All posts by Alex Tessman

An Update, Community Cocktail #1, and a Preview

Hello folks, it’s been a wild four months since my last update. Larix’s Lounge has continued to happen and continued to grow. I’ve made almost sixty unique drinks, ranging from pre-prohibition classics and modern inventions to new favorites. Through several kinds of clarification, much live ice carving, and an experiment with beef stock, many new faces have joined us every week to chat about cocktails, life, and everything in between. While the world outside has been hectic and fraught, the Lounge has remained the highlight of each and every week.

Since I’ve been enjoying this so much, I restarted my Instagram account (@larixlaricina) so I could get better at taking pictures of the drinks I make, as well as learn how others focus more on their aesthetics. When I’m making a cocktail just for me, I sometimes forget—even though I’m on camera—that people taste with their eyes first. I also created a compendium of everything I’ve made on stream so far, with the goal of creating a little self-published cocktail book. The compendium is still a work in progress. I’m editing it when I can, but my primary goal is to gather the recipes in one place so those who wish to can follow along at home.

With this in mind, I want to build up the Lounge, to incorporate more ways for my friends to participate and be a part of it. On my Twitch, viewers earn channel points by watching, and they can redeem them for various things. The most expensive redemption is for me to create a bespoke cocktail for the viewer, make it on stream, and—if it’s legal or possible for me to do so—make the cocktail for them. My good friend Mediaknight was the first to redeem their bespoke cocktail, and so last week, I made them this drink: the Long-Suffering Scouser.

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Designed around Media’s love of lime, ginger beer, and Liverpool Football Club, this riff on the classic Suffering Bastard is wonderfully bright and refreshing. This combines tart and aromatic hibiscus-infused gin, smooth and sweet coconut-infused rum, lime, simple, ginger beer, and Angostura to create a sweet, tart, and spicy drink that is not only balanced well, but is also a near-perfect Liverpudlian red. As Media is local, they were able to try this drink shortly after I made it on stream, and it has their seal of approval: the Long-Suffering Scouser is officially the first bespoke community cocktail for the Lounge.


Long-Suffering Scouser

  • 1 oz (30 ml) hibiscus-infused gin
  • 1 oz (30 ml) coconut-washed rum
  • 0.75 oz (22.5 ml) lime juice
  • 0.5 oz (15 ml) simple
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 3 oz ginger beer

Mix everything but the ginger beer together in a tin and shake to combine. Fill a collins glass with ice, then add a little ginger beer to the bottom. Strain the shaken drink over the ice, then top with the remaining ginger beer and stir gently to combine. Serve with the relief and happiness only the end of a 30-year championship drought can bring—and a straw.


Looking forward to this week’s Lounge, I realized that it’s been over five years since I first started writing about cocktails. While my posts here have been relatively intermittent, I can still remember taking a tour of 45th Parallel, picking up a bottle of New Richmond Rye, and dedicating a month to using it in various cocktails. That’s when I made drinks like the Savannah Trading Co. and St. Croix Buccaneer, back when I made just about every drink too sweet and had a lot to learn.

I still have a lot to learn.

And in the spirit of that, and with the added convenience of working near 45th Parallel now, I picked up this:

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A bottle that had just started aging when I first took that tour. Let’s see how much I’ve learned since then. We’ll make something delicious with it tonight, I’m sure.

Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope to see you at the next Larix’s Lounge. Cheers!

Larix’s Lounge: A Virtual Bar

To stave off isolation, I’ve started to host a virtual bar on Twitch under the moniker larix_laricina on Saturday evenings. Using a shelf and some bar stools desperately in need of refinishing, I sit behind a makeshift bar and mix drinks, play some chill music, and answer questions about cocktails and the spirits industry. In the two (and a half) sessions of Larix’s Lounge, I’ve made several drinks, archived in the Videos tab of my Twitch page. The archived videos may change over time, or I may have to re-upload them to YouTube for preservation; if I do so, I will update the links here.

