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.

St. Croix Buccaneer

Since I showcased a classic last week, I feel a little experimentation is due this week. So, without further ado, here’s my creation this week: the St. Croix Buccaneer!


First off, the name. The St. Croix is a gorgeous river between Wisconsin and Minnesota, both colloquially and literally, and is located fairly near the 45th Parallel Distillery. And then, of course, Buccaneer is a reference to the rum and to the citrus. Simple, but effective, and I would love to sip one of these at a canoe-in campsite along the river.

The combination of whiskey and rum is nothing new. The Suburban (whiskey, rum, port, orange and Angostura bitters) has been around since the late 1800s. I was particularly intrigued by the combination of spices in the rye and the spiced rum. Instead of sticking with the port, which I felt may overpower the rye, I used simple orange juice for a little sweetness, acidity, and tart.


  • 2 parts New Richmond Rye
  • 1 part spiced rum
  • 3/4 part orange juice
  • Heavy dash of Angostura bitters
  • Garnish with orange and lemon

Combine in a shaker with lots of ice. Shake and strain into a glass, then garnish with a long peel of lemon and orange to strengthen the citrus bouquet of the drink.

The sweetness of the rum provides a counterpoint to the strong rye. The orange juice adds acidity and a little sweetness of its own. I originally tested with lemon juice, but I felt it overpowered the other flavors. The orange juice is more subtle and lets the other flavors really take center stage. And then the Angostura bitters bind everything together, adding a slight herbal note and enhancing the citrus notes in the rest of the drink.

Overall, I really enjoy this drink. The aroma and aftertaste are fantastic, and the woody, spicy, and slightly sweet taste keeps you coming back for more. Thanks for reading, and if you make a St. Croix Buccaneer, let me know what you think of it!

Richmond Rye Manhattan

So, a new month, a new spirit, and a new world of cocktails to try. Last month, I focused on gin, a spirit I was well-acquainted with. So this month, I wanted to work with a spirit I haven’t had any experience with: rye.

Rye is a traditionally American whiskey made, you guessed it, primarily from rye. Contrasted with bourbon, another American whiskey, rye is generally less sweet and usually has spicier notes. It’s also drier than it’s corn-based cousin, and, in my opinion, that makes it better suited for more cocktails. Instead of having to fight with the sweetness of a bourbon, it’s much easier to compliment the rye and really let it shine.

Rye was also the whiskey of choice for many classic cocktails before Prohibition. For a while, using rye in cocktails was forgotten; bourbon was used instead. But relatively recently there’s been a resurgence, and rye is once again the spirit of choice for Old Fashioneds, Whiskey Sours, and this week’s cocktail: the timeless Manhattan.


The Manhattan is a very simple cocktail with plenty of room for variation. The base recipe contains nothing more than rye, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters. The amounts may vary, but I stick to the most common 2:1 rye to vermouth. And I enjoy adding a little orange bitters for some extra complexity.


  • 2 parts rye (I used New Richmond Rye, a delicious local rye made by 45th Parallel Distillery)
  • 1 part sweet vermouth
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Take your ingredients and build them in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir, then strain into a glass.

I was working fast to try and catch the last of the evening’s light, so no building pictures this time.

Some quick notes on stirring: it’s different than stirring any other kind of drink. You want to combine and chill the ingredients with some, but mostly minimal dilution from the ice. To do this, take something long and thin (like a chopstick, as pictured), insert it into the glass along the edge, then spin the ice to form a little whirlpool or vortex in the middle. Here’s a video showing how to properly do it. He goes into more detail than the average home mixologist will need to, but it’s a helpful guide nonetheless. Anyway, back to the drink.

Garnish your Manhattan with a twist of either lemon or orange, or with a cherry. Or with both, like I have below.

Probably the prettiest drink picture I’ve ever taken.

The first taste experienced is a little sweet from the vermouth, but that quickly dissipates into the spice and the wood of the rye. The Angostura bitters help make it a Manhattan: they keep the sweet from the vermouth from taking over the rye, and they accent the rye helping bring out notes of fruit and the barrel to the forefront. The orange bitters help round this out, adding an additional layer to the drink and softening the bite of the rye a little, but not so much that you can’t tell exactly what you’re drinking.

This is a drink you could have ordered with confidence and received before the turn of the 20th century. Over 100 years later, this drink is still relevant, still appealing to (at least) my palate, and most importantly, still delicious.

