Simple Cocktails Podcast Episode 16

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How to make cocktails for people who don’t know what they want. “Are you a vegan? Are you an Episcopalian?” Greg name drops canon…again. The cotton-candy-to-wood-scale is established (remember this day)! A horchata liqueur shootout featuring RumChata and Chila ‘Orchata. Limp candy canes. Greg attempts an emergency bottle sabering for the first time because he forgot the corkscrew (here’s a photo of the result). We make an Aperol Spritz.

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Chila Orchata

chila orchata

There’s no denying the RumChata has been a big hit in liquor stores over the last 2 years, particularly around the holidays. It’s no surprise then that a major liquor company – in this case, Sazerac – would enter the fray with their own Horchata liqueur.

Chila ‘Orchata is familiar, then: rum, cream, and cinnamon and spice, at a $20 price point, and at 14% alcohol. We decided to taste Chila side-by-side with RumChata, since those are likely to be side-by-side on your liquor store’s shelf.

We really like both these Horchata liqueurs. The rum in the Chila ‘Orchata stands out just a tad more, and makes it taste marginally spicier as a result. Going back to RumChata, it was a touch milkier, but to be really frank, they’re nearly identical, and they both taste very good, even drunk by themselves on ice. Take from this what you will, but of the group of us that tasted it, the guys leaned toward Chila ‘Orchata, and the gals favored RumChata a little more.

I made a tasty winter cocktail with Chila ‘Orchata. Try this one out:

It’s Chila Outside (by Greg Mays)

  • in a shaker combine:
  • 1 1/4 oz Chila ‘Orchata
  • 1 1/4 oz vanilla vodka (I used Smirnoff)
  • 2 dashes of Aztec Chocolate Bitters
  • shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Simple Cocktails Podcast Episode 15

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Greg’s favorite blog post ever. “I will teach you how to make cocktails if you promise to make them.” Drinking to get drunk is like….McDonalds. We taste black and white Sambuca and somehow undo all our preaching early in the episode. “My lips are going numb.” Greg mocks Lisa unfairly. How much does 1/4 of an ounce look like? We make a Captain’s Blood and don’t like it.

Greg mentions his Devil’s Snare cocktail in this episode.

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Amaretto Sour

amaretto sour

One of the first bottles I ever bought when I started Simple Cocktails was amaretto, an almond liqueur. I made a few drinks with it, then it collected dust in the back of my liquor cabinet for months. When the bottle ran out, I never thought of it again.

Recently, I was trying to figure out a good cocktail for dessert time, and Lisa (my wife and podcast co-host) recommended Amaretto Sours, a drink I haven’t made in at least 3 years. I grabbed some amaretto, some lemons, and the Amaretto Sours were the hit of the party! I’ve since almost finished the bottle making them for Lisa and others at the home bar. Here’s the recipe:

Amaretto Sour

  • fill an old fashioned glass with ice and set a cherry on top, then set that glass aside
  • in a shaker, add:
  • 2 oz amaretto
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • dry shake the mixture (don’t add ice) vigorously
  • add ice and shake again to cool
  • strain into the old fashioned glass that you’re prepped

A quick note about egg whites. There is a tiny risk of salmonella from raw eggs (about 1 in 20,000 may have it), but alcohol kills germs, right? Plus I’ve had several of these in the last few weeks and have yet to contract salmonella.  Adding some nice fresh, local eggs will add a richness to cocktails that’s pretty amazing, and it’s getting popular again to add them to Sours.

Ciroc Flavored Vodka

ciroc flavored vodkas

Ciroc is one of those infamous liquors – a “premium” spirit with star as a spokesperson. In this case, it’s Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, and as a matter of fact, he announced Ciroc’s newest flavor, pineapple (pictured above) on his Instagram profile.

There are paragraphs I could write about marketing, the use of spokespeople (particularly in liquor), and all that, but I’m no industry pundit. I’m just your average home bartender and booze writer, so I’m going to skip all that fluff if you don’t mind?

Ciroc’s portfolio includes 6 total types of the distilled-from-grapes vodka, in our tasting, we didn’t try the regular Ciroc or Amaretto, we stuck with 4 fruity flavors in the photo above. Flavored vodka often uses a bit of sugar to enhance its taste, which drops the alcohol level about 10% as well. In Ciroc’s case, all of the flavors fall at 35% alcohol. I poured lots of little tasting cups of these Ciroc flavors, and as the vodka dribbled on my hands, I waited for the sticky.

It never came.

That’s right, these are not sweetened vodkas, and I was pretty surprised at that. Every one of them is pretty subtly flavored, but overall, tastes like a nice vodka with a splash of not-sweet flavor.

As far as the flavors are concerned, four of us tasted them together. The favorite flavor was either Coconut (my favorite), Pineapple, or Peach, depending on the person. Unfortunately, Red Berry was universally panned as everyone’s least favorite for tasting like “artificial candy flavor” and “cough medicine.” Of the three that we liked, opinions varied about which flavor was the most natural tasting, though pretty much everyone agreed that these flavors not only tasted good on their own, but we were tempted to mix them together, too. 1/3 Coconut, 1/3 Pineapple, and 1/3 Coconut water would make an awesome, clean-tasting, simple cocktail for sure.

