Measure & Stir

A Craft Cocktail Blog for the Home Bartender that Focuses on Original Creations Drawn from Culinary Inspiration.

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Mixology Crash Course: Tiki

This is part 11 of a series on Mixology Basics.

Tiki is a deep subject, though it is not, to be honest, my area of expertise. There are whole blogs dedicated to the genre, and I will not claim to do it justice. Still, as this is meant to be an overview, I cannot omit it entirely.

What is tiki? Tiki is a feeling you get, deep in your heart. It’s warm sunshine, lazy beaches, tropical fruits, exotic spices, and enough rum to drown a rhinoceros.


It sounds like Martin Denny (no really, click that link and listen to it while you read this part) and its hallmarks are plastic palm trees, paper umbrellas, and a Polynesian adventure aesthetic.

The most iconic Tiki drink is the Mai Tai, which is the only one I’m going to give you. Tiki recipes are contentious, and there are at least three major recipes that go around. Tiki was started by a couple guys back in the thirties named Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic, and the main past time of Tiki enthusiasts seems to be arguing about the historical recipes of various Tiki icons. For my thoughts on that, see below, under The Secret Ingredient is Narrative.

Anyway, I’m an engineer, and I don’t much care for cocktail history. A Mai Tai, as I see it, is a drink that satisfies the following requirements:

  • Contains some proportion of rum, lime juice, orange liqueur, orgeat, and possibly rock candy syrup. Nothing else.
  • Garnished with mint, additional garnishes are allowed.
  • Served over cracked ice.

Beyond that, I don’t have strong preferences. Some Mai Tais call for floats of rum, some for an additional garnish of a spent half lime hull, and others for such heresies as pineapple juice, grenadine, or passion fruit syrup. Those are all Tiki ingredients, but they do not a Mai Tai make.

Mai Tai
1.5 oz of a traditional process rum, such as J. Wray and Nephew
.5 oz of a dark rum, such as Appleton 12
.75 oz of lime juice
.5 oz orange liqueur
.25 oz orgeat syrup
Shake and then strain into a glass full of cracked ice. Garnish with mint sprigs.

OK, I was fibbing. I’m going to give you one more, sort of. To me, Tiki is a lot like Brown, Bitter and Stirred, in that most of the drinks in the subgenre converge on an archetypal form. As with BBS, a good tiki drink is like a good curry; many ingredients and flavors combine to form something muddy and yet distinctively itself.

It’s not uncommon to see a tiki drink with eight to ten ingredients. You can make something that tastes like a tiki drink by 1) owning a bunch of tiki ingredients and 2) combining them in a way that balances sweetness, acidity, and booze. At it’s core, a tiki drink is a sour, usually a huge one. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of tiki ingredients:

  • Rum: dark, light, spiced, traditional, old, young, etc.
  • More rum.
  • Lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, pineapple, and guava juice
  • Coconut cream
  • Strawberry purée
  • Passionfruit syrup, vanilla syrup, orgeat (almond) syrup, cinnamon syrup
  • Allspice dram
  • Falernum
  • Orange liqueur

Beyond this, many tiki drinks will incorporate a single stand-out flavor, such as coffee liqueur, or mezcal. In the same way that you might have a mango curry, you might have a mezcal tiki drink. Here’s a rough cut:

Generic Tiki Thing
1 oz light rum
1 oz dark rum
1 oz of your favorite rum
1 oz of orange or pineapple juice
1.5 oz of lemon or lime juice
1 oz of spiced syrup (cinnamon, vanilla, clove, cardamom,  etc. or a combination)
1 oz of a strongly flavored liqueur or juice of your choosing
Shake it up and pour it over crushed ice. Garnish it with as many fragrant and outrageous things as possible.

This probably serves two people comfortably.


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Mixology Crash Course: Syrups and Infusions

This is part 9 of a series on Mixology Basics.



Simple syrup is a foundational ingredient of mixology, for the simple reason that it is much easier to incorporate sugar into a drink that has already been dissolved into water, than trying to stir granulated sugar into high proof liquid, in to which it does not wish to dissolve.

