Category Archives: liqueur

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.

Harvey’s Tiki Hut

Galliano’s vanilla-and-spice flavor profile makes is a pretty flexible liqueur in many different types of cocktails, from light and fruity to rich and savory. In the spring, we mixed Galliano with tequila in an Hola Harvey, and now it’s time to mix Galliano in a tiki drink.

Note that we’re using orange curacao in this cocktail (for the first time on this blog, actually). In the past, when an “orange liqueur” was called for, I’d just use Bols triple sec. The two “orange liqueurs” are different, though, and here’s a brief summary thanks to Camper English:

  • Triple sec is clear and based on neutral spirits. Cointreau is a triple sec.
  • Curacao is usually brownish, though can be orange or blue. It has color is because it’s brandy-based and sometimes aged, which also means curacao tastes richer. Grand Marnier is a curacao.

Without further delay, here’s Harvey’s Tiki Hut:

  • in a shaker, combine:
  • 1 1/2 oz white rum
  • 3/4 oz Galliano
  • 3/4 oz Bols orange curacao
  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • shake with ice and strain into a glass (or tiki mug) filled with ice
  • garnish with a lime wedge

 Special thanks to our sponsor Galliano L’Autentico

Hola Harvey

hola harvey wallbanger

I’ve covered Galliano before, the famous electric-yellow herbal liqueur from Italy. It’s the critical ingredient that turns a simple Screwdriver into the Harvey Wallbanger cocktail. We’ve tasted it a few months back on the podcast, too (listen here).

For Cinco de Mayo this year, I found a tropical recipe that riffs on the Harvey Wallbanger that’s both easy and tasty:

Hola Harvey

  • in a shaker, combine:
  • 1 1/2 oz blanco tequila
  • 1/2 oz Galliano
  • 1 oz pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • garnish with a lime wedge

 Special thanks to our sponsor Galliano L’Autentico.

Underground Herbal Liqueur

Underground Herbal Liqueur

Time for a quick review of what an herbal liqueur actually is. It’s sweetened, which makes it a liqueur. Herbal means you have various herbs seeped into the liquid as it’s made: bitter herbs, sweet herbs, and all variety of spices. Similar herbal liqueurs include stuff like Chartreuse, Drambuie, or the many Amaros.

Underground Herbal Liqueur is distilled by Ogden’s Own in Utah (I’ve recently covered Five Wives and Porter’s Fire from them, too) at 40% alcohol and sells for a very reasonable $20. The flavor of Underground falls somewhere around Jägermeister and Fernet Branca. It’s a minty, syrupy, flavorful elixir, and like Jäger, they recommend you serve it very cold (Jäger wants you to keep their liqueur in the freezer).

So at a pricepoint similar to Jägermeister and lower than Fernet, the question is really why choose Underground? Because it tastes better, that’s why. The herbs and the minty finish, while syrupy, are balanced together very well and complement the spicier flavors of clove and cinnamon too. As a digestif, it’s a great-tasting dessert. You don’t really need to freeze Underground, either, because it tastes really good at any temperature. Though I love Fernet, a lot of people don’t, and the drinking masses will certainly find Underground comparatively better-tasting.

With the claim to “America’s first herbal spirit,” a great taste and a great price, too, there’s no reason not to pick up a bottle of Underground next time you visit the liquor store.

Porter’s Fire

porter's fire

As interest moves from flavored vodka in the booze industry, we’re seeing more flavored whiskies arrive to replace them. I recently heard of Porter’s Fire and had to try it – it’s a whiskey liqueur from Ogden’s Own Distillery in Ogden, Utah.

Porter’s Fire is named for Orrin Porter Rockwell, a guy I hadn’t heard of, but Ogden’s tells us: “With his long, flowing hair and beard and his run-ins with the law, Orrin Porter Rockwell was one of the most colorful characters in the history of the Mormon church. He was a close friend of Joseph Smith in New York. It is probable the Rockwell was the youngest member of the LDS church as its inception.”

