Spiced Ruby Punch

Recently I attended the tenth annual Teslacon, a steampunk convention, and one of my roles was an entertainment officer. I sported a bandolier holding vials of a red liquid and a deck of cards, ready to alleviate boredom with a quick game or a quick drink. Many seemed to enjoy the punch, and some asked for the recipe. This seems like an ideal time to try my hand at writing here again.

Hi folks. It’s been awhile.


The vials contained a clarified spiced ruby milk punch, based on the milk punch made by Cocktail Chemistry (which in turn was based on the recipe by Dan Souza of America’s Test Kitchen, which itself is a variation on the Ruby Punch from Jerry Thomas’s Bar Tender’s Guide from 1862). I first made it for my New Year’s party, staying true to the initial recipe, substituting rum for the Batavia Arrack (solely due to availability). It’s sweet, tart, and delightfully smooth, and it was a hit. I made the same recipe when I provided some drinks for my sister-in-law’s bachelorette party. Once again, it was a hit, but I wanted to take it further, put a personal twist on it. I’ve always wanted to have a house punch, something premixed for unexpected company—a signature drink.

After some brainstorming, I mixed it up with some spices and a few other changes and premiered it at a Halloween party. Although I stayed home with my son, I sent the punch along anyway and received good feedback from those that tried it. Buoyed by the positive reception, I made it again for Teslacon.


Clarified Spiced Ruby Milk Punch

  • 2 cups brewed English Breakfast and hibiscus tea
  • 5 cloves
  • 30 coriander seeds
  • 1 star anise pod
  • ⅔ cup rum
  • ⅔ cup ruby port
  • ⅓ cup demerara sugar
  • 2 ⅔ oz grapefruit juice
  • 2 ⅔ oz lemon juice
  • 1 cup whole milk*

Brew English Breakfast and hibiscus tea together with the cloves, coriander seeds, and star anise pod, for about five minutes. Add demerara sugar and stir to combine, then set aside to cool. If you’d like a spicier punch, leave the spices to steep to taste as the sweetened tea cools. Once cool, add the grapefruit juice, lemon juice, rum, and port, then pour the whole mixture slowly into a large container with the milk. Set aside for at least an hour, then strain the punch through cheesecloth once to collect the curds, then filter through the curds again. Finally, finish by straining through a coffee filter, then store in the fridge.

This punch is sweet and tart like its predecessors, but it’s also warm and complex. The deep berry and stonefruit notes in the port are punctuated by the hibiscus and grapefruit, and the spices warm everything up. And, of course, it’s perfectly smooth and crystal clear. I used 7 year Flor de Caña in this batch because that’s what I had on hand, but I’m interested in trying it with the original Batavia Arrack and with other rums to see how it affects the final product.

Overall, I’m very happy with how this punch turned out. It’s accessible, layered, and most importantly delicious. It was well-received at the convention. It looked great in the bandolier, and people seemed to like it as well. Plus, it was an excellent conversation starter. All good qualities of a house punch. If you stop by, I’ll be sure to have a glass ready for you.

*: While the curds are removed from the punch, the lactose remains in the cocktail. This can be made with nut milk as well, but as tested by Cook’s Illustrated, it doesn’t produce the same results. If you try it, I would love to hear how it turns out!

MxMo CVIII: Wisconsin Old Fashioned

I promise. At some point, I’ll post something here that isn’t MxMo related. Just not now.


For this month’s Mixology Monday prompt, we turn to Fred from his CocktailVirgin blog. Briefly, Fred states:

mxmologo“For this theme, find a classic or modern Swizzle recipe, whether hot or cold. If the creative mood hits you, take the style in your own direction whether in a Tiki avenue, by reformulating a classic cocktail, or via something more Caribbean in feel. Don’t have a traditional Swizzle stick? Do not fret — I have found that a bar spoon works great in a pinch to do all of the mixing and chilling. Want to bring the Green Swizzle back to life or perhaps turn the Between the Sheets into a Barbados crushed ice delight? Awesome!”

One of the things I love about participating in Mixology Monday is it forces me to expand my cocktail horizons. I’ve never had a swizzled beverage before, much less made one. As a citizen of Wisconsin, the swizzling process immediately reminded me of our unofficial state cocktail: the Brandy Old Fashioned.

