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Liquor reviews, cocktail recipes, mixology trends, and seasonal ingredients. Includes cocktail tips and info on local whiskey, gin, vodka, beer, and liqueur.

Cold Weather Tips: Transforming your Bar Cart

Devin Kidner

Now that the chillier weather has set in, and I’m getting allll the holiday feels, I’ve decided it’s time to switch my bar cart essentials over to delicious, yet fall and winter-flavoured things that make a big difference in cocktail-making.

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This process shouldn’t be a pain! Here are 6 ways you can make your bar cart holiday-ready:

Sweet

As you’ve probably seen in the videos I shot for CB2’s IGTV (if you didn’t catch it, you can right here), switching up your simple syrup for more complex ones is a must! My go-to is maple syrup, but I also like sorghum and molasses, lending cocktails more density and richness (think gingerbread in cocktail form!).

Easy recipes for every syrup imaginable here!

Sour

Now that local berries, rhubarb, and citrus-y drinks featuring lemon and lime are sooo last spring/summer, really indulge in the interesting citrus you see at the grocery store to lend acidity to drinks. Tangelos, Blood Oranges, Pomelos, Buddha’s Hand, Kumquats (perfect for garnishing since you can eat the whole thing, skin and all!), Ugli Fruit, and Finger Limes.

In addition to being gorgeous, these fruits are a great conversation piece for holiday guests (Buddha’s Hand is especially aromatic and interesting looking), and can be INCREDIBLE garnishes. The Finger Limes are also known as Caviar Lime and is as stunning as it is interesting balanced artfully on a blood orange slice!

 Image from Getty images

Image from Getty images

Bitter

Of course the best go-to for juicy autumn cocktails is cranberry juice! You can readily get cranberries and make your own juice by boiling with water, or you can get shelf-stable **100% cranberry juice from the store that is equally tart and bitter.

(**DO NOT mistake cranberry juice with cranberry cocktail juice! The cocktail juice is largely apple juice with cranberry juice added in and has looooads of sugar, making it more of a sweet mixer than a bitter/acidic one!)

Another less common bitter add-in that is delicious in cocktails is iced coffee or cold brew coffee. In all of our classes we offer iced coffee from my friends and neighbours Dark Matter or Printer’s Row. The bitterness and astringency of the coffee pair perfectly in these drinks (which are perfect alternatives to other breakfast drinks)!

 Picture courtesy of Printer’s Row Coffee Company, @pr_coffeeco

Picture courtesy of Printer’s Row Coffee Company, @pr_coffeeco

Booze, Low-Proof + No-Proof Options

Tis the Season to drink dark spirits, and you cannot go wrong with heavier Bourbons, Rye Whiskeys, Blended Scotch (my fave is Great King Street’s Artist Blend), Cognac, and Barrel-Aged Gins.

For Low-Proof options, you cannot go wrong with making cocktails from Apologue Distillery’s Liqueurs, or of course, making your own take on an Aperol Spritz (did you know we teach classes in Rome now focusing on classic Italian cocktails?!).

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Glassware

Buh-bye summer glassware and heeellllooo, Elegance! From Swan Glasses and fancy beverage dispensers, to chunky, heavy pieces and minimalists’ dreams, glassware this season is extra as hell, and I LOVE it! Check out these GORGEOUS martini glasses (I’d carry one of them around as an accessory) and glitz out this holiday season!

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Tinctures

Ditch classic bitters in favour of tinctures, the single-note flavouring agents steeped in neutral grain alcohol that add aromatics and flavour in your cocktails. My suggestions? Lavender Tinctures to boost floral notes and Ginger Tinctures to increase pungency. Paired together, they are an unexpected dream!

Learn more about the difference between bitters and tinctures, on this episode of CB2’s IGTV Holiday Grand series!! Check it out here!

Got other suggestions? Slip into my DMs at @HOLLOWLEGmixology on Insta!

Cheers!


Sorry, Hair of the Dog doesn't work... (or how to "cure" a hangover)

Devin Kidner

I get asked a lot how to “cure” a hangover. Some folks are dead-set on believing that Hair of the Dog, or the practice of drinking alcohol while still hungover somehow cures it.

Nope. Not a thing.


Yeah, I know, it sucks, but science doesn’t actually support this theory. Instead, drinking more while hungover just continues to dehydrate you, and makes it harder for your already-in-overdrive liver to process the incoming booze.

I guess folks who believe this will help are really just using booze as a downer to make their brain foggier and their body more numb, making it harder to perceive they are not feeling great.

Personally, I can’t even look at booze if I drank too much the night before…

 Did you know Alfred Hitchcock popularised the mimosa in the 1930s and told his buddies it was a hangover cure? Fake news, Hitchcock!

Did you know Alfred Hitchcock popularised the mimosa in the 1930s and told his buddies it was a hangover cure? Fake news, Hitchcock!

So, how does one “cure” a hangover?

The idea of curing a hangover is not accurate*, but there are ways to prevent hangovers and there are ways to ease you through the process.

It starts BEFORE you start drinking.


Yup, before starting a wild night out you should tuck in (to some food).
In all of the peer-reviewed studies I've read, having a full stomach absolutely prevents one from getting drunk too quickly. This article is old, but the science is broken down in laymen's terms, which I think you'll find easier to consume than some of the white papers out there.

Also, duh, drink water (or BEFORE you booze…pear juice!)

I drink water before, during, and after, but definitely don’t wait until the next morning, as you’re likely well beyond dehydrated at that point! The best advice I can give is while you’re out challenge yourself to sink a whole glass of water for every beverage you drink. This will spread out the amount of booze you can consume in a period of time.

