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Blinker

We have been interested in making the Blinker cocktail ever since we first made our fermented raspberry syrup. It is a classic drink often associated with raspberry, but the real star here is the grapefruit.

We used grapefruit juice from a Honeygold. This seasonal variety is only available from a few locations for about three weeks. It has white flesh, a thick rind, and is known for its delicious flavor without as much tart bitterness as other white varieties. While some cocktail recipes call for Ruby which is more popular year-round, we tend to like white grapefruit better for its intense flavor. The Honeygold falls somewhere in the middle, and for a recipe that calls for the white variety, we would like to try again with a more traditional white to achieve better balance with the raspberry syrup.

Blinker 2 oz rye whiskey .5 oz white grapefruit juice 1

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Fogerty

Some time back, we had the unusual pleasure of tasting a drink that combined the flavors of chocolate with Campari. We know, it sounds really strange, but if you think about it, people who love chocolate often reach for dark, bittersweet varieties. If you look at it that way, maybe it isn't so strange after all. Besides, it would not be the first time the flavor of an Italian Amaro was reminiscent of cacao's complexity, only here, we actually have cacao to thank for it. A few years ago, Imbibe Magazine published a cocktail called the Fogerty by Ryan Fitzgerald of ABV in San Francisco. We think it is a great drink for winter.

It is sometimes helpful to understand the backdrop of historical recipes that might have guided the creator of a cocktail toward a wining combination. Whether intentional or not, it is hard not to draw comparisons

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Copita de Mezcal

A copita is just a little cup, and mezcal, as you might already know, is agave spirit—like tequila. It comes from the blue agave, a long-leafed desert succulent similar in appearance (though not related) to aloe. The plant is harvested, the leaves are hacked off, and the resulting core, called a piña, resembles a giant pineapple. These are roasted then crushed and fermented, and finally distilled. Categorically speaking tequila is also mezcal, but by definition tequila is more specific because it has to come from Jalisco. Anyway, we are talking about mezcal here which is similar in flavor, having all of the goodness you get from distilled agave, but often with additional smokiness reminiscent of the roasting process. Let's stop right here and mention that any bottle with a worm in it is just a marketing gimmick. Today, we have better choices than that, and there is some fantastic mezcal

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White Whiskey

White whiskey has many names. It can be marketed as white dog or white lightning, or even the yokel moonshine, although that usually refers to illicit varieties. A few things are clear, however, besides this unusual spirit. First, it is an unaged product, meaning it does not typically spend time in oak barrels. Second, because it is whiskey, it is a distillate made from fermented grain. This is where products differ. Depending on the grain used, where it is farmed, the water added, and of course, the distillation process itself, one white whiskey can taste dramatically different from another.

Traditionally, whiskey is thought of as a "brown" spirit, but all of that color and much of the flavor comes form the aging process. Time spent in charred oak barrels allows the high concentration of alcohol to extract flavors from the wood. Caramel, vanilla, smoke, fruit, spices—these are all derived from

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The Ferrari: a Bartender's Handshake

Often regarded as the "bartender's handshake", a shot of Fernet-Branca has become a modern fixture for bartenders visiting one another at their respective craft cocktail establishments. It is as much a nod from one professional to another as it is confirmation that, as a fellow enthusiast of the craft, your tastes have evolved to the point that an intensely herbal, bitter Italian aperitivo is a perfectly acceptable refreshment that doesn't require extra time mixing up a signature recipe.

Regular patrons can also sometimes upgrade their "bar table image" and gain immediate street credit by ordering Fernet, (or if it's not too busy, requesting a bartender's choice cocktail made with the stuff). Calling out Fernet-Branca is still unusual enough—even in better bars—that it might earn you a smile or a double-take from the bartender and occasionally leads to conversations about ingredients or recipe construction. But, sipping Fernet neat is just

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Final Say

There are a handful of cocktails in our experience that anyone reading this should recognize, or at the very least, drinks you should try. One example is the Last Word—a forgotten classic until it was unearthed by Seattle bartending legend Murray Stenson of Zig Zag Café. To the uninitiated, its bold and unusual flavor profile featuring both Luxardo maraschino liqueur and Green Chartreuse can be a revelation. The fact that it is citrus-based makes it accessible, and if you are a self-proclaimed gin hater, it is a drink that can definitely open your mind to the wonderful possibilities that a good craft cocktail can offer. Don't feel like you need to make the Last Word before you try today's feature, but if you haven't had the pleasure you are certainly missing out. Knowing one drink can also serve as a convenient benchmark for judging another.

As good as

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Cold Brew & Tonic

Normally, we don't reach for tonic when we want a cocktail. The old G&T may be a popular choice, but we think it's because people don't know what else to make with gin. It's a shame because many of the best classic cocktails call for gin—not vodka—not only because vodka was unknown in the pre-prohibition era, but because gin brings something extra to a cocktail that simply isn't there otherwise—and we don't mean juniper. It may be a requirement in gin, but not all brands choose to emphasize juniper flavor, allowing other botanicals, citrus and even spice to play the center role. Yet, even with strong, piney examples, gin is transformed by other ingredients in a way that can be hard to explain to people who think they are gin-averse. But tasting is believing.

On a recent trip to Minnesota to visit some of our former haunts, we happened

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