home bar photo

Building and Stocking a Bar at Home

We’re thrilled to have been featured in Porch.com’s recent feature: “Building and Stocking a Bar at Home: 101 With the Experts.” They asked our editor Greg Mays “What is the best recipe you can give us to make a Martini at home, and which are your favorite variations?”

Here’s an excerpt:

“Welcome to what is potentially the most explosive topic in the world of cocktails: the Martini. Folks are very particular about their Martini preferences. Vodka or gin? Dirty or “clean”? Wet or dry?

There are some universal tenants to a great Martini, and the #1 ingredient is COLD. Make sure your glassware is in the freezer for 10+ minutes beforehand, and make sure you have a lot of clean ice. Because the drink is so polarizing, I’m going to give you my favorite 2 recipes.”

Read the whole story here: Building and Stocking a Bar at Home: 101 With the Experts.

Non-Alcoholic Whiskies: Ritual and Monday

The past year or two, I’ve begun to see non-alcoholic versions of popular liquors appear on store shelves and in social media advertisements. There are NA versions of every major base spirit that are made by one or both of the brands in this post, but today we’re going to focus on Ritual and Monday’s Whiskeys.

Whether you bill it as “Zero Proof” (Ritual) or “Zero Alcohol” (Monday), the effect is the same. These are whiskey-flavored whiskey substitutes without a drop of alcohol. There are, of course, several reasons for such a thing, and with the 2020 pandemic increasing many people’s alcohol intake, there may not be a better time to introduce these. They each make for a good cocktail whiskey substitute as well.

Both Ritual and Monday seem to base their flavor profiles on American whiskeys, the bourbons or Tennessee whiskeys we’re familiar with. Scotch drinkers may need to look for other brands to fit their bill.

Continue reading

Yuzu Sour

yuzu sour cocktail

I recently came across East Bev Co, a cocktail box subscription service that focuses exclusively on Asian and Asian-inspired ingredients. They were kind enough to send me a sample of one of their boxes, which includes ingredients to make 3 different cocktails, and comes with enough to actually make 4 of each. Helloooooo dinner party!

eastbevco recipe cards

East Bev boxes run about $50 per month, and includes all ingredients but alcohol. My 3 recipes this month called for Sake, so a single bottle would be perfect to make all 12 drinks. I chose the Yuzu Sour, and here’s how you do it:

Yuzu Sour (via East Bev Co)

  • in a shaker, combine:
  • 2 oz sake
  • 1 oz yuzu juice (provided)
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup (provided)
  • shake with ice and double-strain into a rocks glass filled with ice
  • garnish with bitters or a lemon peel (I did both!)

So you’re left with a deliciously tart, balanced drink with ingredients that you can’t usually find on the grocer’s shelf. For aficionados of Asian culture and for those who like to experiment with their food and drink, East Bev is a fun addition to a dinner party. Subscriptions are available here.

Dashfire Canned Cocktails

dashfire canned cocktails

Dashfire has been making cocktail bitters for several years, and has entered the ready-to-drink cocktail space now with several canned drinks that you simply chill and pour, 

Now, we’re talking about simple cocktails that are about as simple as it gets. There’s no chance of user error here, and nothing to be intimidated by. Now, the philosophical side of this: the communal aspect of making cocktails together can’t be overstated, and there is a lot of freedom to adjust recipes according to your tastes when you make your own cocktails….but I think there’s a time and place for such a convenient package. Having cocktails packaged for on-the-go, like tailgating or camping, is a perfect opportunity for Dashfire’s canned cocktails.

How do they taste? The recipes are unique and definitely should be tried. The White Russian, for instance, is a Chai White Russian. The Martini is Lemon and Lavender (and uses vodka as its base). I noted the drinks that usually use vermouth (Martini, Manhattan) use Sherry instead. I drank most of mine on ice, but straight-from the can is likely what you’d be doing on a camping trip.

At retail, Dashfire cocktails are $4.99 per can (100 ml) and are available in mixed 6-packs as well.

RumChata Candy Cane

rumchata candy cane

There’s no doubt that the Holidays are a great time of year to break out the RumChata. Show up to the party with a chilled bottle, and people will always be thrilled. Of course, this leave lots of opportunity to experiment with great Rumchata winter drinks.

RumChata, if you don’t know yet, is rum, cream, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar. It’s great to mix with warm drinks (coffee, cocoa and tea) and it makes for some killer cocktails with lots of spirits. Here’s one I made called a Candy Cane:

Candy Cane (by Greg Mays)

  • in a rocks glass filled with ice, add:
  • 1 1/2 oz RumChata
  • 1 1/2 oz white rum
  • 3/4 oz of peppermint schnapps
  • stir gently to combine
  • carefully drizzle grenadine down edges of glass to resemble stripes

Special thanks to our sponsor RumChata.

RumChata RRR Cocktail

RumChata RRR cocktail

I have been glad to have RumChata join us as a sponsor for the past few years at Simple Cocktails, and I’ve been starting to wonder if I’ll run out of ideas for new RumChata cocktails. Today, I opened, the liquor cabinet, and thought to myself: what do I love? Let’s make that a drink.

I grabbed RumChata, rye whiskey and aged rum. I poured equal parts and shook it on ice. I could not believe how delicious this cocktail was. Time to share the recipe…this is my current go-to RumChata drink!