Not possible, you say?

When you head to the bar to get a round for everyone, ask if you can have a small glass of seltzer water (not club soda b/c it has sodium in it) with a lime/lemon/orange wedge while the barkeep makes your drinks. While you wait, drink the whole thing. Skip the ice, because the temperature of the liquid will be easier for you to get down quickly (sans brain freeze) and the cup will contain more liquid. The carbonation of the water is more interesting to your trigeminal nerve, and likely will feel more exciting to the palate than a plain ol’ glass of water!


“But won’t sparkling water dehydrate me?”

Nope. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition actually proved that sparkling drinks hydrate you just as much as still water!

FUN FACT: Vitamin C from the lemon/lime/orange will actually help to prevent capillary inflammation that is normally caused by drinking (due to their anti-inflammation properties), as well as helping to prevent your eyes from getting red!

AND I found some pretty interesting, though not detailed, information on Vitamin C actually helping to rid alcohol in the body (and I would LOVE to learn more on how!)

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But, can I mix liquors?

As for drinking to prevent hangovers, moderation is the only thing that will really prevent a hangover. Also, there is no science supporting the idea that you can’t “mix” liquors, or start drinking whiskey and end up drinking vodka. It has everything to do with alcoholic volume and how much you drink.

That being said, there is specific science that talks about congeners (toxic chemicals) produced when ethanol goes through the fermentation process. These congeners are more prevalent in whiskeys, cognacs, and darker coloured spirits. Vodkas and clear liquors generally don’t have as much of these congeners (if any at all!). Congeners are tied to hangover symptoms, so if you’re trying to play it safe, drink clear!

 Such clever marketing, but not a cure.

Such clever marketing, but not a cure.


The next day…

Pedialyte won’t hurt because the electrolytes help you to rehydrate, but it ain’t a cure.

*TIME is really the only way for a hangover to go away, as the majority of hangover symptoms ARE CAUSED because of how our liver (bless it!) metabolises booze.

Basically, your liver breaks down alcohol into “acetaldehyde, which is then broken down into acetate, a substance common in the body. But acetate in larger than normal quantities causes the pain associated with alcoholic hangovers,” according to Michael Oshinsky, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University.

Want to avoid hangovers altogether? Try avoiding booze! It is possible, and there are incredible drinks out there - check them out BY CLICKING HERE!


Also, if you want to know more why I love science so much, you should check out CB2’s IGTV series featuring…me! Here is the link to the first episode of their Holiday Grand series!

Have more tips? Myths? Questions? Are you hungover right now?! Drop me a line in the comments and I’ll see what I can answer!

The Encyclopedia of Cocktail Syrup Recipes

Devin Kidner

Syrups are easy to make and an indispensable part of cocktail-making. Nearly every recipe calls for sugar of some kind, and with the science of temperature, it’s no wonder:

The perception of sweetness decreases as product temperatures lower. The short and long of it: If a cocktail tastes juuuust sweet enough at room temperature, it will not taste sweet enough once you’ve shaken it with ice.


I always tell class-goers of mine to taste their cocktail BEFORE adding ice, and then tweaking the sugar as they see fit. It’s not about if I like the amount of sweetness, but do they? 9 times out of 10 in class, when someone asks me to see if there’s something missing, I can “diagnose” it as a lack of sugar.

sugar

Since so many recipes call for sugar in one form or another, I decided to compile a comprehensive list of sugar syrup recipes. They aren’t hard (some are fine to add as-is), but this is a handy list to refer to if you’re scratching your head as to how to make a certain syrup!

I’ve also included some science or notes along with the recipe, and I also indicate if I wouldn’t particularly mix with a certain syrup (and why!).

Simple Syrup

The easiest and blandest of syrups, this is just white sugar and water, making a clear syrup. NOTE FOR VEGANS: Not all sugar is vegan! Look for options labelled organic, as some non-organic brands use bone char (commonly used to refine cane sugar).

You can either use the volume method (cups, Tbsp, etc.), or if you want to be as precise as possible, use the weight method (use a scale)!

Recipe: One part sugar to one part water (ex. if you’re adding one cup sugar, you need one cup water). Add into a small pot and slowly heat the water (stir every now and again) until the sugar dissolves, and the liquid looks clear. Let cool. Can be stored in a container (like a Ball Jar) for about a month in the fridge.

Modified Simple Syrup

Oftentimes, a recipe might call for something to be infused into your simple syrup, like fresh herbs. This will make your syrup have a lovely aromatic note and flavour.

Recipe: The above recipe but also add… 1/4 - 1 cup of fresh herbs or spices (think black peppercorns); 2 Tbs. dry herbs/spices; OR 1/4 - 1/2 cup of fresh fruits/roots (think ginger). Once cool, strain (regular strainer or for smaller particles, cheesecloth) into a Ball Jar. Will keep for a month in the fridge. These recipes are a range of measurements so you can really make your syrups lighter in flavour to more intense.

NOTE: Spices DO NOT dissolve in the syrup, so if you’re lazy and want to use spices, use whole (not powdered).

herbed simple syrup

Rich Simple Syrup

More common in the UK, this is a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water. Richer in flavour and more viscous (read: thicker) and can keep longer in the fridge (about 6 months). I normally would use this in an Old Fashioned, or in any cocktail that feels a little thin (like a mojito).

Recipe: Two (2) parts sugar to one (1) part water. Directions for cooking/cooling/storing are the same as simple syrup above.

Agave Syrup

Often called agave nectar. The DARKER the colour, the less refined. Fine as-is from the bottle. If I use agave, I use in small amounts, and I don’t use often.

