Tag Archives: bourbon

Five Recipes for Your Cocktail Hour

… And now for a change of pace.

Sure, beer cocktails are all the rage these days. But there’s more to imbibing than beer. Sacrilege, I know. But in the spirit of expanding our flavour and aroma horizons, how about an evening cocktail?

Depending on your fridge, pantry, and bar stocks, you could make these right now. If your cupboard looks more like Mother Hubbard’s, then these recipes will get you heading to the supermarket or bottle shop in search of some new ingredients to sample.

Setting Up the Bar

First up, if you don’t already have the tools of the trade, you’ll need to procure them or rig something up and make do. Cobbler Shaker

Shaker (Boston shaker or cobbler). The Boston shaker is a two-piece shaker that consists of a stainless steel container that fits into a pint glass. I prefer the Boston shaker because it holds more, and fits a finer-grained cocktail strainer that gives you more control over the amount of seeds and fruit chunks that get into your glass.

Strainer (for Boston Shaker). Bonus: These kinds of strainers don’t clog as easily as the outlets on a typical cobbler (pictured).

Measuring glass. Ideally, you want one that measures in ounces, milliliters, tablespoons, and teaspoons.

Muddler (for mashing up fruit or herbs). If you don’t have one, the back of a spoon will do.

Bar spoon (for stirring drinks that aren’t shaken). A regular spoon is fine, but isn’t always long enough. Chopsticks work better if you have them on hand. I use a glass stir stick. IMG_0588

Shopping List

Fruit and herbs. Use fresh fruit when you can get it. If not, frozen fruit (especially berries) work in a pinch. For fruits that make it to North American supermarket shelves less frequently, look for purées from companies like Goya (good for passion fruit, guava, mango, and the like). Always use fresh herbs.

Fruit juices. Avoid the mixes and juice your own fruit. Almost every cocktail recipe has some sort of acidic/sour component for balance and crispness, with lemon and lime virtually ubiquitous in cocktail recipes. Citrus fruits with thinner skins yield more juice. Let your citrus come to room temperature before juicing. Bottled cranberry juice or canned pineapple juice work well.

Simple syrup. This is easy to make, and adaptable. You can infuse it with anything from lavender to peppercorns to chilies. Simmer a one-to-one ratio of granulated sugar and filtered water until the liquid begins to thicken slightly. Stores well in the fridge.

Bitters. You can find Angostura bitters just about anywhere, but grab some Peychaud’s bitters or Regans’ Orange No.6 to spice up your cocktails if you can find them. Fee Brothers also produces a wide range of bitters, including celery bitters.

Spirits and other liquor. Do some experimenting. You might find that you prefer Gordon’s to Beefeater or Tanqueray. Sometimes a ten-dollar bottle of vodka will do the trick. I use saké quite often in my cocktails, but I don’t add anything more expensive than your standard Gekkeikan.IMG_1957 When it comes to vermouth, though, I find that the few extra bucks on something like Noilly-Prat is worth the expense.

Ice. Ice is one of the most important ingredients in your cocktail kit. When I first started making cocktails, I used to just toss the ingredients together haphazardly and then wonder why my drinks tasted so damned harsh. Cocktails need water to smooth out the rough edges and release the esters of the spirits. If you drink Scotch or Bourbon, you’ll know what I’m talking about here. Larger ice cubes are better, as they release water more slowly during the shake or stir than smaller cubes or hollow cubes. Too much water is just as bad as too little.


And now for the drinks!

The Procrastinator

This drink came to me one late spring afternoon while contemplating an essay that stubbornly refused to let itself be written. Why force things? I went into the kitchen and kept on contemplating. The result of my ruminations is based loosely on the Mojito. Adjust the sweetness to match your taste.

  • 4 sprigs fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 0.75 oz. honey
  • 1.5 oz. lime juice
  • 1.5 oz. simple syrup
  • 2 oz. saké
  • 2 oz. white rum
  • Soda

Muddle the first two ingredients in the bottom of a mixing glass and continue to muddle while adding the next two ingredients. Add ice and the rest of the ingredients and give it all a good shake. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice, top with soda, and garnish with mint and a wedge of lime. *A note on the honey: heat it up and dilute it with a little bit of filtered water so that it pours more easily.

