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What I’m Drinking Now: Coral Rose

Posted by Reese On April - 13 - 2015

Clementines are everywhere this time of year, which is fantastic!  Clementines are the perfect cocktail orange.  So, granted, they’re technically tangerines, but, hear me out on this one.  They’re perfectly sized for cocktails (you’ll get 1 1/2 – 2 oz of juice from each one), the flavor is better than most mega-mart oranges and you can eat the leftovers for a snack.  See?  Perfection.  You can use the juice as a one for one replacement for most cocktails (it has a bit more sourness so be aware) or you can make up something new.  Like such.

Coral Rose

Coral Rose
2 oz Clementine Juice
1 oz Lime Juice
2 oz Rye Whiskey
1/4 oz Orange Bitters *

This cocktail is tart, sweet and nicely complex from the added bitters.  The rye (Dickel in this case) is a great whiskey for this drink since it has the power to stand up to the other ingredients and the spicy quality plays well with the sweetness from the juice.  Very refreshing overall and, like so many other cocktails, goes down way too easy.

* Instead of orange bitters, I used some of my homemade hibiscus orange bitters.  Basically the same ingredients as this recipe but with some added hibiscus flowers.   They add a great color and a very light floral quality.

Spiced Apple Toddy

Posted by Reese On February - 23 - 2015

Winter finally arrived here in Colorado to the tune of 12-16″ of snow at my house.  And that doesn’t even begin to compare to what the Northeast has seen.  But, you know what that means, friends?  It’s time for hot drinks, with booze.  I went for a hike in the snow yesterday and I definitely needing the warming strength of a toddy when I got home.

A traditional Hot Toddy is simply spirits, hot water, some spices and a bit of sweetness.  I wanted to stay semi-traditional but combine the classic toddy with hot mulled cider.  My thought process was a little fragmented starting with apple juice (duh) and brewed black tea, maybe some spices… But that led to a stroke of genius (can I call myself a genius?).  Chai concentrate, specifically Bhakti Chai concentrate.  Bhakti is highly spiced, full of ginger spiciness and already sweetened.  Add a touch of water to bring the sweetness down and the Spiced Apple Toddy was born.

But, hold your horses.  We need to talk liquor for a moment.  Surprising, I know.  Like I say in the Hot Toddy post, you have to go with a brown liquor.  There is something inherently warming about a barrel aged spirit.  For me, the only real option is whiskey.  Or in this case, whisky.  Whisky’s flavor profile of vanilla, oak, caramel and spices just works too perfectly and it has a certain gravitas.  I mean, you never hear of an old timer pulling out his flask of bubble gum vodka.

For this cocktail, I reached for George Dickel No. 12.  It has a bold but smooth character that gives it the spine to stand up to the bold flavors of the chai and sweetness of the juice.  Plus, that boldness isn’t harsh which lets it blend into the cocktail in a truly harmonious way.  Pro tip time.  Keep the pour of whisky a bit light.  Lets you hydrate, warms you up AND makes is way easier when you want a second…or ninth.

Spiced Apple Toddy

Spiced Apple Toddy
3 oz Apple Juice
3 oz Bhakti Chai Concentrate
2 oz Water
1 1/4 oz George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Whisky
Orange Twist
Slice of Apple
1) Combine the chai, apple juice and water and heat to nearly boiling
2) Mix in the whisky
3) Garnish with an apple slice and an orange twist

Final thoughts.  You can (and should) switch up the chai, juice and whisky for whatever your personal favorites are.  But if you haven’t had Bhakti Chai, you really need to.  The same goes for the water, tweak that amount to whatever fits your palate.  This cocktail, like any, is meant to make you (or your guests) happy.  So do what works for you.

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

Locavore Vesper

Posted by Reese On February - 5 - 2015

Last week, while chatting about cocktails, a coworker reminded me of the classic Vesper.  Loved by James Bond, enjoyed, but not truly loved, by me the last time I mixed it up and reintroduced to the world during Casino Royale this is a cocktail I should love.  Strong measure of gin, some bitterness and a bit of vodka to round it all out.

“A dry martini,” [Bond] said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”
“Oui, monsieur.”
“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”
“Certainly, monsieur.” The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
“Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,” said Leiter.
Bond laughed. “When I’m…er…concentrating,” he explained, “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.”
Ian Fleming, Casino Royale, Chapter 7, “Rouge et Noir’

Sounds about right, but the last time I had issues with the Lillet.  The original recipe calls for a Kina Lillet, which is no longer made.  Lillet Blanc, while very tasty, doesn’t have the quinine bitterness (the kina) found in Kina Lillet.  Thankfully, Cocchi Americano has made its way into the American market.  Cocchi (pronounced COKE-ey) Americano brings back the cinchona quinine bitterness and makes the Vesper awesome again.

