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Archive for Cocktails & Spirits

VALENTINE’S DAY: Chocolate Martini


A Truffletini with a chocolate syrup garnish.
Photo courtesy Godiva.


What better excuse for a Chocolate Martini than Valentine’s Day?

We’re particularly fond of the Godiva Truffletini—so chocolaty that you can have it for dessert. It combines both the original chocolate and white chocolate Godiva liqueurs. But if you only want to buy one bottle, there are enough chocolate liqueur cocktail recipes to keep you mixing until next Valentine’ Day.


Ingredients For 1 Cocktail

  • 1 ounce Godiva Original Liqueur
  • .5 ounce Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur
  • .5 ounce vodka
  • Garnish options: chocolate cookie rim, shaved chocolate; a chocolate truffle, heart-shaped bonbon or strawberry notched onto the rim; a cocktail pick with raspberries; or a chocolate syrup garnish* as shown in the photo above


    1. COMBINE liqueurs and vodka in a cocktail shaker with ice.

    2. SHAKE and strain into a pre-chilled Martini glass.

    3. GARNISH and serve.
    *Use chocolate syrup in a squeeze bottle to swirl a pattern onto the inside of the glass.



    There is an entire family of delicious Godiva chocolate liqueurs:

  • Godiva Caramel Liqueur, which makes a delicious Carameltini (1 ounce liqueur, 1/2 ounce vodka).
  • Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, the original flavor.
  • Godiva Milk Chocolate Liqueur, sweeter than the original.
  • Godiva Mocha Liqueur, great in a cup of coffee or to amp up a White Russian.
  • Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur, which is delicious by itself (all the flavors are!) or mixed with orange liqueur, alone or in a Martini or other recipe.

  • In cocktails
  • For straight sipping
  • In hot chocolate
  • In hot coffee and iced coffee
  • Atop ice cream
  • In a spiked ice cream soda or milkshake
  • In dessert recipes
    Time to get mixing!


    Skip Caplan ©2005 124 west 24th. street New York N.Y. 10011 212.463.0541

    White chocolate liqueur on the rocks, but any of the chocolate liqueurs is delicious this way, straight up or in coffee. Photo courtesy Godiva.




    VALENTINE COCKTAILS: Strawberry Margarita & Vodka Shooter

    Margaritas are America’s favorite cocktail. Tailor them for Valentine’s Day with a homemade Frozen Strawberry Margarita.


    Ingredients For 4 Drinks

  • 6 ounces tequila
  • 2 ounces triple sec
  • 8 ounces frozen sliced strawberries in syrup
  • 4 ounces frozen limeade concentrate
  • Ice cubes
  • Coarse salt for rim
  • Garnish: 4 fresh strawberries

    1. FILL a blender with ice and crush. Pour in the tequila and triple sec. Add the strawberries and limeade.

    2. BLEND for 30 seconds or until smooth. Pour and serve.



    Who needs Champagne? Photo courtesy Haru Restaurant | NYC.

    Want something smaller? Here’s a recipe from Polar Seltzer.


    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1 oz Smirnoff Whipped Cream Vodka or vanilla vodka
  • 1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
  • 2-3 strawberries, chopped
  • Strawberry flavored seltzer
  • 1-2 whole strawberries
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: whipped cream

    1. MUDDLE the chopped strawberries and vodka in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and maraschino liqueur and shake.

    2. STRAIN into a glass, filling half way and then add additional strawberries. Top with Polar Seltzer and whipped cream.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Rose Cocktails For Your Valentine


    Toast your Valentine with a rose cocktail. If
    you can’t find organic rose petals for garnish,
    any edible flowers will do. Photo courtesy


    In the Middle East, rose is a more popular flavor than chocolate. It’s used in beverages, candies, cookies and other baked goods, ice cream, jam and sorbet. The flower petals are turned into syrup. The flavor is quite glorious, and it’s a perfect pairing with sparkling wine.

