You know how every once in a while a cocktail just comes out right the first time. And this was one I wasn't really looking for. I had a standard Manhattan recipe, but we've always got an open bottle of Johnny Drum, so I wanted to see how it matched with the vermouth I had open - Cocchi's Vermouth Di Torino. To match with bitters, I stood in front of the bitters box in the bourbon cabinet and alternatively nosed the Johnny Drum and the bitters until I found two that matched. And Oh, My God.
This Manhattan is perfect for me. It's got a great balanced of sweet from the vermouth and bourbon nose and taste. The bitters heighten all the baking spices I get from the bourbon. It's so good members of my family who never drink Manhattans will ask for this one any time they visit.
I'll add the batch instructions at the end. In case you've got a Manhattan lover who needs a gift.
The Contessa's Manhattan
2 oz Johnny Drum
1 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
5 drops Woodford's Sorghum and Sassafras bitters
3 drops Old Forester's Bohemian bitters
Garnish: orange peel and/or cherry
Add the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until well-chilled and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an expressed orange peel and/or cherry.
The Contessa's BATCHED Manhattan
2 cups Johnny Drum
1 cup Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
35 drops Woodford's Sorghum and Sassafras bitters
20 drops Old Forester's Bohemian bitters
1/2 cup water
Pour ingredients into a 30 oz container, stir and place in the fridge until well-chilled. I keep a bottle in the fridge for those last minute visitors needing a cocktail. Mix for a house-warming or hostess gift for those bourbon-lovers in your house. This makes 8 cocktails.
PSA: Keep your Vermouth in the fridge at all times!
Ever had a whiskey you just knew you had to put into a cocktail? That's how I felt about Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey when I tried it. We'd gone into the Village Anchor for an anniversary dinner and got there early enough to have a few cocktails and talk to the bar manager. He let us try a sip of Skrewball. All I could think of was getting that in a cocktail that made me think of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Now, this isn't my final draft of the cocktail. I still need to figure out a way to get the grape jelly taste in there without using actual jelly, but this was a damn good cocktail. Not pretentious, not anything you'd find in a fancy place, but it's a fun front-porch on a warm night kinda cocktail. You can thank me later.
Pb & J
1 oz bourbon
1 oz Skrewball peanut butter whiskey
1 T grape jelly at room temperature
1 dash of black walnut bitters
Place ingredients in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake. Strain into a rocks glass filled with large cubes of ice. Garnish with a strawberry or just a swipe of grape jelly on the rim. Enjoy.
Even though I live in Bourbon Country, there are a surprising number of non bourbon drinkers. To that end, I wanted to make a cocktail that had some bourbon in it, but was approachable to the non-bourbon drinkers. It was going to be a hot day, so I wanted a cocktail a little lower in proof, so used lower proof ingredients and added lemonade to keep it low even after adding a 90 proof bourbon.
I was in a rush to get to the party, so only have this picture of my picnic batch presentation. If you're the host, simply dress it up in a beautiful pitcher with lemon and orange slices.
I Fall to Peaches (single)
1 oz bourbon
1 oz peach liqueur (I prefer Giffard's it's more expensive than peach schnapps, but there really is no comparison here.)
1 oz peach mango moonshine
2 dashes orange bitters
2 oz lemonade
garnish - lemon wheel or peach slice
Combine ingredients except the lemonade in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with ice and top with two ounces of lemonade.
Party Batch - DRANKS! - I Fall to Peaches
1 cup bourbon
1 cup peach liqueur
1 cup peach mango moonshine
16 dashes orange bitters
2 cups lemonade
1/2 cup water (used to dilute it as mixing over rocks does when building a single cocktail)
Combine all ingredients in a large container - at least 50 oz - and stir well. Chill for at least two hours before serving. If you're going to be serving in a fancy pitcher, float lemon wheels and thin peach slices or orange wheels on the top.
This will make anywhere from 8 to 12 cocktails, depending on the pours and how thirsty your guests are. Non-bourbon drinkers will fall for this, as the bourbon taste is not strong underneath the peach and mango.
Tiki drinks always have a lovely balance of sweet and sour, and when you use fresh juices it can make the entire drink glow. Bourbon isn't quite sweet enough to carry a tiki drink all on its own, and I wanted to have that molasses, sweet sugary rum flavor to bolster the drink. I decided to go up on the bourbon proof, to give it a little more bite than a typical tiki drink, but I kept the substitutions simple. You'll want to make two of these at a time.