NOTE: There was a lot of buzz back in the early 2000s about agave being a relatively “healthy” sweetener, esp. for diabetics, since it ranks pretty low on the glycemic index. Instead, agave can be high in fructose. Now, science has shown that the high amount of fructose in agave actually can promote obesity and harm liver function - oops.

That being said, certain agave syrups have less fructose than others. Avoid blue agave nectars, as they have more inulin, which contains fructose.

Maple Syrup

Fine right out of the bottle, maple syrup is made from boiling the sap of the sugar maple tree. It’s brown colour is actually a product of the Maillard reaction - or the browning effect that occurs when the sap is being boiled with high heat.

I love maple in cocktails and think it’s a perfect substitute in autumn/winter cocktails!

maple

Honey Syrup

I love bees and I love honey. It is much more aromatic and has a distinctive flavour in cocktails. There are so many different kinds of honey with slightly different flavours, so you can really play with this one. Go grab local honey from the farmers market!

Recipe: One (1) part honey to one (1) part water. Directions for cooking/cooling/storing are the same as simple syrup above.

NOTE: I only use weight measurement for this, as honey is denser than granulated sugar. I place my small pot directly on my scale, tare it, and then add the honey and water in equal measures.

Light Brown/Dark Brown Syrup

Whether you’re using light brown, dark brown, or even granulated sugars like Demerara, Muscovado, Turbinado, these sugars can add depth and flavour to your drink, thanks to the varied molasses content.

NOTE: Light Brown and Dark Brown sugars have nearly the same amount of molasses content (~10%), and many times the only reason Dark Brown sugar is darker, is because they add colour to it!

ALWAYS use the weight method (use a scale) for this syrup.

Recipe: One (1) part sugar to one (1) part water. Directions for cooking/cooling/storing are the same as simple syrup above.

Sorghum Syrup

Sorghum is a plant from the grass family, and it has a really lovely depth as well as a brightness to its sweetness. I adore it in cocktails, and think it’s exceptionally good in those that use rye whiskeys.

ALWAYS use the weight method (use a scale) for this syrup.

Recipe: One (1) part sorghum to one (1) part water. Directions for cooking/cooling/storing are the same as simple syrup above.

Lyle’s Golden Syrup

I’m a citizen of the UK, and as an Englishwoman, Lyle’s Golden Syrup is in my pantry at all times. Used in baking, it can also be used in cocktails to give them a unique taste (and a quintessentially British one).

This is an inverted sugar, meaning that it is made by adding acid to to sugar syrup, however it is not highly refined. It has a light caramelised flavour that is hard to describe…but soooo good!

Fine right out of the bottle, but make sure you do a DRY shake (a shake of your wet ingredients BEFORE you add ice), to make sure it is dissolved into your other ingredients.

lyle's

Treacle or Molasses Syrup

Treacle is a dark cane syrup that is also popular in the UK. It’s a lot like molasses but I think it tastes just a bit different. I like to use Black Treacle in cocktails. GREAT for holiday cocktails and when you’re using intense spices (like clove, cinnamon, star anise, and black pepper) in your concoctions.

Molasses is concentrated sugarcane juice, and out of all the sugars, contains the most essential minerals and B vitamins. It can come in many “grades,” but I’ve found that lower grade is more robust and can really make your cocktails pop. That being said, look for unsulfured brands!

Fine right out of the bottle, but make sure you do a DRY shake (a shake of your wet ingredients BEFORE you add ice), to make sure it is dissolved into your other ingredients.

Corn Syrup

Normally used in baking, and derived from corn starch, I wouldn’t recommend using corn syrup in your cocktails. There are several liqueurs that have corn syrup (homemade Kahlua for one). Just use simple syrup.

Have a great corn syrup cocktail recipe? Let me know in the comments!

Liqueurs

Liqueurs are awesome! Flavoured, low in alcoholic volume, and sugars added, they can be added instead of, or in addition to, the syrups above. Really, it’s all to taste.

Some common liqueurs are Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua, St-Germain, and Cointreau, but the world of liqueurs is changing. Check out Apologue for a fresh take on liqueurs!

It will add a trigeminal sting of alcohol into your drink, but can be used right out of the bottle!

apologue.jpeg

Rice Syrup

Made from rice starch, rice syrup has a lovely lightness to it (kind of like sticky rice). Brown rice syrup is less refined and can usually be found in health stores.

Fine right out of the bottle, but make sure you do a DRY shake (a shake of your wet ingredients BEFORE you add ice), to make sure it is dissolved into your other ingredients.

Malt Syrup

Normally used in baking, like in breads and crackers, malt syrups are made from sprouting grain, then concentrating a water-malt mixture with water, making a syrup. It can have a flavour similar to molasses, but I think it has a yeastier aroma and a more distinctive flavour.

Fine right out of the bottle, but make sure you do a DRY shake (a shake of your wet ingredients BEFORE you add ice), to make sure it is dissolved into your other ingredients. You might find this syrup very heavy in flavour and possibly want to mix it with a simple syrup to start, or add small amounts to taste!

Have another sugar you like to use in cocktails? Let me know!

"As American as Inclusive Apple Pie" Cocktail

Devin Kidner

Happy Voting Day!

As a big fan of Democratic Drinking and an even bigger fan of Democracy itself, I wanted to celebrate the day with an all-inclusive cocktail that you can make tonight to toast the day!

Whether you are kosher, gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, or nut-free, OR if you are halal, or not drinking alcohol for whatever reason, the following two recipes are my take on the American apple pie!

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For those of you who are: Kosher, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Dairy-Free, or Nut-Free, this one’s for you (with notes).

