Electrify Me

A great lesson I learned from planning my wedding is that traditions are what you make them. In any celebration, we have the choice of which traditional components to accept and which to set aside in favor of more personalized practices. The same applies to Valentine's Day. My husband and I are always open to another excuse to celebrate our relationship but we don't entirely play by the rules. We try to do a staycation and a nice dinner sometime during the month of February because we've found experiences to often be more meaningful than possessions.

Instead of giving your partner or galentine flowers this week, consider sharing an experience with them by putting your effort into a beautiful, aromatic, and memorable cocktail. This drink takes inspiration from a timeless bouquet of roses, but I wanted to take the floral element in a different, surprising direction and to break the stereotype of floral drinks being a feminine enjoyment. 

I knew I wanted to build the drink on a base of gin but chose a more complex option - St. George Dry Rye Gin. I love that this gin is less Juniper forward and offers the rich grain finish of warm spice, similar to a rye whiskey. If you're weary of gins but haven't tried this one yet, it may just change your mind with its smooth yet peppery flavor. I further enhanced that electrifying kick with a 24 hour infusion of black peppercorns. The infusion is quite easy to achieve - simply add gin and cracked peppercorns to a glass jar in the proportions detailed below, then strain with a fine mesh strainer when finished. 

The peppery spice provided an excellent juxtaposition to the other key ingredient in this cocktail - hibiscus rose syrup. This syrup is made with dried hibiscus flowers and rosebuds (find these on Amazon or at a nicer grocery store) and is both tart and delicately floral. Both the hibiscus flowers and rosebuds also give the syrup, and the resulting cocktail, a stunning deep pink hue.

I finished the drink with egg white to smooth out the pepper to a palatable level and added some fresh lemon to enhance the tartness and help develop the egg white foam. To finish the cocktail, you can garnish with either fresh rose petals or the dried rosebuds you used for the syrup. The resulting drink is tart, pleasantly floral with an electrifying touch of peppery spice

Electrify Me

  • 1.5 oz black peppercorn-infused Dry Rye Gin*
  • 1 oz hibiscus rose syrup**
  • 0.5 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 egg white

To make cocktail, shake all ingredients without ice for about 10 seconds, occasionally releasing the pressure built up in the shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Double strain into a coupe glass and garnish with fresh flower petals or dried rosebuds. Enjoy with mood lighting and good company.

* For black peppercorn-infused Dry Rye Gin, add 1/2 tbsp freshly cracked black peppercorns and 1 cup of Dry Rye Gin to a glass jar and allow to sit for 24 hours, shaking occasionally. Strain with a fine mesh strainer.

*To make hibiscus rose syrup, add 1 tbsp dried hibiscus flowers, 1 heaping tbsp rosebuds and 1/4 cup sugar to a small saucepan with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, then strain and allow to cool. Store excess in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography!

A Bountiful Harvest

Have you ever tried a savory cocktail? Many of you are likely familiar with the Bloody Mary, a brunch staple that often comes loaded with a feast of garnishes. I've never been able to warm up to the Bloody Mary myself, probably due to the high acidity, spiciness, and overall heaviness of the drink. Other savory drinks I've tried have been an interesting experience but I wish I could have tried a little taste rather than having to finish the entire cocktail.

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With the fall harvest of our rooftop garden bringing in copious amounts of tomatoes and basil, I decided to try my hand at crafting a savory, tomato-based drink that I could enjoy. My first dilemma was which particular tomatoes to use and how to best prepare them for the purpose. I started with cherry tomatoes and tried simply muddling them but wasn't thrilled with their sweetness or the inconsistent texture of the resulting juice. Grape tomatoes proved more savory, and I was able to get a great texture by blending them and straining out any remaining solids. You could probably use roma, kumato, or heirloom tomatoes as a substitute (let me know how your drink turns out if you do).

