Amateur Cocktail Gal has a birthday coming up. She’s invited some friends over for dinner to help celebrate. Two immediately good things have come about in response to that – the house is cleaner now than at any point since we moved back in last year, and a new drink is needed. The latest issue of Imbibe hit the mailbox last week. It is the holiday issue with a nice collection of drink recipes. One in particular caught my eye – the Spiced Pear Daiquiri. As constructed in their article, the drink is made up of rum, lime juice, pear juice and a spiced sugar syrup. I deconstructed it a bit to get the components more in line with the techniques I prefer. The apple infused vodka and cherry syrup from October were impressive, at least I was amazed at how well they turned out. Seemed reasonable to make a pear and spice infused rum as the base:

Pear Spice Rum

  • 75 cl of silver rum

    Spices used

  • 3 ripe pears peeled, cored and diced
  • 10 allspice berries crushed
  • 1 nutmeg crushed
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
  • 6 or so cloves

Infuse for a week and strain.

Starting point

I’ve noticed as I’ve made the various syrups and infusions that you can get different flavor profiles from you ingredients depending on how you extract the flavors. This was pretty obvious with a honeysuckle flower infusions I tried over the summer. The alcohol infusion had a strikingly more vegetal quality than the sugar syrup infusion. In working with the pears it made sense to flavor the sugar syrup in addition to the spirit to try and capture all the fruit has to offer-

Pear syrup

  • 3 pears, peeled,cored and diced
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • small amount of lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Mix and simmer for 45 – 60 minutes. Strain and bottle.

This makes around 300 ml of syrup. The wine gives a discernible positive difference over water. If you ue wine, you want one without oak flavor and good acidity. I’ve used whites from the Loire Valley in France (Vouvray and Samur) and most recently a $3 bottle of Wal Mart’s house brand Oak Leaf Pinot Grigio/Chenin Blanc. The Oak Leaf is 80% Chenin making it acidic enough to work well here.  Time for a drink-

The ACG Spiced Pear Daiquiri

  • 2 oz Spice Pear Rum
  • 3/4 oz pear syrup
  • 1/2 to 3/4 oz lime juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Nice. Prep for the party is now down to just squeezing a few limes. I could go as far as mixing up 8 – 12 drinks before hand. When the guests arrive, I’d measure out a serving, shake and serve.


One big hit from last summer was the Ginger Daiquiri. A really enjoyable citrus-rum-ginger chilled masterpiece. The secret ingredient was homemade ginger syrup detailed here. It was made for the daiquiri but worked equally well to make up homemade ginger ale or a cola-like drink when mixed with Aveena Amaro. Even with all these uses, I never finished a batch quick enough to feel comfortable with the last bit in the bottle. I dumped out about as much as I consumed. That got me thinking: The cocktail is just a vehicle for getting alcohol in the system by way of the mouth. Various flavor ingredients work to make the mouth time pleasurable. Does it really matter if the flavor compounds originate within a syrup or a liquor base? Not to the mouth, at least not unless one of the flavors is off because the base has gone bad. Why not just put the flavor compounds into the liquor so they keep longer thereby lowering overall cost and spreading out enjoyment? Done:

Ginger Infused Rum

  • 8 oz of peeled and chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/2 oz crystallized ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp crushed Cardamon pods
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 75 cl of white rum

Combine ingredients and allow to steep for ____ weeks.

I’ll get back to you on how long to let it soak, but I’m thinking at least until school is out. I’ll probably add some lime zest this weekend when I have time to process a few of the little guys.

Note: the crystallized ginger was added after I read that the people who make Domaine de Canton liqueur use both root and crystal ginger in their mix.

Note 2: I did add the zest of one lime yesterday (May 17)

The genesis for this string of post came from hearing a friend describe her annual egg nog production. I was taken by the amount of work and care she put into making each batch and the obvious craft she brought to the task. She was gracious enough to document the process this year. The techniques involved apply to all of the recipes given in part 2 of these posts-

Here’s my recipe I am true to. It came from my sister’s husband’s family, where they’d keep it in the garage and sip on it until Easter!