In Wisconsin, a brandy old fashioned is an eccentric cousin to the old standby of bitters, sugar, and spirit that we know and love. Jeffrey Morgenthaler describes the difference in detail here. In short, while it may seem blasphemous to some, the sweet fruit salad concoction made popular in supper clubs across the Badger State is a refreshing and fun regionalism that’s worth a try.

Since the Wisconsin brandy old fashioned calls for copious amounts of crushed ice, it’s a perfect cocktail for swizzling. I prefer mine without the traditional topper of sweet, sour, or club soda, and swizzling helps lengthen the drink without too much unnecessary dilution. W/r/t the cherries, try to stay away from the common neon-red maraschino cherries you’d top a sundae with. While they may be tradition at many establishments, I find their artificial flavor unpleasant, especially when muddled.


Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned

  • 2oz Brandy*
  • 2 orange peels
  • 2 brandied or maraschino cherries
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 barspoon cherry syrup (preferrably from your brandied cherries)
  • Crushed ice
  • Angostura bitters

Add your orange peels, cherries, sugar, and cherry syrup to your glass. Muddle furiously. You want to avoid muddling any pith from the orange peels into the drink, but you really want a sweet paste. Add your brandy, then fill the glass with crushed ice. I don’t own a traditional swizzle stick, but I had no issue swizzling with my trusty bar spoon. Spin the stick/spoon between your hands, moving up and down to mix and chill the drink. Once the outside of your glass has frosted, top with more crushed ice and a dash or two of Angostura bitters. Add a straw, and serve.


This drink is sweet and refreshing. The extra sugar from the second cherry and the cherry syrup helps the drink hold up to the large amount of dilution swizzling provides. The orange and the cherry play up the fruity notes in the brandy as well. But this isn’t necessarily meant to be a nuanced beverage. Drink this frequently, preferably paired with beer-battered walleye and coleslaw. You’ll thank me.

*: Usually this is made with Korbel, as Mr. Morgenthaler states. And while that’s sufficient, I really like Paul Masson. Make this with whatever brandy you like

MxMo CVII: Smoke over the Temperance

This month’s Mixology Monday prompt is overproof spirits. In Dagreb of Nihil Utopia‘s words:


“My theme this time is overproof. Or rather how you utilize overproofs.  Do you sub them into your standards? Save them for accents in particular recipes? Pour them into ceramic volcanoes and set them on fire? Reserve them only for making liqueres? … 

First let’s decide what is proof. It’s my party so I say 50% abv is proof. Above that is overproof. You disagree? Host your own party! (No really host a MxMo it’ll be fun.) So BIB liquors are exempt this month but lots of bottles are fair game! Whether it boldly proclaims its strength on the label or nonchalantly lets you discover its strength for yourself use that bottle that packs a punch in a drink this month.”

I don’t have much in the way of overproof spirits in my bar. In fact, I only have one bottle that’s over 50% abv. – cask-strength Laphroaig. So, what can I do with a tight budget? Play off Laphroaig’s smokiness, of course. Sipping Laphroaig reminds me of camping, specifically on Minnesota’s North Shore. That’s where my wife and I were wed, and we try to make it up to the shores of Gitche Gumee at least once a year. I wanted to make a drink that would evoke camping on a cool evening by the lake.

The first thing I thought of was toasted marshmallows. They remind me more of camping as a kid, but regardless of age, they’re mighty tasty. But how to incorporate the smokey caramel sweet of the marshmallows? I decided to attack the problem head-on, by toasting an entire package of marshmallows.











After toasting the marshmallows, I put them in a saucepan and added some water. Once the marshmallows melted into a syrup, I strained out the burnt pieces, then put the syrup back into the pan and added some more sugar to taste. Surprisingly enough, the melted marshmallows weren’t sweet enough (compared to a traditional simple syrup) on their own.

Fair warning to anyone who wants to make this syrup themselves: you haven’t gotten rid of the gelatin in the marshmallows. You’ve really just created marshmallow jelly. You’ll have to heat it up to make it a liquid again. It’s a pain when you just need a little for experimenting, but definitely manageable when using it to please a crowd.

