Coffee Cocktail

coffee cocktail recipe

The Coffee Cocktail is a classic recipe, traced back to Jerry Thomas’ 1887 Bartender’s Guide (Amazon link). Thomas’ original recipe appears above, and thankfully, The Cocktail Spirit has translated the old-timey language (“pony,” “goblet,” etc) into modern measurements.

As Jerry Thomas says, the Coffee Cocktail is apparently named after it’s visual appearance, because it contains no coffee. Here it is:

coffee cocktail

Coffee Cocktail

  • 1 1/2 oz port
  • 1 1/2 oz brandy
  • 1 tsp simple syrup
  • 1 whole egg
  • dash of bitters
  • put all ingredients into a shaker and shake without ice to froth the egg
  • add ice to the shaker and shake more to chill
  • pour into a chilled wine or cocktail glass

Special thanks to St. Clair, a local winery who provided me with their excellent Port for this recipe.

Breakfast Martini


Here’s a simple recipe for the Breakfast Martini, invented in 2000 and the most famous marmalade cocktail.

Breakfast Martini

  • 1 1/2 oz gin (use a softer gin, like Tanqueray Malacca, Hendrick’s, or Bombay Sapphire)
  • 3/4 oz triple sec
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • I tsp orange marmalade
  • shake and double strain (using a wire strainer) into a chilled cocktail glass

Agwa de Bolivia

agwa de bolivia cockail

You may have seen this electric green liqueur on the shelves at your local liquor store: Agwa de Bolivia. AGWA is a coca leaf liqueur, y’know coca, like cocaine? AGWA capitalizes on the fact that it’s got coca in it, that it’s distilled in Amsterdam, and it’s just so eye-catching. But legitimately, it’s a decent herbal liqueur, and while herbal liqueurs can range pretty broadly from Jagermeiser to Zwack to Fernet Branca, AGWA is unique from these three in that it’s flavor is balanced and cool, and it’s not so syrupy or abrasive.

AGWA’s pretty easy to mix into cocktails and most people I know who tried it liked it (unlike Fernet or Jager). Here’s a really simple, refreshing cocktail with Agwa de Bolivia, an AGWA and Soda:

Agwa Fresca

  • in a glass full of ice, add:
  • 1 1/2 oz Agwa de Bolivia
  • top with club soda

Back to School Gift Ideas

back to school cocktail accessories

Well, that sad time of the year has returned: back to school time. Here are some booze-related gift ideas for the favorite professors in your life:

Buy a Community College ProfessorPorcelain Party Cup – $10. This is not New England. You do things humbly around here and you’re proud to say your favorite cocktail ingredient is Mountain Dew. Amazon link.

Buy a Seminary ProfessorFlask Disguised as a Book – $17. While Jesus was a wine man, some of your colleges haven’t developed the taste for fine Bourbon that you have. It’s best to keep this tipple on the bookshelf, particularly for sharing with likeminded individuals. Amazon link.

Buy an Ivy League ProfessorFlask Tie – $25. You spend your time in important meetings and talking about important things. You’re a bestselling author and known for your academic prowess. You drink expensive Scotch, so it’s helpful to have some on you at all times. The flask tie holds a good volume of liquor (8 oz) in the front while concealing a Camelbak-style sip nozzle in the back for drinks on the run. Amazon link.

Moonshine Bloody Mary

moonshine bloody mary

Using Moonshine in the place of vodka when you serve up a Bloody Mary is one way to change up a classic recipe. Fortunately, Ole Smoky makes a Bloody Mary mix that you can buy alongside a jar of their moonshine.

To garnish this cocktail, I used some of Tillen Farms‘ pickled vegetables which, like their cherries, is made with cocktails in mind. Here’s the recipe:

Moonshine Bloody Mary

  • build in a glass:
  • 1 1/5 oz of moonshine
  • 4 oz bloody mary mix
  • garnish of choice, preferably pickled, like those shown above, olives, gherkins, or a lemon wedge

Ok time for a heart-to-heart here. As someone born in East Tennessee, I get the fascination with moonshine. As a practical element of a home bar, though, moonshine has yet to earn it’s place beyond novelty. In this cocktail, I found the corn-sweetness of the moonshine actually clashed with the savory Bloody Mary. If you want to stick with the Ole Smoky brand for a Bloody Mary, use White Lightnin’, which is more flavorless than their Moonshine.

