alcoholic seltzer

Alcoholic Seltzer: My New Obsession

If you’ve followed this blog for awhile, you might be wondering, “Where have all the cocktails gone?” It’s a valid question, and I have a few answers for you.

1. I started to second guess whether I was “qualified” to write about cocktails. I’m not a bartender! I’ve only taken one cocktail class in my life! I realize that those reservations are stupid. I love cocktails. I buy books about them. I make them at home. I order them at fancy (and shitty) bars. I share them with friends. And I will continue to write about them if I so well please.Read More »

boozy gift guide

A Gift Guide for Booze Hounds

What would the holidays be without some bubbly with friends, or a Manhattan after dinner, or your annual glass of eggnog, or one glass of wine too many at the office party? I enjoy a good cocktail any time of year, but there’s something extra special about mixing up an old standby—or experimenting with new ingredients—during the holiday season. And if you have friends or family who partake, you can never go wrong by giving the gift of good alcohol.

Read More »

Bee’s Knees Cocktail | Guest Post from Sarah of Reviews for No One

bees knees gin cocktail

When you’re someone who enjoys a good cocktail, it’s nice having like-minded cocktail-loving friends. Who else can you geek out with about things like the best sweet vermouth for Manhattans or how to serve a delicious punch without killing severely intoxicating your guests? Sarah—who writes a great book-review blog over at Reviews for No One—is one of those friends. When she posted a delicious-looking gin cocktail on Instagram a few weeks ago, I immediately thought GIMME, and then figured it’d be a great candidate for the blog. She gamely agreed to write a guest post, and here we are. Take it away, Sarah!


It’s almost October, but in the Midwest that means we’re feeling the last wispy breezes of summer. So on a recent 80-degree day, I took it as a sign that it was time to make my favorite gin drink one last time before it’s full-blown sweater weather: the Bee’s Knees.

Technically, it’s not specifically a summer drink. It’s yet another classic Prohibition-era cocktail that went from the forgotten drink of flappers to working its way into almost every Logan Square (read: hipster) bar opening these days. It also happens to be one of the easiest drinks to whip up at home. But gin in general just screams SUMMER to me and with the punch of citrus in this drink, it has porch sippin’ written all over it.

I favor simple, straightforward cocktails—the fewer ingredients the better. And the Bee’s Knees is just that. It pairs the bright, botanical notes of gin with the tartness of lemon juice plus a little honey for sweetness. That’s it. Just three ingredients, two of which are probably already in your kitchen right now.

That means all you really need to worry about is what kind of gin to use.

st. george gins

My sister got me this sweet little three-pack of St. George gins for Christmas and I have had a fantastic time playing with them! St. George’s comes in Terroir, Botanivore, and Dry Rye. The Terroir is that classic juniper-forward flavor, while the Dry Rye is spicy and oaky (hot tip: sub it in for your whiskey in your next Manhattan—it’s fantastic!). But the perfectly balanced Botanivore won out in the end.

I followed the Washington Post recipe exactly. Some recipes call for equal amounts of lemon juice and honey syrup, but I found that to be too tart. So, per the Post‘s recipe, I used:

  • 2 oz. gin
  • ¾ oz. honey syrup
  • ½ oz. lemon juice

Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice, and then shake vigorously for 20 seconds or until the drink is chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and voilà!

bees knees gin cocktail in glass

“But,” you might say, “where do I get honey syrup?” Easy! It’s just like simple syrup—equal parts water and sugar—only you swap the sugar for honey. However, there’s no need to make some giant pot of the stuff just so you can stuff it in the fridge and forget about it.

Instead, pour about 1 tablespoon each of honey and water into a small bowl. Microwave for 10–15 seconds, and stir until thoroughly combined. Then you can pop the bowl with your single-serving sized bit of honey syrup straight into the freezer while you gather your ingredients and juice your lemon. A couple of minutes cools it off enough to stop it from affecting the flavor and temperature of the rest of your ingredients.