Cool as a Cucumber

Perfect for long, sunny afternoons that stretch imperceptibly into evening. This cocktail pays tribute to springtime in Montreal. I first had the drink that inspired this recipe at Decca 77.

  • 2.5 oz. saké
  • 1 oz. Hendricks Gin
  • 0.5 oz. lime juice
  • 0.5 oz. simple syrup
  • 3 cubes cucumber
  • Soda

Muddle the chunks of cucumber at the bottom of a shaker glass. Shake all the ingredients together and strain into a highball glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint. *Note: You can use other brands of gin, but this is one occasion where a particular brand (Hendricks) improves the cocktail.

Hill Country Sunrise

I had just bought a bottle of Fee Bros. rhubarb bitters and was looking for something to do with it. The perfect occasion for experimentation presented itself when an old friend turned up with his family en route between Dallas and Toronto. He pulled out a bottle of spicy Texan vodka, we found some nicely ripe peaches at the local supermarket, and voila.

  • Half of a white peach, cubedIMG_0591
  • 1.75 oz. Dripping Springs Texan Vodka
  • 1 oz. rosemary-infused simple syrup
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 3-4 dashes rhubarb bitters

To make the rosemary simple syrup, crush a few rosemary needles in a mortar and pestle, then let stand in a shot or two of simple syrup for about half an hour. You can also make a more involved version by infusing a batch of simple syrup with a few sprigs of rosemary.

Muddle the peach well until it has transformed into a pulp. Add ice to the mixing glass along with the other ingredients, and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass for a more “refined” drink, or pour the whole lot into a rocks glass. Garnish with mint and a slice of peach.

Chili Passion

The first time I had a cocktail with some heat in it was at the West Village’s Perry St. restaurant. The bartender mentioned Thai chilies as the heat source, but in recreating this cocktail I used a three-way blend of half a dried ancho, a third of a dried chipotle, and one whole seeded chile de arbol to infuse my passion fruit simple syrup with a subtle smokiness.

Start with equal proportions simple syrup and passion fruit purée (about one cup of each). Chop up the dried chilies and infuse them in the liquid until you get your desired level of heat. Strain. Don’t let the mix infuse for too long, or the smokiness of the chipotle will overpower the passion fruit. You can use the strained chilies in one cup of simple syrup for an interesting infusion that contains a hint of passion fruit. Regardless, you’ll have plenty of chili-infused passion fruit simple syrup left over, so experiment away on other recipes.

  • 1.5 oz. gin
  • 2 oz. chili-passion fruit infusion
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz. simple syrup
  • Soda

Add ice to a mixing glass and build the drink. Stir or shake. Serve in a highball glass or flute and top with a float of club soda.

Old Fashioned

You might not feel like traveling all over hell’s half acre in search of some of the ingredients needed to make the cocktails above. And that’s no problem. Chances are you already have everything you need to make this classic cocktail. The Old Fashioned first turned up on Bourbon Country at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, KY, in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Some dispute exists as to whether club soda is appropriate. I’ve had good results with just a splash, but I prefer a long stir to release some water from the ice. For an interesting twist on this classic, use kumquats sliced into discs or quarters.

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 orange slices, one cut thickly
  • 3 oz. bourbon
  • 2 maraschino cherries

In the bottom of an old-fashioned glass, soak the sugar cube with the bitters. Muddle this together with the thickly-sliced orange (or three kumquats sliced into discs and seeded) and one of the cherries. Add the bourbon. One large ice cube is ideal. If you don’t have large cubes, just add a small handful of ice cubes. Give it all a good stir while counting to thirty. Garnish with the second orange and cherry.IMG_0590

Two cocktail books worth your money:

Dale DeGroff, The Craft of the Cocktail (New York: Clarkson Potter, 2002).

Gary Regan, The Joy of Mixology: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender’s Craft (New York: Clarkson Potter, 2003).

