Tag Archives: Cocktails

The Connemara Spirit

Spirit.  Sugar.  Bitters.


The building blocks of the classic cocktail.

This month’s Mixology Monday hosted by Sass & Gin is a back to basics with a twist.  We start with the venerable Old Fashioned.  Perhaps the drink that most defines or even originates the concept of a cocktail.  My preferred version is made with 1 sugar cube muddled with 2 dashes Angostura, 1 dash Orange Bitters, and a barspoon of water.  Then firmly press in a large orange peel and pour in 2.5 ounces of Rye.  Add a large sphere or cube of ice and stir until well chilled.

Orange Peels

Sass & Gin has tasked us to take that classic and push it outside the box.

Here it goes.


Since we are all feeling a little Irish this time of year, I thought it fitting to offer up an old fashioned cocktail with one of the world’s oldest spirits: Poitin (say potcheen) derived from the Gaelic word for little pots, as in pot-stills.  Early records apparently report distilling in Ireland way back in the year 584 by Irish monks.  Traditionally made with malted barely, potatoes, and sugar beets, poitin is typically an un-aged Irish moonshine.  It was “outlawed” (or prohibitively taxed) in 1661 by King Charles forcing distillers to ply their craft in hiding, evading the excise men, for the next several hundred years.  So, in a way, you could say that Poitin is the spirited distillate of Irish independence.

The Glendalough mountain-strength Poitin I’m using is rather intense.  It’s got some burn, but it also has a pleasant woody quality with a grape-like fruitiness, maybe a bit of green apple peels and a touch of lime.  A pinch of spice, clove?  My first attempts at this drink used straight-up, mountain-strength.  And well, it was too much…too much to achieve proper balance that is.  So, I backed it off and ‘gasp,’ diluted it a bit.  In the future, I will purchase either the regular strength or the sherry cask finished version rather than the mountain.


Now for the sugar.  I tried a bunch of options.  Molasses was overbearing.  Maple didn’t jive.  Simple syrup was too simple.  Demerara syrup could work.  However, it was a 1:1 honey syrup made with a fall honey that we got from a friend that made it sing.  During the fall, the bees feast on the aster flowers and the resulting honey has a vivacious floral, herbal aroma along with a deep amber color and a heavier flavor than that of, say a spring honey.

Expell the Oils

Bitters…  I really wanted this drink to have some exotic bitters in it, but in the end, I liked the Angostura and Orange bitters best.

Here you have it:


The Connemara Te (pronounced tay)

1.5 oz Poitin, Mountain-Strength

.5 oz Cold Water

.5 tsp Honey Syrup

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

1 dash Orange Bitters

4 drops Orange Blossom Water

Orange Peel


Combine the honey syrup, bitters, and orange peel in the bottom of an old fashioned glass.  Use a muddler to press out the citrus oils.  Add the water and give it a swirl or two with the muddler.  Then add the poitin, the orange blossom water, and ice.  Stir with a barspoon until well chilled.

Note:  I suspect that if I were to use a lesser proof of poitin, I would find this drink quite agreeable using 2oz of spirit and only a barspoon of water.  However, I’ll have to confirm that some other time.

Other Note: Connemara Te is a reference to the song The Hills of Connemara, which is about Irish moonshiners.  In the song they refer to the ‘shine as mountain te.  ‘Te’ is the gaelic word for tea.

To see a round-up of all the great contributions to this month’s Mixology Monday click here.

Connemara Te

Happy Saint Patty’s Day!


Surviving the Blizzard…

Blizzard 2015 a

(PS – A week later, the snow completely covers the patio furniture and is up to the window.)

(PSS – Three weeks later, my back has about had enough of the daily shoveling.  The driveway get longer and longer.  I’m pretty sure it stretches for at least 3 blocks, now.  Running out of places to put the snow…)

(PSSS – Six weeks later, the snow is still there.  Why, yes, I do think I’ll have another Toddy.  We’ve probably added at least another foot or two.  However, spring is just around the corner.  I can feel it in the air.  We had some melting yesterday: our first 40F degree day since mid-December.  Although, last night dropped below zero again, I think hope the deep freeze temperatures are mostly behind us.)


