The Intoxicologist

Monday, April 21, 2008

Coffee Liqueur Infusion: Especial Style

Kahlua Especial is a special treat indeed for the coffee liqueur lover. The Especial has a richer, deeper coffee flavor than its original counterpart and is stronger at 70 proof rather than 40 proof. At a price of only a couple of dollars more than the original Kahlua, it is well worth the upgrade in value and taste.

It is little wonder that the surge in interest of infusing liquor at home has moved on to coffee liqueur and this particular formulation of espresso liqueur. While the formula is strictly under wraps with the parent company it has not hindered experimentation. There are many recipes on the internet claiming to be a coffee liqueur infusion. However, most seem to be so generically put together that any flavor whether it be an herb, fruit or nut seems to be interchangeable in the recipe. That does not fit the quality of Kahlua Especial.

One recipe stood out from all the books, recipes, and sites I poured through trying to find an answer to one reader’s question about where to find a coffee liqueur infusion to match the richer flavor of the Especial. Although I have not experimented with this formula myself, it looks promising. A few tweaks have been made to try to ensure a better match to the Especial, but again, no promises. I will be attempting it and will post my results in a later article. However, according to the recipe the best results take three to six months.

Coffee Liqueur Infusion “Kahlua Especial fashion”

2 cups Freshly Ground Espresso Coffee Beans – Kahlua uses Arabica beans according to their website. For a deep flavor grind your beans for at least 15 to 20 seconds in a blade style grinder as close to the time you plan to use them rather than purchasing them already ground.

3 cups Boiling Filtered Water

1-1/2 cups Superfine Granulated Sugar

1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar

3 cups Pure Alcohol – This is personal choice as I could find no recommendation specifically for Kahlua. However, high quality vodka such as Belvedere seems to be a good blank canvas to start with or if you prefer rum, I recommend 10 Cane. Do not start with poor quality liquor or you will end up with a poor quality infusion. As a side note, Tia Maria, another coffee liqueur, specifies dark spiced rum for its infusion process.

1 Whole Vanilla Bean Sliced Lengthwise

1 teaspoon Liquid Glycerin


Bring water to a boil. Remove boiling water from the heat. Pour the coffee grounds into the water and set aside. Place sugars into a saucepan large enough to hold the contents of the complete recipe, but do not put everything into the sauce pan yet! Filter the water and coffee through several layers of the cheesecloth until no more coffee grounds come through. Pour the water mixture into the saucepan with the sugars. Heat until all the sugar is melted, but do not bring to a boil. This may take five minutes or more. Wait until mixture is cooled completely. Then stir in alcohol, vanilla bean, and liquid glycerin. Place mixture into a sealed glass container and store in a dark, dry, cool area. Gently shake contents once or twice a week. Filter through cheesecloth again after approximately two weeks, removing the vanilla bean. Again, return the contents to a dark, dry, cool area to age the mixture tasting periodically. This could take three to six months. Once it reaches an aged flavor of your liking, enjoy!

Pacharan: The Sloe Berry Worth the Search

I recently received a question asking if I had any recipes for the Spanish liqueur, Pacharan. The only reference to this liqueur I have ever come across is from Gary Regan’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle that is reproduced in the online Ardent Spirits newsletter I receive regularly. This particular liqueur is extremely hard to find, which in turn makes handy recipes even more difficult to come by.

In researching this liqueur it appears to have a pinkish hue and be delectably sweet rather than syrupy sweet, making it an excellent choice for after dinner sipping. However, it is exceptional for mixing as well if you have the courage to begin experimenting with it once you can get your hands on a bottle.

The foundation of the pacharan, or sloe berry, is the fruit of the Prunus Espinosa, a wild bush. The fruit is called endrina or aranon. It is dark blue to purple and dusted with a fine white powder. Quite interestingly, it is thought that this sloe berry had medicinal purposes for stomach ailments, childbirth pains, and aches that went along with old age. Many older liqueur roots were founded in the thought that they had medicinal uses.