  • 1 dozen eggs, separated
  • 1 lb powdered sugar
  • 1 quart bourbon
  • 1 cup light rum
  • 2 quarts whipping cream

Beat yolks until light yellow in color. Add powdered sugar, which will thicken it. Add booze slowly so not to “cook” the eggs. I have been adding some brandy to spice it up! (5 cups of liquor in all). Set aside in large container. Whip cream to soft peaks. Set aside. Whip egg whites to soft peaks. Fold in whipped cream and egg whites. Stir daily until ready to serve. It looses a lot of volume. I like to start now (around Thanksgiving) for Christmas. I usually strain before serving to get out any stubborn lumps.
















Gettting Started 



















Progressive additions to the yolks















Beaten egg whites, then cream are folded in




The final mix is stored in the refrigerator, stirring every few days until it is needed.


We got our hands on some the other night. It was really something – light and airy with the complex flavors of the liquors and a mouth coating texture. A real treat and miles removed from the grocery store cartons.


Punches are tough things to make – you need a lot of people together to justify making a batch.  I’ve been thinking about trying one. I was looking for some egg nog recipes in which I could use the spiced rum. That lead me to my copy of Charleston Receipts, a South Carolina classic. The book was put together by the Junior League of Charleston (SC) and published in 1950. It is a collection of family recipes. Conventional wisdom has it that these passed down recipes represent cooking (and drinking) from the 18th and 19th century.  This can lead to some culinart archaeology when you use the recipes. I proposed to my wife over an oyster pie described in this book. I also used a neat way to cook quails described on the book when the opportunity presented itself last year. Currently working on securing a possum to try out that signature dish.

The book starts with a section on drinks. Most are punches with proportions that would satisfy 100 or so people gathered for a major social event. One caught my eye because it included tea, a Charleston stand by.

Rum Punch

“This was the punch my father made for all the debutante parties of my generation.”


1 gallon brandy              2 quarts black tea

½ gallon heavy or           2 dozen lemons

light rum

1 pint peach brandy        Sugar to taste

5-6 quarts of carbonated water


Add carbonated water just before serving, more or less according to the strength puch to have. 1 pint curaco or maraschino as well as strawberries, cherries or a few slices of pineapple may be added.  130-140 servings Mrs Ralph Hanson (Eleanor Rutlidge)

You see what I have to work with. A little creative math made it manageable. When all the measures are converted to ounces, it becomes apparent that they divisible by 8. Doing that reduces it to 16 – 18 servings. Tiding up the recipe gave this:

Charleston Rum Punch (1/8 recipe)

16 oz   brandy                              8 oz black tea
8  oz    rum, light or dark             6 oz strained fresh lemon juice
2  oz    peach brandy                    5 oz 3:1 sugar syrup
[2 oz    curaco or maraschico]      20-24 oz  club soda

Notes: I used the peach liquor made a couple of months back for this component, although peach brandy is readily available in our ABC stores. The tea was brewed with loose leaf Earl Grey. Six ounces of lemon juice is what I got from squeezing three lemons. The sugar syrup amount comes from David Embury’s drink ratio of 8:2:1 – base liquor:modifying substance:sugar syrup. He makes a 3 parts sugar to 1 part water syrup. One cup of sugar dissolved in 1/3 cup water gives about 7 ounces, enough for this plus a little extra for the next night’s drinks.

The result was pretty good. Without the club soda, it tasted like an alcoholic iced tea. We packed up the punch base along with our newly designated portable punch bowl and headed to a get together with some friends. I added soda water and lemon slices just before serving. The water tamed the alcohol a bit and gave a nice spritz. The punch seemed to be well received. Two people in particular enjoyed it and their attention was much appreciated. – Cheers

Took some of the extra hour from last night’s shift of Daylight Savings to strain out my on-going infusions. One big surprise and a couple of nice treats. Started with the Fig infused vodka. Something completely unexpected happened – it had gelled. The fruit and vodka looked like a jello salad as I got it out of the container. I suppose pectin from the fruit did it.

I ran it through the mesh strainer, then twice through cheese cloth to get back to a liquid. Ended up losing over half of the original volume, 300 ml after starting with 750. The aroma and flavor are very earthy and dominated by the vanilla. Added 30 ml (1 oz) of 2:1 simple syrup to try and make something more palatable. I’ll have to think hard to come up with a use for this one. Skip the vanilla bean next time.