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Instead of making a typical syrup, I tested an infused salty solution with black peppercorns, fresh basil, and sea salt. I loved the manageable ting of spice added by the peppercorns and the freshness of the basil when paired with the tomato flavor. I further played up the basil aromatics by pinning some fresh leaves to the drink as garnish. Note that leftover salt solution could be a great flavoring component for a soup. I also incorporated balsamic vinegar as a complement to the tomatoes and basil. It helped pull together the creamy, yet tart finish of the drink while balancing all of the components.

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From the start, I knew I wanted to use egg white in this cocktail to test out the savory side of foam. The acidity of the tomatoes was sufficient for foaming the egg white and the resulting frothy finish created a striking visual contrast and a firm top layer for sprinkling with freshly ground peppercorn.

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For the spirit, I chose a vodka that would add character to the drink rather than getting lost among the other ingredients - KOVAL Organic Rye Vodka. This vodka is similar to KOVAL's white rye whiskey, but triple distilled for more smoothness. It blended beautifully into the drink while adding a depth of grain flavor that worked wonderfully with the savory palette. 

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The finished cocktail is substantial yet fresh, with the creamy texture of the spiced foam blending effortlessly into the tomato body. The notes are lightly peppery, pleasantly acidic and aromatic.

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A Bountiful Harvest

  • 1.5 oz rye vodka
  • 0.5 oz balsamic vinegar
  • 0.5 oz peppercorn basil salt solution*
  • 10 grape tomatoes
  • 1 egg white

Blend and strain grape tomatoes, then add to a shaker along with other ingredients. Dry shake for approximately 10 seconds, occasionally releasing the pressure in the shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled, then strain into a champagne flute or other stemmed glass. Top with fresh cracked pepper and garnish with 1-2 small basil leaves. Enjoy while strolling through an abundant fall garden.

*To make infused salt solution, add 1 cup water, 1 tbsp cracked black peppercorns, and 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns to a small saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes. Add several basil leaves and simmer for another 10 minutes. Allow to cool before using.

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography. You can find the West Elm items from this shoot, herehere, and here. The cocktail shaker and jigger are by Viski.  

Gone Glamping

This past weekend I went camping at one of my favorite spots - Devil's Lake State Park. As always, the hiking was the perfect amount of challenge, the lake was beautifully clear for swimming, and the weather turned out better than any of us could have expected. Of course, we enjoyed S'mores for dessert both nights and had a laugh over everyone's various preparation strategies. I prefer removing the outer skin of a totally flamed marshmallow while my husband surprised me with pre-warming the graham cracker and chocolate on the grill for an extra gooey (and messy) treat. 

To me, S'mores are one of the quintessential enjoyments of summer but I do wish the ingredients could be more natural and less processed. I took the inspiration of the chocolate, charred marshmallow and cinnamon-coated graham cracker components and re-imagined them in purer cocktail form. 

Starting out, I knew I wanted to use a smoky spirit and chocolate balsamic with a homemade cinnamon syrup and an egg white foam. I chose Gran Centenario Añejo Tequila for the base because I love that it has a very approachable amount of smoke. Don't get me wrong, I can enjoy scotch in the right situation but I generally prefer less smoke in my cocktails because it can quickly steal the show. I can be apprehensive around tequila but this one has the smoothness of a good whiskey and a flavor that's balanced enough for easy mixing.

You're probably a bit confused about the chocolate balsamic component. Vinegar opens up a whole other world of possibilities for mixology, and most varieties can be incorporated in a drink if mixed correctly - shrubs, champagne, balsamic (the list goes on). It's a great alternative to citrus for adding acidity and can also help build complexity in non-alcoholic drinks. Balsamic vinegar is especially wonderful because its sweet taste and creamy texture makes it more of a crowd pleaser. Both my and my husband's parents gave us bottles of chocolate balsamic and it blew my mind how well those flavors worked together. I've used it to make brownies in the past but thought it could be perfect in this cocktail for helping the egg white foam, balancing the sweetness, and adding chocolaty depth. 