RumChata RRR (by Greg Mays)

  • In a shaker, combine:
  • 1 oz RumChata
  • 1 oz high-proof rye (100+ proof)
  • 1 oz aged rum (5 years+)
  • shake with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe
  • garnish with a stemmed cherry
Thanks to our sponsor RumChata.

Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Vermouth

Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale

Martini & Rossi is one of the staple names – maybe THE name – in vermouth to most people. It can be found in grocery stores, liquor stores and everywhere in between and is therefore the most likely vermouth you have tried.

I’ve covered at length the proper care vermouth must receive to stay flavorful. In fact, I opened a bottle myself recently to find it only lasted a week or so in the fridge before turning sour. I have also said something here at this very blog that I still stand by: pricier vermouth tastes a lot better than the cheap stuff.

That said, Martini & Rossi has given us a widely-distributed vermouth “upgrade” that’s a pretty smart choice to make if you’re having a night of Martinis or Manhattans. Usually, a bottle of “Martini” will run you about $10, and the Riserva Speciale is about $15-20.

For me, a chilled white vermouth is my favorite to sip with fish, and I’m happy to say that Riserva Ambrato is an excellent vermouth for just this. Serve on the rocks with a lemon peel. It has slightly bitter and dry notes of rosemary and herbs.

Riserva Rubino, the red vermouth in this brand, is great with richer flavors of meat or even my favorite pairing choice: cigars.

If it’s hard to imagine a bottle of vermouth being delicious enough to drink straight, pick up a bottle of Martini Riserva Speciale, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Father’s Day Gift Ideas 2019

fathers day gifts

Depending on your dad, Father’s Day gift-giving can be a lot of fun or a chore. For me, some tasty whiskey and drew estate cigars is about my favorite way to celebrate. If you are still looking for ideas, though, I have a few that might earn you the “favorite kid” title this year. Try these gifts out!

Door58 Decanter Set. $79.99

Packaged in a handsome wooden gift box, this decanter set is 100% crystal, not cheapie glass (note there are no seams in the tumblers or decanter). Styled in a sharp art-deco-inspired design, the decanter will hold a whole bottle of whiskey, and the wide, hefty tumblers feel great in the hand. Door58 has generously offered a discount for our readers (until June 15, 2019) of 20% off this set! Just follow the link about and enter the code 20DADBLOG at checkout.

Powers Three Swallow Irish Whiskey. $40

For those of you who haven’t experienced much Irish whiskey, you’re missing out. The sweet notes of bourbon and the richness of Scotch make Irish a taste all of its own. This is a fairly new expression of Powers that’s only been available in the US for a few months, so if you see some, pick up a bottle for dad.

Speyburn 10 (gift set). $30

To me, Speyburn is one of the best buys in single malt scotch. Often $30 and sometimes as low as $20, it’s an easy brand to keep around. In this case, my bottle of Speyburn came boxed with a bottle of “Source” – Scottish water designed to accompany Highland whiskys like this one. You serve your Speyburn neat, and give it a small dash of Source. A fun idea and perfectly affordable.

Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum. $45

If dad wants to venture out into aged rums, then a nice one like Diplomatico is the way to go. With both tropical and woody notes, aged rums sometimes match the terrior of cigars, for instance, or even coffee. If dad like stogies or adds a splash of liquor to his coffee, have him try Diplomatico.


Enjoy your Father’s Day this year! Cheers!

Hunny Peach (feat. RumChata)

hunny peach cocktail

I’ve had the pleasure of working with RumChata for the past few years and have had the opportunity to experiment at great lengths with their versatile cinnamon cream liqueur. So far, I’ve run into very few limitations for RumChata in cocktails. Initially, I began with riffs on the White Russian, or the other standard cream liqueur drinks, like a splash in coffee or cocoa.

What has surprised me, though, is how RumChata works with other liquors, like gin, applejack or whiskey. In fact, I’ll go as far to say that cocktails with RumChata and whiskey are some of my favorites. Here’s a new cocktail I created called the Hunny Peach:

Hunny Peach (feat. RumChata) by Greg Mays

  • in a shaker, combine:
  • 2 oz RumChata
  • 2 oz Jack Daniels Honey
  • shake vigorously with ice
  • strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice
  • top with 2 dashes of the Bitter Truth Peach Bitters
Thanks to our sponsor RumChata.

The Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey

the sexton irish whiskey

In the past few months, you may have noticed a new Irish whiskey on the shelves: The Sexton Single Malt. Introduced in early 2019 to the North American market, The Sexton comes in a stunning near-black hexagonal bottle with a dapper skeleton insignia. More attractive than that may be The Sexton’s price, though, at only $25 per bottle.

Made from 100% malted Irish barley and distilled in copper pots, The Sexton is aged 4 years in sherry casks. Often, Irish whiskey has a sweeter profile than the neighboring whisky from Scotland, but in this particular case The Sexton offers a surprising and slightly unfamiliar profile: spices and anise. So while there is a familiar Irish-ness in the initial sip of The Sexton, the back of the palate feels the warmth from the anise, while the tip of your tongue tingles from other spices as well.

Any time an “imported” whiskey is available at a decent age (remember this is 4 years old), and with a good price point, it’s a no-brainer to pick up a bottle to try. The Sexton can be used in cocktails where Rye is normally called for, which should add an interesting twist and character. At a relatively tame 40% ABV, I prefer sipping The Sexton neat or in an Old Fashioned, and often enjoy it with a cigar.