Do you have a favorite variation on the Manhattan? Is there a particular rye or vermouth you prefer? Let me know in the comments below, at, or you can find me on twitter at @larix_laricina. Thanks for reading, and cheers!

Excitement – the Halifax Spring

Folks, good news!  On a whim, I entered a giveaway for a small batch seasonal spiced rum from Lyon Distillery in Maryland, hosted by a cool blogger at All you needed to enter was a cocktail that featured spiced rum! Since they were still accepting entries, I decided to give it a shot. The requirements were rather simple: it must include spiced rum, it should represent the season in some way, and it must be either an original creation or a twist on a classic.  Lucky for me, I’ve just spend the last month modifying or creating drinks! The first thing I tried was to modify the drink I had just made for The Stag and Otter: the Promise of Spring.  Here’s what I ended up with:

Halifax Spring:

2 parts spiced rum

1 part fresh grapefruit juice

1/2 part simple syrup*

Drizzle of pure maple syrup

1/4 ripe pear

The only changes between Halifax and The Promise are switching out the gin for spiced rum (of course) and reducing the amount of simple syrup, both directly added to the drink and by not poaching the pears in syrup. Since rum is inherently much more sweet than gin, I felt safe moving away from some of the added sweet. Even though this was the first thing I tried, this was so pleasant and drinkable that I didn’t go any further. The only addition I made to this recipe after the first tasting was to add a thick garnish of lemon. Without it, this drink can be a little too sweet, at least for my taste. Though slight, the freshness and tang of the lemon peel helps keep this drink balanced.

There were plenty of other good drinks entered into this contest already when I submitted the Halifax Spring, so I didn’t think my chances were good. But then, after a long day knowing I was in the top three entries, Halifax Spring was declared the winner! And I have to admit, it feels pretty good. I’ve only been exploring the world of craft cocktails for a little over a month. I’ve barely begun to learn how to make different things and what flavor profiles different spirits, bitters, and ingredients have and how they interact with each other. But it’s good to know that I’m on the right track with some stuff. I feel much more motivated now, and let’s see if I can crank out more than just one post per week from here on. And I’ll have some amazing spiced rum to work with as well.

Thank you all, dear readers, for your support so far. I know this blog is still rather sparse and plain, and I have a lot of content to add still. But we’re growing, and this is an excellent sign that I’m moving in the right direction.

Follow the blog that hosted the contest on twitter  @BehindTheCraft or at their website, As for the distiller, follow them on their facebook at or on their twitter @LYONDISTILLING .

Thanks for reading, and cheers!

*: In the future, I think some sort of spiced syrup (ginger, clove, or cinnamon, depending on the inherent flavors in your rum of choice) would add a little more complexity to this cocktail.

Cucumber Gin & Tonic

Alas, it’s the end of this gin month. And what better drink to finish of the month than the classic, the drink that made an empire: the Gin and Tonic. It’s a simple cocktail, but it’s incredibly refreshing and open to lots of variation.

The Gin and Tonic was instituted by the East India Trading Company’s occupation in India. Malaria prevented the British from really gaining a stronghold in tropical regions. Quinine, a compound found in the bark of the cinchona tree, was found to have anti-malarial attributes, and so was quickly made into a consumable substance. Quinine is inherently very bitter, so soldiers mixed it, dissolved in water, with gin, lime, and sugar. As the British Empire spread, so did the Gin and Tonic. Now it can be found just about everywhere, and is one of the quintessential spring and summer drinks.

I decided to take the classic and riff on it a bit by adding the freshness and herbal notes of cucumber.


  • 2 parts gin
  • 3/4 part cucumber syrup
  • Dash of lime
  • Tonic water

It’s simple: fill a tall glass with ice.  Build the drink in the glass by first putting in the gin, then the cucumber syrup, then the lime. Be very careful with the lime – you only want a little bit of juice, or the lime will quickly overpower the cucumber. Then top off the glass with tonic water and stir.

Garnish with some cucumber slices, and you have yourself one classy drink.

Ignore the snow on the ground, goodness knows I’m trying to.