Related Tempest Articles

When Once They Drank Beer Warm: Cocktails and Concoctions from Olde Albion

Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer

With the exception of the cobbler shaker (Wiki Commons), photos by F.D. Hofer.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Five Ways to Become a Better Drinker in 2015

A belated Happy New Year to all ye faithful Tempest readers! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season filled with plenty of good cheer.

It’s been a few weeks now, but I’m back at it after my Kentucky adventures tracking the shy and retiring Pappy and the increasingly elusive Weller.IMG_2231 For this, my first post of 2015, I’m going to share some tips that have helped me become a better drinker over the years. No, not the “Dude! I just slammed ten tequilas and I’m just getting started” kind of drinker, but a more informed and engaged beer enthusiast.

Tasting beer, wine, saké, and spirits is one of life’s more enjoyable rituals, but it’s also an aptitude you can hone with a bit of practice. True, some people have a keener sense of smell than others, and some people have a more refined palate. But despair not! A modicum of attention to what you’re drinking and how you’re drinking it cannot help but enhance your enjoyment and appreciation of what’s in your glass.


Glasses are as good a place to start as any. A Hefeweizen’s towering foam cap is epic in its proper vessel, and the Chimay chalice adds a certain gravitas to your drinking session. Fortunately, though, you don’t need to go out and buy a whole cabinet-full of glassware, nice as it all looks on display.

If you buy one new glass in 2015, make it the versatile tulip glass. Its bulbous mid-section will contain the most vigourous of Belgian beers, and its tapered rim concentrates the aromas of those IPAs so many of you love to drink. You can also use it as a snifter for your barley wines and imperial stouts.IMG_2583 The tulip glass is a far better option than the standard pint glass, which, despite the fond attachment we may feel for this iconic drinking vessel, does a poor job of showcasing the aromas of a well-crafted beer.

Serving Temperature

Now that you’ve acquired shiny new glassware for your precious elixir, give some thought to the temperature at which you’ll drink your beverage of choice. In North America, it’s been hammered into our heads since birth that beer is to be drunk ice-cold. Warm beer? That’s what the Brits drink. Old cultural habits and stereotypes die hard.

I know it’s difficult with that beer sitting there calling out to you to drink it, but let’s resolve in 2015 to wait for the beer to come up to its ideal temperature. (To get a sense of the temperature ranges over which you can drink your various styles of beer, check out Ratebeer’s extremely useful “Serving Temperature Guide.”) Our patience will be rewarded with more complex hop aromas and a more intense malt character.

Try this experiment with two bottles of Fuller’s ESB. Chill one in the fridge, and store the other bottle as close to cellar temperature (13C/55F, give or take a degree or two) as you can. When you drink them side by side out of your new tulip glasses, I’m betting that you’ll get more out of the bottle that has been resting at cellar temperature. As for all those barley wines, Doppelbocks, imperial stouts, and Belgian quads? It pays to throw to the wind all those inhibitions we may feel about drinking warm beer.

Eat and drink with a catholic embrace

Or, if you prefer, drink promiscuously. Drink every beer style you can get your hands on. Drink wine. Drink rum. Eat chocolate. Order some coffee from a good roaster. Learn more about the art of the cocktail.IMG_2340 There’s a whole world to be explored beyond craft beer, and all of it will augment your understanding and appreciation of beer.

Earlier this year, I asked Cornell flavour chemist, Gavin Sacks, about what he does to get the most out of his research and tasting sessions. His advice bears repeating:

Remember that there are no unique flavor compounds or flavors to be found in wine or beer. So, try to smell and taste lots of things, not just wine or beer. Go to a perfume shop or a candle store or an auto parts store and sniff everything. Buy a bunch of obscure fruits from the local Asian market and taste them.

Compare and Contrast

Flights are the way to go. They also make for a great excuse to get your friends together for some postprandial entertainment. Here’s Sacks again:

Never, ever taste a single wine or beer at a time. Humans are lousy at doing sensory evaluation on a single product in a vacuum; we’re much better at doing comparative studies.

