices

† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – Martin Miller’s Gin

Posted by Reese On October - 24 - 2012

There is a lot going around about the “Most Interesting Man in the World”.  And, while I love those ads, he’s just a myth.  Martin Miller on the other hand, is very real and very much in contention to be truly the most interesting man in the world.  Truly a serial entrepreneur, Miller started his working life by publishing a book entitled “Success with the Fairer Sex” and from there he moved to publishing the well know series of Miller’s antiques guides.  Didn’t expect that, did you?  Expanding on that success he’s grown his empire to include a string of boutique hotels and a lecture venue in London.  But in 1999 is when he really gets interesting, at least us drinkers.  That’s the year when Miller set out to make the first truly ultra-premium gin.  One that “tasted great, even when drunk neat.”  The rest is cocktail history.  See what I mean?  That’s the sort of guy you sit down with for a drink and hope the bottle never runs dry.

Martin Miller's Gin

Man makes a damn fine gin too.  Sourced from the best ingredients Miller could find, distilled in small batches, and flavored simply with only ten botanicals for a flavor profile that is both rich and smooth, Martin Miller’s gin is great, through and through.  Last, but arguably most important, Miller drops his gin to strengthusing ultra pure water sourced directly from the glacial runoff of Iceland.

Martin Miller’s Gin (40% ABV) – The aroma carries light juniper and citrus notes without being overly bold or piney.  The flavor delightfully follows suit with light juniper notes in the background and smooth citrus taking the fore.  You get slight hints of the coriander and other spices, but they are very subtle.  Overall the flavor is very clean and the finish is medium in length.

Martin Miller’s Gin Westbourne Strength (45.2% ABV) – The juniper takes the reins with this bottling.  You first notice it more prevalently in the aroma with the citrus notes a bit more muted.  In the flavor the juniper and spices (coriander and licorice most notably) are the stars.  While the citrus is still present, it is lighter by comparison.  The overall flavor is, like the standard bottling, very clean and smooth with a medium finish.

Both are fantastic gins and I was amazed at the flavor differences given that they are the same recipe, simply bottled at different proofs.  Certainly there are lots of cocktail options, but when you give me a high proof gin, the first thing that always comes to mind is one of my first and favorite cocktails on Cocktail Hacker, the Gimlet.  The Gimlet is one of those deceptively simple cocktails.  It only has two ingredients…Rose’s Lime and Gin.  Mix, drink, done.  Easy.

Wrong.  You get the ratio wrong and now you’re in a land of over-sweet limeyness.  Use a subtle gin and all of the gin flavor goes away.  Bringing this drink back to my rotation using Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength was a stroke of personal genius, but I have something to admit.  My original recipe was off.  The gin needs to be fractionally more of the equation.

Gimlet (Cocktail Hacker Remix)
2 1/2 oz High Proof Gin
1 oz Rose's Lime
1) Mix with ice, drink, repeat

This seemingly minor change alters the flavor profile by leaps and bounds.  You decrease the sweetness without cutting it out, you bring forward the gin highlighting the botanicals.  In short, you make it awesome.  Now you.  Go make it awesome.


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – Milagro Tequilas

Posted by Reese On August - 26 - 2012

Guest post by Elisabeth, Cocktail Hacktress in training.

If you had asked me before I started dating Reese what my favorite type of drink was, I’m not sure what I would have said. I have tried plenty of drinks, but I am still inexperienced enough to learn something every time Reese mixes something up. I have learned one thing, though:

I love tequila!

I love the agave flavor, the way tequila enhances a drink with agave earthiness and smokiness, and how good tequila doesn’t require the assistance of lime. If I could have spent my summer touring agave fields and sampling tequila fresh out of the still, I would have been in heaven. Alas, this wasn’t in the plans so when I saw the series of Milagro tequilas Reese had received, I begged him to help me review them.

Milagro Silver (40% ABV)

This affordable version of the Milagro tequila line is the purest example of tequila I have ever tasted. Milagro Silver has a clean agave aroma (Reese smelled black pepper) without any interference. The taste reflects the aroma- clean, crisp agave with little interference of other flavors/aromas. Milagro Silver would be a great addition to a drink where you want to let the agave flavor shine.

