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The Juicer: The all-important cocktail tool that no home bar should be without!

The Juicer: The all-important cocktail tool that no home bar should be without!

I had a friend who absolutely loved lemon drops. The shots, not the martinis. I’d be at her house for a casual get-together or a full-blown party playing bartender, and the inevitable request would come my way. “Can you make some lemon drops?” Of course I can. One of the first times she asked me I began searching the kitchen for a juicer, only to learn that she didn’t have one. Wait, what?? So there I was squeezing a huge bag of lemons by hand so that I could make lemon drops for 20 people. And, of course, 1 lemon drop shot is never enough… The next day I promptly went on Amazon and ordered juicers to be delivered to her house. No good home beverage program should be without them!

When it comes to juicers, there are many different choices. Pictured above are a few examples of the one we’re probably all most familiar with: just your average tabletop juicer. There are a seemingly infinite number of varieties of this type in different sizes and materials, from ceramic, to plastic, to stainless steel. These will do an adequate job of extracting juice, but there is one drawback to take into consideration. When a cocktail recipe calls for citrus juice there are really two components to it: the first is the juice itself, and the second is the oils that come from the skin of the fruit. With this type of juicer none of those oils make it into the drink, and that’s unfortunate because they really are necessary.

The type of juicer that you see above is affectionately known as a Mexican Elbow. No one seems to really know why. It’s the one I use most often at home, and the one I sent to my lemon-drop-loving friend. It comes in different sizes to accommodate different fruits, and is also made in pretty much the same materials as the tabletop juicers above. The lime and lemon juicers are solid plastic and the orange is ceramic coated metal. There are also stainless steel options available; Cocktail Kingdom‘s are among the best you can buy in this material. When using the Mexican Elbow you place the cut side of the citrus fruit against the slots or holes, and then the other side of the juicer presses against the rind side as you squeeze, essentially turning the fruit inside out. Because there’s contact with the skin, the citrus oils do find their way into the juice, and that’s a very good thing.

Mexican Elbows do a great job of juicing fruit fairly quickly, but if you’re making lots of cocktails all that squeezing can become tiring and time-consuming. A motorized citrus press is the way to go if you find that you’re making cocktails in batch, or if you want to juice a lot of citrus for making individual drinks for a party. It works in much the same way as the tabletop version, except that there’s no twisting, and it’s much faster and easier, of course. Because you’re pressing against the rind as you push the handle down, you are once again extracting the oils into the juice. There is also a manual citrus press that is not quite as quick as the electric one, but it is certainly less expensive than the motorized option, and definitely less tiring than the Mexican Elbow style. There are many motorized presses to choose from in a wide range of prices. Some comparative shopping on Amazon will give you a good idea of what’s available. Mine is made by Breville and I’m very happy with it.

To illustrate the importance of juicing, I decided to go with a smash cocktail today since they typically feature some type of citrus juice as a main component. This particular drink is a Bourbon Smash from a blog called Just A Little Bit of Bacon that I modified slightly. I made this cocktail last spring for the first time and since then it’s become quite the favorite at my house. It’s very easy to make in batch, but remember to cut the amount of citrus by 1/4 or it will end up overwhelming the drink. It’s outstanding with blood oranges or Cara Cara, but if they’re not available then regular oranges will work too. We’re muddling again here and it’s basil, so be very gentle. The club soda is optional. You’ll find it to be smoother without it, and lighter and bubbly with it. Your call!

Bourbon Smash (adapted from Just A Little Bit of Bacon)

2 basil leaves
1½ oz bourbon (I used Rebel Yell)*
1½ oz blood orange juice (or Cara Cara, or regular)
½ oz real maple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
Lime and orange wheels for garnishing, 1 lime wedge to squeeze into the drink
2 oz club soda, optional

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the basil leaves very gently with the maple syrup. Add the bourbon, blood orange juice, and bitters. Add your ice and shake well. Double strain and pour over ice. Squeeze a lime wedge into the glass and then add the orange and lime wheels as a garnish. Top with soda water if desired. Enjoy!