Once the syrup was finished, I tried several drinks with it, but nothing worked. The gelatin in the syrup, when chilled, caused the drink to separate much too quickly. Adding enough acid to threaten the gelatin overwhelmed the rather subtle toasted marshmallow taste. So I went back to where I started: heat.


Smoke over the Temperance

  • 2oz Lapsang Souchong Tea, brewed
  • 1.25oz Rittenhouse Rye bottled-in-bond
  • 0.75oz Toasted Marshmallow syrup, warm
  • 2 barspoons lemon juice
  • 3 dashes The Bitter Truth chocolate bitters
  • 8 drops cinnamon tincture
  • Laphroaig scotch rinse

The key to this riff on a hot toddy, I’ve found, is procedural: keep everything as warm as possible as long as possible. It keeps the gelatin in the syrup under control, and it really allows the smokey aromatics throughout the drink to shine.

I start by brewing the tea. 5 minutes, boiling water. While that’s steeping, I fill the serving glass with hot water to temper it, and I heat up the syrup so it’s pourable. When the tea is done brewing, I begin building the drink. First, dump the hot water from the serving glass and rinse it with the Laphroaig. Then add the bitters, cinnamon tincture, lemon juice, syrup, and rye. Finally, top with the brewed tea, and serve immediately.


This is a drink you taste just as much with your nose as with your tongue. The smoke of the tea and the scotch fill your nose as you take a sip, and the complex sweetness of the toasted marshmallow really comes through as it lingers on your tongue, supported by the chocolate and cinnamon without tasting like a s’more. Not that that’s a bad thing; that’s just a different drink. The lemon provides just that little bit of brightness, but really, any more than a barspoon or two can overwhelm the subtle syrup. Then the drink finishes with that rye spiciness mixing with the smoke that’s still in your nose from earlier. It’s wonderful.


In the future, I hope to expand my knowledge of overproof spirits. Right now, it’s limited to a few whiskies and, for better or worse, the grain alcohol I use to make limoncello. I look forward to reading about all the other great drinks submitted for this month’s prompt, and I have no doubt they’ll inspire me to get my hands on some strong spirits.

MxMo – CVI – Rainbow Sherbet Fizz

To get back into hopefully more consistent posts here, I’m going to participate in the monthly cocktail party at Mixology Monday! Each month, bloggers and cocktail enthusiasts are given a prompt to design or showcase a cocktail around. This month’s prompt was provided by Joel at Southern Ash:

As we look past the frost in the air for the arrival of spring, I wanted to challenge you with the theme of Spring Break!..  The best part of Spring Break is that it means so many things to so many different people, so I have some high expectations this month.  Yes, tiki-heads, I am looking at you. I want all of you to dig deep, steeled by last month’s MxMO, and find your spring break drink! What sort of drinks do you enjoy when you start to break out of your winter shell? Do you crave a return to gin and tonics? Is there a drink that calls to you as the weather warms and the sun creeps through the sky longer and longer?  Perhaps there is a drink that you fondly recall from your days of being a callow youth on Spring Break that led you down this primrose cocktail path?.. This is the month to to share those warm weather finds!”

Last summer, a group of friends from around the world congregated in my general area, and my wife and I threw a party for everyone, including some hand-crafted cocktails around the campfire. One of these friends is from Finland. As a gift, she generously gave me a bottle of Lakkalikööri, a Finnish liqueur made with cloudberries. Lakkalikööri, or Lakka for short, is very sweet, with a subtle and complex citrus flavor. 

While I have enjoyed sipping it on its own, I hadn’t made a cocktail with it. I found most other ingredients overpowered the subtle flavors of the Lakka. But, when I saw this month’s prompt, I was determined to finally utilize Lakka in a unique way. Not only does my bottle of Lakka remind me of the great get-together from last summer, cloudberries ripening is often a herald of the middle of the short Arctic summer.

