Fall Fandango

The Fall Fandango Silver rum, Applejack, stout beer syrup, cardamom & chocolate bitters, and apple Pok Pok

The Fall Fandango
Silver rum, Applejack, stout beer syrup, cardamom & chocolate bitters, and apple Pok Pok

This rum based cocktail combines my favorite flavors of fall: apples, coffee, chocolate, and rum. Yum!

The Fall Fandango

1.5 oz white rum (I used Sugar House Distilling’s Silver Rum)

0.75 oz Laird’s Applejack

0.75 oz chocolate-coffee stout syrup*

0.5 oz Pok Pok apple sipping vinegar

2 dashes cardamom bitters

2 dashes chocolate bitters

tiny splash of seltzer

To a mixing glass filled with ice, add all ingredients. Stir for 50 revolutions. Strain into a highball glass over a bigass ice cube infused with some cacao nibs (about ¼ tsp per cube). Splash in a teaspoon or two of seltzer. Garnish with thin apple slices. Drizzle apple slices with a little more of the beer syrup.

Chocolate coffee stout beer syrup

Chocolate coffee stout beer syrup

*To make beer syrup: to a heavy non-reactive saucepan, add 2 cups of beer. For this cocktail, I used Epic Brewing’s Big Bad Baptist, a stout beer made with cacao and coffee and finished in whiskey barrels. I know, it seems a shame to make syrup out of this amazing beer, but it’s worth it! Bring the beer to a slight boil over med-high heat, then reduce heat to med-low, stir often to prevent scorching, and simmer until the beer is reduced by half (about 30 minutes). Remove from the heat, and cool for about 5-10 minutes at room temp. Add 1 cup raw (turbinado or demerara) sugar and keep stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Cool completely to room temp, pour the syrup into a lidded jar, and refrigerate until ready to use. It’ll keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.  


The story behind the drink….

About a year and a half ago, I got a call from a colleague who works in philanthropy for a local museum. They were putting together live auction items for their annual gala, and for one item they were planning an “Ultimate Chocolate Experience” private VIP dinner, since the museum had just launched a wildly successful visiting Chocolate exhibit (for which I’d written a promo piece for my other gig at cityhomeCOLLECTIVE). They asked if I’d be willing to create a chocolate-themed original cocktail for the event, to which I replied “Hell, yes!” That’s right up my alley: kind of a H.O.A.G.Y (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) assignment on a meta level.

Long story short, some of my dear friends bid on the item and won. With everyone’s crazy busy lives, we finally saw all the stars align and had the dinner for 16 guests last weekend. It was amazing! The talented and generous folks at Millcreek Cacao Roasters provided some of their superb chocolate (really, the quality and sourcing are top notch) for the building blocks of many of my recipes. Luckily, there was a bit left over for me to eat straight from the bar!

This lucky duck is looking over my Oaxaca Old Fashioned during the very important R & D phase of my chocolate cocktail assignment

This lucky duck is looking over my Oaxaca Old Fashioned during the very important R & D phase of my chocolate cocktail assignment

I made the “Fall Fandango” rum-based cocktail using a lot of locally sourced ingredients, and it was far and away the crowd favorite. I also offered a “Oaxaca Old Fashioned” using a shot of cacao nib infused rye, ½ tsp raw sugar, a barspoon of pomegranate grenadine, and 3-4 dashes mole bitters; served over a bigass ice ball, and garnished with a candied orange slice drizzled with some Millcreek Cacao 70% chocolate (and yes, those chocolate candied oranges are insane on their own. Only 2 out of 3 made it into my cocktail kit – the others ‘mysteriously’ disappeared during my kids’ quality control check).

There are always folks who appreciate a non-alcohol option, and it’s been my point as a host to make some effort to serve a drink made with as much detail and care as the boozy crowd gets on the regular. I made a zingy and refreshing spritzer (recipe below).

Me serving up the NA spritzer. Finish it up with a straw and a chocolate drizzled candied orange slice for garnish.

Me serving up the NA spritzer. Finish it up with a straw and a chocolate drizzled candied orange slice for garnish.

Blood Orange & Chocolate Spritzer

To a tall glass filled with ice add:

0.5 oz Pok Pok blood orange sipping vinegar

3-4 dashes chocolate bitters

1 barspoon pomegranate grenadine

Stir well to combine all ingredients, and fill to the rim with seltzer (about 3-4 ounces). Serve with a straw. Garnish with a chocolate drizzled candied orange slice.


Shake Your Razz

A big sassy drink brimming with raspberries and rye, this is a terrific cocktail for pre-batching to serve a crowd. Perfect for tailgating and picnics!

Shake Your Razz. Thanks to my girlfriend Pink Lady for coming over to be my drinks research partner/hand model.