I did some research before creating the cinnamon syrup because I had heard of different cinnamon varieties and was pretty confused about what all of them entailed. Surprisingly, I found that cassia cinnamon, the variety most common in the U.S., can be toxic to your liver and kidneys if consumed on a daily basis. Ceylon cinnamon, the variety native to Sri Lanka, doesn't have the same negative impacts while benefiting metabolism and containing similar antioxidants to green tea. I grabbed it in bulk off of Amazon to get a more reasonable price and was impressed with its softer texture and sweeter flavor profile. It paired wonderfully with the less processed demerara sugar to make a delicious and versatile syrup. The whole sticks are perfect for steeping in syrups and teas and using for garnish but you can also grind them into powder using a regular coffee grinder.

To finish the drink off, I experimented with a brûléed egg white foam. I had never tried a cocktail like this but understood the general theory - after creating an egg white cocktail with a well-formed foam you could sprinkle sugar over the top and then torch that sugar to caramelize it. I found that the key was to keep the torch moving over the surface of the cocktail to prevent the sugar getting burnt. Don't get discouraged when you try this at home - it takes a bit for the sugar to start caramelizing but the process is pretty fast from that point on. 

The resulting drink was booze-forward and decadent without being heavy. It had just the right amount of sweetness and the egg white created an excellent texture to bring all the other ingredients together. It may be more of an involved creation but it's certainly worth the effort!

Gone Glamping

  • 2 oz añejo tequila
  • 0.25 oz chocolate balsamic vinegar
  • 0.75 Ceylon cinnamon syrup*
  • 1 egg white
  • 0.5 tsp white sugar

Dry shake all ingredients other than sugar (without ice) for 10-15 seconds, popping the cap occasionally to release the pressure from the egg white. Add ice and shake until chilled. Double strain into a coupe glass, sprinkle the top evenly with sugar and torch the surface until the sugar has caramelized (turned golden brown). Enjoy as an extremely sophisticated adult substitute for S'mores.

* To make Ceylon cinnamon syrup, heat 1 cup water,  1/4 cup demerara sugar and 3 cinnamon sticks in a small saucepan for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Excess can be stored in the fridge for several weeks but should be shaken before use as some settling may occur. Try adding the leftover syrup to coffee for another delicious treat!

 

 

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography and to Gather Vintage Tablescapes for the beautiful vintage glasses.

Philosopher's Path

In spring of 2011, I finally realized one of my dreams – visiting Japan. My curiosity with Japanese culture was spiked by the book Shōgun and Miyazaki movies (extra Valcohol points if you’ve seen Totoro). I went on to take an elective Japanese history course at college and one of the themes that stood out to me most was celebrating the beauty of the fleeting moment. So many aspects of the culture center on this concept and teach the indispensable patience it takes to appreciate that beauty.

I was lucky to have a friend teaching English in Fukuoka so I started my voyage there and then continued on to Kyoto and Osaka. One of the most ephemeral yet timeless spots on our journey was the blooming Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto. Walking along the cobbled pathways by the side of a babbling canal and surrounded by flowering trees and ancient temples, I truly lost myself to the breathtaking beauty of the moment. While the cultural site has so much history behind it, the state of the path is always changing as nature works it course. 

I wanted this cocktail to evoke the transience of nature and the richness of Japanese culture, so I chose to craft it with matcha tea and a likeness to cherry blossoms. Matcha tea is a powdered form of green tea leaves traditionally used for the Japanese tea ceremony. Similar to other Japanese green teas, matcha is bold, grassy and vibrant in flavor. Because the leaves are actually consumed in the powdered form, matcha is especially high in antioxidant and vitamin content. Matcha can range considerably in price depending on its intended use. I recommend selecting a less expensive, culinary grade variety for a cocktail application. 

