Category Archives: recipes

Drinking the Derby

four roses and mint julep recipe

The Kentucky Derby is coming up Saturday – a celebratory event which usually marks the arrival of Spring and “spring time” bourbon drinks like the Mint Julep. I have 2 pots of mint in the backyard and they are full and ready to be julep-ized. As a refresher on how to make your own Juleps, you can see my Julep walkthrough here.

According to the Derby, “120,000 Mint Juleps are served over the two-day period of Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs Racetrack. That’s a feat that requires more than 10,000 bottles of bourbon, 1,000 pounds of mint and 60,000 pounds of ice.”

So in light of the coming Derby this weekend, I was excited to receive a care package from Four Roses, one of my personal favorite cinnamon-forward Kentucky bourbons, then a copy of Michael Dietsch’s brand new book Whiskey: A Spirited Story with 75 Classic & Original Cocktails, which releases May 17, 2016 [Amazon link].

whiskey by michael dietsch

Much more than just a simple listing of recipes, Deitch devotes several pages to each cocktail and goes into the history and story behind each. It’s a beautiful hardcover book with excellent photography, designed cleanly and well-organized, with a good deal of cocktail pointers (whiskey or not). He says of the Mint Julep:

“With an origin in the 18th century, the boozy julep came along before American whiskey was widely available. And even when American whiskey was more available, the julep had become a drink of the genteel South, and in that time, gentlemen drank brandy and rum, not brash American whiskey.” (pp 103)

Enjoy a Mint Julep and enjoy Derby Day on Saturday! Cheers!

Novo Fogo Cachaça Caipirinha Kit

novo fogo cachaça

I’m a little embarrassed to say that until recently, I had not tried cachaça (kuh-CHA-suh), the Brazilian sugar cane juice liquor. Similar to rum, cachaça is Brazil’s most popular distilled spirit, and the base for the caipirinha (KAI-pir-een-yuh) cocktail.

Well, Novo Fogo Cachaça helped us to correct that when they sent us their caipirinha kit to try out on our podcast (which we did here). The kit includes a bottle of Novo Fogo Silver, 2 small branded mason jars, and a wood muddler, all of which we use in the recipe below.

novo fogo caipirinha kit

A caipirinha is like a South American take on a Daiquiri: lime, sugar and rum, though in this case the rum is swapped for cachaça. I find Novo Fogo’s cachaça to be a earthier, grassier and much more flavorful variety of rum, which is technically is, because it’s distilled from sugar cane juice. Their caipirinha kit makes for some tasty cocktails, too, and all you need to add is lime and sugar. Here’s how you make it:

Caipirinha

  • in a small mason jar, add:
  • 1/2 of a lime, but into wedges and with the enter pith removed
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 oz cachaça
  • muddle together well, then fill the jar with ice
  • shake well, then serve directly in the jar

Prince Memorial Cocktails

purple rain prince cocktail

You know, I’ve always found cocktails that memorialize an occasion, or person, to be a bit cheesy and so I rarely partake in “theme” drinking. I found myself in a situation last week when Prince died, that folks who were coming to our already-planned cocktail party that night began asking if I was going to be making any Prince-themed drinks to remember him by.

Drinking and partying in memory of someone who’s passed away is a thing, and people have done it for thousands of years (at least), so I softened to the idea of some themed cocktails, both for the sake of our party guests and because of fun in creating new cocktails! After 3 recipe revisions for each, we got them just right. The first drink we made is the Purple Rain (pictured above).

Purple Rain (by Greg Mays)

  • in a shaker, add:
  • 2 oz coconut water
  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz açaí juice
  • shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Next up, we made a riff on a Gin Sour by including some muddled raspberries:

raspberry beret prince cocktail

Raspberry Beret (by Greg Mays)

  • in a shaker, add:
  • 5 raspberries
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • muddle the raspberries well, then add:
  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 egg white
  • dry shake (no ice), then add ice and shake again to chill
  • double strain into an old fashioned glass filled with ice and add 3 raspberries for garnish
  • add 2 drops of Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters on the foam

So there you are: 2 simple cocktails you can drink in memory of The Purple One. Cheers!

