Sunday, November 20, 2016

Modern Riff: The Perfect Turkey

This classic little riff on the perfect Manhattan is one of my favorite holiday inspired cocktails, and I used to run it on the Revival Bar + Kitchen menu during the week of Thanksgiving. It’s seasonal, warms you right up, and most importantly, gets you hella drunk when your family is visiting.

-The Perfect Turkey-

adapted from, reposted from Alpha Cook

2 oz Wild Turkey 101 rye or bourbon

.5 oz  sweet vermouth
.5 oz dry vermouth
3 dashes maple or pumpkin bitters

Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice for 20-30 seconds, or until you’re happy with the temperature and dilution. Strain into a chilled cocktail vessel of your choice. Garnish with an orange twist.

If you’re feeling fancy...

For a sweeter version you can stick with the Epicurious-recommended garnish of a spiced sugar rim. I like to add a little dried orange peel into the mix. It’s fairly simple to prepare and keeps well up to about a year after you’ve made it in an airtight container.

orange peels from one medium orange, dehydrated

¼ cup sugar
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ tsp freshly grated cinnamon
pinch of allspice

In a small food processor or spice mill, zap until fully integrated and the orange pieces are as small as you like.  Then pour onto a saucer. Use a piece of orange to wet the rim of the cocktail glass, then dip the glass into the sugar mixture.

I chose to keep my peels on the chunky side for texture, but most like them as a finer powder.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Original Cocktail: The Red Handed

This is a cocktail that I originally created specifically with St. George Spirit's Breaking & Entering Bourbon, and the Red Handed made its debut on my very first full menu at Revival Bar + Kitchen. Alas, that brown nectar is no longer available, but this Manhattan variation will nonetheless work well with your favorite bourbon or rye whiskey.

-Red Handed-

2 oz bourbon
1 oz Barolo Chinato
1-2 dashes Peychaud's bitters 
1 dash Angostura (or other aromatic) bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice, strain into a stemmed, chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Barolo Chinato

Barolo Chinato is a lovely thing to have in your cocktail arsenal. Like vermouth, this fortified wine is seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices, the most notable being quinine. Yes, the same quinine used in tonic water. Quinine in Italy is called china, so when you see Chinato or China while perusing your liquor store's selection, you know to expect a bitter component.

Another thing that makes Barolo Chinato so special is the region where it's made. Barolo Chinato must be made by wine produced in the Piedmont region of Italy where Nebbiolo is grown, the grape that's used to produce Barolo and Barberesco.

You can also enjoy this Chinato on its own, as either an aperitif or a digestiv. Before dinner, serve on ice with an orange peel, or even add a splash of soda water. After, serve it neat as you would a port.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Original Cocktail: Decorative Gourd Season Old Fashioned

Let's be clear, there is no shame in being a fan of the pumpkin; it is, after all, Decorative Gourd Season. The season formerly known as Fall. There will be people who don't share your views, who will scoff at pumpkin spiced delicacies, while no doubt stashing away Pumpkin Joe-Joes in the shopping cart under whatever kale item is large enough to hide it. Don't let them keep you from your happiness. Haters gonna hate.

You should know however, that the Pumpkin "spirit" used below is not sweet. It is not syrupy or pie flavored, or artificial. This is distilled pumpkin lager brewed by a neighboring brewery (Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery) of the Great Lakes Distillery, aka whiskey. Overall it's subtle and dry, with the spice arriving on the finish. It's the booze you'll want to use to spike just about everything leading up to ye olde Turkey Day.

-Decorative Gourd Season Old Fashioned-

2 oz Great Lakes Pumpkin Spirit
scant .25 oz Bittermilk Gingerbread*
2-3 dashes aromatic bitters**
1 lemon peel, 1 orange peel

In an old fashioned glass (aka double rocks or tumbler) add the citrus peel, bitters and syrup. With a muddler, gently press the peels to extract the oils. Add the pumpkin spirit and ice, then stir until chilled. 

This is a good time to use that giant ice cub tray you bought months ago and forgot about.

