G’Vine Nouaison

gvine nouaison

This summer, I tried G’Vine gin for the first time. What I didn’t really realize at the time was there are two varieties of G’Vine: Flouraison and Nouaison. Flouraison, as I described in my previous post, is a mild, soft gin with quite a bit of sweetness and traces of minty licorice.

Nouaison, I’ve discovered, is more akin to a London Dry as it’s a spicier bitier gin with cinnamon and clove. Nouaison is more in line with my personal preference in gins, as I tend to prefer London Drys to many of the milder gins.

In cocktails, Nouaison has a very different character than it’s more herbal brother, and I can see why G’Vine told me that they consider Flouraison a warm-weather gin and Nouaison a cold-weather gin. This would be a great gin in a hot toddy or a tea as the spice profile is a perfect fit.

Somewhere on the list of my favorite gins, Nouaison has elbowed it’s way in. This is a unique winter gin, and reminds me of Big Gin a little bit because of it’s flavor profile. Nouaison is definitely one to try if you like your gins spicy with a bite.

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.

Simple Cocktails Podcast Episode 22

podcast album art for website

Do we push our guests to a specific cocktail? Custom glassware and copper cups leads Greg to conclude: “I am not a metalsmith.” We taste Wild Turkey American Honey Sting (Greg’s story from the Burn! Blog). Potentially racist cups. Left handers are….? Lisa picks her favorite thing: bourbon, honey, or ghost pepper. Asian…fusion….southern…. We make Moscow Mules and Lisa misses Pepsi Crystal. Greg gets ID’ed buying Ginger Beer.

Download Episode 22.

itunes button stitcher button rss button

If you enjoyed the show, please write a brief review on iTunes. That would help us get the word out and raise the visibility of the show. Thank you!

Last Word Cocktail

last word cocktailThe Last Word has become a bit of a legendary cocktail for the craft cocktail movement. Simple enough to make and simple 1:1:1:1 recipe proportions, half of its ingredients are unusual to the point that only a craft cocktail bar would be likely to have both of them (Maraschino and Chartreuse).

This cocktail has some great balance, with herbal flavors mixing with sweetness and citrus in a way that you rarely taste. Try one out yourself (if you have the 4 ingredients)!

Last Word

  • in a shaker, combine:
  • 1/2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz green Chartreuse
  • 1/2 oz Maraschino liqueur
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • shake with ice and strain into a small, chilled cocktail glass.


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

Simple Cocktails Podcast Episode 21

podcast album art for website

We talk about multiple spouses – a prelude to tasting Five Wives Vodka. Would Lisa want 5 husbands? Embracing the Mormon-ness: it’s the perfect trick. The 5 wives joke is an easy one. Greg asks Lisa: “what flavor is heaven?” and “what flavor is sin?” We make a Margarita!  Lisa’s ghetto decisions. “The longer you’re married, the more ok with it you are.”

Download Episode 21.

itunes button stitcher button rss button

If you enjoyed the show, please write a brief review on iTunes. That would help us get the word out and raise the visibility of the show. Thank you!

Cactus Juice

espelon tequila and cactus juice cocktail

It’s going to be a little hard to hold this one in, because I discovered one of the best tequila cocktails I’ve ever tried. Stay tuned for the recipe – first, let’s talk about Espolón Tequila.

Espolón is a 20-year-old tequila brand and produces the typical blanco/reposado/añejo portfolio of tequilas, but we’ll focus on Espolón Añejo for two reasons. First, it’s only recently available in the United States (you won’t yet find it on the company’s website, in fact). Second, the añejo’s aging is finished in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels. While bourbon barrels are not uncommon for tequila aging, I suppose the specificity of the fact that these are in Wild Turkey barrels makes it all the more interesting to me.

Espolón Añejo, at $35 a bottle, is a really nice experience. Many a tequila maker is trying to sway the reputation of their product from the “shooter” market, and highlighting the quality you’ll find in a fine tequila, and this is one of those. This is not a muggy, sour tequila experience, and while you will certainly taste tequila in your glass of Espolón Añejo, this is much more of an oaky, crisp, smooth-drinking experience. I replaced my nightly glass of whiskey with it for a few days, and found it to be an equivalent experience, though somehow wetter and more refreshing than the brashness (not an insult) of whiskey.