Milagro Silver, Select Barrel Reserve (40% ABV)

The Special Barrel Reserve is aged in French Oak barrels which lends a richer, warmer complexity to the tequila. The nose has a subtle vanilla sweetness, with a little oakiness. The product tastes just as crisp as the Silver described above with a tremendously smooth, medium length finish of earthy agave.

Milagro Reprosado, Select Barrel Reserve (40% ABV)

The aging of the Special Barrel Reserve Milagro Reposado in American Oak bourbon barrels gives a heartier oak character. When directly comparing to the Milagro Silver, the sweet caramel and vanilla aroma really shines through. This tequila has a slight golden color and medium-long finish. This tequila is pure and all about the agave without being overly sweet, vegetal or smoky.

Rather than test Milagro’s mixability with a traditional margarita, we opted for a tequila chocolate martini.

Mexican Chocolate Martini

Mexican Chocolate Martini
1 1/2 oz Milagro Silver Tequila
3/4 oz Trader Vic’s Chocolate Liqueur
1/4 oz Original Cinn
2 dashes Fee’s Aztec Chocolate Bitters
1) Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This drink really lets the agave flavors of the Milagro shine through and smells delightfully like earthy agave sprinkled with cinnamon. Cinnamon and chocolate embrace a Mexican chocolate tradition. The cinnamon in Original Cinn is an earthier cinnamon to give it more an authentic taste (rather than a red hot cinnamon in other liqueurs). Do not be tempted to add cream. It swamps the flavors and overwhelms the drink.

P.S. (from Reese) – I love the bottle design on the Select Barrel Reserve bottlings.  The hand-blown agave plant inside the bottle is gorgeous.  The fact that the tequila inside the bottle is also fantastic is complete icing on the cake. *wink wink*

Milagro Barrel Select Bottles


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – Pinky Vodka

Posted by Reese On August - 2 - 2012

Flavored vodkas have been around for a long time.  Truly good flavored vodkas have been around for a while.  But unique, truly good flavored vodkas?  Those are far less common.  One of the first to pass through my lips was Pinky Vodka.  Flavored with rose petal, violet and strawberry the first thing you’ll note is that it truly is eponymous.  The pink hue is natural and not at all overly pink.  Think light pink rose and you’re there.

Once the color grabs your interest, the aroma forces you to taste.  You get floral complexity and fruity sweetness hitting you.  But, that said, it smells like neither perfume nor fruit smoothie.  And, now that you’ve been enticed to taste, the flavor holds you for good.  Like the aroma, the flavors of floral rose and violet combine elegantly with the strawberry fruitiness.  As you’re reading this, I worry that the flavor you’ll have in your head at this point is that of strawberry candy.  Cloying, artificial and generally “kiddie” tasting.  That flavor couldn’t be farther from Pinky.  Pinky’s strawberry flavor is like that of a fresh summer strawberry.  Lightly sweet, crisp and refreshing.

Strawberry Pinky Collins

So, what do you do with Pinky?  Well, aside from just drinking it straight, as I’m doing right now*, you can mix it with complimentary flavors to make it truly shine.  I opted to make a Pinky Collins with a freshly muddled Driscoll’s strawberry.  Now, I can almost hear you saying “nice name drop”.  And, yes, it is.  But it’s more than that.  I like Driscoll’s berries for cocktails because they’re accessible to nearly everyone.  Sure, a lot of us can get farm fresh berries in the middle of the summer and we certainly should. But what about in October? January?  I think you get my point.  Driscoll’s are just there, super tasty and ready whenever you are.

Pinky Collins
1 Driscoll's Strawberry
2 oz Pinky Vodka
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Club Soda
1) Slice strawberry and muddle well
2) Add vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup
3) Stir a bit and add ice
4) Top with soda water

You’re going to note that this cocktail is simply a Vodka Collins with added strawberry and that’s exactly what I wanted.  Keeping it super simple lets the Pinky be the star.  This drink is perfect for hot summer days.  You get a light touch of fruitiness, the floral flavors of the Pinky aren’t masked and the overall drink isn’t overly sweet.  I’ve served this to a number of people now and, to a glass, every one asked for another.  Usually in rather close succession to the first.

*I love it when I’m excited enough about a spirit to just keep sipping my tasting sample until it’s gone.


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.