Category Archives: liqueur

Coolchata Cocktail

rumchata coolchata

We’re no strangers to RumChata here at Simple Cocktails. It’s been my liqueur of choice for Christmas gifts, and here in the Southwest U.S., it’s a very hot seller on a regular basis. Here at Simple Cocktails, I was introduced to the product almost 5 years ago, when I made a Chata Café Cream.

While the RumChata really starts flowing in my house once Fall arrives, I’ve started to think about ways to use this horchata-rum-cream liqueur all year around, and the first time I’ve tried was a huge hit at our home cocktail parties: a fruit-salad-in-a-glass of sorts, a Tiki-friendly drink with a light green hue: the Coolchata.

Coolchata (by Greg Mays)

  • In a cocktail shaker, combine:
  • 1 ½ oz of RumChata
  • ½ oz banana liqueur (crème de banane)
  • ½ oz melon liqueur (like Midori)
  • 1 oz vodka
  • Add ice and shake until very cold
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • Garnish with cherries

Special thanks to our sponsor RumChata.

Black Trumpet Blueberry Cordial

black trumpet blueberry cordial

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Art in the Age family of spirits. Because of their recent expansion via Tamworth Distilling in New Hampshire, though, AITA has begun to produce some very interesting, small-batch liqueurs and infusions that are deeply rooted in their local agriculture.

Most recently, we tried AITA’s Tamworth-produced Sweet Potato Vodka on the podcast (episode #68), and now we have a new bottle to try from that partnership: Black Trumpet Blueberry Cordial.

What you may do when reading the label is gloss over the black trumpet part of the name, which some of you will realize is a mushroom (I didn’t). The ingredient list includes lemon verbena and lavender, too. While initially this liqueur seems it may be very sweet and berry-forward (at least on the nose), tasting it reveals a very balanced liqueur, enough that you could enjoy sipping it on the rocks, or as a replacement for the sweetener in an Old Fashioned (see recipe below).

There is little chance that you’ll dig up old cocktail recipes that include Black Trumpet Blueberry Cordial in the ingredient list, but, as with most of the recent farm-to-glass spirits that Tamworth/Art in the Age is producing these days, you’re likely to invent a lot of delicious cocktails as you experiment with their ever-growing line of unique spirits.

Blueberry Old Fashioned (by Greg Mays)

  • in an old fashioned glass, add:
  • 1/2 oz Black Trumpet Blueberry Cordial
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • 2 oz bourbon whiskey
  • stir with ice and garnish with fresh blueberries on a pick

Fancy Grasshopper

fancy grasshopper cocktail

Recently, we made one of last century’s most iconic cocktails: the Grasshopper. A low-booze, sweet-as-hell, electric green cocktail that has since inspired cookies and cakes that bear it’s name. When people call a food or drink “Grasshopper,” we know it’ll be chocolate and sweet mint.

As I anticipated making the Grasshopper, though, I was reminded of a seminar I attended at San Antonio Cocktail Conference. I heard that some cool craft cocktail bars are taking over-sweet, 1990s or uncool cocktail recipes and redeeming them. Whether they’re just serving them tongue-in-cheek on their menus, or “upgrading” every ingredient to make them cool again, it’s fun to “craft-ize” some older, yuckier cocktails.

I began to imagine how one could make the bright green Grasshopper cocktail out of edgier, craftier ingredients. I stuck with the chocolate-and-mint flavor profile, of course, but stabilized it a little bit and made it boozier and more complex. Here’s what I came up with:

Fancy Grasshopper (by Greg Mays)

  • in a mixing glass, add:
  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 1/2 oz Brancamenta (a minty amaro)
  • 3/4 oz brown Creme de Cacao
  • 2 dashes of black walnut bitters
  • stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

You end up with a Grasshopper that’s equally tasty, and nice and balanced in it’s flavors, and as you see from the photo, it takes on the color of the chocolate instead of mint green. You’ll discover it’s equally tasty and suitable for St. Patrick’s Day, though. 

Enjoy!

