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Cinnamon Liqueurs – Red Hot or Not so Hot?

Posted by Reese on 2014-02-12 @ 09:57pm

Guest post by Elisabeth, Cocktail Hacktress in training.

One of my favorite Valentine’s Day sweet treats is Red Hots candies.  For the last couple years it has been difficult to find them in stores and I thought it would be fun to see if anything captures that spicy cinnamon sweetness of the candies.  After hunting down a bunch of tiny sample bottles from the liquor stores, Reese and I sat down to taste 10 different cinnamon flavored alcohol products.  First up – cinnamon liqueurs.

Cinnamon Liqueurs

Hot Damn (15% ABV):  At 15 % ABV, this really isn’t going to warm you from the inside.  In general, not worth it.  Too watery to get the cinnamon punch, has a weird aftertaste and doesn’t even give you much in the way of cinnamon aroma.

Aftershock (40 % ABV):  Aftershock is the Icy/Hot of the alcohol world.  It is very sweet, not too cinnamony and the finish is all menthol-like.  Reese is always skeptical of pink liqueurs and, with this one, I would say he has good reason.

Goldschlager (43.5% ABV):  Goldschlager is actually something I had in my cabinet.  I use it for my Naked in the Woods martini to give a slight cinnamon flavor and beautiful gold flakes.  This is not a complex cinnamon liqueur, but a one note flavor.  I like it, but Reese didn’t feel it was too authentic.

Tuaca Cinnaster (35% ABV):  Tuaca Cinnaster is a cinnamon and vanilla liqueur.  My initial reaction to its aroma is that is smelled more like caramel than cinnamon and vanilla.  The cinnamon flavor is more of an authentic cinnamon (not Red Hots) but it is not strong.  The finish of this is vanilla and butter notes.

Original Cinn (45% ABV):  Reese was pretty happy to finally sample a brown liqueur rather than something artificially correction-pen red.  This one actually tastes like real cinnamon and is very sweet.  I personally felt this one tasted super sweet because of the authenticity of the cinnamon almost made it seem sweeter – maybe less burn than you’d get with a Red Hots type of flavor.  A good choice if you are looking for an authentic cinnamon liqueur for a mixer.

Fyr, by J&L Distilling in Colorado (50% ABV):  I was intrigued by this one and hauled Reese out to the distillery to sample it.  This was introduced to us as a “European style” liqueur.  The cinnamon shines through beautifully, but there are other complexities to it (clove? orange? vanilla?).  The spice flavor lingers on this and it definitely made me feel a little more grown-up where the others we sampled made me feel like I was doing shots on a ski trip.

Next, we sampled some cinnamon whiskey, another popular flavor on the market right now.

Fireball (33% ABV):  I see this as the most recognizable cinnamon whiskey.  The whiskey notes were not super strong, but did give the liquor more of a complex flavor than you typically get with the cinnamon schnapps we sampled above.  This smells faintly of Red Hots, but you really felt the cinnamon in the back of your throat as this goes down.

Yukon Jack Wicked Hot (35% ABV):  The Yukon Jack tasted like cinnamon, was sweet, and had a little whiskey flavor.  This was not and offensive cinnamon whiskey, but not particularly remarkable in any way.

Fire Eater (33% ABV):  The aroma of Fire Eater was very chemical in nature, which made me think it would taste worse than it did.  It tasted like whiskey and left you with a cinnamon aftertaste.  The cinnamon is more subtle in this whiskey versus in Fireball.

Evan Williams Cinnamon Reserve (35% ABV):  This particular cinnamon whiskey must be an acquired taste.  When you smell it, you get faint cinnamon notes with a little bit of floral undertones.  When you taste it, it tastes like you dropped your Red Hots into rose water.  I’ve never had Evan Williams alone, but this cinnamon one was rather unusual.