Shake Your Razz. Thanks to my girlfriend Pink Lady for coming over to be my drinks research partner/hand model.

Shake Your Razz

To a pint mason jar add:

2-3 basil leaves

3-4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

1.5 oz. raspberry-champagne vinegar shrub*

1.5 oz. black sun tea

0.5 oz. Disaronno

2 oz. rye whiskey

Fill jar almost to the top with ice, screw on the lid, and shake shake shake it like a Polaroid picture. Fill with more ice, if needed and serve with a straw.

*a cold shrub with a ratio of 6 parts fresh raspberries, 6 parts baker’s sugar, and 5 parts champagne vinegar (7% acid min.) by weight. Macerate for 48-72 hours and strain to remove solids.

The story behind the drink…

We’ve chatted about shrubs on this here blog before, as they’re dead easy to make with whatever you’ve got on hand. Shrubs are something I like to throw together as I’m going through fruits and vegetables during canning: the perfect specimens go into the canning jars, the moldy bits go into the chicken-feed bowl, and the bruised and banged-up pieces go into another bowl to be made into shrubs. Since all of my shrub recipes use pretty basic ratios by weight, it doesn’t matter how much or little fruit you end up with, as long as you’ve put enough acid in the ratio. Raspberries have a notoriously short window of ideal preservation; it seems like about a third of every package are a goopy mess. Perfect for making shrubs.

I was super honored to have my girlfriend Lime Rickey invite me over last weekend to co-host a party she threw for a cocktail club here in town run by SLC boozy blogger Chelsea (better known as Heartbeat Nosh). Her cocktail club is fancy, y’all. They have dues and a calendar going out for a whole year, and they are all very young, hip, tattooed mommy bloggers with Pinterest-worthy sponsorships and fabulous shit like that. The bar was set HIGH, and I was definitely the oldest and least inked gal in the room. And since when I get nervous my voice gets even higher and more twangy than usual (think Wynonna Judd channeling Minnie Mouse- it ain’t pretty), the ladies were a very tolerant group for me goin’ on and on about how much I love shrubs. And whiskey. They’re a hilarious and fun group of gals; check out their collective Instagram feed at #hbncocktailclub for some great ideas.

I chose this cocktail to shake up for them for three reasons: 1) I thought they might want to learn a bit about shrubs, ’cause they’re freakin’ awesome, 2) it’s easy to pre-batch for a crowd, and 3) it’s fun and pretty and requires a bit of audience participation, which is always a hit in my book.

It also happens to be pretty damn delicious: the amaretto gives a nice mellow sweet base note, where rye’s spicy kick (use at least 95 proof for this one) comes right through the zing of the shrub. Peychaud’s bitters keep the color bright and add a nice licorice tickle to keep things interesting, even as the drink gets watered down a bit. Black tea adds body and volume to this boozy drink without clouding the flavors, making it a great session cocktail. This is a primo drink for tailgating parties or picnics, since you can pre-mix all the ingredients in individual mason jars for shaking AND serving, load them all right back into the cardboard carriers by the dozen. Just add ice and a straw when you get to your party spot. Bring a few backup ingredients to mix refills on site and you are golden, my friends. I’ve made this exact same drink swapping out apricot, peach, or pear shrubs for the raspberry and they’re all pretty delightful. Try using mint, tarragon, or rosemary instead of basil, too. It’s all good.


Drinks by the Gallon: Manhattans and Prairie Punch

As part of my Cocktails 101 series over at the cityhomeCOLLECTIVE blog, I recently wrote a history/rant on that gorgeous hit of rye, The Manhattan. For this very tough and hard-hitting bit of research, I spent an afternoon chatting and drinking with bartender extraordinaire Amy Eldridge at the classic Salt Lake watering hole, Bar X. Somebody’s gotta do it. Quite a few folks have been asking me lately about drinks by the pitcher or punch bowl for a crowd over the holidays, so here are a couple of my standards: one is for Manhattans pre-made in the freezer, the other for a citrusyManhattans at Bar X punch that you need to plan about a day of lead time for to make the classic oleo saccharum (“oil sugar”). Both with whiskey, of course!

Manhattans by the Gallon This edition of “How to get your family shitfaced in large batches” courtesy of Amy Eldridge. Perfect for the holidays!

1) Take a very large freezer-safe pitcher or hefty gallon jug, and fill it with:

one bottle sweet vermouth

two bottles rye whiskey

and the equivalent of one bottle filtered water

2) Put upright in the freezer for at least a couple of hours or overnight [it won’t freeze because of all of the alcohol, but may get a little slushy].

3) Portion out cocktails directly into chilled glasses as needed, with a couple of dashes of bitters dropped into each glass first, and a cherry garnish to finish. Or, fill a pretty glass pitcher with the booze and one of those wicked cool ice insert thingies so your Manhattans stay icy cold without getting diluted. Let your guests serve themselves until you call them a cab and boot their ass to the curb. Cheers!

