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The Lowlands

The LowlandsWe'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. It's called The Lowcountry, and check out the list of ingredients: Ransom Old Tom Gin, lime, Fernet-Branca, mint syrup, ginger beer. Did you see it? Fernet and mint syrup? We definitely have have some inspiration coming on. . .

The Lowlands
1.5 oz Ransom Old Tom Gin
.75 oz Brancamenta
1 oz lime juice
.5 oz ginger syrup
1.5 oz sparkling water

Add the gin, Brancamenta, fresh lime juice and ginger syrup to a shaker with ice. Shake to chill, then strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with sparkling water and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Let's break it down. First, the gin is Ransom Old Tom. This is a unique gin that is made locally here in Sheridan, Oregon. Being a historic Old Tom style as opposed to a London Dry, it's a bit sweeter than other gins with delicious herb and spice overtones and a maltiness that comes from using barley distillate. Some people even describe a cardamon flavor in Ransom making it a unique choice (and one of our favorites) for the base spirit. This is not to say you can't substitute something else, but the setup here is already pretty unique, and you shouldn't have any problem finding other uses for this gin in other classic cocktails.

The Lowlands DetailWise's Lowcountry uses a combination of Fernet-Branca and mint syrup. It's as if the recipe is just begging us to try Brancamenta instead. It has lighter, less bitter flavors that make room for the built-in peppermint to assert some control. We suspect The Lowcountry uses spearmint-flavored syrup not peppermint which changes things a bit. It may not sound like a big deal, but for people who love mint, it's like subbing Altoids for Wint-O-Green Life Savers. It makes a difference, but it can still taste delicious.

Our last change simply swaps out ginger beer for our own homemade ginger syrup and seltzer. When we make homemade ginger beer a la minute, we always add a squeeze of lime, so the lime juice is tweaked slightly too. Depending on how you do the ginger beer, you may want to go lighter on the lime juice.

Garnish with a sprig of mint. Ideally, this should be fresh peppermint, but we didn't have any, and spearmint works just fine for the garnish. Overall, it's a success. Inspired by Brandon Wise's The Lowcountry, we decided our adjustments deserved a new name that is similar, but different enough to protect the innocent. Our Lowlands cocktail is over an ice shard which works nicely for long drinks. We love the refreshing flavors of this drink as we do with any ginger-seltzer recipe, but Ransom's complexity along with the familiar flavors of Fernet in the Brancamenta make this especially delicious on a hot summer day.



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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Bicycles & Baskets

Bicycles & Baskets

This could be the perfect, simplest blend of your best-tasting ingredients. The floral/citrus Bicycles & Baskets is a whiskey-based original from Kask located here in Portland, Oregon. The menu describes this signature recipe as the perfect drink for a picnic. We won't disagree, but it's actually a drink that can be enjoyed any time. The name evokes images of pedaling leisurely toward a favorite location to enjoy the spring air or summer sun, but it's also a reference to the liqueur made from elderflowers that are supposedly picked by hand in the French hills and transported by bicycle to the distillery. Whichever visual applies for you, this might be a recipe worth scaling up to a batch that can fill a bottle for portability.

Rye whiskey has always held a leading position when it comes

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Turn Signal

Turn Signal Detail

Here's a fun cocktail that is easy to make and tastes great. It's an easy-drinking whiskey concoction that is reminiscent of a sour, but instead of the acidic tang, you get a lightly bittersweet raspberry effect. Grapefruit juice isn't a tart citrus—if anything, it's a little sweet and bitter—and what better time to explore it than at the end of winter. Sure, you could wait for warmer months to make this as a refreshing thirst quencher, but we would rather grab the fruit now and enjoy it. In addition to grapefruit which is enhanced by the Campari, the Turn Signal also contains raspberry syrup. You can make this easily enough by following our fermented raspberry syrup recipe, but you don't have to take that much time if you don't want to. You could just puree some fresh or frozen berries, strain the juice and add sugar.

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