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Archive for Cocktails & Spirits

TIP: Easy Coffee Dessert (Adults Only)

Years ago, at our first visit to The French Laundry in Napa Valley, we ordered a dessert called Coffee and Donuts.

What we got: coffee mousse served in a coffee cup, topped with real milk foam and served with a side of beignets, deep fried choux paste (think small fritters). It was a delicious and memorable sight gag.

Because we gave up deep frying for the New Year, we never got around to recreating the recipe. But recently, we made a simpler version of it, thanks to inspiration from Patrón XO Cafe liqueur, Ciao Bella’s Triple Espresso Gelato and the donut maker at our local farmers market.

If you want a smaller dessert, use an espresso cup instead of a coffee cup. And if you want to serve this to kids…depending on their age, they can taste a bit of liqueur. If not, leave it out of their portions. They’ll still get a kick from “coffee and donuts.”


Scoop coffee ice cream into coffee cup and top with coffee liqueur. Photo courtesy Ciao Bella Gelato.


Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 cup coffee or espresso ice cream
  • Coffee liqueur
  • Optional: whipped cream
  • Miniature donuts or donut holes

    A less sweet and syrupy coffee liqueur. Photo courtesy The Patron Spirits Company.



    1. SOFTEN ice cream and swirl liqueur through it. If you’re going to add whipped cream, you can level the ice cream in the cup. Otherwise, return the softened ice cream to the freezer and then scoop it into the cup. Place ice cream-filled cup in freezer. (Alternative technique: Pour liqueur into the bottom of the cup, then add ice cream and pour more liqueur over the top.)

    When ready to serve…

    2. TOP with optional whipped cream and serve with a plate of donuts.



    With the popularity of the Espresso Martini (and don‘t forget the White Russian and other coffee cocktails), more coffee liqueurs have hit the market. Patrón uses its famous silver tequila a base for Patrón XO Cafe, although there’s no discernible tequila taste—perhaps a bit of agave on the finish.

    Beyond cocktails and adding to a cup of coffee at brunch or after dinner (you can also sip it straight from a liqueur glass, with or without the coffee), the sweetened bitter coffee flavor makes a great topping for a plain dish of ice cream—coffee, coffee chip, chocolate, chocolate chip, vanilla or a ball of three choices.

    At 70 proof, it is higher in alcohol than most coffee liqueurs. To some people that in of itself is a selling point. We like that the higher proof makes it less sweet and syrupy than other coffee liqueurs.

    Patrón XO Cafe has a brother, Patrón XO Cafe Dark Cocoa, which marries the flavors of chocolate and chocolate.

    Discover more on the Patron website, which has 40 cocktail recipes using the liqueur.



    RECIPE: Halloween Or Thanksgiving Cocktail

    The Bar at Clement in The Peninsula New York has whipped up this beautiful cocktail for Halloween or Thanksgiving. It’s called the “Drunken Pumpkin Pie”; but since there’s no pumpkin in the recipe, you may wish to give it another name. The flavor is creamy coffee with cinnamon accents—still spot on for the season.

    (Mixologists take note: If the pie has no pumpkin, you can’t call it pumpkin pie.)

    More intrigue: The only way to order the cocktail is to be “in the know.” It’s a seasonal special and not on the menu. So here’s the recipe to enjoy at home, in a Martini glass or as shots:


    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 2 ounces Stoli Vanil
  • 1 ounce Kahlua
  • .75 ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • .25 ounce cinnamon simple syrup (recipe)
  • Ice
  • 2 graham crackers
  • Dashes of cinnamon and/or nutmeg

    Spiders optional. Photo courtesy The Peninsula New York.



    1. CRUSH graham crackers on a paper towel with a rolling pin (or use graham cracker crumbs). Mix with a few dashes of cinnamon and/or nutmeg in a shallow dish.

    2. MOISTEN the rim of the the glass and twist in the crumbs to rim the glass with the cinnamon-graham cracker “crust.”

    3. SHAKE cocktail ingredients with ice, and strain into glass.



    FOOD FUN: Pumpkin Cocktail In A Baby Pumpkin

    We’ll drink to that! Photo courtesy American
    Alibi Whiskey.


