The Wasatch Mule: a pear-ginger white whiskey cocktail

The Wasatch Mule

The Wasatch Mule

After posting my call for bourbon cocktail requests in honor of National Bourbon Heritage Month I learned quite a bit about y’all via your feedback. Mostly that:

1) your time, storage space and/or desire to mix up a bunch of esoteric syrups, shrubs, and bitters is limited;

2) y’all don’t like to purchase or wash any more cocktail equipment than necessary; and

3) you are curious (dare I say suspicious?) about how I manage to make this shit happen on a regular basis in my tiny kitchen with all of those kids and dogs underfoot.

So, for the rest of this month at this here blog we’ll go through each of these concerns and talk it out. And drink some bad-ass cocktails. We’ll tackle the time/space issue this post.

Before I call y’all out as the laziest bunch of sorry cocktail geeks I’ve ever known, I’ll make some of excuses on your behalf. In fact, they’re excuses I use for myself, all the time. Rare ingredients and random specialty booze like that 12-year-old crusty Blue Curaçao bottle with only 3-4 oz. used up take up a lot of space, and if you live in a 1940’s Sugarhouse cottage like mine, that’s at a premium. We were lucky enough to buy a house that the previous owner had obviously fitted with some SERIOUS food storage/hoarding capabilities, which my boys promptly filled with Legos in various stages of completion. Also, most syrups and some shrubs experiments require refrigeration, and if you are an infrequent cocktail mixer this seems like a waste of space that could be used for cheap white wine, expensive beer, and your Costco-sized bag of lettuce. I get it, so I’m gonna go full disclosure on y’all so you don’t get all frustrated about the physical and emotional space you are in.

The booze: You know why bars have that huge shelf of hundreds of bottles behind them? Because a bar needs them to serve the whim of folks who wouldn’t ever use Fernet or Aperol (both of which are next to impossible to source for the home consumer in Utah) for in a cocktail at home, but like to order the most complicated cocktails ever made when they’re out. A good barkeep will also have a wide price and flavor range within a booze category, e.g. several kinds of gin, bourbon, etc. Unless you are having outrageous cocktail parties every weekend or write a booze blog you don’t need all that shit at your house. Figure out what you like, and just keep that on hand. If you don’t know what you like, go to a very good bar early on a not-very-busy night and talk to your bartender. They’ll be happy to help you find your groove – most mixologists love to share their knowledge and recipes. Only buy the random stuff when you have a big party and want to make a signature cocktail, then at the end of the night give a guest who loved it (and whom you love) the random bottle(s). You get your space back, and make a friend for life. Win-win.

The mixers: I started out making my own shrubs, syrups, and bitters because when I first moved to Utah years ago there wasn’t much of a cocktail scene here and these things were hard to come by for the average home consumer. Thanks to, Etsy, and great local small-batch producers all over the country, it’s getting easier every day to source great ingredients. For instance, here in Salt Lake, you can buy Sugarhouse Libations cocktail syrups at the Downtown Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, or order their delicious syrups online. No, they didn’t pay me to say this, I just like their stuff. And the packaging and recipes that come with the heavy sexy bottle are feckin’ killing it. Get some. Then make this with it:

The Wasatch Mule

This cocktail is a play on the Moscow Mule, which you’ve seen served in pretty metal cups. To make it Utah Wasatch Mountains style, I used High West Distillery Silver Oat Whiskey instead of vodka, and Sugarhouse Libations Pear-Ginger syrup, and mix up the whole thing in a pint Mason jar. Yes, you can make your own pear liqueur (which, yes, I do, and it’s the BOMB), but you can also find it at big liquor stores.

