Tasty, tasty cocktails! Look, I try not to be a cocktail snob…really I do. But with such amazing ingredients on the market these days it’s hard to to have your standards get a little bit higher with each trip to the fancy liquor store. I’ve long since realized that I’m partial to bitter, herbal drinks often mixed with bourbon or whiskey. A well made Manhattan is my favorite of all the cocktails. While the mister and I love to go out for fancy cocktails now and again we would much rather spend the same amount of money on a few yummy bottles of interesting things for the house. I thought I’d share some of our long standing and recent favorites.
The Manhattan. Oh you wicked, wicked temptress. Above is one of our recent favorite combinations for a modified Manhattan. We had this drink at Boulevard in San Francisco and I promptly went out and bought a bottle of Gran Classico. We tend to use Bulleit Bourbon and Rye as ‘house’ whiskey, it’s fairly affordable and it comes in that extra big bottle. If you’re ever interested in making flavored whiskeys (coffee and pear being 2 of my favs) the big bottles work great for that. Another constant favorite in our house is sweet vermouth by Carpano Antica. It always tastes extra dreamy in a cocktail. Both of these herbal bitter sweet ingredients also taste great mixed with a bit of club soda on a hot summer day.
For this drink:
• 1 part brown- your whiskey of choice.
• 1/2 part Gran Classico
• 1/2 part Carpano Antico
• dash of bitters of your choice. I think orange bitters are nice in this drink.
• poured over ice and stirred until properly cold
• strain into a coupe or cocktail glass and serve with a Luxardo cherry.
This is my favorite section at the fancy liquor store. It’s where all of the interesting things live in my opinion. The amaro’s, the vermouths, anything bitter or herbal. We tend to frequent Mission Liqueurs in Pasadena but also Bar Keeper on Sunset also has a great selection for more obscure things. In fact, I’ve been meaning to track down a coffee liquor by St.George Spirits and it’s a perfect “excuse” to go to Barkeeper.
Recently I impulse purchased 2 new to us ingredients at Mission. One is the Cocchi Vermouth di Torino. We really are partial to Carpano in our house but I saw a smaller bottle of the Cocchi and decided to give it a try! It’s good, I like it. It’s actually a bit more mellow than the Carpano which is nice when you don’t want the sweet vermouth to overtake the profile of the other ingredients like the Carpano can sometimes do. This article does a good job of describing some of the differences between some of the vermouths we like. No one vermouth is the universal answer and it’s fun to try the different ones and see how they compare. If you’re going to go through that bottle of vermouth on the slow side I’ve been advised to keep it in the fridge. It keeps the flavors a bit longer if it’s kept cold. Not sure if that’s entirely true but it does mean the drink is less watered down when you start with chilled ingredients.
Another fun bottle I picked up is Underground, billed as America’s first herbal spirit and made by Ogden’s Own Distillery in Ogden Utah. From what I understand this puts it in the same category as Jagermeister but much less sweet and syrupy. So still herbal and bitter but less sweet. Hooray! That sounds and is right up my ally. I like it over ice or with club soda. I’ve yet to experiment with mixing it into things but give me some time and I’m sure I’ll mix it into something. It was on the affordable side- I think $15 for the bottle so that makes for something you can try out without much risk.
Here’s some fun images of cocktails times in our kitchen the last few months. We tend to make things up as we go along. Up top left is a Manhattan made with the Cocchi, top right is a watermelon cooler made with Campari, bottom left is a gin cocktail made with picked candied kumquats and blood oranges and on the bottom right is a orange bourbon cocktail made with pine syrup and a bit of soda. I buy fun things to use in drinks as I see them and I’m always inspired to mix up something new. Another crowd favorite at our house and everywhere else is the Luxardo cherry. Really, if you haven’t picked these up for your own home bar I highly recommend a jar. If you think maraschino cherries are kinda gross these are a game changer. They taste like sweet, candied chocolaty cherries. Like the cocktail cherry of your dream. Or at least mine.