Rainbow Sherbet Fizz

Makes one drink

1oz Lakkalikööri

1oz Aperol

0.75oz lemon juice

0.75oz egg white

6 drops orange bitters

Splash of club soda

Combine the Lakka, Aperol, lemon juice, and egg white in a shaker. Dry shake vigorously for a minute, then add ice and continue to shake for a few minutes. Double strain, and top with remaining foam. Drop the orange bitters into the thick foam and swirl with a toothpick. Add some club soda to taste.

Lakka, on its own, can be a little heavy and syrupy. To really make this drink evoke summer, I needed it to be light. So I avoided any of the traditional base spirits and went for an amaro to counteract the sweetness. However, most amaros are strong in their own right. Aperol’s more mild bitter orange flavors pair excellently with the complex citrus notes of Lakka, and the two liqueurs balance well. A little lemon juice brightens the drink significantly. This drink is fairly acidic – a little egg white helps keep the drink silky smooth, and, when combined with a splash of club soda, gives it a cloud-like foam top.

This is a bright, effervescent drink with powerful and complex citrus notes and a very drinkable bitter finish. The slight carbonation and foam keep My friend Kyle described the flavor as “smokey melted rainbow sherbet.” I don’t know if it gets more summery than that.

Heavy Table’s Winter Cocktail Contest

Greetings folks, it’s been awhile again. I’ve been pretty busy with a bunch of stuff, and I’ve been able to make a few cocktails again. These two were for a winter cocktail contest hosted by Heavy Table and sponsored by the fine folks at Du Nord Craft Spirits, Gamle Ode, and Bittercube. I did not make the semifinals (congrats to all those who did), but I still enjoyed making these, and boy are they tasty. Let me know what you think in the comments, on twitter @larix_laricina, or via email at alex@stagandotter.com. Thanks!

First Frost’s Kiss

Makes one drink

1.75oz Du Nord L’etoile Vodka

0.5oz rose syrup*

0.25oz lemon juice

Dash Bittercube orange bitters

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, and stir well to dilute and chill. Strain and serve up with a thick lemon twist as a garnish.

Combining the powerful aroma of roses and the subtle sweetness of Du Nord L’etoile vodka, the First Frost’s Kiss takes advantage of one of our winter’s first gifts: wild rose hips. Best picked right after the first frost, this fragrant fruit can be found throughout the northern midwest, and it can be dried for use in teas, syrups, and jams year-round.

First Frost’s Kiss is light and cold on the tongue, but the floral aromatics quickly fill your nose, reminding you that winter will eventually give way to spring’s embrace. The lemon juice is there to provide balance, tempering the sweet and warm with a little acid and a little tartness, preventing the drink from being cloyingly sweet. The Bittercube orange bitters serve to enhance the nose of the cocktail, adding warmth and depth without overpowering the other flavors.

A quick note on preparation: while it is customary to shake cocktails with fruit juice, I recommend stirring the First Frost’s Kiss. I’ve found the nose of the rose syrup is lessened by shaking. Also, the cocktail looks better crystal-clear in candlelight. To that end, I also strained my lemon juice through a cheesecloth.

*: If you have access to rose hips, I suggest using the recipe detailed here: https://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/rosehip-syrup. If not, rose petals will substitute in a pinch (although the flavor will be slightly more floral and less fruity). For rose petal syrup, combine 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Once the sugar is fully dissolved, add one cup of rose petals with the bitter white end removed and the rest of the petals roughly chopped. Let the petals steep over low heat for about 15 minutes, then strain.

Ode to Oslo, or the Hotske Todske

Makes one drink

2oz hot water

2oz Gamle Ode Celebration aquavit

0.5tsp maple sugar

1 dropper Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters

Orange peel, garnish

Rosemary sprig, garnish

Place maple sugar in the bottom of a mug. Soak the sugar with the bitters, then add 1oz of the hot water to dissolve. Add the aquavit and the garnish. Add the final 1oz of hot water just before serving.

Nothing beats a hot toddy to warm you up on a frigid winter’s evening. Using Gamle Ode Celebration aquavit instead of the traditional whisky, the Ode to Oslo evokes sitting in a Scandinavian sauna. Maple sugar adds a warmth that isn’t found in conventional granulated sugar. 

