Tag Archives: classics

Strawberry Caipirinha

It’s been awhile, I know, but I promise dear cocktail fans I haven’t forgotten. I’ve been hard at work on a cocktail-related venture I’ll have news of later.

In the meantime, here’s a spin on a classic cocktail for you. It’s a strawberry caipirinha. I got the idea for strawberry cachaca from the PDT Cocktail Book. Meehan uses it in the delicious Morango Fizz, basically an egg-white sour with the strawchaca (see what I did there?) and a little soda floated on top. I have what I think is an even better version, but I’ll save that for a modernist post later.

The caipirinha is one of my favorite cocktails, in fact, it’s one of the few that helped launch my obsession. In the summer it’s up there with mojitos and Tom Collinses when it comes to patio drinking. This twist arguably makes it even more yummy when the berries start popping up at your local farmer’s market. I used Dave Arnold’s justino technique, from Liquid Intelligence, to make the strawberry cachaca. If you don’t have Pectinex handy, never fear. You can just do it the old-school way.

Step 1: Make strawberry cachaca.

1a: Classic technique:

Buy a quart of strawberries at your local farmer’s market. Eat some because, well, because you can. Hull and halve them until you have 400g worth and put them in a big glass jar. Cover with a 750ml bottle of cachaca. Wait until the strawberries turn almost white and the liquor turns red and has a strong strawberry taste. Strawberries infuse quickly so start checking after a few days, but plan for about a week. Strain out the strawberries, then run the liquor through a coffee filter to get out the particles.


1b: Modernist technique:

Buy a quart of strawberries at your local farmer’s market. Eat some because, well, because you can. Hull strawberries until you have about 400g worth and put in a blender along with a 750ml bottle of cachaca and 2 grams Pectinex Ultra-SPL. If you have a centrifuge you’re a lucky bastard and you probably already know what to do next. If you don’t, do what I do. Let it sit for a few days to separate, then strain through a series of strainers and finally through a chemex filter.

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Step 2: Make the Strawberry Caipirinha


2 oz. strawberry cachaca

1/2 oz. simple syrup (bonus points for demerara)

1/2 lime


1. Take a lime and cut it in half, then cut one of the halves into 4 pieces. (So you’ll have 4 eighths of a lime.) (This is the rare drink where you will find me using a unit of measure as imprecise as “half a lime” but it’s a peasant drink that I have heard translates roughly to “country bumpkin” so you’ll just have to accept some variation on this one.)

2. Place the pieces in a rocks glass with 1/2 oz. simple syrup. Muddle them well. You want to express the oils from the peels into the simple.

3. Fill the glass with ice and add the cachaca.

4. Traditionally this drink is then stirred, though in the last couple days I’ve started shaking with a Boston shaker since someone recommended it on /r/cocktails. If you do the latter, don’t strain. Just shake with the rocks glass, pull the tin off, and serve.

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Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail: My Take

This is part of my Weekend Classics series of recipes that use entirely classic cocktail ingredients/methodology.

There’s sort of a progression that most cocktail lovers go through. First they probably start off with vodka. Your standard sweet, fruity, college kid drinks eventually give way to vodka martinis (extra dry, of course) shortly after you become of drinking age. Eventually you acquire the taste for rum and then gin, realizing that if you use good dry vermouth you don’t have to hide it as much as possible, and start drinking those instead.

Eventually you work your way around to whiskey. It probably starts with a sour then a Manhattan. And finally you work your way around to what is probably the first and arguably still the best cocktail ever made, the Old Fashioned.

What’s interesting about the Old Fashioned is it isn’t so much a cocktail as a template. The generally accepted version of an Old Fashioned today is a cocktail comprised of whiskey, bitters, sugar, and water. No more, no less. One could even argue that whiskey could be replaced by any liquor, as that was once the definition of a cocktail before the word was usurped. The original definition, from 1806:

Cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters—it is vulgarly called bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, in as much as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else.

Eventually the word cocktail came to mean any mixed drink, much the same way “martini” has, over the last thirty years, come to mean anything served in a martini glass. Hence after it’s reinvigoration what used to be called merely a cocktail became an Old Fashioned Cocktail.

It’s natural for a newly-minted mixologist to try to make the Old Fashioned. What drink is sexier? It’s brown and served on the rocks, easily the most manly presentation of a beverage. There can be muddling. While Roger Sterling drinks Gibsons (basically a martini with an onion) and vodka on the rocks, Don Draper made an Old-Fashioned for Conrad Hilton.

