Cuba Libre

Distillerista-Hella-Cuba-Libre-Type

Artisan bitters, thought of as the salt and pepper to cocktail recipes, are popping up everywhere these days.  Now if you don’t regularly make manhattans or martinis, I wouldn’t expect bitters to be part of your heavy home cocktail bar rotation, but if you enjoy making cocktails at home I highly recommend you pick up a bottle or two! Very much like salt and pepper, bitters have the ability to transform a cocktail. They’re integral to classics like Old Fashioneds and Champagne Cocktails, but they can elevate even the most basic of mixed drinks. A vodka soda with a dash or two of orange bitters is instantly a better, more complex drink.

Because they’re so versatile and transformative, I love experimenting with new flavors of bitters in my cocktails at home. Lime bitters give my Pineapple Vodka Limeades a nice complexity, Classic Aromatic take my Lemon Whiskey Cider cocktails to a whole new level and Black Walnut bitters send this After Midnight nightcap over the edge. But enough about bitters (I swear I’m getting to the point of this post). The reason for the shameless bitters plug is because one of my favorite bitters makers, Hella Company, has branched out from bitters into cocktail syrups and mixers! The guys at Hella were kind enough to send me a couple of their new products, one of which was this yummy craft cola cocktail syrup.

My favorite thing about these new Hella cocktail syrups is that they’re not sickly sweet like some others can be. They’re beautifully balanced by just a hint of – you guessed it – bitter notes! With the perfect touch of sweet, familiar cola-esque minerality, this Hella Cola syrup is no exception. Not overly cloying while still maintaining enough classic cola flavor to stand up to the aged rum. If you think you’ve never had a Cuba Libre, well, you have. It’s a fancy name for a rum + coke. Thanks, Cuba.

Scroll down for the super easy, 3-ingredient recipe and check out my previous Hella collaboration, Hibiscus Greyhounds.

Distillerista-Hella-Products

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz dark or aged rum, I like to keep it classic with Havana Club
  • 1 oz Hella Cola Mixer, c/o
  • 3.5 oz club soda, sparkling water or seltzer
  • lime wedge to garnish, optional

Directions: Fill high ball glass with ice, rum, cola syrups and soda water. Stir gently and garnish with a lime wedge.

 

Distillerista-Hella-Cuba-Libre-2

Thanks to Hella Co. for inspiring this post!

Share this post!

Bartender Know-How: Cocktail Garnishes

Speakeasy-Co-CocktailGarnishes-Distillerista

Speakeasy Co. is back with Cocktail Garnishes 101.

DO NOT OVERLOOK THE GARNISH!

“You eat first with your eyes, then your nose, and then your mouth.”

Yeah, it’s an old saying, but it’s particularly germane this month. And, for the record, we couldn’t agree more. As soon as a dish is served, you’re assessing it without even knowing it. The crust on the steak, the vivid green of the broccoli, plump grains of rice through hot steam. You’re tasting it with your eyes and nose before you ever actually taste it, and a good chef will have you loving the dish before it ever touches your tongue.

Just as it does for food, this holds true for cocktails as well. And this brings us to the garnish.

Garnishes…

As bartenders, there’s nothing that annoys us more than going to a bar and getting a slimy lemon or a gross, browning lime. There’s honestly no better way to tell your customers that you don’t care about what you’re doing than that. Citrus wedges are basic, 101 stuff — appropriate at times, but unimpressive in both sight and smell — and if your bartender can’t do that right, how are you supposed to trust them with an actual drink?

Every time we train a bar-staff, we hit this as hard as we can: garnishes should leap out of the glass. Their job — their only job — is to make the cocktail more appealing. The garnish should smell great, look even better, and get your mouth watering to drink that cocktail.

Most people think garnishes are just what’s in those ugly plastic trays at sports bars: lemons, limes, oranges, olives, and cherries. The truth, obviously, is that anything can be a garnish, especially if you think of them as a way to enhance your aroma, or showcase your creativity, or both.

What’s the coolest or craziest garnish you’ve ever seen? Bloody Marys are famous in this game, as are Tiki drinks. At one bar, Linwood Essentials in Toronto, we’ve seen a cocktail garnished with a love poem, attached to the rim of the glass with a miniature clothespin. It was amazing.