The nose is inviting and warm. The hot water awakens the aromatics in the aquavit and garnish. On the tongue, caraway and citrus appear first, quickly fading to reveal the warm vanilla and maple beneath. The earthy cherry from the bitters really rounds out the drink, enhancing the anise in the aquavit. The finish is herbal and strong, enough to keep you warm through whatever the Minnesota winter can throw your way. Simply, the Ode to Oslo is hyggelig embodied.

State of the Blog Address

Hello folks, it’s been a while. How’ve you been?

This year got away from me quite fast. Life got in the way of my more trivial pursuits, which includes experimenting with cocktails. But, now that it’s winter again, I have plenty of time to tinker with spirits and flavors.

It also helps that around this festive time of year, there are plenty of get-togethers and reasons to celebrate with a well-crafted cocktail or spirit.

Since we last spoke (wow, six months?), I’ve still been able to do a little cocktail crafting. I designed a yet-to-be-named cocktail for my friend’s wedding in July, I’ve made my own Irish cream, and I’ve got a batch of krupnik in the fridge. And, since my wife and I are hosting a New Year’s Eve party, I’m taking the opportunity to throw a little cocktail menu together.

Since I’ve got a bunch of stuff to report back on, I’ll do my best to post once a week starting this weekend on these different projects. And if you’ve got any questions or ideas you’d like addressed, let me know!


Cocktail Contest Entry #1

So there’s a cocktail contest being run by the Smithsonian. The goal? Design a cocktail inspired by the Star Spangled Banner. Well, as a student of history, I thought this might be fun to try and enter.

I’ll be posting my recipe ideas for the contest here. If you’d like to try it out, please do and let me know what you think! I’m looking for criticism regarding the drink’s balance, flavor, appearance, and overall appeal.

Here’s my first attempt. I don’t have a name for this yet, so Cocktail Contest Entry #1 will do for now.

BlurryCat is interested in the applejack.


– 1 oz Applejack Apple Brandy (preferably Bottled in Bond, if you can find it)

– 1 oz Dark rum

– 1 oz Rhubarb Shrub*

– 0.5 oz Brown Sugar Syrup**

– 1/2 egg white

Directions: combine all ingredients in a shaker. First, vigorously dry shake (without ice) to work up a nice foam. Then add ice and shake to chill. Strain into a glass and enjoy.

I find the drink to be decently balanced between sweet and tart, with the apple and rhubarb flavors coming through quite nicely. The egg white really smooths everything out and gives the drink a silky mouthfeel. You can taste the sweetness of the dark rum (the molasses flavor accentuated by the brown sugar syrup), and the effervescence of the apple brandy dances on the tongue with the nice thick foam.

One of the possible modifications I’ve tried already is adding a couple drops of Angostura bitters on the foam after straining, then using your barspoon (or a chopstick, or a knife, or your finger, or whatever) to make little stars for decoration.

*: Rhubarb Shrub


– Rhubarb, 4-5 stalks

– 1 cup unpasteurized apple cider vinegar

– 1 cup sugar

Following the recipe found here: chop the rhubarb into 1/2 inch cubes or so.  Place the chopped rhubarb, sugar, and apple cider vinegar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then turn down the head and let cook for about 10 minutes.

Once cooked, strain through a fine mesh strainer and/or cheesecloth, put in a sealed jar and let it mature in the fridge. As it ages, the vinegar flavor will mellow, and it will be perfect after about a week. After that, it’ll last for several months.

**: Brown Sugar Syrup

Place equal parts brown sugar syrup and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cook until all the sugar is dissolved.

For those of you who test this out, thank you, and be sure to check back for more recipes to come! My goal is to submit two polished recipes to the contest. Thanks for reading, and cheers!


Hey folks, it’s been a while.  It’s been… a month since I’ve updated?  I suppose there are a few reasons for that. Primarily, I’ve been trying to focus on one spirit per month, and this month was to be rum. But I can’t say I enjoyed the drinks I was making, and none of them felt worthy enough to share here. Combine that with money becoming very tight, it’s been rougher than I like. Luckily I was able to sneak ingredients like citrus into the grocery budget.

But enjoy about that, let’s get to the drinks that I tried to make.