Like we discussed in our podcast this week, it’s an interesting choice to marry your liquor branding with the Mormons (especially since they don’t drink), but it’s certainly a understandable branding choice for a Utah distillery.

Porter’s Fire is a Canadian whiskey combined with cinnamon and vanilla liqueur. It’s 35% alcohol, and I gotta tell you: the flavor of this liqueur is SO familiar and SO reminiscent of Chila Orchata and RumChata, that I had make a cocktail with them. This is very much a non-creamy version of those horchata liqueurs, I’d almost bet you that you would have trouble telling them apart in a blind taste test. You can also taste the same flavor profile of Five Wives Sinful (Cinnamon Vodka from Ogden’s) too. All 4 of those products feel like they’re seasoned and flavored almost the exact same way, and all of these make for some really simple, tasty Christmastime cocktails too. Here’s a cocktail to try (pictured above):

Sinful Cinnamon Cocktail (by Greg Mays)

  • in a shaker, combine:
  • 2 oz Porter’s Fire Cinnamon Whiskey Liqueur
  • 1 oz Chila Orchata
  • shake well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • garnish with a cinnamon stick

Pimm’s Cup

pimms cup

Pimm’s is an interesting liqueur if you’ve never had it before. It’s essentially an English Amaro, with gin as it’s base spirit. It’s a touch bitter, a little sweet, and sort of herbal, earthy and gritty. There have been as many as 6 varieties of Pimm’s over the years, but the original “No. 1 Cup” is the one that has stuck.

Here’s how you make the simple and refreshing Pimm’s Cup Cocktail:

Pimm’s Cup

  • in a highball glass filled with ice, add:
  • 1 1/2 oz Pimm’s No. 1
  • top with ginger ale (or lemon-lime soda)
  • garnish with cucumber
  • serve with a straw

We taste Pimm’s and make a Pimm’s Cup on the Simple Cocktails Podcast, too. Listen here.

Black Martini

black martini

Last year, I made a Harry Potter-themed cocktail for Halloween: the Devil’s Snare. For several years, though, I’ve meant to make a Black Martini for Halloween, and now that I have a bottle of Sambuca, I can.

This is a two-ingredient cocktail that’s perfect for Halloween, though I will say, that if you’re not a black licorice fan, remember that Black Sambuca has a strong anise flavor, so if that’s not your cup of tea, maybe revert to last year’s cocktail.

Before you begin, you need to get a little messy. Make a small amount of Halloween sugar by adding some dashes of Angostura bitters to regular sugar.

halloween bitter sugar

Then wet your finger slightly with Sambuca (which is very sticky) and run that around the rim of the glass, then sprinkle the sugar on it. Let the glass sit while you make the drink:

Black Martini

  • in a mixing glass, combine:
  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz black Sambuca
  • stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with “Halloween” sugar

Enjoy…and happy Halloween!

We make a Black Martini on the Simple Cocktails podcast, too. Listen here. 

For a video of Greg making the this cocktail, click here.

Aperol Spritz

aperol spritz

I’ve been meaning to make this cocktail for quite some time, but because I’m a cocktail/liquor guy and not a wine guy, I don’t have as much access to Prosecco, an essential ingredient to the Spritz.

Prosecco is a popular Italian sparkling white wine, and I got a hold of a bottle of Mionetto Prosecco DOC recently (which runs about $15/bottle), and I made an Aperol Spritz right away. The Spritz is a refreshing, yet dry (not too sweet) fizzy cocktail. Here’s how you make it.

Aperol Spritz

  • in a balloon glass filled with ice, add in this order:
  • 4 oz Prosecco DOC
  • a splash of club soda (probably about 1/2 oz)
  • 2 oz Aperol

Because 2 of the 3 ingredients are bubbling, the cocktail basically stirs itself. Enjoy!

We make an Aperol Spritz on the Simple Cocktails Podcast….and Greg had to ‘saber’ the bottle! Listen to the action here.

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

We taste Chila Orchata on the Simple Cocktails Podcast, too. Listen here.

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.

We make an Amaretto Sour on the Simple Cocktails podcast, too. Listen here.