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Cranberry Clementine Sparkler

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Traditions are what define the holidays. Traditions are comforting, they ground us, but they can also become a bit of a burden. It’s wonderful to have your entire family over for a huge Thanksgiving feast, but by the time you’re done washing up the last of the pots and pans you probably have had at least fleeting thought about eating at a restaurant next year. 
Last year we took a non-traditional approach to Thanksgiving and left the country to visit our youngest daughter - who was doing a semester abroad in Seville, Spain. It turned out to been of the most enjoyable holidays we've ever had. Yes, we did miss getting together with our extended family, but having our nuclear family together in such a beautiful place was truly memorable. The Artist had plenty of time to paint, the Mixologist/cook was able to truly relax, and our grown children got to spend time exploring the city and savoring a glass of nice Spanish wine with us at the end of the day. This year we’re at home for the h…

In the Pink

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We are still working on recipes using the array of ingredients that we were introduced to at the Virginia Spirits Festival in September. This is where we discovered a very unique version of aquavit. We've used Linie Aquavit in several of our cocktails (the Basil Gimlet and the Split Rock Cocktail), and we certainly think that  Virginia's James River Distillery Oster Vit would be an excellent choice for those cocktails. James River Distillery uses oyster shells in the steeping process of their aquavit - hence the name “Oster Vit”. This might sound like a bit of a gimmick, but the end result is a terrific herbal (caraway and fennel) clear spirit with a crisp mineral taste. We tried it as a substitute for vodka in our District Martini recipe with excellent results. We're planning to continue to experiment with Oster Vit in place of gin or vodka in some traditional recipes. It has a terrific fragrance and is pleasant to sip neat.

We decided to use this new discovery in a versio…

Cherry Capital Old Fashioned

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If you've read some of our previous posts (such as the Up North Raspberry and Rye or the Grand Mariner Cocktail) you know that we're fans of the bourbon and rye produced by The Traverse City Whiskey Co. Traverse City, Michigan is known as the "Cherry Capital" for being the area with the largest production of tart cherries in the United States. In Traverse City, you will find wonderful freshwater beaches, lots of summer tourists, and (of course) cherries! You can attend the Cherry Festival in July, go to the Cherryland Mall, and fly into Cherry Capital airport. So the folks at Traverse City Whiskey (naturally) produce an American Cherry Edition of their bourbon. Here in the Nation's Capital we were lucky enough to find this cherry bourbon at our local liquor store. It's a nice bourbon for sipping neat, but during #OldFashionedOctober we also tried it in an Old Fashioned and were pretty pleased with the results. An Old Fashioned is probably the right cocktail …

Shenandoah Cyd Car

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We recently attended an event, held by the Virginia Distillers Association, where we were able to try all kinds of spirits produced in the Old Dominion. Virginia has a number of distillers making very good bourbon and rye (which we have previously featured in our Peach Cobbler Bourbon Slush and Chesapeake Baycocktail recipes). It’s also home to founding father George Washington’s Distillery - located on his Mount Vernon estate. The Mount Vernon Distillery produces a small amount of rye and brandy using very traditional methods. They offer a great tour tour (from April to October) where we learned that, following the revolutionary war, George Washington was one of the largest producers of whiskey in America. 

So, how does it happen that the main ingredient in this Virginia-inspired cocktail is a product of New Jersery (Laird’s Applejack)? Well, as it turns out Laird’s Applejack not only has a connection to George Washington, but since the 1970’s the Laird family has sourced it’s apples …

Manhattan Perfect

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If you asked us what our "house cocktail" is, the answer would be our version of the Manhattan. The Manhattan is a cocktail that's been around for a long time - for good reason. One of the legends of it's origin states that it was invented at New York's Manhattan Club around 1880. According to a 1916 history of the club: “The Celebrated Manhattan Cocktail was inaugurated at the Club. This consists of equal portions of vermouth and whiskey, with a dash of orange bitters.” There are others who lay claim to the Manhattan's birth, but the only thing that is clear is that it originated in New York City.

Most people make a Manhattan with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. We are happy with the classic version, but over the years we tinkered with the recipe and came up with one that is similar to the "Perfect Manhattan". Our version uses bourbon, sweet vermouth, and blanc vermouth (not dry vermouth). We also use more vermouth (in total) than what's…

Jamaica Bay

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Here is a cocktail that would be suitable to sip on a Caribbean Island or an island bounded by the Hudson and East Rivers. It's sort of a Manhattan with dark Jamaican rum in the place of whiskey (plus a couple of other modifications). Liquor.com's Drinkwire challenged us to create a cocktail that uses rum in the place of whiskey and we were happy to take on the task.

We named the Jamaica Bay cocktail after a body of water that is near Manhattan, but far enough away that you don't feel the city. Jamaica Bay is on the south side of Long Island and straddles two of Manhattan's boroughs -  Brooklyn and Queens. Much of the bay is a wildlife refuge and part of the National Park System. It can be reach via the New York City subway system, yet it's a place for birding, nature walks, kayaking, and even camping in a tiny house.

The Cocktail Artists like their Manhattans perfect - meaning with both sweet and dry vermouth. Well, actually, we use blanc vermouth and sweet vermo…

The Italiano

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This started out with the classic Italian cocktail - the Negroni, but just like with Italian cooking we began substituting a bit of this and a bit of that until it became something quite distinct. The Negroni cocktail has been around for about a century. The standard story of it's creation is that Count Camillo Negroni instructed the bartender at Caffe Giacosa in Florence to make a stronger version of the Americano (by replacing the soda water with gin). A classic Negroni consists of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. As with so many things which involve cocktails, there is some controversy surrounding the history of the Negroni, so if you want to read more, you can find a good piece at Drinking Cup.

For this cocktail we did use gin and sweet vermouth, but the dark amber color of our Italiano is the result of the addition of balsamic vinegar. With the popularity of shrubs right now (which are fruit, sugar, and vinegar concoctions) we figured why not try adding the vinegar directly…

Autumn on 44th Street

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This is a cocktail that we came up with a couple of years ago. It's ingredients, color and the flaming orange rind all evoke the fall season (but feel free to have it any time of the year). We developed this drink while playing around with variations on the Manhattan. We decided to see how Nocio (walnut liqueur) would work in place of the sweet vermouth typically used in a Manhattan. 

Nocio is a dark brown liqueur that is traditional to the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It's made from unripe green walnuts. The site Life in Abruzzo has a great post about the magical qualities of nocio and includes a recipe if you want to make your own at home.  The traditional version is a bit complicated and requires barefoot virgins to collect the walnuts and leave them to dry by the remains of a threshing fire. Well, needless to say, we didn't go to all that trouble. There are a number of good options available in liquor stores. We have used Nut Alpina Nocio as well as a local (District…

Slow Boat to China-China

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There's a great old standard "I'd Like to Get You on a Slow Boat to China". It was published in 1948 and covered by singers  ranging from Rosemary Clooney to Paul McCartney. The idea behind the lyrics is that if you want to spend an extended period of time with someone, a slow boat trip to a far away place would work well (assuming the other person wants to be there with you). If you're looking for a soundtrack to this cocktail there's a great version sung by Dee Dee Bridgewater on YouTube.

So what's this tune got to do with our drink? Well, we have been experimenting with Bigallet China-China Liqueur which (despite the repetition of "China" in it's name) is a product of France, where it's been produced by Bigallet since 1875.  You can use the link above to go to Bigallet's website where there's a cool video of them making liqueur. China-China is a blend of sweet and bitter orange peels macerated in beet neutral alcohol and redi…