Crustafied whiskey - orange curaçao - lemon - angostura - notes on moving on from craft cocktails

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comAre you going to Tales this year? Can we meet at Tales? I’m reaching out to you about meeting up at TOTC… Sorry guys, I did not attend Tales of the Cocktail this year. I really don’t know when I’ll make that happen, if ever. However, I was able to bypass the crowds and the sweltering, miserable 105° heat with god-knows-how-high humidity and just look at everyone’s Instagram and Twitter and quite frankly that was great and totally enough, thanks.

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comLately though it’s been hard to muster up the interest to pretend everything is OK and go eventing and snap some ‘grams. Instead I’ve been compulsively scrolling through the news with an ever increasing knot in my stomach wondering what the hell is going on in the world. It makes all this social media and even this website seem, well…¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But I’ll save those thoughts and actions for offline, where I can actively do things and not just type type type on here. Anyways, to say the least, I’ve been pretty uninspired with drinks lately. I recently read on article on the End of the Craft Cocktail Movement, and while I initially wanted to get cocky and yell in an obnoxious manner no it’s not, I had to give the author a nod for touching on some truths. The truth being that, yeah, you can get a good cocktail practically anywhere and we as cocktail drinkers have come to expect that now. It’s not novel to be craft and to use fresh ingredients and make your own bitters and muddle in some cucumber. We ALL know how to do that and that’s a good thing. The scary part for people like myself is how do we move on from there.

When I was perusing the images from TOTC, one of the most intriguing things I saw was on Craft & Cocktails’ twitter. It was 4 images of weird stuff with the caption that they were “all cocktails”. You can see that post here and read my comments on it below. To sum up, I was most into the weirdest, the most wrong, the most confusing cocktail of the bunch that was a glass with what looked like dentures sitting in it.

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comSpectacle. We’re now moving onto spectacle. When we all expect what’s in the glass to taste great, you’re going to need a 3 ring circus to bring the audience in, at least when we’re talking about here in the blog/social media world. There has been a trend with the younger, newer drinking age audience to stop making drinks at home and to cease entertaining. Their eyeballs are glued onto their phones looking for the next great cat bar, not to necessarily go there, but to “like” the idea of it and quickly move on to the next strange idea.

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comThis is a weird spot to be in when you’ve been happily plugging along on your website, coming up in the (second? third?) craft cocktail movement and sharing a love of home bartending. The newer audience will not be home bartenders, and the audience you’ve been talking to is going to start getting home bartending fatigue. Even I see that in myself. I’ve stopped reading a lot of sites, even ones I’ve loved, and stopped browsing through a good chunk of the social media sites, and instead started reading more actual books again. I chuckle at the newest hashtag of #readafuckingbook and am actively giving my brain a break from the nonsense and just the relentless tragedy that coexist in the same feeds.

And so, here’s a little spectacle, wrapped around a good drink. The good folks at Copper & Kings just released an orange Curaçao that is pretty darn great and I added that into my variation here on a Brandy Crusta. First, I swapped some California rye whiskey in for the brandy and then instead of the sugar crusted rim and lemon peel, I made some lemon zest infused sugar and spun that around the glass. The sugar looked like amber when it hardened, and it made me happy to look at it. Like a little artwork on my glass.

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comI hope you all find a little something that makes you happy this week.

Crustafied!

2 ounces whiskey, Spirit Works Straight Rye Whiskey used here*
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce orange curaçao, Copper & Kings intense orange curaçao used here*
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
Dash Angostura bitters
lemon-sugar garnish (recipe follows)

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, pour in the whiskey, lemon juice, orange curaçao, maraschino liqueur and Angostura. Stir to chill 20 seconds and strain into lemon-sugar crusted glass.

Lemon Infused Spun Sugar Garnish

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and lemon zest, stir to combine. When sugar starts to melt, stir constantly until sugar reaches a golden-brown color. Remove from heat immediately and continue to stir. As the sugar mixtures begins to cool, the liquid will thicken. Sugar is ready when a wooden spoon is dipped in and sugar pours off in a ribbon. Dip a coupe glass into the sugar and slowly pull out, twisting the sugar as you remove the glass. Hold upside down for about 30 seconds and then stand up to finish cooling. Set aside until ready to use.

Spiced Gunpowder Guava Cocktail a sweet and savory libation with Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum

This post is brought to you by Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum. Recipes and ideas are my own.

I’ve decided I hate the term “binge watching” television. The term makes it sound like it’s a bad thing to watch a few hours of House Hunters International. And that, folks, is not a bad way to spend a few hours of relaxation time (i.e. kids are asleep).

The couples on that show are fantastic to watch. Either they are attempting to look into the camera and say something positive about this bungalow in the jungle with giant flying bugs because they are fulfilling some dumb dream when they spent two weeks there in college and now are realizing how difficult it will be dragging their whole family there… OR their significant other is making them get a second house and they are just seething on the inside while obviously trying not to look angry for a national audience. But we can tell!

At the end of the island episodes, the couple is always cheers-ing with some fantastic looking cocktails and they somehow look content with their decision to be the crazy Americans on that island. If they were in Puerto Rico, by the way, they probably were sipping on a cocktail made with Don Q rum.

Today’s recipe is in partnership with Don Q Rums and we’re featuring their newest rum offering the Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum. Don Q Rum has only been in the States a little over a decade, but has been a popular choice in Puerto Rico for 150 years, making it their #1 rum. This spiced rum packs a punch of flavor with vanilla and pepper and just enough sweetness for my palate. While you can definitely sip this rum, it’s also a great mixing rum to make unquestionably delicious cocktails. So that’s what we’re doing with it now!

With such strong flavors to start with in the rum, I decided to use some equally strong flavors to compliment that spiciness. When you think powerful, do you think about gunpowder? In cocktails?! I do, but this version of gunpowder comes in the form of tea. Gunpowder green tea to be exact. Teas are great options for giving subtle (and sometimes not so subtle. Hello lapsang souchong tea!) flavor to cocktails. I steeped this savory, smoky tea in a simple syrup to lend a savory note to the drink and to balance the sweetness of the other components. Thinking of Puerto Rico, I opted to add some guava nectar for tropical sweetness and a big squeeze of lime finished with a touch of orange curaçao. The drink starts sweet, but ends with a lingering earthiness. To give it a finishing kick, the glass is rimmed in a mixture of salt and cayenne.

Ok, so now that we have our tropical inspired drinks, we can get back to the tv watching. While these house hunters might make very questionable choices, make sure your cocktail is unquestionably delicious.

Spiced Gunpowder Guava Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum
3/4 ounce guava nectar
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from about 1 lime (reserve lime shell)
1/2 ounce gunpowder green tea syrup (recipe follows)
1/4 ounce orange curaçao
1 teaspoon kosher salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper for garnish

  • First, combine salt and cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl. Using your spent lime, moisten the outside of your cocktail glass by rubbing the rim with the lime. Rim the side of the cocktail glass in the salt and cayenne mixture.
  • Next, in a shaker ⅔ filled with ice, pour in Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum, guava nectar, lime juice, gunpowder green tea syrup, and orange curaçao. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into pre-rimmed cocktail glass.

Gunpowder Green Tea Syrup

Yields approximately 5 ounces
3 bags of gunpowder green tea (or two heaping tablespoons if you have loose tea)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in teabags (or loose tea if using). Steep for 10 minutes. Strain and use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one month.

For more information about Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum and all their exceptional rums, their commitment to sustainability and quality, and for additional drink & garnish ideas and proper glassware tips please visit their website at donq.com.