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Travel Cocktail Kit: Tested and Improved

Using the Travel Cocktail KitLast December, we wrote about a fun DIY concept: The Summit Sips Travel Cocktail Kit. If you recall, this was based on a commercial product idea whereby the traveling cocktail enthusiast packs a small tin in their carry-on baggage. Once in flight, you open the tin to reveal sugar (rich simple syrup in our case), bitters, and a spoon. Upon ordering some whiskey and and a glass of ice from the attendant, the kit allows you to construct several Old Fashioned cocktails for in-flight enjoyment. Not all of us can afford to fly first-class, so this is a great way to elevate your air travel experience—especially while sitting in the cheap seats. Over the summer, we had an opportunity to finally test our kit. We also heard from several readers about their own experiences and ideas, so we decided to post a follow up.

Mt. Jefferson, in flightDid the kit pass TSA inspection?
You might think this poses a challenge, but TSA didn't even mention the kit as they peered into our plastic ziplock bag at security check points. We were also carrying 50ml bottles of olive oil and they did a careful recheck to make sure these bottles weren't exceeding the 3 ounce limit, but they said nothing about our little tin. So, yes, this kit passes TSA without any issues whatsoever. Other readers have commented about having similar experiences.

What about including mini bottles of booze?
Although you can fill your one-quart ziplock with mini bottles of booze, you can't open them in-flight. Something about the way the sale of liquor is licensed on airplanes prevents patrons from opening their own. We tried, and the attendant wanted to confiscate our drinks, so we purchased mini bottles instead. The bitters were no problem, and the attendant even asked about the dropper bottle. "Oh, cocktail bitters? No problem." So, take this as a warning—don't try to bring your own booze, vermouth or any other alcohol with the intention of opening it and drinking it during the flight. Besides, it's hard to be discreet when you only order a glass of ice.

Is the spoon necessary?
Initially, we didn't think it would be, but we had a chemistry spoon that we cut to size that we wanted to test. It was definitely convenient to have a spoon to stir—even a short one. This is especially true if you are traveling with a companion. You don't want to mix their drink with your fingertip! Our conclusion on this point: Definitely include a spoon with the kit so that the cocktail can be properly mixed and to achieve adequate chill and dilution without making a mess or being unsanitary. We decided to improve our kit by making the spoon a necessity and modified some rare Illy Ombra spoons. The Ombra is a flat, stainless steel espresso demitasse. By cutting off the logo at the handle and polishing the end, these spoons are perfect.

Improved Travel Cocktail KitHow did the vials perform?
Our kit requires filling the vials about 2/3 full with granulated sugar. Then, about 48 hours before the flight, adding water to dissolve the sugar. This works perfectly if you give it a good shake and add more water. It takes time for the water to percolate down to the bottom of the vial and air bubbles are released as it happens. After you first fill them with water, be sure to check for dry granules and add more water to top it off.

One improvement we are making is to match the sizes of the sugar vials. Initially, we had two sizes: the larger vial was a 1/2-ounce with a cap, and the smaller was a 1/4-ounce with a dropper. With these you can build 3 drinks (each requires 1/4-ounce of rich simple syrup). Three cocktails is better than two, but four would be even better! We decided there is no need for the dropper on the simple syrup. We thought it might be difficult to portion the large vial and that the dropper would come in handy for carefully doling out the syrup and for filling with water, but in practice, it's easier without the dropper. Besides, in order to fit, the dropper top had to go on the smaller vial where it isn't really needed. This also required swapping caps around which is way more trouble than it is worth. So, the improvement to the kit is also an upgrade: two 1/2-ounce vials, each capped and ready to make enough simple syrup for a total of four (4) cocktails in-flight!

Adding another cocktail to the kit is a big win, especially when traveling with a companion (an even number makes everyone happy). But what about the bitters? We can recharge the sugar at our destination easily enough, but do we have enough bitters to make four cocktails on the flight out plus four more on the journey home? The simple answer is, YES! The 1/8-ounce vial of bitters includes a tiny dropper which holds about 10 drops of bitters per squeeze. We were able to fit more than 200 drops into this tiny vial which is nearly twice as much as we expected. You can easily squirt a couple of dashes into each cocktail. We used 2 droppers full, so about 20 drops per cocktail. The bitters vial has more than enough to get you there and back again without refilling.

Modified Illy Ombra spoonEXTREMELY Limited (2) Kits that were in the Store are GONE!
We decided to put a pair of these kits into inventory on the Summit Sips Store. They sold within hours of posting. If there is more interest, please let us know in the comments. Maybe we will make more. The spoon is a special item that we had to cut to size and polish by hand, so we may keep searching for an easier option. These spoons are also somewhat rare (imported from Italy), so we only made two of them. The kit included the special spoon, the 1/2-ounce vials of sugar, the 1/8-ounce dropper vial of bitters, the tin with sleeve and instructions.

