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.


This one has been making the rounds on various sites as Halloween approaches. Best discussion is here.  The same picture that is offered with each posting looks great. I had to try it out. The basic idea is to pipe Bailey’s Irish Cream into acidified vodka to form a coagulated brain-looking mass, then drizzle that with grenadine for a blood effect. Sounds great and seems easy enough. Picked up some Bailey’s on the way home tonight. Someone suggested that I try and come up with a virgin shot for kids. Got some whipping cream and half-and-half  for that.

The recipes floating around use Rose’s Lime juice for the acidity. The recipe uses only a small amount of Rose’s.  I tried it in rum with both 1:3 and 1:2 Rose’s to rum. Both coagulated the Bailey’s but the coagulum sank to the bottom of the glass in each case. Not terrible, but not as advertised. I have some bright red cherry syrup made a few days ago. It falls to the bottom of the glass as well and made a good show when mixed with the brain matter. The final drink (pictured) was made with some of the Apple Vodka started earlier this week. The cream and cherry syrup made a great, apple pie and ice cream tasting drink. You just have to get past the lump in the bottom.

I then tried a mix of Rose’s and Welch’s white grape juice. The mixture was actually pretty good by itself. The Bailey’s worked and it floated, I suspect due to the high sugar content of sugar in the juice and the resultant higher specific gravity. Not a drink for the kids though. Unfortunately, the cream and half and half only formed a thin layer of coagulated  solids on the top of the juice mixture. Same result when I used 1% milk and skim milk.  I’m going to try one more after mixing some egg white with the cream to see if that works. One other idea was to pipe yogurt into the juice and see if it held together. If all else fails I’ll drop a gummy eyeball into their drinks and call it at that.

This is my first time playing with Bailey’s. There must be something in it – proteinacious? – that coagulates in the acid. I remember reading that the product was a breakthrough because of it’s ability to keep the cream from separating in the bottle. Creative food chemistry I suppose.

So that all wasn’t lost, an ounce of Bailey’s was added to my evening coffee to make a good night cap.

Cherry Syrup

  • 24 oz frozen sweet cherries (2-12 oz packages of Dole)
  • 2 lbs sugar
  • juice of a lemon
  • small amount of water

Mix the cherries and sugar together in a bowl large enough to hold them. Let sit in the refrigerator overnight.  Stir occasionally. Add the lemon juice. Transfer to a pot and simmer for 15 minutes. It will boil over easily. Add a little water as needed to dissolve all the sugar. Strain out the solids and bottle. It should keep for quite some time in the fridge. Add a little vodka if you want to be safe. This made enough to fill one wine bottle and about half of a split.

I’ve tried this as a substitute for simple syrup in daiquiris and the Cynar/Gin sour. It really is quite good. The cherry flavor is present without overpowering.

Rose Gimlet

Last night’s Collins brought on tonight’s drink – a gimlet made with Rose Syrup in place of sweetened Lime Juice. It seemed fairly straight forward but the rose syrup proved to be a little too sweet on it’s own. Two dash of Angostura bitters helped nicely and brought this one in as a bit of a hybrid between a Pink Gin and a Gimlet.

Rose Gimlet

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz Rose syrup
  • 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters

Stir in ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Lots of herbal goodness with a tinge of sweetness.

We’ve had several experiments going on the last week or so. Unfortunately, no big hits with any of them. Got coalsaround to trying out the barbecue pit. It worked fairly well, but I don’t think I let the fire go long enough to build the proper amount of coals to get the cooking done. It was fun sitting out by the fire early last Saturday morning while it was still a little cold outside. The area around the pit needs some work to make it more comfortable. Once that’s done, we’ll try again but shoot for three or more hours of fire to get a good bed of coals.honeysuckle

One other idea came up while walking the dogs. Honeysuckle is in bloom now. The flower aroma is strong when you go by a large patch of it – seemed like a natural to put into a cocktail. After the dogs finished their loop, I went back around with a jar and filled it with blossoms. That measured 3.5 gms of material. Covered that with vodka and let it steep overnight. It must have been too long. The Amateur Cocktail Spouse got some stemmy flavors in a cocktail I made with it the following day. I still have most of the bottle left. I added a little sugar to part of it. We’ll let it sit for a while and see how it evolves.

Pre-made cocktails components get a bad rep. A really good cocktail starts with really good ingredients. There are a lot of crappy pre-made things out there, but there are also a lot of well made products waiting to be discovered. It’s all relative. Everything can’t be made from scratch. And so, to a degree you have to allow for a little slack. The degree you allow probably defines your approach to other things as well. Last year’s tarragon soda was a nice find. I guess to some people it’s a kin to using Collins mix, but it was unusual for this cocktail drinker (and good).

The first attempt at Honeysuckle vodka didn’t turn out so well. The current rage seems to be St. Germain Elderflower liqueur. It’s a new product concocted by an American. It has shown up in our local ABC stores, but at $30 a bottle it’s a bit of a luxury. It is a modern riff on elderflower syrup. A little searching will turn up several commercial varieties of the syrup, the most promising of which is here. You can also make you own.

