Winter is officially citrus season, which always seemed so bizarre to me. Why would this bright, summery feeling fruit be a winter crop? Maybe to cheer us all up during those dark winter days? Well, drink (or make!) a few of these citrus concoctions and you’ll be smiling soon.
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but keep those apple cocktails coming.
We’re squeezing in apples every which way now that Fall is almost here. Apple shaped ice in an apple ice bucket? I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at that. A couple of big ol’ cinnamon sticks make perfectly fine cocktail stirrers when we’re talking apples. But you’ll need a giant one to stir that punch bowl of spiked apple cider. And you’re spiking it with Apple Jack, correct? And what will you top your apple cocktail off with… bitters and shrubs (made from apples of course).
When you go to events like this, or any event really, where custom drinks are served up, do you ever stop and think about all the drinks that just couldn’t make it to the table that night? Nathan (who also makes drinks for the Coconut Club and who you will see behind the bar more than me) and myself spend countless hours alone and together mixing up possible drinks that we think our audience will love. As much as we’d like to serve them all, some need to get cut from the line up due to timing and to prevent you all from getting alcohol poisoning from over indulging. We have your best interests at heart.
This drink came about during one of my R&D days but realized we already had the Piscolada Shrimp Cocktail, a customer favorite, already on the menu and the ingredients were too close to justify serving it.
This recipe utilizes frozen pineapple juice cubes for two reasons:
1. I had a huge amount of excess pineapple juice leftover from another drink and I can’t bring myself to waste things so I froze the juice up instead.
2. Frozen pineapple juice cubes mean way less watering down of your drink.
Champagne, Veuve Clicquot used here
nutmeg for garnish
- In a blender, combine rum, coconut cream, pineapple juice cubes and bitters. Blend until well combined and no ice remains; consistency will be more like a thin soup, not a slush.
- Pour about 3 ounces into the coupes and top with champagne.
- Grate fresh nutmeg over the cocktails.
An interesting effect occurs when you top the base with champagne: the cream causes the drink to bubble and foam on top. It looks like a beautiful pillow of coconut cream that smells faintly of pineapple. While the cream and juice are quite sweet, as well as some sweetness from the rum, the champagne cuts right through offering some bitter and savory notes for balance. These particular bitters lend some notes of citrus and spice for further flavor enhancement. The cocktail is super light and easy drinking. Perfect for your next brunch, breakfast, or mid-week snack.
I’ve come into possession of a number of rums as of late. In part, I’m tasting them for potential candidates to star in The Coconut Club drinks. Not all our drinks are rums, but we ARE a Tiki supper club, so we NEED some rums. And the other reason is that, after many years, I’ve come to like and appreciate rums. If you’ve been a long time reader on here, you may remember in the early years of this site that I was frequently confused by rum. I blame my mother’s rum and cokes that I would sneak sips of during bedtime story readings, and would cringe with disgust (I still don’t like them), as to why I had such distaste for the liquor. It turns out I was just drinking the wrong kind of rum.
So fast forward to now. As I said, I’ve been filling my days with a lot of other work that sometimes makes tinkering all day with drinks hard, if not impossible. When that happens there will suddenly be a lot of Manhattans or Negroni cocktails around the house. In doing so I finished all the Campari. And then I was out of rye. And then I decided what the hell am I doing?! Make something just a tad more creative lady!!
In stepped a bottle of rum and my copy of The Bar Book.
Still looking for a straightforward cocktail I looked to Morgenthaler’s Rum Old Fashioned. If the rum is good, like the bottle I had on hand, then you just want a few elements to highlight that rum; an Old Fashioned is perfect for that. I made the first round exactly as it was laid out in the book: the result was good but then my eye drifted over to the (vast) array of bitters taking up more space every day on the bar shelf. Smoked orange bitters! Yes!
The next round I changed it up, taking the lime peel out, adding in some smoked orange bitters, a spritz of orange oil; it changed the whole drink. Just as tasty as the first, but all new flavors that still highlighted the base rum, just in different ways. The recipe below is for the latter (go buy the book for his recipe and learn some more drinks!).
Inspired by The Bar Book
2 ounces Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Rum*
2 dashes Cocktail Punk Smoked Orange Bitters
5-10 ml demerara syrup (1:1 ratio)
orange peel for garnish
- In a double old fashioned glass, add a large cube of ice. Build the drink by pouring in rum, syrup and the bitters. Gently stir 15 seconds. Squeeze the orange peel over the drink to release the oil and add the peel to the drink.
Mostly burnt caramel and grassy notes from the rum with just a hint of citrus. The bitters add a subtle layer of smoke that works really well with the rum. Makes me want to try some rum and mezcal drinks…
*This bottle was generously given gratis and appears here because I like drinking it. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.
I had thought of recreating the Stormy Mai-Tai here for this site, but when I was asked to come up with a bitters-heavy drink for Serious Drinks, I thought I’d see where else I could get bitters to work in large doses; so I turned to Tiki drinks.