1 oz Appleton Rum
1 oz Maker's Mark Cask Strength
0.75 oz Lime juice
0.75 oz Orgeat
0.5 Trader Vic's Macadamia Nut liqueur
1 barspoon St Elizabeth's allspice dram
Garnish: mint sprig
Squeeze the lime wedge in the bottom of a mixing tin and drop in. Add the other ingredients and fill with ice, Shake until the outside of the tin id ice-cold. Double strain into a tiki glass filled with ice and garnish with a mint sprig.
One of my favorite things to do is just create a riff on an Old Fashioned on the fly. I'm a big fan of porters and stouts and I love that deep, bitter coffee taste - it almost tastes ashy. But I had a request to make an old fashioned with an orange flair. So I added some vanilla coffee syrup I'd found out at a farmer's market. This is one of my top five cocktails I've ever put together. It's simple, balanced and intriguing.
2 oz New Riff rye
0.5 Solera blood orange liqueur
0.5 German vanilla coffee syrup
1 dropper coffee pecan bitters
Garnish - cherry and orange twist
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until well-chilled and pour into a rocks glass filled with large ice cubes. Garnish with a cherry, and/or twist. Cheers!
While I'm largely a whiskey girl, I do love a good Negroni, so I looked up what I had on hand I could build into a solid Negroni and came up with this. I'm currently in love with Nolet gin with it's rose notes. I didn't want the Campari to overwhelm the Nolet since I find it's a little delicate for a gin, I didn't use a straight 1:1:1 ratio.
1 oz Nolet
3/4 oz Campari
1/4 oz Solerno Blood Orange liqueur
1 oz Vermouth di Torino
Expressed orange peel
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and ice. Strain into a chilled rocks glass with a large cube of ice. Express an orange peel over the top and rub the rim. Sip and savor slowly.
Count me in for any classic cocktail that has a whiskey in it. The Paper Plane has equal parts bourbon, lemon juice, amaro and Aperol. In my version, I used Averna amaro rather than the traditional Amaro Nonino, so I had to cut back a bit on the lemon juice. Since Michter's is a lower proof bourbon that also factored in that decision. Lemon easily overpowers whiskey at that lower proof. With a 100 proof or higher Paper Plane, you could probably keep up the equal parts ratios.
But, here's what worked with my Michter's:
3/4 oz Michter's bourbon
3/4 oz Averna Amaro
3/4 oz Aperol
1/2 oz lemon juice
Add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake until the outside is frosty-cold. Double strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish, if you like, with a lemon peel. Cheers.
I finally broke down and bought a bottle of Ancho Reyes. I have been sipping on wonderful cocktails with this ingredient for over a year and I needed to add it to my collection. My very first attempt turned out to be a keeper. The heat and spice of Ancho Reyes paired with bourbon and chocolate bitters in a magical way.
Xocoatl Old Fashioned
1.5 oz Old Forester Rye
0.75 Ballotin Chocolate Whiskey
0,5 Ancho Reyes
1 dash chocolate bitters
2 dashes smoked chili bitters
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and add ice. Stir until well-chilled, Strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with your favorite old fashioned accoutrement.
Enjoy the heat and smoke!
Peggy Noe Stevens, the first female master taster in the bourbon industry and founder of the Bourbon Women, put together a special dinner for the Bourbon Women Siposium and asked yours truly to create a couple of cocktails for the gathering.
The theme of the gathering was "Noe Boundaries" and Peggy wanted to highlight bourbon and entertaining. Bourbon women love to entertain and share their love of the whiskey spirits, so I wanted to create two different cocktails. One that would be approachable for non-bourbon drinkers and one that whiskey lovers would enjoy.
For the first one, I wanted to create a cocktail that wasn't too difficult to put together, but one that was beautiful when served. I love the summer flavor of blackberries and wanted to pair that with the aromatics of basil, which is getting to the end of its growing season right now.
I put together a blackberry basil simple syrup, added some lovely Michter's bourbon (the sponsor of the dinner and one of my favorite distilleries ever), a little lemonade and topped it off with peach and black walnut bitters. Since we're doing this for a party, I've put together the cocktail recipe as a batch for 8 servings. This is not a strong drink, and isn't bourbon-forward, but it's an easy sipper and low enough in alcohol to be a session cocktail.