I tend to name drinks after I make them, and if they don’t measure up, I won’t bother.  So here’s Untitled #1:


-1 part light rum

-1 part applejack

-0.5 part allspice dram (homemade)

-0.25 part lemon juice

-Dash Angostura bitters

This drink was all right, but as you can see from my expression below, I wasn’t thrilled with it. It had a good bit of spice, and the balance was there. The applejack paired well with the rum, but the rum seemed to cut through the other flavors, unpleasantly so.

“How would you describe it?” *stares at camera*

I also tried a very classic Bumbo recipe (rum, water, sugar, and nutmeg) and a basic daiquiri (rum, lime juice, simple syrup), and neither particularly tickled my fancy. So, my conclusion from these experiments? I haven’t developed my taste for rum yet. This is an aspect of self-improvement that I think I’ll enjoy working on.

In the interim, I’ve been making other things.  I made a Lion’s Tail for a Guess that Classic Cocktail segment on Reddit, I modified the Lion’s Tail replacing the bourbon and lime with rye and lemon, and that was a hit at a party I went to. For both of these drinks, I made my own Allspice Dram, which is white rum infused with allspice and cinnamon, and mixed with an equal part brown sugar syrup.

I also started making some shrubs. What’s a shrub? I’ll explain that in a future post.  But here’s a teaser picture. Spoiler: they’re tasty and easy to make!

If you follow cocktail stuff on a regular basis, you probably already know about Negroni Week. A Negroni is simply 1 part gin, 1 part sweet vermouth, and 1 part Campari, an Italian amaro (i.e. bitter) liqueur known for its bright red color and bitter citrus and herbal flavor. Negroni Week is a campaign to spread the word about this complex cocktail and raise some money for charity through participating bars. Don’t like one of the ingredients? Swap it out. Possibly the best thing about a Negroni is how flexible it is. The combination of 1 part spirit, 1 part sweet, 1 part herbal can be changed to make all sorts of other drinks. Some of them have their own monikers, like the Boulevardier (replace gin with rye whiskey).

Personally, I prefer my Negronis with aquavit instead of gin. But, inspired by Negroni Week, I decided to mix things up even more for my version, and I used both aquavit and rye whiskey in place of the gin. This created a negroni/boulevardier mashup that worked very well. It’s spicy and bold, and I find it more complex than the standard gin. The citrus in the Gamle Ode Celebration aquavit I used really blends well with the citus-y bitterness in the Campari.

Mmm, properly stirred.

One final bit of news: the rum I won arrived! I’ll talk about my tasting notes for it in a future post, but my initial impression is that it’s a very mellow rum with a strong inherent sweetness. Stay tuned for more!

Mmm, pretty picture.

For the foreseeable future, I’ll be jotting down drink recipes and other experiments with syrups and mixers, and posting them here. Instead of trying to stick with a pattern like the first two months, this may be a little more organic now. I’ll still try to keep it seasonal with any fruit or other ingredients, and if you have any requests or suggestions, either for a spirit, a flavor, or a specific cocktail, I’d love to try it! And hopefully I’ll be bringing more content to the site, such as how-to articles and whatnot, so stay tuned and thanks for sticking with me.

Thanks again for sticking with me, both through this long post and through my extended absence. As a reward for your patience and resolve, here’s a picture of my wife and our puppy.  Cheers!

Mmm, prettiest picture.

Savannah Trading Co.

Even though it’s technically May, I still needed one more rye cocktail to round out April. And since my other concoctions have turned out so well, I thought I’d step out on a limb and try out something that’s been in the works for a few weeks: a witch’s broom puerh tincture.

Kinda looks like swamp water, huh?

This infusion is my first foray into the realm of homemade bitters. The tea was picked out by my wife and was allowed to infuse in vodka for about two weeks. Now, if you wanted this to taste like a properly-brewed cup of tea, you wouldn’t infuse the tea for the entire two weeks; in fact, two or three days may be enough for that flavor profile. But that’s not was I was looking for here. This herbal, bitter, warm liquid tastes like overbrewed tea, in the best way possible. While it’s not necessarily potable on it’s own, a dash or two added to a drink adds a slew of flavors and tea’s characteristic aroma.