    If you don’t want to hollow out a dozen or more baby pumpkins to serve as vessels for this Pumpkin Patch Julep, just use a standard glass. The ingredients make a delicious Halloween cocktail.

    TIP: You can wash, dry and freeze the pumpkins in food storage bags to use again next Halloween—or for Thanksgiving.

    Or, start a collection of pumpkin mugs.

    The recipe is courtesy Alibi American Whiskey.



    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 2 ounces Alibi American Whiskey
  • 1 ounce Fulton’s Harvest Pumpkin Pie Cream Liqueur
  • 3/4 ounce white creme de cacao
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 dash bitters
  • Ice
  • Optional: mint leaves for garnish
  • Optional: baby pumpkin, insides scooped out


    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a shaker and shake vigorously with ice.

    2. STRAIN into chilled cocktail glass—or a baby pumpkin, or a pumpkin mug.

    3. GARNISH with a mint leaves, a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice and a whole clove.


    The bottle design is perfect for Halloween, too. Photo courtesy Alibi American Whiskey.




    RECIPE: Sparkling Cider Cocktail Or Mocktail

    Make it as short or tall as you like. Photo
    courtesy Polar Seltzer.


    It would be a shame to let apple cider season pass without having a cider cocktail or mocktail.

    You can buy sparkling cider, or you can make it by adding seltzer to regular cider, in this idea from Polar Seltzer. It dilutes the cider—the cider version of a wine spritzer—but you can make that up with rum.

    It goes from mocktail to cocktail with a splash of rum—preferably, spiced rum for more complex flavors.

    You can create the drink it in any glass, but we prefer a tall highball.



  • Apple cider
  • Rum or spiced rum: from a splash to 1/2 ounce
  • splash of club soda
  • Optional garnish: apple slice, cinnamon stick

    Variation: Ginger Cider

    Mix ginger ale and apple cider in your preferred proportions. It can be a mocktail or a cocktail, with rum or tequila.



    HALLOWEEN: Toffee Apple Martini (Caramel Apple Martini)

    For those too sophisticated for a toffee
    apple: a toffee apple Martini. Photo courtesy


    Forget about all those ersatz “witch’s brew,” “black cat” and other Halloween cocktails. Here’s a “real” Halloween cocktail: the Toffee Apple Martini. The recipe was developed by Belvedere Vodka.

    By the way, today is National Caramel Apple Day, a perfect day to make this cocktail. If you want to make actual caramel apples, here’s the recipe.


    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 2 ounces Belvedere Citrus or other citrus vodka
  • 3 ounces pressed apple juice
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • ½ ounce home made toffee syrup (recipe below)
  • Garnish: apple slice or caramel apple slice


    1. SHAKE all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled Martini glass.

    2. GARNISH with an apple slice.




  • 1/2 cup toffee, broken into chips
  • 1/2 cup warm water

    1. PLACE a handful of toffee in the bottom of a saucepan and add half a cup of warm water.

    2. COOK over a gentle heat, stirring until the toffee is dissolved. Allow to cool.



    Candy apples have a hard, bright red coating, made from sugar or corn syrup, water, cinnamon and red food coloring.

    Caramel apples
    are coated with melted caramel candies, which create a soft, slightly sticky coating.

    Caramel apples are the same as toffee apples; the former term is more popular in the U.S., the latter in the U.K. However, caramel candy is different from toffee candy, and the term “toffee apple,” while prevalent, is not accurate.

    Both caramel and toffee are made by combining sugar, butter and water. Caramels add milk or cream (and sometimes, flavors) and are cooked at a lower heat, to the firm-ball stage (248°F). Both of these factors make them softer and chewier than toffee.


    Caramel, above, is soft; toffee is hard. Photo courtesy Fannie May.


    Toffee is cooked to a hard-crack (295°F to 310°F). Toffee is harder than caramel, and even harder than butterscotch.

    So if it’s soft, it’s caramel.

    There are numerous sweets on the market called “toffee” that are actually caramel, including “toffee apples.” If the apple were coated in actual toffee, it would be even harder to bite into than the hard red candy apple coating.
    Here’s more on the differences among butterscotch, caramel, taffy and toffy.



    FOOD FUN: Smoking Blood Orange Mimosa Recipe

    We love Mimosas. We love blood oranges.

