How to Throw a DIY Gin & Tonic Party

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Guys, I’m so excited about today’s post. Aside from being my 100th (!!!) post since starting Distillerista, this is an idea I’ve wanted to feature on the blog for. EVER. While it might not be particularly monumental, it happens to be my idea of a picture-perfect (i.e. low-key) entertaining situation and let me tell you why… because A. I love any excuse to just set out a bunch of stuff and let my friends take care of themselves and B. I LOVE a good G&T. A gin & tonic is crisp, refreshing, classy af and virtually fool-proof to put together, making it the ideal cocktail for a DIY bar setup.

A little background on my love for the G&T: “gin and tonic, extra lime” quickly became my go-to order when I first fell in love with gin a few years ago. I’m so fond of the juniper-laden goodness that I’ve graduated to ordering a more streamlined (& low-sugar) version: gin & soda with a splash of tonic to let the gin shine through a bit more. But #adulting aside, any way you make a G&T, they’re always sure to please. There’s just something about those crisp little bubbles and fragrant botanicals together as one, #amirite?

Whether you’re throwing a #GalentinesDay party for your pals, planning an upcoming bridal shower or bachelorette party, or just want an excuse to round up the #squad, a DIY G&T bar is pure, easy fun.

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Here’s how to set up a DIY Gin & Tonic Bar…

Glassware – Keep in mind your glasses don’t all need to match. Just make sure they’re clean and free of cracks or chips. Double old fashioned glasses, mason jars, hi-balls, rocks, juice and water glasses are all fair game.

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Ice – “Invest” in a pretty ice bucket. Retailers like Target often have cute and affordable options. A small scoop, pair of tongs or large serving spoon is appreciated for hands-free scooping.

Paper straws – Love these hearts, this floral print or the classic striped.

Garnishes Include classics like lemon and lime wheels, as well as lots of fresh mint. Encourage guests to give the mint a little smack in the palm of his or her hand and place in the glass first. Then garnish with a bit more on top of the drink. Other garnish ideas to include: citrus peels (fresh or candied!), edible flowers and cracked juniper berries.

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Cocktail napkins – These are too cute, these are v. on theme or perhaps something more simple.

Jiggers – Set out a jigger or 1.5 oz shot glass measure on the bar so that the gin doesn’t flow too quickly ;).

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Selection of gin – The idea is to have a good mix (3-4x) of different styles of gin, however it’s not exactly cost effective to go out and buy a bunch of niche spirits just for a casual get together. I totally get it. If you’re willing and able, consider offering your guests 1. a classic London Dry gin, 2. a more modern Western or American style gin, 3. a Sloe gin and 4. an Old Tom gin. Alternatively, ask a few close friends to cohost/contribute a bottle of a certain style and you’re sure to have a diverse spread! Scroll down for deets on the gins included in this photo set and a list of my favorites in each category mentioned above at the end of this post.

Selection of tonic – Mix it up! Include a classic brand like Schweppes or Canada Dry, a “light” or sugar-free version, as well as a pricier premium tonic. Then if the budget allows, add in one or two flavored tonics for some added fun like aromatic, bitter lemon, or grapefruit. Include some soda or sparkling water too just incase anyone is seriously quinine-averse. Flavored Lacroix’s are also a great addition. My favorite brands are East Imperial, Fever Tree, Llanllyr Source and Q.

{ Tonics seen in photoset: East Imperial Grapefruit Tonic, East Imperial Yuzu Tonic, Q Tonic, Llanllyr Source Bitter Lemon (lemon flavored tonic water) and Llanllyr Tonic Water. My favorite brands are East Imperial, Fever Tree, Llanllyr Source and Q. }

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DIY-G&T-Bar-Distillerista-10 DIY-G&T-Bar-Distillerista-1 DIY-G&T-Bar-Distillerista-11 DIY-G&T-Bar-Distillerista-12 DIY-G&T-Bar-Distillerista-13 { East Imperial Grapefruit Tonic }

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{ Gins seen in photoset: Hendrick’s, St. George Dry Rye, Krobar Botanical Brandy, Woody Creek Gin, Plymouth Sloe Gin }

Other favorites… Tanqueray No. 10, St. George Botanivore, Aviation; Ransom Old Tom, Spirit Works’ Barreled Gin, Sloe Gin & Barreled Sloe Gin, Death’s Door, Distillery No. 209.

Photos by Caroline Potter.