High West Prairie Punch

Prairie Punch: perfect with cheese and savory snacksFinca’s bar man Scott Gardner resurrects the concept of an artisanal punch in this recipe, harkening back to the time when every bar or local watering hole worth its salt had a proprietary and exclusive house punch.   The traditional oleo saccharum (“oil sugar”) preparation takes some lead-time to assemble, but is worth the effort to create a well-blended traditional punch. Here’s his recipe, which makes A LOT (good for a party of 20 or more guests):

1) At least two hours, or up to one day ahead, prepare oleo saccarum by gently muddling 8 oz. granulated sugar and the peels of 6 lemons.

2) After the sugar has turned to a syrup/paste consistency, add 6 oz. lemon juice, stir to combine, and let sit for an additional 30 minutes.

3) Strain out the lemon peels from the mixture and discard

4) In a large punch bowl (or two pitchers), combine:

  • lemon sugar
  • 1 bottle (apprx 25 oz.) High West American Prairie Reserve bourbon
  • 40 oz. cold water
  • ½ oz. angostura bitters
  • Just before serving, add ice to chill your punch
  • Float 8 oz. brut cava on top of the punch
  • Garnish with lemon wheels and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg
  • Note from A Bourbon Gal: Lovely served in shallow ‘coupe’ stemmed glasses

For more punch recipes made the old, old fashioned way [um, not with 7up and floating sherbet], check out David Wondrich’s history of the flowing bowl, Punch [Penguin 2010].

Shrub lovin’ (and a Cherry-lime Rickey)

Love That Homemade Shrub

Before we get into how to make your own shrubs, I’m hoping to inspire y’all with a cocktail. I recently made this one for my gal Woodford on the rocks as a long-distance birthday cheers. It’s like an upscale Sonic soda, or a cherry lime rickey. But boozier (I’m not going to say ‘better,” too, but it’s implied).

Cheery Cherry Lime Rye Rickey

Cheery Cherry Lime Rye Rickey

Cherry-Lime Rye Rickey

2 oz. rye whiskey [or bourbon]

1.5 oz. cherry-red wine vinegar shrub [recipe, below]

Juice of ½ lime

2 oz. club soda

Mint, spanked [for garnish]

Add all ingredients to a rocks glass over ice. Stir briefly (and gently) to combine without making the soda foam up. Easy peasy!

Now, y’all have probably seen lots of folks using ‘cleanse’ concoctions containing more or less the following components: water, lemon, cinnamon, some kind of sweetener [honey, agave, sorghum, sugar], and vinegar. You may even be a proponent of this stuff, yourself. The proportions differ, and everybody’s got their own soapbox about why this kind of vinegar or that works best. Or why sugar is poison, so you should only use honey. Unless you are vegan [yikes, sorry] in which case agave is the way to go. Now, if you like drinking this stuff that tastes IMHO like watered-down cat piss on a regular basis in the name of ‘cleansing,’ go right on ahead. Go, you! I doubt if it does much harm guzzling these things, and I could certainly use a bout of fasting every so once in a while. But since I’m neither a nutritionist, nor in any way a medical professional, I’m not going to touch talking ‘bout health benefits with a ten foot pole.

What’s interesting about this craze to me, though, is that it’s a recipe very close to a centuries-old tonic called a “shrub,” which Slow Food USA

Cherry Basil shrub with pink peppercorns and red wine vinegar - terrific with gin cocktails

Cherry Basil shrub with pink peppercorns and red wine vinegar – terrific with gin cocktails

claims on their “Ark of Taste” comes from the Arabic word sharab = to drink. Back in the day, folks made shrubs out of all kinds of past-its-prime shit to preserve fruits and their delicious nutrition-packed juices over the winter. By combining equal parts fruit, sweet, and vinegar [e.g. acid], they were essentially pickling the fruit in syrup form. Straining out the solids after a few days of percolating further extended the shrub’s shelf life. Let it sit out exposed to cool air, and all kinds of friendly bacteria joined the fermenting party, making for an even more flavorful—and some would claim beneficial—brew. Eventually you get a very fruity sweet-tart shelf-stable vinegar. In addition to not being a medical professional, I’m also not a chemist, so I’m going to defer to all those food scientists out there who throw around words like acidulation and acetobactator to explain how all of this works. I am a historian, so this is what I do know: Since this was all before refrigerators [and even before reliable canning], shrubs gave folks a burst of summer fruit flavor to mix up a winter diet filled with root vegetables and dried everything else.