*If you don't have this particular syrup, a rich gomme syrup or a spiced simple syrup is perfectly acceptable.

**For the bitters, I chose 5x5 Barrel Aged Vanilla, but any aromatic variety will work. If using Angostura bitters, go light. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Original Cocktail: Kind of Blue

Yes, Miles Davis. Yes, blueberry gin. Goodbye Summer. That is all. 

-Kind of Blue-

.75 oz Cocchi Rosa**
.75 oz fresh lemon juice
.25 oz Creme de Cassis
seltzer water for topping

Shake and pour everything into a Collins glass, top up with a little extra ice and a nice splash of seltzer.

For a sweeter drink, add a touch more Cassis.

**My original recipe at the bar called for Cocchi Rosa, but if you don't have it on hand then a fruity, sweeter style rouge vermouth can also be used.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Original Cocktail: Front Porch Punch

I wouldn't really call this a white sangria, but I suppose you could describe it that way. A low proof punch is a better way to sum it up, and there's plenty of room for creativity here. It's fruit forward, but not sticky sweet. Just an easy drinking, refreshing patio drink that won't put you under the table before dinner. A nice way to say farewell to summer and hello to decorative gourd season. 

-Front Porch Punch-

1 lemon, sliced thinly into half wheels
1oz peach shrub*
1 oz Dimmi liqueur
1 oz apricot liqueur
2 oz Pisco**
1 bottle chilled white wine (CA or New World style Chenin Blanc, Sauv Blanc, Gruner Veltliner work well, or try a lightly sparkling Vinho Verde.)

In a cambro or other large container that you can comfortably fit in the fridge, marinate the lemon wheels in the shrub, Dimmi, apricot, and pisco for about an hour. Add the wine, then let sit for several hours or overnight. If you want bubbles, a splash of soda water when you serve the drink will do the trick. 

For a large party or guest list, multiply amounts as needed. My last batch for a large cocktail party was x 5. 

*Shrub & Co makes a tasty one if you don't feel like making your own.

** I used Quebranta, but certainly feel free to experiment with pisco based on a grape that's a bit more aromatic.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

DIY: Blueberry Infused Gin

This is simple and a great way to "preserve" any tasty summer fruits that you know you won't get around to eating. Of course if you're not a fan of gin, feel free to sub in blueberries and pisco or vodka, or whatever makes you happy. The rules are still the same.

-Blueberry Infused Gin-

  • Pint Sized Mason Jar
  • 1/2 cup fresh (organic) blueberries, rinsed and whole
  • Enough gin** to cover the blueberries, about 14 oz 
  • Airtight cover 

Easy stuff, put the blueberries in the jar, cover with gin and put them in a dark place for a few weeks. For a bigger batch, multiply amounts as necessary.

If you plan to crush them during the infusion, which is fine, I wouldn't plan on leaving them for more than two weeks. Don't forget to strain the pulp, and keep in mind your finished product will have juice in it and you will probably need store it in the fridge unless you plan to consume it within a few days.

If you leave them in whole, you can leave them in as long as 6 weeks. No straining necessary and the infusion is just fine at room temp, though keep in mind that most infusions are best fresh and the flavors will fade in time.

**What gin should you use?

Something value oriented, so my top choice is usually Trader Joe's Rear Admiral Joseph gin for $7.99. I shit you not, this gin is one of my top five favorite spirits ever. I buy at least a bottle a month. If you don't live in a state where booze can be purchased at a grocery store, try Beefeater, City of London, or Broker's gin. London dry style, not over $25.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Beyond Juniper: A Guide to New California Gin

Californians are spoiled rotten. We've got sunshine, citrus trees, the best burritos, and right now, more distilleries than you can shake a stick at. There's plenty of gin to be had, much of it falling into the more traditional realm. Then there's the other stuff. The orange colored gin and the gin that tastes like pine trees. Here are seven gins you should try, and I guarantee that one of them might be your new favorite.

1. Botanica (Falcon Spirits)

This refreshing, cucumber laced gin is made in Richmond, CA in beautiful Holstein stills and is ridiculously sippable. Elegant and soft, this is the kind of gin that should have a permanent place in your homebar. Especially shines in a classic Martini, so stock up on a nice dry vermouth. 

