Crossing Cocktail Borders

I love having a “eureka!” moment when I’m mixing improvised cocktails.



One of the joys of mixology for me, aside from tasty libations, is the experimentation with new ideas and recipes. Most of the time, it’s borne of necessity — I have a limited amount of ingredients at hand, not all of which traditionally mix well together. Knowing basic recipes and proportions, I’ll improvise a cocktail. Most of the time, it’s good. Sometimes the theory doesn’t translate into practice.

And sometimes I’m surprised how unbelievably well it worked. That’s when I scramble for pen and paper or my phone, so that I can try to write down what I just did. [Read more…]

Maple (Cocktail) Season

I know everyone wants the weather to warm up, but hear me out.

If you are a true North American, you don’t want spring warming up too quickly. You want it to warm up during the day, but you still want the temperatures to dip below freezing at night. You want this, because that’s the ideal situation for sap to run in the sugar maple trees throughout this continent.

And the more maple sap that runs through Acer saccharum trees this spring, the more delicious maple syrup this continent produces. It all works out, especially if you also want to make delicious cocktails with maple syrup, like the ones I’m about to talk about.


[Read more…]

Sweet, Sweet Vermouth

Last month, we looked at hot cocktails in a cold season, but winter libations are about more than just temperature. When the thermostat is bottoming out, I like my drinks to have some heft to them. The flavors are bold, with darker sweet notes and warm spices, and definitely with a nice heavy dose of herbs.

martinezWhich is why I love a good drink with sweet vermouth at this time of year. Granted, it’s an all-year, all-season love, but there’s something particularly satisfying about sweet vermouth in the winter. And here’s why I think you should join me in imbibing this lovely fortified wine. [Read more…]

New Year’s Eve Cocktails

New Year’s Eve is only a couple days away, and a lot of cocktail guides are going to give you a list of specific drinks you can prepare for whatever party you’re attending.

This is going to be a little different. Since we’re located in Chicago, the capital of improv, I’m providing you a guide on how to add improvisation to your cocktail-making. No matter what your host has at their bar, you should be able to mix a drink or two for yourself or fellow guests. Here are the assumptions I’m working under:

You are a guest at the party. Maybe you enjoy pre-batching punch, mulled wine, or complex cocktails and bringing them to a party. But even if you do, sometimes circumstances prevent you from bringing more than a few bottles. And if you’re attending more than one party? Yeah, you’ll want this flexibility.

Your host has some basics, like citrus juice, soda, sugar, a few spirits, and maybe even a mixer or two. I’m also assuming that there will be more than enough champagne and sparkling wine to go around.

You only have capacity to bring a few things. I, for one, cannot afford Jim Meehan’s bartender bag, so I’m limited to what I can carry in my trusty backpack. This means a couple bottles of spirits, a couple smaller bottles/jars for mixers, and a few small bottles of bitters.


So many options, so few hours left in the year…

With those in mind, here are some simple cocktails using the limited ingredients you might have in front of you, Iron Chef-style. I’ve also broken out a a recipe in each category, variations on existing cocktails to surprise you and your fellow revelers.

[Read more…]