Grasshopper

grasshopper cocktail

The Grasshopper cocktail is a pretty interesting study in cocktail trends. It was invented by Philibert Guichet of Tujague’s Restaurant in New Orleans in 1910 for a cocktail competition, which it placed second in. Tujague’s still serves Grasshoppers by the dozens today.

Here’s why the Grasshopper has drifted in and out of “coolness” over the 115 years it’s been around: it’s seen as a starter cocktail, as training wheels, because it actually doesn’t have liquor in it. Now, the Grasshopper is an alcoholic drink, but it isn’t made with vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila, etc, just 2 liqueurs (sweet and low-alcohol) and cream. It’s so sweet and creamy, and it’s basically more a dessert than a cocktail.

But that’s what makes the Grasshopper cool, too. It’s the only drink of its kind, really, especially when you consider its color (creamy electric green) and the famous chocolate-mint flavor. It’s light and ferociously sweet, and it’s just a fun drink. If you’re not having fun drinking, than what’s the point, right?

So here you go, without apology, the Grasshopper cocktail:

Grasshopper

  • in a cocktail shaker, add:
  • 1 oz of Creme de Menthe (mint liqueur)
  • 1 oz white Creme de Cacao (chocolate liqueur)
  • 1 oz half-and-half
  • shake well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Campari IPA

Campari IPA

I’ve heard about this drink for a while, but only recently decided to try it out myself. It’s meant to be a sort of bitter-on-bitter experience: a bitter liqueur with a bitter beer. We don’t make a lot of beer cocktails at Simple Cocktails, but if you want to explore some, check out the Caramel Guinness or the Merican Negroni, the second of which is really just a souped-up version of this very cocktail.

I suppose it’s a stretch to call a beer-and-a-shot a cocktail, but I’m going to call it that because I’m serving it already mixed (not a separate shot as a chaser). If you look around the internet, this drink is definitely a thing, but it goes by a variety of names, usually Beer Campari or Campari Spritzer. I’ve decided to settle on the most obvious name, one that will be specific enough that your bartender should know what you mean when you order it:

Campari IPA

  • in a frozen beer mug or pint glass, pour 6 oz of very cold IPA beer
  • add 1 1/2 oz Campari
  • top with the remaining 6 oz IPA (adding it incrementally like this helps the cocktail to mix itself)
  • optionally, garnish with an orange slice or serve on the rocks (especially if you don’t have an already-frozen beer mug)

In Albuquerque, you could argue that IPA is our king of craft beers. Our best IPAs here are the driest that I’ve had: when I try IPAs from other states, they usually finish too sweet for me. Adding Campari has this amazing effect on a quality IPA in that it increases both the bitterness and the sweetness of the beer, which to me is perfectly acceptable and the final product remains deliciously balanced. I will certainly be drinking more of these in the future!

 

Hardly Wallbanger

hardly wallbanger

November 8 is National Harvey Wallbanger Day. The signature cocktail of Galliano Liqueur,  and likely invented in the 1950’s in California, the Harvey Wallbanger grew in popularity throughout the 60’s (especially in California). The Sycamore Den bar in San Diego has given the original recipe a little twist in the Hardly Wallbanger. We also made this cocktail on our most recent podcast. Enjoy!

Hardly Wallbanger

  • in a shaker, combine:
  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz Galliano
  • 2 oz orange juice
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • shake with ice and strain into an old fashioned glass filled with ice
  • garnish with a lemon peel “rose” (pictured) or a lemon wedge

 Special thanks to our sponsor Galliano L’Autentico

Merican Negroni

merican negroni, negroni with ipa

At Tales of the Cocktail this year, we were treated to a great cocktail menu from Martin Miller’s Gin, featuring both classics and modern. As soon as I saw the menu, one really caught my eye: a Merican Negroni.

Yeah, I realize “Merican” has taken on a life of its own, particularly on the internet…images of gun-slingin’ pickup truck drivin’ rednecks. But once you get past the name, this is an incredible cocktail and all the ingredients pair perfectly well together, plus it’s one of the few beer cocktails I’ve ever done here.