*Rebel Yell also makes a Whiskey Ginger bourbon that I would love to try in this recipe!

The Champagne Cocktail: A perfect way to ring in the New Year

The Champagne Cocktail: A perfect way to ring in the New Year

I can’t think of anything more festive than a Champagne Cocktail, the perfect drink for your New Year’s Eve celebration in just a few days. Although it follows a very traditional recipe whose origins go back as far as 1862, there are many modern variations of this drink and a number of ways in which you can put your own unique twist on it. At it’s most basic, the Champagne Cocktail contains a sugar cube (either white or demerara), aromatic bitters, brandy, the Champagne itself, and some type of citrus or cherry garmish. Since it makes up such a large part of the drink, it’s important to use as good a quality Champagne as you can, or at the very least one whose taste you really enjoy. Champagne is fizzy in and of itself, but when it hits the sugar cube at the bottom of the glass, it sends up a tower of bubbles that makes a super fun presentation for your guests. You’ll want your ingredients to be as cold as possible, including the Champagne flutes themselves. You can either chill your brandy in the fridge, or place it in a pitcher over ice, stir it long enough to get it really cold, and then discard the ice. Alternatively, there are also variations of this recipe that include adding an ice cube directly to the drink to keep it well chilled, so that’s definitely another option.

As I was doing some research for this post I came across an idea on that I wanted to share with you. It involves setting up a kind of buffet of ingredients for party guests to make their own Champagne cocktails. For example, you could offer both white and brown sugar cubes, a selection of bitters, various spirits like brandy, Benedictine, Suze, St. Germain, Chartreuse (the possibilities are endless), a white and rosé Champagne, and various garnishes. You’ll want to instruct your guests to limit the amount of the spirits they use to anywhere from a teaspoon on up to an ounce, and the bitters to about 3 dashes, or enough to saturate the sugar cube. You might want to ask each guest to bring a spirit, along with a description of its flavor profile (easy to find online) to help people decide which combinations to put together. Encourage everyone to be creative and have fun!

Champagne Cocktail

1 sugar cube
3 dashes aromatic bitters
Champagne (use the best quality that you can)
1 oz brandy
Long orange peel for garnishing

Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a Champagne flute. Saturate the cube with the bitters. Add the brandy. Fill the rest of the way with chilled Champagne. The sugar cube will begin to dissolve, creating bubbles. Garnish with the orange strip. Enjoy!

Whiskey Cocktail #3: It’s the Great Rye Pumpkin!

Whiskey Cocktail #3: It’s the Great Rye Pumpkin!


Since Halloween is almost upon us, and since I’m still trying to convince some members of the anti-whiskey crowd to switch over, I thought I’d offer up another Autumn cocktail. I had two absolutes in mind when creating this drink: first, it had to have pumpkin in it, and secondly, I wanted to use Cooper River Rye Whiskey made right here in Camden, NJ. Cooper River Distillers is another one of the distilleries being featured during the first Philly Craft Spirits Week, starting this Thursday, October 27th. When I opened the bottle the aroma hit me right away: vanilla, honey, and spices. I found the same to be true with the taste; it was extremely smooth and I was picking up lots of spice, especially cinnamon and clove. I wanted to add an Amaro to the drink, just to give it some more depth and that elusive quality that comes from the fact that the Italians won’t tell us what’s in the bottle. The Amari are also spicy, and can be quite bitter, but I chose Amaro Montenegro because it tends to be the mildest (and the sweetest) of those that I’ve tasted. It’s also my favorite! To finish out the bitter side of the equation, I went with two dashes of aromatic bitters. Now let’s talk about the sweet side. To get the pumpkin flavor into the drink, I knew I wanted to use pumpkin butter rather than purée because I thought it would have more flavor and sweetness. I’ve seen it listed as an ingredient in other cocktails and it has always intrigued me. I also thought this was a perfect opportunity to use the Tippleman’s Burnt Sugar Syrup that I’d purchased from the Art in the Age store in Philly. I needed citrus to brighten everything up so I chose to go with orange juice; I love the way it works with the rye whiskey and the pumpkin. Finally, I decided to top the whole drink off with some pumpkin ale. I recommend going with one that’s more assertive than subtle when it comes to flavor, but you can take it in whatever direction you’d like.pumpkinandrye2

It’s the Great Rye Pumpkin!