Winter Gin Punch

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When creating a cocktail for our very first ever You & Yours event last month, a seasonal take on my popular simple gin punch was in order. I wanted to make something simple enough to throw together for upwards of 100 people, yet complex enough to be a few steps up from something you could easily make at home. To achieve that, I stuck to my basic formula (spirit, citrus, a fun syrup and something bubbly), but I brought out all the stops with the syrup. Two types of sugar and two hearty winter herbs take this seasonal sipper over the top. :)

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Ingredients:

  • 2 parts your favorite gin scroll down for a sneak peek at my (& your soon-to-be) favorite gin 😉
  • 1 part fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 part rosemary thyme simple syrup, recipe to follow
  • sparkling water to top
  • fresh herb sprig of choice to garnish

Directions:

  1. Add gin, grapefruit and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Shake for 10-15 seconds; strain into a tumbler over fresh ice.
  3. Top with a splash or two of sparkling water and garnish as desired. Enjoy!

For the rosemary simple syrup: in a small saucepan combine 1/4 cup raw local honey, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup water; simmer until fully dissolved, 3 minutes or so. Add three or four large sprigs of fresh rosemary and three sprigs of fresh thyme. Let the herbs steep while the syrup cools, half an hour or so. Strain and discard herbs; transfer to a sealable container and store in fridge for up to one month.  

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{ photos by Lindsey Marie }

Cocktail Crawl: Little Italy San Diego

Introducing a new series: Cocktail Crawls! These posts will act as my version of neighborhood guides, complete with my favorite spots to drink, chat and snack. First up is my home turf: Little Italy!

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1. Kick things off at Crack ShackRichard Blais’ all day chicken and eggs concept, with a frothy Frosé and some schmaltz fries (both pictured above) to fuel up for an afternoon of drinking. Theirs is one of the better versions of the white-hot trend I’ve had, made with Giffard strawberry liqueur and pureed berries. 2266 Kettner Blvd

2. Head a few blocks south for a refreshing Diego by the Bay at Kettner Exchange. It’s not on the menu anymore but chances are they’ll still shake one up for you. Gin, grapefruit, rhubarb bitters and soda create the perfect golden hour sipper. If you’re feeling another bite, go for the shishito peppers or spicy shrimp. The latter are an exact replica of Nobu’s rock shrimp creamy spicy. 2001 Kettner Blvd

3. Hike one block east up to India Street and cruise down to Prep Kitchen. The cozy upstairs space overlooks a bustling corner of Little Italy, perfect for warming up with a Comfort Blanket – orange tea-infused Bourbon, vanilla and orange – and some people watching. 1660 India St

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4. Peel yourself away and walk less than a block to San Diego’s OG craft cocktail mecca, Craft & Commerce. Their newly renovated and expanded space is definitely a sight to behold. I’ve been a big fan of the Lay Lady Lay (pictured above), a lambic beer cocktail, since they first opened in 2010. Fun fact: it’s one of the few cocktails they’ve brought back from the original menu. Plus, sneaking in a low ABV cocktail on a crawl probably isn’t the worst idea, #amiright? 675 W Beech St

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5. Last but not least, cap things off at Bracero Cocina (pictured above) across the street. You really can’t go wrong here but my favorites on the cocktail menu are the No Mames, a balanced and warming Mezcal cocktail, or the Passion of the Cristo with St. George Chile Vodka & Campari. And don’t even thinking about leaving without a Mexiterranean Adobada taco (or two) and some Shrimp & Bone Marrow Sopes. Thank me later! 1490 Kettner Blvd

What are your favorite spots for cocktails in Little Italy? What San Diego neighborhood would you like to crawl through next? Let me know in the comments below!

{ images 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 }

Elderflower Manhattan

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When Woody Creek sent me a bottle of their 100% Rye Whiskey my mind went wild thinking of fun ideas for cocktails to share with you. As usual, I brainstormed a few original, season applications and then moved on to twists on classics like this Elderflower Manhattan… Minor hiccup: the stuff was so damn delicious that by the time I got around to recipe testing and photographing, the bottle was basically gone! Yes, THAT good.