Natural cherry blossom flavoring is surprisingly difficult to find outside of Japan, so I had to get creative with my substitutions. I knew I needed a floral element, a hint of cherry and a sweet aroma. The combination of rose water and Bittercube's Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters was the perfect solution. Note that there's no need to overpay for rose water since it's a common component of Middle Eastern cooking and therefore available in much more cost effective form than what you would find at a gourmet grocery store. 

To emphasize the grassy and floral notes of the cocktail, I used a base of Death's Door Gin. Simple and always delivering in quality, Death's Door has been one of my favorite gins since I first started exploring the spirit. Of course, I especially love that it hails from Wisconsin. 

I finished the cocktail with egg white and fresh lemon to smooth the boldness of the matcha and the strength of the floral flavor. Lemon balanced the sweetness of the matcha syrup and gave the drink a pleasant, lingering tartness. The resulting cocktail is truly one of my personal favorites with its lovely marriage of grassy tea, bright botanicals, aromatic blooms and creamy finish. 

The Philosopher's Path

  • 1.5 oz Death's Door Gin
  • 0.75 oz matcha syrup*
  • 1 barspoon rose water
  • 6 drops Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 egg white

Dry shake all ingredients (without ice) for 10-15 seconds, popping the cap occasionally to release the pressure from the egg white. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a fresh blossom. Enjoy while losing yourself in the transient beauty of spring.

* To make matcha syrup, heat 1 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar in a small saucepan until sugar dissolves. Add 1/2 tbsp matcha powder and whisk until dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Excess can be stored in the fridge for several weeks but should be shaken before use as some settling may occur. Try adding the leftover syrup to some almond milk for a matcha latte or using it in baking if you're feeling adventurous!

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography and to Gather Vintage Tablescapes for the tray, spoon and lovely vintage coupes.

 

 

Vintage Daydream

Chances are, you have a strong feeling about anise and therefore about absinthe. Either it's a spirit you swear by to bring an edge to your cocktails and pay homage to classic recipes, or you avoid it at all costs. I used to be part of the latter group but I tend to view flavor dislikes as an exciting challenge. In my opinion, it's far more rewarding to make a cocktail you love with an ingredient you're weary of than with an ingredient you invariably enjoy. 

I had only experimented with absinthe once in the past, and it was somewhat of a rocky start. I didn't think twice about starting out with a 0.5 oz pour of the absinthe in a gin-based cocktail and then spent over an hour trying to keep it from overpowering all the other flavors. On my second try, I approached more cautiously. Chicago Distilling Company graciously shared a beautiful bottle of their Lanfray's Trigger Green Absinthe (available locally) and I wanted to highlight its character in a drink with broad appeal. I had recently acquired a bar spoon and decided this would be the perfect occasion to try it as a unit of measurement. It's far easier to add more of an ingredient than to have to correct for an overly zealous pour.

To complement the abinthe's herbal character, I used Chicago Distilling's Finn's Gin. Finn's is a more modern take on gin and therefore a pleasure to mix with - think less juniper and more other exciting botanicals such as green cardamom, Szechuan peppercorn and hibiscus. If you need any more reason to give it a try, Finn's keeps it local by using entirely Illinois grain. 

I wanted the herbal quality of this cocktail to be appreciable yet smoothed over for broader appeal. Egg white foam balanced out the bite from the gin and absinthe while blood orange added a bright freshness and honey contributed a pleasant hint of sweetness. I added just a bit of lemon to maintain some tartness as blood orange is much sweeter than your typical citrus fruit. The resulting drink is creamy, dreamy and reminiscent of the classics with a modern twist.

If you have some time on your hands and want to experiment with adventurous garnish, I recommend trying your hand at dehydrated citrus slices. They'll last in an air-tight container in the fridge long after your favorite citrus fruit goes out of season. Plus, though dehydrated citrus is a tad time intensive to make, the process itself is quite easy. Simply cut up the citrus (I used blood oranges for this cocktail) into 1/4" slices, place on a cooling rack layered on top of an aluminum baking sheet and place in the oven on 180 degrees Fahrenheit for about 6 hours, flipping the citrus slices halfway through the baking time. 