Makes one cocktail!

  • 1 oz **Coconut water//Brown sugar mix (Recipe follows; For this to be kosher, you need to find 100% coconut water, with no added flavoring agents or colouring agents - Vita Coco works; and for both kosher and vegan drinkers, make sure your brown sugar does not contain bone char)

    • If you like a spicier/spiced concoction, or if you don’t have access to the Apologue Liqueur that we list below, please feel free to let the following whole spices simmer gently for about 5 minutes (you can steep for longer if you like) into the Coconut Water/Brown Sugar Mix: 1 stick of Cinnamon//1 Clove//1 large thumb of fresh Ginger//1 whole piece of Nutmeg//pinch of whole Allspice

    • ADDITIONAL NOTE: WHY COCONUT WATER? Fat is an integral part of apple pie. Normally in the form of butter/lard in the crust and butter in the apple pie mix, it gives the pie a creamy mouthfeel and helps to lead to a slower release, but a longer duration of flavour. Coconut water has natural fat in it, and really makes this drink special.

  • 2 oz Apple Cider (not all brands are kosher, so make sure you’re getting this with the right marking or go to the farmers market and ask about added ingredients and how heat is used in the process. If you have a kosher brand, or more tips, please let me know!)

  • 1.5 oz. Koval Bourbon (Kosher and Organic)

  • 1/2 oz Apologue Persimmon Liqueur (Kosher; Look under the first ingredient for notes if you do not have access to this product)

  • 1/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice - (my research with fresh lemons is that it has more to do with the equipment being clean before slicing into a lemon for it to be kosher, and also for those who are gluten-free and nut/dairy-free, please make sure your equipment is clean and hasn’t been cross-contaminated).

**To make Coconut Water/Brown Sugar Mix, gently heat 8 oz. coconut water with 2 oz. (I used a scale) of brown sugar.

Mix all of the above ingredients together and shake over ice. Strain into a glass.
If you like warm apple pie, mix the above ingredients in a saucepan and gently heat until steaming. Serve warm.

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For those of you who are halal or abstaining from alcohol for whatever reason, this one’s for you!

  • 2 oz **Coconut water//Brown sugar mix (Recipe above; For this to be halal, you need to find a brand that meets your standards; and for those who are halal, make sure your brown sugar does not contain bone char)

    • Since you are omitting alcohol, you need to make this drink pop trigeminally with spices. Please feel free to let the following whole spices simmer gently for about 5 minutes (you can steep for longer if you like) into the Coconut Water/Brown Sugar Mix: 1 stick of Cinnamon//1 Clove//1 large thumb of fresh Ginger//1 whole piece of Nutmeg//pinch of whole Allspice

  • 4 oz. Apple Cider OR Apple Shrub* which uses apple cider vinegar, sugar, and fresh apples. You can find a recipe here. *Apple Shrub will add a lot of interesting mouthfeel and flavour to the cocktail. It won’t taste like the vinegar you use in salad - promise!

  • 1/2 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice if using plain Apple Cider, and 1/4 ounce if using Apple Shrub - If you are using Apple Shrub, you might want to cut this down to 1/4 oz and build to taste, since you will have some acidity from the vinegar.

Mix all of the above ingredients together and shake over ice. Strain into a glass.
If you like warm apple pie, mix the above ingredients in a saucepan and gently heat until steaming. Serve warm.

Cheers! And Go Vote!

Gross Halloween Candy = Delicious Cocktails

Devin Kidner

Halloween candy has long been a fave of mine. I’m a HUGE fan of anything chocolate (duh), but I even like things like SweeTARTS, those caramel coated apple lollipops (LOVEEEEE), and the often dreaded Mary Janes.

 Candy Corn has never looked more elegant in this CB2 bowl

Candy Corn has never looked more elegant in this CB2 bowl

There are two candies I could never get behind: Licorice in any form (you ain’t foolin’ me, Good & Plenty), and Candy Corn. I don’t know why but the flavour of licorice makes me recoil and candy corn…it’s just blandly sweet to me!

But I’m a trooper and I like experimenting with interesting creations, so I decided to give these two another chance…in cocktail form. BONUS: They are super easy to make, so not crazy weird ingredients here!

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The first cocktail I took a crack at was the one flavoured with licorice. I grabbed licorice Twizzlers at the store and took them home. I decided to infuse vodka with them, so grabbed my absolute favourite bottle of the season, the Potion Elixir bottle from CB2 (made in Italy!!) which can hold just over 3 oz, or with 2 large Twizzlers cut up and placed inside, with vodka poured over, 2 ounces of liquid - PERFECT for a cocktail!

And the bottle is perfect for Halloween, too, because it looks like a magic potion!

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After allowing the licorice to steep for a day in the bottle, I was able to easily pour out the contents into a shaker when I was ready to shake. Here’s the recipe:

The Black Widow

2 oz. licorice-infused vodka (going booze free? Follow the asterisk** below)
1 oz. cherry juice
1/2 oz. 100% cranberry juice
1/4 - 1/2 oz (to taste) Demerara simple syrup
A squeeze of fresh lime juice
1 - 2 drops of Clove Bitters (for aromatics)

Shake above everything but the Clove Bitters) vigorously with ice, and strain into a glass. Mine came out quite dark, but if you want yours to be more black, add some black food-grade dye. Dot with the Clove Bitters. I garnished mine with an orange round piped with a chocolate Jack O’ Lantern pumpkin face using these pens!

The result is something rich, only slightly licorice-y, and surprisingly refreshing! I think the Clove adds a little depth on the nose!