{ article originally appeared here | top image via }

 

Share this post!

Hibiscus Royale

IMG_3728{ All photos by Bryan Miller }

I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of you who came out to the French Riviera Soirée at the Westgate Hotel’s rooftop pool this past weekend! It was such a pleasure to meet some Distillerista readers and spend time poolside with friends. In addition to the Aztec Cure I shared last week, this Hibiscus Royale was one of several gorgeous cocktails being shaken up by resident mixologist Irving Gonzalez at the event. The hibiscus tea + cilantro combo is so refreshing and light, I just had to recreate it for you here. Quick tip: I’ve found that I like this drink best with a weak hibiscus tea – so much so that it’s more like a hibiscus-infused spa water. Try steeping the hibiscus tea (loose or bag) for just half the time it calls for. Either way, take it from me: you’ll definitely want to whip up a few of these before pool season ends.

Hibiscus Royale. Makes 1 cocktail.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz your favorite vodka (my 5 faves here)
  • 2.5 oz weak hibiscus tea, cooled
  • .5 oz agave syrup
  • cilantro sprig to garnish

Directions:

  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine vodka, hibiscus tea, agave syrup and a handful of ice
  2. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds
  3. Strain into a glass over fresh ice
  4. In the palm of your hand, smack/slap the cilantro to release the oils and aroma. Place in glass and enjoy!

IMG_3723{ What’s You & Yours Distilling Co.?, you ask?! Find out more here and get this rad t-shirt here! }

You might also like:

Share this post!

Aztec Cure

IMG_3620

I can’t wait for this Saturday’s pool party I’m co-hosting with my pals and fellow bloggers/entrepreneurs/small business owners Cecelia, Krystel and Kali at the Westgate Hotel. My excitement is partially because I get to frolic around a rooftop pool with friends (and hopefully meet some of you!), but mostly because I get to sip on one of these Aztec Cures.

When planning this pool party a couple months back, the girls and I took one for the team and tested EVERY. SINGLE. cocktail on the Westgate’s bar menu. For research purposes of course. It’s a tough job but somebody had to do it and this Mezcal & strawberry number was by far my fave. I thought I’d recreate it for you here in honor of this weekend’s festivities. If you’re in the San Diego area, I hope you’ll join us for the fun! Tickets are just $25 and include a $25 voucher to Vocabulary Boutique – win win!

Aztec Cure. Makes 1 cocktail.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle the strawberry halves.
  2. Add Mezcal, lemon juice, agave, bitters and a handful of ice to shaker. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
  3. Strain into a glass over fresh ice and top with soda water.
  4. Garnish with an edible flower & enjoy!

IMG_3619

{ Photos by Bryan Miller }

 

Share this post!

Hibscus Greyhound

Distillerista-Hella-Greyhound

Artisan bitters, thought of as the salt and pepper to cocktail recipes, are popping up everywhere these days.  Now if you don’t regularly make manhattans or martinis, I wouldn’t expect bitters to be part of your heavy home cocktail bar rotation, but if you enjoy making cocktails at home I highly recommend you pick up a bottle or two! Very much like salt and pepper, bitters have the ability to transform a cocktail. They’re integral to classics like Old Fashioneds and Champagne Cocktails, but they can elevate even the most basic of mixed drinks. A vodka soda with a dash or two of orange bitters is instantly a better, more complex drink.

Because they’re so versatile and transformative, I love experimenting with new flavors of bitters in my cocktails at home. Lime bitters give my Pineapple Vodka Limeades a nice complexity, Classic Aromatic take my Lemon Whiskey Cider cocktails to a whole new level and Black Walnut bitters send this After Midnight nightcap over the edge. But enough about bitters (I swear I’m getting to the point of this post). The reason for the shameless bitters plug is because one of my favorite bitters makers, Hella Company, has branched out from bitters into cocktail syrups and mixers! The guys at Hella (not from the Bay, curiously) were kind enough to send me a couple of their new products, one of which is this gorgeous Hibiscus Cocktail Mixer.