The Pacharan is infused through the process of maceration which means the sloe berries are steeped in alcohol. Aniseed essence is added to the mixture before and after the process is complete. This method can take anywhere from one to eight months according to one source before it is ready for the final steps of processing, packaging and on to the shelves of select markets.

Below is the recipe from Gary Regan’s article in the San Francisco Chronicle. He is the author of The Joy of Mixology and other books as well as the Ardent Spirits online newsletter. E-mail him at if you wish to subscribe.

Basque Martini

1-1/2 ounce Baines Pacharan
1-1/2 ounce Crème de Bananes
1 ounce Fresh Lime Juice
2 ounces Pineapple Juice
Pineapple Slice – Garnish
Maraschino Cherry – Garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice and add all of the ingredients. Shake for approximately 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Float the pineapple slice atop the drink and place the cherry in the center.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Key Lime Pie in a Glass at Upstream Brewing Company

Upstream Brewing Company in the Old Market happens to be one of my favorite everyday eating establishments. It is just right for soup and salad, burger and fries, or one of their revolving daily specials. But for Friday night cocktails or beer at the bar, their Greek pizza cannot be beat. They have great food, reasonable prices, and above all else, terrific service by a wait staff who always appear genuinely happy to see me.

While Upstream is primarily known for their on site handcrafted beers, they also provide a variety of wines and a martini list of creative cocktails. Recently they added a few new cocktails to their menu. While perusing the list, two in particular caught my eye. One is often a blended drink, but Upstream has changed it into a straight up drink calling it a Pina Colada Martini. They also used Bacardi Peach Red, which is far from the traditional rum with coconut cream and pineapple juice.

I played with the ingredients for the Pina Colada Martini, finding a recipe to my liking and then tried the Upstream version. Our recipes were very similar. The Bacardi Peach Red adds a pleasant detail to the drink that is unexpected. This straight up version is a great alternative to dragging out the blender and my guess is this one also skips on quite a few calories since it exchanges coconut rum for sugared coconut cream. Instead of using heavy cream as Upstream’s version calls for, I substituted half and half. The only thing Upstream missed on the cocktail was a garnish. This cocktail definitely calls for a skewer of pineapple chunks or at the very least a maraschino cherry. All in all, this is a great tweak on the traditional blended Pina Colada.

The other drink to capture my attention was far more intriguing; the Key Lime Martini. For one, I could not imagine mixing lime juice and cream together and it being reasonably worth tasting. The picture formulating in my mind was combining orange juice and milk. Ick! But primarily my interest in this drink was the liqueur. It called for Liqor 43. Liqor 43 is one of those liqueurs I pass on the shelf at the store, but never purchase. It was time to pick up a bottle for a tasting.

Liqor 43 is Spain’s most widely exported liqueur with a distribution to over 60 countries. Cuarenta Y Tres is Spanish for ‘43’. Apparently there are forty-three herbs, spices and flavorings added to this liqueur, consequently the name; Licor 43. This liqueur has a golden hue with hints of orange and vanilla. It is excellent as a sipping liqueur for after dinner, but even better as a secondary layer to add dimension to mixed drinks and cocktails. The Key Lime Martini is a perfect example of how layers of flavoring make or break a drink.

While Upstream’s Key Lime Martini did have nice flavor, it was rather watery and the Licor 43 was totally lost under the Rose’s Lime Juice. The concentrated form of sweetened lime gave their version a slightly acidic, tart taste rather than the drink coming together smoothly as a whole. It is a shame to add a premium spirit such as Liqor 43 to a mixed drink only to have it smothered beyond recognition. It should be used to enhance a cocktail and make it unique, memorable even.

Again, I played around with the ingredients for the cocktail coming up with a Key Lime Cocktail that was liquid pie in a glass. To say I was amazed is an understatement. The components to this drink played off of each other to perfection. This is what happens when quality products are used in ratios that complement each other as well as using fresh juices rather sugared concentrated juices.

