Cocktail Recipe Review: Easiest Eggnog Ever

easy eggnog recipe from Shake

A couple of our friends gifted Marc and me a coffee table cocktail book as an apartment-warming present, and it’s pretty awesome. Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails is visually stunning: the photography’s beautiful, the layout is spot on (no surprise seeing that the authors are designers), and it’s got that type of soft, waxy cover that you just want to rub your face against. Please tell me that someone else in the world does this.

Shake cocktail book

The cocktail recipes don’t look too shabby, either. Most of them are relatively simple, using four or five ingredients, albeit occasionally rare ingredients like pink peppercorns or caper berries. The recipes are organized by season, so I flipped to the winter section and immediately found a stunner: The ‘Nog.

easy eggnog recipe

As a kid, I loved store-bought eggnog. Dean’s Ready to Serve Eggnog chug, to be exact. I wanted to love “adult” eggnog just as much, but the few times I’ve had it it’s been runny and not quite cold enough. This winter, I halfheartedly began searching for a decent-sounding spiked eggnog recipe, but I saw the words “stand mixer” a couple times and quickly gave up. Enter The ‘Nog. Instead of making your own custard, the recipe uses—wait for it—vanilla ice cream as the main event, shaken up with bourbon, dark rum, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The authors posted the full recipe on their blog last year—check it out here!

easy eggnog recipe with ice creamkraken rum and four roses bourbon in eggnogeasy eggnog from Shake

It helps if the ice cream is a bit softened before vigorously shaking it all up in a cocktail strainer. The recipe doesn’t yield a large amount—the book suggests using a coupe glass if that tells you anything, but it’s the perfect size for an after-dinner treat. Bottoms up, and go get a copy of Shake! (If only to rub your face on the smooth, smooth cover. But also for the dranks.)

Homemade Apple Brandy and Rye Whiskey Cocktail

apple brandy and rye whiskey cocktail

Infusing booze may be my new favorite pastime. I’m not talking gummy bear vodka or Jolly Rancher gin or whatever one might find appropriate to soak in rum. A few weeks ago, I set out to make apple-infused brandy with freshly sliced Honeycrisps and Granny Smiths, cinnamon sticks, cloves, sugar, and some E&J. After letting it stew for about a week and a half, I gave the concoction a taste. The verdict? WHOA VERY SWEET. But also, Wow, this tastes like a grown-up, sophisticated version of an apple pie shot.

I strained the apple brandy through a sieve, grudgingly discarding all but a few of the apple slices. I munched a couple of them and they were tasty, but the side effect was some serious dry mouth—not worth it. The strained apple brandy, on the other hand, was totally worth the minimal effort and 10–11 days of patience. The only change I’d make would be to cut the sugar down a bit. It calls for 2 cups of sugar to 750mL of brandy, but I think I’d be safe using 1.5 or even just 1 cup next time. If all infusing is this simple and delicious, you can expect to see more fresh fruit, veggie, herb, and/or spice infused liquor on this blog in the future.

As for what to do with the apple brandy, it really depends on what you’re in the mood for. You can drink it on its own for a sweet autumnal treat, but I prefer to mix it with something with a little more bite. I think it’d be great with Four Roses bourbon, but the Rittenhouse Rye I had on hand did the trick well enough.

apple brandy and rye whiskey cocktail

Apple Brandy and Rye Cocktail

  • 2 ounces homemade apple brandy
  • 2 ounces whiskey
  • Juice of one lemon wedge
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • Apple chip to garnish

Honestly Yum’s recipe for an Autumn Spice Apple Brandy Cocktail gave me the idea for apple chip garnishes, which I adapted from this simple Food Network recipe.

To assemble: Pour the apple brandy and whiskey over ice in a mixing glass. Squeeze in the lemon and add a dash of bitters. Stir until chilled and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with an apple chip.

The apple chips are so simple to make, and the added cinnamon sprinkled on top really adds to the aroma of the drink. Cheers and happy freezing fall!