There are others. I turned up an artisanal Rose syrup made in Lebanon. This came from Kalustyan’s in New York, a great source for the unusual or odd ethnic spice or cooking ingredient. Digging deeper, turn up quince lemon syrup and Sekanjebin (?) syrup. These last two will have to wait, but with the rose syrup in hand, we made a standard Tom Collins, substituting the rose syrup for the simple syrupRose Collins

Rose SyrupRose Collins

  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz Rose Syrup
  • 4 or so oz of sparkling water

Add first three ingredient to a Collins glass with ice, stir, add sparkling water and sir gently again. Enjoy on the back porch. Repeat.

Refreshing and enjoyable. One thing about the Lavender infusions from last year – Lavender gets used so much in toiletries, you could make yourself think you were drinking hand cream when your drink smells like lavender. The rose scent in today’s drink takes me back to the cheap hotel soap we encountered in China. The herbal tinge of the gin helps mitigate it a bit. I need to try it out one some friends to get an unbiased view.

The “Amateur” in our title was accentuated again today with Eric Felten’s latest great cocktail article in the weekend Wall St. Journal. Like last year, this weeks topic was Halloween cocktails. He mention a drink containing Monin Pumpkin Spice syrup in passing and dismissed it out of hand. Ouch.  I didn’t hurt too much, really. I was thinking fast when I came up with the Pumpkin Spice cocktail, and still feel pretty good about it (It’s pretty much a daiquiri if you use rum, and we do like us some daiquiris. In fact, I’m having one now, made with Meyer’s Dark Rum left over from a try at a Jamaican Black Cake. That’s for another blog). That said, his suggested drink from this year’s column as well as the one put out last year deserve a try. Today he pulled one out of the Savoy Cocktail Book: Satan’s Whisker. Great name, no pumpkin flavoring, no blood colored ingredients, just the name. Worth trying, but beware – very little acid, so it might come off flabby. Put some dry ice in it. Ha ha

Satan’s Whisker

  • 1/2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/2 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 oz Grand Marnier
  • dash of orange bitters

Stir and strain. Garnish with an orange peel.

The drink from last year’s column was in a somewhat similar vein. A dry cocktail without bizarre color or ingredient additions. One big plus for this one, it includes apple cider, a staple of our local apple industry. Unfortunately, the liquors called for aren’t carried by our ABC stores. Oh well – go to Green’s or Total Wine in Greenville SC and you will be rewarded. wink wink, nudge nudge

Wicked Witch

  • 1 oz Strega liquor
  • 1 oz Averna Amaro
  • 1 oz apple cider

Shake and strain.

Click here for another Averna recipe. It’s a good one.

Addendum (Nov 2nd): I’ve made several Satan’s Whiskers now. It is low acid as predicted, but very orangey without being cloying. I’m making mine as doubles – 1 oz of everything. That will give you enough to fill a decent sized cocktail glass


I keep coming back to this drink because I like it so much. It can be a bit of a chore to make though. The orginal recipe came from an article by William L. Hamilton (Shaken & Stirred, New York Times, May 23, 2004). His came from the restaurant Mas, and included white Rum, Cointreau, Lemon juice and a home made ginger simple syrup.  A great drink when made by the recipe, but the syrup takes two days to make. I’ve made them using our homemade ginger syrup. Quite good. Another good variation is to use Domaine du Canton Ginger Liquor in place of half of the rum. But the ginger Liquor ain’t cheap. Monin has a premade ginger syrup, $8 a bottle,  that seemed worth trying. That lead to this:

  • 2 oz white Rum
  • 1 oz fresh squeezed and strained lime juice
  • 3/4 oz Monin Ginger Syrup

Shake and strain.

Lots of ginger on the nose, but the taste seemed a bit fake.


The Ginger Daiquir Deluxe that gets its spice from the ginger liquor and Oregeat syrup is still the favorite around here. No planning required.

I’m still on the trail of a Campari drink (other than the Negroni) I like. The first issue of Imbibe included a reader submitted recipe for the Orange Viola – Campari, gin and passion fruit syrup. It is essentially a Negroni but with the sweet coming from the fruit syrup. I tried to track down passion fruit syrup and even passion fruits locally but no luck. (Monin has the syrup, but it seems too hot right now to have it shipped). An idea came to me one night – if you could substitute syrup for the vermouth, why not substitute another syrup for the passion fruit? Here goes:

Orange syrup

  • 1 cup fresh squeezed, strained orange juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • grated zest from the orange

Bring it all to boil and simmer for a few minutes. Strain and cool. Save the zest and let it dry – it is candied orange peel that is quite tasty.

ACG Orange Viola

  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz Campari
  • 3/4 oz Orange syrup

Good, taste like a Negroni with an orange edge. The original recipe only calls for a 1/2 oz of syrup. Mine wasn’t sweet enough with just that amount so we adjusted upwards. I suppose you could use other commercally prepared syrups as well. You might need to run some test drinks to get the sweetness level right.

Thinking back to my peaches – I made a peach syrup:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of ripe peach flesh, diced
  • 1/2 cup of sugar

Simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and cool. Add 1 tsp of lemon juice. Save the fruit, it is also quite tasty.

This yields about 3/4 cup syrup. It is not as as sweet as the orange syrup, so you might want to add a little more. I will say that the delicate peach flavor was lost against the Campari, not an improvement. Still had lots of peach syrup left. Here’s where it was good:

Peach Bourbon

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz peach syrup
  • 2 dashed Angostura bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a glass.

I first tried this in a bourbon sour but the lemon juice dominated the drink, so I omitted it and went the classic cocktail route given above. That one tasted like bourbon, wasn’t too sweet and had a nice peach edge. Keeper.

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