For a weeknight or weekend out, give the cocktails and cuisine at Upstream Brewing Company in the Old Market a try. While at home try out my versions of the Upstream Pina Colada and Key Lime Martinis.

Pina Colada Cocktail

1 ounce Bacardi Peach Red Rum
1 ounce Parrot Bay Coconut Rum
1 ounce Pineapple Juice
1 ounce Half & Half
Pineapple chunks for Garnish

Combine all ingredients except garnish in a cocktail shaker filled one third full of ice. Shake for fifteen to twenty seconds to mix half and half thoroughly. Mixture will be frothy. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a skewer of pineapple chunks. Upstream’s recipe uses 1.5 ounces of pineapple juice instead making for more pineapple flavor.

Key Lime Cocktail

1-1/2 ounce Three Olives Vanilla Vodka
3/4 ounce Liqor 43
1/2 ounce Fresh Lime Juice
1 ounce Half & Half
Lime Twist for Garnish

Combine all ingredients except garnish in a cocktail shaker filled one third full of ice. Shake for fifteen to twenty seconds to mix thoroughly. Mixture will be frothy. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Rim edge of glass with fresh lime twist garnish and then drop into cocktail.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Drink in the Beaches of Blue Hawaii

With Spring Break in full swing for so many, yet the beautiful beaches out of reach for the vast majority it seems appropriate to bring Hawaii to the masses in the form of drink. Perhaps Hawaii is better known for more unusual drinks using ingredients such as papaya or Li Hing Mui, but the Blue Hawaiian is the cocktail with the namesake.

In researching the Blue Hawaiian, so many versions surfaced it was difficult to decipher which one was the “real” Blue Hawaiian and which ones were the imposters. What also came to the forefront is another drink often confused for the Blue Hawaiian; the Blue Hawaii. These two drinks share a name so similar it is no wonder they are often confused by many a bartender and patron alike. So let’s break down the difference.

A true Blue Hawaiian never contains vodka, but rather rum. It also uses cream of coconut rather than sweet and sour mix. Adversely, the Blue Hawaii uses vodka instead of rum and sweet and sour mix, but no cream of coconut. Both however share something in common always; Blue Curacao.

Blue Curacao is essentially an orange liqueur infused with the dried peels of the Larahas plant which is derived from the Valencia orange. The difference between Blue and Orange Curacao is the color. Substituting one for the other in a drink will only change the color, not the taste.

The Blue Hawaii has an advantage over the Blue Hawaiian in that it makes for quite the easy party punch as well as individual cocktail drink. Since the Blue Hawaiian traditionally calls for cream of coconut which needs thorough stirring, shaking or blending, it is not conducive to a punch bowl setting.

So, you decide. Pour over ice, stir, shake, or put the blender on puree. Set your sights on the sandy beaches of Hawaii, sit back and sip a tall, cool one. Choose one or try them all.

Blue Hawaiian

1 ounce Bacardi Rum
2 ounces Pineapple Juice
1 ounce Blue Curacao
1 ounce Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut
Crushed Ice
Pineapple chunks for garnish

Pour liquid ingredients plus approximately one cup of ice in a blender. Mix at high speed until thoroughly liquefied with no ice chunks. This should take a few minutes. Pour contents into a Collins glass. Garnish with a skewer of fresh pineapple chunks.

Blue Hawaii

1-1/2 ounce Smirnoff Vodka
1 ounce Blue Curacao
1 ounce Sweet & Sour Mix
1 ounce Pineapple Juice
2 to 3 ounces Orange Juice
Garnish: Pineapple chunks or maraschino cherry

Combine ingredients in order given into a Collins glass filled half full of ice. Stir briefly. Garnish with a skewer of pineapple chunks or top with a simple maraschino cherry. To make this recipe into a punch simply multiply the recipe ratios.