5-6 leaves mint, spanked
2 oz. Silver Whiskey (or moonshine)
1 oz. pear liqueur
4 oz. pear-ginger syrup
2 oz. club soda

Spank the mint between your palms, as if clapping. Throw it in the bottom of a pint Mason jar. Add the whiskey, pear liqueur, and pear-ginger syrup. Fill almost to the top with ice. Close up with the jar lid and shake like crazy. Uncap the jar and add club soda. Replace the lid and gently tilt to combine ingredients –don’t shake it or that shit will explode all over you! This can also be made in a traditional cocktail shaker (minus the club soda—again with the exploding) and poured into a mule cup or julep cup with a floater of club soda swizzled in.


Suddenly Summer!: Cucumber-Basil Martini with a Salish smoked black sea salt rim

Cucumber Basil Martini

Cucumber Basil Martini

Holy hot spike, Batman!  We went straight from snow-covered daffodils to wilting tulips to hopeful tomato plants all in one day here in the Wasatch Mountains.  Even broke some early spring temps records yesterday.  In celebration (and yes, respite… I’m not quite ready for the 90s yet) I broke out some of my favorite summer flavors:  cucumber, basil, and the floral melody of gin.  I’ve wanted to try out some of my lovely salt collection for use on more than finishing pan-seared meats, roasted potatoes, and salad dressing.   These salts I’ve gathered mostly at my local Tony Caputo’s Market – where they thoughtfully provide 99 cent sample cups of various and sundry goodness so those fickle souls such as I can dabble and snack before commitment.   In this case, I used a finer-grained black Salish smoked sea salt on top of a cucumber-rubbed glass rim.  Delightful.  Yay for Spring!  Or at least the 3 hours of it we got this year.

A sampling of sea salts.  In this case, I used the Salish Black Smoked Sea Salt from Caputo's Market, but I also like the coarser grained Durango smoked grey salt for this cocktail.

A sampling of sea salts. In this case, I used the Salish Black Smoked Sea Salt from Caputo’s Market, but I also like the coarser grained Durango smoked grey salt for this cocktail.

Cucumber Basil & Smoked black sea salt Martini

Freeze a martini glass, or add to the glass several cubes of ice to chill and set aside.

Just before assembling, rub ½ of the glass rim with the cut edge of a cucumber and dip into the smoked sea salt of your choice.

 To a cocktail shaker, add:

1 small cocktail cucumber, sliced thin (about 4 slices of cucumber- reserve 1 slice for garnish)

4-5 leaves fresh basil

2 oz. very floral gin (I’m a fan of Broker’s for this cocktail)

½ oz. dry vermouth

4-5 ice cubes

Shake vigorously until well-frosted and frothy (about 15 seconds)

Strain into the chilled and salty goodness of that martini glass.  Garnish with a cucumber slice and a sprig of baby basil.

Isn’t that refreshing?

Now, don’t y’all put away your parkas and gloves yet, my mountain friends.  Just having made this cocktail guarantees we’ll have a freezing spell next week.  I’ve got my towels ready to cover my ‘maters, just in case.

Field Trip: Finca’s High West Distillery Whiskey pairing dinner


Finca’s cheese & charcuterie plate, paired with High West Prairie Punch

Last night Salt Lake City experienced a small but powerful bit of wonder that I couldn’t have envisioned ten– maybe even five– years ago:  60+ guests gleefully paid for the opportunity to sample Utah-made whiskeys paired with a delightful small-plates tasting menu.

At a neighborhood restaurant.

On a Wednesday night.

With just a couple of weeks of social-media savvy forward lead time.


After bookings for the originally-conceived 18 seat tasting filled within hours of the High West Distillery pairing dinner announcement, Finca owner Scott Evans realized he could easily fill his joint for an exclusive event.  The draw?  Oh, let’s just look at the line-up, shall we?  The talented palate and vision of Pago-founder Scott Evans.  Finca’s locally-sourced Spanish-inspired tapas created by executive chef Phelix Gardner.  Four varieties of High West Distillery booze, presented by the distillery’s passionate proprietor, David Perkins.   And mixing it all together, the man behind Finca’s bar, Scott Gardner.  Who also just happens to be named Salt Lake Magazine’s “Best Mixologist” for 2013.  Done, and done, my friends.  [Don’t worry – if you didn’t get in to this dinner, more food/beverage pairing menus are planned through the next few months, including a Spanish wine tasting menu for March].