While this tincture may eventually become the base for a complex homemade bitter, I wanted to try it on its own first, to see how it held up against some some stronger flavors. This drink may take a little bit of extra preparation, but it’s well worth it. I present to you: the Savannah Trading Co.


Unfortunately my wife and photographer was indisposed, so these pictures are decidedly worse than usual. Sorry!



  • 1.5oz rye
  • 3/4oz peach syrup
  • 1/4oz lemon juice
  • 2 dashes Witch’s Broom Puerh tincture
  • Garnish with a lemon twist


First, the peach simple syrup. It’s actually quite simple. Heat one cup of water and one cup of sugar until fully combined, then turn down the heat and add three chopped peaches and a couple dime-sized pieces of lemon zest to your simple syrup. Let this mixture steep for 35 minutes, then strain into a vessel and cool.

As for the cocktail itself, combine the ingredients in a shaker, shake over ice, then strain either up or on the rocks. I prefer most of my sipping drinks on the rocks so I can take my time with them, but that is by no means the only way to serve this drink. Then garnish with a lemon twist.

I really am happy with this cocktail. The peach syrup is amazing. Sweet, but not cloying, the peach goes incredibly well with the spicy rye. The lemon juice adds the bright, tart kick that makes this drink so refreshing. The rye remains the focus and is not overpowered. The tea tincture at the end leaves just a slight hint of bitterness, with smokey, herbal, and earthy notes playing in the background, blending the other flavors together beautifully. Let me know what you think of it if you make it, and especially if you make other tinctures out of tea. I’d love to hear from you!

This picture’s pretty, though. I like this picture. Makes me thirsty.

Well, folks, that’s the end of rye month. I’ve had a great time working with New Richmond Rye from 45th Parallel Distillery, and I hope I’ve been able to do such a great product justice while shedding a little more light on rye as a whole. Rye is thankfully enjoying a comeback, and I hope that trend continues for many years.

For next month, I believe we’ll try rum. It’s a spirit I’m not particularly familiar with, and I’m looking forward to experimenting with it. If you have any suggestions on where I should start, let me know, and thanks for reading!

Blackberry Smash

The weather today was gorgeous. 60°F, sunny, not too windy.  The perfect evening for sitting on a porch with a friend and sipping a refreshing cocktail. So for this week’s cocktail, we’ll take a swing at a Blackberry Smash in the backyard!

A smash is a broad name for any drink that’s spirit plus herb plus fresh fruit.  Think of it as a julep with more freedom.  The name’s been around since the 1880s because it’s simple, flexible, and delicious. The original whiskey smash, as I understand it, was made with lemon and mint. Since I’ve used a lot of citrus recently, I decided to take the more subtle route this time and use some lemongrass. And I couldn’t wait until July for local blackberries.

With a nice shot of our neighbor’s yard.


  • 2 parts rye
  • 0.75 part simple syrup
  • 3-4 blackberries
  • 4-5 inches lemongrass, chopped

Place the simple syrup, blackberries, and chopped lemongrass in a mixing glass and muddle vigorously. This could take a while; you want to get as much flavor out of the lemongrass as you can. Don’t forget to taste the muddled mixture before adding the spirit to make sure you can taste the lemongrass.

Add the rye, then shake over ice and double strain to make sure you keep those little blackberry seeds of your glass. Garnish with a lemongrass spear and a nice, juicy blackberry.

Sam takes a tentative sniff of the concoction I handed him.

I was joined this evening by my good friend Sam. He had the blackberry smash as made above, and I had a variant with an added 0.5 part half & half to add a little creaminess to the drink. I’m not convinced that the half & half really accomplished anything substantial, but it did make the drink look more like a smoothie. I’m sure that counts for something.


The blackberry smash is very refreshing. You first get the pungent aroma of the rye, but that melts quickly into the sweet and tart of the blackberry. The lemongrass really comes through in the finish, giving the drink a light and fruity aftertaste. Everything comes together very nicely, and no flavor is left out or overpowered. It’s the spice and bite of the rye that keeps this drink from being overly sweet, so I’m not sure how other whiskeys would fare here. Regardless, I’m content to sit here and sip a blackberry smash with a good friend, my undersized bear, Griffin, and the sunset.

Sam and Griffin, sharing a moment.