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Friday Musings: The inspiration behind “Women in Love”

Friday Musings: The inspiration behind “Women in Love”

womeninlove1This week began with a new moon in Scorpio, which harnesses deep, dark, transformational energy. Scorpio embodies the quintessential, Mars-ruled warrior princess. She is the O. G. representation of a woman in love, a feminine force catapulting forward with what could be considered masculine qualities. Lucky for me, I was able to channel this energy into something fun and productive – THANK YOU, CARLA! Scorpio reminds us to shed our passé view of ourselves and begin anew.

When I take a sip of “Women in Love,” I am sent to a place of new beginnings where the fresh-pressed celery juice is reminiscent of the scent of newly-cut grass on a dewy spring morning. The delicate floral notes of jasmine and chamomile nurture my palate through the bright citrus explosion; then comes a surprising, yet sensible, finish of cracked black pepper to snap my dreamy butt back to reality.

Women in Love is not just about women, as the title would suggest; in fact, Women in Love has both masculine and feminine qualities. Just as D. H. Lawrence dances with gender in his novel, this cocktail is intended to blur the lines of separation. It is also meant to be enjoyed, as is life. Women in Love is about full acceptance of who you are and boldly expressing yourself to the world!

Yesterday, someone asked me, “How do you create a cocktail?” For most of us, we approach a new situation with a conditioned mind, based on previous experiences. How does this apply to cocktails, you ask? I started with what I have learned from the great gin classics, such as a gimlet, a negroni, or an aviation. For me, cocktail creation always leads back to the basics. What has worked before? How can we improve moving forward? With “Women in Love,” I began with the most important ingredient: the base spirit.

Bluecoat’s citrus-forward profile sets a perfect base for a vegetal gimlet variation – the masculine, woodsy essence of the angelica root, the feminine, floral scent of coriander. The flavors are so in sync that you cannot differentiate where one ends and one begins. But you know they are there, dancing harmoniously. It’s balanced. It is a gin for all walks of life.

Carla likes to think that “great cocktails, much like great books, inspire us to be introspective and to think about the course our lives have taken,” and I strongly agree. As the new moon encourages you to start fresh, channel your inner-warrior, and create something that inspires you!


Women in Love

3 large basil leaves, lightly muddled
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz jasmine chamomile syrup*
3/4 oz celery juice
1 1/2 oz Bluecoat American Dry Gin

Shake, strain.
Serve up in a coupe.
Garnish with a slice of cucumber and hearty dusting of cracked black pepper.

*Tea provided by House of Tea on 4th Street in Fabric Row. Steep equal parts of both teas for 7 minutes, then combine with equal parts white sugar (while warm) to create syrup.


J. Christine Lamb
Beverage Manager, Charlie was a sinner
131 S. 13th Street Philadelphia, PA 19107



Thursday’s Autumn Cocktail: The Slippage

Thursday’s Autumn Cocktail: The Slippage

redbrick1As I’ve mentioned before, coming up with my own cocktails has a tendency to make me very introspective. I’m not entirely sure why this happens; it just seems to be part of the creative process for me. When I get introspective, I start thinking about books that I’ve read and the ways in which they’ve given me insight into my life. As I was making today’s cocktail, a book from this past summer called The Slippage by Ben Greenman popped into my head. I remember wondering what the title meant and whether or not it had anything to do with the idea of a slippery slope. According to Greenman, the answer is an emphatic no. He defines the idea of the slippage as that “moment when you start to lose your footing.” We can all relate to this, right? We’ve all had those instances in our lives, whether they were in relationships, or jobs, or situations where we knew exactly when we’d taken one step too far and suddenly the ground underneath us felt uncertain. Let’s hold that thought for a minute.

