Tag Archives: saké

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.

Austin: A User’s Guide for the Craft Beverage Enthusiast (Breweries)

Welcome to Tempest’s ongoing series on Austin’s craft beer scene. In this segment, I profile breweries that I visited in Austin. Part 1 (here) introduced a few of Austin’s brewpubs. Part 3 (here) details taprooms and bottle shops in the Austin area.

Notes on Method

Drinking your way through Austin (or any region, for that matter) is an enjoyable way to spend five days. But it’s difficult indeed to make a dent in all of the breweries, brewpubs, and taprooms that Austin and its environs have to offer. If an establishment is not represented in this spotlight, it is simply due to scheduling conflicts or time constraints. Next time! As for prices, they change regularly and are readily available from a given establishment’s website.

Austin Mural (centraltexasmurals-com)


As mentioned in Part 1 of this User’s Guide, a good way to get a handle on Austin’s beverage scene is to seek out the Austin Beer Guide with its comprehensive coverage, maps, and brief write-ups on craft beverage establishments in Central, North, South, and Greater Austin. Each issue offers roughly eighty to ninety pages of scene-related articles.

Breweries and Such

Central Austin is home to a handful of breweries (Live Oak; Hops & Grain), but the majority of production facilities involve some travel time. Thanks to recent legislative changes governing the consumption and distribution of beer in Texas, production breweries are now able to sell beer on premises to visitors who make time for the trek. Tasting rooms are fast becoming a part of the craft beer landscape. Gone are the days when patrons would have to pay for a tour and glassware as a means of sampling a brewery’s wares on site.

Located a stone’s throw from the farmland of Pflugerville, a small town recently incorporated into Austin’s northeastern periphery, Rogness Brewing Company has become a magnet for the surrounding exurbs with its trivia nights and brew-house film screenings.IMG_9559 Diane and Forrest Rogness, the long-time owners of Austin Homebrew Supply, are no strangers to the kinds of serendipitous brewing discoveries that result from a twist of this and a dash of that. Beers such as the chai-spiced Yogi amber beer and the lavender-scented Joi d’été saison augment a strong year-round collection of 22-oz. bottlings that includes a porter, pale ale, IPA, Scotch ale, and even a bière de garde. (See my “Rogness: A Plethora of Beer from Pflugerville” for an in-depth feature of this family-operated community hub.)

Also tucked away in the northern reaches of the Austin area is something you don’t see every day: a cinema that serves beer and food inside the inner sanctum of its theatres. And not just any beer, but craft beer brewed on site.Flix - Theater Exterior 2 Flix Brewhouse bills itself as the only first-run movie theatre in the world to incorporate a fully-functioning microbrewery. If your plans don’t involve a film, that’s fine too. The Flix Mix brewpub caters to the imbibing needs of the Round Rock community with in-house brews and guest taps. For a brewpub, the food menu is fairly straightforward, but as far as cinemas go, this is a major step up from the standard cineplex fare of overpriced popcorn and chocolate bars. The house beer lineup features a blend of nine regular, seasonal, and limited-edition beers brewed broadly in the Belgian, Scottish, and American traditions. Try a few samples before settling on a pint. At their best, the beers are refreshing (Flix Golden; Luna Rosa Wit), or they represent unique and often compelling experiments (Beer of the Dead; Brambler Sour). If your idea of a good time involves a mix of mainstream Hollywood movies and craft beer, you could do much worse than a trip out to the Round Rock area of Greater Austin. (See my “Flix: Craft Beer at a Theatre Near You” for more.)