My favorite thing about these new Hella cocktail syrups is that they’re not sickly sweet like some others can be. They’re beautifully balanced by just a hint of – you guessed it – bitter notes! The tangy floral sweetness of the hibiscus (not to mention the drop dead gorg color) coupled with the subtle bitter profile plays delightfully well in a greyhound. Scroll down for the recipe below.

Distillerista-Hella-Greyhound-2

Hibiscus Hound. Makes 1 drink.

Ingredients*:

*Recipe recommends 1 oz each, but I doubled to 2 oz to create a longer lasting cocktail. Just make sure stick with the 1:1:1 ratio.

Directions:

  1. Fill a glass with ice. Pour in vodka, Hibiscus Syrup, and grapefruit juice.
  2. Stir gently until ice cold and garnish with a lime wedge.
  3. Garnish & enjoy!

Distillerista-Hella-Products

Thank you to Hella Company for inspiring this post!

Share this post!

Summer Inspiration: Watermelon Cocktails

IMG_9796{ sneak peek at an upcoming project! photo by the sensationally talented Caroline }

I recently had the opportunity to contribute some content for a print piece on working with watermelon in cocktails (will share more soon!) and thought I’d share my research/inspiration with you. Watermelon is super easy and versatile to use in drinks because it blends up into such a nice liquid texture. Here are seven watermelon libations that caught my eye!

Heads up, when looking for watermelon cocktail recipes, almost all pair the sweet summer fruit with spice (like jalapeños or serranos) or mint, but watermelon also pairs beautifully with berries, other types of melon and even lavender or rose water!

Watermelon-Distillerista-Lemonade-Host

1. A fun spin on a classic: white rum-spiked Watermelon Mint Lemonade from Host the Toast

Watermelon-Kitchy-Kitchen-Distillerista

2. Gushing over Claire’s Spicy Watermelon Mint Agua Fresca – BYO tequila or mezcal

Watermelon-Joy-Distillerista

3. This gorgeous Watermelon Strawberry Citrus Sangria from Joy the Baker has me giddy.

Watermelon-Distillerista-Gin-Punch

4. My personal fave: Watermelon Gin Punch with lime and – you guessed it! – mint, from Love + Cupcakes

Watermelon-Goldwire-Distillerista

5. A stunning Watermelon Jalapeño Vodka Spritzer made with strawberry kombucha from the gals at Goldwire

Watermelon-Shaved-Ice-Distillerista

6. Fun Watermelon Lime Granita from Lemon Stripes – her recipe is alcohol-free but would be so good with a splash of tequila or even champagne!

Watermelon-Distillerista-Lavender-Margaritas

7. The prettiest ROSE SALT-RIMMED Watermelon Lavender Margaritas, need I say more?

Share this post!

Golden Citrus

IMG_0725

I dug into this frothy concoction after returning home from a fun 4th of July weekend road trip and checking my overloaded mailbox. My monthly cocktail subscription kit from Speakeasy Co. had arrived and this ‘Golden Citrus’ was just what the doctor ordered after long hours in the car followed by the killjoy of unpacking all the dusty camping gear. Scroll down for the recipe!

Golden+Citrus-Distillerista-Speakeasy-Co

This cocktail recipe, along with all the ingredients to mix up two drinks, came in my June Speakeasy Co. box. Read more about Speakeasy Co. (formerly Thirty3Club) and check out a fun instructional video on their website to watch how to make on this citrusy sensation. 

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 6.14.38 PM

Ingredients

  • 1½ oz. Golden Bee (a honey sweetened grain neutral spirit from Ellensburg Distillery; substitute your favorite vodka)
  • ¾ oz. Lime Juice
  • ¾ oz. Pineapple Syrup
  • Candied Citrus Peels to garnish

Instructions

1. Using the jigger, measure the following and pour into the mixing glass:

– ¾ oz. lime juice
– ¾ oz. pineapple syrup
– 1 ½ oz. Golden Bee

2. Add ice to the mixing glass and place the shaker on top with a firm tap. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds, allowing the mixture to go from one end of the shaker to the other.

3. Separate the mixing glass by applying a firm tap where the glass and shaker are no longer flush.

4. Add ice to your rocks glass and use the Hawthorne strainer to strain the contents of the mixing glass into the rocks glass.