  • It is important to make your simple syrups with the same ratio of sugar to water every time, in order to produce consistent output.
  • Make your simple syrup in the microwave, it’s faster, cleaner, and it won’t hurt anything. Microwaves don’t magically ruin sugar water.
  • When making a flavored syrup, the goal is to extract as much flavor from the infusing reagent as possible into the water. Some flavors are more water soluble, and some flavors are more alcohol soluble. For the latter, take a look at infusions, below.
  • The easiest way to extract a flavor into a syrup is by simmering the thing you wish to extract in the syrup. Whatever that thing is, break it up into small pieces before simmering it, as a greater surface area will result in a faster and richer extraction.

By way of example:

Raspberry Syrup
80g raspberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Combine all in a pot on the stovetop and lightly crush the raspberries. Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat.

Once the syrup has cooled, strain through a fine-mesh strainer and optionally add .5 oz vodka, as a preservative.

And what, you are wondering, should I do with my raspberry syrup? The possibilities are endless, provided those possibilities include making things taste like raspberry. They range from the mundane:

Raspberry Soda
1.5 oz raspberry syrup
8 oz soda water

to the classic:

Clover Club
1.5 oz gin
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz raspberry syrup
.5 of an egg white

By now it should not escape you that the clover club is a gin sour with raspberry syrup in lieu of simple, enriched with egg white. The Clover Club is a perennial favorite, and you will find that most any fruit-flavored syrup will complement this formulation.

The same technique that you use for raspberry syrup will work for most any berry or fruit; pineapple, blueberry, shnozberry, even peeled ginger; the sky’s the limit.

Another popular one is honey syrup, which is made by using heat to dissolve honey into light simple syrup.

Honey Syrup
1 cup water
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
Microwave it.

And what should you do with your honey syrup? Why, you should make the Bee’s Knees, which is almost the same as the Clover Club!

Bee’s Knees
1.5 oz gin
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz honey

As you can see, mixology is inundated by the narcissism of small differences. But suppose you wanted to make, not a fruit syrup, but a spiced syrup? When it comes to spices, you can usually get away with the microwave, though there is nothing wrong with the stovetop. Cinnamon syrup is particularly versatile. Drop a few cinnamon sticks into your simple syrup recipe, and away you go.


Since we’re already cribbing from Jeffrey Morgenthaler, let’s take a moment to reflect on his grenadine recipe.

1 cups fresh pomegranate juice (approximately 1 large pomegranate) or POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice
1 cup sugar
1 oz pomegranate molasses
.5 tsp orange blossom water

Grenadine is a magical syrup made from pomegranate juice, lightly seasoned with orange flower water.  If you make grenadine this way, you will be happy, and your cocktails will sparkle.

The canonical grenadine cocktail, of course, is the Jack Rose:

Jack Rose
1.5 oz Apple Jack (I prefer Calvados, personally)
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz grenadine

This is a light, fruit, summery kind of drink. Don’t take it too seriously, and if you like, bump up the grenadine to .75 oz. It’s great served up, and it’s great as a collins.

Oleo Saccharum

Oleo saccharum is latin for “oily sugar”, and it’s a special, decadent kind of syrup which is appropriate for festive occasions, or any time you feel like taking it to the next level. To make oleo saccharum, macerate citrus peels in sugar for half a day.

First, select one ore more appropriate citrus fruits. Oranges, lemons, and grapefruits are all good choices, though tangerines, quinces, and buddha’s hands are all possible. Lime tends to be a non-starter.

Remove as much peel from your citrus as possible, being careful not to get any pith. It’s possible to trim your peels after they are cut, and it is worth doing. Pith is bitter and will spoil your syrup.

In a large, covered bowl, combine the peels with at least a cup of sugar. This is not really exact, but I find that the peel of three oranges is suitable for one cup of sugar. Toss the peels in the sugar to coat, and don’t be afraid to give it a good muddling.

If you desire, fresh herbs or spices can also be added at this time.

Wait at least four hours, and notice how the sugar melts and pulls all of the oils out of the peels, becoming a rich, flavorful syrup.

Strain, and use it in your favorite sour. Why not try this?

Elevated Paloma
1.5 oz reposado tequila
1 oz grapefruit oleo saccharum
.75 oz lime juice
4 oz soda water
Serve in a highball glass full of ice.



Infusing is a technique for rendering an aromatic ingredient’s flavor into a spirit. When it comes to infusions, the question you need to ask yourself is “why?”. Liquor is expensive, and for the home mixologist, it is easy to waste a lot of spirits.

There are two reasons one might use an infusion over a syrup. The first is that it is possible to pack extra flavors into a smaller space. You might want to add the flavor of a spice to a drink without the sugar that goes along with a syrup.