    Beyond Middle Eastern and Indian markets, there’s not much rose-flavored food in the U.S. (we occasionally find rose marshmallows at fine confectioners). But rose is a flavor that fits right in with Valentine’s Day, and fashionable mixologists create menus of rose syrup-accented cocktails.


    Rose syrup is rose water with sugar added—essentially, rose-flavored simple syrup. Rose water itself is distilled from rose petals as a by-product of the rose oil (attar of roses) produced for perfumes.

    First distilled by Muslim chemists in medieval times, both rose syrup and rose water add a subtle rose flavor and aroma to sweet foods. You can use rose water and sugar in beverages, but for confections and baked goods you need syrup, which won’t dilute the batter, dough, etc.



    Our favorite, easy rose cocktail is a Champagne Cocktail sweetened with rose syrup instead of the conventional sugar cube. There’s a Rose Martini recipe below. You can create other cocktails, or add the syrup to club soda for a mocktail.

    You can buy rose syrup in pink or clear hues, or make your own from rose water. You can whip it up in about 10 minutes and color it as light or deep rose as you like. If, after the first batch, you want even more rose flavor, exchange the tap water for more rose water.

    If you decide to distill your own rose water from rose petals (our friends with a large rose garden like to do this), note that only dark red roses impart much color; you may have to supplement with food color.


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rose water
  • Red food coloring as desired

    1. BRING the water to a boil. Add the sugar and dissolve, stirring constantly. When completely dissolved, remove the pan from the heat. Do not over-boil.

    2. ADD red food color as desired.

    3. COOL, then store in an airtight container in the fridge.



    Ingredients For 1 Cocktail

  • 2 ounces gin or vodka
  • 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon rose-infused simple syrup
  • 3 dashes bitters (especially grapefruit or orange
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: organic rose petals*, raspberries,
    strawberries or lemon twist

    1. ADD ingredients including ice to a cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

    2. Garnish and serve.



    Rose syrup. Photo courtesy Royal Rose Syrups.


    *Rose petals or other flowers used for garnish must be organic—not sprayed with chemical pesticides.



    PRODUCT: Pineapple Coconut Smirnoff Vodka For A Low-Cal Piña Colada

    Great flavor with fewer calories: Pineapple
    Coconut vodka from Smirnoff Sorbet Light.
    Photo courtesy Smirnoff.


    The Smirnoff Sorbet Light vodka line is targeted to women who enjoy a regular cocktail, and would like to shave a few calories from each drink.

    The reduced calories are achieved by lowering the proof of the alcohol: The Sorbet Light line is 60 proof/30% ABV* while original Smirnoff (and most vodka) is 80 proof/40% ABV.

    We like a good flavored vodka: It’s like a cocktail without the extra calories. When we tasted new Sorbet Light Pineapple Coconut, it reminded us of one of our favorite drinks—the Piña Colada—without the extra calories of pineapple juice and coconut cream.

    Through the miracle of noncaloric flavor infusions, a shot of the vodka has all the satisfaction of fresh juicy pineapple combined with the luscious coconut. It’s not creamy, but to us, that doesn’t matter. It’s the pineapple-coconut flavor we crave.

    *ABV is Alcohol By Volume. Double the ABV to get the proof of any alcoholic beverage.


    If you want to “stretch out” the calories, add coconut water like Zico—60 calories for 11 ounces, 30 calories for half of that in your cocktail.

    You can mix up any number of cocktails. Here are some from Smirnoff. All of the recipes are under 150 calories.



