Join Distillerista for a Holiday Happy Hour!

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Calling all San Diego friends: We’re co-hosting a Holiday Happy Hour with Vocabulary Boutique this Friday, December 18th! Please join us for shopping discounts and specialty cocktails crafted by yours truly featuring local San Diego spirits. Enjoy a festive drink, finish up that last bit of holiday shopping and support local entrepreneurs – what could be better?! Hope to see you there!

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Holiday Happy Hour Details:

When: Friday December 18th 5:30-7pm

Where: Vocabulary Boutique – 414 West Cedar Street San Diego, CA 92101 – in the heart of Little Italy!

What: Festive Distillerista Craft Cocktails & Shopping Discounts!

Distillerista Holiday Gift Guide 2015

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I love skimming through the gift guides featured in/on my favorite magazines and blogs during the holiday season. I almost always find the perfect thing for that someone – or myself! – amongst the glossy and carefully curated lists of ideas. Considering gift giving for most can be excruciatingly difficult – myself included – I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring this season and feature a few of my favorite things. While I usually prefer to give simple but thoughtful homemade gifts like infused vodkas, liqueurs or baked treats, I can’t imagine any of my loved ones being mad at one of these gems showing up in his or her stocking this year. Enjoy!

1. Carry On Champagne Cocktail Kit. The latest in a series of DIY craft cocktail kits for the frequent flier. By W & P Design. Also available: Moscow Mule, Old Fashioned and Gin & Tonic. $24 each.

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2. Jonathan Adler Bourbon Pop Candle. The gorgeous reusable bronze vase/tumbler is worth the price alone, not to mention the rich and moody scent! Also available: Vodka & Champagne. $42 each.

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3. The prettiest Apple, Plum and Cinnamon Cordial from the UK’s Belvoir Fruit Farms. Makes a stunning Hot Toddy when paired with red wine, whiskey or rum. You’re welcome. $15.

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4. The cutest Animal Shot Glass Set that made this year’s list of Oprah’s favorite things. $50 for a s/o 5.

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5. Have you been naughty or nice? Keep ’em guessing with this sweet Moscow Mule Simple Syrup Duo, $26.

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6. An Imbibe Magazine Subscription. For the booze nerd in your life. $20.

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7. The PERFECT Manhattan Cocktail Cherries. By Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. $16.

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8. St. George Spirits Gin Gift Set. Enjoy a tasting flight of St. George’s three signature gins. Throw in a 4-pack of Fever Tree Tonic and you’ve got the perfect hostess gift. $32.

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9. Festive & seasonal Mulberry Gin. So much better than just giving a bottle of wine plus, THAT LABEL THO! $27.

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10. Elegant Blush Stone Coasters with an on-trend brass stripe. $39 for a s/o 4.

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P.S. Be sure to check out my favorite fall bar accessories for more great gift-giving ideas! Happy Holidays!

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Three Big Batch Cocktails to Please ALL the Relatives

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{ All photos by Megan Burgess }

Umm, real question: How is Thanksgiving only two days away? If you’re anything like me you still haven’t been to the market, nor are you particularly sold on what to make! We’re having Thanksgiving with some family friends this year and I’m in charge of the stuffing and the cocktails (typical). Lucky for me, I’ve at least got the drinks on lock and you can too! Below are three of my favorite big batch cocktail recipes. Scroll down for simple to make, crowd-pleasing batched drinks for a group that will surely get the conversation flowing this holiday!

Gin-Punch-Distillerista-Pour{ Fresh, Herbaceous Gin Punch }

1. Grapefruit Lavender Gin Punch. Guys. This is the definition of crowd-pleasers. I’ve made this drink for so many parties and get-togethers now, I can’t keep track. It gets tons of compliments and we ALWAYS run out so I’ll casually suggest double batching. If you’re guests appreciate pretty drinks and/or you’re fortunate enough to spend the holiday in a mild climate, this is the Thanksgiving drink for your crew. P.S. Swap half the lavender for rosemary to create a more seasonally-appropriate version. Your craft cocktail snob cousin will surely approve.

2. Luke’s Bourbon Cocktail. This is one of those drinks that’s just a leeeetle bit dangerous. The cider and citrus juices create an oh-so-easy to drink cocktail but beware, the Bourbon comes back to bite! Make this if you want to get Grandma a little tipsy. Also, the fall spices make for a balanced, fall-appropriate treat. Even your “I-only-drink-IPAs” brother will love this one.