A Winter Remedy

2 oz Whiskey

1/4 oz Lemon Juice

2 tsp Demerara Sugar

Boiling Water

Lemon Peel studded with 4-6 Cloves

Add the sugar to a mug.  Fill half way with the boiling water.  Stir to dissolve the sugar.  Add the studded lemon peel garnish and stir it around a bit.  Next pour in the lemon juice and whiskey.  Stir a final time.  Enjoy.


Warding off the cold one toddy at a time.

Pour 2



Simple and delicious.

Blizzard…What blizzard?

Blue In Green: MxMo XCIII

Blue like the January sky.

Blue ghosts cross a white field

Ice blossoms dance in cold sunlight

Blue is the memory of color.

Chilling the Coup

Anyhoo, Blue is the theme for this month’s Mixology Monday hosted by Ginhound!  The blue cocktail trend is supposed to become a thing, so this seems very a la mode.   I’m not really one to add food coloring to my drinks just in order to turn a perfectly good martini blue, or a beer green.  However, it is near impossible to walk a hard line on food coloring.  I’m pretty sure that Campari contributes a fair amount of it, as does Angostura and a host of other common occupants of my bar, for that matter.  But as for just adding a few drops of blue… well, that would be too easy anyway.

So, I originally set out thinking about how I could turn a drink blue more naturally.  (I also didn’t have any Blue Curacao or other blue liqueur.)  Ginhound had plenty of good ideas of using red cabbage, blueberries and the like, which could totally work, but I wasn’t feeling it.  Then I thought about ingredients that have blue in the name, then cocktails that have blue in the name…  But that’s when things got more interesting.  I started thinking about blue outside the food context and things/feelings associated with that color/word.  The challenge to create something around an abstract theme is exciting!

Enter Miles Davis

A smoky, blue lit club swirling sounds about the atmosphere.  Jazz always has had this hazy blue vibe to me.  Not all jazz recordings of course, but rather the general idea of it.

Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is one of the greatest jazz albums of all time.

“Why does Kind of Blue possess such a mystique? Perhaps because this music never flaunts its genius…. It’s the pinnacle of modal jazz — tonality and solos build from the overall key, not chord changes, giving the music a subtly shifting quality….”  – AllMusic senior editor Stephen Erlewine

Let’s create a cocktail inspired by Kind of Blue!

Establishing 1

After listening to the record, I knew right away that the rounded sophistication of the sound called out for cognac.  Naturally, my thoughts turned to the Vieux Carré, hailing from the land of jazz with a solid base of cognac.  But I didn’t want to just make a classic cocktail.  I wanted something that spoke to the source material more specifically.


The finer details of the drink, therefore, needed more boundaries.  So, I narrowed the album down to one track in particular, Blue in Green.  The soft piano and bass undertones would be played nicely by the cognac.  An accent of scotch for my smoky haze.  The brassy inflections that pop above those undertones add complexity and high notes to the sound and really make the music interesting.  Bitters and a twist of lemon.  A little sweet vermouth to echo the Vieux Carré, add mouth-feel and round it all out.

Let’s swirl some green chartreuse into a chilled coup for the improvisation and a subtle shout out to another New Orleans classic.  Then, we’ll pour our Blue into the Green!


The Stir

The Pour

From Above

Blue in Green

1 oz  Cognac

1 oz  Scotch

1/2 oz  Sweet Vermouth

2 Dashes  Angostura Bitters

2 Dashes  Peychaud Bitters

2 Dashes  Orange Bitters (Fee Bros.)

1 Bar Spoon Green Chartreuse

Lemon Peel for Garnish

Set a cocktail glass to chill.  Combine the first 6 ingredients in a mixing glass/tin.  Add ice and stir.

In the chilled glass, add a bar spoonful of green chartreuse and swirl it around the glass.

Strain the contents of the mixing glass into the coup, twist the lemon peel over the drink to release the oils and garnish.


Blue in Green – a “subtly shifting” cocktail.

Check out the Mixology Monday round up here.