Having long loved both wheat- and rye-heavy Bourbons, I got really into straight ryes this past year and this Woody Creek rye has to be one of the most well-balanced ones I’ve tried. In addition to the smooth warmth, stunning complexity and seductive vanilla notes, I love knowing that Woody Creek distillers mill, mash, ferment and distill every single drop themselves. There are a ton of great rye whiskeys on the market today but it’s difficult to find a craft producer that actually does it all. I so appreciate Woody Creek’s dedication to the art of distilling, and will definitely be buying this whiskey as soon as I see it. Do yourself a favor and pick up a second bottle when you do – the first goes too fast. 😉

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Elderflower Manhattan. Makes 1.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Woody Creek rye whiskey
  • 1 oz elderflower cordial or liqueur
  • 2 dashes passionfruit bitters

Directions:

  1. If using a non-alcoholic cordial*, add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake gently with ice for 5 seconds. If using a liqueur, such as St. Germain, add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir for 10-15 seconds.
  2. Strain into a rocks or DOF glass over a large cube or sphere ice mold.
  3. Garnish with fresh elderflower blossoms and enjoy!

Notes: 

  • *Traditionally any cocktail recipe that calls for a non-alcoholic syrup, cordial or fresh juice should be shaken, but I wanted this cocktail to mimic the smooth, velvety texture of a proper stirred Manhattan. To achieve that with the Belvoir Farms cordial pictured below (I had run out of St. Germain, an alcoholic elderflower liqueur I prefer to use in applications like these), I shook the ingredients gently so not to break up the ice in the shaker too much and maintain as much of the natural texture of the Rye as possible, while still mixing the components thoroughly. I’d recommend using a liqueur like St. Germain and the correct mixing glass method if at all possible.
  • I find all my fresh edible flower garnishes at Specialty Produce. If you’re not located in the San Diego area, check with your local restaurant wholesale produce supplier!

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Ultimate Guide to Gin // {Infographic} Fix.com

We’re barely a week into 2017 and the guys at Fix.com have already beat me to one of my big content goals for Distillerista this year – creating beautiful, informative graphic guides to my favorite spirits… I was honored to contribute very, very minimally to their Ultimate Guide to Gin Infographic {below} and thought I’d share it with you! – Laura


Source: Fix.com Blog

2016 FAQ & Mini Office Tour

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Happy (almost) 2017! For those of you who may be new to me or Distillerista, allow me to re-introduce myself via a little FAQ situation! Below are the questions I got A. LOT. in 2016… Keep scrolling down for more questions and a few photos of my home office I recently revamped. With the distillery construction still underway, I wanted to give myself a fresh space to work from in the new year. I hope you enjoy!

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Who tf are you? I’m Laura! I’m the professionally trained distiller behind this blog. I’m also in the process of opening my first distilling operation in downtown San Diego: You & Yours Distilling Co.

That’s an *interesting* name, what’s You & Yours all about? Y&Y is a boutique craft spirits destination distillery focused on bringing people together over elevated hospitality experiences. In addition to producing different styles of gin and eau de vies (double-distilled, unaged fruit brandies) on our custom hybrid still, our tasting room will be open to the public Thursday through Sunday offering tasting flights, cocktails and bottle sales. You can also come for a distillery tour and guided tasting on weekends. Sign up info coming soon!

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How did you get into distilling? Short version? I had an interest in and appreciation for spirits from a relatively early age. I was the one trying to convince my friends to mix up cocktails at house parties in high school instead of grabbing another 12-pack of Natty Light. I went on my first distillery tour at 18 and it was all over after that. After finishing undergrad at USD I traveled for the better part of a year taking classes, attending workshops and apprenticing at various distilleries around the country.

Do you have a chemistry or home brewing background? Nope.

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When are you opening?! You & Yours Distilling Co. will finally open to the public this coming January 2017. As fiercely as I wish I could give everyone a hard-and-fast date, those just don’t exist when you’re juggling a 4-fold permitting process AND a 7+ month long construction build-out. Stay tuned, I promise the light at the end of the tunnel is near!

What’s the mf’in hold up? See: 4-fold permitting process AND a 7+ month long build-out. Thanks to pre-prohibition era regulations and an archaic three-tier system, a legal distillery has to obtain Federal, State, City, and – in our case – Civic permits to operate a legal distillery (we’re the very first urban distillery in California!). “It’s been a process,” is the understatement of 2016.

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Where can I buy You & Yours Distilling Co. merch? Right here! (These aren’t regular shirts, these are cool shirts)

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Are you hiring? We’ll begin interviewing after the holidays for a small but mighty team of “spirits specialists” to help man the tasting room and retail areas. These positions will closely reflect your standard bartender, barback and server roles. If you’re interested in joining our front of house team, email a resume and cover letter to LKJ@YouAndYours.com with the subject line ‘YAYDC JOBS.’

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How can I stay in touch, involved and in-the-know? You know the drill… follow You & Yours (@YouAndYoursSD across all platforms) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and sign up for the You & Yours email list here.