    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.5 ounces Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pineapple Coconut
  • 2 ounces fresh orange juice
  • 2 ounces club soda
  • Glassware: rocks glass

    1. FILL a highball glass with ice; add remaining ingredients.

    2. STIR and garnish with an orange half wheel.



    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 ounce Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pineapple Coconut
  • 2 ounces coconut water
  • 1 ounces pomegranate juice
  • Garnish: lime wheel or pineapple wedge
  • Glassware: Martini glass

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice, shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

    2. GARNISH and serve.



    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.5 ounces Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pineapple
  • 2 ounces coconut water
  • Glassware: Martini glass

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice, shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

    2. GARNISH with an edible flower or a pineapple chunk.


    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.5 ounces Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pineapple
  • 1.5 ounces Crystal Light lemonade (4 ounces
    water to one packet)
  • 1.5 ounces mango juice
  • Glassware: Martini glass

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice, shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

    2. GARNISH with a mango slice.


    The “Blank Slate”: a low calorie riff on the Piña Colada. Photo courtesy Smirnoff.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Bitters

    The familiar bottle of Angostura Bitters.
    Photo courtesy C.L. World Brands.


    You’ve probably heard of Angostura Aromatic Bitters, but do you know what bitters are?


    According to Wikipedia, the origins of bitters can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who infused medicinal herbs in jars of wine. In the Middle Ages, the availability of distilled alcohol for the base led to much more concentrated preparations.

    But fast forward to the cocktail. By 1806, American publications referenced the popularity of a new alcoholic drink, the “cocktail…a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.”

    Bitters are used in the Manhattan, Old Fashioned and Whiskey Sour, among other cocktails. We enjoy them every day in a mocktail: a glass of club soda with lime. It has all the satisfaction of a cocktail, without the alcohol.

    Bitters fell out of favor along with classic cocktails in the 1960s and 1970s. They were were supplanted by wine, which became the alcohol of favor following the growth and promotion of California wines. But a few years ago, as cocktail culture became stylish again, there evolved a comeback in bitters.

    Like alcohol itself, bitters began as medicinal tonics; today they are still used as digestifs (drinks consumed at the end of a meal, in order to aid digestion). Each producer had a “secret formula” of herbs, fruits, roots and spices, distilled in a base liquor. The flavor is bitter or bittersweet flavor and the aroma is pronounced; hence the term “aromatic bitters.”

    The flavor of bitters is highly concentrated, and just a few dashes are enough to flavor foods and beverage. Beyond drinks, you’ll find them as an ingredient in fruit pies, marinades, seafood recipes, soups, salad dressings and so forth.


    Angostura, the best-known brand, was invented in 1824 by a German physician, Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, in Angostura, Venezuela. He created a blend of tropical herbs and plants as a remedy for a variety of illnesses, especially sea sickness and stomach maladies.

    He subsequently formed the House of Angostura, and sailors were major customers. The oversized label, which covers the entire body of the bottle, is said to be a mistake—someone ordered the wrong size and no one took responsibility to correct it (hmm…some things never change).

    Today the brand is produced in Trinidad by CL World Brands.

    To us, the flavor is ginger-like: We call our club soda-Angostura drink “unsweetened ginger ale” (although ginger is also an edible root, it is no relation to gentian). The trick is to add enough bitters, until the drink becomes a deep rosy color. Keep tasting until you find your preferred intensity.
    *Gentian is made from the root of a flowering plant. More information.


    Peychaud’s Bitters, another 19th century brand, was developed by a New Orleans apothecary, Antoine Amédée Peychaud, a Creole from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) who settled in New Orleans in 1795. It became well known for its use in the Sazerac, the official cocktail of New Orleans (a combination of Cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe and bitters, which originated before the Civil War and was named after the brand of Cognac used in it).

    The gentian*-based bitters, comparable to Angostura bitters, but with a lighter body, sweeter taste and more floral aroma.

    Most American bitters producers went out of business during Prohibition; Peychaud’s is one of only two companies that managed to survive, according to the company. If you can’t find it locally, you can buy it online. Today it’s produced in Kentucky, by The Sazerac Company.


    A popular style of bitters that emerged from the early “cocktail era” were Orange bitters, typically made from the rinds of Seville oranges plus spices. Orange bitters are commonly called for in older cocktail recipes and delicious in modern drinks. The style can range from dryly aromatic to fruity; Regan’s Orange Bitters (see below) were developed by a mixologist who wanted his own version of perfection.


    Peychaud’s Bitters. Photo courtesy The Sazerac Company.