The caveat here, and also the second reason to favor an infusion, is that, for any particular reagent, a different subset of its flavors will be alcohol soluble vs. water soluble.

Alcohol infusions are great for capturing aromas, but they miss a certain slice of the flavor which is hard to describe. My heuristic is: for aromatic ingredients, capture them in an infusion; for ingredients with strong flavors but mild smells, capture them in a syrup or a juice.

Sometimes, to get the best of both worlds, it is advisable to make a liqueur.

cacao nibs day 1

The process for making a liqueur is simple:

  1. Make an infusion
  2. Make a syrup using the same flavors as the liqueur
  3. Combine them to your desired level of proof.
  4. Rest the liqueur for a few weeks to let it mellow and meld.

Ah, but how, exactly, does one make an infusion? If you are making a liqueur, it is advisable to use a very high proof spirit. A higher concentration of alcohol will produce a richer, fuller extraction. Cask strength bourbon, navy strength gin, or good old everclear are all suitable choices.

The biggest mistake that people make with infusions is infusing for too long. Often you will hear a friend brag of how they “infused for a month” or more. This is pure folly. Depending upon the reagent, some infusions are ready within a few hours, and most are ready within a few days, though some can take up to two weeks.

Over-infusing is a real thing. Have you ever steeped a tea bag for too long in hot water? The result is bitter, acrid, overly tannic tea. Infusions that run for too long can pick up off notes, so be mindful.


Infusion Time Cheat Sheet

  • Chili peppers infuse the fastest. Depending on the type of pepper and the volume of spirit, one hour is easily too long. Most chili pepper infusions are far too hot, because the bars that use them over-infuse them.
  • Tea takes about six hours.
  • Fresh herbs like to go over night.
    • Avoid mint infusions, as they end up tasting like toothpaste.
    • Similarly, sage infusions get skunky.
  • Spices take about three days, though some can be faster.
  • Most fruits and vegetables take a week or two.

Rate of Extraction vs. Surface Area

Of course, as with any kind of steeping process, the rate of extraction is a function of surface area. Ground up spices will infuse just as fast as you can stir them in and strain them out, but ground spices are also hard to strain out cleanly, unless you grind them fresh, will have already dried out too much to convey good flavor.

A bunch of thin peeled ginger slices will infuse much faster than a single large chunk. Save yourself the time and prefer many small pieces over a few large ones.

I’ll make a special note about coffee, since any coffee nerd will tell you, a good extraction is all about the size of the grind. Let’s say you drop whole, unground coffee beans into vodka. It will take about three weeks to reach the place you want, though agitating the mixture might speed it up a bit.

On the other hand, a medium, pour-over style grind will be ready over night, just like a cold brew.

Fat Washing

Let’s finish off this topic with an oddball. Did you know, most of the flavor in meat comes from the fat? And further, the flavors of fats are partly alcohol soluble? Yes, it’s true, you can infuse animal fats into liquor. This is not a method for the faint of heart.

To fat wash a spirit, pour a quarter cup of warm (not hot) liquid fat into about a cup of liquor and give it a good shake. It will separate in pretty short order, but that won’t hurt anything. If you want a deeper infusion, shake it longer, although in my experience it reaches a saturation point pretty quickly.

To remove the fat, leave the infusion in the freezer over night. All of the fat will solidify at the top in a frozen disk. Remove this, and then strain out any (still-frozen) stray particles using a coffee filter. I have found that liquors treated this way develop a bit of an oily mouthfeel.

Bacon Old-Fashioned
1.5 oz bacon fat-washed bourbon
.5 oz maple syrup
2 dash angostura bitters
garnish with an orange peel and a strip of candied bacon.
embrace the void

This drink is more novel than delicious.

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Mixology Crash Course: Sours

This is part 4 of a series on Mixology Basics.


1.5 oz of a base spirit
.75 oz of a souring agent
.5 oz of a sweetener
Shake over ice and double-strain into a stemmed glass.