At $30 each, these are good flavored vodkas without the goofiness of the dying flavored vodka trend. These would actually make awesome subtle twists to some classic cocktail recipes. Coconut in a Cosmopolitan, maybe a Peach Moscow Mule, would be a fun twist using tasty vodka.

To hear us taste Ciroc flavors, listen to the most recent episode of the Simple Cocktails Podcast.

Simple Cocktails Podcast Episode 14

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Which liquors do you refrigerate? Lisa reveals her Love Language as we taste 4 flavors Ciroc. Is Greg’s hand sticky? Lisa reveals the secret of the Ciroc Coconut Flavoring Room. A lot of cups. A little Licor 43 tasting as we sip on tiny beers like the giants do. We measure liquids by the inch. “I wanna whip it.”

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Sambuca

sambuca

While I am not Italian and I have not yet visited The Boot, but it’s my understanding that Sambuca is the thing to add to your coffee or espresso. Sambuca is an herbal liqueur that’s available in either the white or black versions, and will run you upwards of $30 a bottle.

Romana is really the most familiar Sambuca brand, with the towering Colosseum on the label. The white variety is incrementally higher in alcohol than the black, but the flavor is pretty similar in both: black licorice. White seems a bit sharper and more licoricey than the black, and black tastes a tad more syrupy, but the flavor is hard to tell apart unless you’re doing it side-by-side, and really, you may just want to choose the color based on the cocktail you’re making. For instance, I’ll be making Black Martinis for Halloween (stay tuned for the recipe), so black is the one I need.

The premise of this liqueur is pretty simple: add a shot of Sambuca in the place of sugar in your coffee or espresso of choice, much like you would with Bailey’s. It adds some sweetness and flavor, and as long as you don’t dislike anise flavoring, Sambuca may be a fun addition to your coffee.

Simple Cocktails Podcast Episode 13

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Craft spirits discussed: link to the story we talked about. Spirits made by tiny hands in a tiny distillery, it’s Snap and Root liqueurs. The value of…cursive?  “It pours out into your entire body.” Greg measured Old Fashioned glasses to find their true volume. We make a Rusty Nail cocktail, like 3 different ways, 2:1, 2:splash, and 1:1. A good reason to make cocktails at home. Twerking with cocktails.

Download Episode 13.

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How to Make a Cocktail For Someone Who Doesn’t Know What They Want

home bartender. photo by matt and tish

Now that I’ve spent a few years as a home bartender, I’ve picked up some tricks on how to make drinks for people who aren’t quite sure what type of cocktail they like.

Whether a new drinker (just turned 21), or simply an intimidated bar drinker, I’ve found that the majority of people that I make drinks for haven’t tried enough cocktails in their life to know exactly what they like, so here are 5 questions I always ask people before I make them a drink:

  1. What flavors do you like – especially citrus, even foods, etc? If they love oranges, make an Orange Blossom Special or Screwdriver. Or avoid the Cucumber Martini if they hate cucumber.
  2. Do you have a liquor preference? Often, people will know enough to say “I hate gin,” or “I love gin,” (both of which I hear pretty regularly). If they like rum, make them a tiki drink. I once heard, “I’m allergic to juniper,” which as well all know, is a curse worse than death, because gin is awesome.
  3. How sweet do you like your cocktails? This one is huge, because even if they say the like Margaritas, for instance, but don’t like sweet drinks, you can just ease up on the Triple Sec a bit. If they love sweet and love vodka (see #2), then I’ll make them a simple 2 oz vodka + 1 1/2 oz liqueur cocktail like this one.
  4. What are some cocktails you already like? Here’s a specific one I do a lot: when people tell me they love Gins and Tonics, I tell them “let me make you the best G&T you’ve ever had,” and I get out the Jack Rudy Tonic syrup. Making upgraded versions of drinks they already love is an awesome route.
  5. Do you like it? At a commercial bar, this is nearly impossible, but one of the biggest advantages of a home bar is that it’s a lot easier to say you don’t like something. I always ask people if they like the drink I made, and I let them know it’s ok if they don’t, I’ll gladly pour it out (or maybe drink it myself) and make them something else.

 Special thanks to Matt&Tish for the photo.

Gin and Milk

gin and milk cocktail

Alright.

I’ve had the book Old Man Drinks for over a year, and it took me this long to get up the nerve to make one the the signature cocktails in that book: Gin and Milk.

Being a simple cocktail, Gin and Milk is totally qualified to be a featured recipe on this blog, but frankly, I’m not much of a milk guy. I don’t even drink my cereal milk after my bowl is through – I just dump it down the sink.

Being a gin lover, though, this cocktail interested me. It seems like it’d really work as we approach fall and winter, the nutmeg on top is a great addition to the flavor, but I’ll just tell you: it tastes like a moderately boozy glass of cold milk. But that’s ok, right?

Gin and Milk (from Old Man Drinks)

  • in a shaker, combine:
  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 cup milk
  • fill with ice and shake until very cold
  • pour into a chilled Collins glass
  • top with a shake of nutmeg