Adventures in Making Apple Brandy

DIY apple brandy

Normally I stay away from super sweet liquors—one thought of my brief, but memorable college flirtation with UV Blue sends me into a panicked dry heave. But since it’s fall and everything’s being pumpkin-spiced and butternut-squashed out the wazoo, I’m making an exception for a decidedly autumnal drink: apple brandy. My boyfriend’s mom sent me a recipe for a cocktail called the Sir Isaac Newton, which calls for apple-cider cinnamon syrup, lemon juice, apple brandy, and bitters. It sounds like a great post-dinner treat for chilly nights, but I’ve never even bought brandy, let alone apple brandy.

I was poised to do some research on the subject when one of my go-to blogs, Design*Sponge, posted a recipe for a delicious-sounding drink called Stop! Apple Thyme. Not only does this cocktail contain apple brandy, the authors even went so far as to whip up their own batch. The recipe contains instructions for making your own, but I decided to do some Googling to compare theirs to the industry standard. And by “industry” I mean what the Interwebs tells me. Most recipes had similar ingredients but widely varying steeping times, from two hours to three weeks.

I settled for the recipe from Taste of Home, which calls for steeping the mixture for two weeks. It also calls for a ton of sugar. Like, a Sweet Tea ton of sugar, which is a lot for a Northerner to handle. Since my container’s only so big, I sacrificed extra apples and cut the sugar down by half. Fingers crossed that it turns out!

DIY apple brandy

Homemade Apple Brandy

Recipe slightly adapted from Taste of Home

  • Five large apples, sliced (I used a combo of Honeycrisp, Gala, and Granny Smith)
  • 750 mL of brandy
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole cloves

I followed Taste of Home’s instructions pretty much to a T, meaning that I made 2:1 simple syrup with the sugar and water and then combined all the ingredients in a large plastic pitcher (with a sealed lid).

make your own apple brandy at home

And now, we wait. This recipe calls for the mixture to be stirred at the halfway point (one week), but I might give it a shake every few days depending on how it’s looking. It seems strange to leave a bunch of apples sitting at room temperature for half a month, but I am obviously a novice at this so maybe that’s standard protocol. I should also note that this was the only kind of brandy Mariano’s carries. It’s $11.99—should I be worried?

Check back in a couple weeks for an update! Have any ideas for apple-brandy cocktails?



Rye Manhattan with Luxardo Maraschino Ice Cubes

rye manhattan cocktail recipe with luxardo ice cubes

The Manhattan is the drink that made me love whiskey. That’s saying a lot, since the first one I ever ordered cost about $5 from a bar that makes its money on PBR and Old Style. Still, I got hooked on the sweet, mellow flavor and soon began whipping up Manhattans at home with Four Roses Yellow Label bourbon and Dolin Rouge sweet vermouth.

I still love a classic bourbon Manhattan, but every now and then I splash a bit of Luxardo Maraschino in my glass. It’s a special treat; Luxardo is so sweet that it’s easy to overdo it, but when you get just the right amount, it can completely elevate a simple drink. The Kitchn’s 9-Bottle Bar series knows what’s up: its Red Hook cocktail combines elements from two of my favorite drinks, the Martinez and the Manhattan. I haven’t made the Red Hook yet, but it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to buy some rye to mix up my Manhattan game. And instead of a splash of Luxardo this time, I got fancy and made Luxardo-infused ice cubes. (And by fancy I mean a 5-year-old could do this. A really badass 5-year-old.)

rye manhattan cocktail recipe with luxardo ice cubes
the cherries put up a good fight, but the skewer ultimately won

Rye Manhattan with Luxardo Ice Cubes

  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • Luxardo ice cubes
  • Cherries

To make the Luxardo ice cubes, mix one part Luxardo Maraschino liqueur with four parts water. (1 ounce of Luxardo mixed with 4 ounces of water makes about six standard-size ice cubes.)

Fill a shaker or pint glass with ice and add the rye, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a lowball glass filled with two Luxardo ice cubes and two regular ice cubes. Garnish with a skewer of cherries.