**You can infuse the licorice Twizzlers into the juice itself. Just place the two juices + licorice into a saucepan on high heat, bring to a rolling boil, then turn the heat off, and let sit for 5 minutes.

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But the fun didn’t stop there, because I had candy corn staring me down. I took a nibble of one and bleeech, so cloyingly sweet with such little flavour. I do like the buttery mouthfeel they have, so I decided to play with that, using dry ingredients to offset the sweetness. Here’s the recipe:

Devil’s Trident

2 oz. Dry Gin (nothing too botanical, so no Bombay Sapphire here!)
1/2 oz (to taste) Candy Corn Simple Syrup (easy to make: slowly melt 6 pieces of candy corn with 2 Tbsp of water in the microwave).
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Dry Bubbly (think cheap Champagne) to top

Shake all but the Champagne with ice, vigorously, for 12 seconds. If you find that your cocktail is too syrupy, no worries, as you will be topping with Bubbly). Strain into a glass lined with licorice (it keeps it’s shape and can easily line most glasses) and a square ice cube. Fill with bubbly and top the ice with a few candy corn.

The resulting cocktail has a brightness from the gin and lemon, but is nicely contoured with the candy corn. The bubbles make for an extra kick, and I served it in a metal cup to keep super cold!

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And that’s it! Keeping it simple, because between the Trick-or-Treaters and the scary treats you’re baking, and the decorations, the costumes…lawdy, you just need a simple cocktail.

Happy Haunting!

Happy #Mocktober!

Devin Kidner

It might sound completely crazy, given that I’m a mixologist whose whole business is centered around making cocktails, but I have some breaking news for you:

The art of mixology is about more than just alcoholic cocktails.

In fact, it covers any kind of mixed drink, and there is some cool science surrounding no-proof (read: non-alcoholic) cocktails. I’d like to touch on a piece of science in honour of #Mocktober, (hosted by The Mocktail Project), a week of empowering folks with more mindful drinking.

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Yeah, yeah, go ahead and make a joke about needing booze,

but what you might really need is something comforting that tastes great and feels like there’s a party in your mouth (and everyone’s invited).

The base of a great no-proof cocktail is going to be high-quality mixers that pack a punch.

And that “punch” is in the form of Trigeminal Effects

I could talk forrrreeevver about trigeminal effects, but because the topic is vast, I’ll get down to the brass tacks. In normal cocktails, the liquor creates “sting.” This sting is a chemical sensation in your mouth that is caused by the alcohol. When you talk about the burn in the back of your mouth and throat when you drink liquor, you are talking about that trigeminal sting.

And while that sting is essential to making a fantastic cocktail, there are other trigeminal effects that exist that you can use to make interesting no-proof cocktails.

Case in point: The “heat” of peppers, the pungency of ginger, the burn of cinnamon, and the bubbles in carbon dioxide (like the bubbles in soda), are all trigeminal effects (there are sooo many more!). They are picked up by your nervous system and really add to the mouthfeel, the complexity, and the taste of a drink.

So yeah, I mean, you could just sip on a soda, but boooorrrring. Instead here’s a cool recipe for you that will get your senses going (and while it might not make you forget about booze altogether, will definitely make you think twice that booze-free is “blah”):

  • 4 oz. pomegranate juice (this stuff is rich! It’s basically the Duchess of juices)

  • 1.5 oz. grapefruit juice (make your drink bitter, astringent, and add some depth of flavour)

  • Muddle a slice of jalapeño (start with a small piece at first; you can always add more, but you can’t take heat away.)

  • Muddle a large piece of fresh ginger (leave the peel on, mash it really well)

  • Add a sugar, like a simple syrup, to taste. I personally don’t think this drink needs it, but a dab of agave or honey (think 1/4 oz - 1/2 oz) would be really nice.

    Shake the ingredients dry (without ice) first, then add a generous amount of ice and shake for 12 seconds. Really add oxygen and try to get a head of bubbles on your NPC (no-proof cocktail). Strain into a glass. Don’t get fussy with the garnish (unless you’re posting on Insta, I guess. Just drink!).

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When making no-proof cocktails you need to go heavier on the other trigeminal effects. Really boost up the flavour by adding a lot. You can always dilute it down, but you want to feel the drink when it hits your mouth! Bonus points if you get a bit of burn on your lips from the pepper.

So go make a no-proof cocktail! And go check out Better Drinking Culture and this XChrome Collective piece I wrote back in January talking about my view on “Democratic Drinking” with (bonus!) another amazing recipe.

Cheers,

Dev ;o)

"Knowing is Half the Battle"

Devin Kidner

Today I read an article that made my heart leap for joy. A short, seemingly benign piece (the title is all but inspiring) on the need for “brand neutral knowledge” in the spirits industry.

The long and short of it is a call to action from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust that there needs to be more education around “how base materials and production techniques impact the quality and style of a broad spectrum of spirits,” because focusing on the branding of products only makes it more difficult tell the difference between products.

Basically, there is a gap in education.

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This, in my world, is a small step in acknowledging that cocktail-making has become a braggatory, elusive, and confusing place for consumers. The proverbial spotlight has been largely focused on the bartender and Instagram-impossible drinks, when we should be focusing on people making incredible cocktails at home using science.

Learning more about your own palate and how to scientifically concoct a cocktail makes you less reliant on Googling recipes and also allows you the freedom to know what you like and why! 

HOLLOW LEG is committed to empowering folks with Julia Child-like conviction in this space, which sets us apart from the bars, restaurants, and cooking schools that promote recipes over real education. It would be my pleasure and honour to have you in a class.