For a blend of both worlds try this cocktail using vodka plus coconut rum instead of cream of coconut:

The Blue Hawaii Cocktail

1 ounce Jaguar Vodka
1/2 ounce Blue Curacao
1/2 ounce Parrot Bay Coconut Rum
1-1/2 ounce Pineapple Juice
3/4 ounce Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake thoroughly for ten to fifteen seconds. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Find a Thrill with the Blueberry Hill

Inspiration often comes out of the blue at an unexpected time. While I am continually on the lookout for new liquors on the market and searching for hard to find ancient ones, sometimes an item catches my eye that is not in the liquor department at all. Occasionally an idea is sparked during an ordinary trip to the market while perusing the juice aisle.

A while back Smirnoff Vodka came out with blueberry flavored vodka. This was entirely new on the market and of course a must have to try in my test kitchen. It paired well with Caravella Limoncello, fresh lemon juice and bar syrup. However, bar syrup is not my first choice for flavoring a cocktail. It is nothing special after all, just sugar and water. There is no real flavor in it. Flavor means adding punch to something. An explosion of enthusiasm is what transforms a cocktail from corner bar weekday to nightclub Saturday night.

This infusion of flavor insight came from a tiny bottle of concentrated blueberry juice. WOW! Does this little bottle pack a punch?! Merely opening the bottle and shaking a quarter of an ounce of it in the shaker had the entire place smelling of fresh blueberries. With a few minor adjustments and tweaking of my original recipe, this cocktail indeed went from the monotonous everyday drink to an explosion of flavor.

Blueberry Hill

2 ounces Smirnoff Blueberry Vodka
1 ounce Caravella Limoncello
1/2 ounce Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/4 ounce Blueberry Juice Concentrate
Lemon Wheel, Garnish
Four Fresh Blueberries, Garnish

Place liquids in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake 10 to 15 seconds until chilled thoroughly. Strain into a well chilled cocktail shaker. Garnish with a floated lemon wheel. Place a skewer of fresh blueberries across top of glass. Enjoy!

Blueberry Hill Thrill

2 ounces Smirnoff Blueberry Vodka
1 ounce Caravella Limoncello
1/2 ounce Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/4 ounce Blueberry Juice Concentrate
Brut or Extra Brut Champagne
Lemon Wheel, Garnish
Four Fresh Blueberries, Garnish

Place liquids except champagne into cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake 10 to 15 seconds until fully chilled. Strain into a well chilled cocktail shaker. Garnish with a floated lemon wheel. Place a skewer of fresh blueberries into the cocktail. Top off with champagne; about one to two ounces.

I used Dynamic Health Blueberry Juice Concentrate, 100% Pure, Kosher from organically grown blueberries found at Whole Foods Market for $8.99. This particular brand may also be found on the internet.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Tanqueray's Rangpur & the Maharani Cocktail

Sometimes the winter seems so long, cold and brutal that the only drinks that keep me warm are a glass of cabernet sauvignon or a double shot of Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka with a single ice cube melting slowly away in the glass. However, spring puts a fresh perspective on the cocktail shaker and new drinks are begging to be shaken and stirred.

Tanqueray launched Rangpur Gin in the summer of 2006 to a couple of trial cities in the United States. Obviously Tanqueray realized they had a success on their hands, because two years later Rangpur Gin is widely available throughout the US. This particular gin is aptly named for the essence of rangpur limes, ginger, and bay leaves that have been added during the final stages of the distillation process. This merging of flavor results in Rangpur being a slightly less edgy gin than one might associate with the higher end Tanqueray 10. Tanqueray 10 has the sharpness needed for a perfect straight up martini, while the Tanqueray Rangpur has a softer, fruitier lilt to it which enables it to mingle well with less traditional gin drinks. It is this factor also that possibly opens gin up to an entirely new demographic of drinkers who may have never considered experimenting with gin before.

While spring calls for experimentation, it also calls for bikini season on the horizon. The waistline has been taken into consideration as much as possible where liquor is concerned and diet tonic water has been used in the following recipe. This version is preferable to regular tonic water and it really keeps the carbohydrate count down for anyone on a low carb diet. The following highball cocktail contains only 1.5 grams of carbs.