Wine Margarita

wine margarita

The Margarita is one of the most iconic cocktails in the world, a derivative of the Sidecar, and it regularly fights the Martini for most-googled cocktail. One of my first blog posts at Simple Cocktails was a Watermelon Wine Margarita, which tasted a lot like Jolly Ranchers, and not at all like booze. Some beer-and-wine-only restaurants will make “cocktails” out of wine to replicate the boozier versions, and I’ve personally found that some wine-based mixed drinks like that can be great for parties because you can make them in a pitcher and they’re ready-to-drink without being overwhelmingly alcoholic.

With BBQ season right around the corner, here’s my recipe for Wine Margaritas, in both individual servings and for pitchers:

Wine Margarita (by Greg Mays)

  • in an ice-filled, salt-rimmed Collins glass, add:
  • 1 oz orange curacao
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 4-5 ounces white wine of choice (decide based on your desired dry-ness)
  • garnish with a lime wedge
  • stir well (I left mine in the photo above un-stirred for a cool “sunrise” effect, but stir before drinking)

Pitcher of Wine Margaritas (by Greg Mays)

  • in an ice-filled pitcher, add:
  • 1 bottle white wine of choice
  • 6 1/2 oz of orange curacao
  • 6 1/2 oz lime juice
  • fill pitcher with lime wheels and stir well
  • prep ice-filled, salt-rimmed glasses for serving

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!

 

Cigar Pairing: Creme Cocktails

coquito

Last month, I did a seminar at San Antonio Cocktail Conference about cigar and cocktail pairing. The gist of the seminar was this: cigars are typically paired with similar-tasting drinks (smoky scotch, spicy rye). If, however, you pair a cigar with an opposite-tasting cocktail, like a creamy or sweet drink, the pairing can enhance the flavors of both the smoke and the drink.

To be quite honest, the attendees weren’t totally convinced that cream-based cocktails were a good fit, but a recent conversation I had confirmed that a creamy cocktail actually pairs quite well with a stogie. The following are some cream-based cocktails I recommend pairing with a cigar, including a Puerto Rican cocktail that’s basically their equivalent of egg nog:

Coquito

  • 12 oz coconut milk
  • 12 oz evaporated milk
  • 12 oz cream of coconut
  • 4 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup spiced rum
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • blend ingredients in a blender until well mixed, then bottle and refrigerate until cold
  • serve in small glasses and sprinkle cinnamon on the top

Brandy Alexander

  • 1 oz of brandy or cognac
  • 1 oz dark creme de cacao
  • 1 oz cream (half and half)
  • shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • garnish with nutmeg on top

White Russian

  • in a shaker, combine:
  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1 oz coffee liqueur
  • 1 oz cream (half and half)
  • shake well with ice and strain into an ice-filled old fashioned glass

10th Avenue Tea Cocktails

10th ave tea cocktails

Tea cocktails are most definitely a thing, from teas designed specifically for cocktails (like the Owl’s Brew) to many ways of infusing tea into booze, even smoking tea into it. Tea can add two great dimensions to a cocktail: lightening the alcohol content or adding a plethora of flavors into a drink that you don’t usually get through alcohol and mixers alone.

10th Avenue Tea is a new tea company with a specific passion for the environment. Available in 4 flavors: Green, Chai, English and Tropical, 10th Avenue gives you a unique option for how to work your tea into cocktails, though: because their tea is concentrated and dry, you can adjust tea strength on the fly and mix drinks quicker than if you were using pre-made teas or teas you have to brew before you use.

I experimented a little bit with 10th Avenue and I think I’ve found the perfect ratio for using their tea in a near-unlimited variety of cocktails: 2 parts spirit, 1/2 part citrus, 1/2 part simple syrup, and then the tea, which I’ve been making with 1 oz of water. Here are the drinks in the photo above:

Midsummer Dream (by Greg Mays)

  • in a shaker, add:
  • 2 oz spiced rum
  • 2-3 shakes of 10th Avenue Tropical Tea
  • 1 oz water
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • garnish with a lime twist

Bourbon Bulldog (by Greg Mays)

  • in a shaker, add:
  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 2-3 shakes of 10th Avenue English Tea
  • 1 oz water
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • garnish with a lemon twist

Note I made the exact same drinks above but substituted Green tea for Tropical and Chai for English on a recent podcast episode. They also turned out great, but the Green/Spiced Rum drink was a runaway favorite. 

Fall Cocktails on the Morning Brew (Video)

I talked about Fall Cocktails on The Morning Brew in Albuquerque last week! Check out the video which includes a Sidecar and Scotch Milk Punch recipe. Get the recipes here.