I adapted the Polynesian Spell (which you can find in the Grog Log) by replacing the grape juice (there’s a head scratcher), triple sec, and peach brandy with Angostura, apricot brandy, passion fruit and citrus; I kept the gin. I was going out on a limb trying to shove Angostura in there, but after a couple of tweaks…wow. It was a success.
1 ounce Angostura
1 ounce gin, London Dry style
3/4 ounce Rothman & Winter Apricot Brandy
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice from 1/4 orange
1/2 ounce passion fruit syrup (see note)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled 2/3 with ice. Shake hard for 30 seconds to incorporate and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish according to your own inner-Tiki style.
Yes, the flavor is strongly bittered, but there’s also a cascade of cherry and clove, fruit and sweetness. The aroma is fiery from the Angostura with strong hints of passionfruit and orange. The slight numbing of your tongue may serve to remind you: you’re drinking a heck of a lot of bitters.
For this recipe, I used a Cobalt shaker*. I was sent this shaker to try out and I’ve used for several of my tiki drinks for a few reasons. One, the shaker gets things cold, really cold. And two, for the boozier drinks, I like the small ice chips that slowly melt as I drink the cocktail. It’s also roomy for large volume recipes like these too.
*Items generously given gratis and appear here because I like them. All opinions are my own and no monetary compensation was given. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.
Adapted from the book “Bitters”
Yields approximately 18 ounces
zest from 4 meyer lemons
zest from 1/2 bitter orange (such as Seville)
zest from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons dried lemon zest (see note below)
1/2 tablespoon dried orange zest
4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon dried ginger (do not use powder, see note on dried citrus)
1/4 teaspoon whole coriander
1/4 teaspoon whole white pepper
4 – 5 dried Dried Kaffir Lime Leaves
3/4 teaspoon gentian root
1/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2 cups high proof vodka (I have access to 150 proof everclear in California, however, 100 proof vodka would also work)
1 cup water
- To make dried citrus, zest 4-6 large lemons (2 oranges or peel a 1″ nub of ginger and slice). Chop peel and lay on a baking sheet in an oven set at 250°F for 1 hour. Peel should be completely dry but not brittle. Dried lemon zest is also available commercially.
- In an airtight container, combine all of the zest, cardamom, ginger, coriander, white pepper, lime leaves, gentian root, and fennel seed. Pour vodka over the ingredients and seal container. Swirl to combine. Keep the container in a cool, dark place for two weeks, swirling mixture once daily. (I find it helps to set a calendar reminder also at this point.)
- After two weeks, strain out solids and set aside. Strain liquid through a cheesecloth to remove any particles left and transfer to an airtight container. Store in a cool, dark place. In a small sauce pan, combine solids with water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once boil is reached, turn heat to low and let simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, pour contents of the pan into a separate airtight container and let sit one week.
- After a week, strain out solids through a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer. Add to the original liquid that has been set aside. Let sit at room temperature for 3 days and skim off any residue that accumulates at the top. Strain again if there is any leftover sediment and bottle into dropper bottles for storage.
Meyer lemons have a more pronounced floral aroma, as opposed to just a regular lemon, which tends to be more astringent. To pierce the perfumy nature of the meyer lemons, the kaffir lime leaves give a nice punch and aroma, while the bitter orange, fennel and spices create earthy undertones for balance.
I add a few drops to a Gin & Tonic, and they can be used as a sub for recipes using regular lemon bitters. Experiment and see what cocktails work for you!
*This recipe originally appeared on the Serious Drinks site.
Here’s a tip: invest in a big box of sugar cubes. If you make classic cocktails at home, you may have noticed that several recipes require them, such as this or in an Old Fashioned. I’ve had the same box hanging around the house since I started this blog and they are in the same condition now as they were when I opened the box. That means that they are always on hand. Also, sometimes when I want to be fancy and my in-laws are over I break them out when I do tea service (because Christopher’s mother does do tea time, every day, at 4pm).
Now let’s get fancy!
Soak the sugar cube with the bitters by dropping the liquid over the cube until desired amount is reached (the rose scent is strong, so take some whiffs after the first few drops). Add the sugar cube to the bottom of a champagne flute and top with the roée. Add grapefruit peel to the glass.
The grapefruit peel provides a great waft of aroma in the glass followed by a deliciously sweet berry-cherry flavor from the rosé. The rose-hibiscus soaked sugar cube sends up little bubbles of mostly rose to accent the other flavors. It’s a quick drink for this Friday (Valentine’s Day), or like me, sitting around in the afternoon sipping one outside.
*Items generously given gratis and appear here because I like them. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.
Probably every year about this time I start feeling uneasy and mumble to myself, “I’m not ready yet”. Purity jokes aside, it usually means I’m all a fuss about the upcoming holiday season. I mean, it’s 80 outside. It sure doesn’t feel like Santa is hiding in my chimney, ready to come down and scold me for not baking enough cookies this year.
