This recipe comes courtesy of the folks who make the Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup, and it nicely showcases both the aesthetic and flavor-related strengths of their product; so far as the Bartender’s cocktail-learning quest is concerned, it also demonstrated the supreme importance of using good-quality spirits when mixing a drink. In this instance, she initially thought the drink interesting but a little bitter; when a bit of tinkering with the ingredients failed to produce something more palatable, she set the recipe aside.
Revisiting it some time later and with a far greater vodka selection, the Bartender decided to try making it with Kirkland Signature vodka. And lo and behold – a drink that had previously been mostly a novelty suddenly became extremely tasty. (For the record, plain Skyy is rapidly losing its place on her liquor shelf, although their citrus offering is still excellent.)
This is also an excellent example of how an unusual ingredient and a fancy garnish can really dress up a drink. If you ordered one of these in a nice bar, it’d probably come served by a uniformed attendant with a price tag bordering on the obscene.
Adam & Eve Martini
2 ounces good-quality vodka
3 ounces apple puree (stage 1 baby food works best)
1 ounce Wild Hibiscus syrup
1 hibiscus blossom + maraschino cherry for garnish
Take one hibiscus blossom and stuff it with a maraschino cherry. Shake the rest of the ingredients with ice, then strain into glass. Spear the flower/cherry garnish with a chopstick and lay across the top of your cocktail glass.
Funny thing about buying pomegranate juice to make grenadine – you end up with a lot of juice left over. Not one to waste perfectly good ingredients, the Bartender flipped back through some of her older recipes to see if there were any that might prove assistive in putting the stuff to use.
This particular recipe actually proved doubly helpful; a while back, she had also purchased a bottle of Cîroc, but it had proven too bitter for her initial “shake it up straight for a martini” idea. The fruity richness that sets it apart from other vodkas, however, both stands up to and complements the strong flavor of the pomegranate juice, while said flavor is more than enough to hide the vodka’s bitterness that otherwise comes out along the sides of the tongue.
Should you find yourself without grape-based vodka, however, your regular mixer should do the trick, if with a slight loss in depth of flavor.
1 1/2 ounces Cîroc vodka
1 1/2 ounces pomegranate juice
3/4 ounce triple sec
Pour first three ingredients into the shaker; add ice and squeeze lime wedge into it. Shake and strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lime wheel, or something involving pomegranate seeds if you’re feeling extra-creative.
While a common ingredient in cocktails, grenadine these days is most often found in the shape of a Rose’s bottle on the shelf at your local liquor store for some outrageous sum (hint: you can replicate the product easily simply by adding red food coloring to a far cheaper bottle of corn syrup). Its origins were not always so ignoble, however; once upon a time, the stuff was made from pomegranate juice. Indeed, if you’ll excuse the quick bit of language pedantry, grenadine’s name comes from the French grenada; our term for its source fruit likely comes from their pomme-grenada, “seeded apple”.
One could argue that, given the extremely small amounts generally used in a given cocktail, grenadine suffers no particular loss from its gradual cheapening into what is effectively red syrup. The Rebel Bartender, however, being a bit of a snob, suggests that you make your own classic grenadine – it’s surprisingly easy, and lends a vibrant color to whatever infusion you happen to adulterate it with.
1 cup 100% pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
Put juice in saucepan and heat on medium for a minute or two; whisk in sugar. Continue whisking until thoroughly dissolved, then cool and funnel into clean container of your choice. Cover and refrigerate; should keep for at least a month.
Photo of Rose’s Grenadine stolen from BevMo’s website.
After the Bartender waved goodbye to the last batch of guests (Rebel Houseguests?), she discovered to her delight that they had left a present on her home bar; specifically, a bottle of Grey Goose La Poire. This particular spirit had been on her to-try list for a while – pear vodka is fairly unusual – but given its cost and her generally-unimpressed reaction to the classic Goose, it had never quite made it to an actual purchase. So what better way to try the stuff out than on someone else’s dime?
Fortunately, it’s a much more interesting spirit than plain Grey Goose. Surprisingly strong and non-sweet for such a fruity spirit, it could add an extra dimension to a number of drinks, and likely wouldn’t need to be used in large quantities to do so. This Peartini recipe is an exception, designed to complement and show off La Poire’s qualities. It comes originally from the Grey Goose website, although the Bartender has done a bit of tweaking to get the sweet-sour balance just right – hence the name.
2 ounces Grey Goose La Poire
1/4 ounce amaretto
3/4 ounce syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1 ripe pear
Shake all (liquid) ingredients and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Cut a thin, nearly translucent slice of pear and lay it along the inside of the glass. Enjoy the rest of the pear with the martini – they’re tasty!