To learn more about me and HOLLOW LEG, go check out episode one of the IGTV series I filmed for CB2!

- Devin x

3 Cost Saving Tips for Chicago Wedding Transportation

Devin Kidner

When you're planning an event like a Chicago wedding, a budget isn't just a suggestion, and more like a strict guideline that must be followed! Of course, we all wish we had unlimited cash flow so we wouldn't have to stress over any details on making our wedding as perfect as the life long vision we've had in our heads. However, that isn't usually the case! So, when you have a budget to stick to, it's important to comb through all of your resources. Thankfully, there's a lot of specific information available to you via the internet. Here are some tips to follow!

Book as early as you can

One important vendor to lock down early happens to be your mode of transportation. Once you figure out your venue, jump into securing transportation! Wedding season is the busiest time of the year for limousine and party bus companies in Chicago. Like many companies, their prices fluctuate with demand. When you book well in advance, you will lock in the rate that's currently set. Plus, you will know you're getting the best possible selection out of their vehicles before all of the other couples decide to begin their search!

Check out wedding packages

Another way to save money on your wedding transportation is to inquire with potential companies about their wedding packages, if they have any. When you're simply providing transportation for the wedding party to get to the different wedding destinations like the ceremony, pictures, and to the reception, you really don't need a full six hour rental like some companies offer. Wedding packages are smart because they're often cheaper than a standard rental and offer extras like champagne toasts and optional personalized decorations.

Review the contract

Checking over the contract is the best way to make sure you're getting a good deal on your price! We say this because there are a lot of potential fees you could be dealing with if you don't book with an honest Chicago limo service. If you aren't careful, you could be charged for things like gas and tip to the driver on top of the advertised price. This is why it's a good idea to make sure the advertised price includes everything up front!

Night Out Drinking: To Uber or Not?

Devin Kidner

Enjoying drinks with friends in the Chicago area is easy to do, especially with the fantastic night life scene here. There are so many different opportunities for having fun in the city and surrounding areas. And when you're adding HOLLOW LEG mixology classes into your events, we want to make sure you arrive and leave safely, and enjoy your best night out!

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Any time alcohol is going to be a part of your event, celebration, or get together, it's important that you imbibe responsibly. This means you should be mindful of your body's limits and organize how you'll get from one destination to the next in the safest fashion.

To Uber or Not?

It's easier than ever to procure a transport service with a simple swipe through your cell phone. There are always choices out there for you when it comes to finding a ride in Chicago, so there's no excuse to make an irresponsible decision regarding your transportation.

Ride share services such as Uber and Lyft are usually the first options that come to mind when you're out and about, but is it the best option for a group of passengers?

Sure, ride share services offer larger vehicles like SUV options, but the price can add up if you want to visit multiple destinations through the evening. 

Professional transportation services such as limousine and party bus providers allow you to take advantage of spacious interiors that are easy to move around in and enjoy with a group of friends. When you split the cost between passengers, it's comparable to what you would have spent on a ride share service. During busy events, these types of services can be booked well in advance, so it may require some prior planning on your part if this is the way you want to go. 

Just one night of drinking irresponsibly can lead to consequences that last for years, for yourself and those around you. With all of the options for transportation available to you, it's easy to find an experienced driver to take you around Chicago so you can enjoy your experience without worry or incident. For more information, click here.

Science Corner: Do You Drink Too Much?

Devin Kidner

There are a million reasons to imbibe in alcoholic beverages: The taste, to celebrate a milestone, to get a fun buzz, for educational purposes (you know, like coming to a cocktail class!), and so on.

But in a recent study by the British charity Drinkaware, drinking to cope with stress topped the charts for half of British adults as to why they drink.

 
  • Almost three in five (58%) of all people (aged 18-75) who drink alcohol are doing so at least some of the time because it helps them to cope
  • 38% of men and women who said they had drunk alcohol in the last year had done so to forget their problems
  • 47% said they had done so to cheer themselves up when in a bad mood
  • 41% said that they had drunk alcohol because it helps when they feel depressed or nervous
  • People in lower social grades are drinking to forget their problems or when they are depressed or nervous at a significantly higher rate
 
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Listen, we're a mixology education company, but it's important to us that folks are just that - educated - about alcohol, how it can be mixed into drinks, and most importantly, how to drink it responsibly, so that you associate alcohol with good times, rather than times over the toilet.

And really, with all of the scary facts coming out about alcohol consumption in the United States, we consider it a mission that you are armed with the information you need to make responsible choices.

After all, how terrifying is it that a recent study by the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge University (reported through the Telegraph) "has found that when the body processes alcohol it produces a chemical called acetaldehyde which is harmful to DNA."

This chemical can actually "snap" the DNA of stem cells, alter the genetic code permanently, and trigger cancer! Yikes! This means that there is real evidence that overconsumption of alcohol can raise the rick of cancer.

Or that overconsumption is no longer an issue that only men have to seriously consider. Nope, ladies are now closing the gap on overconsumption, according to a study published this month in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

NPR covered the reporting of this study, showing that ER visits for alcohol-related issues is increasing dramatically among women, and that "Nearly 88,129 deaths annually were caused by excess drinking in the U.S. between 2006 and 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

Yeesh.

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What can you do to combat overconsumption? Never fear, HOLLOW LEG has your back.

We're going to have a series of No-Proof and Low-Proof Mixology Classes this year that will focus on making delicious drinks without over-pouring the booze (or not pouring the booze at all). And we've also got a new mission focused on Democratic Drinking, which you can find here, published on X Chrome Collective's site. 

