It’s National Cocktail Day tomorrow in case you didn’t know (And it’s totally fine if you didn’t know. I forgot too until I read a recent press release). So I thought I’d round up a few of you readers’ favorite posts from the site because, if you’re here, you like cocktails. Funny thing though, you guys seem to like a lot of the DIY syrups/bitters/tincture posts just as much as the drinks. So I’m including those too because it’s always good to have some fun syrups and mixers around to get your creative cocktail juices flowing. Cheers!
This post is brought to you by Campari. Recipes and ideas are my own.
Your Instagram feed might be turning from #millennialpink to a cheery garnet red next week as we embark on the FIFTH year of Negroni Week!
If you’re not familiar with this wonderful time of year, or have only heard of it in passing, let me loop you guys in. From June 5 through 11 this year, bars, restaurants and vendors from around the world celebrate the Negroni cocktail – an iconic mix of Campari, gin, and sweet red vermouth – to raise money and awareness for great causes. What started as just 100 bars in the US, has now grown into an International event and this year will be bigger than ever.
Remember when I said I’d never use Snapchat forever and ever? Yeah, about that… Guys, ugh, talk about going down a rabbit hole of watching people make coffee and take bad selfies. And yet, I’m so compelled to WATCH. Actually, right now, I love seeing how people decorate for the holidays, and Snapchat itself has compiled these little videos of people celebrating for the holidays all over Europe. What I think I’m trying to get across here is that I’M SO INTO CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR.
Yes, yes, it might seem like I am getting a bit overexcited about something that happens every year, but for the last few Christmases I just couldn’t be bothered. This Christmas I have forced myself to be in the holiday mood since about November 27th and I plan on keeping it up until at least New Year’s. While I have done my requisite decorating, I have now turned to holiday-izing my food and drinks. For all of you reading this right now, I will just focus on the drinks.
Holiday Punch. This is almost without a doubt my main cocktail situation for big parties, and especially those of the Christmas kind. You can batch it beforehand and let guests get as tipsy or not as they want and you still get lots of credit for making it (but we all know it’s WAAAAY easier than individually making drinks for 40 people at your party. F that.).
This year I turn, again (and again and again), to rosemary. I don’t need to go into my rosemary situation, but for those of you just joining us here on the site, it’s OUT OF CONTROL. So into another drink it goes. And this time we’re adding a little fire to the mix and giving the rosemary a little smoke to send your guests over-the-edge with excitement as you tell them you hand smoked all that rosemary they’re drinking. You just won the holiday party this year also, FYI.
That smoky rosemary is pairing up with some winter citrus because we want to make this as holiday as possible. Then throw everyone a curveball as you sneak in a few Tiki elements with gold rum, orgeat and grated cinnamon. Oh, and also some high proof rum because WHY NOT?! Our base rum is Parce 8-Year, a small-batch Colombian rum that’s aged in whiskey barrels so it has a similar flavor to single malt scotch, and is DELICIOUS.
Now, please don’t be intimidated by the fact we are smoking the rosemary. It’s as simple as turning on a gas burner and throwing the rosemary over it for a minute. Or, seriously, you could use a candle if you just have electric burners. Either way, your house is going to smell amazing come time for that party. And hey, let’s snapchat it to each other while we’re at it.
Yields 16 servings
For the Smoked-Rosemary Citrus Syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Zest from 2 medium lemons
3 ounces freshly squeezed juice from 2 medium lemons
Zest from 2 small limes
1 ounce freshly squeezed juice from 2 small limes
3 (4-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar, water, and lemon and lime zest and juices. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to just under a boil, then remove from heat and cover. Meanwhile, hold rosemary over an open flame using heatproof tongs, turning continually, until it begins to smoke. As soon as it starts to smoke, uncover syrup and place rosemary in saucepan. Cover again and let steep 30 minutes. Strain solids out and reserve syrup for the punch in an airtight container. The syrup will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator, but flavors will be best if used within 2 days.
For the Punch:
24 ounces gold rum, such as Parce 8-Year*
4 ounces orgeat, such as Small Hand Foods orgeat
12 ounces smoked-rosemary citrus syrup
4 ounces overproof rum, such as Smith & Cross
4 ounces water Cinnamon sticks, for garnish
In a punch bowl, combine gold rum, orgeat, smoked-rosemary citrus syrup, overproof rum, and water. Stir to combine and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to overnight. To serve, add a large ice cube to the punch bowl. Ladle about 3 ounces into a punch glass and grate fresh cinnamon on top. Serve.
