Category Archives: liqueur

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.

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.

We taste Sambuca on the Simple Cocktails podcast, too. Listen here.

Green Dragon Cocktail

green dragon cocktail

Lisa and I recently compared 3 different types of Chartreuse on the podcast and it reminded me how much I love the stuff. I looked through my recipe books for Chartreuse cocktails, and found the simplest one ever. This is a vodka-and-green version of the Alaska, a gin-and-yellow Chartreuse cocktail. Try it out, but sip it slowly – vodka’s 40% alcohol and green Chartreuse is 55%!

Green Dragon

  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 3/4 oz green Chartreuse
  • stir with lots of ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Campari Soda

campari soda

I mentioned in a recent podcast episode that a great cocktail would be an Amaro shot and club soda. Amaros are sweet and bitter and if you’ve developed the palate for it, they can be really refreshing.

For this drink, you’re not limited to Campari – substitute any other amaro of your choosing (I bet Aperol or Averna would be really good choices). Obviously, the recipe is very simple: a two-ingredient refresher!

Campari Soda

  • in a tall glass filled with ice, add:
  • 1 1/2 oz Campari
  • top with club soda
  • serve with a straw (Kegworks sent me the one I use here)

Club Cocktail

club cocktail

I suppose that a couple of centuries ago, cocktail names were pretty easy to get confused. In a world where you couldn’t use the internet to look up ingredients, many recipes traveled by word of mouth, and I imagine that some morphed into different recipes entirely. Take, for instance, the Martinez cocktail, which some believe developed into the Martini (trust me, they’re very different drinks). And in this case, the Club Cocktail, which is almost nothing like the more popular Clover Club.

The Club is very much like the Obituary Cocktail: a gin martini with the addition of an herbal flavor modifier. In the case of the Obituary, it’s Absinthe, and here, it’s Yellow Chartreuse. Let me know how you like the Club Cocktail:

Club Cocktail

  • in a stirring glass add:
  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz white (dry) vermouth
  • a dash of Yellow Chartreuse
  • stir with lots of ice until very cold
  • strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Brancamenta Cocktails

brancamenta bottle

I have written about Fernet Branca in the past, an increasingly popular and pretty legendary bitter liqueur. BrancaMenta is a companion liqueur, Fernet Branca combined with mint syrup, which makes the liqueur mintier and sweeter (obviously), but actually changes the taste of the whole thing a bit.

While Fernet Branca is more bitter and is a stronger alcohol experience, BrancaMenta is a sweeter and more palatable drink for many. In side-by-side tests at my home bar, folks who didn’t like Fernet Branca usually liked BrancaMenta when they tried it. One said it “tastes like a Thin Mint,” and that’s not too far off the mark as BrancaMenta is more chocolaty and sweet than it’s big brother.

I was challenged to come up with some original cocktail ideas with BrancaMenta, and it’s a surprisingly easy liqueur to mix. Since it’s not overly sweet, you can use it in place of a liqueur or a base liquor. I made two types of recipes: BrancaMenta plus and cocktails with BrancaMenta. Try these out:

brancamenta cocktails

Creamy Mint Stout (by Greg Mays)

  • add 1 1/2 oz of BrancaMenta to a chilled 14-oz glass
  • top with cream stout (I used St. Peter’s)

Branca Moji-Tea (by Greg Mays)

  • add 1 oz BrancaMenta to an ice-filled collins glass
  • top with cold lime or mint tea (preferably both – I used Argo Mojitea)
  • (stainless steel straw courtesy of KegWorks)

brancamenta cocktails

I’m going to be really straight with you here: I didn’t expect these next two drinks to be as great as they are. They looked good when I was photographing them, sure, but when I tasted these cocktails, they were excellent, simple, balanced, and refreshing. I’ll be making these regularly at the home bar for sure:

White Italian (by Greg Mays)

  • in a double old fashioned  glass filled with ice, add:
  • 1 1/2 oz BrancaMenta
  • 1 1/2 oz half-and-half
  • 2 oz strong, cold coffee (I used unsweetened Illy issumo Coffee)
  • stir until combined and garnish with a mint sprig

CocoMenta Cocktail (by Greg Mays)

  • in a shaker, combine:
  • 2 oz BrancaMenta
  • 2 oz coconut water
  • 3 dashes of orange bitters
  • fill with ice and shake well (the coconut water will make the drink a little bit foamy)
  • strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with mint leaves