Rangpur & Tonic

2 ounces Rangpur Gin
1/2 ounce Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
Diet Tonic Water

Pour gin and lime juice into a highball glass filled half full of ice. Top off with diet tonic water. A half a fresh lime may be used in place of the fresh squeezed juice and then dropped into the glass as garnish.

Cheri Limeade

2 ounces Rangpur Gin
1/2 ounce Chambord
1/2 ounce Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
Diet Tonic Water or Regular Tonic Water
Maraschino Cherries & Lime Wheel for Garnish

Measure Rangpur and lime juice into a highball glass filled 1/2 full of ice. Top with tonic water leaving enough room at the top of the glass to float the 1/2 ounce of Chambord. Garnish with maraschino cherries and lime wheel on a skewer.

What is spring and cocktail hour without a straight up cocktail? One of my favorite liqueurs is St~Germain. This liqueur seems to have been created for spring as it originates from bountiful elderflower blossoms. These fragile blossoms transform into a delicate sweet spirit during the production process. While gin and St~Germain may not be a traditional combination, the uniqueness of St~Germain and the infused layering of Rangpur make them an ideal complement to each other.

Maharani Cocktail

1-1/2 ounce Rangpur Gin
1-1/2 ounce St~Germain
3/4 ounce Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
Thinly Sliced Lemon & Lime Wheels for Garnish

Combine liquids in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake for approximately 15 seconds. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Carefully fold the lemon and lime wheels together into the shape of a “C” and thread onto a skewer through the rinds. Place into the cocktail and serve.

Summer Fun Begins with Sex on the Beach

Spring break, sand volleyball, bikinis, and Sex on the Beach; all mark the end of a long bitter winter and the beginning of fun in the sun. While some may view Sex on the Beach as a girlie cocktail with its pinkish hue and fruity flavor, there was a time when this particular drink topped cocktail lists in the hottest bars across the country due to the name alone. This drink has taken on a life of its own with variations such as Creamy Sex on the Beach, Oral Sex on the Beach, Quick Sex on the Beach, Sex on the Brain, Sex on the Pool Table, or even Sex with the Bartender.

Although it is difficult to pinpoint when or where the first Sex on the Beach cocktail originated, there is no doubt what makes for a good one. The Sex on the Beach cocktail is classified within the New England Highball family of drinks. All New England Highballs contain cranberry juice. From there various liqueurs or juices are added to create the other cocktails within this family grouping.

The key to creating a fabulous Sex on the Beach is the right ratio and quality of ingredients brought to the shaker. While Chopin vodka with its four times distillation is fabulous for a straight up martini, it is not necessary for your average highball. A good quality average Joe vodka is essential. Smirnoff Triple Distilled Vodka is the ideal vodka for most average mixers. It has a clean taste rather than that nose turning, rubbing alcohol scent that most lower end and even some flashier advertised vodkas share. An additional benefit is the eleven flavors Smirnoff has introduced to the market including blueberry, which mixes wonderfully with Caravella Limoncello.

Whenever possible fresh fruit juices make the difference between a ho hum cocktail and a “Wow!” cocktail. If fresh juices are not available, at least do not forget to garnish the drink. Garnishing is the finishing step. There are some cocktails that a garnish is merely an accessory to pretty the glass up a bit. However, more often than not garnishing adds just that little extra hint of flavor to the cocktail. Whether it is slightly pungent from citrus twists, sweet from the syrup of maraschino cherries, or briny like dunked olives, every garnish serves its purpose in a cocktail.

Sex on the Beach

1-1/2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce Peachtree Schnapps
1/4 ounce Chambord
2 ounces Cranberry Juice
2 ounces Pineapple Juice

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake 10 – 15 seconds until frothy. Strain into a highball glass filled 1/2 to 2/3 full of ice. Garnish with a skewer of fresh pineapple chunks.

For those who would like to enjoy Sex on the Beach all day, this is a little something I concocted that is non alcoholic.