One who is studious will find dozens of differing recipes for an Old Fashioned on the internet. People are very opinionated about it. Over the years I’ve tried nearly all of them in search for the perfect Old Fashioned. So I thought for this week’s classic cocktail I’ll break it down for you the way I like it best.

My one caveat here is that my goal isn’t to make the cocktail as close to the original version as possible. My general motto is “no sacred cows”. We of course want to stick close to the template. We could venture pretty far off of liquor, bitters, sugar, and water and make some great cocktails, but we might as well not call them an Old Fashioned when we do. I do, however, believe one should at least be open to the idea that someone came up with a better way to make a cocktail while remaining true to form in the last 150 years.

1. Liquor

I have had great Old Fashioneds made with rum and tequila, but for my money you can’t beat whiskey. But the question is, what whiskey? I tend to agree with Dave Arnold’s sentiment in Liquid Intelligence, use something tasty, high-proof, and not too expensive.

Dave recommends Elijah Craig 12, a fine bourbon for the buck, but for my Old Fashioned I like a good rye. Not one quite as spicy as an Old Overholt (which I love for Manhattans) but still with some kick. My favorite so far is probably Rittenhouse Bonded, which (like all bonded liquors) comes in at 100 proof. The extra alcohol helps as we’re going to dilute it a bit when we build. Shamefully I must admit I have not yet managed to acquire every quality whiskey on the market, so if you have a recommendation please do send it my way in the comments.

2. Sugar

For my money, nothing beats demerara simple syrup (1:1) for an Old Fashioned. Here’s probably my first and largest break from tradition. I don’t like sugar cubes. I realize that muddling them is sexy, but you get a cocktail that has little sweetness at the top and too much at the bottom. I want my drink to taste great 100% of the way through rather than 33%.

Plain simple is fine too. I’ll use a sugar cube if I have to, also demerara if available. But I’d pick plain simple over a demerara cube.

One needs substantially less sugar when working with simple because you don’t end up with half of it as a sludge on the bottom as you do with a cube. So I use one teaspoon (which is what most barspoons measure) of the stuff.

3. Bitters

Yet another (smaller) break with tradition. I use two dashes Angostura, one dash orange bitters. The orange adds an extremely complimentary flavor to the drink. Lots of people muddle oranges and cherries into the drink (I’ll get to that in a second) because the flavors meld so well with whiskey and sugar. I think it’s even more true of bitters.

4. Water

One does not need to add any water to an Old Fashioned. You see this often, and I think it’s a mistake. People often do this with a sugar cube, though even then I think the bitters are enough liquid.

When using simple syrup, you’ve already got over half a teaspoon of water. Also we’re building this drink in the glass, and a glass has a large thermal mass, which means more ice melts to get the drink to the same temperature. This is why you want a higher proof liquor to start with. If any water beyond what we’re starting with is added, I feel the drink becomes watered-down. Same if we stir rather than build, then add to a warm glass.

I also want this drink to stay on the warmer side. It’s best to think of an Old Fashioned as a slightly-adulterated straight whiskey, rather than a cocktail like a martini that you want served cold. For this reason I also don’t chill the glass before building and I don’t stir much when building. (If you like your Old Fashioned colder you can build it in a chilled glass and stir more to get similar dilution. That just isn’t my preference.)

So here’s my recipe:

1 tsp. demerara simple syrup (1:1)

2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 dash orange bitters

2 oz. Rittenhouse Bonded Rye

1. Add the simple, bitters, and 1 oz. of rye to a rocks glass.

2. Add about half the total ice you’d use for a whiskey on the rocks. Stir briskly three times.

3. Add the rest of the whiskey and the other half of the ice, stir another three times. Garnish with a cherry and orange flag.

4. Kick back and watch Mad Men, lamenting the boozy ending of the greatest drama on TV.

Modification: New Fashioned

For the last couple decades, it has been popular to muddle the cherries and oranges into the drink. This is quite delightful, but I feel falls outside of the definition of an Old Fashioned. At the bar I work at we call it a New Fashioned.

The process is mostly the same, with the exception of a muddling step. Here’s how I do it.

1. Peel an orange wedge, reserving the peel. (I’d say we’re using about 1/6th of a small orange here, or 1/8th of a large one. I am sorry there aren’t more precise measurements for citrus wedges.)

2. Place bitters, sugar, two brandied cherries, and the peeled orange wedge (we don’t want to muddle the pith in) in a rocks glass and muddle.