    So when this recipe arrived for a Bloody Mimosa, we thought: This is it for Halloween. Not only does the “bloody” orange juice make a much better-looking Mimosa; a few chips of dry ice give the drink a spooky smoking effect.

    The original recipe, from Mionetto “IL” Prosecco:



  • Blood orange juice
  • Prosecco or other sparkling wine
  • Dry Ice

    1. FILL a flute or other glass halfway with the sparkling (tip: to conserve the bubbles, tilt the glass as you add the wine). Slowly add the juice.

    2. SHAVE off several small chips of dry ice, using an ice pick or sharp knife. Add just enough to start the smoke effect. Serve immediately.


    Bloody Orange Mimosa cocktail, with a color perfect for harvest season. Photo courtesy The Chubby Spoon.



    Make it smoke with dry ice chips. Photo
    courtesy Mionetto.


    Charmed by the concept, we did some investigation and found another smoking Mimosa recipe on The recipe advises: “When you consider half of the drink is made from juice, you’ll want fresh squeezed. Don’t use juice from a carton. Fresh squeezed juice is lighter, prettier, and more delicate.”

    Of course, if you can’t find blood oranges, default to the carton.

    Here’s the full recipe, along with more tips to make the perfect Blood Orange Mimosa recipe.

    More about blood oranges.




    PRODUCT: Cabo Diablo, Coffee Liqueur With Cabo Wabo Tequila

    New liqueur in town: Cabo Diablo, a not-so-
    devilish combination of coffee and tequila.
    Photo courtesy Campari America.


    October 16th is National Liqueur Day. Don’t reach for what you already like; try something new.

    If you like coffee and tequila, Cabo Diablo, which is just rolling out now, combines a coffee punch with a tequila kick. If you haven’t yet connected the dots, it’s from the folks who make Cabo Wabo tequila.

    In addition to celebrating today, bring Cabo Diablo with you to a Halloween party—perhaps wearing devil horns and ears.

    Enjoy it in chilled shots or in hot coffee—a devilish cup of Joe for All Hallow’s Eve.

    We’ve also poured it over coffee and vanilla ice cream. Pretty nifty!

    Smooth and silky, with notes of rich roasted coffee, vanilla and chocolate, it complements other desserts, and is dessert enough on its own. There are sweet notes of honey and blue agave, with some hints of spicy black pepper.

    The coffee liqueur base is made with the highest quality Arabica beans, blended with Cabo Wabo Blanco Tequila (100% blue weber agave).


    The bottle sports a unique, color-changing label. When you chill the bottle, a devilish surprise appears (no spoiler here!).

    Cabo Wabo Tequila was founded by the devilish rebel rocker, Sammy Hagar (who replaced David Lee Roth as the lead singer of Van Halen in 1985). You can bet that the Red Rocker has downed at least a few.

    The 35% ABV Cabo Diablo is currently available in limited release in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Wisconsin. A 750 ml bottle is $22.99.

    Learn more at or @cabodiablo.



    RECIPE: Gin Spiced Tea

    For spiced tea lovers, here’s a new way to enjoy spiced tea: with spiced gin. It’s an alternative to a rum toddy, also known as hot buttered rum.

    Look for Darnley’s View Spiced Gin, Edinburg Gin’s Spiced Orange Gin and Opihr, a London Dry Gin with oriental spices.

    Brew a cup of spiced tea and add a tablespoon of gin; relax and enjoy. Then, gather friends for a sophisticated cup of tea.

    No spiced gin? Check out friends’ travel plans: We had bottles brought back to us by a colleague who regularly visits England because we couldn’t can’t find them locally.

    Alternatively, you can infuse Old Plymouth Gin or a brand that doesn’t scream “botanicals!” to you. Add allspice, cinnamon, cloves and orange peel. Follow the directions for how to infuse vodka.

    If you’re a real do-it-yourselfer, you can make gin from scratch with this homemade gin kit.

    And then there’s the easy default: Use whatever gin you have on hand.


    A nice twist: gin with similar spices as you’ll find in Constant Comment and other spiced teas.



    Tanqueray Gin relaunched its Malacca expression earlier this year. The gin was discontinued after a short run from 1997 to 2001.