Garnish Grandiloquence: Mixology Monday

Alright, this latest edition of Mixology Monday is all about garnish.  Here is a bit of what host Joseph Tkach of Measure and Stir fame has to say about it:

I’m always shocked by the way that an orange peel or a lemon peel can transform the experience of drinking a mixed drink from something mundane to something magical. In a similar vein, eating the olive in a martini will totally transform the imbiber’s perception of the drink. So this Mixology Monday, let’s really make a study of art of the garnish, by mixing up drinks where the garnish plays a central role in the experience of the drink… This type of garnish is traditionally in the realm of tiki, but you could mix anything, so long as the garnish is the star of the show.

When I read this month’s theme, I was reminded of a dinner party we had a couple of summer’s ago.  It was a great ode to the the bounty of summer.   On the first course, I paired some soft-ripened cheese (Seal Bay Triple Cream, mmmmm), fresh fig, walnut, and a drizzle of orange blossom honey with a summer edition martini.

(Above two photos circa 2010 courtesy of Michael Thrash)

The only thing that changed about this classic cocktail was the garnish.  However, the way the it changed the feel and ambiance of the drink was dramatic enough that we are still talking about how it set the stage for the following courses.  I think that the garnish really became the central player and the fact that it was in a really well known cocktail, and essentially recreated the drink experience, makes it a perfect fit for the Garnish Grandiloquence.

So even though it didn’t evoke the essence of fall, it did remind us again of summer and inspired us to add some flowers to our Thanksgiving dinner.

Martini d’Eté

2 oz Gin (We like Hendricks)

1/4 oz Dry Vermouth (We prefer Dolin Dry Vermouth, but for this rendition we used Vya Dry which is nice as well)

1 dash (or 1/4 tsp) Orange Bitters (We used some homemade orange bitters, but really enjoy Scrappy’s Orange Bitters in Martinis)

Peel of Lemon


Stir in a mixing glass with ice until nice and chilled.

Strain into a martini glass.  Next squeeze a peel of lemon over the drink to spritz the citrus oils onto the surface of the drink and then rub the peel along the rim of the glass.

Discard the peel.  Garnish with an edible flower.

The flowers are easily the focus of this drink and really add something special to the martini.


ˈȯr-ˌzhä(t) aka Orgeat

This summer was supposed to be my “Summer of Tiki”.  The best laid plans….maybe next summer.

I did make orgeat, though!

Used in many cocktails, most notably the venerable Mai Tai, orgeat is essentially an emulsion of water and almond oil.  That, along with the addition of sugar and orange flower water results in a sweet, floral almond flavored syrup.

I made it twice actually, the first time I closely followed the recipe posted on the Imbibe website.  However, I found that all of the cocktails I made with it were improved with the addition of a little simple syrup (and I’m not a sticky sweet cocktail fan.)  So, for the second round I increased the sweetness as well as the amount of orange flower water and I enjoy it more.  Tailor the flavor components to your tastes by adding a little bit at a time until you get it just the way you want it.  I ended up pouring out half of the first syrup because it got funky before I was able to use it all, so I reduced the recipe volume by half in hopes that less of it would ultimately wind up down the drain.

Here’s what I did:


1 1/4 Cup Raw Almonds

3 1/5 Cups Water

1/2 Cup Cane Sugar

1 oz Vodka

1 T Orange Flower Water

Roughly chop the almonds, place in bowl, and cover with water (about 1 3/4 Cup).  Let the almonds soak for 30 minutes , then strain out the almonds and discard the liquid.

Transfer the almonds to a blender or food processor (I would recommend a food processor).  Grind the almonds until they are of a coarse consistency.  Add a little water if it makes the blending easier.  Transfer them to a bowl (you can use the same bowl from above) and add the rest of the water (about 1 3/4 Cup).

Steep the almonds for 2 hours.  Stirring once or twice.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth and set over another bowl.  Pour the almonds and liquid through the cheesecloth.  When the liquid has drained through, gather up the edges of the cloth collecting the almonds into a ball in the center and squeeze.  You’re trying to press out as much of the oils as you can before continuing the steeping.

Then remove the strainer and add the almonds back to the liquid.  Give it a good stir and allow to steep for another 2-3 hours, stirring every hour or so.

After that steep, strain through the cheesecloth again (just like after the 2 hour mark), squeezing the life out of the almonds.  This time discard the almonds afterward.