The above is my personal preference for a sour, which is also sometimes called a daisey. There are several canonical variations and considerations:

  • Only use freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice. Once released from their fruity prison, juices immediately start to break down, losing their volatile flavor compounds. The first thing to go will be bright, floral complexity on the sip. Day-old lime juice tastes like lime kool-aid, having lost everything but a vague limey citrus finish, accompanied by naked citric acid. Within four hours of juicing is preferred, and à la minute is best.
  • For that matter, never use any pasteurized or unfresh juice. If you are thinking of using pineapple juice in a drink, juice your own pineapple. Shelf-stable juices are particularly awful, as they have been boiled under pressure to a temperature of 121 C. This kills any microorganisms, deactivates enzymes, and removes 80% of the flavor. If you can’t get truly fresh juice, make a different drink.
  • It is acceptable to serve a sour up or on the rocks, according to your own preference and taste.
  • Bitters generally do not enhance the flavor of a sour drink. Quite the opposite, they dull the brightest flavors, leaving your drink tasting flat.
  • Liqueurs are not as sweet as syrups. If the sweetener is a liqueur, a barspoon (defined as 1/2 tsp) of simple syrup may be desirable.
  • Less experienced cocktail drinkers, or those with an incurable sweet tooth, will generally prefer their sweetener and souring agent in equal proportions, i.e., .75 oz of each.
  • Sours generally taste best if they are a few degrees warmer than they come out immediately post-shake. For this reason, I suggest NOT chilling the glass (see below) before pouring a sour.
  • More complicated sour compositions are easily possible. The simplest is to add a full ounce of a non-sour (i.e., succulent), juice, such as mango, pineapple, orange, strawberry, etc.
    • When working with succulent juices, be aware of their sweetness. Some juices can throw off your balance of sour to sweet. To adjust for this, mix in the following order: base spirit, souring agent, succulent juice, taste the drink, add an appropriate amount of sweetener.
    • Some “juices”, such as strawberry, are more properly called purées, on account of their thick texture. They will not go through your fine mesh strainer easily, and it is advisable to strain them finely BEFORE adding them to your drink, to make your post-shake pour go more smoothly.


Classic Sours

Within these guidelines, here are the most famous, common, and wonderful sours:

2 oz light rum*
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz simple syrup

*Note that this drink is best served slightly overproof from the standard recipe. It is the foundation of all Tiki drinks, and it is eminently approachable. You will notice, of course, that it bears little resemblance to your standard frozen strawberry daiquiri served at resorts the world over.

Whiskey Sour
1.5 oz bourbon
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup

This is the grand-daddy of sours. It is more than the sum of its parts, and one of the most delicious drinks ever invented. It is often served with a half ounce of egg white incorporated into it. This will cause it to develop a rich, frothy head and a velvety mouthfeel. For more about this, see Egg Whites below under Etc.

Floating a half ounce of red wine on top of the drink (performed by gently pouring the wine over the back of a spoon) makes this a New York Sour.

1.5 oz tequila
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz orange liqueur
1 barspoon of simple syrup

The Margarita is a delicious drink, but many people prefer theirs with an unsalted rim. This is wrong. The salt wakes up the vegetal and briny flavors in the tequila, creating a unique and intriguing experience.

To salt a glass, first run a wedge of lime over the lip of the glass, and then dip the glass in a dish of kosher salt. Coarse salt is preferable to fine salt, both because of its pleasing appeance, and because it will result a smaller amount of salt on the palate per sip.

Like tequila itself, salt on the rim of a glass is an acquired taste, but like most acquired tastes, it is worth acquiring.

1.5 oz brandy
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz orange liqueur
1 barspoon of simple syrup
(optional) sugar on the rim of the glass.

Notice that this is a mad lib of a Margarita, or maybe it’s the other way around. The sugar on the rim is a more recent fashion, but I cannot deny that it is delicious. Unlike the Margarita, the sugar is optional. It does not make or break the drink: it is merely an indulgence.

1.5 oz vodka
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz cranberry  juice cordial
.5 oz orange liqueur

The Cosmo is an interesting beast. With its addition of .5 oz cranberry cordial, it runs a little sweet vs. the standard sour proportions. Also note that cranberry juice cordial is not the same thing as cranberry juice, and while you could make your own, it is one of the rare instances where it is acceptable to use a store-bought, shelf-stable variety.

A juice cordial is a juice that has been diluted and sweetened, and nearly all commercially available cranberry juices are, in fact, cranberry juice cordials. Pure, fresh cranberry juice is bitingly bitter and sour, and will not make a good cosmopolitan without significant processing.

Everyone expects a cosmo to taste like cranberry juice cordial, so just use it. If you are feeling frisky, make it yourself.