Tray of Cocktails{ Big Batch Bourbon Cocktails }

3. Red Sangria. We all know Pinot Noir is a textbook wine pairing for turkey. Spice it up a little with some fresh winter citrus, cranberry or raspberry liqueur and sparkling water. It’s a great way to stretch a buck and who doesn’t like sippin’ on a little Sangria?! Just make sure Mom and the aunties don’t drink it all.

Distillerista-Sangria-Recipe{ Red Sangria }

As a holiday bonus, here are a few more of my favorite Thanksgiving-appropriate cocktails from around the web!

The Harvest Sparkle | Fed + Fit

Pear Rosemary Cocktails | Colorful Eats

Spiced Pear Mule | The Kitchy Kitchen

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Into It… Fall Bar Accessories

 

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It’s well known I have a bit of bar cart obsession and with fall finally here, I’m feeling a revamp. Here are eight chic bar accessories updates I’m currently coveting.

Fall-Bar-Accessories-Distillerista-1{ 1. Gilded Plume Bottle Opener | $7, Anthro ON SALE! }

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{ 2. The coolest knotted branch bar tool set | $78, Anthro }

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{ Nifty acacia wood Orb Bar Tool Set | $1-10, Crate & Barrel ON SALE! }

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{ Kitchy but cute “May You Never…” Shot Glasses (S/o 4) | $29, Pigment }

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{ A copper-topped Bitters Bottle would be the perfect vessel for homemade syrups | $35, Pigment }

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{ Love my Mason Shaker but this Copper Cocktail Shaker is on point | $25, Crate & Barrel }

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{ Gorgeous vintage Jadeite Cocktail Tumblers (S/o 4) | $50, One Kings Lane }

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{ The prettiest Metallic Lace Cocktail Glasses (S/o 4) | $29, One Kings Lane }

Hope you enjoyed this round up! What are your favorite spots to look for new barware? Tell me in the comments below!

Basil 95 // Vocabulary Boutique

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{ La Fete Flutes | $20 each, 10% off for a set of 6 }

We’ve had quite a few things to celebrate as of late (my Artisan Spirit Mag feature, finally naming the distillery! & our first two test batches of gin turned out really really well) so it’s only appropriate that we wrap up a couple of successful weeks by sharing our second collaboration with Vocabulary Boutique: a simple champagne cocktail I’ve coined the Basil 95, paired perfectly with chic, gilded stemless champagne flutes.

Champagne cocktails are the easiest things to make and deliver major wow factor with seriously minimal effort. Anytime a cork is popped and a glass is topped off with bubbles, you know good times are in order. This recipe in particular is a cinch to make and even easier to drink. Basil-infused honey simple syrup and Cava – dry Spanish sparkling wine – create the perfect celebratory cocktail. But the best thing about this recipe is that it can be easily adapted to any season or occasion. Just swap out the basil for another herb or flavor vehicle (orange peel! ginger root! loose leaf tea!) and you’ve got a festive and customizable drink for a crowd.

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Basil 95 Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch basil honey simple syrup (*recipe to follow)
  • 1 bottle Cava or your favorite dry sparkling wine
  • fresh basil leaves to garnish

Directions:

  1. Make basil honey simple syrup.
  2. Fill each glass with .5 oz simple syrup or more, to taste.
  3. Top carefully with sparkling wine, allowing time for bubbles to subside and topping off again.
  4. Garnish each glass with a basil leaf.

*Basil honey simple syrup: Combine 1 cup raw local honey and 1 cup water in a small sauce pan and stir over medium low heat until honey fully dissolves. Remove from heat and add a handful of fresh basil. Let basil steep as the syrup cools. Once completely cool strain into glass jar or bottle and store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

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Pro-tip: tilt the glass and pour the sparkling wine so that the stream of liquid hits the angled edge of the glass, just below the lip and not the bottom of the glass. This keeps the bubbles in check and helps prevent the wine from bubbling over.

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Aren’t these gilded stemless champagne flutes the sweetest?! A set of 2 or 4 would make the perfect hostess gift this holiday season.

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Incase you missed it: our first Vocabulary collaboration, the Gold Rush (above photo, left)

Basil-95-Distillerista-5{ All photos by Krisnoff Photography }

Want to see more of Vocabulary Boutique? Check out the boutique blog here!