My reaction to the beverages made on stream will be in the video, so for the most part, I won’t recap them here. Some drinks will be interesting or surprising enough, or require further explanation, and those will get their own blog post. But for now, this will be a brief summary of the drinks you can find in the videos.

In the initial test episode, I started with a 20th Century from Meehan’s Bartender Manual. Most of the stream was spent making note of all the things I forgot, and figuring out how I could improve the setup for the initial stream.

The official inaugural session kicked off with an original yet-to-be-named drink, a modified daiquiri substituting equal parts raspberry syrup and coconut cream for the simple syrup. Next up was the Brown Derby, also from Meehan’s Bartender Manual. I finished off the night with another yet-to-be-named negroni variant made with equal parts Aalborg Taffel Akvavit, ruby port, and Aperol.

In the second session of Larix’s Lounge, I started off with a tequila drink (as requested in the first session)—the unfortunately named Mexican Firing Squad. After that, I started working on an ambitious experiment to create a clarified milk punch with coffee and spices. That drink took most of the session, and deserves its own post detailing the results. After that, I made a non-alcoholic beverage for my wife: one part each of lime juice, blood orange juice, and grenadine, and two parts coconut cream, topped off with soda water. I finished off the night with a traditional Manhattan and some bitters & soda.

I’ve really enjoyed welcoming everyone into my makeshift bar each week. It’s a highlight of the week for me. Hanging out with everyone, even if I’m just looking at a webcam, has helped keep me sane during the lockdown, giving me some direction. I’m already looking forward to next week.

Thanks, stay safe, and I hope to see you at the next Larix’s Lounge.

Smoked Cinnamon Highball

Isolation breeds creativity. At least, it certainly has for me with regard to mixed drinks. Maybe it’s because I have more contact with my liquor cabinet working from home, or because of how generally tense everything feels right now, but whatever the reason, I’ve taken this opportunity to experiment with different drinks and techniques. With limited ingredients and tools, can I expand my knowledge of advanced cocktail techniques?

Infusing smoke into a cocktail has been my focus the past few days. Without a fancy smoke gun, I would simply invert the serving glass over a burning brand of cinnamon or rosemary as I prepared the drink, then attempt to pour the drink in quickly once I righted the glass. This technique worked more like rinsing the glass with a spirit, but with less efficacy—any flavor imparted by the smoke dissipated quickly, and very little, if any, made it into the cocktail itself. So I had to modify my technique.

After doing some research with help from Dave Arnold’s Liquid Intelligence, I settled on trying to smoke the drink in a spirit bottle. To do so, light whatever material you’re trying to capture and invert an empty bottle on top of it. Once the bottle fills with smoke, pour your spirit or drink into the bottle and seal it, then shake or swirl to incorporate. The more you agitate the spirit in the smoke, the more flavor you’ll infuse into the drink.

With that technique in mind, I raided my fridge and liquor cabinet and decided on a refreshing drink to combat any cabin fever I may be experiencing. This was the result:

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Smoked Cinnamon Highball

  • 1.5 oz rum (I used Flor de Caña 4 year)
  • 0.75 oz Lakkalikööri
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • 3 dashes key lime bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 4 oz tonic water
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Mix the rum, lakka, lime juice, and bitters together in a glass. Light the cinnamon stick on fire and invert a bottle over it until the bottle fills with smoke. Pour the drink into the bottle and shake for ten seconds, then pour into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with tonic water and stir gently to combine. Garnish with the burnt cinnamon stick and a lime wheel.


I avoided talking more about the citrus flavor of the Finnish cloudberry liqueur when I used it in my Rainbow Sherbet Fizz because it’s hard to describe, but I think I’ve got it now. It has a very slight medicinal quality—sweet lemon and echinacea. The tartness of the lime and the bitters smooth out that medicinal quality and everything interacts beautifully here, providing an unconventionally sweet citrus base to compliment the mild rum. I used Q tonic water, which is sweet as well but retains some of the original quinine bite tonic is known for. However, the cinnamon smoke is the real star of the show here. Spicy and ever-so-slightly astringent, the smoke cuts through the sweetness and balances everything out, making this drink supremely refreshing.