Pisco Sour
1.5 oz pisco
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz gomme syrup
.5 oz egg white

Unlike the whiskey sour, in the pisco sour, the egg white is not optional. We will discuss egg whites below, under the heading Etc., below, sub-heading: “Egg Whites”.

As for gomme syrup, this is a classic cocktail ingredient made by incorporating gum arabic into simple syrup, or by purchasing gomme syrup. Gum arabic is a hydrocolloid (a thickening agent that can make water more viscous) that gives the syrup a smoother, almost creamy mouthfeel.

Real Gimlet
1.5 oz gin
.75 oz lime cordial

A true gimlet uses a lime cordial, which is made by steeping lime peels and sugar in lime juice until they form a rich, tart, limey syrup. Almost no one does it this way because it’s inconvenient and because composing it as a standard sour tastes very similar.

The Gimlet that Everyone Actually Makes
1.5 oz gin
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz simple syrup

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Mixology Crash Course: Gear And Technique

This is part 2 of a series on Mixology Basics.


ShakerKoriko makes the best shaker money can buy. It is affordable, durable, and stylish. Most shakers that you buy off the shelf are garbage. They leak, they stick, and/or they have weird capacities. At the least, don’t waste your time with cobbler shakers. Their built in strainers are awkward, and the cap will stick at the worst of times, making you look like an amateur.

Jigger – A jigger is a small measuring cup. Bartenders from before the cocktail revolution (circa 2010) mastered free-pouring as a matter of pride. Bartenders at non-craft (i.e., shit) bars probably still free pour, but you will never achieve true precision and if you just eye it or guess it or god forbid, count “one Mississippi” or something like that. In terms of aesthetics, you can find prettier jiggers, but for sheer utility, nothing beats the angled stainless steel jigger from OXO.

Hawthorne Strainer – A hawthorne strainer is one of those little metal plates with a spring attached. I don’t much care where you get it, they’re all pretty much the same. I prefer one with a handle.

Fine-Mesh Strainer – Even more critical than a hawthorne strainer is a 3 inch fine-mesh strainer. If you don’t have a hawthorne strainer, you can jimmy your boston shakerto have a narrow opening, but there is no replacement for a fine-mesh. You should run almost all your drinks through a fine-mesh strainer, to yield a smooth and elegant texture. THIS PIECE IS ESSENTIAL. If you don’t have have one, you aren’t serious, get the hell off my blog.

Barspoon – You could get by without this piece, but it adds a certain ceremonial flair that, in this author’s humble opinion, elevates the mundane actions of “measuring” and “stirring” into something altogether more refined. I favor the long, graceful Japanese style.

Muddler – Your choice of muddler is quite personal. Wooden ones are more stylish, while stainless steel ones are a bit more practical. Whatever you choose, it should feel right to you – sturdy, and good in the hand. The ideal muddler is a single, solid piece, with no seams and a flat bottom for making contact with that which you desire to muddle. Simpler is better, because it is easier to maintain and clean.

Ice – Is ice equipment, or is it an ingredient? Perhaps it is both. It is a common element between the majority of your drinks, and you should pay attention to its shape, clarity, and flavor. Ice that sits in a freezer for too long develops unpleasant aromas. Ice which is impure becomes cloudy, and ice with a suboptimal shape will melt too quickly. The best ice is cubical or spherical, clear as glass, and fresh. Always pursue excellence in your ice.

Glassware – Making cocktails never clicked for me until I got some appropriate glassware. The exact pieces you acquire are a personal choice, but you cannot truly enjoy a cocktail in one of those chunky tumblers you have in your cabinet that you use for water. Mixed drinks are usually low-volume, meaning they must be served in a low volume glass. The glassware you use should add a touch of class to the drink that you make.



Although the techniques of a chef are many, the techniques of a bartender are few, which is all the more reason to master them.

Dilution – It sounds simple, and it is. Still, there are considerations when stirring a drink. The first question is, what is the right technique to mix a drink? The answer depends on the ingrediedents. Drinks that contain fresh juices or any significant fat content will benefit from aeration, which shaking provides. Stirring is appropriate for drinks that contain only spirits, bitters, and syrups.

Stirring and shaking are primarily about dilution. You can incorporate the ingredients in a drink with just a little agitation, but undiluted drinks usually aren’t very good. By volume, water makes up the largest single component of your drink, so it is worth it to pay attention. Proper dilution can make bad spirits palatable, and good spirits divine.