I originally posted this recipe on Serious Eats.
*This bottle of Parce 8-Year 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.
Alas, there is nothing more straightforward than an Old Fashioned. Liquor, bitters, sugar, it’s all wrapped up neat for you and tastes good without all the extra foo-foo. Ok, so maybe a bartender is throwing on a flamed orange peel, or adding in a brandied cherry, or doing just a little bit of foo-foo-ness. But instead of adding on more, I thought I’d take a look at the base ingredients.
The Smoky Citrus Rum Old Fashioned was just the start of delving into looking at the Old Fashioned and seeing what new flavor combinations I could make work. This all stemmed, by the way, from another scribbled note for ideas that read “cleaned up old fashioneds with interesting bitters”. I mean, you could build 100 drinks off of that comment. And I just might do that. But for now I’m just giving you two.
And this one has a DIY project! Yay!
First, I realized that you all were going to get bored real quick if the only thing I was doing was changing up the bitters. Hell, I got bored with that idea after 2 minutes and moved on to the idea of homemade sugar cubes. So easy, right?! Wrong. Well, it’s going to be easy now because I spent the better part of a month trying out techniques and perfecting this. For you guys.
Things to know about making your own sugar cubes:
You must use superfine sugar, granulated sugar does not make for a solid cube.
Don’t try and speed this up by microwaving. All these recipe how-to’s I read on making sugar cubes all reference the microwave and I think they are ALL LYING. All the microwave did was melt my sugar, even on low power.
These smoked sugar cubes taste amazing with sour cherry. Instead of doing that blasphemous thing where you muddle some neon cherries in a glass and call it and Old Fashioned, here I’ve combined sour cherry bitters from Miracle Mile with some tasty bourbon to compliment the heady smoked flavor of the cubes.
Combine sugar, smoke tincture and water in a bowl. Mix until well combined, similar to the texture of wet sand. Pack sugar into a mini ice cube tray, tamping down each hole. Alternatively, you can spread mixture out in a 1/4 size sheet pan (you might want to double the recipe amount) pressing down hard. Let mixture sit out to dry overnight. When sugar has hardened, pop cubes out of the molds, or cut cubes to size. Store in an airtight container.
Smoked Sugar and Sour Cherry Old Fashioned
2-3 mini smoked sugar cubes
2 dashes Miracle Mile Sour Cherry Bitters
2 ounces bourbon, W.L. Weller used here
optional, blood orange peel for garnish
In a mixing glass, add sugar cubes then dash in bitters. Muddle to combine. Add ice 1/2 way up glass and pour in whiskey. Stir to combine about 20 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass with a single large ice cube or 2 smaller cubes. Express orange over the glass and add in peel.
The smoke lingers in the back but adds a strong backbone to the drink. Sour cherry bitters add just a touch of bitterness and some sweetness to the rich bourbon. I chose the blood orange for just a hint of citrus and mainly for aesthetics due to the lovely red speckling all over the orange peel.
Since I tinkered awhile with this technique, here are some tips to consider:
A smoker makes this easy. Whether it’s a stovetop smoker, or an electric smoker (which is what we have already), it means just dumping wood in and starting a fire. Easy.
The type of wood you use is important! Apple wood is very mild. Mesquite is quite strong. It really just depends on your tastes, but I would consider playing with a few if you’re already gone this far considering it.
The size of your ice matters! Do you want your drink to quickly taste of smoke? Use small ice that melt fast. Want your cocktail to take its time changing flavors? Use big ice.
And speaking of ice, yes, it totally makes sense scientifically that starting with ice cubes, letting them melt, and then refreezing them will give you smokier ice cubes per the principle of thermophoresis.
Lastly, consider your cocktail. If you have doubts that smoke will improve, or at least make interesting, your drink, then perhaps you should pick another to work with.
Ok, so let’s start with that ice!
1 tray ice cubes
Wood chips for smoking
stovetop or electric smoker
Place ice cubes in baking dish or pie plate. Following instructions of your smoker, heat wood chips until smoking. Set dish of ice in smoker, cover, and smoke until ice has melted, 10 to 20 minutes. Alternatively, line bottom of roasting pan with aluminum foil and arrange 1/2 cup wood chips on one side of pan. Using a butane torch or long-reach lighter, carefully burn wood chips until smoking but not in flames. Carefully set rack in roasting pan, set dish of ice on rack opposite the wood chips, cover, and smoke until ice has melted, 10 to 20 minutes.