Back in the day, shrubs got mixed in with hot water and brandy or rum to make flavorful toddies in the winter, or with colder equivalents in the summer to make the perfect sweet-tart refresher. Nowadays, you’ll see superbly mustachioed intimidatingly hip bartenders breaking out custom shrubs all over the place. But they’re dead easy to make at home, and following the recipes I’ve used—which are based on weight rather than volume, so you can make as much or as little as you want depending on what you’ve got ready to toss out—you can whip them up pretty quickly. I love ‘em in cocktails, but they also make a freakin’ spectacular NA spritzer when mixed over ice with a few glugs of club soda and a couple of tablespoons of shrub. See, the ‘cleanse’ recipe just got about a million times better. Right?

Mix strawberry-rhubarb shrub with equal parts bourbon and club soda for a pretty and pretty frickin' delicious cooler

Mix strawberry-rhubarb shrub with equal parts bourbon and club soda for a pretty and pretty frickin’ delicious cooler

M’kay, let’s get shrubbin.

The Fruit: Pretty much any “juicy” fruit will work. Strawberries, strawberry-rhubarb combo, berries of any sort, apricots, peaches, cherries, or pomegranates. You can make them with ‘sweet’ veggies like sugar snap peas, carrots, or beets (just juice them and use the juice by weight). These have all made an appearance in Mason jars stashed all over my house. As long as the fruit is clean and free of moldy spots, it can be smushy, ugly, and unpeeled. I don’t even pit the cherries or apricots first. See? Dead. Easy. I’m thinking I’ll experiment with some melon shrubs [for those I’ll have to take the rind off, I reckon] this summer, too, and let you know how it goes.

The Sweet: In colonial times, the most widely available sweeteners came in the form of honey, or raw/unrefined sugars. No doubt somebody’s made shrub with sorghum or molasses, but it seems to me like that would overpower the fruit, which kind of cancels out the desired tart-sweet effect. Most shrub recipes I’ve seen call for regular white sugar, which really does let the fruit flavor sing through all the vinegary syrup with the least amount of interference. Final call? It really depends on what you want the sweet flavor notes to be like, and go from there. Think of pastry combinations that work well as a baseline, for example honey-peach. Whereas cherries flavor up better [IMHO] with sugar.

The Vinegar:  Apple cider vinegar is the base acid for traditional shrubs, but red wine vinegar, light balsamic vinegars [use the cheap stuff, really], white wine vinegars also make terrific shrub. I stay away from regular white vinegar: it’s brash and overpowers the fruit flavor. This is also a terrific time to experiment with random wine-herb vinegars you’ve been hoarding: think tarragon with peaches, or sage with blackberries. YUM.

Keep it Clean: Just like with home canning, the first rule is to keep it clean. Run any jars/glass containers you’ll be using through the sterilize cycle of the dishwasher right before use, or rinse with a sterilizing solution [like you find at the beer brewing store]. The fruit can be ugly as sin on Sunday, but remove any wormy bits, moldy spots, stems, and leaves. I’d recommend using only a small amount of ingredients the first few times you shrub (about a cup of fruit, etc.) until you find out what flavors you like. Nothing more disappointing than spending a shit-ton of cash on farmer’s market fruit gold, local honey, and artisinal vinegar only to find out you hate the end product.

Measure up: Get out your trusty food scale: it’s the quickest and easiest way to make shrubs with however much fruit you’ve got on hand. You’ll be using the ‘tare’ feature if you’ve got it, or just jot down a little note as you go to remember your weights. Weigh your fruit after cleaning and prep – you’ll be surprised how much a package of berries will vary by weight depending on how dehydrated they got during shipping, and how much fruit is removed in the stemming/hulling process. Let’s say you have 8 oz. of fruit. That means you’ll also need 8 oz. of sweetener and 8 oz. of vinegar for your recipe. Taste as you go and add more acid if you’d like, but never have less acid than fruit/veg or you’ll run into trouble of the bacterial kind.

Hot Shrub: Sounds kind of naughty, hmm? Recipes for hot processing shrubs are more common, which makes sense since by boiling together the ingredients your chances of killing any nasty bacteria in the mix improve. Simple: put all the ingredients [equal parts fruit, sweet, and vinegar, by weight] in a non-reactive pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes or so, or until the fruit breaks up and the mix has a syrupy consistency. Cool to room temp, strain through a double layer of cheesecloth or a jelly bag, bottle, and refrigerate. This type of shrub will live contentedly in your fridge for months.

Cold Shrub: This is the method folks used back in the day when they had cool root cellars or spring houses to start their shrubs, but you can duplicate the process in your fridge. Place equal parts fruit and sweet [by weight] in a non-reactive large jar or bowl. Cover loosely with a tea towel—to allow for all that airborne yeast and good bacteria to join the party—and refrigerate for two or three days. Stir it up every twelve hours or so to encourage the sugar to dissolve, or the honey to bond with the fruit juice. Add an equal part vinegar, stir again, and place back in the fridge covered with the tea towel for another day. Strain through a double layer of cheesecloth or a jelly bag, bottle, and refrigerate.