Having so many great spirits options close by, I decided to co-opt the locavore trend and go with a local gin and vodka.  The gin is one I’ve talked about here before, namely Roundhouse.  And, the vodka I chose, Sno, comes from J&L distilling, the makers of my also deeply loved Fyr liqueur.  Typically, I reach for a vodka that is completely pure and free of any flavor.  That’s generally what it’s there for anyhow.  In this version of the Vesper, I wanted something with a little more character.  Sno fills that need perfectly.  Distilled from sugarcane, Sno has a character similar to some white rums, but its mouth feel is where it really shines.  Adding a silky quality both on it’s own and in the cocktails you mix it into, Sno definitely isn’t just a filler vodka. *

Locavore Vesper

This time, the Vesper has really stepped up.  As you’d expect, the gin is the star.  But the vodka adds a wonderful fullness to the flavor and a velvety texture.  It’s hard to put into words, but absolutely distinct.  The Cocchi Americano adds exactly the bitterness that I looking for the last time.  In fact, my added orange bitters weren’t needed here.  This is one of those truly pure cocktails that have been moving more and more to the fore on my list.  And, like any martini, the Vesper is highly configurable simply by swapping out the gin and vodka for your favorites.  If you haven’t mixed up a Vesper, you need to.  In advance, you’re welcome.

Locavore Vesper
1 1/2 oz Roundhouse Gin
1/2 oz Sno Vodka
1/2 oz Cocchi Americano
Lemon Twist for Garnish
1) Combine gin, vodka and Cocchi in a mixing glass
2) Add ice and stir until well chilled
3) Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
4) Garnish with a lemon twist

PS – I went back to stirring.  When you gin and vodka taste so damn good, it’s better not to over-chill them.

* I may be partial to this particular bottle because I helped bottle it. But other bottles of Sno are equally great.

Review – Berentzen Bushel and Barrel

Posted by Reese On December - 2 - 2014

For over 250 years Berentzen has been making distilled spirits and specifically apple and other fruit liqueurs.  Bushel and Barrel is the marriage of their long experience making apple liqueur with the years of tradition and flavor of Kentucky Bourbon.  The result is a apple bourbon liqueur clocking in at 30% ABV.

The color is a light honey/amber.  The nose is where it really starts to come alive, though.  The aroma is primarily crisp apple with the subtle notes of bourbon – caramel, vanilla and spice – rounding out the profile.  The flavor follows what the aroma started and with less sweetness than I expected.  This liqueur is truly not cloying like so many are.  The whiskey adds back notes but the apple is really the star here.  I have to add that the apple flavor in Bushel and Barrel is more natural than I’ve found with other apple liqueurs.  I think it would make a really interesting, slightly more “grown up”, Apple Martini.  For me, Bushel and Barrel is best when mixed 1:1 with a nice high-rye bourbon or straight rye.  Something with some spice to play off the sweet apple flavors.  I’ve been adding a dash of bitters and making a Bushel and Barrel Old Fashioned that is very tasty and perfect for the fall.

Berentzen Bourbon Old Fashioned

Berentzen Bushel and Barrel Old Fashioned
1 oz Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
1 oz Berentzen Bushel and Barrel
1-2 Dashes Old Fashioned Bitters
1) Combine over ice
2) Garnish with a fresh or dried apple slice
3) Drink
4) Repeat

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

Homemade Orange Bitters

Posted by Reese On November - 4 - 2014

Lately I’ve been drinking a lot of carbonated water at work and at home.  My favorite way to drink it is with quite a few dashes of bitters.  While I like the flavor of aromatic bitters (and I’ve been using a previous batch frequently), I prefer fruit bitters.  Having barreled through a couple bottles of Fee Brothers bitters I decided to try making my own orange bitters.  Here is the recipe from my first batch.

Orange Bitters Steeping

Reese's Orange Bitters (Batch 1)
Peel of 2 Oranges (including pith) sliced thin
Zest of 2 Oranges
3 Cinnamon Sticks Broken into Pieces
15-20 Cloves
2-3 Cups Vodka
1) Combine the above  in a jar and let it steep for a week
2) Strain through a metal sieve
3) Re-strain through a clean paper towel to get the fine particulate out

Okay, so that was batch 1 which netted about 20 oz of really tasty orange bitters.  They were lightly sweet, with a really fresh orange flavor.  The spices were there but not overpowering.  They lasted all of about 2 months.  Sooo…wanting a little more output and some additional flavors, I moved on to batch 2.

Reese's Orange Bitters (Batch 2)
Peel of 3 Oranges (including pith) sliced thin
Zest of 1 Orange
8 Cinnamon Sticks Broken into Pieces
15-20 Cloves
15-20 Allspice Berries
2 Cups Vodka
2 Cups Water
1) Combine the above  in a jar and let it steep for a week
2) Strain through a metal sieve
3) Re-strain through a clean paper towel to get the fine particulate out

This batch netted about 3.5 cups (30 oz) but the flavor isn’t as robust.  The orange flavor is more subtle (and the color is notably lighter).  The bitter notes are a bit more pronounced, likely from the extra pith.  Finally the spice qualities are about the same.  Going to be good for water flavoring, but not as powerful as I was hoping.

So, for batch 3, I’ll definitely be going back to something closer to batch 1.  I think the extra zest (versus whole peel) gives more orange punch and the lower quantity of liquid made the end product more concentrated.  Go figure, right?  Though, I’m liking the additional spices.  Likely my next batch will retain the allspice and possibly add ginger or cardamom to the mix.