Austin is a sprawling city, with plenty to see and do besides visiting breweries. If you had time to visit but one brewery while in the Austin area, I’d go with Jester King, not so much because I think they make great beer – they do – but more for the opportunity to get out into the surrounding countryside for an afternoon.IMG_9585 The rolling hills and semi-arid scenery, the quaint farmhouse brewery, the bustling tasting room, and the informative tour make for a worthwhile excursion. Add the nearby Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza with its wood-fired oven and cracker-like thin-crust pizza, and you’ve got a satisfying meal into the bargain as well. Jester King has generated plenty of buzz over the past few years for its farmhouse-style sour and barrel-aged beers, and aside from Petit Prince (not my fave), the hype is justified. Beers range from light-bodied, crisp, and dry to weighty and complex. With its bracing passion fruit, pineapple, and mild hay-like Brettanomyces character, Das Wunderkind Saison (4.5% ABV) occupies one end of the scale. Boxer’s Revenge (10.2% ABV) is representative of the other end, featuring pungent oak-Brett aromatics, a rich yet sour palate, and citrus-infused notes of caramel, pine needle, candied tangerine, and cinnamon-allspice. IMG_9582The mad fermentationists at Jester King have been hard at work developing the kinds of unique yeast strains that’ll contribute additional layers to the “house character” of the beers; look for subtle differences in taste between older and newer versions of Jester King regulars like Wytchmaker, Petit Prince, Mad Meg, and Noble King.

If the Flix format isn’t enough of a change of pace for you, and if the sour and barrel-aged offerings of Jester King haven’t succeeded in stimulating your palate, try something altogether different: saké. Austin’s Texas Saké is the only brewer of saké in the state – and the only one for several hundred miles around, for that matter. (Most North American saké production is concentrated on the West Coast, with a few others in the Twin Cities and Asheville.) Texas Saké rests its brewing philosophy on the foundations of wild fermentation and organic local ingredients. In the case of wild fermentation, Texas Saké brews in what is generally considered to be a less-refined style of saké, yamahai-shikomi, noted for its rustic, bold, gamey, tangy, and potentially funky aroma and flavour profile. As for the ingredients, the kura sources its Shinriki rice strain from the Houston area. (Kura is the Japanese term for saké brewery, and means, literally, storehouse.)IMG_9632 Shinriki is a rare ancestral strain to many of today’s saké rice varieties, and it has an interesting history in Texas (click on the photo to the right). It is a difficult rice to mill, and doesn’t have as large a shinpaku (starch packet) as the Yamada-nishiki variety used widely in Japan. This results in more amino acids and lipids, which contributes yet more gaminess and acidity to the flavour and aroma profile.

Texas Saké bills all of its offerings as junmai sakés, which means that the beverages are brewed with rice, water, and koji mold only. The kura focuses most of its energy on three different bottlings: a nigori (cloudy) offering called Rising Star; a karakuchi (dry) called Tumbleweed; and the less-dry Whooping Crane.Whooping Crane (tx-sake) Now, I understand the economics of producing an organic and artisanal beverage with which not too many people are familiar; however, at an average of $35 per 720mL bottle, the price point is firmly to the north of the dial. And even if rustic and less-refined sakés can make for a refreshing change from delicate and elegant sakés, Texas Saké’s offerings are a tad tart for the style. Be that as it may, these sakés represent a respectable effort, especially given that the folks at Texas Saké are working in a field where it’s not nearly as easy to tap into a broad pool of knowledge as it is in the North American craft beer industry. In spite of the difficulties, I find it encouraging that people are trying to produce more saké in North America, and genuinely wish Texas Saké success as they continue to hone their craft. Hats off to them so far.

*Don’t see your favourite brewery among the ones I profiled? Click on the “Leave a Reply” button located at the top of this post and tell Tempest’s readers about it.

*Next up in the series: taprooms, bottle shops, and beer lists

Related Tempest Articles

Austin: A User’s Guide for the Craft Beer Enthusiast (Brewpubs)

Getting Your Craft Beer Fill at Austin’s Taprooms and Bottleshops

Image Sources and Credits:

Austin postcard: centraltexasmurals.com

Rogness logo: F.D. Hofer

Flix Brewhouse: Flix Facebook page

Hill Country and Jester King photos: F.D. Hofer

Saibara plaque: F.D. Hofer

Whooping Crane: txsake.com

©2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.