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You can also follow ME on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat (@laurakj11)!

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Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to get to know you if I don’t already, please leave me a comment below!

Cranberry Mule

When it comes to Holiday feasts, my family passes on the cranberry sauce. Although the contrasting tart-sweet flavor component makes sense to cleanse your palate between all the savory bites, we’ve never really bothered with it for some reason. So when I had my mother and brother in town for Thanksgiving, it came as no surprise that the bag of cranberries sat in the back of fridge well past November 24th. A week or so later I decided to make a syrup with the forgotten cranberries, a clamshell of raspberries on their last legs and the leftover herbs from our Thanksgiving meal. The end result was so layered and complex, I’ve been using the stuff non-stop ever since! I add it to espresso and cocoa powder in to make cran-raspberry mochas, mix it into salad dressings, drizzle it over butternut squash soup and (obviously) shake it into cocktails. I’ve mixed it up with gin and lemon juice, Bourbon and a touch of sweet vermouth, and splashed it into champagne, but this festive cranberry “Mule” might be my favorite application yet!

Cranberry Mule. Makes 1.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz your favorite vodka (mine here)
  • 1 oz cranberry syrup recipe to follow
  • Llanyllr Source ginger ale to top
  • Fresh mint and cranberries to garnish, optional

for the cranberry syrup: in a small sauce pan combine 1 bag of cranberries, 1 small clamshell of raspberries, 1/3 cup of sugar, a handful of mint and 3 sprigs each, thyme and rosemary over medium-low heat. Let simmer for 30 minutes or so, splashing in some water if it becomes too thick. Continue adding water until a syrupy consistency forms and almost all the cranberries have popped. Let cool for a few minutes, remove hearty herb stems and then blend for two minutes in a Vitamix or food processor. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to one week. This will be much thicker than your usual simple syrup.

Directions:

  1. In a cocktail shaker combine vodka and cranberry syrup and shake over ice until thoroughly combined, 5-10 seconds
  2. Strain into a tumbler over fresh ice; Top with Llanyllr Source Ginger Ale
  3. Garnish as desired and enjoy!

Notes:

Llanyllr Source is an all natural mixers company that produces a wide range of premium cocktail mixers. I’m pretty picky about my ginger beer so I decided to use their Ginger Ale in this recipe to keep things a little more refreshing. You can check out their other cocktail-accompanying products like bitter lemon, lemonade and light tonic here! They also offer still and sparkling water, produced from fresh spring water drawn from organic fields in Llanyllr, Wales. Thanks to the Llanyllr team for sending over a few samples!

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{ Photos by Lindsey Marie }

Last Minute Stocking Stuffer Idea

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Let’s be honest, no one ever objects to alcohol as a gift. And that’s why stuffing your loved ones’ stockings with little 50 mL bottles of spirits is a slam dunk last minute gift idea if I’ve ever heard one! Attn: procrastination-inclined late shoppers, make a quick trip to your local Bevmo or liquor store and grab a bunch of mini airplane-szed (50 mL) bottles. I like to get a mix of no-brainer choices (vodka, tequila, Bourbon, cocktail bitters) and so-bad-they’re-awesome choices. Examples of the latter category would include Jack Daniels Honey, Fireball, flavored vodkas, and coconut rum. It’s all about options 😉

In addition to being a cute and easy stocking stuffer idea, my mom actually does this for my brother and I and our significant others every Christmas. Now that I have my own stockings to fill, I secretly look forward to carrying on this sweet, simple tradition! I hope it becomes one of yours too. <3

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DIY Cocktail Kits

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I was inspired by my blogger crush, Claire Thomas, to gift DIY cocktail kits this year. After watching this YT video of her DIY Old Fashioned Kit, I couldn’t help but recreate the idea at home with my own cocktail ingredients. The idea was so up my alley, I wanted to kick myself for not thinking of it first! I always have random batches of syrups and little R&D infusion projects laying around, so these were a cinch to put together when I needed a last minute gift last week. To put together your own DIY cocktail kits, here’s a rough idea list of things you’ll need…

  • decorative straw, mesh or wire basket
  • a cloth napkin, cute kitchen towel or raffia to act a base layer in the bottom of the basket
  • 2-3 mini (50 mL) bottles of liquor or a mason jar of a homemade infused spirit (see ideas here, here and here)
  • a cocktail syrup, purchased or homemade (equal parts sugar and water, simmered until dissolved)
  • a small bottle of your favorite mixer, i.e. tonic, soda, ginger beer
  • a whole lemon, lime or orange
  • cute paper straws
  • twine, sticky labels and/or gift tags to label ingredients
  • festive card, to write the cocktail recipe inside