What to expect: fresh cukes and citrus

2. Ventura

Using local botanicals from the Central Coast, the result is a dry, Western profile that is unique and yet still provides an end result that's cocktail friendly and approachable. Ventura uses savory, wild botanicals like sagebrush, purple sage, bay, and yerba santa, so you get the idea. 

What to expect:  dried summer herbs, citrus peel, juniper

3. St. George Terroir Gin

This is essentially the equivalent of hiking through Mt Tam and having some big ass bear walk up to you with a fir tree and smack you right in the face with it. It has a cult following and it's easy to see why. There's nothing else that comes close in terms of flavor profile. It's affordable. It's quality. It's a Christmas tree in a glass.

What to expect: aggressively friendly CA bear wielding a pine bough

4. Oakland Spirits Co. Sea Gin

As someone who hates seafood and seaweed and... well, you get the idea, I was surprised to enjoy the profile of this one. Infused with foraged nori, bay, lemongrass, and a few other undisclosed botanicals, the "sea" flavors are very balanced. There's just a hint of brine and umami, balanced out by the citrus. 

What to expect: a touch of salty sea air on a windy day by the beach

5. Tru Gin

First, let's acknowledge the obvious. It's orange AF. That's because they add the botanicals directly to the spirit in a style of production that pre-dates double distillation, so the color remains. Their reasoning: maximum flavor. This is a very unique gin, and you'd be wise to steer clear of making a traditional Martini with it. It's best suited to gin and tonic variations and citrus forward cocktails.

What to expect: coriander and grapefruit

6. Rusty Blade

Barrel aged gins are everywhere. A few years ago they seemed to be a novelty. Then they seemed to be a staple at every serious cocktail bar. Now it seems almost every new gin producer has a version of their juice resting in a barrel. This has long been one of my favorites.

What to expect: cinnamon and winter spice

7. Corbin Western

Made in the Central Valley, this sweet potato based gin is crafted by third generation farmers who added a still to their farmland. Big and herbaceous, this juniper forward gin is spicy and dry. Good in G&Ts, or chilled with a twist of lemon. Terroir gin drinkers might also find some similarities they just might like.

What to expect: rosemary, pine, juniper

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Classic Cocktail, Modern RIff: The Bee's Knees

This falls somewhere in between a Classic and Modern Riff because I don't really change the recipe except for calling for a specific kind of gin. The gin, called Barr Hill, is produced in Vermont by Caledonia Spirits. Why is it special? Because it's made from honey! Good job bees, good job. 

-The Bee’s Knees-

2 oz Barr Hill gin
.75 oz fresh lemon
heavy .5 oz honey syrup*

Shake everything with enthusiasm, double strain into cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon wheel or lemon twist.

*In a non-reactive sauce pan, heat 2 parts honey to one part filtered water until a solution is formed. Cool, store in the fridge. Bonus points for using raw honey.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Original Cocktail: Orchard of Alcinous

Naming cocktails was always the hardest part of maintaining a cocktail menu. But that's why we have the internet, right? To look up obscure literary references and sound totally clever. So if you're wondering, the name refers to a place in the Odyssey, an orchard where apple, pear, and pomegranates were grown. Aren't you glad you asked?

-Orchard of Alcinous-

1.5 oz Offley white port
.75 oz Pür pear liqueur
.5 oz St George Terroir gin*
.5 oz lemon juice
1 oz Clos Normand apple cider**

Shake all ingredients together, double strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a small piece of rosemary. 

*St George Terroir gin is made in my neck of the woods over in Alameda, and it's a fine specimen. What sets it apart from the rest is that it's crafted with Douglas fir, so you have a big blast of pine and bay leaf right in your face. That's also why I use such a small amount in the cocktail. A little goes a long way.

**This is a French apple cider that's low alcohol and quite refreshing on its own. The kind of thing they might serve by the carafe at a creperie in France. I like this particular one because it's balanced and is also a fantastic value.