    Unlike Tanqueray’s well-known London Dry Gin—the juniper-infused style that most people think of as gin—Malacca is more like Old Tom Gin, a style that faded away in the 20th century but is enjoying a small renaissance (see below). Malacca is flavored with citrus and a hint of spice—though not as much spice as the spiced gins above.

    Tanqueray Malacca Gin was introduced in 1997 as a “wetter” (sweeter) alternative to the London Dry Gin. It was launched as a better gin for sweet gin drinks like the Gimlet and the Tom Collins. It didn’t take off as the company had expected, and was discontinued.

    But it was before its time. Over the last decade, the demand for the older style of gin has grown, as evidenced by the launch of several Old Tom-style gins, reviving a style popular in 18th-century England.


    Treat yourself to a bottle of Malacca, a
    sweeter, more citrusy style of gin for
    sweeter drinks (or neat). Photo courtesy



    Old Tom gin is popping up again in England, with brands such as Hayman’s and Ransom. (If you can’t find them in the U.S., ask a favor of a friend who travels to the U.K.)

    More citrusy and not as focused on juniper and other botanicals, Old Tom gin is a style that was popular in 18th-century England but faded away in the 20th century. It is currently undergoing a small renaissance.

    Old Tom is slightly sweeter than London Dry gin, but slightly drier than Dutch jenever, the original gin.

    The name is said to come from wooden plaques shaped like a black cat (an “Old Tom”) that were mounted on the outside wall of some pubs in 18th century England for passing pedestrians. After they deposited a penny in the cat’s mouth, they would place their lips around a small tube between the cat’s paws. On the other side of the wall, the bartender would pour a shot of gin into the tube. (Yes, it sounds very unsanitary to us moderns.)

    See the different types of gin.




    COCKTAIL: The Petrossian Fleur De Vers

    Petrossian’s magnificent Fleur de Vers:
    suitable for a coronation or a special event
    for us commoners. Photo by Kimberly
    Craven | Petrossian.


    Thank goodness the Petrossian brothers, Melkoum and Mouchegh, moved to France from Iran in 1917, when their studies were interrupted by the Russian Revolution.

    Unable to gain entrance to French medical and law schools, the young men, who missed the caviar from home, became caviar importers. It was they who introduced caviar to Paris!

    Had Melkoum and Mouchegh become a doctor and a lawyer, their names would probably not be known by connoisseurs worldwide. Instead, the name Petrossian is sets the world standard in fine caviar and other delicacies.

    We are huge fans of Petrossian and urge anyone passing through Manhattan to treat themselves to a luxurious meal at the company’s Art Deco restaurant at Seventh Avenue and 58th Street, steps away from Carnegie Hall, Columbus Circle and Central Park.

    There is a more casual café next door to the restaurant, where the restaurant’s beautiful pastries and savory delicacies (including caviar and foie gras) in an informal atmosphere.

    While caviar might seem like a luxury frozen in time, Petrossian is remarkable in its innovation, with:

  • Caviar Cubes to garnish cocktails;
  • Papierrusse, the caviar version of a sheet of the sushi seaweed wrapper, with numerous creative uses;
  • Caviar Cream, a heavenly garnish or spread;
  • The caviar “powder” that is used in the recipe below.
    This week we were invited to the restaurant and treated to a cocktail that is so fine (and memorable) that we wish we were getting married. Although most of us are probably not going to create it at home, it’s the perfect recipe to hand to the caterer for a special celebration. The name was inspired by fleur de sel, the finest French sea salt. We like to think of it as a bit of poetry (vers is French for verse or poetry).


    Ingredients For One Cocktail

  • 1-1/2 ounces Tanqueray or other fine gin
  • 3/4 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur*
  • 3/4 ounce green chartreuse†
  • 3.4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 drop rose water
    For The Garnish

  • 1 lemon boat (instructions below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Petrossian Caviar Powder, unground (whole bead—see below)
    *St. Germain is one of our favorite liqueurs. Don’t hesitate to buy a bottle. It makes a delicious cocktail with Champagne or any sparkling wine.

    †You can substitute yellow chartreuse if that’s what you have; see the note on chartreuse below.



    1. HALVE and juice the lemons. Set aside the juice and cut the juiced halves into three or four wedges, 3/8 to 1/2 inch wide. Remove all of the pulp and pith until you have a smooth “boat.”