Now for the two pleasant surprises. About the time I set up the fig infusion, I also collect some wild bunch grapes. I see the vines all around our area. They appear to be dioecious (ie, males and females) so you need a fruit bearing female vine for grapes. You also need to find one with fruit you can get to. They grow up trees and seem to get quite high up. I found a couple with fruit I could reach near our neighborhood and one on the main north-south road in town. I checked the vines every few days and tried to get to them  when the fruit was ripe. The bunches ripen unevenly and then are only ripe for a few days before they start to wither. It made it tough to get much fruit. The berries are small and have to be removed from the bunch one grape at a time to seperate ripe ones from the green ones. They are very acidic and have very little sugar. Plus, they have a strong green vegetal aroma. Not unpleasant, just not grape-like. I didn’t hold out much hope for a palatable result, but went ahead and set up an infusion.

The photo shows what I got after two early morning runs to gather what I could from the vine near the busy street. The berries on these were a little larger than the ones near our house. The clusters also seemed to be more evenly ripe than the ones near us. I just got a few odd looks while I set up my step stool on the sidewalk and tried to get all the clusters I could reach.

An aside – when I first saw these a few yeas ago, I really wanted to make wine out of them. One taste of the grape stopped that idea. We have several species of native grapes in this country. The best example of wine made from one variety can be had from Valiant Vineyards. The next best option is to track down a wine made from the Norton (also called the Cynthiana) grape, preferably from Missouri or Virginia.

Back to the topic at hand. I coverd the berries with 80 proof vodka and let them sit for six weeks. The final product is pitch black. It still has the green/vegetal aroma of the original fruit but it seems to have toned down. 

This was strained through wire mesh then cheese cloth. The final product has the strong vegetal aroma, the palate has a nice grape character and a hint of sweetness. It’s a tooth stainer. I had planned to add some simple syrup to help mask any off flavors, but it turns out it didn’t need it.

The final pleasant surprise was the spiced rum. This was a fairly straight foward item to process. Not much sediment. It has a rich brown color, with nutmeg scent on the nose and a little bite of cinnamon on the palate. The vanilla isn’t as noticable as it is in the fig infusion. This one’s a keeper. It should be a great base for Mai Tais, Egg Nogs or other seasonal drinks. We did a side to side tasting with Appleton Estate V/X and prefered the home brew. Cost: $18 for the Appleton’s, around $14 for the home brew (Bacardi used as the base)

Spiced Rum

  • 75 cl bottle of white rum
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 1 nutmeg pod, broken
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Steep for 1-2 weeks, strain and bottle.

Addendum – Came back to this tonight (Nov 30). I had some extra lime juice from the weekend that I hated to waste-

Spiced Rum Daiquiri

  • 1-1/2 oz spiced rum
  • 1/2 Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz Orgeat
  • 3/4 oz lime juice

Shake and strain. Not bad. You get the vanilla and nutmeg on the nose. The nutmeg gives is a slight bubble-gummy-root-beer taste. That observation lead to a Cinnamom Daiquiri, substituting Goldschläger for the Cointreau, and adding a few dashes of orange bitters. The cinnamon is quite obvious now, but the effect was more harsh. Stick with the recipe above.

Great party and great time last night – thanks to our Halloween hosts for another memorable night.

The Pumpkin Spice has been a drink in progress. I tried several iterations over the course of the last week – bourbon, cognac, calvados for the base, then adding in different modifying liquors. I think the magical formula came together last night. There were nice comments made and even a couple of request for re-loads. Here’s the final recipe:

  • 1 1/2 oz aged rum
  • 1/2 oz Goldschläger cinnamon schnapps
  • 1/2 oz fresh Meyers Lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz Monin Pumpkin Spice syrup

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add a dash of pomegranate juice and let it settle to the bottom. Big hit with the witches.












Most of these were made with Appleton Estate VX Jamaica Rum, a current favorite, but we also made a couple with Knob Creek bourbon. The quality of the base liquor really helps make the drink. For the final round we used a little bit of a brown liquor from a Mason jar that showed up toward the end of the party. I think that last one was the reason I was a little slow to get going this morning.

