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Gilded Cage

Gilded CageOne of the challenges often faced by cocktail enthusiasts is reconciling  the fact that vodka—the most popular spirit in North America—isn't fairly represented in classic cocktail books. In fact, you just don't find mention of vodka in many of the old texts. It's as if no one had even heard of it until the Cold War when James Bond's martini and the Moscow Mule came along. Even here at Summit Sips we are guilty of tipping the scales out of balance. It's not intentional—we just don't cover as many vodka recipes as we probably should, given the likelihood that our readers probably want us to.

It might make sense from a historical perspective that—in order to cover more than a century of modern drinking culture with dozens of important classics—vodka could be considered a relative newcomer. But, that's not actually true at all. Think about it: gin is flavor neutral before it is redistilled with juniper and other botanicals. In other words, gin starts life as vodka, so it wasn't as if vodka didn't exist, it's just that American culture either didn't consider it, or wasn't familiar with drinking it.

Some estimates put the earliest vodkas from eastern Europe as far back as the middle ages, although purity was quite low. As distillation techniques improved, so did the quality and consistency of the product. Today, craft distilleries are popping up all over, and vodka is often the first product attempted because it's popular and it doesn't require aging so it can be bottled and sold immediately. It's also a nice gauge of quality—if a small outfit is doing their own distilling and can make a clean, smooth vodka, their gin and other products probably start out similarly. For example, House Spirits Distillery here in Portland, OR makes Volstead Vodka alongside Aviation Gin and Krogstad Aquavit—both indispensable staples in our cabinet. It's important to start out with a quality base spirit in any recipe. Good vodka deserves a great cocktail and the Gilded Cage certainly qualifies.

Gilded Cage by Toby Maloney
2 oz vodka
.75 oz lemon juice
.75 oz honey syrup
7 drops grapefruit bitters
1 egg white

Add ingredients to a shaker. Seal tightly and shake without ice to build up a frothy emulsion. Add ice, and shake again until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit peel (discarded).

This drink comes from The Violet Hour in Chicago, Illinois. It's another Toby Maloney creation that highlights the quality of the spirit without letting other products steal the show, and because it's a vodka drink it can be a very popular choice with guests. We love it because it showcases what can be done with an egg white sour without getting crazy with other ingredients.

To balance the lemon, Toby uses honey syrup which is just equal portions of water and honey dissolved. This adds an element of depth along with the grapefruit bitters. When you make one of these, shake very hard to build up the emulsion and be sure to leave room in the glass for the espuma which tends to flow past the strainer at the very end of the pour. If you do it right, you get a gorgeous layer of meringue that floats on the surface. We've seen this drink garnished with the bitters dropped on top of the froth or with a fat twist of grapefruit peel that you express onto the drink and throw away. You can usually get a nice amount of misty oils from the peel and this will do wonders to scent the surface.

We served ours in an an antique gilded-rim coupe available in the Summit Sips Store.

Brandy Buck

Brandy Buck

We've managed to stretch this line of cocktail recipes across years of posts. It's no secret that we love our homemade ginger syrup, so it is only natural that we should continue to share ways to use it. Ginger syrup has become such an important staple at the home bar—and making it using a cold process with fresh ginger juice is so easy—that we always have some on hand. Employing syrup as opposed to bottled ginger beer for cocktails is better from a storage perspective, and if you don't mind us saying so, it tastes better than anything you can buy.

So, now that you are sold on making ginger syrup (and even if you aren't, you can still use your favorite ginger beer for this drink), it's time to make the Brandy Buck. The name always reminds us of

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Ground Cherry Daiquiri

Ground Cherry Daiquiri

If you've never heard of them, ground cherries are odd little yellow-orange berries that look like miniature tomatillos. About the size and shape of a cranberry, they are firm and smooth, but like the tomatillo, they have a papery shroud over the fruit. The plant on which they grow apparently looks like a short tomato shrub, but here's the thing: they don't really taste like tomatoes at all. How does strawberry, pineapple, or maybe kiwi sound? We first discovered them three weeks ago at Bar Avignon in SE Portland. The ground cherries were served as part of an appetizer that we ordered and were meant to be paired with the cheese on the plate. Peeling open each light husk revealed the fruit inside, and after just one bite we knew we had to make a drink out of them. Fortunately, we found Naked

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Rhubarb Blush

Rhubarb Blush

We have a lot of content to add to our compilation of bar reviews. There are so many great places to order cocktails Portland, Oregon and the list keeps on growing. One favorite restaurant is Pok Pok and what is often considered the Pok Pok waiting room—the Whiskey Soda Lounge. Here's one of their drink recipes that is easy to make and quenches the heat of a hot, spicy meal.