Friday, July 8, 2016

How to Make a Frozen Strawberry Margarita (like an adult)

First, if you have any kind of pre-made cocktail mixers in your house, throw them away now. Next, follow these simple instructions. Remember kids, there's nothing to be ashamed of when you're using quality ingredients. Frozen dranks are baaaaack!

-Frozen Strawberry Margarita- 

(recipe serves 2 people, theoretically)

3 oz blanco tequila (I like Cimarron or Espolon)
1.25 - 1.5 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz strawberry rosé syrup (or sub in agave syrup**)
1 oz orange liqueur (I like Bauchant or Amara Amaro)
10-12 fresh or frozen strawberries

(If you know that your strawberries are tart, back down on the citrus rather than bumping up the syrup.)

1. Select your preferred receptacles for consuming the beverages, and fill both glasses with ice. This is how I get the best ice to slushy ratio.

2. Put all ingredients in a blender and add the ice from the glasses. Blend on high until you've got all slush and no big ice pieces. 

3. Pour immediately into glasses so it doesn't have time to separate. Drink immediately so it doesn't have time to melt. 

**If you don't feel like making the strawberry syrup, a simple agave nectar syrup will do in a pinch. I typically dilute 2:1 (agave to hot water) to loosen it up. If you don't want to dilute for whatever reason, use half the amount in the above recipe. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Original Cocktail: The French Connection

This is about as simple as it gets. Three ingredients, nice and clean. That means use a quality rum and fresh lime. Always use fresh citrus. Keep in mind that agricole rhum (notice the spelling) is made with the juice of the sugar cane rather than molasses, so it's a bit lighter and grassier and has a bit of funk to it. Try tasting it at a bar first to see if it's your cup of... well, rum. 

-French Connection-

1.75 oz Rhum Clement white agricole rhum
.75 oz Giffard banana liqueur*
.75 oz fresh lime juice

Shake with ice, strain into a double rocks glass with fresh ice and garnish with a lime wheel or large twist of lime.

*I've tried a few banana booze products and this one is the only one you should be using. Real bananas were macerated in alcohol to make this, not some weird flavoring. If you see something called "99 Bananas" at the liquor store then you should run the fuck away.  

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Original Cocktail: Pineapple Pimms Cup

This might sound like an odd combo, but it's really not. Just an elevation of the classic Pimms Cup, but like a million times better. Refreshing and pretty simple to make, this is a great summer cocktail.

-Pineapple Pimms Cup-

1.5 oz Pimms #1
1 oz Plantation Pineapple rum
heavy .5 oz fresh lemon juice
.5 oz mint simple syrup
1.5 oz Bundaberg ginger beer*

Shake all ingredients together (including ginger beer!), strain into a pilsner or collins glass and top with fresh ice. Garnish with 2-3 cucumber slices.

*Bundaberg ginger beer is widely available and really hits the sweet spot at finishing this cocktail. It's not over sweet, spicy, or funky. I tried a few ginger beers in this cocktail and it works the best.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Mango Infused Rum

Reduce, recycle, reuse, Rhianna. AmIright? So why toss the mango pit when it still has so much potential? All that tasty flesh just hanging on...wait, that sounded creepy. Anyway, don't toss it in the compost until you've made mango rum. Or mezcal. 

If you have a lot of mango bones, go ahead and infuse an entire bottle. You'll be glad you did later after you've discovered how delicious it is. If you have only a couple, just do a baby batch in a larger mason jar.

For my latest mango rum I used about 10 mango pits and a liter bottle of high proof rhum agricole. Play around with different styles of rum and different proofs.

-Mango Infused Rum-

1  750ml bottle of white rum
7-8 fresh mango seeds/pits

1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Put the fleshy pits into a large container--a cambro or very large mason jar would work. Cover with white rum or spirit of your choice and let sit for 5-7 days in a cool dark place. Agitate every couple of days.