Ole Smoky’s Bloody Mary mix is good. It’s nice and thick, it has quality, natural ingredients, but lacks the spiciness of Zing Zang or the thick-deliciousness of Ubon’s. I added some Tabasco to pick up the burn.


Balblair Scotch

balblair scotch

This bottle of Balblair 2001 was bottled in 2012, making it an 11-year-old scotch. The bottle itself is classy, to be sure: a squat oval shape with a raised glass vine crawling up the left side. The whisky itself is pale, a more yellow tinted liquid than I’ve seen in scotches, but I’d guess the color is all-natural.

Balblair 2001 is a treat, with a wonderful fruitiness in the smell and a flavor that’s bright and cool. From there, Balblair has a lingering agey-ness in the flavor: the scotch itself is lighter bodied, but the finish is rich and has a distant flavor of charred wood. This isn’t a smoky scotch, nor a peaty scotch, but it’s a very complex tasting, high quality scotch for sure. You can pick up Balblair 2001 for about $65.

Cocktail Cherries Compared

cocktail cherries

I’m pretty staunch about using quality, natural ingredients, and as a result, it seems I’m always in search of the “perfect cocktail cherry.” I’ve even made my own brandy cherries here on the blog. A group of us tasted 7 different types of cocktail cherries and compared them in price, flavor, and cocktail usefulness. Here’s what we thought (cherries are pictured above from left to right):

Rainier Reserve.

  • Visual: yellow cherries with stems.
  • Ingredients: cherries, water, sugar, citric acid, natural flavors, beta carotene.
  • Cost per cherry: 13¢
  • The first of 4 cherries from Tillen Farms, Rainier Reserve are particularly interesting because of their color. A bright yellow cherry looks really cool in tiki drinks, and these have an tropical-like flavor to match. The cherry flavor in these is pretty subdued, and they’re not overly sweet.

Bada Bing.

  • Visual: rich crimson cherries with stems.
  • Ingredients: cherries, water, sugar, vegetable/fruit concentrate (color), malic acid, citric acid, natural flavor.
  • Cost per cherry: 13¢
  • Also a Tillen Farm cherry, Bada Bing were the largest of the bunch. Tasters said they taste the most like cherries off the tree, and have just the right balance of sweetness and good looks to make them great cocktail cherries.

Pink Blush.

  • Visual: pink cherries with stems.
  • Ingredients: cherries, water, sugar, citric acid, vegetable/fruit concentrate (color), natural flavor.
  • Cost per cherry: 13¢
  • Tasters were surprised that these cherries actually taste pink, almost like cotton candy. These are the sweetest in the Tillen Farms line, and like the Rainier Reserve cherries, they’re best use is for their visual impact as your cocktail garnish. An added bonus is that Oregon Cherry Growers donate 5% from the sale of Pink Blush towards breast cancer.

Merry Maraschino.

  • Visual: red cherries with stems.
  • Ingredients: cherries, water, sugar, vegetable/fruit concentrate (color), natural flavor.
  • Cost per cherry: 13¢
  • Tasters found Tillen’s Maraschino cherries really juicy and thought they tasted almost like apples or candy…or apple candy. Of the list, these cherries are the most natural, most red cherries with stems, so they’d be a good choice in a home bar.

Luxardo Maraschino.

  • Visual: dark red cherries, almost black, without stems.
  • Ingredients: cherries, sugar, marasca cherry juice, glucose, citric acid, natural color, maraschino flavor.
  • Cost per cherry: 29¢
  • Luxardo is the true craft cocktail cherry. These are actually marasca cherries, grown around the Luxardo distillery in Italy. These are uniquely packaged in syrup that, instead of sugar and water, is actually sugar and cherry juice. These have tons of flavor and are dark and rich. Tasters felt like these worked best in cocktails like Old Fashioneds, as they were a little intense as a snack.

Ole Smoky Moonshine.

  • Visual: bright red cherries without stems.
  • Ingredients: cherries, 100-proof moonshine.
  • Cost per cherry: 22¢
  • This one is unique because you’re really buying a mason jar full of cherries and getting some cherry moonshine, too. These cherries are not sweetened, so tasters found them comparatively abrasive. These were the most crisp and red of the bunch, so they work well in cocktails, but most often people did not eat them when they were finished with their drink.