If you are keen on having an Improved Summit Sips Travel Cocktail Kit but you want to make the kit yourself, you can view our previous post with links to the parts. You'll need to swap out the 1/4-ounce vial for another 1/2-ounce, but the rest is the same. You also need to download this updated insert which accommodates the change from 3 to 4 cocktails. Happy travels!

Death in the Gulf Stream

Death in the Gulf Stream

Something we often admire about classic cocktails is their simplicity. We suppose early recipes had the advantage of being first to attempt basic combinations. Such is the case, for instance, with the Daiquiri: rum, lime and sugar—a favorite of rum lovers everywhere, including at least one famous writer from the Florida Keys. It shouldn't surprise you to know that in addition to his reputation for enjoying such drinks, Ernest Hemingway also had a hand in creating a few. One of them is called Death in the Gulf Stream, and it is both easy and efficient.

Cocktail construction efficiency isn't something we think about very often. In a typical setting, one has plenty of ice, a sink to rinse tools and glassware, and just a general concern for making the best use of every step and ingredient—it's the end result that counts. Need to shake a drink over ice,

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The Lowlands

The Lowlands

We've been itching to construct a drink that uses Brancamenta. It's not the easiest liqueur to mix—think Fernet-Branca with a little more sugar and a refreshing blast of peppermint. If you like Fernet, Brancamenta is an easy sipper, and if Fernet always seems too bitter or intense, Brancamenta will be far more approachable. The only problem is that not many cocktails are out there that use it.

Over the years, we've collected lots of notes and clippings of various recipes we use for inspiration. Today, we dug up something we captured off the pages of the Oregonian last year. Back in August, they ran a story about carbonated cocktails. Naturally, we filed away these details hoping to try a few of the featured recipes this summer. So, here we are looking at a drink created last year by Brandon Wise back when he was bar manager at Imperial.

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Kojo

Kojo

Grab your grapefruit for this one—but all you will need is the peel. If you don't have a grapefruit for cutting the garnish—shame on you, you will have to use lemon—but you should know that the grapefruit peel in this cocktail does add an aromatic nuance that is definitely worth the effort. We are referring to the Kojo, a contemporary drink that we recently enjoyed at Hamlet, a fun little restaurant in the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon. It's a sherry cocktail selected to pair with the Spanish jamón they serve, but the drink itself was created by Washington DC's Derek Brown. We recently featured Brown's Getaway cocktail, so it was a happy coincidence to find another one of his creations at a local hot spot.

The recipe splits the base evenly between Oloroso sherry and gin, then balances lemon juice with falernum and a bit of

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Chestnut Cup

Chestnut Cup

Whether you enjoyed a Margarita on Cinco de Mayo or a Mint Julep for Derby Day, the first weekend in May has plenty of reasons to celebrate craft cocktails. Classics are always a good choice—they represent formulas that are often simple, but solid. Whenever a new recipe appears that rewards us with flavors and surprises us with simplicity, we take note. Such is the stuff that classics are made of. It's not always easy to produce something tasty that reads like it has been around forever. We cocktail nerds have the tendency to overthink recipes—we like to tinker—and with so many options at our disposal, it's just too tempting to add a dash of this or a spoonful of that. So, when we spotted Raul Yrastorza's Chestnut Cup in the March/April 2015 issue of Imbibe Magazine, we knew we had a winner.

The signature cocktail from Santa

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The Getaway

The Getaway Detail

Five years ago, back when we were knocking bottles around in Minnesota, Derek Brown was mixing his way toward multiple accolades in Washington DC. A two time James Beard Foundation Award semi-finalist and craft bar entrepreneur, Mr. Brown has been recognized numerous times for his professional achievements and was recently named Bartender of the Year by Imbibe Magazine. This drink has been around for several years, but we hadn't tried it until now.

We've always been a fan of cocktails that put an unusual twist on classics, so when we read about The Getaway we knew we had to try it. It has been described as a Cynar Daiquiri which is probably as good of a reference as any. Some of you following along will immediately know what that means, but for everyone else, a few links can help you understand that description. First of all, Cynar is an Click here and take a bigger gulp of this article. . .

Transform Bottom Shelf Booze into Premium Liquor

Bread Filtration

Many of our readers come to expect great things at this time of the year from Summit Sips. Year after year we share innovative recipes and unusual techniques, saving at least one special idea to kickoff the spring. This year, it's all about incredible spirits at bargain prices. We are going to describe an oddly innovative technique to transform cheap vodka into premium liquor for only fifty cents!

It's All About Filtration High-quality filtration is a technique that is often employed by spirit manufacturers to change an otherwise unremarkable product into something worth marketing. It is possible to improve flavor (and even remove color) by simply running the spirit through a filter. Good products can be made even better, and some of the most popular brands use filtration to set their product apart. For example, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey is a filtered product. They choose not to call the

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