Lots of discussion here lately on Halloween cocktails. I would bet that in most of the country it is, or has, surpassed St. Patrick’s Day as the holiday adults celebrate with a drink. It’s on a Friday this year (and a Saturday next year) so there’s the  opportunity to have one more before turning in. With my advancing age, volume consumed has long been surpassed in importance by quality of consumption. Every drink (or bite) taken entails a certain number of calories that have to be accounted for at some point. If I’m going to take them in, and work them off, they better be worth the effort. You know “Life’s too short to drink cheap wine,” and all that.

My goal for a Halloween drinks is to get some Halloween flavor into my companions. Using the Pumpkin flavored syrup is a quick and easy way to do it. The sugar in the syrup limits it usefulness though plus it’s pre-made. We’re all about homemade ingredients around here, so making our own pumpkin flavored items seemed to make sense. Remember, a drink is a vehicle for getting tastes into the drinker. Sugar blunts the taste and alcohol blunts the taster.  Making our own components allows better control over both. We’re no longer trying to knock out our date, she’s now our wife and one of us has to drive home.

I digress. An extraction, err ah, infusion is one way to get flavors out of something solid and into a drink. Infusing spirits seems to be all the rage now. That’s because it is easy and fun. There is lots of info on the the web that is free for the taking. A search on “Pumkin infusion” turned up two. This and that.

The first, taken from Sunset magazine, was interesting in that they used squash for the pumpkin flavoring and just a bit of it at that. The second, from a New York City bar, used raw pumpkin. Several follow up posting criticized it for tasting like, well, raw pumpkin, not the pumpkin pie flavor I guess was expected. Both of these have the usual pumpkin associated spices added in.

I turned up one more recipe in Infused by Susan Ella MacNeal. Not sure where I got this, but it looks to be $2 used on Amazon. Her recipe calls for 1 cup canned pumpkin, 1 vanilla bean, 2 cinnamon sticks and 15 to 20 cloves. These are infused in a bottle of the liquor of your choice for 1 month and strained when the flavor reaches the desired intensity. Couple of points here: first, again with the prepared food. This is only one step away from me using a pumpkin syrup. That’s a step I’m trying not to take again. Second, “any liquor” can be used. Good point. We saw that here with the peach liqueur, making a brandy and then a bourbon based version. I think rum and pumpkin would be complimentary.

Here’s what I came up with.

  • 16 oz of diced butternut squash – 8 oz roasted, 8 oz raw.
  • (This was one half of the squash)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 whole nutmeg, rough broken
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 75cl vodka

I set it up last week with the plan on steeping it for just over a week.

The most common recipe I find this used in calls for 3 parts pumpkin vodka, 1 part Amaretto.  If you shake it with ice, you’ll get some water to dilute it, but that still seems like a lot of alcohol.  This might be one where a little homemade grenadine is welcome. Have to experiment and get back to you.

The picture I posted also shows a larger jar with just the spices infusing. That was supposed to be my pumpkin infused rum. I picked up one of those small Pumpkin Pie Pumkins at Ingles, gutted and peeled it, then roasted it. When it was done it smelled terrible. I was sure I didn’t want that taste in a drink. The raw flesh didn’t smell so great either. So I just put the spices into the rum. I’ll figure out what to do with it later (Mai tai or Daiquiri, something along those lines).

My spices were purchased at a local organic grocery that sells them bulk. I can just by what I need, one vanilla bean, one nutmeg, etc. Also, I left out the cloves. There have a fairly distinctive flavor some people don’t enjoy, Amateur Cocktail Gal included.

October 28 addendum:


I siphoned off some of the pumpkin vodka to try out. The aroma off the vodka is distinct but faint. Pretty pale orange color. After reading through some previous post I hit on the idea of a Pumpkin Cosmo, subtituting Amaretto for the Triple Sec and using the pumpkin vodka as the base. I cut back on the Amaretto so it wouldn’t over power the vodka flavoring.

  • 1 1/2 oz pumpkin vodka
  • 3/4 oz Amaretto
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • splash of pomegrante juice

Shake and strain.

Here’s what I got:

 Not bad, but the pumpkin flavor was vanishingly faint. The juice didn’t add much either and detracted from the orange color the drink might otherwise have had (the red got washed out a bit in my picture).

Next attempt – Grand Marnier in place of the Amaretto. Still a problem of losing the pumpkin flavor in the final mix. Probably ought to shelf this one for a while.

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