Aaaaand my mouth is watering. Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

Author and photography: Sarah Gorr

Mai Tai with Homemade Orgeat

mai tai with homemade orgeat

A Mai Tai is one of those drinks that can look drastically different depending on where you get it. I’ve had Mai Tais in colors ranging from yellow to My Little Pony pink to brown. The classic Trader Vic’s Mai Tai skews toward a light caramel, but to be honest, even that “classic” drink will probably look different depending on who’s your bartender that night.

The best Mai Tai I’ve had all summer is the very boozy one served at Hula’s Modern Tiki in Phoenix and Scottsdale. It’s made with Appleton’s gold rum, orange curaçao, pineapple and lime juices, orgeat, and dark rum—quite an addicting combo. I couldn’t get that cocktail out of my head, so I set about perfecting a homespun version. Ever since reading that you can make your own orgeat syrup, a common ingredient in tiki drinks, I’ve been wanting to test it out.

Sidenote: After asking people, Googling endlessly, and listening to different dictionary pronunciations, it seems like “oar-zhat” or “oar-zha” is acceptable. If you have a definitive answer to this, I owe you a flaming shot.

I followed this Serious Eats recipe for orgeat pretty much to a T, and the results were a subtly sweet, opaque, almondy syrup. FYI: This recipe calls for orange-flower water, and I bought some cheap on Amazon. When it came to mixing up the first round of Mai Tais, I didn’t have any Jamaican rum or curaçao, so I substituted with Bacardi (gasp!) and Cointreau. Not good. The next day I got my butt to Binny’s to get some more acceptable rum for a Mai Tai and some orange curaçao. I also added fresh pineapple juice to the mix to better replicate the flavor at Hula’s Modern Tiki. The results? A pretty damn good take on a Mai Tai, at least for the home bar.

mai tai with homemade orgeat syrup

Mai Tai with Homemade Orgeat

  • 2 ounces Appleton Estate rum (or another amber or dark rum)
  • 1/2 ounce orange curaçao
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2–3/4 ounce fresh pineapple juice
  • 1/2 ounce homemade orgeat syrup (recipe here)
  • Fresh mint

Shake all ingredients together over ice and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Garnish with fresh mint and a slice of pineapple.

Have you had any delicious (or suspicious) tiki drinks lately?

Dark and Stormy-ish

dark and stormy with Q ginger, cane & abe rum, and lime juice

Lately, Q Ginger is hands down my go-to mixer. Have you tried it? It’s the ginger-lover’s ginger ale, delivering an earthy bite without the coughing fit that comes with some of the bolder ginger sodas out there.

I almost always have a bottle in my fridge to mix with gin and a little lemon or lime, or vodka and lime if I want a makeshift Moscow Mule. (Note to self: BUY COPPER MUGS). I know, I know: Q Ginger is ginger ale, not ginger beer, the latter of which is required to make a proper mule. But apparently the lines between the two have become blurred over the years, so it’s more a matter of personal taste than what’s on the label.

I’ll take Q Ginger in my mule over most of the ginger beers out there, partially because it’s got nearly half the sugar of a ginger beer like Gosling’s. It also probably costs three times more than Gosling’s. Us cocktail fiends have to choose our battles, I guess.

cane & abe small barrel rum for a dark and stormy

If Q Ginger is my go-to mixer, then the below version of a Dark and Stormy is my go-to cocktail of choice lately. Some friends from Madison, Wisconsin, gifted me a bottle of Cane & Abe Small-Barrel Rum from Madison’s own Old Sugar Distillery. It’s smooth, oaky, and delicious on its own, as I’ve come to learn while enjoying the signature drink in the distillery’s onsite bar: the Standard. The cocktail is simply a glass of this rum served on ice and garnished with a wedge of lime, “Just like the Pirates used to drink.” It’s delicious, but absolutely deadly when you and your friends have hopes to hike later in the day. Three rounds of that will derail any proactive plans.

The Dark and Stormy-ish, which pairs Cane & Abe with a hefty dose of fresh lime juice and ginger ale (or beer), is a lighter option when you want an effervescent rum drink that won’t send you into a stupor.

Dark and Stormy-ish

  • 2 oz. dark rum
  • Juice from half of a juicy lime
  • Q Ginger
  • Lime wedge

Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the rum and lime juice and give it a quick stir. Top with Q Ginger. Garnish with a lime wedge. Simple simple!