Don’t sue me on this one: I actually keep my shrubs in quart jars in the cellar for up to a year without refrigeration and I haven’t poisoned myself yet. So there. But I’m also the kind of gal who keeps her butter at room temperature and I don’t refrigerate my chicken’s fresh eggs, which drives my husband batshit crazy.


Some shrubs, infusions, and bitters working away in the cellar

Some shrubs, infusions, hard ciders, and bitters working away in the cellar

Get started! Here are some basic combinations.

Peach, honey, white balsamic vinegar

White peach, sugar, tarragon white wine vinegar

Cherry, sugar, red wine vinegar

Strawberry-rhubarb, turbinado sugar, apple cider vinegar

Blackberry, a couple of sage leaves, sugar, red wine vinegar

Apricot, one dried med-hot chile [like a guajillo], agave, apple cider vinegar

New York Sour

Classic New York Sour made with rye whiskey and homemade sour mix

Classic New York Sour made with rye whiskey and homemade sour mix

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y. (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) comes via the ABG Instagram feed [@abourbongal] from a local cutie, Sparkling Rosé. Here’s her request:

“I’m throwing a birthday party for a friend. I want to have semi-fancy cocktails but I don’t want them to take forever to make; there will be a lot of people at the event and I’m the only bar tender [ABG note:  you go, girl!]. Have you ever made homemade sour mix?! I was thinking a New York Sour would be fun and easy.”

Sours ARE fun and easy! And really goddam delicious. Several bars in the SLC make delicious New York-style sours, two of my favorites being Whiskey Street and The Copper Onion. A couple of weeks ago we made a Tullahoma Whiskey Sour for my dear friend Strawberry Julep, but that was makin’ one cocktail, not prepping for a crowd. Commercial sour mixes are, IMHO, cloyingly sweet and thick. Some have tons of corn syrup, and lots of preservatives to keep them shelf stable. Once you’ve tasted fresh-made sour mix, you’ll be able to spot the bright notes of just-squeezed citrus quicker than a 75% off sale at H&M and it makes all the difference in the freakin’ world. Except for the run to Costco for your bags of lemons & limes [you’re going anyway, right?], and squeezing all those suckers, making the sour mix is dead simple.

The New York Sour makes for a terrific Valentine’s cocktail** or, in Sparkling Rosé’s case, a festive party drink. Why? Well, it’s got a nice sweet-sour balance point, making it perfect for soirées when you don’t know if you’ll have guests who like super-sweet cocktails or will be serving purists who just want some high-proof bourbon, served neat. The finishing float of red wine makes it super pretty AND festive. As booze historian David Wondrich describes, back in the day [like, the mid and later 1800s] barkeeps claimed all of their New York sours were topped with “the claret ‘snap’” –really any fruity red wine fancily declared ‘claret’ no matter the origin, but a Bordeaux works especially well in this application. It’s a fun bit of drinks history: the ‘sour’ is a fancy single-mixed drink adaptation of the ubiquitous Punch during the Victorian age. It’s kind of a proto-cocktail. The recipe I use is loosely based on the one Wondrich quotes in his cocktails history bible Imbibe! [p. 103], which he found in the 1869 Steward & Barkeeper’s Manual:

One wine glass [2 oz.] of spirits

Half wine glass [1 oz.] of water

One Tablespoonful of sugar

Half of a lemon

Method: “Squeeze a portion of the lemon into the tumbler, which should be a quarter full of ice, and rub the lemon on the rim of the glass. Stir with a spoon…. In the manufacture of fixes and sours a small bar-glass or ordinary tumbler is employed.”

ABG note: wine glasses were really freaking tiny back in the day, right?

So, basically the barkeep was mixing up impromptu simple syrup with just a bit more than equal portion of citrus. And sours can be made with brandy, gin, amaretto, rum, applejack [The New Jersey Sour], just about any liquor, although the New York Sour was traditionally made with rye. In making homemade sour mix, I’ve found that the ratio of simple syrup to citrus is just about right at two parts syrup to three parts citrus. As noted before when making drinks in the ‘sours’ category, a little pinch of salt gives a great tart pinch to cocktails.

 *Homemade Sour Mix: makes about 2 ½  cups [about 20 oz.] of sour mix for 10-12 cocktails.