We'll also be publishing a list of bars and restaurants that focus on Low-and-No-Proof Mixology so that you can make better informed decisions when going out with friends. It's not that you have to cut alcohol out completely, but taking a break to imbibe in a drink with less booze every now and again can never hurt!

Do you have ideas or suggestions on bars you've hit up that feature awesome booze-less drinks? Let us know by commenting and we can add to the list! Until then, take care of yourselves! Cheers!

Have a Say in the Next Big Thing!

Devin Kidner

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The world of cocktails is changing, and if you've ever taken a class with us, you'll know that while booze can be a fun part of mixology, it's not the only part (or even the most important!).

Flavour and taste are aspects of drinking that we shouldn't throw to the wayside, and we'd love to know what inspires you to sip!

Join HOLLOW LEG in the conversation and have a say in the next big trends and concepts of 2018! How? By signing up for one of the following events and get rewarded for your involvement (limited space available):

  1. #DrinkFocus - An exclusive focus group for new 2018 concepts in the beverage world,
    taking place on Wednesday 1 November from 5:30 to 7:00pm. 
     
  2. #DrinkForward - An immersive happy hour with drinks, light food, and new people on Thursday 2 November from 5.00 - 8.00pm (about one hour of time needed). It's going to be an awesome night!

We look forward to seeing you there, and keep drinking interestingly!

Welcome, Graham!

Devin Kidner

HOLLOW LEG is thrilled to announce that we have a new team member who will begin teaching classes in October 2017.

It is our pleasure to introduce y'all to Graham Essex.

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Graham is a bold and exciting young mixologist with a background in bartending and a passion for the science + art behind making cocktails delicious and interesting. He hails from Chicago and has bartended at several places including Bridge House Tavern.

Of course, besides being your next favourite "Cocktail Sherpa," Graham is also an incredible musician with a beautiful voice, and who knows, maybe he can be persuaded into serenading you at the next event you plan with us!

We're looking forward to you meeting our newest member!

Bitters + Tinctures

Devin Kidner

We're thrilled to announce that we sell our hand-crafted bitters and tinctures! 

Now the bitters and tinctures you experiment with during class are for sale on-site - and we're taking online orders. You can check out our current offerings + pricing here.

Scroll down for more information regarding the bitters + tinctures,  as well as a handy pairing guide to help you pick your perfect match!

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What are bitters and tinctures?

Simply put, bitters and tinctures are potent flavouring agents usually made from high volume alcohol that add complexity and nuance into cocktails.

We like to call them the "X factor" of cocktails because they usually supply the undercurrent of flavour that piques the nerves and tastebuds in your mouth. Bitters and tinctures are a crucial element to making interesting cocktails that are personalised to your palate!

How do I use bitters and tinctures in a cocktail?

The beautiful thing about bitters and tinctures is that you can use a variety of flavours to achieve your desired outcome.

Let's say you want to add a twist to an Old Fashioned: You can give your drink a bitter, nutty  twist by adding in HOLLOW LEG Black Walnut Bitters or you can make your Old Fashioned a fruity/spicy flavour by combining HOLLOW LEG Tart Montmorency Cherry Tinctures and Black Pepper Bitters. Simply add a couple capfuls of bitters and/or tinctures into your cocktail until you find the right combination for you!

How long do bitters and tinctures keep?

All of our bitters and tinctures are bottled above a 50% ABV (100 Proof), and most are bottled at 75.5% ABV (151 Proof) using grain alcohol. This means the shelf life is pretty indefinite (though we say 1 - 2 years) because ethanol is an antimicrobial agent and the microbes that produce toxins cannot grow!

The best way to store your bitters to ensure they stay the flavour your bought them as is to keep them tightly closed when not in use and out of direct sunlight/heat.

Which bitters + tinctures pair best with the liquor I love?

We're big fans of experimentation, and are always blown away by the curiosity and creativity of adventurous class-goers who throw caution to the wind and toss, say, HOLLOW LEG Coffee Bitters in a tequila cocktail, but as your Cocktail Sherpa, we want to direct you to some flavour pairings that are always solid. Here are our recommendations:
 

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Have any other questions? Ready to take your at-home bar to the next level and add bitters + tinctures to your cocktailing? Interested in sampling before you buy? Drop us a line at devin@hollowleg.com and let's find the bitters + tinctures that are best for you!

Cheers!

Magic + Cocktails

Devin Kidner

Need some magic in your life?

Revamp your spirits with an incredible show that's over at The Royal George Theatre until 12 February! The Rosenkranz Mysteries is presented by Ricardo Rosenkranz, a physician at Northwestern who is also a stunning magician, and who beautifully laces in his story into a magical journey. Tix and info here!

Extra boozy bonus? HOLLOW LEG created the custom cocktails for the show, so you can finally have one of our creations outside of the classroom.

5 Classes for Valentine's Day

Devin Kidner

Chocolate and roses are great, but cocktails are better. This V-Day, ring in the day of love with one of our 5 offerings.

1. Reveal your inner-Grumpy Cat with our Anti-Valentine's Day Mixology class on February 10th

Unlike our normal Mixology 101 class, this specific class will focus on making bitter drinks like Manhattans and Negronis and will feature spirits like Aperol, Besk, and Fernet. If you don't like bitter drinks, we're chill with that and will have plenty of mixers on hand to make whatever you like.

2. V-Day Themed Bloody Mary Class (+ Pierogis) on February 11th

In this Valentine's Day-edition Bloody Mary class, we're making sure all of your hearts desires are being met. We'll be featuring special garnishes like candied bacon and pierogies, beer chasers, and we'll have a bunch of pierogi (savoury and sweet) to chow down on during class!