3. Add one ounce of the whiskey, half of the ice, and then proceed as in the Old Fashioned.

4. At the end, twist the peel over the drink and wipe the rim with it. One needs no garnish with the New Fashioned.

Gold Rush (PDT)

This is part of my Weekend Classics series of recipes that use entirely classic cocktail ingredients/methodology.

I recently started making my own bitters, and as a result I needed some high-proof bourbon to extract a few ingredients. I found a bottle of Old Grand-Dad 100 bonded bourbon at my local liquor store. I’d had regular Old Grand-Dad and found it to be a decent well bourbon, though I think I prefer Four Roses Yellow a tad, but I’d never tried the 100. And my experience with bonded liquors has been pretty damn good, as Rittenhouse (unfortunately not carried in my state) and Laird’s Bonded are both wonderful, inexpensive options.

After using most of the bottle for extracting various spices, I decided to try taking a swig of it, and damn was it tasty. It’s got a deeper, slightly sweeter, spicier, oakier, and just generally more complex flavor than the Four Roses Yellow. (I don’t have a bottle of the lower proof Grand-Dad handy for comparison.)  After realizing it was my new favorite well bourbon (how the hell is that bottle only $17?) I read up a bit on it, and I think the flavor comes from a higher rye content in the mash bill and, of course, the higher proof.

I quickly decided I wanted to try it in some cocktails, so I busted out my trusty PDT Index (kudos to whoever made that thing, for you sir have saved me many hours of page flipping) and started sifting through. One caught my eye quickly, the Gold Rush. The Gold Rush is three ingredients, bourbon, honey syrup, and lemon. It’s a lot like a Penicillin, but without the ginger.

Jim Meehan says in the byline:

“I’ll never forget coming to Milk & Honey for the first time, in 2003, and being served this drink. It fundamentally changed the way I viewed cocktails.”

At first I didn’t get it. I mean, the drink isn’t that out of the ordinary is it? But then I realized it’s now 12 years later. Of course this drink wouldn’t be a revelation to me, since cocktails spent years improving before they got to me, thanks in large part to guys like Meehan. No matter how much I may love Led Zeppelin, and I do, I can only appreciate their influence academically. I wasn’t there when they dropped a bomb on that poppy British invasion crap and spawned the genre I so love.

And so maybe that’s what this cocktail is, it’s the Led Zeppelin of drinks. When viewed alongside all of the drinks that comes after it, it’s still damned good, but not out of the ordinary. Viewed chronologically in terms of the cocktail revival, its import might be greater than you’d otherwise realize.

But anyway, the fact remains, it’s damned good. And it’s simple. And it’s cheap. I think you can make it for like $1.50. And your customers wouldn’t be disappointed to pay $10 (or New York $15) for it. It uses three very common ingredients every bar has.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe from the PDT Cocktail Book, page 134.


Gold Rush Recipe

2 oz. Bourbon

1 oz honey syrup

.75 oz lemon juice (about half a lemon)

Shake and double strain over one big ice cube in a rocks glass. No garnish.

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Notes: I think the over-proof bourbon really makes this drink, so try Old Grand-Dad 100. I also think rye is fantastic, but then I’m famous for using rye in place of everything.

I have some ideas for variants. I’m going to try the following the next time I have a grapefruit handy:

1.5 oz reposado

.5 oz mezcal (for a little smokiness)

1 oz. agave nectar

.75 oz grapefruit juice

Honey Syrup Recipe

2 parts by volume honey

1 part by volume water

Put in pot on stove over low heat, stir until dissolved, then chill. Put in squeeze bottle.

(I need to weigh honey so I can convert this recipe to mass rather than volume, but this is as taken from PDT.)

Toasted Corn Husk Bourbon and Orange and Craft Beer Shrub Old Fashioned

For this weekend’s classic cocktail, I thought I’d post a take on perhaps the most classic of of classics, the Old Fashioned. The Old Fashioned is, of course, any cocktail that contains liquor, bitters, sugar, and a diluent (generally water or seltzer).

Those who know me know that I have a fascination with shrubs. I started researching them about a year ago, and was debating opening a shrub company, something I still haven’t ruled out. I began honing my recipes. My problem with most shrubs on the market is that they pretty much all use apple cider vinegar, with the occasional balsamic tossed in. Not that I have anything against ACV, but there’s just no way it’s the ideal vinegar pairing for every fruit. In fact after testing, I’m not sure it’s the ideal vinegar pairing for any fruit.