Locally-sourced mushroom Spanish-style flatbread, paired with High West Campfire whiskey. Sorry, the potatoes were all gone before I could take a photo.

The folks from High West brought four whiskeys to the dinner:  their American Prairie Reserve Bourbon, Son of Bourye (a bourbon-rye blend), Campfire Whiskey (a rye-bourbon-scotch – yes, I know, SCOTCH) blend, and the award-winning Rendezvous Rye.  Scott Gardener introduced guests to the Prairie Reserve in the form of an old-fashioned whiskey punch (recipe, below), which the chef paired with a cheese and charcuterie plate.  The remaining whiskeys were all served neat in scant 1 oz. pours, with plates intended to complement the layered flavors of whiskey –sweet, savory, mellow, smoky – in the form of roasted carrots, mushroom-topped flatbreads, and local beef sliders with house made pickles.  All exquisite.

I’m not going to lie, I expected to be underwhelmed by the Frankensteinian hybrid Campfire Whiskey, one of the few High West products I’d not yet tried. “Dubious” understates my apprehensions about adding scotch to a rye-bourbon blend.  Married to a long-time scotch purist, I was prepared for both of us to be disappointed by the pour.   I couldn’t have been more wrong:  in the midst of all of this food and whiskey fabulousness, we both moaned over an unassuming-looking plate of fried paprika-dusted potatoes with a tangy garlic aioli paired perfectly with the complexity of the smoky blended Campfire whiskey. This combo stole the show.  It also introduced us to our new favorite hunting-camp compromise whiskey.  We no longer need to bring a bottle each of bourbon and scotch:  now, we’ll be bringing a bottle of High West Campfire.

High West Prairie Punch:

Finca’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.


Finca’s Scott Gardner (second from left) supervising the carefully-metered pouring of a lot of whiskey.

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

5)      Just before serving, add ice to chill your punch

6)      Float 8 oz. brut cava on top of the punch

7)      Garnish with lemon wheels and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg

8)      Note from A Bourbon Gal:  Lovely served in shallow ‘coupe’ stemmed glasses

Who is this Gal?

ImageMy name is Darby Doyle, and I spent my formative drinking years in Kentucky and Tennessee.  Since then, I’ve lived on both coasts and all over the Western US.  Since 2005, I’ve lived in Salt Lake City, Utah with my husband (who we call The Macallan), two sons (Tim Collins and Sprite), and a couple of Labradors.  I’m an avant gardener, recovering archaeologist, urban chicken wrangler, pickled canner, novice butcher, sporadic angler, boozemonger, creative user of profanity (when children aren’t present- especially yours), and a Bourbon Ambassador.  My beverage profile?  Sometimes I’m a Mint Julep, sometimes I’m a Hot Toddy, but mostly I’m just A Bourbon Gal.

Some of my earliest memories are of standing on top of a chair so I could reach the counter in my grandma’s Indiana farmhouse kitchen:  eating more mushrooms than cleaning them, paring apples, and rolling pie crusts.  Our family lived in rural southern Ohio and later east of Louisville, Kentucky.  I learned about home preservation and old-fashioned home economics from my mother, who was a prodigious canner, and still is a wonderful cook and amazing hostess.  During college, I worked the front and back of the house at a couple of restaurants, and slung my fair share of cocktails.  Since my Kentucky days, I’ve had the pleasure of working all over the country in some amazing jobs:  wildland firefighter, backcountry forest ranger, archaeologist, museum collections consultant, historian, and arts advocate.  I’d like to think my approach to all of this moving and job changing is similar to my passion for great food and drink:  dive in, revel in it, and get the best out of everything that you find.

