Four years ago, I shared an introduction to making smoked cocktails on ManMade, exploring the techniques and ingredients that would allow you to create woodsy, rich drinks at home. I offered several ways to create and capture smoke, but admitted that I preferred a specialized, $100 tool designed for doing just that. Ever since then, at least once or twice a month, I've received an email asking me how to pull this off without buying any specialty gear.
To which I say: challenge accepted! I totally get not wanting to spend a large sum of money to make something you're not sure you're even going to like. I wouldn't either. So, let's break down the process and see what we can do to make some seriously tasty smoked cocktails using things you already have.
A few weekends ago, my wife and I went out for a special dinner to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. (Hi sweetheart!) We opted to enjoy a few beers with our meal, but the table next to us had ordered cocktails. They each showed up with the glass half full of color - slanted, and with the liquid on the top. Initially, I thought it was simply a triangular shaped glass, where the bottom angle was simply solid, but as I looked closer, I realized, in fact, it was a frozen wedge of solid ice, attached to the glass so it maintained the effect.
I asked the server how it was done, and she told me the bartender had a bunch of little rubber molds that fit the glass, and the whole thing goes into the freezer. She said they were cool, but only fit the certain glass they came with; so only a certain number of cocktail recipes are served in them, and they run out each night.
A few days later, I looked it up to see if I could pick up one or two. I found the product - it's a glass with a custom silicone insert that freezes the ice at a perfect 45° angle, cutting right down the center. They cost about $20 each, and are kinda cool.
But - they're also unnecessary. Because you can achieve the same effect without spending a dime, using any rocks glass you already have. Here's how to do it.
A cocktail is a mixed drink that contains at least one base spirit and a modifier (liqueurs, bitters, fortified wines) mixed with something to give the cocktail a little flavor, such as another spirit, fruit juice, etc.
A highball, on the other hand, is much more basic. It's a single spirit and a non-alcoholic mixer, and rather than being built in a shaker or a mixing glass, they're typically assembled in the very vessel in which you'll drink it.
At least where I live, making your own spirits at home is still considered moonshinin', and therefore illegal. Were it not, I think I'd try to built my own mini-still and experiement with distilling and aging my own spirits.
Until then, I'm committed to the workarounds, like
When I was a kid, we weren't allowed to drink soft drinks much at home, so my mom would often by club soda and lightly fruit flavored sparkling waters for a treat. They sat at the side of the fridge, and I learned the colors - blue for regular, pink for raspberry, and green for lemon lime. One day - a new flavor showed up (yellow!), and I was excited to give it a try.
And it was the worse thing I ever tasted.
If you're not already aware, cocktail bitters are aromatic infusions that are used to give mixed drinks an incredible depth of flavor. Think of them as the spice cabinet for your home bar. Many of the standard flavors - Angostura, Peychaud's - originated as tonics to settle stomachs and cure sickness.
If you're also not aware, artisinal bitters have exploded on the cocktail and home mixology scene, and all the cool kids are mixing up their own. These make an awesome weekend project, as well as a great gift to give to your friends as favors or holiday gifts.
If you're not aware, the reason that aged spirits - such as bourbon and scotch whiskeys, reposado and añejo tequilas, brandy, dark rum, sherry, and even some wines and vinegars - are smoky and aromatic and, well, tasty, is due to a traditional aging in charred (or "toasted") oak barrels. The water content will absorb the flavors in the wood, such as such as vanillin and wood tannins, as well as the smoky flavors from contact with the wood.
The trend of barrel-aging whole cocktails has emerged among mixologists (likely attributed to expert Jeffrey Morganthaler), and in the absence of your own tiny casks, you can aged your own "white" cocktails for a mere $10 investment.
If beer cans with color-changing mountains make you laugh and groan at the same time, then I think you'll enjoy this cartoon/illustration/infographic (I dunno what to call it) by lunchbreath. It's a series of "unsolicited proposals for new and wonderful beverages", and is conveniently divided up into four categories for your viewing pleasure...
Pop Chart Labs unveils their latest project, the Constitutions of Classic Cocktails, exploring the relationships and makeups of proven successful mixed drinks. The beautiful arrangement and layout draws colorful connections between spirits, glassware, mixers, and garnishes.
