As far as holiday gifts go, it's hard to beat something to sip. And this year, you can do a little better than swinging by the grocery store and grabbing a bottle of wine.
This wood-infused project only take a tiny bit more work than buying something from the liquor store, but boosts all kinds of flavor benefits and handmade points, turning the spirits into a proper gift.
Make some in bulk for everyone you know, and your holiday shopping is done.
I have gone on record, in this publication and elsewhere, about why the hot toddy is the perfect cocktail to be sipping in December. It's warm. It's spiced. And at least according to folk wisdom, and able to heal a nasty wintertime sore throat, it's good for your health, and can help to heal a nasty wintertime sore throat. But, to be honest, until last Tuesday evening, I didn't actually like a hot toddy.
They were fine, but not delicious, and not really an improvement over a simple glass of neat whiskey.
In truth, hot toddys (toddies?) always disappointed: never quite hot enough to truly enjoy, and somewhat ... harsh. There was something I never liked about adding acidic lemon juice to a healthy glug of bourbon, then heating the whole thing up. It seemed to bring out all the rough, grain-y flavors, and hid the tasty warm and spicy barrel-aged notes that make whiskey, well, whiskey.
Our love for beer is sincere and it grows stronger every year (and so does our beer belly, but it's so worth it.) Like whiskey or quality tequila, it can be perfect just by itself, in a glass, alongside a meal and preferably outside.
But beer's unique flavor profile - bitter, sweet, acidic, malty - as well as its texture and carbonation also make it a great backbone for cocktails. And in this ManMade Guide, we're giving you the basics to make the perfect beer cocktails.
Any time of year, gin is a favorite spirit. It mixes well while retaining its character, and its aromatics complement a great range of flavors. But there's something so special, so obvious, about gin and springtime. If flavors had colors, gin's would be green, and it's a perfect chance to start putting ice back in our cocktails because the external temperatures are finally bearable.
How did this not occur to me sooner? Take one of my favorite beverages, mix it with my other favorite beverage, add in some extra flavor and bit of time, and, well, the results speak for themselves.
Of course, there are coffee-flavored liqueurs out there. Kahlua is the most famous; it's based on rum, and tastes nice and sweet. But I like whiskey better than rum, and I want the complexity of a coffee liqueur, but not the inherent sweetness. By making your own, you can control quality of coffee, the amount of sugar, and the whole experience and overall flavor profile is totally a step up. And, it takes, like, five minutes.
Summer is the season of fresh, lively cocktails: Collinses and flips and spritzes and 'garitas. But as the weather chills down, it's time to switch into a more subtle mode. Fall cocktails are all about deep, earthy, and woodsy flavors, those that match the smell outside and the sorts of rustic, homey dishes that taste so perfect on a cool evening.
A few weekends ago, my wife and I went out for a special dinner to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary. 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, with the liquid on 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.
It comes as no surprise that spirits and beverage industry has identified the ideal glass for tasting whatever product they're trying to sell. There are separate wine glasses for enjoying your pinots noir and pinots gris, a wide variety of glasses to complement a certain style of ale or lager, and specific glasses for "fully experiencing" tequilas, gins, and brandies.
Mostly, this is insider stuff, employed at competitions, industry events, and certain high-end bars and restaurants with expansive "programs." But there is one specialty glass that has made its way into the homes of consumers and fans since it came into production in 2001: the Glencairn whisky glass.
During spring time, pine, fir, and other evergreen trees grow by producing new tips at the end of each branch. The new growth is a lighter, vibrant green, and you can (and should!) eat it. The tips have a wonderful citrus-y, woodsy flavor that tastes awesome in all kinds of sautes, seafood, and roasted dishes. But the easiest way to preserve their flavor is steep them gently in a syrup, which will last in your fridge for weeks.
Look. We love a solid, affordable whisk(e)y roundup. We've certainly written our share on ManMade: see here, here, here, and here. But there are times in life where "good enough" isn't... those times where you're really to spend a little more to experience something seriously amazing.
You’re at the liquor store standing in front of 5-tier shelf that stretches the entire wall and your just here to pick up a bottle of spirits. There are a lot of different brands and an array of price points for each bottle. What goes through your mind?
I think for those of us who enjoy an adult beverage, buying alcohol, spirits specifically, can fall into two categories:
- I’m looking for an affordable bottle of spirits that doesn’t taste terrible, and,
- I know what brand and style I want. I’ve had it before and I’ll enjoy it again
And possibly a third, oft youth oriented thought: I’ll take the cheapest swill there is please.
But do you ever choose a bottle because you know where it comes from? Who made it? The story of how this spirit came to be?
I’d argue the answer to these questions are just as important as cost or a familiar label. There’s something special about knowing what goes into a craft. Even more than that, there’s a tangible connection when you not only know the story of a product, but experience the story first-hand....