When my boys were babies, I wrote a food and recipe column for a parenting newsletter in Phoenix called “A Bun in the Oven: Simple Meals for Busy Parents.”  There may have been a instance or two where condensed cream of something soup was mentioned; sue me, I was sleep deprived.  More recently, my recipes have been independently posted, including a contribution to Utah’s Beehive Cheese recipe index.  I’m a lucky gal to also be a contributing writer for SLC’s own CityHomeCOLLECTIVE.

I hold a B.A. in Anthropology/Sociology from Rhodes College in Memphis (Go Lynx!), and an M.A. in Public History from Arizona State University (Fear the Fork!).  I was working on my PhD in Public History through ASU when we found out we were moving to Utah about eight years ago.  Needless to say, I got distracted by life, kids, and whatnot and am malingering in my ABD status.  Currently, I am an independent historical archaeology and curatorial consultant, and have some lovely gigs as a cocktails creator, food writer, and canning consultant.  Long story short: I’m a Utah housewife whose approach to life, food, and drink may not be what you’d traditionally expect from the Beehive state, and I try to integrate as much booze and coffee into my subversive cookery experiments as possible.   I hope you’ll stick around to see what we think up next.

Our Supper Club: How it all Began

ImageMany months ago…

                It’s 2:00 am and the last of our guests–Hurricane, Mr. Coffee, Tequila Sunrise, and Electric Koolaid–have just left.  I ease off my ridiculously sexy but shockingly painful maroon heels and pick up a couple of wine glasses on my way to the back of the house, to the room I’ve been studiously ignoring for the past two hours: my completely trashed kitchen.  Every conceivable inch of counter space, breakfast table top, and cooking range (already pretty limited in our ca. 1945 cottage) now covered with pots, pans, plates, glasses of every size and use, empty wine bottles, and at this point semi-permanently-caked-on spills.  I hobble numb-toed over to the range-top.  Taking up a crusty wooden spoon, I poke dispiritedly at my formerly gorgeous red enameled cast iron Dutch oven.  After three days of preparing a really spectacular (if I do say so, myself) cassoulet, the pot now sports an impenetrable crust like a creosote bathtub ring.  It will probably take three days of soaking and a power tool of some sort to dislodge it all.  If I hadn’t paid so damn much for the thing I’d be tempted to just toss it.

My two Labradors are still methodically nosing and slurping around the dining room, living room, and kitchen searching out every dropped crumb they can scavenge.  I hear a nail-clattery scramble as both dogs discover a plate of paté and cheese left on the floor behind a houseplant by a guest.  I suspect either Hurricane or Diet&Vodka.  A crash and yelp follow.  Apparently there was a wine glass back there, as well.  They (the dogs, not my girlfriends) will no doubt hork up everything they consumed around dawn.  On second thought, maybe the gals will, too.

My husband, who we’ll call The Macallan, sidles up behind me and wraps his arms back-to-front around my waist, adding a subtle hip nudge for good measure as if I hadn’t already noticed he was all over me like Hollandaise on Eggs Benedict.  I flop my head back against his shoulder with an involuntary groan exhaled more out of exhaustion than affection.  He nips my ear and whispers in his husky deep voice, “Remind me, again, why in the hell do we do this?”

This,” of course, means entertaining The Supper Club, and all that that entails; “we,” meaning, really, “you, silly Bourbon Gal.”



