Look, we love a solid cocktail bar. It's an awesome experience to meet up with some co-workers for happy hour, or connect with a friend or date over something shaken or stirred and served in a quality glass. But there's something to be said for sipping at home. Most importantly, it's much less expensive. Bar and restaurants try to keep their food and liquor costs to 20-25%, which means that $12 martini is actually made up of only $3.00 of ingredients. But we also can't argue with the value of staying home, whipping something up for your partner or friends on the fly in the warm, quite confines of your own living room. (Pajama pants optional).
And while we have no problem dropping some serious change on a truly elegant whiskey or craft spirit, the truth is: most mixed drinks don't actually require the highest end of spirits. So, if you're looking to experiment with crafting your own drinks, but don't want to invest mega bucks in a full fleet of top-shelf spirits, it's time to learn how to stock your home bar or bar cart on a budget.
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.
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.
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.
“Beloved, we join hands here to pray for gin. An aridity defiles us. Our innards thirst for the juice of juniper. Something must be done. The drought threatens to destroy us... Children, let us pray.” –– Wallace Thurman
Gin has some great quotes attached to it. Thurman's is one. Then there's Churchill's quote about a martini being a drink of cold gin while looking at a bottle of vermouth (Churchill has quite a few gin-specific quotes). Gin is there in the art of the 18th century, its in bathtubs during prohibition and in martini glasses in the roaring 20s. It pairs with tonic and soda, but is supreme in a true martini.
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.
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.
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've been trying to up my host game lately, especially in the drinks department. Solid glassware, proper bar tools, and better presentation go a long way towards concocting a quality experience. That's why I was excited to come up with a great gift project for those that want to ditch the cheap plastic in their classy mixed drinks. These simple straws are hefty enough to really stand out as a stocking stuffer, or on their own as a solid holiday gift.
When fall falls, it falls hard. It fills our eyes, our noses, and, if we're doing things right, our cocktail glasses.
Apple cider is a seasonal classic, and its can't-beat-it flavor is a perfect match for all sorts of spirits and simple cocktail ingredients. You can make these seven apple cider cocktails with things you probably already have, turning a simple jug of cider into something that will make the whole month of October much more festive.
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.
To be honest, we're firmly in the "don't make dinner reservations for Valentine's Day" camp. Save the special evenings for anniversaries, celebrations of achievements or special events, or heck, any random Friday night. Those are guaranteed to be more "romantic," memorable, and special.
So, if you wanna do something fun on the 14th, make this cocktail...
If you, like me, were born between 1975 and 1990, your first exposure to the idea that "champagne" has technical regulations and restrictions likely came from Rob Lowe's odious Benjamin character in the original Wayne's World. ("Actually, all champagne is French. It's named after the region.") And you, like me, probably play into/totally own his snooty accusation that Americans don't recognize the convention, and call all their sparkling whites "champagne," and don't care. Because only a true b-hole shames somebody while handing them a drink.
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...
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.
There are occassions to spend a little more on an investment bottle. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with looking for something to enjoy that cost less than an Andrew Jackson. None of these second-to-the-bottom shelf bottles are going to blow your mind and or cause you to use the word "revelation," but you know that already.
Though, seriously, if you're having fun and the evening is more about the conversation than what's in the glass, twelve servings of anything palatable for less than twenty bucks is money well spent.
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.