Pour smoked water into ice-cube tray and freeze.
For the cocktail, I wanted something a bit surprising that would really showcase how the smoked ice slowly changed the flavors of the drink. I’ve created this recipe specifically to highlight that transformation; you can, however, think of it as a suggestion or a first-timer’s guide… and then feel free to try the same technique on another drink. This cocktail, the Hazy Sunset, is at first sip a tropical, Tiki-inspired pineapple-rum drink. However, as the ice cubes melt, it starts to add just a subtle hint of smoke until the entire drink is transformed into a rich, almost savory sipper. A long way from its beginnings.
Ready to try those smoked ice cubes in a drink now?
1-1/2 ounces light rum, such as 10 Cane
1/2 ounce overproof rum, such as Lemon Hart Demerara
2 ounces pineapple juice
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from 1 lime
1/4 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
non-smoked ice cubes for mixing
Smoked ice cubes
Fresh cherry, pineapple chunk, and mint sprig, for garnish
Add both rums, pineapple juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and bitters to a cocktail shaker and fill 2/3 full with non-smoked ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Add smoked ice cubes to a double rocks glass, and strain cocktail into glass. Garnish with a cherry, pineapple chunk, and mint sprig. Serve immediately.
If you try this experiment out, I’d love to hear what you’re using them in!
A BIG thanks to everyone who participated in this month’s Mixoloy Monday! Recipes that call for setting something on fire hold a dear place in my heart. So many impressive posts, and a number of participants even put up multiple recipes, showcasing tons of ways to get smoke into a cocktail.
To the newbies, welcome to the party. For those of you coming out of hibernation, welcome back! And to those familiar faces here, thanks for sticking around. All of you make this close-knit community a fun place to be.
So let’s begin at the beginning. After the jump! (more…)
Here’s the thing about smoking herbs: use organic, and if possible, from your own garden (that’s where mine came from). Not sure if your grocery store has organic you can trust? Go to a farmer’s market and ask the person selling the herbs if they use pesticides or chemicals on their herbs. Why go through all the trouble? Because crap in crap out. The smoke from this drink will be IN your drink and you are going to ingest it. Do you want weird unknown substances being brought to high temperatures and those fumes entering your mouth? You don’t care? You like huffing sharpies? Fine, you’ve been warned.
The blackberries here in Southern California are starting to go tart, so for this cocktail, I wanted to use them up in a syrup, as they would not give enough sweetness just muddling them into the drink. FYI, this syrup is super thick. If you’re not sure what to do with the leftover syrup, there is only one way to go: PANCAKES.
Rich Blackberry Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
heaping 1/2 cup of blackberries
Bring all the ingredients to a boil then simmer for a half hour; gently mash blackberries down while the mixture cooks. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, strain and bottle syrup. If not using all right away, add 1/2 ounce of vodka to mixture and keep refrigerated up to 3 months. (I refer to this as ‘rich’ due to the viscous nature of the final syrup. This is not a true ‘rich’ simple syrup, since I am still using a 1:1 sugar water ratio.)
And now the drink:
2 oz The Black Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky
3/4 oz Blackberry Syrup (recipe above)
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
3 dashes Scrappy’s Celery Bitters
2 cleaned sprigs of rosemary, approximately 5″-6″ long
tea candle and holder (I found a jam jar worked great for keeping distance between the flame and the rosemary. You want at least 3 inches of clearance between the two.)
piece of card stock larger than the diameter of your glass
IMPORTANT: get everything ready before you begin, this will move fast. Light the tea candle and place the rosemary across the top on the jam jar/candle holder. This will take a minute to warm up and start smoking. It’s best if your rosemary has not dried completely from cleaning (not wet, but not bone dry). In a shaker filled 2/3 with ice, add the first four ingredients and shake well until chilled. Set aside. Once the rosemary starts to smoke, place a snifter glass over the top so that the smoke fills the glass completely. Using the card stock, slide it over the top of the glass to “hold” the smoke inside until you pour your drink in. Remove the rosemary from the candle. When you are ready, quickly remove the card stock and strain the contents of the shaker into the glass.