Prologue:  About eight years ago

                Proudly representing transient Americans everywhere, The Macallan and I, along with our two toddler sons (Tim Collins and Sprite), moved to Salt Lake City from Arizona so that Mac could open up a new office for his firm.  It would be our ninth move together in the twelve years we’d been hitched.  Although we were leaving behind wonderful friends, family, and major-league baseball, we were excited to be back in the mountains, see four real seasons again, and have our kids grow up making snow forts.  We’d lived in Utah in the mid-1990s for a winter when we were young ski bums working at Park City Ski Resort, and knew even in the face of dire warnings from our friends (“You’ll never get a decent latté again!,” “Edward Abbey wrote that there are more churches than liquor stores there,” and “There’s no Trader Joe’s closer than Vegas?!”) that it was a gorgeous place with friendly people and okay schools.  We would have seven major ski resorts within a half-hour of our house, and there was a triple-A affiliate farm team to the Angels.  And even though there were no Trader Joe’s at the time (one opened here eventually, in 2012), and the liquor laws still seemed, quite frankly, Byzantine (even for a gal from a dry Southern county), there were a couple of darling gourmet markets in our neighborhood, and a Whole Foods nearby.   Lots of great restaurants had opened around the time of the 2002 Olympics, and the town seemed to have become a bit more sophisticated over the years.  Salt Lake City’s mayor was a Democrat AND an environmentalist.  Starbuck’s is frickin’ everywhere, if that’s what it came to.  It all seemed imminently do-able.

But as any foodie will tell you–especially one with very young kids and their chicken-cheese-and-pasta palates at home–no amount of gourmet markets, reading food blogs, or Googling recipe porn on-line (thank you makes up for wanting to create amazing food and share it with people who appreciate the effort.  Of all my guys, Tim Collins is the most adventurous eater, and will try just about anything and enjoy most dishes.  But he’s still a kid and is allergic to peanuts and pistachios to boot.  The Macallan doesn’t drink wine (I know, what the hell?!) so I had no one to ooh and aah with over getting the perfect pairing of wine with chicken Vindaloo just right.

What I needed were some girlfriends.  Even better, I needed to find some girlfriends who loved to eat, and might even approach the occasional carbohydrate.  Bonus points if I could find some who also really enjoyed cooking, or even better, baking (which I do only under duress).  Perhaps I could even find some fabulous chef friends. Or a distiller!  My fantasies were spinning out of control, but what are fantasies for if not to dream big, right?

Spring, then summer went by, and I met some perfectly nice people around town, but making friends is slow going, even for a generally gregarious gal like me.  I started stalking all of the know haunts of hip urban mothers (of which I am probably too old to be):  the neighborhood library, the Children’s Museum, hiking trailheads, Anthropologie.  I even found an adorable coffee house near an Italian deli and tattoo parlor; it seemed promising.

But I was lonely.

My oldest son started preschool in September.  We joined the grooviest parent-run co-op preschool we could find, which was of course located at the Unitarian Church.  I recognized a few of the moms from the library, trailhead, and coffee shop.  I started making friends.  Several of these friends proved to be talented and creative cooks.  Quite a few families were serious gardeners, some had backyard chickens, and I met some amazing canners and home-preservers.  But a disconcerting number of them were vegans, and most seemed to be obsessed with whole grains and the presence of high-fructose corn syrup in, well, everything.

One day the following Spring, I got an e-mail from Hurricane, one of the groovy co-op moms whom I then considered maybe not a best friend, but a genial acquaintance.  She thought it would be fun to start a couples Supper Club, meeting once a month and centered on a theme, like a regional cuisine or specific ingredient or technique.  She’d invited the best cooks she knew who were also, quote, “fun” to join the group.  I was seriously flattered to be included on her short list.  The ground rules we eventually came up with were pretty basic:  each of seven couples would take turns hosting the group, picking the theme, and sending out an Evite.  In everyone’s response to the Evite, they would reply with what course or dish they would be bringing so that each dinner would be complete from appetizers to dessert.  Members would cook from scratch, share their recipes, and contribute a bottle or two for the bar.  I distinctly remember Hurricane’s admonishment, “there will be no salad from a bag!”  I immediately replied in the affirmative, “We are in!”  I thought to myself, Finally!  These might be my people. They might even like me back.    