The main spirit in today’s cocktail is a single malt whiskey from Red Brick Distillery in Kensington, another one of the distilleries being featured during Philly Craft Spirits Week. Some of you may be familiar with the term “single malt” and may associate it with whisky made in Scotland, otherwise known as Scotch. You would be correct in thinking this, however the guidelines for how single malt whiskey is supposed to be made here in the U.S. are not the same and this results in a very different product. In both countries single malt whiskey must be made from at least 51% barley. Where the difference comes in is in how the final product is stored. Here in the U.S. aging must take place in charred new oak containers, whereas in Scotland the containers do not have to be new. This seemingly subtle difference completely changes the final result, and we end up with a whiskey that has the strong caramel and spice flavors and bit of a bite that come from new wood, as well as some definite chocolate undertones too. These chocolate notes seem to be universal to American single malts and they helped me to determine the direction in which I wanted to take this cocktail.

I’d recently seen a product called Dave’s Coffee Syrup at Gorshin Trading Post right here in Haddonfield and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to use it in a cocktail. I also knew that I wanted to include sweet vermouth because of how well it works with Scotch whisky in a Rob Roy. I chose Punt E Mes in particular because I needed a more bitter component to offset the sweetness of the syrup. Finally I added both chocolate and orange bitters and garnished it with an orange slice. The end result was truly something else. I don’t like to say that about cocktails I create, but I’m comfortable here because I think it has more to do with the ingredients in the drink rather than with the person creating it. You have the warm bite of Red Brick’s wonderful whiskey that pairs up with the bitter richness of the vermouth and the sweetness of the coffee syrup, all rounded out by the chocolate and the orange. I called this cocktail The Slippage because I knew it was one of those drinks that would go down very easily. One too many of these and we’d have no trouble understanding exactly what Ben Greenman was talking about!redbrick2

The Slippage

2 oz Red Brick Distillery Single Malt Whiskey
1/2 oz Punt E Mes sweet vermouth
1/4 oz Dave’s Coffee Syrup*
1 dash chocolate bitters
1 dash orange bitters
1 orange peel twist for garnishing

Place all the ingredients except for the orange peel into a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with ice. Stir with a long handled bar spoon until very cold (about 30 – 45 seconds). Strain using a julep strainer, and pour over 1 large cube into an old-fashioned glass. Twist the orange peel over the drink to express some of the oils and then rub it along the rim of the glass before dropping it in. Enjoy!

*If you’d like an even sweeter version of this drink, you can take this measurement up to a 1/2 oz.

Be sure to stop back tomorrow when J. Christine Lamb will be guest blogging for the Friday Musings post! Christine is the Beverage Manager and Special Events Coordinator for Charlie was a sinner in Philadelphia, and is an all-around awesome person. She created their amazing “Women in Love” cocktail featuring Bluecoat Gin, which is also a Philadelphia local spirit. “Women in Love” is one of Charlie’s best drinks and my absolute favorite!


Wednesday’s Autumn Cocktail: Falling in love slowly….

Wednesday’s Autumn Cocktail: Falling in love slowly….


One of John Green’s most well known quotes comes from his book The Fault in Our Stars. “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” Even if you’ve read it or heard it a million times it still gets to you, right? I think it’s one of my favorite quotes about falling in love because it truly resonates with me. It seems that this is exactly how love happens. There’s that moment when we look at a person and think this is someone I could really fall for. One minute we’re standing on a cliff that we’ve taken forever to climb, and then before we even decide to take that next step we’re already falling, with no way of really turning back… I know what you’re all thinking: it’s not time yet for the Friday Musings post! You are correct, but it just so happens that I have an amazing guest blogger who will be doing her own musing this Friday, so I thought I’d get my rambling in a bit early this week.

Now let’s get back to this cocktail! As you all know I’ve been featuring the 11 local Philadelphia distilleries that are participating in Philly Craft Spirits Week since it started last Thursday. Today’s drink is actually a collaboration that I’ve created between 2 of these distilleries, the first being Five Saints in Norristown, and the second, Rowhouse Spirits from Kensington. Five Saints produces a beautiful vodka that is incredibly clean and smooth; I knew that I wanted it to be the main spirit in my cocktail. Rowhouse makes a gorgeous liqueur called Bare Trap that’s distilled from 19 herbs and spices (with anise as its most forward flavor) that I thought would be the perfect accompaniment to the vodka. Adding on from there, I chose Spicy Pear Cider, Orgeat, and fig jam as the sweet components, lemon juice to keep things sour, and DRAM’s “Hair of the dog” bitters with fennel, citrus, and ginger to help balance things out. There was a lot going on here, and I have to admit that it took a few tries to get this cocktail exactly where I wanted it to be. Once I had it there, I knew it. I took my second sip and that’s when I thought of John Green. This was a cocktail I could really fall for…