Obviously this is a Dark and Stormy-ish since we’re technically using ginger ale instead of ginger beer, but it’s also a bit off the wall with its liberal inclusion of lime juice. I think it really brightens up the drink, but you can always use less or omit it.

What’s your go-to cocktail of late?

Savory Infused Booze and a Call for Your Favorite Bloody Mary Mix

infused vodka and tequila

Brunch is better with bloody marys. For my birthday this year, I’m hosting a boozy brunch party, which means we’re going balls to the wall with the drink selection. Plans are in place for a simple mimosa bar and a not-so-simple bloody mary (and bloody maria) bar. I’ve infused liquor before, but this is my first try at savory combinations and I’m intrigued as to whether or not these will be any good! Here’s what I’m workin’ with:

  • Sliced jalapeños and Espolón tequila
  • Lemon peel, lime peel, and Tito’s vodka
  • Sliced cucumber, fresh dill, and Tito’s vodka
  • Garlic cloves, black peppercorns, and Tito’s vodka

I didn’t follow any recipe strictly, but I took inspiration and ideas from articles here, here, and here. Spicy flavors apparently infuse more quickly than most, so I’ll check the jalepeño tequila in a couple days. The remaining three I’ll probably let stew (with the occasional vigorous shake) for about a week.

As for the bloody mary mixes, any suggestions are welcome! I’m planning on whipping up this recipe, which calls for San Marzano tomatoes and fresh horseradish—nom. Other than that, I don’t really have a favorite mass-produced bloody mix. I’d like to serve three to four different mixes, with at least one spicy variety.

Stay tuned for an update on hits, misses, and fan favorites. And now, bloody mary fiends, I ask you to please ENLIGHTEN ME. What’s your go-to mix?

On the Bar Cart: Volume 1

bar cart

Since I’m always curious about what other people are drinking at home, I thought it might be fun to start a periodic series to show you what’s on my bar cart at the moment.

Here’s the current lineup:

bar cart

Gin

Ransom Old Tom gin

Letherbee gin

Whiskey

Rowan’s Creek bourbon

James Oliver rye

Old Weller Antique bourbon

Rum

Cruzan light rum

Kraken black spiced rum

Liqueurs

Luxardo maraschino

Rothman & Winter créme de violette

Cointreau

Etc.

Leblon cachaça

Letherbee bësk (and a ltd. edition empty Letherbee malört bottle)*

cocktail bitters

Bitters

Fee Brothers grapefruit bitters

Fee Brothers orange bitters

Bittercube wild cherry bark, Madagascar vanilla, and cocoa bitters

Angostura aromatic bitters

Not pictured (because we ran out of room, or it’s in the fridge or freezer): Luxardo bitter, Lillet blanc, Dolin red vermouth, Du Bouchett’s peach brandy (used in a NYE punch), Jameson, New Amsterdam gin, and some Death’s Door vodka that a couple of friends left at our apartment.

* If you live in or around Chicago, you’ve heard of malört: the bitter, herbal, grapefruity, liquor with a hairspray-like back-of-the-throat feel. Jeppson’s makes the original (from an old Swedish recipe, apparently), but Letherbee Distillers decided to take a stab at their own recipe, which turned out decidedly more palatable than Jeppson’s. In early 2014, Letherbee was forced to change the name of their malört after Jeppson’s won their bid to trademark the term. You can read more about that here. It’s more of a novelty drink than anything else at this point, unless you talk to the old Eastern European man who once told my boyfriend “Is good for stomach,” a tip neither of us will ever forget.

I love using my Grandma Loe’s old vanity table as a bar, but I’m wondering if it’s just too small to hold my growing collection.

Ikea Raskog cart

I recently bought a Raskög cart from Ikea, and I’m kind of embarrassed about how much I love this inanimate object. I originally bought it for bathroom storage (it’s doing a great job holding my toilet paper, extra towels, and face-wax strips), but now I’m thinking it could make a really great bar cart. Especially since it’s got castors. What do you think? Stick with the antique, or give the Raskög a chance?

And, what’s on your bar cart at the moment? Anything you’re saving up for? Let me know in the comments!

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!