    2. COMBINE the gin, elderflower liqueur, chartreuse, lemon juice and rose water. Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a Martini glass or Champagne flute or tulip.

    3. PLACE the caviar beads in the lemon boat and float atop the cocktail.


    Pearls of fine caviar are dried via a proprietary technique that intensifies its flavor. The dried pearls are sold in a grinder that enables you to grind some caviar over your food (eggs, buttered toast, grilled fish or seafood, potatoes and pasta for starters). Or, you can open the grinder and sprinkle full pearls of the caviar on the food.


    In the background, the caviar grinders with a choice of colorful tops. In the foreground, the beads of caviar ready to be used whole as a garnish. Photo courtesy Petrossian.


    We’re on our fourth refill of Petrossian Caviar Powder, a unique (and more affordable) way to enjoy fine caviar. We gave it our Food Innovation Award of 2011.

    The grinder with 30 grams of caviar is $88.00; refills are $74.00. It’s a sure-to-enthrall gift for any caviar lover. Buy it at

    Chartreuse, pronounced shahr-TROOZ, is a pale green or yellow liqueur made from brandy and aromatic herbs (green Chartreuse is aged with 130 different herbal extracts!). We prefer the original green Chartreuse, which has more complexity. Yellow chartreuse is a later recipe, lower in proof and a sweeter mix of herbs.

    The liqueur, first made by Carthusian Monks in the 1740s, is named after the Grande Chartreuse monastery, located in the Chartreuse Mountains in southeastern France (in the general region of Grenoble). The liqueur, in turn, gave its name to the startling greenish-yellow color.



    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Vodka Day

    Crystal Head vodka gets our vote for “best packaging.” Photo courtesy Crystal Head.


    In June 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a nationwide law banning distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. While ostensibly seeking to protect minors (irony: it’s teens who are in most need of information about gender preference)—the statute effectively makes it illegal to hold any gay pride events, speak in defense of gay rights or say that gay relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships. There have been calls around the world to boycott Russian vodka.

    Today is National Vodka Day, a spirit that comprises up 25% of distilled alcohol sold in America.

    Skip the Stolichnaya, the biggest Russian brand, and other Russian imports. We’ve got 10 excellent brands to recommend that are neither made in Russia nor owned by Russian interests.

    Special diet alert: Vodkas distilled from corn or potatoes are gluten free. Crystal Head Vodka is certified kosher.

    Absolut Vodka is owned by the French group, Pernod Ricard, and distilled in Sweden. It is made from winter wheat.

    Belvedere Vodka is owned by the French luxury goods company LVMH. It is produced in Poland from rye.

    Chopin Vodka is a family-owned Polish brand. The original expression was distilled from potatoes; the potato vodka has since been joined by vodkas distilled from rye and wheat, respectively.

    Crystal Head Vodka is owned by a Canadian company, Globefill Incorporated, and distilled from corn in Newfoundland. You pay a premium for the crystal skull bottle, but we love it! Here‘s the story behind the skull. The vodka is certified kosher by OU and is gluten-free.


    Finlandia Vodka is owned by American distiller Brown-Forman and made from barley in Finland.

    Grey Goose Vodka is produced by Bacardi Corporation, a family-owned spirits company that began in 1862 with rum production in Cuba. The company is now headquartered in Hamilton, Bermuda. Grey Goose is distilled from winter wheat and bottled in France.

    Ketel One Vodka is made in Holland. It is jointly owned by the Nolet family of The Netherlands and Diageo, a multinational alcoholic beverages company headquartered in London, England.

    Pinnacle Vodka is owned by American distiller Beam Inc., and produced in France.

    Skyy Vodka was founded in the U.S. and distilled by SKYY Spirits in San Francisco. The brand is now owned by the Campari Group of Milan, Italy.


    Only the Chopin brand makes potato, rye and wheat vodkas. Photo courtesy Chopin Vodka.


    Smirnoff Vodka, the world’s largest vodka brand, began in Russia in the 1800s but is now owned by British company Diageo. It is distilled from corn in Ireland, Italy, Scotland and the U.S.

    Vodka originated in Poland, not Russia.




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