Regardless of your method, you should expect your drink to gain two to three ounces of water when you mix it. The proof of your drink, pre-mix, is probably around 80 or 90, and it should drop down to somewhere between 40 and 50.

This is desirable, because it will make even a low quality spirit taste “smooth”, and will help some of the subtler flavors come out.

Stirring – The first method for diluting a drink is stirring. Stirring should be done gently and quietly. The goal of shaking is to aerate and froth a drink; the goal of stirring is to leave it as flat as possible. A martini or a manhattan should be perfectly clear and smooth. Air bubbles will disrupt both appearance and texture.

To stir, place the back of your spoon on the outside of your mixing vessel (the larger half of your cocktail shaker is adequate), and gently revolve it around the outside. Try not to make any noise as you move through the ice. Depending on the size and temperature of your ice, you will probably want to stir for about thirty seconds. It takes some practice to develop an intuition for when a drink is “done”.

The act of pouring the drink from shaker to glass is another opportunity to aerate. Therefore, pour as gently as you stir. It is generally not necessary to use a fine-mesh strainer with stirred drinks, as there should be no small particles to remove.

Shaking – Shaking is arguably simpler than stirring. Pour the drink over ice, clamp down you shaker, and shake. Shaking is the most theatrical part of preparing a mixed drink, and it’s worth investing in your optics. If you want an example of shaking perfection, look no further than Kazuo Uyeda, who does at least three things against my advice, (cobbler shaker, free-pouring, no fine-mesh strainer), but he’s Kazuo Uyeda, he comes from an older tradition, and he can do as he likes.

It is a great idea to follow his theatrics, but it is not so great to follow his pouring technique. Strain your drink, and don’t leave me with a bunch of pulp and ice floating on top.

Tasting -To taste your drink, hold up your hand, palm facing down, and scrunch up your thumb to create a small divot between your thumb and your wrist. Using your barspoon, ladle a taste of your drink into the divot and then slurp it from your hand. It may sound a bit boorish, but it’s better than drinking out of your barspoon, and it will make it look like you know what you’re doing.

Tasting is the critical, and under-appreciated, technique of the mixologist. I suggest tasting your drink both before and after you mix it, using the technique above. This will help you verify that your pre-mix ratios are good, and your dilution and chill are good.

You should even go further: to truly understand your drinks, you should taste each component separately (do it on your own time, not when your guests are waiting) in order to appreciate the contribution that each piece is making. If an ingredient is not coming through in the final product, cut it, or beef it up. Don’t endure useless ingredients.

Serving – Drinks that are not lengthened with carbonation can be served either Up or On the Rocks. To serve a drink up, you will select a cocktail glass (also called a Martini glass by the plebs), and pour the drink into it. A drink that is served up should never contain ice.

To serve a drink on the rocks, you should, prior to mixing, have a tumbler (or “rocks glass”) ready and full of fresh ice. Do not use the ice from your shake as the ice in your drink. It’s already been cracked and partly melted. After mixing the drink, pour it over the fresh ice in your tumbler.

It is important that the tumbler be full to capacity with ice. A small amount of ice will melt quickly, but a large amount will keep itself cold, and melt much more slowly, helping you to retain optimal dilution.


Before we get any further, here are a few key terms.

  • Base spirit – Any of vodka, whiskey, tequila, gin, rum, brandy, calvados, pisco, cachaça, shochu, soju, baiju, or any other relatively unsweetened spirit. On occasion, any spirit can fill in as a base, but generally we mean the above.
  • Souring agent – an acidic liquid, usually lemon or lime juice, but maybe yoghurt, cranberry, vinegar, verjus, or a powdered acid.
  • Modifier – A small amount of a flavorful liquid, usually a liqueur or a syrup
  • Bitters – Concentrated flavor tinctures that add complexity and depth. Made by steeping bitter herbs in strong alcohol.
  • Simple Syrup – A mixture of 1:1 sugar and water (by volume), heated just enough to melt the sugar and clarify the liquid.
  • Lengthen – To add a large volume of a mild liquid to a drink, to make it weaker and extend the time it takes to drink it. Most commonly carbonated water or tea.



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Mixology Crash Course

I have (virtually) spilled a lot of (virtual) ink expounding on the joys and the variegated forms of mixed drinks. Of course, combining ethanol and sugar-water is my hobby, and I don’t much tire of it, but people often ask me, Joe, how do I make the basics?