Overall, we recommend Original Cinn for a good cinnamon schnapps flavor.  Of the whiskies, Fireball is a passable cinnamon whiskey if that’s your thing.  And finally– if you really want something fantastic, get ahold of some Fyr from J&L Distilling in Colorado.  You won’t regret it.


**P.S. – After tasting 10 cinnamon liquors in one evening, we highly recommend you avoid this at all costs.  It is a little rough on the stomach!

What I’m Drinking Now: Meyer Lemon Southside

Posted by Reese on 2014-01-06 @ 05:44pm

We were hanging out on Sunday enjoying the snow and I got to thinking about how long it had been since I put on my cocktail thinking cap and started pondering what I’d like to mix up.  I had meyer lemons left over from a recipe we made on New Year’s Eve and I wanted to mix up a cocktail that would play off their complex and subtly sweet flavors.  I was originally thinking whiskey as the base, but decided it would be too strong.  Then I landed on gin and shortly there-after realized there was already a classic cocktail, the Southside, based on gin, lemon and mint.  Thinking time is over…mixing time begins.

Meyer Lemon Southside

The recipe for the Southside that I found in The Joy of Mixology called for muddling the mint, sugar and lemon.  I didn’t want the mint to be the star so I opted for a different tact.  Toss all the ingredients in a shaker, give it a few solid shakes, but don’t shake the hell out of it, strain and enjoy.

Meyer Lemon Southside
2 oz Gin (go with a light option)
1 oz Meyer Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
5-6 Mint Leaves
1) Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice
2) Shake firmly 10-12 times
3) Strain into a cocktail glass

Very tasty and really great to be mixing up cocktails again. Let’s do more of this, shall we.

Review – Iceberg Vodkas

Posted by Reese on 2014-01-04 @ 04:00pm

As far as spirits go, vodka does not have much character. A really good vodka will taste only of clean alcohol with very little else to distinguish it. One way to add character would be to flavor it, but those who have shopped with me (Elisabeth especially) know how horrified I am by the flavors of vodka on the market — whipped creme? toasted marshmallow? Yeah…no.

Iceberg Vodkas

Iceberg Vodka from Canada recently sent me four vodkas to taste: their regular unflavored vodka and cucumber, creme brulee and chocolate mint flavors.

The regular vodka (40% ABV) smells and tastes like a pure vodka should, with no aromas and no lingering flavors on the palate. Very clean, crisp and drinkable.

The cucumber vodka (35 % ABV) has a slightly off scent — more like cucumber peels, rather than the crisp scent you would expect from a peeled cucumber. It does taste cucumbery. Elisabeth didn’t find this flavor appealing at all, although she is not a cucumber lover either. I think this could be a really interesting vodka for a Bloody Mary or Dirty Martini. For an interesting twist, you could add this to a Pimm’s Cup or a twist on the traditional vodka tonic, perhaps.

The creme brulee vodka (35% ABV) had a great buttery caramel vanilla aroma reminiscent of custard fresh out of the oven. The vodka comes off as slightly sweet with a toffee-like flavor that is fairly subtle. This vodka does not have an overpowering or fake flavor, as so many other creme brulee/toffee liqueurs will. It would be a great addition to hot chocolate, although its subtle flavor may be lost if you mix it with it an ingredient that’s strongly flavored.

The chocolate mint flavor (35% ABV) smells just like an Andes Mint. Elisabeth tasted this one first, and almost refused to let me have any. The vodka is definitely reminiscent of Andes Mints: not overly sweet with well balanced chocolate and mint flavors. Again, this would work great in a hot chocolate, but why not add to a mudslide or something similar for a little minty kick.

Overall, these were pretty tasty flavored vodkas. Cucumber vodka, like most savory infusions, will be the most difficult for me to use. The Iceberg Vodka website also had great suggestions for cocktails based on all the different flavors. So, am I a flavored vodka convert? Probably not. I’ll still reach for gin more often than a flavored vodka. But, if you’re looking for a unique twist on a traditional vodka cocktail these might be just what you’re looking for.

Big thanks to Elisabeth for co-writing (and co-sampling) this post with me!