Vodka Nearly-Three-Weeks is officially over. The Bartender has enough of the stuff stocked to last her until Judgment Day. If she has to look at another vodka martini in the next six months she’s probably going to be ill. So what better way to celebrate than to have a drink based on her favorite underappreciated spirit?
In all fairness, the Bohemian Bicycle (creation of Doug Levy from the marvelous Feast in Tucson, re-creation mine and fairly close to the original) is not your typical martini-with-a-twist. And while it violates the Bartender’s usual rule of keeping to ingredients that cost $30-or-less a bottle, it’s well worth it: St. Germain runs about $40, comes in a beautiful art deco bottle, and is a remarkably versatile ingredient that’s excellent for adding a touch of herby-floral sweetness to any concoction. Not to mention the sheer class derived from including a French liqueur distilled from elderflower in your ingredients.
Two notes before we begin. First, this is a recipe that definitely depends on the subtleties of specific liquors for its flavor; ergo, substituting a different type of gin is not recommended. Also, note the range in the lime juice; the strength of the juice can vary significantly depending on the age of the limes involved (older limes have had much of the moisture evaporated out of them and therefore have a more concentrated flavor). The goal is for the lime flavor to give it an extra zing without being overpowering. Remember, the key word, as always, is experimentation – that’s the whole fun of it!
1 ounce Bombay Sapphire
1 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 to 3/4 ounce lime juice
1 leaf fresh basil
Shake first three ingredients together and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Fill with club soda. Float shredded basil leaf on top. Garnish with a lime wheel, or a folded basil leaf and lime wedge on a pick.
Given that it’s Vodka Week, and given that the Bartender has (until today) been short a set of shot glasses to properly freeze, she has been evaluating each in the next best medium: the vodka martini. Not only has it provided a framework within which each spirit can display its talents, but her general preference for gin martinis has assured her ability to simultaneously discern the vermouth from the spirit itself, judge how the two combine (if at all), and also to analyze how the vodka versions stack up in terms of overall flavor.
The vodka martini is perhaps best-known as James Bond’s preferred drink, and as with so many things, Agent 007 knew exactly the right way to do it. “Ice cold” is your watchphrase here, and as we’ve learned, shaking tends to make a drink colder and slightly more diluted than stirring. Gin martinis are traditionally stirred, true, but a vodka martini both benefits from the additional chill of shaking and bears the dilution far better than its cousin.
One final note: while the Bartender does not believe in bone-dry Martinis of either sort (what’s the point of making the Martini if there’s no vermouth flavor to complement the spirit?), vodka has a naturally subtler flavor than gin, and therefore works best in a drier setting. Your ultimate preferred proportions will likely take a few tries to discover, but hey – the trial-and-error is part of the fun!
2 oz. high-quality vodka
1/4 oz. dry vermouth
Shake both ingredients with a good handful of ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with your favorite Martini garnish – lemon twist, olives, cocktail onion, etc. Bonus points if you manage to come up with a garnish especially appropriate to the vodka brand used.
Note that the recipe specifies bourbon whiskey; this is not an arbitrary designation. The lemon juice helps to tamp down the sweetness and bring the sour notes of the whiskey to the forefront, while the syrup blunts its harshness. Considering the complete and utter lack of subtlety in any of the base ingredients, the result is surprisingly complex.
The official recipe includes a dash of egg white in the ingredients, but there appears to be some debate as to whether or not it’s an optional inclusion; given that this is a blog dedicated to doing things for oneself rather than following tradition, the Bartender tried it and discovered that the only noticeable difference is cosmetic. Therefore, the Bartender recommends that the aspiring mixologist weigh the pleasing aesthetics of the white foam at the top against the (admittedly small) possibility of poisoning from the raw egg, and choose accordingly.
1 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
Shake and strain over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with two maraschino cherries, or a cherry and an orange slice.
Source: IBA Official Cocktail recipe
Almost everyone has heard of the Apple Martini, or Appletini, although no one can quite seem to agree on how to make it. Most versions are frankly plain in taste, and the Bartender is still working on finding one interesting enough to bear her signature. That said, this variation has a bit of pizzazz that the straight version lacks, and makes for a nice surprise when a friend expects to get plain ol’ alcohol-laced apple juice.
Italian Apple Martini
1 oz vanilla vodka
1 oz 100% apple juice
1 oz amaretto
3/4 oz sour apple schnapps
Squeeze of lime
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish options include a lime wheel, an apple slice, a vanilla bean, or the green paper ribbon bow that happens to be sitting on the bedside table.
Source: The Bartender honestly can’t remember – this was one of her first real cocktail successes. Likely Drinksmixer.com, although chances are good the recipe has undergone some tweaking in the interim.