Berry Fine (Batched for 8)
1.5 cups of Michter’s bourbon
½ cup of blackberry simple syrup (add basil for aromatics)
16 dashes black walnut bitters (2 tsp)
24 dashes peach bitters (3 tsp)
½ to ¾ cup water
32 oz lemonade
Combine ingredients in a large pitcher, punch bowl or urn (at least 1.75 quarts or 54 ounces). Float large decorative ice cubes to keep it chilled and serve over ice. Garnish with fresh basil and fresh or frozen blackberries.
I'll talk about the second cocktail in the next post!
Blackberry-Basil Simple Syrup
1.5 cup sugar
3 cups frozen blackberries
2 sprigs of basil
1/4 cup water
Combine ingredients in a saucepan and cook until the blackberries until thawed, soft and very juicy. Simmer once it starts to boil for 10 minutes. Add the basil leaves and let the syrup cool for 20 minutes. Strain the blackberries out, pressing on them to get as much juice out of them as possible. Let cool and store in a bottle in the fridge for one to two weeks. If you add a bit of vodka to it you'll extend the shelf life considerably.
***** Save the strained out blackberries! Use them to top vanilla ice cream and it'll taste like you're eating blackberry cobbler! *****
Have you started your cocktail recipe for the Not Your Pink Drink contest? If you haven’t, here are a couple more tips to get you to your A-game cocktail.
Just to backtrack, every year, at the Bourbon Women Siposium the Bourbon Women announce the winner of their Not Your Pink Drink Contest (It's been me the last few years, so this year I'm just helping out). Bourbon women love well-crafted, bourbon-centric cocktails, and they want ones that aren’t pink! (You can see the full rules here.)
In the previous post, I gave you three tips to get you started with the Not Your Pink Drink Contest. Play with classic cocktail recipes, make bourbon the star of your cocktail and make the bourbon stand out in your cocktail. This time, we’ll cover a couple more recommendations.
Start with a Cocktail Recipe You Already Love
The easiest way to come up with a new recipe without starting from scratch is to start with a cocktail that you already know you love. Maybe it’s the old fashioned, or maybe the Manhattan, or it could be a whiskey sour. If you have a go-to cocktail when you’re eating out or having cocktails, think about new flavors or combinations to introduce to the cocktail.
For example, I love a good old fashioned, and when I tried Starlight Blackberry Whiskey, I knew I wanted to try it out in an old fashioned. I just took my basic old fashioned recipe, 2 oz bourbon, ½ oz simple syrup and some bitters and dropped the bourbon amount and replaced it with the blackberry whiskey. Instead of plain simple syrup, I made some blackberry simple syrup. Sounds simple enough, right?
I’m also a fan of the Manhattan, and when I tried Rivulet Pecan liqueur I wanted to combine pecan with bourbon. In this case, I used the Rivulet in place of the sweet vermouth traditionally used in a Manhattan, and added some chocolate bitters. Voila! New cocktail.
The fun thing about playing with a cocktail you already know you like is that even your mistakes will be tasty. And that brings us to your second tip:
Taste-test It while you’re Working on It
Half the fun in coming up with new cocktail recipes is testing the cocktail once you’re finished. But, the real tip here prevents you from making any stinkers: Taste Test! You’ll see mixologists doing this in bars occasionally when they want to test a cocktail they’ve put together. Before they serve it, and sometimes while they are mixing it, they take a straw or spoon and take a small sip. Testing as they go prevents mishaps making it to the patron’s table.
When you start to work on a cocktail, think about general proportions, and if you think it’s possible you might want less of an ingredient, use the smaller amount, taste it before pouring into the glass and see if you need more. You can always add more, but it’s impossible to remove a single ingredient once it’s in the mixing glass with everything else. So taste test early and taste test often.
If your cocktail doesn’t quite make the cut, sometimes adding bitters, especially unique or different bitters, can take your cocktail up a notch. Angostura, Fee Brothers and Regans bitters are all classic bitters, but we’re in a cocktail renaissance and there are hundreds of unique bitters on the market you can try. When you get a new bottle of bitters, one easy way to taste test it is to add several dashes to a glass of chilled sparkling water.
Occasionally, you will make a cocktail you can’t save, but for the most part starting with a standard cocktail recipe and improvising from there along with taste testing throughout the contest will save most of the drinks you make.
Those are your tips for now, so go out and keep mixing! Go here to enter your cocktail. The due date is July 27th!
Heather Wibbels is a cocktail enthusiast who spends her time thinking about cocktails, researching cocktails and making cocktails. Mostly whiskey cocktails, given her Kentucky location.