High-end, underlit, swanky joints and well-worn, leathery pubs alike have it in common: a lot of bottles of spirits. On first glance, even the smallest restaurant with a liquor license will seem to have just a few selections, but start counting, and you'll realize that most bartended spots have, on average, around 35-40 bottles, with many going up to into the hundreds.
For the home mixmaster, that can be intimidating. You're interested in creating classic and contemporary cocktails alike, but have neither the budget, the space, nor the use for even an average restaurant-style selection.
There's a familiar song and dance to tasting wine: swirl the glass, stick your nose all in it, slurp it so it sprays into your mouth. But, other drinks can be equally complex, and also deserve an appraisal technique to get the most out of your experience. We've covered the five-steps towards fully experiencing your beer, and today, we're looking at the best way to taste a fine whiskey, be it bourbon, Scotch, or rye.
The Bloody Mary.
While it certainly has its share of key ingredients: tomato juice, vodka, horseradish, Worcestershire, it's also somewhat of open canvas on which to cast all sorts of flavors. Do you like some briny olives or pickled peppers in yours? How about some fresh lemon? Do you opt for hot sauce or a few twists of black pepper? Does the celery flavor come from a fresh stalk, celery salt, or both?
But, mainly, when you get right down to it: why doesn't your Bloody Mary have a bacon swizzle stick? I mean, think about it: bacon and tomato are classic. Bacon and vodka have to be good together. And all those salty, savory umami flavors are a perfect match.
So, let's make one. Shall we?
The Manhattan is the cocktail that can best show what rye whiskey can do. It was invented in honor of the election of New York Governor Samuel Tilden in 1874.
The classic recipe features a 2:1 ratio of rye to vermouth, stirred in a mixing glass, then strained into an iced martini glass. Variations include a perfect Manhattan, made with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth, and a Rob Roy, which is made with scotch, recipe below.
- 2 oz rye whiskey
- 1 oz sweet vermouth (or 1/2 oz each dry and sweet for a perfect Manhattan)
- 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
- Maraschino or Bourbon cherry, for garnish
1. Add all the ingredients into
There's no clever, charming story to detail the history of the Sidecar - no one really knows where it was invented, or by whom, though the Ritz hotel in Paris claims it was invented there in the late 1910s.
Regardless, this is a fun one that'll make you feel like you're back in the post-prohibition swing days. It's usually served up, in a chilled martini glass with a sugared rim, but might also be served in a rocks glass with ice.
You may not know it yet, but the Negroni is your new favorite cocktail. It's strong, balanced, absolutely delicious, and makes a perfect pre-dinner cocktail that'll match nearly anything you're eating during the warm months.
The drink was supposedly invented in Florence in the 1920s, when Count Negroni asked the bartender to pump up his Americano (equal parts sweet vermouth and Campari, served tall with soda water) with gin.
And if you're brave enough to flame an orange peel, it's totally worth it. The toastiness of the orange oils mixed with the bitters and the spices of gin is a very fine thing indeed.
Margaritas are simple drinks, though most of us wouldn't know it. We've been weaned on the sweetened, frozen, bright green slushies that replaced the classic margarita in Tex Mex restaurants in the 1970s.
But a real margarita, made not from a mix but 100% pure agave tequila, orange liqueur, and fresh lime juce, is all about brightness and freshness. As such, use a silver or blanco tequila, so the oak-aged flavors of a reposado or an añejo don't interfere with the high-end crispness of the Cointreau and the kick of fresh-squeezed lime. If you do need a little sweetener, dissolve just a touch of sugar in the lime juice before shaking...but try the original, at least once, and see what you think.
ManMade wants you to throw your own cocktail parties, and we'd like to help.
So, during the two weeks of May 17 - 30th, we're giving away a Home Bar Essentials gift kit that includes over $100 of great tools to make it happen. All you'll have to do is grab some glassware and bring the spirits.
The goodies include EVERYTHING on ManMade's Top Ten Essential Bar Tools, plus plenty of extra stuff thrown in for fun. If you win, you'll recieve:
- Professional-grade Boston shaker set
- 28 oz metal beaker
- 16 oz mixing glass
- Hawthorne strainer
- Long bar spoon
- Bartender's bottle opener
- Two refillable squirt bottles