So here’s the concept: take a bitter Italian cocktail, the Negroni, ice it and top it with another bitter drink: an American IPA. Here are the details:

Merican Negroni

  • in a collins glass filled with ice, add:
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • top the cocktail with an American India Pale Ale – I used a local brew: Marble Brewery’s award-winning IPA.
Thanks to JCPenny for the glassware used in this photo.

New Holland Spirits

new holland spirits

New Holland Spirits was relatively unknown to me until I ran into them at Tales of the Cocktail this year and tasted their fantastic orange liqueur (more on that in a minute).

Born out of New Holland Brewery in Michigan, the spirits line is pretty diverse and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve tried so far, including their Beer Barrel Bourbon. They were generous enough to let us try many of their other spirits. Here’s what we think:

Walleye Rye, $40-50. A rye with more fruitiness than I expected. Spicy, yes, but there’s a lot more dried fruit and sweetness than I’m used to in a rye. I feel like this rye’s fruity flavor is possibly due more to its younger age than what it’s distilled from. It;s fun to use this to make more fruit-forward rye cocktails, like Manhattans.

Knickerbocker Barrel Gin, $35. I love barrel aged gins. They helped me transition from being mostly a gin drinker to whiskey. When you take a sip, this is in the very end of the taste you get a caramel-barrel sweetness that’s really great. We tasted this on an episode of the podcast as well.

Clockwork Orange Liqueur, $30. This is the drink that drew me to New Holland initially. A high-proof (40%) triple sec that can easily be a stand-alone sipper. I know folks who like to drink straight triple secs or curacous while smoking cigars, and this is leaps and bounds better than the $10 bottom-shelf triple secs you see at the grocery store. It’s not too sweet, it’s slightly bitter and spicy. I’ll be saving this bottle for high-end cocktails and for sipping.

As their distillery line is relatively new, there isn’t national distribution of New Holland’s spirits. Mostly available near and in the areas surrounding Holland, Michigan, USA, if you get a chance to try their line, you won’t be disappointed.

 

It’s time to talk about Jägermeister

Jägermeister and Jägermeister spice

Some spirits have a bad reputation. Often, it’s deserved and occasionally it’s more of a guilt-by-association situation. Jägermeister is certainly one of those “bad reputation” spirits, and I think in their case, they fall in to both camps.

First, an origin story. Jäger is an 80-year-old German brand, creators of an herbal liquor that’s a bit like an Italian amaro, a blend of 56 macerated herbs, spices and flavors. Jäger is aged a year as part of its production, then bottled and shipped out.

Now for the uncouth side of Jäger. Remember scantily-clad cocktail waitresses with trays of ice-cold Jäger shots prancing around your local bar? Seen frozen Jäger-branded “shot machines”? How about “Jägerbombs” or “Liquid Heroin”? There’s the fact that they’ve virtually ignored craft cocktail bars, craft cocktail makers, and craft cocktail enthusiasts, too. Continue reading

Amaro Lucano

amaro lucano

In the world of craft cocktails, amaros are a staple of the bar, usually multiple varieties. In the real world of people’s home bars however, these Italian bitter liqueurs have yet to make as much of an impact.

Amaro Lucano is one of many amaros you may find at your local liquor store. Of the amaros I’ve tried, there tend to be several camps of them. There’s the citrusy, like Aperol and Campari. There’s the cola-esque like Averna. Then there’s the herbal, like Cynar, Fernet Branca or this one, Amaro Lucano.

Lucano is the most similar to Cynar, herbal and spicy, though there are enough differences to set it apart. First, the alcohol level is higher, 28% compared with Cynar’s 16%. Because of the increased alcohol level, and likely because of something in the secret recipe of 30 herbs, Amaro Lucano has an interesting tingle when you sip it. It’s hard to trace the source of that tingle, but everyone who’s tried it has noticed it to varying degrees of enjoyment.

At $30, Amaro Lucano is definitely an enjoyable, herbal amaro. If you love to taste new amaros, and experiment with them in your Negronis, it should certainly be on your list of amaros to try.