Hibscus Greyhound

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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.

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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!

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Thank you to Hella Company for inspiring this post!

Spirit Review: KROBĀR Gin

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Introducing a new series, Distillerista Spirit Reviews! All spirits featured in this series are products I’ve personally purchased unless stated otherwise.

Product: KROBĀR Gin a.k.a. “Botanical Brandy,” as you see in the photo above, a descriptive name used to circumvent pesky California distilling license regulations.

Category: American Gin, but I find it leans a touch toward London Dry in terms of style

Distillery: KROBĀR Distillery of Paso Robles, CA

ABV: 87 Proof or 43.5%

Tasting Notes: Lots of warm spice – anise, cardamom, coriander – and well balanced juniper.

Ideal Cocktail Pairings: Any cocktail where you’d use a textbook London Dry. This gin has no shortage of big dried spice and botanical flavor. If full bodied, spicy London Drys are your thing, you’ll love it in a Martini.

Similar Products: Not much comes to mind, but it reminds me slightly of Portland, OR’s Aria Gin.

Final Thoughts: I find the anise and other spice notes a bit overwhelming. It’s worth noting however that I’m typically a fan of more citrus forward gins rather than big, dusty London Drys. If you love London Dry styles though, this gin would definitely be worth a try. Speaking of my tendency to reach for citrus forward gins, I recently infused the last bits of this KROBĀR gin with Meyer Lemon peels and end result was phenomenal. (Combine the peel of 3 Meyer lemons with roughly 25 oz gin and let sit for 5 days at room temp, giving a good shake daily.)

Whether or love gin or hate it, if you find yourself in Paso Robles you must stop by the KROBĀR distillery. Owners Stephen and Joe are lovely hosts and super knowledgeable wine business vets. They also have a Rye whiskey and a barrel aged version of this gin (which I LOVED) to try!

3 min read: A local news article highlighting the burgeoning craft distilling scene in Paso Robles + be sure to check out previous reviews of Leopold Bros. Aperitivo and Liberty Call White Rum.

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

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

Golden Citrus

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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!

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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. 

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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

Spirit Review: Liberty Call White Rum

Distillerista-Product-Review-LC-WRUM

Introducing a new series, Distillerista Spirit Reviews! All spirits featured in this series are products I’ve personally purchased to try unless stated otherwise.

Product: White Rum (A gift from distiller Bill Rogers!)

Distillery: Liberty Call Distilling Co. of Spring Valley, CA

Category: White/Silver/Unoaked Rums

ABV: 45% or 90 proof

Price: $25  (Find a bottle here.)

Tasting notes: Tons of stone fruit, especially apricot plus a healthy dose of tropical fruit on the nose and the finish – banana, pineapple, melon.

Ideal cocktail pairings: The tropical fruit notes beg for classics like a daiquiri or mojito and speaking of classics, I happen to love it in a Cuba Libre (classy name for a rum + coke). I also recommend it in my beet juice daiquiri.

Similar products: Other local rums Malahat and Old Harbor provide stiff competition but I have to say Liberty Call is my favorite of the three when it comes to white rum specifically.

Final thoughts: I don’t count myself as an avid rum drinker or connoisseur by any means but this rum makes me have second thoughts when I would otherwise reach for gin or vodka. I love the fruity sweetness and the tropical fruit notes it has thanks to Bill‘s Dunder pit fermentation system. If you’re not familiar, using a Dunder pit is a tactic (historically used by rum distillers in the Caribbean) where some of the mash is kept back from the batch each time and allowed to sit, ferment further and get super funky. The strawberry and banana flavors that come from this rarely used technique are out of this world!

3 min read: Great Rum Without Rotting Goat Heads, The Daily Beast (Interesting article on how one distiller was determined to match the fruitiness of dunder rum without using a dunder pit)

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{ You might also like: Beet Juice Daiquiri &  Distiller Interview: Bill Rogers of Liberty Call }

You’re Invited: Summer Pool Party at The Westgate Hotel

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For those of you in the San Diego area, I hope you’ll join me for a pool party on Saturday, August 13th at The Westgate Hotel downtown. The Westgate’s rooftop pool is straight up paradise and most importantly, the cocktails will be flowing thanks to resident mixologist Irving Gonzalez. Chef Fabrice Hardel will be serving up French Riviera-inspired dishes (in addition to a poolside seafood and raw bar) and DJ Aleko will be providing all the summer vibes. I look forward to meeting you!

Details and tickets here.

IMG_3619{ My co-hosts, from left to right: Kali, myself, Cecelia and Krystel }

IMG_3823IMG_3811-2{ All photos by Bryan Miller }

 

Bartender Know How: Using Lemon & Lime to Balance Cocktails

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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.

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{ 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

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!

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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

Product Review: BuzzBox

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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 }

 

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