To purchase any of the items you see in this post please email Cecelia at VocabularyBoutique@gmail.com

{Classy} Long Island Iced Tea + Craft Cocktails Book Review

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When I think of a Long Island Iced Tea I’m immediately reminded of my senior year of high school and our spring break trip to Cabo. Ten or so friends and I were somehow allowed to run loose in Cabo for a week with questionably minimal adult supervision #ThanksMom. There were several Long Islands involved over the course of said week, as well as the infamous blue-hued drink that goes by the acronym AMF. It’s safe to say my present day drinking habits have matured a bit and I definitely wouldn’t associated the Long Island Iced Tea with upscale craft cocktail culture. Craft Cocktails – a popular cocktail recipe book/collaboration by a handful of ultra-talented bartenders  – has in fact managed to change that with author Brian Van Flandern’s grown up version, aptly named “Drink Responsibly.”

The book was a sweet gift from a friend and while it’s a gorgeous piece of eye candy, the drinks are pretty complex and require several ingredients each. Most of which I either don’t necessarily keep on hand all the time or wouldn’t be down to splurge on an entire bottle of just for one cocktail. Funny enough, this version of a Long Island was the only drink in the book I had all the components for.

Basically a gussied-up version of a Long Island Iced Tea but slightly less alcoholic, the Drink Responsibly is more balanced than it’s rowdy cousin and yet still packs a punch. Like I mentioned, it incurs a long list of ingredients so make sure you have a well stocked bar before attempting this project of a cocktail. Makes 1 drink.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 1/4 oz Grand Marnier or your favorite orange liqueur
  • 1/2 oz Ketel One or your favorite vodka
  • 1/4 oz Tanqueray No. 10 or your favorite gin
  • 1/4 oz Don Julio Blanco or your favorite tequila
  • 1/4 oz Oronoco or your favorite rum
  • 1 oz Gus Dry Cola (I substituted with Live Soda)

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients except soda in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass.
  2. Add ice and shake vigorously.
  3. Strain into a highball filled with fresh ice, top with soda and garnish with a lemon wedge. Enjoy!

Classy-Long-Island-Distillerista{ My lineup: Cointreau, Tanqueray No. 10, Casamigos, Hangar 1, Live Soda Cola & Flor de Cana }

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{ All photos by Megan Burgess }

Artisan Spirit Feature + Distillery Name Unveil

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Artisan Spirit Magazine‘s fall issue has arrived and it includes a timely and relevant article, How To Get Into Distilling Without Having to Own the Joint, featuring yours truly! Click here to flip through the digital issue and head to page 101 for the full story.

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Spoiler alert! We’ve officially given our upcoming operation a name: YOU & YOURS DISTILLING CO. I’ll be unveiling the logo and other creative, plus the inspiration behind the moniker soon so stay tuned!

Thanks a million, zillion times to the wonderful Jeanne Runkle for including me in this piece! Check out more of her work here and here.

Gold Rush // Vocabulary Boutique

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My first part time job in college was at one of my favorite neighborhood shops: Vocabulary Boutique. Located in Little Italy, Vocabulary offers mens and women’s apparel, stationary, gifts, baby things and home decor, (including these adorable gold tumblers!). It’s literally a one-stop shop for everything, including both a last minute gift and a new outfit you need for that party. Although I no longer work for owner and proprietor Cecelia Church, she’s become a dear friend over the years. We’ve been planning a few blog collaborations ever since I launched Distillerista so stay tuned for more posts like this one where we pair some of Vocabulary’s gorgeous barware with a cocktail recipe. And be sure to scroll down to the end of the post to learn more about Cecelia and Vocabulary Boutique!

Gold-Rush-Distillerista-6{ Gold Leaf Tumblers | $18 each }

On a recent trip to visit Cecelia at Vocabulary, I couldn’t get over these gorgeous tumblers with a textured gold band around the bottom. They seemed like just the perfect vessel for a lazy but elevated late-night whiskey cocktail and this Gold Rush certainly fits the bill. On weeknights when we want a pick-me-up, Luke makes a double batch of these after dinner. They’re so easy and quick to prepare, making them the ideal nightcap to accompany our recent Narcos binges.

Gold-Rush-Distillerista-1{ Locally Made Hexagon Bamboo Cutting Board | $34 }

Makes 1 drink | Inspired by an old Seven Grand cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz your favorite Bourbon
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp raw local honey, or to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients in a shaker and dry shake (no ice) for a good 30 seconds until the honey incorporates thoroughly. It helps if all ingredients are at room temp.
  2. Add ice and shake for an additional 15-20 seconds or until the entire outside of the shaker is cold to the touch.
  3. Strain into a DOF or rocks glass – whiskey cube optional – and enjoy!