I initially left out the dash of Angostura bitters, but it’s a necessary addition. Without it, the cinnamon smoke feels a little out of place without a base cinnamon reference in the drink itself. Adding just a little spice to the drink lets you taste the cinnamon both on your tongue and in your nose, building layers of flavor at different levels.

I’m already looking forward to using this smoking technique for future cocktails. My next project: a smoked clarified milk punch.

Translation Error: A Kentucky Maid Variation

I took the storm windows off my 3-season-porch office today in an effort to feel less secluded as I work from home. Spring is starting in earnest around here, and even though it’s a weekday, I felt a nightcap was appropriate.

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I surveyed what I had on hand. Half a lemon. A chunk of cucumber. A partially stocked bar. Some brief research led me to Steve the Bartender’s Irish Maid, and while I didn’t have any Irish whiskey on hand, I thought the sweetness of the St.-Germain and simple would pair well with a strong rye just as well.


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  • 2oz Rittenhouse Rye
  • 0.75oz lemon juice
  • 0.75oz simple syrup
  • 0.5oz St.-Germain elderflower liqueur
  • 3–4 cucumber slices

Muddle the cucumber in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients then shake over ice. Double strain into an old fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with some cucumber slices or a lemon wheel.


The rye really stands up well to the strong sweetness of the St.-Germain and the simple. As a member of the sour family, it’s fairly well balanced, although even with the rye instead of the bourbon, it feels a little too sweet to me. Next time, I’d cut the simple in half, if not remove it entirely.

Otherwise, it’s slightly floral, slightly vegetal, and entirely enjoyable.

A note on the name: I felt Translation Error fit well, because after finding the video for the Irish Maid, I thought the original Kentucky Maid (invented by Sam Ross at Milk & Honey) was the same drink but with bourbon. It wasn’t until after I made the drink that I did my due diligence and saw the original called for lime and mint as well. I’ll have to try the original soon.

An Update and Upcoming Projects

As life has gotten more hectic for me recently, I haven’t had time to post about any of my amateur mixology experiments. I feel that’s at least in part because I had unrealistic expectations of what I could do with my limited free time. My posts here have never been overly substantive, but the energy I was able to put into planning posts and taking pictures has been called upon to search for gainful employment and spend time with my kid.

Despite that, I still love to experiment with the resources I have, and I’d like to share what I make here. So in the interest of more frequent posts, there may be fewer pictures and more drink-of-the-day posts. I also want to post more about long-term projects, at least to serve as a record of progress.

With that in mind, I’ve been experimenting with flavors recently—specifically anise.

Anise and licorice can be polarizing flavors, but I’ve been enamored with them for a while now. Ouzo has long been one of my favorite liquors, and licorice root spiced tea often gets me through the day at work. So naturally, I wanted to make my own anisette and see if I could create my perfect anise-based liquor. I’ve already made one version of this, and I will update you all on that soon.


For my drink of the day, I made a grapefruit and fennel syrup by mixing a handful of fennel fronds, tarragon, and grapefruit zest in some 1:1 simple syrup and letting it infuse off the heat. I was happy with the flavor after about ten minutes, but a note of caution learned from previous attempts at fennel syrup: taste frequently. If you infuse the fennel too long, you can start to get unwanted bitter and grassy flavors.

I’ve made two drinks with this and I’ve been happy with both. First I made a simple grapefruit and fennel soda with some seltzer, and it was light and refreshing. The carbonation really helps bring out the complexities in the syrup.

Next I used the grapefruit and fennel syrup in an old fashioned with calvados and angostura bitters. This was excellent. I loved the way the anise and rich apple worked together, with the grapefruit and bitters keeping the drink grounded and from being too cloying. A little syrup goes a long way here. This may also be improved with Peychaud’s bitters or a dash of absinthe instead of or in addition to the angostura.

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.

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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.

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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 stone fruit 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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 pleasant bitter finish. The slight carbonation and foam keep the sweet from being too cloying. 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.