Transfer the almond water to a small pot along with 1/2 cup of sugar and gently heat over low flame until the sugar has fully dissolved.  Turn off the heat and allow to cool to room temp.

Stir in the tablespoon of orange flower water and the ounce of vodka (or other booze of choice).  You can skip the booze if you want to make this non-alcoholic.

I gave it one more filter through a fine mesh strainer as I transferred it to bottle.

Store in the refrigerator, and use within 2-3 weeks.  This will separate, just give it a good shake before using.  If after shaking it is still distinctly separate, then it’s time to throw that out and make some more.


South Side

A quick cocktail recipe while the last bit of summer lingers.

The South Side.  The origin is disputed, but definitely made famous by the 21 Club in New York City.  I’ve seen some recipes that use lime juice instead of lemon, powdered sugar instead of simple syrup and some that add no club soda at all.  This is how I like it.

2 oz Gin

1 oz Lemon Juice

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

2 Mint Sprigs

1 Splash of Club Soda

Combine the gin, juice, syrup, and mint in a mixing glass.

Add ice and cover with a shaker tin.  Shake vigorously.

This is what you are looking for; a frosty exterior lets you know that the drink inside is well chilled.

Open the shaker and add the club soda.  Swirl it around lightly and strain it into a cocktail glass.

Refrain from the double strain, otherwise, you’ll miss out on the green flecked appearance that the broken mint leaves add, which is quite nice.

As a side note, this is the drink that I served with the Mole Raviole.

Flaming Orange Peels!

Flaming an orange peel, woohoo!  This makes for a rather showy garnish for your cocktails, but it also, adds some unique flavor elements.  I first encountered this when I ordered a Bartender’s Choice drink at Cook and Brown Public House in Providence, RI.  It was great (so was the food)!  Honestly, I cannot really remember what the drink was.  It was the last one of the night…  A variation of something or other, but I do remember the table side flaming of an orange peel.

The objective here is to spray the citrus oils and sugars through the flame and over the drink.  The flamed oils create an immediately intense aroma.  The sugars caramelize as they pass through the flame adding more complex flavors and a whisper of caramel sweetness.

Here’s how to do it:

Take an orange and using a pairing knife or vegetable peeler slice off a little strip about 1 1/2 inches in width and 2 1/2 or so inches in length trying to remove as little of the white pith as possible, having some is okay.  As with most citrus garnishes, make the drink first and trim the peel over the drink.  All of that micro misting of aromatic goodness will land on the drink.  This adds a wonderful level of freshness.

A successful peel is going to be firm (not hard) with some tension to it.  If the peel is to small you’ll potentially burn your fingertips.  If it is too flimsy, you are not going to be able to convince those juices to really explode from the peel.

Next step is to light a match.  I do not recommend lighters for this.  They will work in a pinch, I suppose…  However, they can contribute lighter fluid smells and flavors to your drink.

Holding the peel between your thumb and forefinger, lightly brush the flame over it a couple of times.  You’ll need to work somewhat quickly depending on your match.  Try not to burn your finger tips.  You could end up dropping the match in the drink, screaming and knocking over the glass, etc.  It will ruin the experience.  I would recommend flaming only one peel per match…

Then, holding the match about an inch or two away from the peel and over the glass, squeeze the sides of the orange peel together spraying citrus oils through the flame.  Little sparks of flavor and aroma will rain down onto the drink.

The photo doesn’t do this justice.  It happens really quick, but it is pretty cool.

If you get the match too close to the orange peel and it looks like this… (Notice the darker strip there.)

Over toasted Peel

Discard the peel and try it again.  Otherwise you are going to be adding burnt and ashy flavors.  Not really what were going for.  Light smokey, maybe.  Burnt, not so much.  I think this may have been a contributing factor in the first attempt at The Revolver.  The coffee liqueur was no doubt ashy as well, but some of the harshness in that first drink was probably from a toasty peel.  The subsequent Revolvers were decidedly less ashy.

After the fireworks, I like to rub the peel around the rim of the glass and slide it into the drink.

There you have it, a flamed orange peel.  Give it a shot!

Negroni garnished with Flamed Orange Peel

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