Falling in Love Slowly…

1 1/2 oz Five Saints Vodka
1/2 oz Rowhouse Spirits Bear Trap liqueur
3/4 oz R.W Knudsen Spicy Pear Cider
1/2 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz Small Hands Orgeat
1 dash DRAM Apothecary “Hair of the dog” bitters
1 tsp fig jam
1 thick fig slice for garnishing

Place all the ingredients 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. Double strain using a Hawthorne strainer and a mesh strainer into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a skewered fig slice. Enjoy!


Moonshine and Apples: Celebrating Fall with a taste of the white

Moonshine and Apples: Celebrating Fall with a taste of the white


If I’m asked to choose between the lighter spirits like gin and vodka and the darker ones like bourbon and rye, I will almost go with the lighter. It’s not that I can’t appreciate whiskey, because I certainly can and do, but it’s definitely more of an acquired taste for me, rather than something that I’m naturally drawn to. I have more of an affinity towards rye than bourbon, because I like the spicy, less sweet flavor profile that rye is known for. All that being said, the idea of white whiskey really throws a monkey wrench into things for me. Here is this perfectly clear bottle that looks like something I should like, yet its aroma and taste belong to a category of spirits that I know I struggle with. To make matters even more difficult for me, white whiskey is the spirit before it goes into a barrel to be aged, so it has not been softened at all by time spent in contact with the charred wood. New Liberty Distillery in Kensington is yet another one of the local distilleries being featured during Philly Craft Spirits Week, and I had the opportunity to taste their products at Whiskey Fest and again this past Sunday at the cocktail challenge held at Heritage Restaurant in Northern Liberties. Their white whiskey is potent and powerful, and I was surprised by how clean and smooth it was. I could definitely see how it would appeal to a vodka and gin drinker like me, but I also knew that it was going to be very challenging for this home bartender to use it in a Fall cocktail. I was determined to make it work!

I was certain that I wanted to use apple cider in the drink along with the whiskey so I let that be my starting point. From there I added Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur because ginger works so well with apples and it’s such a great fall flavor. I knew I needed some sweetness, so I reached for Marie Brizard Apricot Liqueur and the Chai simple syrup that I’d made last week, using both in small amounts. I love ginger and apricot together, and the Chai spices seemed to make the combination even better. I added lemon juice because I still wanted it to be a sour and that left me with the decision as to which bitters I should use. I decided on DRAM Apothecary’s Black bitters which I’d purchased at the Art in the Age store in Old City. Described as “shadowy and robust and a blend of all herbs black,” they were just too intriguing to pass up and they worked in the cocktail in just the way I wanted them to! This is a drink that continues to open up and taste better as the ice melts in the glass. Serving it over one large cube and taking your time with it is the perfect way to drink it.


Moonshine and Apples

1 1/2 New Liberty Distillery White Whiskey
1/2 oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
1/4 Marie Brizard Apricot Liqueur
1 1/2 apple cider
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 Chai tea simple syrup*
2 dashes DRAM Black Bitters
Apple slices for garnishing

Place all the ingredients 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 into an old-fashioned glass with one large ice cube. Garnish with a fan of apple slices slices. Enjoy!

*To make the Chai tea simple syrup, boil 1/2 cup of water and add 3 Chai tea bags. Let them steep for 5 minutes. Add 1/3 of a cup of sugar and reheat gently until the sugar has completely dissolved. Store in a Mason jar in the fridge.


Friday Musings: Let’s Make it Perfect!

Friday Musings: Let’s Make it Perfect!


