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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…

Sage Gimlet

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We originally posted this recipe using vodka, but recently decided that the cocktail needed a few adjustments. It was during this experimenting that we realized, given the herbal flavor that comes from muddling the sage leaves, gin is a better match for this cocktail. We also played with the ratio of the other ingredients to give the cocktail a distinct lemon and sage flavor without overwhelming the alcohol. Green Hat Gin - made right here in the District of Columbia by New Columbia Distillers works beautifully in this cocktail and keeps things nice and local for us.
The very local ingredient in this cocktail is the sage growing in our herb garden. Our sage typically makes it through most of the winter here in our mid-Atlantic climate. This bit of hearty herb got us thinking about the word "sage" - which derives from the Latin salvia, meaning  "healing plant". The other meaning of sage is "profoundly wise" - as derived from the Latin sapere.  
Given everyth…

Cat on the Rail

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This cocktail has been a tricky one for us. It involved a great deal of trial and error, and we had a couple of spectacular (pour-it-down-the-drain) failures. Finally, we think we nailed it, but let's back up and give you the full story.

A few months ago, some friends gave us a bottle of Catdaddy Spiced Moonshine. We tasted this corn-based "unique Carolina concoction" and decided that it had a flavor that would work best in a autumn cocktail. So, we stuck the bottle in the liquor cabinet and pulled it out after Labor Day. Catdaddy is slightly spicey and has strong vanilla notes. It's pretty sweet, so we began our experiments using citrus juice to balance the sweetness. That's where things went very wrong. Lemon and lime juice didn't mix well with Catdaddy. So we decided to try a version of the Cocktail Artist's favorite cocktail, the Manhattan, and used the Catdaddy as a substitute for the sweet vermouth. This was our best effort so for. Not terrible, bu…

Old Thyme Cocktail

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This is what happens when you can't leave well enough alone.  The Old Fashioned is a cocktail that's been around for a long time (hence the name), and it's one of those beautifully uncomplicated drinks. The classic version dates to the 1800's and it consists of rye or bourbon, a sugar cube, and bitters. In the mid 20th century the cocktail acquired a few accessories - including a cherry, orange and sometimes club soda. Traditionalists scoff at these late-to-the-party additions, but mixologists just can't help making changes. If you want the purist's take on the Old Fashioned take a look at the Old Fashioned 101 website.

Our Old Thyme replaces the sugar cube of the original version with a honey-thyme simple syrup. We also added both orange and aromatic bitters. This creates a drink that is deceptively simple. Use good quality rye, sip it slowly and it will reveal the layers of flavor. It's a great summer to fall transition cocktail.

If you want to step it u…

Sweet Corn Cocktail

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We just returned from a wonderful long weekend in Minnesota where we ate and drank our way through the Minnesota State Fair. If you've never been to a "real" state fair we highly recommend that you add it to your bucket list. Minnesota's state fair is a celebration of the state and it's agricultural heritage. Beer is the drink of choice at the fair (and there are plenty of excellent beer options), but we decided to memorialize our trip to the fair with a cocktail that features one of our favorite fair foods - fresh sweet corn. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune Minnesota is the number one producer of sweet corn in the country. We always stop to admire the award winning corn in the Agricultural Building at the fair and grab a few ears of fresh roasted sweet corn from the Corn Roast booth - where 25 acres worth of corn is sold during the 12 days of the fair.

In late summer, it's hard to beat the taste of fresh sweet corn. Fresh is the key word here - me…

Mai Tai

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We couldn't let summer slip by without having a Tiki cocktail. Tiki cocktails typically contain quite a few ingredients - often masking the taste of the alcohol. Not only does this make a cocktail a bit dangerous, but it's not really suited to our preference. We like to taste the liquor in our drinks - which is what keeps us from drinking more than we should. Tiki cocktails typically contain rum (often several different rums in the same drink), and the long list of ingredients gives you plenty of room to experiment with flavors and ratios.

We decided to do a variation of the classic Tiki cocktail - the Mai Tai, which is named for the Tahitian word for "good". We have a good bottle of Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum, and some Denros overproof white rum, and that’s where we started. As it says right there in it's name, Denros Strong Rum is strong (80 proof). So even though we've kept the total amount of alcohol in this cocktail to 2 1/2 ounces it does pack a bit of…

The Grand Mariner

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This is another cocktail we developed while on vacation in Northern Michigan. After visiting the Traverse City Whiskey Co distillery and picking up a bottle of their excellent North Coast Rye, we stopped in a local Italian specialty food shop and a bottle of Festivo Portofino caught our eye. It's an Italian bitter soda with a lovely peach color. 

While doing a little research into Festivo Portofino we found some parallels between our summer vacation spot in Northern Michigan and the Italian region where this soda is produced. Niasca Portofino (the company that produces the soda) was founded to celebrate the beauty of Portofino, a small Italian fishing village and a popular summer resort, and to promote its agricultural products. According to their website they formed the company to “help Portofino be lively also during the winter months, when the weather conditions do not allow open air activities.”  Portofino has just over 500 permanent residents, but in the summer, the population…

Lavender Martini

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Northern Michigan is filled with gorgeous scenery - clear blue lakes, pine forests, and idyllic family farms. In mid-summer, the sea of purple blooms at Lavender Hill Farm is absolutely stunning. This lavender farm is located in Horton Bay (Boyne City), Michigan - a small hamlet where Ernest Hemingway spent many summers and the setting for his story "Up in Michigan". If you are anywhere near this part of the world during the month of July you shouldn't miss visiting the farm. Not only will you be treated with the visual beauty of the lavender fields, but the scent is utterly intoxicating (in a completely non-alcoholic way). Research shows that lavender produces soothing effects when its fragrance is inhaled, and we can verify that this place fills you with a sense of calm. Coming from Washington, DC (where we live most of the year) we are quite desperate for some calm.

We picked fresh lavender at the farm and also purchased a container of dried culinary lavender buds. N…

Red Sky at Night

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You have probably heard that old saying "Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning." According to the Library of Congress Research Center there is some truth to this saying - which apparently can be traced back to the Bible. You can do some Googling (or use the link we've provided) if you want to learn more, but we are moving on to creating some artwork and mixing a drink.

We cannot take credit for creating this cocktail. It came to us via  Sailing World magazine's Ginger Beer Cocktail Contest back in 2013. The beautiful color of this drink comes from purple basil. You can't achieve the same effect or the same taste using green basil, so if you don't have the purple variety we suggest that you try our Basil Gimlet recipe.

We didn't do much to modify the original recipe, other than to prepare the cocktail in a mixing glass and then fine strain the purple basil from the drink as it's poured into the serving glass.…