Wine-Finished Whiskies

slaughterhouse whiskey

Recently I discovered a little piece of the whiskey industry and decided to explore it a little bit: wine barrel finished whiskies. The two whiskies I tasted are distilled and aged as whiskey, then re-barreled by Napa Valley wineries in their used wine barrels and aged for a period of time in Napa.

Slaughter House is a product of Splinter Group in Napa, home of the Orin Swift family of wines. For Slaughter House, they barrel a 9-year-old Tennessee whiskey (distilled from 95% corn and 5% wheat) in their Papillon barrels (a red wine blend).

Slaughter House is bold and spicy , with a nose of apricot, berries and caramel followed by a flavor of cinnamon-and-sugar and marzipan. From the flavor of the whiskey, I have trouble detecting the wine’s contribution, though Slaughter House is certainly a solid whiskey when stood alone. With a price in the mid-$30 range, it’s a good buy for a solid spice-heavy 9-year-old whiskey.

amador whiskey

Amador Whiskey Co’s Double Barrel Bourbon is a blend of 3-10 year old Kentucky bourbons, then is re-barreled in Napa for 6 months.

Also a mid-$30-priced whiskey, Amador Double Barrel is barreled by the spirits division of Trinchero Family Estates. Chardonnay barrels were used for aging and the wine barrel contribution is much more obvious. It’s nose is floral and sweet corn, with a finish that is crisp and clean, clearly echoing the Chardonnay. Amador has almost no traces of spiciness, and is much milder start-to-finish than Slaughter House. I suspect that this flavor profile could translate to a broader appeal to more drinkers, too (ladies, I’m looking at you).

Whiskey is no stranger to barrel polygamy. Whether it’s something like these wine-barrel finishes, or larger brands like Angel’s Envy (finished in Port barrels) or Balvenie Double Wood, the depth of flavor that gets added through barrel exploration like this makes for some very delicious drinking.

Podcast 82- ​ Whiskey Girl and Caipirinha

cocktails with friends“A liquor to pour down my throat…” We taste Whiskey Girl butterscotch and peach. We make a Caipirinha Cocktail with Novo Fogo Cachaça. We learn about the nacho cheese capitol of the world.

Download Episode 82.

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From our Editor: New Mexico Cocktails (the book)

nm cocktails book

I’m thrilled to announce that in just a few weeks, my first cocktail book: New Mexico Cocktails: A History of Drinking in the Land of Enchantment will be released! While there is some fascinating NM history and facts, you should find it a handy cocktail reference book regardless of where you are in the world!

You’ll be able to purchase New Mexico Cocktail wherever fine books are sold beginning on July 4, 2016. Preorders are available now at Thank you for your continued support of Simple Cocktails and all that we do!

signature- greg

Podcast 81- Blueberry Cordial and Double Standard Sour

simple cocktails with friends“Things are growing.” Visit the site. Leave a review on iTunes. Email us. Lisa, Joanna and scotch. The big list of booze to drink. We taste Art in The Age’s Black Trumpet Blueberry Cordial. Greg mentions Tamworth Distilling. Anne of Green Gables? Cordial fail. Berry beer fail. We make a Double Standard Sour. The mom who runs. Yolk with blood in it.

Download Episode 81.

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Slow & Low Rock and Rye

Hochstadter’s in Philadelphia has a couple of rye-based drinks that I had the opportunity to try recently. The first is a bottled cocktail that was popular before Prohibition: Rock and Rye. Meant to be drunk neat or on the rocks, Slow & Low Rock and Rye is a base of straight rye whiskey, with added raw Pennsylvania honey, dried naval oranges, rock candy and bitters. Most similar to an Old Fashioned in flavor, the Rock and Rye is a bit more complex than that, I think mostly because the rock candy/honey sweetening components are a tad unfamiliar (maybe old-timey?) in their taste profile.

Slow & Low is not too sweet, though, and is perfectly appropriate for a straight whiskey drinker as it won’t overwhelm with sweetness. Really, the rye remains the most prominent flavor in the mix, with an assortment of milder, underlying flavors to balance out the drink.

At just over $20, this is most definitely a fine bottled cocktail at a great price. If you’d like to hear more about what we thought, we also tasted Slow & Low on a recent podcast episode.