For a spicy version, when you're happy with the mango flavor, add one teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the infusion and let sit for 4-6 hours. Strain everything through a mesh strainer or tea strainer. For the prettiest result, you can filter out the murky stuff that tends to settle to the bottom with a coffee filter. Unless I'm giving it as a gift, I usually don't bother to strain with a coffee filter and instead I just shake well before using it.

For long term storage, keep it in the fridge. If you're going to consume it over the next couple of weeks, room temp is fine.

straining a small batch 

finished product

Monday, June 13, 2016

Beyond Campari: The Bitter Aperitivo

Let's be clear, I love me some Campari. It's bitter, it's aggressive, and it's very, very red. This list of Campari alternatives is not about which one is better, it's just here to give you some options. Maybe Campari isn't quite your thing, or perhaps you want something a bit more artisanal. Something local? Maybe you're like me and you just have to try everything because you can't help it.

Leopold's Aperitivo

Of this list, it's my favorite for a classic Negroni. The mouthfeel is light, but not thin. Bitter, but not palate wrecking. I get a lot of rhubarb and citrus, with a dry finish.

Bruto (St George)


Hot off the presses, this one is not at all what I expected. Like their Terroir gin, the Bruto ends up in a class on its own. Every time I taste it the color throws me off, as I expect it to be green. Yep. Tastes like green to me. Very Christmasy. Rosemary and doug fir and those tree lights that look like candles. On that note, it plays well with Chartreuse, they might turn out to be best friends.



Sweet, viscous, closer to Aperol than Campari. Strong hints of bubble gum and mixed fruit cocktail. Maybe my least favorite of the bunch overall, but certainly an interesting study. I recommend this in an Americano with a very spicy vermouth.


Super low in alcohol, sweet and fruity, heavy on the orange and tangerine notes. Needs a bit of citrus to pick it up in cocktails. Classic in the aperol spritz, which is having its day in Europe and starting to pick up here.


New to the US, this has the fruit of Aperol, the body and sweetness of Capelleti, but a finish that is bitter and takes the spirit full circle. Pretty versatile overall and worth seeking out. Makes a damn fine spritz, so stock up on Prosecco.

Gran Classico (Tempus Fugit)

The gateway to loving Negronis. This is complex, with burnt sugar and caramelized citrus, and has weight to throw around. This leans sweet, so keep that in mind when choosing cocktail ingredients to complement the spirit.

Amer Picon

Sadly, not available in the States, so pick up a bottle the next time you're in Europe. This French spirit has a bitter orange flavor profile, and it's cheap and usually comes in liters. Always bring an extra suitcase.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Classic Cocktail: The Americano

This is an unsung hero for so many reasons. It's easy to make. I mean it's EASY. Light, refreshing, and low in alcohol. It's a patio drink, but a classy patio drink. Great before a meal without putting you under the table if you're also going to be drinking a lot of wine with dinner. And of course, you have plenty of choices if you don't feel like using Campari or sweet vermouth. Both the classic and a little twist on it are below. 


1.5 oz Campari or similar
1.5 oz Sweet Vermouth
Seltzer water to top

Build in a collins glass, add ice, top with seltzer and garnish with a nice big wheel of orange. 

-Americano Bianco-

1.25 oz Campari

1 oz Carpano Bianco
Seltzer water to top

Build in a collins glass, add ice, top with seltzer and garnish with a nice big wheel of orange. 

**A note on presentation. When you add the seltzer water, it's going to rest on top of your other ingredients, creating a dramatic effect. If you choose to leave it this way when serving, you'll need to remind your guests that they need to stir the drink so that it's integrated before consuming. Otherwise, stir before adding the garnish.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Modern Riff: Blood and Sand

I know you're thinking this is a sweater weather cocktail, but in this adaptation I use blood oranges, and you can still score some pretty tasty blood oranges this time of year in CA. The really interesting winter citrus starts popping up in late January, but can sometimes still be found as late as June in NorCal. People, listen up. This is why we live in California. Anyway, we're on the tail end of the season, but I still see blood oranges at Berkeley Bowl, so I think it still counts as seasonally appropriate.