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Here’s what I included in my basket last week: rosemary mint honey simple syrup (recipe below), a mason jar of the first official batch of You & Yours‘ flagship gin, East Imperial soda water, a lemon, three paper straws in a holiday color palette and the following recipe written inside a cute card…

Lemon + Winter Herb Gin Spritz: Shake 2 oz gin, 1 oz rosemary syrup and 1 oz lemon juice with ice, strain over fresh ice and top with 2 oz. soda water. Garnish with a lemon wedge and enjoy!

For the rosemary mint simple syrup… combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup honey and 1 cup water in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add five sprigs of rosemary and a generous handful of fresh mint. Simmer until fully dissolved and let cool completely off the heat. Strain into a sealable container.

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Other ideas of things to include in the cocktail kits…

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Happy gifting! Let me know what ingredients you’d include in your DIY Cocktail Kits in the comments below :)

{ Photos by Lindsey Marie }

DIY Hazelnut Liqueur

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Some of my favorite things to gift during the holidays are homemade syrups, condiments, spice blends and infused spirits. They’re inexpensive and fun to make and the thought and effort go a long way. As a Frangelico addict, this hazelnut-infused liqueur might be my favorite of all the infusions I’ve DIY’d thus far and is so, so easy to make. If you still have a few folks to cross off your Christmas list, this sweet gift is sure to please anyone who enjoys a good craft cocktail… a.k.a. almost everyone? I also love the idea of making a big batch and divvying it up into mini bottles to give away as favors after a holiday party or open house.

DIY Hazelnut Liqueur. Recipe adapted from this one here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole hazelnuts
  • 2 cups neutral spirit of choice i.e. vodkawhite rumbrandy or Everclear
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • optional add ins: orange peel, split vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, coffee beans, cacao nibs

Directions:

  1. Toast your hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet in a 275-degree oven for 10-12 minutes until fragrant
  2. Let nuts cool slightly and transfer onto a kitchen towel
  3. Double the kitchen towel over the nuts and roll back and forth until skins are removed (this step is optional… removing the skins will result in a clear liqueur, but I actually prefer a creamy, opaque appearance in my final product, as seen in these photos).
  4. Transfer skinned hazelnuts to a chopping board or food processor and give them a rough chop to increase surface area. The more finely chopped the nuts, the quicker they will infuse.
  5. Combine the neutral spirit and nuts in a large sealable jar or container, or split into two 1 liter mason jars. Let infuse in a cool dry place for 1-2 weeks. If adding any optional ingredients, like the orange peel or cinnamon stick, add those ingredients after the hazelnuts have infused on their own for 1 week.
  6. Strain and discard solids using a few squares of cheesecloth draped over a fine mesh sieve.
  7. In a small sauce pan over medium low heat combine honey, sugar and water to make a syrup. Turn off the heat once the sugars are dissolved and let cool.
  8. Combine the infused spirits with the syrup and shake well to combine. Store finished liqueur in the fridge for up to one month.

**Obviously Christmas is less than a week away, so feel free to gift the liqueur with the hazelnuts still infusing inside the jar or container. The recipient will be able to instantly recognize what’s inside! Include a small card with finishing directions (shake often, discard solids after XX date, add syrup and refrigerate for up to one month) along with the premade syrup and a couple squares of cheesecloth so they can strain out the nuts easily. Secure a cute bow around the jars or containers and – voila! – an easy, inexpensive DIY gift with endless applications!**

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A few of my favorite ways to use Hazelnut Liqueur…

  • Shake with equal parts lime juice for a chocolate cake-like nightcap (sounds weird but trust me, it’s delicious)
  • Splash into glasses of Prosecco and garnish with a lemon twist
  • Combine one shot of espresso with 1 oz. of hazelnut liqueur and top with a scoop of hazelnut or vanilla gelato for a hazelnut affogato – the perfect end to a holiday dinner party
  • Splash into your morning coffee over the holiday break for a little extra pick-me-up 😉
  • Add 1 oz. hazelnut liqueur to your favorite Old Fashioned recipe for a wintery take on the classic whiskey cocktail
  • Use in place of the coffee liqueur in my Dirty Chai Hot Toddies!

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Happy gifting! What other ways would you use this hazelnut liqueur? Let me know in the comments below.

{ STUNNING photos by the lovely & talented Lindsey Marie }