Faux Sex on the Beach

3 ounces Pineapple juice
2 ounces Cranapple juice
1/4 ounce Raspberry syrup (found on the coffee aisle)
2 ounces Apricot nectar
Club Soda

Pour all ingredients except Club Soda into a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake 10 – 15 seconds. Pour into a highball glass filled 1/2 to 2/3 full of ice. Top off with Club Soda. Garnish with a skewer of fresh pineapple chunks & maraschino cherries.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Myth Cocktail Lounge & Agavero: Where Legends Begin

Call it legend or lore, the tucked away cozy cocktail bar Myth actually exists in a thriving little alcove in The Old Market at 1105 Howard Street in Omaha, Nebraska. Amid big business chain restaurants and long time sports bars that cater to specific market types, this small cocktail lounge has met the calling of a clientele that is difficult to pigeonhole and, quite frankly, appears would rather not be.

On any given evening there may be an elderly woman with her daughter and grand daughter sipping wine and a cosmopolitan at one corner table while a bachelorette party is quietly beginning their evening festivities at a small sofa nook. Through the door may enter a couple on their first date taking seats at the bar next to a regular who chats amiably with the owner Brian and one of the friendly bartenders Bryan or Joel. Meanwhile other couples and singles mingle in a fashion that does not read any particular stereotype at all. It is just a mix of people having a good time in a low key, sophisticated bar where jeans or suits are the norm.

There is a small TV hanging over the bar area, but it is rarely tuned in as this is not a sports bar. The music playing in the background at Myth comes from local bands that have toured through and often play at Myth on Tuesdays and Thursdays any given week. These artists are posted on the Myth MySpace page along with a calendar of Myth performance events.

Myth’s bar is particularly intriguing if you take the time for more than a glance along the back wall. Quite a few bars of Myth’s size have a marginally stocked bar with the typical offerings. Most bars will carry the run of the mill well stock liquors and then there will be the call liquors; three or four tequilas, three or four vodkas, one or two rums, one or two gins, and most likely one of each scotch and whiskey. Myth goes the extra mile. Myth’s back bar looks like the kind of bar a person would like to stock in their own home. It is not what is usually seen in a typical small commercial bar. There are high end vodkas made from potatoes, some flavored with double espresso, and a very new one coming made from corn. There are enough selections of whiskeys to do a drink comparison with them if you wish. Myth stocks some of the liquors and liqueurs people hear about, but have not had the opportunity to try. What it all adds up to is fabulous drinks and a relaxing atmosphere for an unmistakably good time.

A little something I was pleasantly surprised to learn about at Myth was Agavero tequila liqueur. Agavero is a blend of 100% agave anejo and reposado tequilas with an addition of Damiana flower. Damiana flower is indigenous to the mountainous region of Jalisco. Legend maintains that the essence of the Damiana flower stirs up the emotions in people. Whether it is the flower or the essence blended in this tequila, it is difficult to say, but at 64-proof, consuming too much could certainly stir an emotional response in the weak of spirit. The result of blending of Damiana with 100% blue agave tequila is a smooth, vaguely sweet tequila that mingles rather nicely with Patron for margaritas or champagne if you dare for something a bit more frisky.

If you are up for a place with sophistication without an air of pretentiousness to it, check out Myth in The Old Market.

Champagne Agavero

1 ounce Agavero
Brut or Extra Brut Champagne
Lime Wedge

Pour Agavero in champagne flute. Top off with champagne leaving room for squeezing the lime wedge and dropping into the champagne. It is advantageous to chill the Agavero for the purpose of this drink. Thank you to Brian at Myth for introducing me to Agavero and this particular cocktail!

Agavero Margarita

2 ounces Patron Reposado Tequila
1 ounce Fresh Lime Juice
3/4 ounce Agavero
Salt for Rimming
Lime Wedge for Garnish

Run lime wedge around rim of margarita or double old fashioned glass. Dip rim of glass in salt. Fill glass 2/3 full of ice and set aside. Place Tequila, lime juice, and Agavero in a cocktail shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake until frothy; approximately 15 seconds. Strain into salt rimmed glass. Garnish with lime wedge.