Gold-Rush-Distillerista-Insta Gold-Rush-Distillerista-5 Gold-Rush-Distillerista-4  { Sugar Paper “Cheers” Coasters | $36 for a set of 10 }

Cecelia’s background is in theatre set design so it should come as no surprise that her store is decorated and merchandised immaculately. Every time I walk in she’s added yet another sweet, special touch. With new arrivals arriving almost daily, it’s my favorite place in San Diego to find unique pieces I won’t see half my friends wearing and conversation-starting pieces for my home. If you’re a San Diego resident and haven’t checked out Vocabulary yet, please do! I dare you to leave empty-handed. To purchase any of the items featured in this post email Cecelia at VocabularyBoutique@gmail.com. 

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{ All photos by Krisnoff Padua }

P.S. Check out Vocabulary Boutique’s blog, The Blah Blah Blah for more photos and inspiration!

Summer Drink Diary

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I’ve been obsessed with PUNCH, an “online magazine focused on narrative journalism – both written and visual – about wine, beer and cocktails” (as taken from their website) for a while now and when I read this article I knew I wanted to do something similar here on Distillerista. Having been in or trying to break into the wine and spirits industry for a few years now, I’ve spent a looooot of time either loitering at or working in bars and restaurants. And since visiting popular cocktail bars and making friends with talented bartenders and beverage directors is all part of the “job” when you’re a start up distiller, I enjoy sharing their work! So on that note, I’m taking my beloved PUNCH’s lead and starting a new series, Drink Diaries! From time to time I’ll corral my amateur iPhone snaps and heavily filtered Instagrams and clue you in on what I’ve been sipping lately. I hope you enjoy!

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Weekend Brunch // These lovelies were from a fun weekend brunch at The Patio on Goldfinch in the Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego. It’s been a while but pretty sure the one on the left was the Germain Champagne (St. Germain, mint and bubbles) and the right was the Brown Derby (Bourbon, grapefruit and honey).

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Date Night // Thanks to our friend and fellow distiller Michael Skubic for introducing us to the ultra-charming Jayne’s Gastropub! Jayne’s has become our go-to date night spot thanks to their super cute outdoor patio, a gorgeous menu of updated British classics and some really solid cocktails and wines. Sipping on an Old Harbor Southwestern Gin Gimlet (front) of course, and a Pepino Ricardo (cucumber-infused tequila, lime juice, simple syrup and soda).

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Dinner in South Bay // This was probably my favorite cocktail of the summer, retro Manhattan Beach steakhouse Arthur J‘s The Long Goodbye. I hate carrots but am weirdly a huge fan of a carrot-lime-gin combo and this version was spot on. It was basically a gimlet of sorts with Ballast Point’s Old Grove Gin, lime, turmeric, fresh carrot juice and cardamom with a thyme sprig for garnish. So pretty and floral and refreshing. The perfect start to an indulgent meal.

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Drink-Diary-Bracero

Opening Night // As Little Italy residents and frequenters of the Valle de Guadalupe, we’d been counting the days until Baja’s current darling, Chef Javier Plascencia, opened his latest stateside establishment, Bracero, just a couple blocks away. We snagged a rez on opening night and were blown away by the service, decor and (most impressively) the consistency and flawless execution of nearly every dish we ordered. This is unheard of for a new restaurant on opening night, particularly in San Diego (sad but true), so Bracero deserves all the snaps for this one. I couldn’t resist the Agua Chile, made with fresh watermelon, Campari, St. George Spirits Green Chile Vodka and a sweet little watermelon radish on top.

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Post-Padres Snack // We usually stay away from Nobu considering Luke worked there for years, but it was just too tempting when craving a little bite to eat after a Padres game at Petco Park. I fell straight back into my old ways – Champagne 95 please and keep ’em coming (peach schnapps, orange liqueur, pineapple puree and bubbles).

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Kiwi Invasion // We had some of our favorite Kiwi friends in town for a long weekend this past summer and had a very blurry but incredibly fun few days showing them around our favorite spots.  We couldn’t resist taking them to Kettner Exchange‘s rooftop patio and partaking in a few Diego by the Bays (gin, grapefruit, lemon, rhubarb bitters and soda).

