Mezcal Margarita

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Recipe: Mezcal Margarita (serves one)

  • 1 1/2 oz. mezcal
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • Lime twist

Shake liquid ingredients vigorously with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into glass, and garnish with lime twist.


The Mezcal Margarita is a smoky take on a traditional margarita, substituting mezcal for the silver tequila.

Mezcal and tequila are both made by fermenting the hearts of agave plants. In order to be sold as tequila, the spirit must come from a specific region of Mexico and be made from the blue agave variety. Mezcal can be made from other varieties of the plant; we used an El Silencio mezcal distilled in Oaxaca from espadin agave.

The main difference between mezcal and tequila production is the treatment of the agave hearts (called the piña) before fermentation. To make a tequila, the agave hearts are baked in an above-ground oven. For a mezcal, on the other hand, the agave hearts are roasted in underground pits, lined with wood and rocks, which impart the smokey flavor.

If you love margaritas but are in the mood for something smokier and more complex, this cocktail is for you.

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Posted in Liquor facts, Tequila & Mezcal | 1 Comment

Blackthorn

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Recipe: Blackthorn (serves one)

  • 2 oz. Irish whiskey
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes (1/4 teaspoon) Angostura bitters
  • 1 bar spoon Pernod or absinthe
  • lemon twist

Coat a cocktail glass with Pernod or absinthe, discard excess, and place glass in refrigerator to chill. Stir liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Strain into cocktail glass. Add the lemon twist.


This cocktail is essentially an Irish Manhattan, with a licorice rinse (like the Sazerac). It dates back at least to the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, although the recipe there calls for equal parts whiskey and dry vermouth. This is a sweeter, more spirit-forward version. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Death & Taxes

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Recipe: Death & Taxes (serves one)

  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. blended Scotch whisky
  • 1/2 oz. Bénédictine
  • 3 dashes (= 3/8 tsp) orange bitters
  • cherry for garnish

Stir liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Strain into cocktail glass. Add the cherry.


We’ve found quite a few recipes for cocktails called Death & Taxes, but we got this one from the bartender at the Flintridge Proper. The Proper served a version that was barrel-aged for six months; we recreated some of that effect by using an aged gin we got on our trip to Portland. It’s rare to find gin and whisky in the same cocktail. The combination works, though: the gin’s dry, herbal flavor balances the richness of the Scotch and the sweetness of the Benedictine.

Posted in Gin, LA-area bars, Whiskey | Leave a comment

Alaska

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Recipe: Alaska (serves one)

  • 1 1/2 oz. gin
  • 1/2 oz. yellow Chartreuse
  • 1 dash (= 1/8 tsp) orange bitters
  • lemon peel for garnish

Stir liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Strain into cocktail glass. Rub lemon peel around rim for extra aroma, and drop into glass.


When we had the rye-based Nevadan cocktail at the Velveteen Rabbit, the bartender told us it was inspired by a gin-based recipe from the classic Savoy Cocktail Book: the Alaska. We made the Alaska at home and it immediately became one of our favorite gin drinks. The juniper flavor harmonizes with the herbal yellow Chartreuse, making a crisp and refreshing combination.

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Nevadan

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Recipe: Nevadan (serves one)

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1/2 oz. yellow Chartreuse
  • 2 dashes (= 1/4 tsp) orange bitters
  • lemon peel and star anise for garnish

Stir bourbon and Chartreuse in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Strain into cocktail glass. Rub lemon peel around rim and drop into glass along with star anise.


We had this yummy cocktail at the Velveteen Rabbit on our last trip to Vegas. The friendly bartender gave us the recipe and said he was inspired by the gin version of this drink, the Alaska. He also gave us a mixology tip: to get the right dilution and temperature, sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice while stirring.

The Nevadan is similar to the Manhattan-like Greenpoint, except without the sweet vermouth, and with some extra notes from the star anise garnish. We hadn’t seen star anise in a cocktail before, and really liked this fragrant and eye-catching touch.