The Vintage Daydream

  • 1.5 oz gin
  • 1 bar spoon absinthe
  • 0.5 oz honey syrup
  • Juice of 1/2 blood orange
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 1 egg white

Dry shake all ingredients (without ice) for 10-15 seconds, popping the cap occasionally to release the pressure from the egg white. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a dehydrated blood orange slice. Enjoy while lounging on a velvet settee and getting lost in some vintage tunes.

*To make honey syrup, heat a half cup of honey and a half cup of water in a small pot at low heat. Stir frequently until honey dissolves to avoid boiling. Allow to cool and store excess in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography and to Gather Vintage Tablescapes for the tray and lovely vintage coupes.

 

Valcohol Nog

I have to be honest with you - I didn't try egg nog for the first time until this winter. What changed? I made it at home with careful attention to bacteria safety as well as fat and sugar content. The result was incredibly worth the hours of research and I'm incredibly excited to share the recipe with you all.

Let's talk eggs (bonus points if you say that word with a Wisconsin accent). When it comes to incorporating them in cocktails, people either love them, are still unsure of their flavor or avoid them like the plague. I have to admit that I was once part of the last group. It took a large amount of curiosity for me to finally give egg whites a try and I will never go back. They add such a wonderful texture and contribute a smooth, creamy flavor without adding excess fat or dairy. Plus, egg whites are a great source of protein, beneficial to jump-starting your metabolism before eating a meal.

Though the risk of salmonella is low, I've preferred to play it safe by using pasteurized egg whites. I typically buy them in cartons, making sure it's not an egg substitute and there are no suspicious additives. As an extra safety measure, I only use them raw for about a week after opening, and then incorporate the remainder into baked goods. 

Unfortunately, egg yolks do not come in cartons (that I'm aware of) and pasteurized whole eggs can be very hard to find (I may or may not have checked 5 different grocery stores). Adapting to this constraint, I chose to cook the egg nog, age it for a few days with KOVAL Oat Whiskey and then shake the aged mix with a pasteurized egg white before serving. You could also use bourbon but the oat whiskey is really ideal for this application - it's rich, creamy and incredibly smooth.

I kept my recipe dairy-free with a mixture of Califia Farms almond/coconut creamer and almond milk that I simmered with orange peel, cinnamon, cloves and dark maple syrup. I also added vanilla extract and fresh grated nutmeg during the aging process. The result is blissfully decadent in taste yet not in content and simply perfect for the holiday season. I also highly recommend it as an excellent DIY gift!

Valcohol Nog

Step 1:

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup almond/coconut creamer
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 2 strips orange peel
  • 0.5 cup dark maple syrup
  • 3 fresh egg yolks

Heat all ingredients other than egg yolks on low/medium heat in a small saucepan. Stir occasionally and warm for about 15 minutes or until milk mixture just reaches a boil, then set aside. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks with an electric mixer. Add warm spiced milk mixture to egg yolks very slowly, while continuing to beat with the electric mixer. Once the egg yolks and spiced milk are combined, transfer the liquid back to the small saucepan and heat for about 3 more minutes or until the mixture reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to stir continuously during this process. Remove from heat, strain out the spices and orange peel and allow to cool.

Step 2:

  • 1 cup oat whiskey
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla
  • 0.5 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

Once egg yolk and spiced milk mixture has cooled, transfer to a large glass jar or bottle and add vanilla, whiskey and nutmeg. Give the jar/bottle a good shake and put it in the fridge for 1-2 days for the flavors to mix and intensify (I would recommend consuming within 7 days).

Step 3:

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 orange twist

When you're ready to serve, add 4 ounces of the aged egg nog mixture and 1 egg white to a shaker. Dry shake for about 10 seconds to form a nice foam, popping the shaker occasionally if pressure builds up. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a stemmed glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick and orange twist. Enjoy while opening a pile of presents around the nondenominational holiday tree.