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Working Lunch // A particularly successful meeting called for a celebratory two-margarita lunch last month. Puesto at The Headquarters makes some of my favorite and the strawberry one is fruity and tart without being too sweet.

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Barçon Cocktail Co. Launch // I’ve been a MIHO Gastrotruck (San Diego’s coolest food truck) fan ever since they used to park next to the office I interned at in college every Friday! In addition to the famed truck they now have an incredibly successful catering company, The Vetted Table, and have recently launched a cocktail arm as well, Barçon Cocktail Co.! The team behind the parent company, A MIHO Experience, threw a brilliant dim-sum style cocktail hour last month at one of San Diego’s coolest bars, Sycamore Den. Our favorite was the Cracked Cucumber: Vodka, St. Germain, lime, soda and fresh cracked black pepper. We’ve been making them at home on repeat ever since!

 

I hope this Drink Diary was a fun read. Be sure to follow Distillerista on Instagram for more drink-related snaps and please tag YOUR cocktail ‘grams with #Distillerista so I can see what you’re sipping on too! 

BEE STINGER Cocktail + Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book Review

Bee-Stinger-HeaderWe officially say goodbye to summer tomorrow and I just couldn’t let the season pass without one more calendar-appropriate drink recipe. This one, cleverly named the Bee Stinger, comes from The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book. I was fortunate enough to study under several incredible Kentucky distillers and other local industry professionals during the time I spent in Louisville last year, and one person in particular I loved meeting was Joy Perrine. Joy is the spunky, wildly knowledgeable co-author of The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book and was kind enough to give us a copy. She’s been bartending in Louisville, KY for more than five decades, was named Esquire magazine’s “Bad Girl of Bourbon,” and is an absolute legend in the Kentucky Bourbon world.

I learned so much from Joy beyond just how to make delicious Bourbon cocktails. She graciously clued me in on little things I hadn’t thought of before, i.e. why you should keep your bottle heights under a 11-12 inches so bartenders can easily fit them on their shelves, how you should avoid any hanging tags or neck hangers on your bottles (they only annoy bartenders and bar backs who need to restock quickly) and that you should have a heavy enough bottomed bottle so as not to knock over easily, but not so heavy that bartenders have trouble pouring from a fresh bottle. These small but super useful facts came in handy when picking out glass for our spirits.

Joy’s book is a Bourbon lover’s dream. It contains tons of seasonal Bourbon cocktails that run the entire flavor profile spectrum – sweet, tart, savory, bitter, and everything in between. She’s also a huge believer that cocktail recipe books for the home mixologist shouldn’t call for a ton of fancy or expensive ingredients i.e. hard to find liqueurs, mixers, etc. so if you have a relatively well stocked home bar, chances are you have everything you need to make most of the cocktails in this book (or could very easily find the missing ingredients).

The Bee Stinger caught my eye because it seemed like a simple summer-appropriate application for Bourbon, but also because it’s very similar to a drink Luke loves called a Gold Rush (recipe post here!). The recipe here calls for Wild Turkey 101 (I substituted with some Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon I had on hand but your favorite Bourbon will do just fine) and Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur. I happened to have a baby bottle of Honey Jack laying around, most likely a straggling stocking stuffer from Christmas’ past, that I used in place of the Wild Turkey Liqueur, but any honey-flavored whiskey on the market will surely do the trick. Along with Limoncello (used my friend Jeramiah’s homemade limoncello!) the drink also calls for honey sticks to garnish. You can find these thin plastic tubes of honey at your grocer, or ideally your local farmer’s market, but a drizzle of honey over the final product is a simple short cut.

Bee-Stinger-What-you-Will-NeedBee Stinger | Makes 1 drink

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz Wild Turkey 101 or your favorite Bourbon
  • .75 oz Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur or your favorite honey-flavored whiskey spirit
  • .75 oz Limoncello check out Jeramiah’s recipe for homemade limoncello from his blog The Hungry Wandering Surfer!
  • Honey sticks to garnish
  • Lemon wedge to garnish

Directions:

Combine all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously until the entire outside of the shaker is cold to the touch. Strain and garnish with lemon wedge and two honey sticks. Sipper will open sticks and pour contents into the drink. Include a small straw for stirring.

Bee-Stinger-KY-Cocktail-Book   { The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book by Joy Perrine & Susan Reigler }

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Bee-Stinger-Craft-Cocktail-Recipe

{ All photos by Megan Burgess }