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

What I’m Drinking Now: Where the Buffalo Roam

Posted by Reese on 2013-04-07 @ 08:11pm

Tonight’s cocktail comes to us from Vesta Dipping Grilling in Denver, CO.  Elisabeth found the recipe in their email newsletter and we decided to give it a go.  Very, very good call.  The drink strikes a great balance between sweet and sour with the flavor of the sage giving a really cool earthy quality to the cocktail.  The bitters add complexity without getting in the way of the core flavors and the applejack adds just a touch of apple essence.  Overall it’s a very refreshing cocktail for the coming summer.  A word of warning, they can go down quite quickly if you’re not careful.

Where the Buffalo Roam

Where the Buffalo Roam
1 1/2 oz Bourbon
1/2 oz Applejack
1/2 oz Grenadine
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
2-3 oz Ginger Beer
Peychauds Bitters
4-5 leaves of Fresh Sage
1) Muddle the sage leaves and bitters
2) Add the spirits and juice
3) Shake with ice and strain into a highball glass with ice
4) Top with Ginger Beer
5) Garnish with sage leaves
*Note: We opted to muddle directly in our highball glass, add the spirits, juice and ice, stir well and top with ginger beer.  The result was very tasty and a bit simpler.

Review – Pisco Chile

Posted by Reese on 2013-04-01 @ 08:22pm

If you looked at my Pisco selection up until about 6 months ago, you’d notice something striking.  I only had Peruvian Piscos.  And that’s unfortunately par for the course.  Chilean Piscos, while available, were hard to come by, not as well marketed and generally harder to find.  Not so any more.  Recently there has been a marketing and distribution surge for Chilean Piscos and that’s a very good thing.  I’ve received three bottles for review and David Wondrich’s comment from the PR video sums it up excellently “For not a huge number of brands they have a huge range of styles and types.”

Mistal PiscoMistral (40% ABV) – With a light amber color, Mistral is clearly a barrel aged Pisco.  That aging comes through in the aroma, with notes of vanilla, caramel and a subtle sweetness.  In addition there is a touch of dried fruit/fruitcake aromas that you find in some brandies.  Which, honestly, makes perfect sense since Pisco is really a form of brandy at its heart.  The sweetness doesn’t follow through to the flavor though there is still a touch of the caramel flowing through.  The vanilla and spice are joined by a distinct vegetal quality.Alto Del Carmen Pisco


Alto del Carmen (40% ABV) – My favorite of the bunch has a young brandy aroma with subtle grapiness (I’m coining that term, I’m certain it’ll be huge).  Vegetal aromas and flavors are king in this Pisco.  You get a true sense of the earth with this one and that quality adds depth to cocktails that I really enjoy.  On top of those vegetal notes you get spice, buttery qualities, some melony fruitiness and subtle sweetness.  Overall, a very tasty Pisco that mixes up very well.

Capel PiscoCapel (40% ABV) – This is the most neutral of the Chilean Piscos that I sampled and the most vodka-like.  I think this “blank pallet” quality lends itself to a lot of cocktail applications in the same manner that vodka does.  But with that come the same down sides of vodka, namely that same “blank pallet”.  This is a clean and pure Pisco.  If you’re looking for one to broaden a vodka drinkers horizons, this is definitely the choice.

So, what do you make with them?  The sky is truly the limit.  As you can see from this small sampling, the range of flavors spans from clean and vodka-like all the way to barrel aged with caramel, vanilla and spice and in between are vegetal notes similar to cachaca and tequila.  For me, I went fairly simple.  I whipped up a Chilean Sidecar that was super tasty with a rim of Chilean Merken (a smoky spice blend).  But, where these Piscos truly shine is in the classic Pisco Sour.  It’s simple and in that simplicity lies a subtle depth of flavor.  You get to taste each flavor on its own and harmoniously combined.  If you haven’t had one yet, you’re really missing out.

Salud, Amigos!

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