So here’s the deal: a quality aged tequila is different than even a quality unaged tequila, and your cocktail recipes should reflect that. I found the following recipe, which contains a small amount of the Scotch-based liqueur Drambuie, and between Drambuie’s smokiness and the grittiness of the granulated sugar, this is a very tasty cocktail to drink with an añejo tequila, particularly one with whiskey elements like Espolón Añejo. Try it out:

Cactus Juice

  • in a shaker, combine:
  • 1 1/2 oz Espolón Añejo
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Drambuie
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • shake with ice and strain into an old fashioned glass on the rocks
  • garnish with a lemon slice

We make Cactus Juice on the Simple Cocktails Podcast. Listen here.


Penny Packer Bourbon

penny packer bourbon and commodore cocktail

Imagine a bourbon that you can’t buy in the United States, but has been the biggest bourbon brand in Germany. Confused? Let’s try to explain this: the Penny Packer brand was developed in the 60’s and, as required by law, distilled and aged in the United States. Then, all of this particular bourbon was exported to other countries for decades. That’s how it got huge in Germany, apparently.

Now it’s 2014, and you can buy this decades-old bourbon brand the the U.S. All caught up? Good. Penny Packer is inexpensive, running just over $20 a bottle, and there’s even a $5 rebate if you buy before the end of 2014.

Penny Packer is a good bourbon for the price. It avoids the alcohol “hotness” that inexpensive liquor can have. It’s somewhere in the middle on the sweetness scale. Certainly not as sweet as Maker’s Mark, but not as spicy as Bulleit can be. This is going to sounds strange, but I kept drinking Penny Packer over the course of several weeks to figure out why (or ever if) I actually liked the stuff. I think I can say that if you prefer your whiskey to be balanced between spicy and sweet, this will be a fun one to try, and for the price, why not? It’s balanced, and (sorry) cheap, so it’s a worthwhile purchase.

Here’s a bourbon cocktail you can try with it:


  • in a shaker filled with ice, combine:
  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 3/4 oz white creme de cacao (chocolate liqueur)
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1 dash grenadine
  • shake and strain into a champagne flute
  • garnish with a lemon wheel

Simple Cocktails Podcast Episode 20

podcast album art for website

We mention the Dinner Party Download Podcast. “What do you think about the stupid republicans?” You gotta collect your stories. We ultimately get a tad preachy about dinner party etiquette, We taste Bols Yogurt liqueur and mix it a little bit. We make Greg’s favorite rum cocktail: the XYZ. “You keep trying to push that on me Greg.”

Download Episode 20.

itunes button stitcher button rss button

If you enjoyed the show, please write a brief review on iTunes. That would help us get the word out and raise the visibility of the show. Thank you!

Kris Von Dopek’s favorite Simple Cocktail

Kris Von Dopek

Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Hendrick’s Gin Brand Ambassador Kris Von Dopek to talk about his role at Hendrick’s, and craft cocktails at home.

Kris, who’s from Chicago but grew up in London, has professionally bartended for over a decade. We spent our time together talking about home bartending, though. He said “In the 60’s everybody had a cocktail set at home and you made a Martini for your guests when they came over. The 70’s kind of killed the cocktail.”

We also talked about the outlook for home bartenders now that craft cocktails have really taken off. Kris told me “You know, companies (Hendrick’s included) are now spending a lot more time and money to educate consumers directly. From social media campaigns to cocktails on cooking shows, people have more information now and they can make better choices about the cocktails they make at home. ”

I asked Kris what his favorite simple cocktail is, and he told me a White Martinez. The Martinez is believed to be the cocktail that led to the Martini’s invention, so it’s certainly a recipe to know. Here it is:

white martinez with hendricks

White Martinez

  • 1 oz Hendrick’s Gin
  • 2 oz sweet white vermouth (I used Dolin Blanc)
  • 1 dash of bitters (I used orange bitters so it wouldn’t affect the color)
  • 2 dashes of maraschino liqueur (I used Maraska)
  • stir the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • garnish with a lemon peel

We make a White Martinez on the Simple Cocktails Podcast. Listen here.

photo of Kris Von Dopek courtesy Jill Tiongco Photography