Because of the solid base of rye whiskey in Hochstadter’s Rock and Rye, it’s no surprise that their regular rye whiskey is also an impressive bottle for your shelf. At $35, with a blend of ryes from 4-15 years procured from different parts of North America, Hochstadter’s Vatted Rye is a solid sipper and a strong base for cocktails as well.

A rye of this age and proof (100) should be heartily spicy and solidly tasty, with no evidence of the sour/sweetness of a too-young rye. Gladly, that’s exactly what Hochstadter’s delivers. This is an impressively delicious rye whiskey at a solid proof which will easily compare (and potentially beat) other $35 ryes.

Keurig Kold Cocktails

keurig kold for cocktails

Keurig has gone from unknown coffee-maker company to household name in just a few short years. Their K-Cup system has become the industry standard for one-cup coffee and you can see it reflected in the many varieties of K-Cups your grocery store’s shelves.

Now, Keurig’s trying something familiar, yet new: the Keurig Kold, a drinkmaking system that (you guessed it) makes cold drinks. Every drink you make with the Kold is chilled by the machine (no ice required) and some of the pods also add carbonation (with fizz beads of some kind, no CO2 container required).

Keurig sent me a Kold and several of their cocktail pods. I got to try:

  • Rita’s and Tina’s Skinny Margarita  (non-carbonated)
  • Rita’s and Tina’s Skinny Strawberry Margarita (non-carbonated)
  • Union St. Lounge Mojito (carbonated)
  • Seraphine Seltzer, Persian Lime (carbonated)
  • Coke Zero (carbonated)

The Kold pods, which are about $5 for a 4-pack (a similar cost to Keurig’s coffee pods) are the equivalent of drink mixes for cocktails: they have the appropriate flavorings, you just need to add your own liquor to make them a full-blown “cocktail.” I found Rita’s and Tina’s Margaritas were appropriately tart and tasty, with the slightly chalky flavor of bar-bought frozen margaritas. Because they come out chilled, you can pour them straight into a salt-rimmed Margarita glass and you’re good to go.

Union St.’s Mojitos are especially nice when mint is out of season (mine’s yet to grow out this year), and it’s a quick way to get a Mojito, carbonation and all. I also tried the Coke Zero and found the taste to be shockingly good for a quick rum and Coke. I think it’s the best Coke Zero I’ve ever tasted (I drink Coke Zero regularly).

I can tell you so far my favorite pods, though, are the Seraphine Seltzer. Fizzy water is something my home bar is always running out of, and the lime seltzer is perfect with gin and a half-lime (for a Gin Rickey).

Keurig envisions the Kold being useful hardware at home cocktail parties: imagine a bowl full of pods and you can “make your own cocktail” by adding a shot of tequila, rum or gin to the mix. I found it to be a good virgin drink-maker, too. While the Kold is certainly a cool device to use at a party, especially (for me) as a seltzer-machine, you won’t hear Simple Cocktails recommend you completely replace yourself as home bartender with the Kold. Someone’s got to add the booze, right?

The Keurig Kold is an interesting piece of bleeding-edge technology that can help make a few cocktails quickly, and I’m curious to see the new and creative ways users and brands get behind the product.*

*Editor’s update: Keurig announced June 7, 2016 that it is shuttering the Keurig Kold line and laying off the 130 employees associated with it. Pods will be available for a discounted rate on the Kold website until they are gone and Keurig is giving Kold drinkmaker refunds at this site

Podcast 80- St. Patrick’s Day Dueling Grasshoppers!

2 grasshoppers

Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day special with James and Jenny! Suzy’s Grasshopper story. The smell of smoke? History of the Grasshopper. We make a Grasshopper. We make Greg’s Fancy Grasshopper. Enhanced brown-ness?

Download Episode 80.

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If you enjoy the show, please tell us so and write an iTunes review! Thank you!

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. 



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:


  • 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

Podcast 79- Rock & Rye and Applejack Cocktail

podcast cocktails

A cocktail guy with The Best Beard in Town….James and Jenny join us for drinks! We taste Slow and Low Rock & Rye. Lisa’s thinks about Journey’s “Faithfully.” The story of Applejack. How to cut citrus for garnishes. We make an Applejack Cocktail. “Women are better shakers.” Bad men.

Download Episode 79.

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If you enjoy the show, please tell us so and write an iTunes review! Thank you!

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