Grocery Store Maraschino.

  • Visual: bright red cherries with stems.
  • Ingredients: cherries, water, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, natural and artificial flavors, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, red 40, sulfur dioxide
  • Cost per cherry:
  • I included these simply for comparison purposes, though these are the most easy-to-find of the lot. Visually, these are very appealing, but there’s not many natural ingredients. Since I avoid HFCS, I don’t use these cherries. They’re crisp, sticky and sweet like candy, but the flavor ends up being very un-cherry-like.

cocktail cherries

Click here to get the Simple Cocktails Guide to Cherries as a downloadable PDF.

Cigars and Cocktails


While cocktails are my primary focus around here, I like to pair my drinks with a great cigar from time to time (evidence of this is on my Instagram profile). Brown liquors are usually a better fit with a cigar than the clear ones, though I’ve also found some vodkas that work with a stogie, too. Here’s what I like to drink with my cigars:

Tallarico on the rocks. A spicy rye vodka fits well on a hot summer night with a nice mild cigar.

Phraya Rum. I’d call this the best cigar rum I’ve tried yet. Rum is usually a good fit with a smoke, especially aged rums like Zacapa or Thomas Tew.

Old Fashioned. If you’ve read this blog much at all, you’ll realize this is my favorite cocktail. A bourbon Old Fashioned is great with a cigar because it’s usually sweeter than rye, or you can use rum (see above).

Aged tequilas. I don’t drink a lot of tequila outside of Margaritas, but Don Julio is an amazing tequila. Buy the most expensive one you can afford, and enjoy it neat in a snifter while you smoke.

Lastly, I’ve discovered that Martinis – which I love to have before dinner – don’t work so well with stogies.

So what do you like to drink with your smokes? Leave a comment below.

Photo by Bryan Glynn of Cigar Obsession. Thompson sent me PDR 1898 cigars to test out.

Speyburn Scotch

speyburn scotch

Speyburn is a very affordable single malt scotch that I’ve found to be an great choice at its $20 price point.

Remember that I’m still trying (really hard) to learn to love scotch, and Speyburn helps. In general, I’ve gravitated towards the spicier or sweeter scotches that I’ve tried. So far, Dewar’s White Label and Johnnie Walker Black have been my favorites, and I’ve tasted some pricey ones. Speyburn now joins those two as a scotch I’m glad to have in the home bar.

While $20 can be a real hit-or-miss price point for scotch, I found Speyburn to be smooth when I drank it neat (no ice). There’s a spicy and flavorful mix there as well, like a bourbon that’s both zesty and maybe minty, with the familiar scotch/barley taste on the finish.

At this point, I haven’t tried another $20 scotch that I’d recommend any more highly than Speyburn. It’s a solid buy.

How to: Make Simple Syrup

making simple syrup

Simple syrup is one of the must-have ingredients for your home bar. Liquefied sugar mixes better in cold cocktails than granulated sugar. It’s an essential ingredient in all sorts of classic drinks, like a Daiquiri, Mint Julep, or Pisco Sour.

While you can actually purchase simple syrup already made, it’s cheaper and easier to just make it yourself. It’ll take you 5 minutes and last a few weeks.

Step 1: pour 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of clean water (distilled or spring) into a mixing glass.

Step 2: microwave the mixture for about 30 seconds to a minute, stirring with a fork at least once.

Step 3: stir well again once heated. Allow to cool.

Step 4: pour into a refrigerate-able container. I use these plastic squeeze bottles.

making simple syrup

Here is a great party punch recipe you can use that simple syrup in:

Pitcher of Mojitos

  • In a pitcher with a strainer lid, add:
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 50-100 mint leaves
  • muddle those two indredients in the pitcher, then add:
  • 1 1/2 cup simple syrup
  • 1 bottle white rum
  • 2 limes, sliced into thin wheels (this is just for looks)
  • 1- 1 1/2 liters mineral water. I used the big bottle of Trader Joe’s lime mineral water
  • add lots of ice. Stir.
  • Pour into glasses filled with ice. I use a straining pitcher or a big beverage dispenser to serve them.


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