Here’s my super-basic recipe for homemade sour mix. Really, the ratios depend on what kind of citrus I’ve got on hand, and what I’m mixing with. More lemon goes great with whiskey, more lime with tequila. I’ve made great sour mix using grapefruit and lemon for amaretto sours. I’m sure you know the trick about microwaving citrus for 10+ seconds and rolling it to extract the most juice, ’cause you are a bar god/goddess. Own it!sourMix

Make a simple syrup with 1 cup boiling water mixed with 1 cup sugar. Stir to dissolve, and let cool to room temp. Meanwhile, juice 1 generous cup freshly squeezed lemon juice [4-5 large juicy lemons], and 1/2 cup juice from fresh-squeezed limes [4 limes].  Or, whatever ratio of citrus you like that gets you 2 parts simple syrup to 3 parts citrus juice. Strain the citrus through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds and pulp. Mix citrus and syrup together [I like shaking & storing it in a quart mason jar], and it will keep in the fridge for weeks.

New York Sour

The great thing about mixing drinks at home [especially in Utah], is that you can mix them to YOUR taste, not to the letter o’ the state liquor law. So, fair warning, this drink is a bit stiffer than the one you’ll be served at a bar in the Beehive state. The egg white is totally optional – I’ve got fresh eggs coming out the wahzoo from my backyard hens so I’m not worried about cooties—it just gives the drink a little more velvety body and helps the wine “float.” If I’m making drinks for a crowd I leave the egg out ‘cause it’s a total pain in the ass to crack all of ‘em perfectly and you don’t want ANY yolk ending up in your drink [yellow strings of egg = gross].

2 oz. rye whiskey

1.5 -2.0 oz. homemade sour mix*

0.5 oz. Disaronno [or amaretto liqueur]

1 egg white [optional]

Tiny pinch of sea salt

0.5 oz. rich fruity red wine [like Bordeaux]

New York Sour

New York Sour

Add all ingredients except the wine to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake like crazy. Strain into a highball glass or tumbler filled with fresh ice. Pour wine slowly over the back of a spoon to “float” on top of the cocktail.

 ** In case you are color blind, never go to the ‘seasonal’ aisle in the store, or don’t have a calendar, I’ll remind you that Valentine’s Day is THIS Friday, y’all. It’s hard to believe, but it was just about this time last year that I’d started this here blog [I know! A year!], and posted a rant on why y’all should avoid restaurants for V-day, and might choose to make “Oh, You Sexy Beets!” Dirty Martinis at home, instead. It’s a tougher sell this year, since a Friday or Saturday holiday doesn’t get the middle-of-the-week buy-out. Sucks to be you. I also recently posted a blog over at my other gig at cityhomeCOLLECTIVE about Chocolate-centric stuff you can do all this month in the SLC. Why save the romance for one day? 

A Proper (and Improper) Mint Julep

Some people have fancy silver Julep cups passed down through many generations.  I have canning jars.

Some people have fancy silver Julep cups passed down through many generations. I have canning jars.

Towards the end of April I start getting all nostalgic about Kentucky Derby’s of my youth, singing (well, warbling) “My Old Kentucky Home,” and the weeks of debauchery Louisville celebrates leading up to the big day.  I’m getting misty eyed just thinking about it, but my friends here in Utah don’t quite get the appeal.  There’s a lot to love about my adopted mountain state, but a tradition of extended whiskey-soaked revelry is just not one of them.  And don’t y’all EVEN tell me Pioneer Day rallies the same hedonistic enthusiasm.  Just stop it.  Now.

Doesn't every 18 year old go through a phase when they want to be a great travel writer?  I read this the summer between high school and college and it blew my mind.  And gave me all sorts of ideas...

Doesn’t every 18 year old go through a phase when they want to be a great travel writer? I read this the summer between high school and college and it blew my mind. And gave me all sorts of ideas…

What’s Derby like?  Well, if you haven’t already, it’s a moral imperative you read Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970 essay, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.”  It’s a marvel of sports reporting and travel journalism wrapped up in complete and utter sublime bullshit that stands the test of time more than forty years later.  And it’s Hunter S. Thompson drinking whiskey for three straight days.  See, nothing like Pioneer Day.

My secret to a fantastic Mint Julep?  Don’t kill your mint!  When I see someone grinding mint with a mortar into the bottom of a glass I just cringe.  It makes the mint bitter, and plus all of those little mint pieces invariably get stuck in your teeth and who wants that when you are wearing bright red lipstick and a fabulous hat?  A pert spank will do, instead, if you make minted simple syrup a day in advance.  You’ll love this stuff:  in addition to making superlative Juleps, minted syrup is perfect in Mojitos, iced tea, lemonade, and Arnold Palmers.

Minted Simple Syrup

In a big bowl or quart glass pyrex measure, add 2 cups boiling water to 2 cups granulated sugar.  Mix with a wooden spoon until sugar is completely dissolved.  Meanwhile, place 4-5 big sprigs of fresh mint in a quart-sized Mason or other lidded glass jar.  Once the sugar syrup is cool enough to touch comfortably with your fingers, pour over the mint.  Cool to room temperature, place the lid on the jar, and set in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight.  Remove mint leaves, and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Minted simple syrup.  Boozemongering at it's finest, my friends.  You will use this freakalicious syrup in everything!