This drink is definitely a belly-warming sipper, which gives the ice time to melt a little and infuse your Manhattan with a subtle cherry flavor. Feel free to add more Luxardo cubes if you’re a cherry fiend. Enjoy!

Paloma with Rosemary Simple Syrup

rosemary paloma tequila cocktail recipe

It’s just not time for “pumpkin” everything yet. I like Dunkin’ Donuts’ pumpkin-flavored coffee and Southern Tier’s Pumking beer as much as the next person, but we all know fall doesn’t technically start until September 23. Therefore, I’m milking this whole summer cocktail thing for another glorious 11 days.

If you like grapefruit cocktails, you’re probably familiar with the Paloma. The most simple versions mix grapefruit-flavored soda with tequila, served over ice. I recently made the drink with tequila and Q Grapefruit (think a much less sugary, more tart version of San Pellegrino soda), and it turned out pretty refreshing. To take it a step further, I used fresh grapefruit juice (white, in this case) and sweetened it with homemade rosemary simple syrup. I followed the Kitchn’s recipe for the SS, which pretty much involves bringing sugar, water, and rosemary sprigs to a boil, setting the mixture aside to cool, and straining it. It’s so easy, yet it elevates a homemade cocktail tenfold and makes your kitchen smell prettay, prettay delicious. Give it a try!

rosemary paloma cocktail recipe

Rosemary Paloma

  • 2 oz. blanco tequila
  • 3 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1–1.5 tablespoons rosemary simple syrup (recipe from the Kitchn)
  • Club soda
  • Coarse salt, lime wedge, and rosemary sprig for garnish

Moisten the rim of a highball glass with a lime wedge and twist it in coarse salt. Fill the glass with ice. In a shaker filled with ice, combine the tequila, grapefruit juice, and simple syrup. Shake until chilled and and pour into the highball glass. Top off with club soda, and garnish with a lime wedge and a rosemary sprig.

rosemary paloma tequila cocktail recipe

Cheers! And may we all enjoy this last week of summer without hearing the phrase “Pumpkin Spice Latte” 8,000 times.

Classic Cocktails: the Aviation

aviation cocktails of all colors

From left: Kitchen Riffs, PopSugar, iFanboy, Hungry, Food52

Let’s talk about Aviations. Ever had one? The first time I came across the classic drink was at a work happy hour. My cocktail-loving friend ordered one, and it was beautiful—a pale sky blue so light it looked almost white. The second one? Not so much. It was a violet that bordered on radioactive. At the time, I was amazed that the two cocktails could go by the same name, let alone taste remotely alike.

Crème de Violette is the ingredient that gives the the cocktail its blueish-purple hue, but it turns out that the liqueur isn’t necessarily required to make an Aviation. In fact, Harry Craddock omitted it when he published a version of the Aviation in the now-famous Savoy Cocktail Book (1930). Leave it out if you like, but I like my Aviations a little floral. And purply.

If you order an the drink out at a cocktail bar, there’s no telling whether it’ll be ghost white or Barney purple (hence the wide spectrum of hues above), unless you know the proportions that your bartender is using. After making a few of my own Aviations, it became clear that a little bit of Crème de Violette goes a long way. Sure, the sweet floral liqueur has a prominent flavor, but it’s the super saturated color that can turn a drink from pale blue to dark violet with just an extra eighth of an ounce.

aviation cocktail recipe with luxardo, gin, and creme de violette

I finally settled on a recipe I like, thanks in part to this video found on Gothamist, which instructs you to “wash the glass” with a dash of violet liqueur. That’s in contrast to most recipes, which call for all of the components to be shaken together.

Creme de violette aviation cocktail recipe
Crème de Violette before the other components are added
The building instructions from the Gothamist video and a slightly adapted version of the recipe from Aviation American Gin make for, in my opinion, a pretty tasty version of the Aviation. (Plus, it doesn’t look nuclear.)


Adapted from Aviation American Gin

  • 1 teaspoon Crème de Violette
  • 1.5 oz. dry gin
  • 3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur

Add the Crème de Violette and swirl to coat the glass. In an ice-filled shaker, add the gin, lemon juice, and maraschino liqueur. Shake until chilled, and pour the contents into the glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry or a lemon twist, whichever you prefer. I omitted the simple syrup that the original recipe calls for—the Luxardo maraschino is plenty sweet.