The basics of mixology are very simple. With a few simple tools, techniques, and ratios, you, too, can dodge social obligations at parties by nerding out about booze.


The drink recipes in the following sections are meant to form a core of essential knowledge, but they are by no means exhaustive, and they are not intended to be.

You can make a drink out of almost anything if you follow a few classic ratios

I hope this guide helps you take your cocktail game to the next level, whatever that level might be.


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How Bout Some Hot Chocolate Huh?

To be honest, I don’t have that much to say about this. Is a hot chocolate a hot toddy? It’s one of those wacky philosophy questions; irrelevant, precious, and decadent, like the Gettier Problem. I made this drink by request, since after Johan made his chocolate entremet, he had a big bowl of leftover sour cream dulcey chocolate mousse, and let’s be real, the cocoa bean is his dark master.

To make the chocolate base, we used whole non-homogenized jersey milk, and melted in chopped up feuves of Valrhona Araguani 72% and Valrhona Caramellia. To the chocolate base we added Frangelico, George Dickel Rye, and Angostura bitters. For garnish, we used a dollop of sour cream mousse, which Johan describes in pain-staking detail.


Hot Chocolate (Cocktailish Proportions)
.5 oz Rye (George Dickel)
.5 oz Frangelico
5 oz Hot chocolate milk
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Garnish with a healthy dollop of Sour Cream Dulcey Chocolate Mousse

Remember, your drink is only as good as the worst thing you put into it. When your drink is mostly milk and chocolate, that means you need to use good milk and good chocolate.

An unfortunate quality to hot milk drinks: they seem to make the burn of strong spirits more pronounced. If you pour the booze much heavier, the drink becomes less soothing and more abrasive.

Hot Toddy Lesson Five: Use a lower ABV when lengthening with milk.


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My Toddy’s So Buddha-Licious: Rye, Buddha’s Hand, Lemon

Note: While you read this post, please bask in the glow of this early 2000s pop smash, Bootylicious by Destiny’s Child.

I know, I just did a Buddha’s Hand Cocktail, but then I realized I had an opportunity to make a drink with the best name in the history of my blog.

In last week’s post, I tried to capitalize on a complex harmony between dill, citrus, salmon, and aquavit. For this hot toddy, I wanted to get back to the essence of the Buddha’s Hand. At its heart, a hot toddy is pretty close to a classic punch, but with the “weak” element heated. Your classic punch is 1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts strong, 4 parts weak. This is usually rendered as lime juice, simple syrup, rum, and water, but if you make that drink, it doesn’t feel quite right:

1-2-3-4 punch?
.5 oz lime
1 oz simple syrup
1.5 oz rum
2 oz water

After shaking with ice, you can expect your 3 oz cocktail to gain about 2 oz of water. Personally though, I prefer .75 oz of lime, and .5 oz of sugar, for a 1.5-1-3-4 sort of ratio. Well, times and tastes changes. Anyway, all of this is a long lead up to say that a classic punch is usually made with an oleo saccharum, and in this instance, the classic punch ratio ended up being perfect. Perhaps oleo saccharum isn’t as sweet as 1:1 simple syrup?

toddysobuddhalicious Please note that the rosemary above was completely decorative, sandwiched in between two separable glass pieces in the unique serving vessel that we found for this drink. A stemless cocktail glass sits snugly inside a glass bowl, insulated by a layer of air. Not only is this perfect for keeping your drink warm, but it has a bulbous shape that reminded me of a laughing Buddha. Of course, one of these Buddha Tiki Mugs would be even better.

My Toddy’s So Buddha-Licious
1.5 oz rye (Dickel)
1 oz Dilled Buddha’s Hand Oleo Saccharum
.5 oz lemon juice
Top with 2 oz boiling water and float a single star anise inside.

As you will recall, the Buddha’s hand oleo from last week had some dill in it, but by the time I made this drink a couple days later, the dill flavor had mellowed substantially. I chose rye to further blur the flavor of dill in the drink, a job it did admirably owing to its pickley notes. Lemon flavor is similar enough to Buddha’s hand that it can play a supporting role, while leaving the oily fragrance of its lead to be the star.

This drink captured the flavor of Buddha’s hand with a lot of purity. In a way, it tasted like an idealized Buddha’s hand might, if only the fruit had flesh to go with its unctuous skin.

I got away from winter spices this week, which allowed us to focus on the core composition of this style. Hot Toddy Lesson Four: A toddy is a classic punch.