Minted simple syrup. Boozemongering at it’s finest, my friends. You will use this freakalicious syrup in everything!

A Proper Mint Julep

2-3 sprigs fresh mint

2 oz. Kentucky Bourbon

2-3 oz. minted simple syrup

“Spank” a sprig of mint between your hands (as if you are clapping), place in the bottom of a chilled silver Julep cup.  Fill the cup to the rim with crushed ice.  Slowly pour over the ice at the same time 2 oz. Kentucky Bourbon and 2-3 oz. minted syrup.  Spank another mint sprig and add as a garnish.  Gently stir the cocktail with a long handled stirrer until combined.

*Julep purists look away now.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 

I love making Juleps with Rye whiskey, too.  It gives them a little more bite, and is a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the mint.

How pretty is that?!  The Strawberry Julep is perfect cocktail for a dinner by the grill, backyard bash, or lazy afternoon.

How pretty is that?! The Strawberry Julep is perfect cocktail for a dinner by the grill, backyard bash, or lazy afternoon.

An “Improper” Strawberry Julep

I made this cocktail for my girlfriends who complained that a traditional julep was too strong.  Meaning, they don’t like the taste of bourbon.  Sigh.  Convinced that I could make a bourbon-based cocktail they’d like, I threw this baby together.  Now everybody’s happy.

2 sprigs fresh mint

2 very ripe strawberries (plus an additional one for garnish)

1 ½ oz. bourbon

2 oz. minted simple syrup

Splash of club soda

In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle two small very ripe strawberries until they are smooshy.  Add bourbon and mint syrup, one sprig of mint, and 2-3 cubes of ice.  Shake about 5-6 seconds.  Strain cocktail into a highball glass or Mason jar filled with ice.  Garnish with a sprig of “spanked” mint, a strawberry sliced almost in half to perch on the rim of your glass, and a splash of club soda if desired.

Fear and Loathing in the Lift Line

d ski close up(plus, DIY Cherry Heering and a gorgeous après ski cocktail, The Powderhound). 

For a while there, I was afraid of getting on the ski lift.  I don’t fear falling off the chair or have acrophobia (although there’s that puckerish stretch on the Summit chair at Solitude that gives me the heebs.  Every. Time.)  Nope, the thing that had me squirming was the inevitability of hearing some Really Bad News from a girlfriend.

It began innocuously enough.  Usually a casual “hey, do you have a half-day open this week to get some turns in?” invitation prompted our outing.  I’d meet up with my girlfriend and we’d make a warm up run or two.  Then it would happen:  I’d hear those dreaded words, “So… I don’t know if you’ve heard yet, but…”

Two divorces.  One separation (with the ugly cheating-spouse details).  Another friend struggled with understanding her child’s recently-diagnosed learning disabilities.  A scarily inconclusive mammogram.  After a long decline with Alzheimer’s, a friend’s mother passed away.  My girlfriend Cherry Heering’s husband did some Very Naughty Things on the interwebs and was facing criminal prosecution (amazingly, she’s not one of the ones who got divorced.  You are a far more forgiving person than I, Cherry).

I started packing extra tissues, and my cheeks were chapped from tears collecting under the lower edge of my goggles and freezing on my face.  I wondered if therapists along the Wasatch had started prescribing the ski date as the perfect opportunity to practice talking about bad news.

And at the end of the day, after the cheating bastards were soundly trashed, the injustices of life questioned and pondered, and our friendship reaffirmed with fresh air, exercise, and swaying teary hugs shared at the parking lot, I’d go pick up my kids from school.  I’d remind them how awesome I think they are, and hug them until they squirmed.  Tell my husband I loved him.  And I’d make myself a stiff cocktail.  And count my blessings, high among them my amazing, strong, and resilient friends.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to spring.

A beautiful après ski cocktail:  THE POWDERHOUNDpowderhound

I made up this cocktail when I wasn’t in the mood for either a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned, and knocking back two fingers of bourbon seemed a little too ironic (even for me) after a day spent skiing with a friend who’d been looking into rehab facilities for her husband.  It’s a gorgeous ruby color, and the sugar/cayenne rim adds a nice balance to the sweetness of the cherry heering and bite of the rye.

2-3 cherries (fresh, or from your home made cherry booze)

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

Two dashes Angostura bitters

1 oz. Cherry Heering*

1 ½ oz. rye whiskey

1 oz. club soda (optional)

In a shallow saucer, combine sugar and cayenne.  Rub the rim of a highball glass with a cherry to coat with juice.  Dip the glass rim into the pepper-sugar mixture.  Add bitters to the glass, and swirl to coat the interior of the glass.  In a cocktail shaker, add 3-4 cubes ice, the cherry heering, and whiskey.  Shake for 10 seconds or so, and then pour everything into the highball glass.  Garnish with cherries, and top with a little club soda, if desired.