So I began playing around with different methods (cold press, for instance, seems to beat hot methods every time) and fruit/vinegar combinations and ratios. My favorite recipe so far is the Orange and Craft Beer Vinegar Shrub. (While vinegar made from beer strikes people as weird at first, when you point out to them that they’ve mainly been exposed to malt vinegar, and that beer is fermented malt, they realize they’ve been using it all their lives.)

In recent years, muddling oranges and cherries into an Old Fashioned has become popular. Cocktail purists of course scoff at the idea, but let’s be honest, when done right it’s damned tasty. That gave me the idea of using a little orange shrub, since it’s both a sweetener and an acidulant, which I think is the real reason the orange works so well in the Old Fashioned.

Another thing I thought I had invented (but it turned out Ideas in Food beat me to it) was toasted corn husk bourbon. A bar/restaurant I used to frequent wanted some members to contribute infusions to their menu. It was around the end of the summer when they first proposed it to me, and I’d probably been grilling corn in the husk. Anyone who has ever done that will tell you that there’s a sweetness to the smell (there must be sugar in the husk) that seemed like it would pair well with bourbon.

So I went down to the produce store and asked if I could have the husks people had shucked from the corn into a little bin. I expected them to think I was crazy for asking for what they viewed as garbage, but apparently people do this all the time to feed their goats. Who knew? They were happy to oblige, especially once I told them it was for beverage purposes.

With that I made roasted corn husk-infused bourbon. It has a small but beautiful sweetness to it that you almost can’t tell is there until you taste it with regular bourbon side-by-side. I thought it would be perfect for a drink like an Old Fashioned or a Perfect Manhattan. (A regular Manhattan would be too sweet.)

So, last week, I made the Toasted Corn Husk Bourbon and Orange and Craft Beer Shrub Old Fashioned. Yes, I know, that name is like 5 words too long. I’ll work on it. But for those interested, here’s the recipe, in 3 parts.

Orange and Craft Beer Vinegar Shrub


Oranges (you’ll end up with a volume of shrub equal to about 2x the volume of orange juice)


Craft Beer Vinegar


1. Peel the oranges, being careful to avoid the pith. (I use Pectinex Ultra-SPL enzymatic peeling for maximum removal and minimum effort.)

Here’s an image from Dave Arnold of the result:

(I don’t bother with the supremes since I’m juicing the orange, just the peels.)

2. Juice the oranges, double strain, and put in the refrigerator.

3. In a non-reactive bowl, cover the peels in a volume of sugar equal to the volume of juice you reserved. Stir, cover in plastic wrap, and let sit on your counter overnight. You’ll wake up to a beautiful syrup called oleo saccharum.

4. Mix the olea saccharum with the orange juice, then add an equal volume of Craft Beer Vinegar. I use Tavern Vinegar because they’re local and easily the best vinegar I’ve ever had, but your local food scene might have something comparable. If not, your local homebrew store probably sells mother of vinegar, and you could easily make your own by buying (or brewing) a nice Belgian Wit and then converting it to vinegar.

5. Let sit in your refrigerator for a couple months in a sterile bottle or mason jar. (You can sterilize it the way homebrewers do, but running it through your dishwasher with no soap or Jet Dry.) The flavors will meld into something indescribably beautiful.


Toasted Corn Husk Bourbon


Corn Husks (use the soft inner peels, like you would for a tamale, not the rough outer ones)

Bourbon (I like Four Roses Yellow for infusions, since it’s cheap and tasty, but your well bourbon of preference will do.)


Lay corn husks flat on baking sheet. You’ll probably need to place a cooling rack over top of them to keep them flat, as they’ll want to curl.

Toast in your oven at 350 until they brown and emit a sweet smell.

Put into a mason jar and cover completely with bourbon. I infused for about two weeks before I felt like it was done, but taste as you go along. It doesn’t hurt to have a reference bottle of bourbon beside it so you can detect the flavor change.

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The Old Fashioned


3 oz. toasted corn husk infused Bourbon

2 tsp. orange and craft beer shrub

1 tsp. demerara simple syrup (2:1)

2 dashes angostura bitters

1 dash orange bitters

2 drops saline solution

Brandied cherries for garnish


Put a 2” cube of ice in an Old Fashioned glass. Top with all of the liquid ingredients and stir to combine. Garnish with cherries.


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The Gimlet

For my New Year’s Eve party, I had juiced about a bag of limes. Then everyone ended up drinking French 75’s and 95’s all night, so while the bag of lemons got used up, the limes were basically untouched.