Woodsy, rosemary tinged smoke fills the glass. Those notes infuse through the lightly sweetened berry flavor with tart background highlights. The Black Grouse is mellowed out and given an almost honey quality, while also heightening the smoky flavor. Even when you no longer can see the smoke, it stays with the drink from first to last sip.
On the celery bitters: these you CANNOT leave out. You will not taste celery, but what they do is provide an amazing amount of balance. Without them, the drink is both too sharply tart and too sweet. A few drops and it balances everything out. Kinda amazing how bitters do that.
This month I’ve been playing around with ideas for Mixology Monday, the theme being SMOKE. This seemed like an interesting path to follow and see where it went. I am, in all honesty, still very much amateur status when it comes to all things behind the bar. I’ve definitely broadened my scope of these items over the past few years (like how to say Cynar correctly), but for awhile the idea of tinctures seemed mildly hazy to me. Aren’t these just infusions? Why a separate name?
Well, I read a bit for this post and pretty much what it came down to is that a tincture is the essence of the ingredient you steep in a neutral grain alcohol. It can be used in small amounts by itself, or added with more ingredients for compounds like bitters. Because it is steeped in a high proof alcohol, you don’t shoot it back in a giant gulp. It would also probably taste awful. With an infusion, you are also extracting the essence of what you are putting into the alcohol, but it is co-mingling with the base spirit for a new combined flavor. You might see sour cherry bourbon, lemon lavender gin, something along those lines.
When I think aroma, my mind naturally moves towards perfume. Now, before I lose all you men out there, check this article out from the New York Times last year. The Pegu Club, PDT, these big timers have been using aroma, perfume even, in cocktails for awhile now. Perhaps for us New Wave Cocktail Bloggers this is brand new, but treading into this territory we find the path already laid out for us. So, give perfume a try I guess.
For this particular use of smoke in a cocktail, I didn’t want the drink to continue to be steeped in smoke. What I wanted here was for the initial smell to be a deep, meaty smoke aroma, and then when tasted, you were only getting the cocktail. This beautiful smoky aroma would make the drink a surprise for the person drinking it, hopefully a pleasant shock. The aroma would then dissipate as one continued to finish the drink. I chose a Boulevardier to accompany the smoke aroma.
First, the tincture:
1/2 cup grain alcohol (I have 151 proof everclear)
1/4 cup Lapsang Souchong Loose Tea
Combine the two ingredients in an airtight glass container. Let sit for two weeks in a cool, dark place. Gently shaking every few days. After two weeks, strain with a fine mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth. You want to make sure you are getting all the tiny bits of tea out. If you still see residue, strain an additional time. Store in a dropper bottle.
Lapsang Souchong tea has a heavy smoke aroma. When you open the box it’s like getting hit with a face full of wood smoke. As a tincture, the essence gets meatier (as in smoked meat).
Ok, so, here is the part when you can decide whether getting an atomizer is worth it or not. I tried experimenting with the tincture in 3 ways. First, I rinsed the glass and added the cocktail. Second, I swapped a tincture soaked cotton ball around in inside of the glass after pouring the drink in. Third, I sprayed the tincture with an atomizer over the finished drink. Of the three I found the atomizer to have a stronger aroma over the final drink. Rinsing added too much of the smoke to the drink and was not the effect I wanted. The cotton ball didn’t create a strong enough smell for me. When I used the atomizer, I found I had more control over how much aroma went onto the finished cocktail and I appreciated being able to add more in small increments to achieve the final essence. So, if you are not one for unitaskers, then maybe an atomizer is not something you need taking up space in your bar drawer. I found a tiny atomizer that is under 3″, meant for perfume, but works great.
Next, the Boulevardier Cocktail with Smoke Aroma:
2 oz Bourbon (Black Ridge Small Batch was used for this cocktail)
1 oz Campari
1 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
Orange peel garnish
In a mixing glass 2/3 with ice, stir the first three ingredients about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass or goblet (you want some space for your nose to dip into; sounds gross but trust me). Garnish with an orange peel and over the top of the drink, spray about 3-4 sprays of the tincture.
As you move into the glass, there is the meaty smoke aroma followed by the sudden bittersweet richness of the Boulevardier. That first sip has the most smoke on it, while progressive sips become less and less potent, which lets you experience varying degrees of the aroma. If this is all a bit too much for you, have you had a Boulevardier cocktail yet? Go make one, it’s a great Fall cocktail.