* Cherry Heering is a (duh) cherry-based liqueur available at most liquor stores.  After my eponymous friend gave me a pint of her home made version –old cherry trees like hers are everywhere in our fair city—I’ve been making my own, too.  Here’s the super easy two ingredient recipe:

To a clean glass quart jar, add 2 cups washed & pitted sweet cherries.  Pour enough vodka to cover cherries (about 3 cups).  Let stand in a cool, dark place for at least 1 week and up to 1 year.

BOOZEMONGERING: Infused Bacon Whiskey


In a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, cook 1/2 lb. applewood-smoked bacon until most fat is rendered and bacon is crispy but not burnt.  Try a peppered bacon if you like a snappy flavor.  It’s your infusion, own it baby!

Add bacon drippings to a 1 quart Mason jar (or other wide-mouthed jar with a tight-sealing lid).  Add a strip or two of bacon to the jar, if desired, and reserve the rest of your bacon for another use, like eating right there over the kitchen sink.  Let drippings cool to room temperature before you add your booze.

Add enough Rye Whiskey or Bourbon to fill the jar and cover the bacon (just shy of  4 cups = 32 oz.)

Top shelf pick:  High West Distillery Bou-Rye

Middle shelf:  Bulleit Frontier Rye Whiskey

It’ll do just fine: Jim Beam Kentucky Bourbon

I don’t recommend using Scotch or Irish Whiskey for this infusion – the flavors don’t meld well with the smokiness of the bacon and that’s a waste of good booze.

Let this jar sit at room temperature for a day or two, gently swirling the contents every 12 hours or so.  Just before filtering, place the jar in the freezer for about an hour – this will help consolidate the solids.  Filter your booze through a double-layer of cheesecloth, then again through an unbleached coffee filter.  This what my filtering system looks like:


Decant into a clean quart jar or scrupulously clean recycled booze bottle.  If well-filtered, this savory concoction will keep at room temperature for 6 months.  In addition to making delicious toddies, smoked bacon whiskey is lovely over an ice cube or two at your next football tailgating party.   Think about it:  Booze.  Bacon.  High impact sporting events.  Perfect.

Nightcap: Smoked Bacon Whiskey Hot Toddy


You’ve shoveled out the drive for the sixth time in four days, and the snow isn’t stopping any time soon.  What makes this Sisyphean task bearable?   Whiskey, of course.   Warm, sweet, spicy, bacon-infused whiskey would be even better, now wouldn’t it?

Perhaps you don’t think you want ??????????????????????????bacon in your hot toddy, but you do.  You really, really do.  In fact, you need a little extra protein with your booze for fortification after copious amounts of snow removal work, my friend.  Forget those insipid honey-lemon concoctions you’ve slurped at overpriced ski resort bars.  Embrace a beverage that warms me to my little red toenails every time, guaranteed.  Savory, rich, voluptuous, and did I mention the bacony goodness?  Layered with hints of cayenne, maple syrup, cinnamon, and orange, it’s almost as good as having your own mountain man on call to shovel out the city snowplow-created blockade at the end of the driveway.   Especially if said mountain man looks like a young Robert Redford.  Remember Jeremiah Johnson?  Bacon.  Redford.  Bourbon.  Mmmm.  Redford doesn’t do it for ya?  How about Jake Gyllenhaal.  Better?  Okay, now repeat.  Mmmmm.

Of course, you can make this toddy using regular rye whiskey or bourbon whisky if you haven’t made your own smoked bacon bourbon yet (recipe: http://wp.me/p3807T-r).   You’ve got that little jar of bacon grease in the back of the fridge – and I know you do! – so melt ¼ teaspoon or so directly into your toddy mug in the microwave for 8-9 seconds before mixing it well into the rest of your ingredients.

I’m making this hot toddy for my hubby, The Macallan, tonight.  My mountain man deserves some protein and sugar in his booze after digging out the compacted snowbank at the end of our driveway.   I may have rammed my truck over it instead of digging the driveway out when I came back with the kids after school this afternoon.  Oops.


In an 8 oz. mug, muddle together using a cinnamon stick:

1 ½ oz. smoked bacon rye whiskey or bourbon (recipe, below)

1 Tbs. fresh orange juice

2 tsp. real maple syrup

A pinch each of:

cayenne pepper

smoked paprika

sea salt (omit salt if your bacon is really salty)

Pour enough very hot (not boiling) water to fill the mug

Flame an orange zest and drop it and the cinnamon stick into your mug.

Now find a comfy chair, sit back, and watch the snowflakes fly.