So I have the reputation for being a bit of a perfectionist. Does that surprise you? It’s not in every aspect of my life and it’s definitely changed as I’ve gotten older. For example, I can tolerate a less than pristine house now (that seems to have come with having raised three kids), but I do still like it to at least be organized. Books are alphabetized on my shelves, clothes are grouped by color in my closet, and I can be a bit of a menace with a label maker. But that’s not so bad, right? Where I think I really demand perfection is in things that I personally do or make. So if I’m hanging a group of pictures on a wall they had better all be level and evenly placed or it’ll keep me awake at night. The same goes for baking a lopsided cake or making a sauce that doesn’t quite turn out right. Since I’ve started this blog I’ve become acutely aware of how much I’m bothered by a typo or a misplaced word, or a photograph that’s slightly blurred. And that last one can be a real challenge when you have only the rim of the glass to focus on. Thank God for garnishes in more ways than one! Speaking of garnishes, that begs me to ask the question: do you think I’m a perfectionist when it comes to making cocktails? I can hear you laughing. Of course I am! For me, it just makes no sense to be any other way, especially as a home bartender. If I’m not measuring, shaking, stirring, or pouring correctly then there’s just no way for me to consistently make you a good drink. It would be different every time, and that simply would never do.

How can you get as close to perfect as possible when making drinks at home? Here are some thoughts:

  • Use the best ingredients you can and measure everything. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed posting about Philly Craft Spirits Week so much is that it’s given me the opportunity to try some of the products being made right here in the Philadelphia area, and to truly appreciate the thought and care that goes into making spirits that are small batch and handcrafted. Talk about perfectionism! This idea extends to the bitters and mixers you choose as well.
  • Citrus juices should be freshly squeezed and never out of a bottle. It’s okay for other juices to be bottled, but just be sure they’re all juice and don’t have added sugar that can change the composition of the drink.
  • Try making your own simple syrups. There’s a reason why they’re called simple: they are easy to make and you get the added benefit of being able to infuse them with other flavors. That’s not to say that you can’t ever buy something that catches your eye. Look how obsessed I’ve become with Tippleman’s Burnt Sugar syrup!
  • Make sure that your cocktails are the right temperature. In other words, make sure you’re shaking and stirring them for the right amount of time. Once you have that timing down, do it  consistently each and every time you make a drink.
  • Step up your ice game. Silicone ice trays are a fairly inexpensive way to make large and medium format cubes that won’t dilute your drinks as quickly as small cubes do. And they are so much prettier to look at!
  • Don’t overmuddle! When a recipe calls for fruit or herbs to be muddled that does not mean mashing and grinding them into nothingness in the bottom of your shaker tin. It’s a very gentle process that’s intended to just release flavor, especially when it comes to herbs. Think about just disturbing those little hairs that you see on a mint leaf – anything more than that and you’ll end up with bitterness instead of flavor.
  • Try to develop a flow to your cocktail making and aim to do it that way every time. There’s something very zen and peaceful about this idea and it will help you develop consistency, which I can’t stress enough. Remember that this is a creative process; you are actually making something here!

Those are my ideas on how we can all be better bartenders at home. Try them out this weekend by making my Autumn cocktail recipe for today using whiskey from Manatawny Still Works in Pottstown, PA. And then we can alphabetize the bookshelves, organize the closet, and make some labels!


Chai Apple Whiskey Sour

2 oz Manatawny Still Works Whiskey
1/2 oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
3/4 oz Chai tea syrup*
1 oz apple cider
1 egg white**

Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and dry shake for 15 seconds or so. Add the ice (1 large cube and 2 small if you can) and shake for another 15 seconds or until well chilled. Strain into an old-fashioned glass or a goblet. Garnish with whole cloves and an apple slice dusted with cinnamon. Enjoy!

*To make the Chai tea simple syrup, boil 1/2 cup of water and add 3 Chai tea bags. Let them steep for 5 minutes. Add 1/3 of a cup of sugar and reheat gently until the sugar has completely dissolved. Store in a Mason jar in the fridge.

**Use up to the full egg white, or 1 oz of a vegan substitute such as chick pea liquid, or omit it entirely.

Vintage glass a recent thrift store find. I’m always on the lookout.

Have a great weekend – see you all next week! I’ll be continuing with more recipes for cocktails made with Philly Spirits!