1 oz Cooper River Rye Whiskey
3/4 oz Amaro Montenegro
1 tablespoon pumpkin butter
1/4 oz fresh orange juice
1/4 oz Tippleman’s Burnt Sugar Syrup*
2 dashes aromatic bitters
2 oz Pumpkin Ale
Orange strip for garnishing

Place all the ingredients except the orange strip and the pumpkin ale in the bottom half of a shaker tin and then add your 1 large cube and 2 small. Shake for 15—20 seconds or until cold. If you don’t have any large format cubes on hand, then fill the shaker 2/3 full with regular ice. Strain using a Hawthorne strainer and pour into an Old-fashioned glass with one large cube in it. Top off with the Pumpkin Ale and add your garnish. Enjoy!

*You can certainly substitute regular simple syrup here. Place equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat gently until dissolved and clear. Store in fridge.


Friday Musings: The Hemingway Daiquiri

Friday Musings: The Hemingway Daiquiri

hemdaiquiriWhen in Havana, Ernest Hemingway spent a good deal of his time in a bar called El Floridita. It is said that he asked the bartender there, whose name was Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, to make him a daiquiri with “half the sugar and double the booze.” Since the original would have contained only rum, lime juice, and sugar, changing those ratios would have created a very unbalanced drink. According to Hemingway, “it was good, it was a fine drink” and he claimed to hold the record for drinking 16 double Daiquiris in one night! And to think he was worried about sugar!! Hemingway may have loved his version of the cocktail, but over time it proved to be too bland, too tart, and too boozy. It eventually morphed into something a bit different with the addition of Maraschino liqueur and grapefruit juice. Most people feel the need to also add the sugar back in by using simple syrup; I know for certain that I do.

Original Daiquiri

2 oz light rum such as Bacardi
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup*
Lime wheel for garnishing

Add all the ingredients to the bottom half of a shaker tin. Add your one large cube, and 2 small, or fill 2/3 full with regular ice. Shake until very cold. Double strain using a Hawthorne strainer and a mesh strainer into a chilled cocktail glass.

Hemingway Daiquiri

2 oz light rum such as Bacardi
1/2 oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 oz simple syrup*
Lime wheel for garnishing

Add all the ingredients to the bottom half of a shaker tin. Add your one large cube, and 2 small, or fill 2/3 full with regular ice. Shake until very cold. Double strain using a Hawthorne strainer and a mesh strainer into a chilled cocktail glass.

*To make the simple syrup combine equal parts sugar and water and bring to a gentle boil until the liquid is clear. Store in a mason jar in the fridge for about a month.

You can also batch these Daiquiris in a blender with ice if you want more of a slushy drink. For one drink, simply pour over crushed ice. I would use wineglasses here instead of cocktail glasses.

Daiquiris are traditionally thought of as summertime drinks, but with a few changes we can easily transition them into cocktails for the colder months. Think along the lines of an aged rum like the Appleton Estate I used for the East India Trading Co. cocktail, winter citrus like blood oranges or Meyer lemons, simple syrups that are infused with spices like the Tippleman’s Burnt Sugar syrup that I used in my Rum and Root Old-fashioned, and liqueurs that have the same flavor profile like Dry Curaçao, Apricot Liqueur, and even an Amaro like Montenegro. Just keep the ratios the same as those in the Hemingway Daiquiri, and then adjust from there if you think you need to. The possibilities are endless – I can’t wait to try some of them!

Have a great weekend! See you all on Monday when we’ll be talking about that friend that gets you into trouble all the time… you guessed it – her name is Tequila.