5. Take the candied citrus peels and sprinkle a few on top of your cocktail. Enjoy!

You might also enjoy:

  1. A similar flavor profile… Pineapple Vodka Limeades
  2. Honey-sweetened Gin Punch
  3. Another Speakeasy Co. cocktail, the Blood of the Scorpion
Share this post!

Bartender Know How: Using Lemon & Lime to Balance Cocktails

Citrus-Bartender-Know-How-Distillerista{ image via }

Ever wondered why almost every cocktail recipe on the planet (aside from direct, stirred booze-only drinks) calls for fresh lemon or lime juice? Speakeasy Co. has you covered with Citrus 101:

Cocktails, like most things, are all about balance. A great cocktail can take many different forms, but the one thing that unites all great cocktails is a perfect balance.

[Today], we’re going to talk the unsung heroes of the great cocktail; the unsexy, but necessary (and interesting!) supporting cast that enable it to be possible at all.

“Why is it always lemon and lime juice in cocktails? Why not strawberries? Why not do something new?”

This was a question put to me the other day by a novice bartender. Indeed, why is it that for every “shaken and refreshing” drink on every menu in town (as opposed to the “stirred and direct” drinks, with no juice or mixers at all) we always lean so heavily on lemon and lime for cocktail infrastructure?

The answer is deceptively simple, and instructive for anyone trying to make drinks at home: acidity.

Your [palate] can be engaged 5 ways: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory (umami), and the use of citrus recruits more of it. You may not be able (or willing) to drink gin on the rocks but you can drink a Tom Collins. The reason for that is because in a Collins, a big loud sweetener (sugar) matches up with a big loud acid (lemon), and their little balancing act provides misdirection for your tongue, essentially distracting you from the fact that alcohol would otherwise burn.

That is, in essence, the secret infrastructure of all shaken cocktails. A balance of two strong, opposing flavors, with alcohol on top of them as flavor.

Sours, as we call them, are the most satisfying drinks in the world. This is the same principle as lemonade and why it’s so refreshing. Have you ever noticed that Coca-Cola is very acidic? It’s because the acid (and the salt) balances the sweetness, and the whole thing is incredibly satisfying to drink. It’s also why coke, when added to rum, makes the bitter alcohol heat go away.

That’s why the majority of your favorite bar’s cocktail menu is devoted to drinks that have lemon and lime in them: because there aren’t many other ingredients that have the acidity required to make a sour. There are some — passionfruit, cumquats, vinegar, and a few others — but none have the versatility of our old friend citrus. Lemon and lime are cheap, and readily available, and they go with everything.

That’s why not strawberries. Not nearly enough acidity.

Distillerista-Speakeasy-Co-Citrus-BKH

{ This post first appeared on the Speakeasy Co. (formerly Thirty3Club) blog. }

If you’re looking to test out some sour-style cocktails at home, try my Lavender Gin Lemonade, Blood of the Scorpion or Pineapple Vodka Limeade

Share this post!

Summer Cherry Boulevardier

Distillerista-Cherry-Boulevardier-Header{ DOF glasses | stainless steel cocktail picks }

Nothing says summer quite like the first bags of cherries at the farmers market. I used to hoover through a bag a day as a kid and I have to say, my love for them has only grown stronger as I’ve grown older.

Although cherry season (in North America) begins in April and peaks in June, I’ve been enjoying this cocktail for months now thanks to Leopold Bros. Tart Cherry Liqueur. I use it in place of sweet vermouth in a typical Boulevardier recipe (my favorite whiskey cocktail) and garnish with a cherry or a few blueberries instead of the standard orange peel. These have been my go-to night cap all summer and honestly, I don’t think I ever want to go back to regular vermouth in my Boulevardiers again!

The Montmorency tart cherries Leopold Bros. uses in their liqueur keep the drink from being too saccharine while the jammy quality plays well off the bitter liquor. In effort to keep it all in the family, I used Leopold Bros. Aperitivo, which I reviewed here last week. If you’re wondering, I promise Leopold Bros. is not sponsoring this post in any way! I just happen to be a huge fan and always have at least one of their spirits in heavy rotation.

