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

podcast album art for website

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.”

Download Episode 14.

itunes button stitcher button rss button

If you enjoyed the show, please write a brief review on iTunes. That would help us get the word out and raise the visibility of the show. Thank you!

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

podcast album art for website

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.

itunes button stitcher button rss button

If you enjoyed the show, please write a brief review on iTunes. That would help us get the word out and raise the visibility of the show. Thank you!

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

Simple Cocktails Podcast Episode 12

podcast album art for website

We ignore all the cocktail party rules and talk religion! And booze. We drink the elixir of life and Lisa has mixed feelings. It’s a liqueur that’s been around before color! We do some patriotic drinking as we make the Liberty. Apples are hard to garnish with. Greg has another.

We reference the Alaska Cocktail and a Monk’s Old Fashioned at some point, too.

Download Episode 12.

itunes button stitcher button rss button

If you enjoyed the show, please write a brief review on iTunes. That would help us get the word out and raise the visibility of the show. Thank you!

Spodee White

spodee white

Spodee was one of the first liquors I reviewed at Simple Cocktails, almost exactly 2 years ago. The team behind some of the most unique drinks of our generation (for instance, Hendrick’s, Sailor Jerry Rum, and Art in the Age) are now introducing us to Spodee White.

On the podcast this week, we described the original, red Spodee as a cheap, strong, chocalatey wine…and we didn’t mean it in a negative way. Spodee Red goes well with stuff like soda (Spodee and Sody, he he) or even for breakfast with orange juice.

Now it’s time for the new stuff: Spodee White. Still packed in a 500 ml milk jug, and still a fortified wine at around 18% alcohol, White is a $9 “country wine” too, but a very different taste experience from Red.

Where the original Spodee was only fruity from the wine base, White has added coconut and pineapple, and is in many ways a ready-to-pour tiki drink. As of yet, I’ve been drinking it just as you see it above, straight out of the fridge and poured over ice. Like we mentioned on the podcast, I think an awesome way to serve White would be shaken with a equal part of coconut water.

Like many inventions from the minds at Quaker City Mercantile (and particularly from Steven Grasse), Spodee White is a unique liquor that opens up a world of great new cocktails. Every bit of liquor from them is edgy and new, and every detail of their presentation is respected and analyzed, but their ultimate goal is making great liquor, and they always tend to succeed.

Simple Cocktails Podcast Episode 11

podcast album art for website

Greg gushes for quite a while about Steven Grasse. We do the world’s first podcast review of Spodee White…at least we think so. Here’s the old Spodee review (light switch included). Greg gushes some more about Steven. Lisa diverts us to Disneyland. “The tip of my tongue says whee!’” Kids and cocktails? “All of your inspiration is me.” We finish with another 1:1:1 cocktail, the first one Greg ever made.

Download Episode 11.

itunes button stitcher button rss button

If you enjoyed the show, please write a brief review on iTunes. That would help us get the word out and raise the visibility of the show. Thank you!