The Unusual Suspects

                Although a few of us in the Supper Club have taken a cooking class or two, none of us are professionally trained chefs, or for that matter expert mixologists.  I spent a few years during college working in restaurants both in the front and back of the house, and serving (and in a pinch mixing up) my share of cocktails on both sides of a busy bar.  But I have to say, as someone who has gleefully slapped down my husband’s Amex platinum at some of the finest restaurants in the country (and a tiny bit of west Europe), some of the best meals I’ve had have in the past few years have been shared with my Supper Club friends in our own homes.  Like the comfort foods of my childhood, the food prepared and laughed over with great company remains forefront in my mind, and on the muscle memory of my taste buds.

As the years have gone by, some couples, like Hurricane’s sister Pinot Noir and brother-in-law Merlot, have faded from the group.  Others, like Tequila Sunrise and her hubby Electric Koolaid, came for one dinner five years ago, joined us for four years, then eventually dropped back out.  Hurricane and Mr. Coffee got divorced.  What started out as a group of wide socioeconomic diversity and age (some with kids, some not), has devolved into a party wherein discussions of clogged milk ducts, sleep schedules, and chronic activity over-scheduling are depressingly common.  We’ve collectively decided that new parents have a pass on the “no salad from a bag” dictum, and are welcome to bring dessert from the corner bakery if desperate, but I personally think this only flies for 12 months after baby’s arrival.  I cling to the hope that as all of our kids go into school full-time, we will get back to the days of being hip, worldly foodies with enough energy to make Top Chef-inspired creations worthy of the pages of Food & Wine magazine, but I adore these folks enough to be happy just to see them every month.

Each host has invited another couple or two to various parties, but our core has remained the same for almost five years.  We’re architects and physicians, housekeepers and writers, former Mormon missionaries and “pole fitness” fanatics; real estate moguls, car salesmen, recovering archaeologists, and stay-at-home parents.  Teetotalers and vinophiles; people who live to eat, and people who eat to live.  In addition to Hurricane, the regulars sidling up to the table include Cosmopolitan and her hubby Fat Tire Ale; Sauvignon Blanc and Heineken; and my husband and I.  He’s The Macallan.  Sometimes I’m Mint Julep, sometimes I’m Hot Toddy, but mostly I’m just a Bourbon Gal.

We’ve had drop-ins from my girlfriends Pink Lady and Dirty Martini, and their husbands Grape Nehi and Rolling Rock.  I look forward to my buddy Manhattan’s sporadic but wonderful additions to the party; he slays me with his mad baking skills.  Manhattan’s partner Pimm’s Cup doesn’t cook, but he makes a killer cocktail.  Recent guests Michelada and French 75 show some real potential as permanent members, and give us a small chance at ethnic diversity.  Prosecco and Planter’s Punch just had twins, but Prosecco is still churning out desserts that will make you swoon.  Bourbon & Brown sugar ice cream with bourbon blondies?  Baked Alaska?  Oh, Prosecco, you had me at bourbon anything.  My neighbors Diet&Vodka and Butterbeer always bring something interesting, if not made from scratch; Butterbeer’s creative infused cocktails more than make up for Diet&Vodka’s attempts at cooking (Love ya, girlfriend!  Hope your audition on America’s Worst Cook goes well!)

In any case, recipes created by specific members get their full acknowledgement and credit in this blog, and when possible, I’ve included their sources and inspiration.  Most, however, are my own creations or my adaptations of compiled menus we’ve eaten over the years.  We’ve done Greek, Italian, Mid-Century, and Halloween themes a couple of times, for example, so I’ve had some really amazing menus to pull from.  Other favorites were ingredient-oriented parties based around citrus, gluten-free, and “aphrodisiac” recipes.  Any errors or omissions are my own, and I’ve changed the names of the innocent by-standers here to protect their identities.  Who am I kidding?  None of us are so innocent in this group of food hooligans.  Not that it would be that hard to figure out who these folks are; they are, after all, the best home cooks in Salt Lake County that Hurricane knows who are also, ahem, “fun.”