There is nothing more refreshing than a good Gin and Tonic, and this is no exception. The cucumber syrup adds both sweet and a subtle herbal taste that augments the natural herbal characteristics of the gin. The bitterness of the tonic keeps the finish dry, and the lime adds a hint of freshness that puts the drink over the top. And hey, you get the added benefit of protection from malaria. It’s hard to go wrong with a classic like the Gin and Tonic. And feel free to try your own spin! If you come up with fun flavors or variants on this or any other drink featured here, or you have a drink you want me to make, or you just want to talk, leave a comment below or send me an email at

My wonderful photographer and wife, and Griffin, our gigantic puppy! Thanks for your help!

Next month we’ll be moving on to our next spirit of the month. I don’t know what that will be yet, so if you have any requests, feel free to leave them in the comments.  Thanks for reading!

Promise of Spring

This week’s cocktail was originally going to be the White Lady, which is 2 parts gin, 1 part lemon juice, 1 part orange liqueur, and optional egg white. But, since it’s basically the same thing as the Pegu Club I made in my first post, I decided to nix that and experiment a little. Don’t get me wrong, the White Lady is amazing. I think the lemon blends with the orange liqueur better than the lime, but that’s purely personal preference. So, be sure to try the White Lady and the Pegu Club and let me know which one you think is better!


All right, onward to this week’s feature drink: the Promise of Spring!  …okay, so that name’s a little pretentious, but it was the first I could think of, and I couldn’t find this cocktail anywhere else. With spring (hopefully) coming soon, maple trees being tapped all around me, and a little tropical fruit to remind me that warmer months are ahead, I thought the name was apt. If you’ve got a better one, leave it in the comments. I’d love to hear it!

Most sour drinks are made with either lemon juice or lime juice. I know, however, that they aren’t the only sour flavors at my disposal. Grapefruit juice is the first alternative sour that came to mind, so I decided to experiment. After polling my friends on Facebook, tasting some grapefruit juice, and looking up other grapefruit-based drinks, I found that I needed a strong, yet subtle sweet to cut the acidity of the grapefruit and balance its signature tartness. With that in mind, I came up with this:


  • 2 parts gin
  • 1 part grapefruit juice
  • 0.5 part simple syrup
  • Spoonful of cooked pears
  • Dash of maple syrup

The first step is to cook the pears. I cooked one diced pear in 1.5 parts water and 1 part sugar. If your pear is extremely ripe, you may not need to cook it, but this way you get a delicious pear simple syrup for use in future dishes and drinks, so I recommend it.  Once the pear is cooked and subsequently cooled, place a spoonful (fine, if you want a slightly more accurate measure, about 1/4 of a pear) in your shaker and add the 0.5 part simple syrup. Now, we muddle.

I’ll write a separate article on muddling in the future, but I’ll sum it up here: muddling is pulverizing an ingredient in a liquid to release the flavors. After muddling, the solid ingredient is usually shaken with the rest of the cocktail, then strained (unless you’re going for the rustic aesthetic). In this case, make sure you pummel the pear good, but you don’t need to actually puree it by hand.

 Next, add the grapefruit juice, gin, and a dash (i.e. a few drops) of maple syrup. Be careful with the maple syrup – it’s a very overpowering flavor, and unless you plan on eating pancakes with this, a few drops are enough.

 Then shake. I’ll do an article or video on how to properly shake a cocktail in the future as well, but to quickly sum it up: you’re shaking the drink to mix the ingredients, cool the drink, and slightly dilute the drink. As you shake the drink, the ice will both lower the liquid’s temperature and chip, putting more water into the drink. This is a variable that can be manipulated to change the consistency of a drink. But as a general rule, you only need to shake a drink for 5 seconds or so.

Don’t forget to glare at the drink while shaking it.

When you’re done shaking, strain the cocktail into your glass of choice.

Garnish with a few pieces of your cooked pear, and enjoy!

The Promise of Spring exceeded my expectations in every way. Each flavor makes itself known, but none of them overpower any of the others. While very sour, the grapefruit is complimented well by the more neutral sweet of the pear, allowing the other flavors inherent in the grapefruit to come through, along with the herbal notes of the gin. The maple syrup binds everything together and gives it depth.  This cocktail is, overall, slightly more sweet than sour. But, because the sweet enhances the sour rather than extinguishes the sour, I don’t mind it at all.

If you make a Promise of Spring for yourself and/or a friend or two, let me know what you think of it either in the comments or at!

Heimdall insists you try this drink for yourself!