Cheers, and good luck! Because if you end up making this cocktail, it’s probably all you will crave for the next several months.


Boozy Grapefruit and Lillet Popsicles

boozy grapefruit lillet popsicles

Let me start by saying that yes—I do realize that these popsicles slightly resemble… weiners. That was not the intention, but it happened. The silver lining is that they’re also delicious, plus they’d probably make a great treat for a bachelorette party. (Feel free to insert all the innuendos your heart desires, but I’m going to stop comparing these ice pops to a pale male anatomy part starting now.)


After an attempt to make Aviation popsicles with some overly slushie, albeit delicious, results (too much alcohol to freeze!), I decided to go for a less boozy variation. These Campari Citrus Pops from the Kitchn caught my eye last month, and I took their cue with the proportions. But instead of bitter Campari, I subbed in one of my favorite aperitifs, Lillet Blanc.

lillet blanc

The lillet has a lower ABV than Campari, so I figured these popsicles would freeze just fine—and they did! These turned out perfectly tart like I like, but you can always add in a little more simple syrup if you prefer a sweeter popsicle.

Boozy Grapefruit and Lillet Popsicles

Adapted/inspired by the Kitchn. Makes four twin pops or eight small single pops.

  • 6 oz. Lillet Blanc
  • 2 cups fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2/3 cup simple syrup

Mix all the ingredients together, and pour them into your popsicle molds. Freeze overnight and enjoy! I kept the grapefruit pulp in because I like a little bite of fresh fruit in my popsicles. And yes, I bite my popsicles because they taste better that way, duh!

boozy grapefruit lillet popsicles wpid-20140723_124844.jpg

These separating Tovolo twin pops were the best thing I could find at the Grand Avenue Bed Bed and Beyond. I would’ve preferred a single larger mold, but these force you to be nice and share, or you can be like me and shamelessly devour the whole twin pop in 30 seconds.

Beware, the alcohol makes these popsicles a little softer than your standard sugar ice pop, but you shouldn’t have a hard time finishing it before it starts dripping. If all else fails, you can always invest in the Ice Cream Glove, one of many genius ideas straight from the brain of Ali G.

Caipirinha Cocktail Recipe

caipirinha cocktail recipe with cachaca

You know those words that you pronounce incorrectly 100 times before you finally get them right? Otolaryngology, the name Saoirse, etc. This particular drink involves two of those words: the name of the cocktail, caipirinha (kai-pur-EEN-yuh), and its main component, cachaça (ka-SHA-suh). At least, that’s how my non-Portuguese-speaking self understands them to be pronounced.

caipirinha cocktail cachaca Brazilian recipe

The caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail, and cachaça—a distilled liquor made from sugarcane juice—is the country’s most popular liquor. I was hoping to whip up a pitcher when Brazil played Argentina in the final of the World Cup… (insert the tears of 190 million Brazilians). Sadly, consolation third place cocktails will have to do!

caipirinha cocktail recipe Leblon cachaca

I picked up some Leblon cachaça and used the classic caipirinha recipe found on the back of the bottle:


  • 4 lime wedges
  • 2 tsp. superfine sugar
  • 2 oz. cachaça
  • Ice

In a rocks glass, muddle the lime and sugar. Top with ice (I had cubes in my freezer but will probably used crushed in the future), add the cachaça, and stir. Add a lime wedge for garnish. It doesn’t get much simpler than that!

caipirinha cocktail recipe leblon cachaca brazil world cup drink

This drink was a little stronger than expected, but that might have to do with the fact that I used a past-its-prime lime that didn’t produce a ton of juice (bad form, I know). The Leblon also had a surprising banana-esque aftertaste. This cocktail would probably lend itself really nicely to some fresh-fruit flavors—maybe strawberry or blackberry? Thoughts?

Happy sipping, and may Brazil redeem themselves with a third place victory on Saturday!