If you’re just getting a handle on what kinds of beer you like, flights enable you to sample a wide range of styles. If you’ve been drinking craft beer for some time, you can arrange a flight of, say, stouts to see which iterations of the style you like more than others. It goes without saying that flights also allow you to try a number of beers at a bar or brewery without getting totally hammered. Spend some time with the beers, and take a few notes.IMG_0508

Tasting Notes

Drink. Write. Repeat.

Whether you’re an Untappd junky or whether you prefer to write your notes in a notebook, take notes on at least a third of the beers you drink this year. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll develop your abilities to describe how your beer smells and tastes.

While you’re at it, pair the BJCP Style Guidelines with your tasting sessions to get a better sense of both what the brewer was trying to achieve and what flavour and aroma characteristics you might encounter in your bière de garde, Altbier, or American pale ale. Then write down your impressions. With a little practice, your sensory memory will grow into a well-stocked repository of aroma and flavour descriptors.

* * *

Should you find the “practice” element of beer appreciation too onerous on occasion, just grab a beer out of your fridge or cellar and kick back. Becoming a better drinker isn’t meant to be hard work, after all.

Cheers to a healthy and prosperous 2015!


Related Tempest Articles

The Industry Series: Tasting Tips from Cornell Flavour Chemist, Gavin Sacks

How To Become a Beer Liaison: An Interview with Genesee’s Sean Coughlin


Willett Distillery, Bardstown, KY

Tulip glass

Barrels at Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY

Flights of beer at Ithaca Beer Company

All images by F.D. Hofer.


© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Bourbon Squared: Maple-Glazed Pork Belly Meets Barrel-Aged Beer

’Tis the season for rich dishes that combat cold evenings. If you’re looking for an alternative to the ubiquitous turkey (or if you just plain like pork), this dish echoes the flavours and aromas of the bourbon barrel-aged beers I featured last weekend. It would also accent the maltiness of English-style barley wine quite nicely. Serve your favourite kale dish as a side so that you don’t feel too bad about eating and drinking such an ample combination.

Maple-Glazed Bourbon and Apple Cider Pork Belly



  • 2.5 to 3 lbs pork belly, rubbed generously with coarse sea salt and pepper
  • 1.5 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 pinches salt (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp mixed peppercorns
  • ¼ cup dry vermouth
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup for the glaze


Rub pork eight hours beforehand or, preferably, the night before. Remove from fridge about twenty to thirty minutes before cooking and preheat oven to 300 degrees. While the pork is coming up to room temperature, prepare the vegetables and the braising liquid (apple cider, bourbon, chicken stock, apple cider vinegar, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves).

Heat about 1 tbsp oil in a heavy casserole. Cut the slab of pork in half, and brown each piece over medium-high heat, one at a time, until golden brown. Drain fat, reserving 1.5 tbsp.

Add the vegetables to the reserved fat and sauté. Scrape all of this to the side, and deglaze with the pot with vermouth. Gently score the fat side of the pork belly slabs, return to the pot, and  add the braising liquid. Bring up close to a boil and, if need be, adjust salt level before placing in the oven.

Cook in oven for 2 hours, and then turn the oven down to 200 degrees for the next 1.5 hours or so.

Remove pot from the oven, and remove the pork slabs. Strain and de-fat the sauce, and then begin reducing it. While the sauce is reducing, add the maple syrup. Continue Reducing until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.

Cut the pork slab into large cubes, and crisp each fat side in a skillet or stainless steel pan over medium-high heat. Place on a plate, and spoon the glaze over the cubes.

Wine complements this dish just as well as beer. A lighter red wine would do just fine, but don’t forget about the compelling possibilities of white wine. Try an aged Chenin Blanc from the Loire region of France – an excellent match with the maple and bourbon in the glaze – or even a crisp sparkling wine from California or the Finger Lakes.

Bon Appétit!

Related Tempest Articles

The Fonduementals of Beer and Cider: Recipes to Warm Your Weekend

Bourbon in Michigan: Barrel-Aged Beer along the Great Lakes

A Trio of Barrel-Aged Imperial Stouts: Prairie’s Pirate Bomb, Goose Island’s Bourbon County, Victory’s Dark Intrigue

© 2013 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.