    But orange is just the beginning. We gave up counting the different flavors of bitters on alone, which offers dozens of brands. Just a sampling:

  • Amargo Chuncho Bitters, made in Peru from a blend of more than 30 barks, flowers, herbs, peels and roots from the Peruvian forest, is the “official bitters” for the Pisco Sour.
  • Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters is a distillation of chocolate, cinnamon and other spices that pairs well with rum and tequila drinks. Founded in San Francisco in 2007, the company now produces in New Orleans. The company also makes Hopped Grapefruit, Burlesque Bitters (hibiscus, açai, quassia), ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters (clove, allspice, cinnamon, citrus) and Boston “Bittahs” (citrus and chamomile).
  • Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Aphrodite Bitters are crafted in Scotland from chocolate, cacao nibs, ginger root, red chile, Arabica coffee and ginseng. The company also makes Boker’s Bitters, created in 1828 by Johann Gottlieb Boker, and reformulated it for modern drinks in 2009. It’s made with seven botanicals including cardamom, catechu, mallow flowers, orange peel and quassia bark; and Dr. Heather Duncan’s Christmas Cocktail Bitters, with a nose of freshly baked gingerbread, clove and spiced fruit.
  • El Guapo Bitters are made with chicory and pecans and recommended for Bourbon, dark rum and Tiki-style drinks.
  • Fee Brothers makes bitters in Grapefruit, Lemon, Mint, Old Fashioned Aromatic (Angostura-type bitters), Orange and Peach that can get a sampler of all flavors; as well as individual bottles in those flavors plus Aztec Chocolate, Black Walnut, Cranberry, Plum and Rhubarb, among others. The family-owned company, based in Rochester, New York, has been around since 1863.
  • Regan’s Orange Bitters were developed in 2005 by Gary Regan, a mixologist and columnist who wanted a better orange bitters than what he found in the market.
  • Scrappy’s Bitters are made in aromatic, celery, lavender and orange, plus cardamom bitters for toddy drinks.
  • Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bourbon Barrel Aged Cocktail Bitters, made from gentian root, cherry and spices, are barrel-aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels. Get some for your favorite Bourbon fans.
    So don’t be shy: Buy bitters and see where they take you.

    FOOD 101: WHAT’S A DASH?

    Recipes often call for a “dash” of bitters. According to Scrappy’s, 6-8 drops equals 1 dash.



    TIP OF THE DAY: 11 Exciting Bloody Mary Garnishes

    New Year’s Day is also National Bloody Mary Day. So today’s tip is: Find a new garnish for your Bloody Marys, and change it up every year.

    A celery stalk garnish and optional lemon or lime wheel was de rigeur 20th century. Savvy hosts replaced them with a fennel stalk for the new millennium (there’s a word you haven’t heard in a while!).

    But that was 14 years ago! So here are 10 groups to consider for your “signature garnish.” You can mix and match them as you wish. And yes, you can even match them with a celery stalk and any form of lemon or lime.

    Creative types can get out the vegetable cutters and transform cucumbers, carrots, jalapeños, etc. into edible sculptures.


  • “Antipasto” Pick: an assortment of goodies such as cheese cube, cocktail onion, deli meat cube, grape tomato, pickle, pickled garlic, shrimp or your favorite ingredients
  • The Bacon-Jerky Group: bacon strips, your favorite jerky or a “BLT” (grape tomatoes and bacon on a pick with a curly lettuce leaf replacing the celery)
  • The Citrus Group: curly lemon or lime peel, blood orange wheel, grapefruit wedge, any exotic citrus from the farmers market

    A modern and easy Bloody Mary garnish: a gherkin and pepperoncini on a pick with a salt and pepper rim. Photo courtesy AGWA.