Posted in Whiskey | 1 Comment

Cocktail Bars in Las Vegas

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Last week, we celebrated a birthday with a trip to Las Vegas. It was our first visit to Sin City since we started this blog, and of course we had to check out the cocktail offerings. Our guide was a Thrillist article on the city’s 15 best cocktail bars.

The photo above shows our first stop: the classy Mandarin Bar, which overlooks the Strip from the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel. The city lights view reminded us of our visit to the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo. The birthday boy got a complimentary seasonal cocktail called the Robin Hood, a Vieux Carré variant with apricot-infused Scotch in place of the usual rye. Our other selection was Mr. Wonka’s Gift, a rum drink made with crème de banana, Montenegro amaro, and chocolate bitters and served with a banana chip. We weren’t surprised that the drink named for Willy Wonka was on the sweet side, but the Robin Hood was a little sweet for our tastes as well. Still, the atmosphere was hard to beat.

Our next stop was the Cosmopolitan, which has three entries on the Thrillist top-15 list. On a previous trip, we enjoyed creative cocktails inside their multi-story crystal chandelier. This time we tried Clique, a bar on the casino floor that was just opening when we got there at 4 pm. We were intrigued by their “tableside mixology” menu, but it turned out they didn’t start serving that until 6. We ended up getting two drinks with tea-related ingredients: the Liquid Sword, made with cognac and a rooibos-orange cordial, and the champagne-based Bergamot Spritz, made with bergamot vodka and passion fruit juice. The Liquid Sword was too sweet (and we couldn’t taste the red tea), but we liked the spritz a lot — the passion fruit gave it a nice tartness.

We had the best of our on-Strip drinks at Bound, inside the Cromwell hotel. In keeping with the name, the menu was presented as a leather-bound book (the bill was too). The barrel-aged Blood and Sand — made with Scotch, sweet vermouth, and Cherry Heering — came out well balanced. We also had the smoky and refreshing Humadorita, which was like a margarita, but the tequila was infused with tamarind and the glass was prepped with applewood smoke.

On our last day in Vegas we left the Strip and headed downtown, where we found that the cocktails were two-thirds the price and we liked them better. We had afternoon drinks at Oak & Ivy in Container Park, a small boutique-filled shopping center built partly from shipping containers. One of us had the Senator, a spicy rye drink with ruby port and ginger liqueur. The other had a custom Manhattan-style cocktail with rye, amaro, and tiki bitters. This creation was served with a burnt cinnamon stick that gave it a delicious aroma — we’ll need to try that ourselves. Between the unusually rainy weather and the carefully assembled cocktails, we felt like we were visiting Portland again.

Our last stop was our favorite: the Velveteen Rabbit. It’s a cozy hideaway decorated with vintage furniture and projected video art, well worth the short Uber ride from either Downtown or the Strip. We had two very different cocktails there, shown in the photo below. The lighter one is the Nevadan, made with rye, yellow Chartreuse, and orange bitters. It was dry and refreshing, especially with the lemon peel garnish. The darker drink is the Velvet Waltz, a concoction of chai-infused dark rum, sherry, Averna amaro, vanilla, and Tippleman’s burnt sugar syrup. It tasted like a warmly spiced dessert. We’ll want to come back here on our next Vegas trip — and we’re sure we’ll make more happy discoveries as well.

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Private Club Cocktail

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Recipe: Private Club Cocktail (serves one or two)

  • 2 oz. Cognac
  • 3/4 oz. Amaro Nonino
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz. maple syrup
  • 3 dashes black walnut bitters (we got ours from Fee Brothers)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • lemon peel for garnish

Shake ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Strain into cocktail glass or ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with lemon peel.


We found this delicious recipe at another LA cocktail blog, Stir and Strain. It’s similar to the Sidecar or Bourbon Crusta, but the black walnut bitters and maple syrup give it a more wintery taste. We hope this gets you in the holiday mood!

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