Rather than pitching them the next day, I decided to make some lime cordial. Lime cordial is, like most cocktail syrups, incredibly easy to make. You merely mix equal parts lime juice, and sugar, zest in the peel from the limes you used, and heat to a boil. Let simmer for a couple minutes, cool, and then toss in the fridge. The next day strain out the peels and you have a beautiful cordial.

My first thought to use it was the gimlet because, well, I don’t know if I’ve ever had any other cocktail that uses lime cordial, and that I’ve probably only ever had with that god awful Rose’s crap you’d get from a supermarket. (The ingredients of Rose’s are high fructose corn syrup, lime juice concentrate, sodium metabisulfite, natural flavors, and Blue 1. I couldn’t serve that to anyone I cared about.) So the gimlet deserved a do-over.

I used Jim Meehan’s recipe from the PDT Cocktail Book, still my favorite source for classic cocktail recipes. The recipe was:

2 oz. Plymouth Gin

.75 oz. lime cordial

.75 oz fresh lime juice

Shake and strain into a coupe, and garnish with a lime wheel.

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Tell me that ain’t beautiful! (I know the wash line is too low, my coupes are too large. I ended up increasing the recipe by 25% after that first one.)

The result was fantastic. It’s basically a gin daiquiri. In fact, I’m going to play around with rum and see if I can’t make a baller daiquiri out of it, because fuck Hemingway. (Ok, he’s one of my favorite writers, but the drink named after him sucks.) It would also go well with tequila I think in some version of a margarita.

Anyway, while the snow is falling this weekend crank the heat up to 80, put your board shorts on, pretend you’re in Aruba, and drink the gimlet.

Oaxaca Old-Fashioned

Many drinkers have a certain image in mind when you say the name Old Fashioned. They think of whiskey (unless they’re from Wisconsin), a sugar cube, and maybe some muddled oranges and cherries.

In reality an Old Fashioned is any cocktail that contains exactly four ingredients: water, liquor, bitters, and sugar. It can be any combination of any form of those ingredients, as long as it has them and nothing else.

This weekend’s spin on a classic cocktail is the Oaxaca Old Fashioned. I got the original recipe from the Death and Co. cocktail book, one of my favorites. My only changes are using Del Maguey Vida mezcal for the intense smokiness and splitting the bitters between Angostura and Orange

The recipe is simple.

  • 1.5 oz reposado tequila (I used Olmeca Altos because it’s what I stock at home.)
  • .5 oz mezcal (I like a smokey one, like Del Maguey Vida.)
  • 1 tsp. agave nectar
  • 1/2 eyedropper (1 dash) Angostura bitters
  • 1/2 eyedropper (1 dash) orange bitters 

Combine ingredients with ice, stir, and strain over a rocks glass filled with ice. Flame an orange peel and then drop it in.

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(Sorry for the crappiness of the picture.)

Penicillin Cocktail Recipe

I’m going to start a new feature where I post my take on a classic recipe on Fridays. Friday’s a notoriously great day for a cocktail, and especially a tried and true one. Most of my recipes will be someone else’s perhaps with slight modifications I’ve developed over the years.

One of my all-time favorite wintery cocktails is the Penicillin. I love Scotch, honey, ginger, and lemon, and while the combo probably won’t cure the common cold, it’s surely the closest you’ll get without a prescription. I looked around the net for recipes and tried a few, but none of them seemed perfect to me. A lot of them had you muddling ginger, which seems laborious and imprecise for something you can just juice. Hell you can juice it by hand with a cheesecloth and a citrus press.

Then I stumbled on a video from it’s creator, Sam Ross, that was quite enlightening and which I now can’t find to save my life. But I remember the recipe. He uses honey ginger syrup instead of muddling. I like that much better, so here it is, abstracted from the video.

My one alteration is using an atomizer for the Islay. You’re using it more for the nose than the flavor, and spraying it over top does a much better job than just pouring 1/4 oz. on with much less Islay used.

Honey Ginger Syrup

  • 1.5 fl. oz. honey
  • 1.5 fl. oz. ginger juice
  • 1 fl. oz. sugar
  • 0.5 fl oz. hot water

Mix and stir until dissolved. A few seconds in a microwave can help if needed.

The Penicillin

2 fl. oz. Monkey Shoulder blended Scotch

.75 fl. oz. lemon juice

.75 fl. oz. honey ginger syrup

Atomizer filled with Islay Single Malt Scotch (I like Ardbeg)

Combine the Scotch, lemon, and honey ginger syrup. Shake and strain into a rocks glass with ice.

Spray a few hits of the Islay from the atomizer over top.