The White Russian cocktail. This drink has been around almost as long as Jeff Bridges has, but you, and I, and everyone born after 1965 identify it with cult classic comedy, The Big Lebowski. It's the go-to drink for Bridges' character, The Dude, and for good reason: three ingredients, easy to make, cheap, and tastes totally awesome, man. So, whether you're chilling out in your bathrobe or having an after-dinner drink with friends, let's relax and make our own White Russian...
Years ago, I'd meet mine a friend at a bar in New York's Upper East Side that was between our two apartments––just close enough for each of us that we could walk home safely while being substantially into our cups. When we would stay late, the bartender would get friendlier and friendlier with free drinks and generous pours. It was jovial and warm and a fine place to spend some time with good company. When we were ready to pay our tab, the bartender––who was well past friendly at that point––poured us a trio of shots to send us on our way. Inevitably, as with bars throughout the U.S. (unless you are from the very South and West), he was pouring from a bottle of Jameson's. By and large, that is how whisky works in America. If you mean to order Scotch or Bourbon or Rye, you name those specifically. But if you just order "whisky" there's a good chance it'll be Irish.
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.
I won't make that mistake again. A few Octobers ago, I was at a medium-sized dinner party, and volunteered to be the guy who ran down the block to fill the three growlers the group would enjoy for the evening. The spot only had six taps, so I tasted every one, and came back with the three things I thought were the most interesting: a Northwest Pale Ale, a Cascadian Dark Ale, and a Semi-Dry Honeycrisp cider.
After struggling to juggle three (full and very cold) 64 oz. glass jugs in my lowly two arms, I "knocked" on the door with my left foot, entered, and declared my haul to eight very thirsty guests. Growler One? Good to go. Growler Two? Great, let's try it. Growler Three?
People, I drank Growler Three all by myself. Not all in the first night, but the semi-bubbled leftovers were all mine.
Turns out, absolutely NO ONE else in that group was even remotely interested in a hard cider.
I'm not much for lattes. In general, they don't do much for me, but I especially can't stand the overtly frothy, foamy ones that demand all that sugar and syrup and whipped cream to cover up the fact that the coffee is burnt in the first place.
But, I'll admit it: I get jealous that people get so excited about these pumpkin spice coffee drinks this time of year. I like seasons, especially fall, and I wish I could grab a scarf and march right down to the burnt coffee shop
One of my favorite cocktail mixers is the spicy ginger beer, used for the summer favorite "Moscow Mule", or evening sipper, the "Dark and Stormy." But I've had enough of the spendy, over-sweetened bottles from the supermarket, so I figured: it's time to make our own. Here are three ways to make an extremely tasty version happen at home.
In wintertime, I'll gladly take a complicated cocktail. Something made with rich spirits, amber brown from barrel aging, made more tasty with fortified syrups, flavorful modifiers, and just-so preparation. These drinks are imbibe-abble equivalent of a long simmered soup or stew, designed to make you feel warm inside when the weather is not.
But summer is a whole different beast. It's already warm — too warm — and your drink's job is to cool you down while keeping everything easygoing. You need something that works while standing next to the grill, or for sipping on the deck with your feet up.
Enter the vodka soda. It's deceptively
They say if you learn just three chords, you can play a million songs... well, if you can learn this one formula, you can make a million highball cocktails.
The same is true for the class of mixed drinks called a highball. Many of these classic combos are just known by the name of the ingredients - gin and tonic, rum and Coke, and the like. They're a huge hit at get-togethers and parties, because they can be easily built without any special tools barware (i.e. no shaking), and folks can stick with the same spirit and change up the mixer for a little variety throughout the evening.
Often, when I try to explain the idea behind ManMade or what I do for a living, someone who doesn't quite get it will inevitably say to me, "You mean like MacGyver?" Um...I guess?
For the record, I don't think making stuff out of ordinary materials – what we do on ManMade – is anything like MacGyver. But I do like the approach of understanding how things work, and then applying standard techniques to whatever materials sit in front of you. Especially when those materials are bottles of spirits, and the techniques result in something like delicious cocktails.
'Cause here's the thing: when you become known amongst your peers as a guy who knows something about tasty cocktails, you become the guy who everyone turns to to make a tasty cocktail, whatever the occasion. And that's a good thing. It's a solid skill to have, and it's even more impressive if you don't have to look a recipe up on your phone before you start shaking and stirring.
So, with that in mind, here are seven standard recipes, ratios, and approaches to cocktail making that you can tuck in the back of your mind to whip up a tasty option, whatever you find in front of you. (Oh, and if you need bottle recommendations, here are our picks for stocking your home bar without spending a ton of money.)