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography and to Gather Vintage Tablescapes for the lovely glasses and tray.

 

 

An Esteemed Guest

All of us cocktail adventurers tend to have spirits we favor and those that make us slightly uncomfortable. Even as I broaden my horizons, I find that I have to consciously challenge myself to stray outside my comfort zone. Is the extra effort worth it if you can already make good drinks with ingredients you know?

YES

As with all other aspects of life, challenge leads to growth and feelings of accomplishment. Of course, the strongest feeling of accomplishment comes when you can create a recipe you enjoy, but this is easier than you may think. The next time you’re at a nice cocktail bar, order a drink with a new, intimidating liquor and pay attention to the complementary ingredients and balance of flavor. This is typically how I start mapping out the possibilities with a new spirit or mixer for home mixology.

The last cocktail of my Thanksgiving series features two new ingredients to my arsenal – Drambuie (a liqueur dating back to early 20th century Scotland, consisting of Scotch whiskey, heather honey, herbs and spices) and a Single Malt Scotch Whiskey. I’m not a big Scotch drinker and I tend to stray from smoky flavors. However, I found Drambuie to be an excellent cold weather liqueur with its sweet, spiced profile, and this $17 Trader Joe’s find was a noncommittal opportunity to try a smooth, young Scotch option for mixing. 

I wanted this cocktail to channel everything I love about pumpkin pie – sweet pumpkin puree, creamy texture and fall spice galore. I found that it’s quite easy to use canned or homemade pumpkin puree in cocktails if you shake all the ingredients together vigorously for an even mix. If you want to avoid the pumpkin sediment, you can always use a finer mesh strainer when pouring the cocktail. 

Egg white and lemon helped me achieve the creamy texture and perfect froth. A lemon twist also made for lovely garnish for the final presentation. If you’re like me and can’t get enough of fall spice, you can top the drink with some cinnamon sugar, pumpkin spice blend or freshly grated nutmeg. The result melts in your mouth with delightful sweetness and makes a wonderful substitute or pairing for the dessert course.

An Esteemed Guest

  • 1.5 oz Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
  • 0.5 oz Drambuie
  • 1 oz pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg white
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Dry shake all ingredients (without ice) for 10-15 seconds, popping the cap occasionally to release the pressure from the egg white. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a stemmed crystal glass and garnish with a touch of fall spice and a lemon twist. Enjoy while toasting to a Thanksgiving gathering to remember!

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography and to Gather Vintage Tablescapes for the lovely crystal stemware and other table adornments.

Black Barrel

Fun personal fact (which you may have also gathered from the general health-minded nature of this blog) – I’m not a typical dessert eater. People can be chowing down chocolate, doughnuts or ice cream sundaes right next to me while I feel no temptation. It’s a trait I’m hugely thankful for. One of my favorite treats to follow up dinner is actually a few walnuts. The rich buttery texture and nutty flavor is more than enough to leave me satisfied.
 
You may not share my dessert sentiments, but perhaps you’ll be hooked on this autumnal alcoholic ode to walnuts. 

If you haven't yet tried any Fee Brothers Bitters, I highly recommend picking up a few. I've enjoyed all the flavors I've tried thus far but the black walnut is hands down my favorite. In case you're new to bitters, be sure to use them sparingly. Bitters tend to be extremely concentrated so more than a few drops can offset your cocktail's flavor profile. On the other hand, I love how bitters can add focused complexity without watering a drink down (as well as their cost effectiveness). 

I chose to pair the black walnut bitters with spiced apple cider as the combination expresses everything I love about fall - apple picking in Southeastern Wisconsin, enjoying a fire in the fireplace and getting cozy with spiced treats. I initially thought of rye to further play up the spice element but then wondered if barrel finished gin could accomplish a similar effect. If you tend to stay away from gin and favor whiskey instead, I suggest you give barrel finished gin a chance. The varieties I've sampled tend to have less of the sharpness of vodka and more of the smooth oak profile of whiskey, but with added herbal complexity. Finn's Gin by Chicago Distilling Company is one of my favorites (plus, it's local).