  • The Fresh Vegetable Group: cherry tomato/grape tomato (chose yellow for contrast), cucumber slice, green onion/scallion, snow pea, zucchini spear/slice
  • The Herbs Group: basil leaves, cilantro sprig, dill sprig, parsley sprig, rosemary sprig

    Bloody Mary “salad”: cherry tomato, celery,
    cucumber, dilly bean, lime wheel olive. Photo
    courtesy Arch Rock Fish Restaurant | Santa

  • The Fruit Group: apple wedge, melon balls, pineapple spear
  • The Olive Group: stuffed olives (cheese, chili, pimiento, etc.), mixed pitted olives
  • The Pickle Group: dill spear (the whole spear or cut into chunks on a pick), gherkins,
  • The Pickled Vegetables Group: asparagus, carrot, dilly bean, okra, peppadew
  • The Seafood Group: crab leg meat, cooked shrimp,
  • The Seasoned Rim Group: cracked pepper, seasoned salt (buy it or make your own, including a salt-and-pepper rim of coarse sea salt and cracked pepper)

  • Bloody Mary History
  • Bloody Mary Recipes: the classics plus Danish, Mexican Scottish, Russian and Spanish Marys



    TIP OF THE DAY: Red & Green Champagne Cocktails

    If your Christmas cocktail of choice is a fizzy one, you don’t need to spring for costly Champagne. Consider more affordable bubblies:

  • Asti Spumante and Prosecco from Italy
  • Cava from Spain
  • Crémant from France
  • Espumante from Portugal
  • Sekt from Germany
  • Sparklers from Austria, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.S. and other countries
    You can also serve red bubblies such as Italian Brachetto and Lambrusco or sparkling Shiraz.

    All can be made with ginger ale cocktail for non-drinkers and kids.

    For Christmas, the two sparkling cocktails below have a red or red and green color palate. Both are named for great Italian artists:


    What’s more Christmassy than a sparkling red cocktail? Photo of the Rossini Cocktail courtesy Chandon USA.


  • The great 19th century Italian composer Gioachino Rossini, author of “The Barber of Seville” and other memorable music
  • Tiziano Vecelli (Titian), the greatest Venetian painter of the sixteenth century and the father of modern painting

    Ingredients For 4 Cocktails

  • 6 ounces strawberry purée
  • Chilled Prosecco or other sparkler
  • Champagne flutes
  • Garnish: whole strawberry or blackberry (not frozen)* or three green grapes on a toothpick
    *Ideally the strawberry leaves will be green and perky. If the leaves are wilted, remove them and optionally combine the strawberry with a mint leaf on a cocktail pick or colored toothpick.


    The Tiziano Cocktail has a bonus treat:
    frozen grapes. Photo courtesy Harvard
    Common Presss.



    Ingredients For 4 Cocktails

  • 6 ounces white grape juice (not grape juice cocktail)
  • Chilled Prosecco or other sparkler
  • Frozen green and/or red grapes
  • Champagne flutes

    1. Add three or four frozen grapes to each flute glass.

    2. Pour 1½ ounces of grape juice into each flute.

    3. Fill the glasses almost to the top with Prosecco. Serve.

    This deep red cocktail is one of our favorites at any time of the year.


  • Creme de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur
  • Sparkling wine

    1. ADD cassis to taste to the bottom of the flute or tulip Champagne glass.

    2. GENTLY POUR the sparkling wine down the side of the glass. Stirring breaks the bubbles, so the better option is not to stir (if you must, stir once, very gently).


    Each is more delicious than the next. Check out the easy recipes.



    RECIPE: Spiced Cranberry Cocktail

    Still looking for the killer Christmas cocktail?

    Try this spiced Cranberry Cocktail from

    The special difference is simple syrup infused with allspice, cloves, fresh ginger, cinnamon and fresh cranberries; then blend with vodka and a splash of club soda. The cranberries and mint leaf are a perfect holiday garnish.

    The simple syrup can be made in advance (just simmer in a saucepan) and stored in the fridge.