-Blood and Sand-

1 oz peated single malt (Ledaig 10 year or Bruichladdich Heavily Peated)
.75 oz blood orange juice
.75 oz Punt e Mes
.75 oz Cherry Heering

Shake, double strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with blood orange wheel. 

Notes: The traditional recipe is equal parts for everything, and that leans a bit sweet for my taste. Many people use a blended scotch to make a Blood and Sand, but I like the play of smokey and sweet together, so I usually opt for something young and smokey. Please insert I like my whiskey like I like my women jokes here. The Punt e Mes is a spicy, more robust style of sweet vermouth that stands up to the orange juice and Cherry Heering. Be careful with substitutions. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Original Cocktail: La Despedida

I honestly don't know what to say about this cocktail other than it's freakin' delicious and you'll want to drink three of them. Also, here's a chance to use the rosé syrup you just made.

-La Despedida-

1.75 oz blanco tequila
.5 oz Amara amaro*
.5 oz strawberry rosé syrup
.75 oz fresh lime juice

Shake all ingredients like your life depends on it. Double strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish optional, but use a lime wheel if you really want one.

Isn't this just a Margarita? Yea, pretty much. Except better.

*Amara amaro is not widely available, so feel free to substitute your favorite orange liqueur. Be wary of the super sweet ones like Grand Marnier that tend to be a bit too heavy handed for a drink like this.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Strawberry Rosé Wine Syrup

First of all, I should start by saying that this never happens to me. Really. I'm kind of embarrassed. But the other day we opened a bottle of rosé that was just not very good. And unless the wine is actually spoiled, fermented liquids rarely go down the drain at this house. Recycle, reuse. Standard protocol. The recovery was quick, and here are the results.

-Strawberry Rosé Syrup-

1 bottle (meh) rosé
1 hefty cup strawberries halved or sliced, fresh or frozen
1 cup organic cane sugar
peel of one lemon

Heat the wine until the sugar is dissolved, bringing the liquid to a very light simmer. Reduce for about 20-30 minutes, or until the syrup has reduced by at least a quarter to a third. Stir occasionally. Strain out the solids and let cool. Store in the refrigerator. It should keep for at least a month, but probably more. I keep mine in mason jars, and you'll end up with a few 8oz portions.

This is a somewhat delicate syrup in terms of flavor profile. Use this in cocktails with clear spirits, like gin, pisco, and agave.  I guess vodka if you have to, just don't tell me you did it. Also, it works really well in sangria or in a dry sparkling wine.

If you're planning to buy rosé to make the syrup, don't spend more than $10 bucks. A bottle at Trader Joe's for $3.99 should do the trick.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Original Cocktail: The Tomcat

Slightly reminiscent of the Martinez, the Tomcat features a sweeter style of gin called Old Tom. You can think of this style as the missing link between Genever and London Dry gin. The cocktail itself is simple to make, and you have a few options for the brand of gin, including San Francisco's Anchor Distilling and Hayman's Old Tom. Meow.

-The Tomcat-

2 oz Old Tom gin
.5 oz Cardamaro**
.5 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
one dash of orange bitters

Stir until chilled and diluted (about 30 seconds or so), and strain into a chilled, stemmed cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

**Cardamaro is an Italian wine based amaro that's made with cardoon, a relative of the artichoke. The name can be slightly misleading since many may be expecting a cardamom spirit on first glancing at the label. It's both bitter and sweet, and lower in proof than many distillate-based amari. You can find it in many specialty liquor stores.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Classic Cocktail: El Diablo

This week in my Spanish class we learned about Cinco de Mayo. Not the white-people-chugging-Cuervo-til-they-yak Murica! version of the holiday, but the actual history of the Battle of Puebla where Mexico gave France the old shove off. So here's a little agave cocktail you can drink while cursing imperialism. Damn you, Napoleon! But yea, we'll still keep the cassis. 

-El Diablo -             


1.75 oz blanco tequila
.5 oz Cassis
.75 oz fresh lime
spicy ginger beer

Shake all ingredients except for ginger beer, and strain into a collins* glass filled with ice, top with ginger beer and garnish with a lime wheel.

*The tall, narrow one.