To round out the cocktail and give it some decadence, I added a touch of lemon and egg white foam. The result is smooth, nutty, lightly sweet and thoughtfully complex.

The Black Barrel

  • 1.5 oz barrel finished gin
  • 1.5 oz spiced apple cider
  • 1/4 large lemon
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 drops black walnut bitters

Dry shake all ingredients (without ice) for 10-15 seconds, popping the cap occasionally to release the pressure from the egg white. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a touch of fall spice (star anise, cinnamon or fresh nutmeg). Enjoy while skipping through a sea of multicolored leaves in your favorite fall sweater.

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography and to Gather Vintage Tablescapes for the lovely tray and gold-rimmed coupes.

Old Crow

One of the great things about being a cocktail enthusiast is that all your friends tend to pick up on your passion and share their cocktail discoveries with you. Seeing as how my friends have spread out all around the world, I'm lucky to catch glimpses into the local cocktail scene when I travel.

For our honeymoon this past May, Will and I chose to pay a visit to Zurich, Switzerland, and the surrounding mountain scenery. We settled on this specific stop to reconnect with our good friend Livia who we had the pleasure of meeting in Chicago while she studied abroad. She diligently planned out the top restaurants and cocktail bars to introduce us to, and one of the latter stood out as a huge source of mixology and hosting inspiration.

The Old Crow was everything a classic bar should be: tucked away on a winding cobbled street, full of cozy nooks and dim lighting, walls covered with bottles from around the world and a true gentleman of a bartender making sure you enjoyed the cocktail experience to the fullest. He patiently walked us through the extensive menu, making suggestions based on his preferences and offering helpful insight. This extra degree of service always enhances my cocktail experience by creating a personal connection and an environment of discovery. 

I settled upon the Lumberjack cocktail - featuring Calvados, red wine syrup, maple syrup, lemon and egg white. While I hadn't previously had much experience with aged apple brandy, I loved the dimension it gave to the drink. The strong wine flavor balanced with the creaminess of the egg white and the entire concoction served as the perfect tribute to fall. I knew I had to work these flavors into my own mixology experimentation, and I hope you enjoy the result just in time for the dancing leaves, crisp nights and stunning color arrays.

I made two adjustments for my own take on this cocktail - substituting overproof rye whiskey for apple brandy and incorporating Seasons Soda Maple Demi-Sec for both maple flavor and effervescence (sidenote: this is hands down the most delicious soda I've ever tried and I don't even like soda). Feel free to play with the flavors to your own liking depending on what you prefer - spice, sweetness or a hint of fruit. Customization is what makes mixology so enjoyable! 

The Old Crow

  • 1.5 oz rye whiskey (I used Rittenhouse Rye)
  • 4 oz Seasons Soda Maple Demi-Sec
  • Juice of 0.5 lemon
  • Egg white
  • 1 tbsp red wine syrup*
  • Ground nutmeg, for garnish

Combine all ingredients other than soda and nutmeg in a shaker. Dry shake (without ice) for 10-15 seconds, popping the cap occasionally to release the pressure from the egg white. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a stemmed glass and top with maple soda. Dust with ground nutmeg and enjoy while adventuring into the depths of historically rich locales. 

*To make red wine syrup, heat 2 parts red table wine and 1 part sugar in a small sauce pan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Store in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography and to Gather Vintage Tablescapes for the inspiring glassware.

Infatuation

With Valentine's Day coming up, you may be wondering how to best treat your significant other, your crush or, better yet, yourself. This year, I encourage you to skip the flowers and chocolates and get your indulgence fix with a well-made cocktail. Creamy, tart and herbal, this take on the classic gin fizz will leave nothing to be desired in both looks and taste. Because nothing says intense passion like gin, juicy blackberries, a dash of rosemary and a topping of airy foam.