    Ingredients For Simple Syrup

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 12 whole allspice berries
  • 12 whole cloves

    The cocktail that shouts “Christmas!” Photo courtesy

  • 1 to 1-1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh cranberries
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 ounce cranberry syrup
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces club soda
  • Optional: 1/2 ounce triple sec or other orange liqueur
  • Ice
  • Garnish: uncooked whole cranberries and mint leaves

    1. MAKE simple syrup. Inspect your spices to be sure they are fresh. Allspice that’s been on your shelf for years won’t pack much of a punch.

    2. COMBINE water, sugar, allspice, cloves, ginger and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. When the sugar has dissolved, add the cranberries. Bring to a boil and boil until the cranberries pop, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep for one hour. Then strain mixture through a fine sieve, gently pressing with the back of a rubber spatula or wood spoon to extract the juices. Cool and refrigerate until ready to make drink.

    3. COMBINE the cranberry syrup, optional triple sec and vodka in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Fill a rocks glass with ice and strain the contents of the cocktail shaker into the glass. Top with club soda. Garnish and serve.

    Here’s the full recipe with step-by-step photos.

    Find more of our favorite cocktail recipes.



    RECIPE: Cranberry Infused Vodka

    Your own holiday bottling of cranberry
    infused vodka. Photo courtesy Prairie


    Make cranberry vodka to bring as a house gift or place on your own bar. It will be ready in three to four days.

    It’s easy to craft your own cranberry vodka infusion. Instead of vodka, you can use silver tequila, genever, Plymouth gin or a London gin with a low level of aromatics.

    This recipe is courtesy Prairie Organic Spirits, which makes both organic gin and vodka (including cucumber-infused vodka) in Minnesota.

    The vodka is handcrafted with single vintage organic corn. The line is certified organic by the USDA, which ensures that no genetically modified seeds, chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides are used. The price: just $19.99 for a 750 ml bottle.




  • Whole fresh cranberries
  • Whole cloves
  • Vodka


    1. POUR 1/3 of the vodka into a pitcher or a measuring cup with a spout and set aside.

    2. FILL the empty bottle space with cranberries and cloves.

    3. TOP OFF the bottle with the reserved vodka and tightly securing the cap.

    4. STORE in the fridge or in dark, cool space for three to four days. Then, it’s ready to serve.

    How about:

  • Espresso-Cinnamon for Valentine’s Day
  • Jalapeño-Horseradish-Garlic for Cinco de Mayo
  • Honeycrisp Apple for Mother’s Day
  • Lemon Lime for Spring
  • Orange-Tangerine for Winter
  • Strawberry Basil for Summer

    It’s easy to infuse vodka: Just add simple ingredient to the bottle. Photo courtesy Prairie Organic Spirits.


    Download the pdfs at



    GIFT: Jose Cuervo Cinge, Yummy Cinnamon Tequila

    Mmm, mmm, good. Photo courtesy Jose


    Jose Cuervo Cinge, also known as Jose Cuervo Especial Cinnamon (that’s sure to be confusing, but why ask why), is a new expression that’s not even on the website yet.

    It is, however, in the stores—and that’s a good thing.

    The new flavored tequila is a cinnamon-infused, 70 proof version of Cuervo Especial Silver. There are other “natural flavors,” but if they told us they’d have to kill us.

    Cinge means “sting” and the ads we’ve seen show a menacing scorpion (is there any other kind?) crawling across a bar toward a shot of tequila.

    But the experience is more “Cosmopolitan” magazine than “American Cowboy.” There’s a soft but vibrant cinnamon nose and flavor. It’s not a burning cinnamon experience like Red Hots candy.

    Yet the brand’s copy calls it “a spicy and fiery shot of cinnamon.” Hmmm; perhaps our bottle was from a different batch.


    Our Cinge was seductive, and we love it. For $16.99 a bottle, OMG: Last-minute gift problems solved!

    We received a bottle from Jose Cuervo along with some cocktail recipes, but it’s heaven just drinking Cinge straight.

    Or add it to cider, coffee, tea or a toddy—there’s no need to drag out the cocktail shaker.
    Find more of our favorite spirits and lots of cocktail recipes.



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