Given cherry season and my recent obsession with this twist on a classic, I thought 4th of July would be the perfect time to finally share this cocktail idea with you. Can you imagine sitting outside under the stars, watching fire works and sipping on one of these?! Talk about Independence Day #goals. Happy 4th, everyone.

Cherry Boulevardier. Makes one drink.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. In a mixing glass combine whiskey, bitter liquor and cherry liqueur. Add ice.
  2. Using a bar spoon stir for 20-30 seconds, keeping the back of the spoon flush with the inside of the glass.
  3. Using a hawthorne strainer, strain liquid into a rocks, DOF or coupe glass (large format ice cube optional)
  4. Garnish as desired and enjoy!

Distillerista-Cherry-Boulevardier-Insta

You might also like:

When to Stir and When to Shake

Whiskey Lemon Cocktails for a Crowd

Bartender Know-How: The Essential Bar Tools & Glassware

Share this post!

Product Review: BuzzBox

Distillerista-PR-Buzz-Boxes-Insta

One of my favorite things to do when I’m out shopping is peruse the spirit aisles at liquor or grocery stores. I like to look out for new products, existing spirits’ branding changes, new marketing campaigns, etc. It’s no secret that craft spirit brands are popping up left and right, but a separate alcoholic beverage category also currently sky-rocketing is the RTD (ready to drink) category. Think pre-packaged cocktails, bottled cocktail mixes, etc. that are specifically designed and packaged to be ready for consumption.

While RTDs are hugely popular in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, it could be argued they’ve never found a stable following in the states. However, thanks to break-out RTDs like Bud Light’s Lime-A-Ritas and SkinnyGirl bottled cocktails, it looks like America might finally be coming around to pre-mixed drinks.

While cruising through a Whole Foods a few weeks ago I stumbled upon these BuzzBoxes. Like most Americans (and certainly most craft cocktail fans), I usually wouldn’t touch a pre-mixed cocktail (in a box, no less) with a ten foot pole. For some reason the cute, compact packaging and cheeky “Shake it Baby!” slogan caught my eye that day and I just had to try them out.

I picked up the Perfect Margarita, Classic Greyhound and Extreme Coconut options but they have eight to choose from including Bloody Mary (couldn’t quite get my head around that one) and Whiskey Lemonade.

Here’s my honest take on each of the three…

Perfect Margarita… This was by far my favorite of the three. Not too sweet, great tequila flavor and the lime didn’t taste fake at all. I could definitely see myself sipping on one or two of these at the beach or packing them for a bike ride/picnic. I was particularly pleased with the strength of the margarita. I expected these to be pretty weak on the alcohol but all three actually had the perfect amount of bite. P.S. I snapped a few chats during this research process. Check it out below and please forgive my v amateur snap skills. More cocktails, cats and shenanigans at @laurakj11 :)

Classic Greyhound… This one was less impressive. Like I mentioned, the overall strength of the cocktail and the vodka flavor were on point but the grapefruit flavor came off as artificial. It also had a subtle but unpleasant aftertaste. I didn’t end up finishing this one.

Extreme Coconut Cocktail… I was optimistic about the simplicity of this one, – just vodka and coconut water – something I’ve whipped up myself before. Again, vodka strength and bite were sufficient. The coconut flavor was more pronounced than I’d expected but I didn’t hate it. I immediately wanted to pour it over ice, splash in some pineapple juice and call it a piña colada! I thoroughly enjoyed this one but in the future, I think I’d rather just mix my own vodka & coconut water.

Although this BuzzBox brand was hit-or-miss for me, the fact that I didn’t gag once has me looking forward to trying out a few more RTD brands this summer. With local brewing & sprits co. Ballast Point (recently acquired for a casual one billion) launching their line of canned cocktails just last year and several distilleries releasing barreled and bottled cocktails, I’m happy to say RTD culture might finally have legs this side of the pond!

What about you, have you tried any of these RTD products? If so, what’d you think? Let me know in the comments!

Distillerista-PR-Buzz-Boxes{ slate coasters }

 

You might also like:

Share this post!