This cocktail is a tad more complex than some of the others I've shared as it requires making your own simple syrup and incorporates egg whites. While both of those may seem intimidating, I promise you - they're really not. Simple syrup just takes a little patience. Heat water, sugar and whatever flavor agent you're adding until the sugar dissolves and the flavor has sufficiently been infused into the syrup (or just follow my instructions below to take the guesswork out of it). It's a really great way to incorporate herbs into your drinks while adding some sweetness. Sage, lavender, basil and rosemary are some of my favorite variations thus far, but I look forward to experimenting with many more.

Now that we've crossed that bridge, let's tackle egg whites. Getting a little squeamish at the thought of consuming raw eggs? I feel you. I used to avoid egg white cocktails at all costs. However, I now strongly regret my wasted years of not drinking deliciously foamy concoctions. It's true that egg whites carry the risk of salmonella. Using fresh, pasteurized eggs makes that risk virtually nonexistent. So how do you turn goopy eggs into magical froth topping? In the process of shaking egg white with citrus, the egg white proteins are emulsified - or broken down in structure to create a foamy texture. Citrus and proper agitation are key. Get ready to work out those cocktail shaking muscles!

If you loved egg whites in this cocktail and want to try more - check out this previous post.

The Infatuation

  • 2 oz gin
  • 0.75 oz rosemary simple syrup (recipe below)*
  • 0.5 oz lemon juice
  • 1 pasteurized egg white (egg whites from a carton are easy and create less waste)
  • 5 ripe blackberries

Place blackberries in a cocktail shaker and muddle to release the liquid. Add gin, rosemary simple syrup, lemon juice and egg white. Shake vigorously for about 15 seconds, making sure you're holding the top of the shaker so it doesn't fly off due to the developing pressure. Carefully open the shaker to add a few ice cubes. Shake again until shaker is frosted over, then strain into a stemmed or embellished glass. You may have to wiggle the shaker a bit when pouring as the blackberry pulp will plug the holes. Garnish with a rosemary sprig and serve to your sweetheart. 

* To make rosemary simple syrup, add 2 cups filtered water, 0.5 cup sugar and a handful of fresh rosemary to a small sauce pan. Cook over low heat for approximately 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Strain out rosemary and allow to cool, then transfer unused portion to a jar and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

 

 

Wingding Juniper, Inspired by Holiday Cheer

Flavor profile: tart, herbal, refreshing

Holiday cheer before Thanksgiving confuses me. However, after a wonderful dinner celebration with friends and family, cold weather setting in and December just around the corner, I embrace it 110% - the aroma of fresh cut frasier firs, holiday lights twinkling in the windows, Celtic Christmas tunes and, of course, holiday-themed booze.

Today's cocktail is brought to you by me switching to full-on holiday mode and Will's father mis-hearing another cocktail I had mentioned (whiskey ginger) as "Wingding Juniper." An excellent name if I ever heard one.

There is no liquor that makes me more nostalgic for the holidays than, you guessed it, gin. It is commonly accepted knowledge that gin tastes like Christmas, especially when paired with cranberry flavor. I chose to add egg white to mellow out the tartness and it worked perfectly. We were also lucky to get to try all sorts of fancy new gins thanks to our engagement bottle shower - Nolet's is delicious! So here's a little gin-filled taste of Christmas for you all to enjoy:

The Wingding Juniper

  • 2 oz gin
  • 4 oz cranberry juice (I recommend spending a bit more to get the more flavorful 100% cranberry juice)
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1 pasteurized egg white
  • 2 tbsp ginger liqueur (Domaine de Canton is the best choice)
  • Several drops of orange bitters

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously without ice to start forming foam. After 30 or so seconds, add ice and shake until the shaker frosts over (it's nice to use a kitchen towel to hold the shaker so your hands don't freeze). Strain into a stemmed glass and serve up while decorating your tree and listening to holiday tunes!