But just because I’m a bumbling mess doesn’t mean YOU have to be. This year I’m trying to be more proactive and bring you, readers, timely gift guides. Not like those I threw out in March, even though, well, St. Patrick’s Day is also a relative holiday in my field.
Today we’re going to ease into just thinking about fun gifts for those cocktail lovers/enthusiasts/entertainers in your life. Or you can make a list for yourself! Who cares?! I don’t; you should see my “to buy” list, many items of which will actually be appearing here in the next few weeks.
Since it is still pretty balmy out here in Southern California, I’m taking you on a boat trip – with boozy gifts.
You’ll need a good Navy Strength Rum on this boat, and a couple of shatter-resistant glasses (for when it gets rough). Who wants to carry a bunch of full size products when you can have mini bitters on board? Adult ice pops? Yes. Just don’t forget the ice bucket!
Recently I was browsing online and came across the phrase ‘amaro highballs’. There weren’t any recipes or guidelines, just the phrase, which was all I needed to start me thinking about what would fall under that category.
Amaro is Italian for bitter, and for this post I am specifically focusing on Italian Amari. So Amer Picon and Becherovka have to sit out this round (but not to worry, they’ll be back on here soon!). Usually used as a digestif (after dinner to help aid in digestion), these bitter liqueurs also make for great bases in cocktails. They range from mildly bitter to the insane, cough-syrupy varieties and may take some getting used to. Use this as a gateway to explore and add one to your liquor cabinet; it’s worth it.
I also wanted to focus on some lower alcohol content drinks for the Holiday season. I don’t know about you, but my normal intake of cocktails in a night somehow skyrockets during the holiday season (stress??) and I find that if I make myself a drink with a lower ABV I can convince myself it’s just like drinking water… flavorful water.
Not all Amari though have a low alcohol content, so read your bottles! You can always adjust to your liking and below I have two choices under 40ABV (although just marginally on the second recipe).
2 oz. Averna (29% ABV)
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
4-1/2 oz. Q-Ginger
2 dashes ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters
In a highball glass, build your drink by adding ice, then the Averna, lemon juice, bitters and then Q-Ginger. Express lemon peel oil over the drink and garnish on glass. Straw optional.
Averna is sweet and slightly syrupy, a gateway amaro with less bitterness, and here the sharpness of the ginger cuts through the sweetness to balance it out. The tiki bitters bring out more of the spice that is there while the lemon adds citrus to the nose and lingers in the background of the drink.
Fernet Branca Highball
1-3/4 oz. Fernet Branca (39% ABV)
3/4 oz. Orgeat
4-1/2 oz. Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water
In a highball glass, build your drink by adding ice, then the Fernet Branca, orgeat, and tonic water. Express grapefruit peel oil over the drink and garnish on glass. Straw optional.
Fernet Branca is on the crazier side of the amaro scale with a very strong and distinct flavor. There’s some minty, bittery… gosh, I dunno, there’s a lot going on with that liqueur and although it’s clearly the star flavor, it’s cut back a bit by the almond-sweet orgeat and mellowed with the tonic. The effervescent nature of the tonic works incredibly well with the Fernet Branca and it disperses the grapefruit oil through out offering a slightly citrusy bitterness to the drink. It’s layers of bitter and sweetness in this glass.
One aspect that makes both these drinks versatile is that they work in warm and cold weather. They are both refreshing when it’s hot out, but also have a lot of spice that works well when it’s cold. If you venture to try one of these, let me know what you think. First time with an amaro? Awesome! Welcome to the club.
There are names of cocktails in the Canon of Tiki drinks that everyone is aware of, albeit they probably don’t know what goes in it or what it’s supposed to taste like. One such drink that I know I’ve had before but couldn’t remember anything at all about it was the Planter’s Punch cocktail. To be honest, grenadine is one of the ingredients and I wanted something I could use the syrup in as well.
Planter’s Punch, in my memory, was on the menu of every Polynesian restaurant that my family went to growing up back east. Polynesian also subbing in as a Chinese restaurant; I lived in Rhode Island, it’s a small state and had to be as compact as possible. This drink should also come with no less than 5 pieces of fruit as a garnish and at least one flower. Today we’ll have to suffice with a Tiki mug and my attempts at using a zester to make a lime peel garnish (still needs some work).
Planter’s Punch is a sweet and strong drink. A tad too sweet for my tastes, but a nice spiciness from the dark rum and the bitters. The amount of syrups added in would account for the sweet nature of the punch (sugar, grenadine, falernum). However, if you eat something along with this that is very savory, say a steak sandwich, that savoriness cuts right through the sweet making it a pleasing combo. Next time around I’d cut the syrups back and add more juice. Maybe get a little better with the zester too before throwing it out to the public.