In the right season, rhubarb bitters are easy to make at home. Otherwise, you may be able to find Fee Brothers at your local shop. Once you do, pulling together this refreshing recipe is simple. Just combine equal portions of gin, lime and Aperol with a few dashes of bitters. Shake with crushed once and dump the whole works into a tall glass and garnish with

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Montego Bay

Montego Bay

During a recent visit to the Red Star Tavern in Portland, Oregon, Brandon Lockman—the creative genius behind the bar—shared his recipe for a delicious cocktail on the menu right now called the Montego Bay. On the page, the recipe itself is basically a Daiquiri variant at its heart. But as we will explain, this one is complex enough for it to land somewhere in Tiki territory alongside frightful favorites like the Zombie—although it's not described that way on the menu. The fact that it uses Banks 5 Island Rum was enough to captivate our interest, and now that we can finally make a proper Paddington with it, we were eager for another great recipe to share.

We aren't entirely certain why Lockman calls this the Montego Bay—perhaps geography plays

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Curfew

Curfew

What spirit driven cocktail is as dark as the night is long, bittersweet, features a favorite (and often controversial) Italian Amaro as the base, and is surprisingly delicious if you are daring enough to try it? The Curfew cocktail.

Last night, while waiting for our table at Toro Bravo in Portland, Oregon, we had the pleasure of Jesse's service behind the bar at The Secret Society cocktail lounge. We love the old vibe of the place almost as much as the solid menu of perfectly executed classics—most of which have appeared here on Summit Sips at one time or another over the years. In addition to the comprehensive menu of choices by spirit category, some of the most interesting options are on the chalk boards above the bar. These seasonal selections are

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A New Reviews Menu

Teardrop

Changes are afoot at Summit Sips. We moved the Archives menu item to the navigation sidebar and added a Reviews link to the main menu above.

We have always believed that the best cocktails are those you make yourself, but we are often asked to suggest a bar or restaurant that serves a good drink. Over the course of several years we have collected photos, recipes and experiences from locations around the country. We decided it was finally time to compile those details into a comprehensive list and make our notes available to our readers.

Obviously, we have not been to every good bar in the world so the list is short and has an emphasis on those locations where we have spent the most time. Our plan is to let it grow, day by day, place by place. It's also a work in progress and

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Cranston

Cranston

One of our favorite go-to cocktails to beat the heat of summer is the Mint Julep. Nothing quite compares to recipes that employ crushed ice for a frosty glass. And while you sip, the drink gets satisfyingly smoother and colder! Previous features like the Pontarlier Julep, the Port Light, or even swizzles like this one or that one are perfect examples. Using our freshly-made fermented raspberry syrup, we made this little gem to add to the growing list.

The Cranston was created by New York bartender Rafa García Febles. Rafa is a prolific cocktail creator and writer of the DrunkLab blog. In this simple recipe, he takes rye whiskey and

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Raspberry Cocktails

Columbia Cocktail

Columbia Cocktail

There are so many ways to use fruit in cocktails. Muddling fresh produce may be the easiest, but you can also freeze it for use off-season. More traditional options include preserving fruit as jams, syrups, shrubs or even liqueurs. We've been busy this summer with all of nature's bounty, and we'll be sharing some of our exploits in the coming months. Today, let's talk about raspberry syrup.

Making a syrup from raspberries is easy enough. The simplest recipe follows a basic formula of one part fruit juice with one part sugar. However, we wanted to take an approach that may seem a little unorthodox. According to the Jerry Thomas Bartenders Guide first published in 1862, it's better to add another step to the process. Fermenting the fruit juice for several days through natural processes (including the unrestricted

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St. Stephen's Sour

St Stephens Sour

We're all about refreshing summer drinks these days—the easier to make them the better. Most of the time that means tall, simple cocktails without many ingredients. Warmer weather usually pushes us toward refreshing citrus and carbonation as opposed to spirit-driven sippers, but we'd be kidding ourselves if we didn't admit that exceptions do exist. For instance, we can't stop enjoying a strong Mint Julep, nor resist the temptation of more complicated drinks like the Mai Tai. These never fall out of rotation for us, but this month's Imbibe Magazine (July/August 2014 issue) has a great selection of recipes that we probably need to add to our repertoire. One of them stood out as both refreshing and easy to make while still retaining a some complexity and interest. It was

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