3. Valentine's Day Mixology: Love at First Sip (+ Hors D'oeuvres + Cookie Decorating on February 11th

A Valentine's-themed class fit for the King or Queen in your life! We'll be using special mixers from hot cocoa and cognac, to homespun caramel, pomegranates, whipped cream, and local bubbly. In addition, we'll be featuring incredible hors d'oeuvres from the incomparable Pyrite Sun, who specialises in seasonal, beautiful food that will pair perfectly with your creations. Pyrite Sun will also be hosting a cookie decorating class with their heart pocket pies that you can take with you (or eat on-site).

4. Valentine's Day Bitters Making Workshop on February 12th

In this special format Valentine's Day class, we'll have bubbly and canapes for you as you make your bitters! What makes a cocktail ten times better? When it's made with handmade, customised bitters or tinctures!

5. Valentine's Day Mixology: Love at First Sip on February 14th

A Valentine's-themed class fit for the King or Queen in your life! We'll be using special mixers from hot cocoa and cognac, to homespun caramel, pomegranates, and whipped cream. We'll have special garnishes for drinks and free hors d'oeurves before your dinner reservations. 

We have dinner recommendations that are close to our venue, too! Check them out here.

HOLLOW LEG + Jack Daniels = <3

Devin Kidner

HOLLOW LEG is excited to announce that we were chosen by CUSP Magazine and Jack Daniels to be featured in a new video series entitled, The Process, and our episode drops in early February!

CUSP Mag writes, "The Process looks at Chicago based entrepreneurs who are using their bartending & mixology experience to inspire their own business and brand."

Until our episode drops, check out the first video featuring Carlos Matias. "Carlos is a local mixologist who focuses on hospitality being a key component to the bar experience."

Where to Brunch Before/During/After Class

Devin Kidner

All of our Bloody Mary classes are BYOB (Bring Your Own Brunch), so whether you want to bring along or head out before or after class, we've got you covered. Ukrainian Village and our surrounding 'hoods have some awesome and unique spots for noshing, no matter what you crave.

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Bring to Class (Take Out or Delivery Options):

1. Shokolad - Our HQ is above Shokolad, and we can't say enough about their casual Ukrainian fare. They have awesome omelettes, pierogi, and crepes.
2. WHISK - Sweet tooth? You can't get more interesting pancakes and french toast than from WHISK. From Oreo Raspberry pancakes to Snickers stuffed french toast, you'll be in love. They also have awesome hashes!
3. Cafe Marie Jeanne - Take away some of the best pastries (good lord the doughnuts and croissants), or some smoked brisket.
4. Lockdown Bar and Grill - Not craving breakfast or brunch? Burgers also pair perfectly with Bloody Marys, and we think Lockdown has some of the best. 

Dine-In (Before or After Class):

1. Spinning J - Pies galore (S'mores Pie is ridiculous) and their sodas and shakes will have you drooling, but don't overlook their breakfast sandwiches and pot pies. Plus this place is just cool and vintage and unique.
2. Cafe Marie Jeanne - A rad a la carte brunch menu, the cheddar biscuits, lox, and cheddar grits are so so good.
3. BITE Cafe - Delivery available, too, though we prefer eating their food piping hot straight out of the kitchen, BITE offers some vegetarian dishes and they have poutine! We're huge fans of the grilled cheese and tomato fennel soup.
4. Hash - I think it goes without saying that you should be eating their hash here. The Pork Bubble & Squeak makes us happy.
5. FEED - One of our faves. Cash only. Go with the special of the day. Also, bring some quarters and try to win a golden egg! 

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Coffee:

A morning must. Our good friends from Dark Matter roast their beans just down the street from us, and you can grab an amazing coffee or latte across the street from us at Star Lounge, one of their rad coffee bars. 

5 Things To Do in Chicago THIS Week!

Devin Kidner

Another week, and more amazing things to do in Chicago - of course! Here are our top picks for a fantastic week, starting with...

  1.  Tiki Cooking Class @ The Chopping Block (Wednesday 14 December)

    In 2017, I’m making it my mission to cook and bake more, especially foods I don’t know how to cook. I love creating and drinking tiki cocktails (like this one), so am thrilled to be taking a class to teach me how to make food that pairs! More info here.

2. Adler After Dark (Thursday 15 December)

If you're looking for something different, and love museums but hate competing with kids to interact with the exhibits, Adler After Dark is for you. It's for 21+, you can buy some booze, and you can even go to the observatory to peer at the night sky! Info and tix here.

 Photo by Luke Golobitsh

Photo by Luke Golobitsh

3. Go caroling at The Bean (Friday 16 December)

It's the last day of caroling at Cloud Gate (aka The Bean), so take advantage of it! This is one of my favourite Chicago holiday traditions, and after you're done singing, you can grab a pair of skates and head to the ice rink, or grab a bite to eat at Park Grill! More info here!

4. Drink to benefit Chicago animals! (Saturday 17 December)

If you want to spread some Christmas cheer by donating to Chicago's neediest animals, join us for a holiday-themed cocktail class, in which all proceeds of your ticket benefit Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control. More info and tickets are available here.

5. Christmas Bingo (Sundays at 2 pm at The Royal George Theater)

Christmas + Bingo + Catholic comedy. What could be a better mix? You know you're sick of doing the same old, same old, so head over to The Royal George and get your laugh on (and get into some competitive bingo action), for this show. Info and tix here.

Enjoy the week! 

Tea-based Tiki Cocktail

Devin Kidner

Meet the "Teaki," our seasonal tiki drink. 

Despite folks crying out that tiki drinks are a passing fad, they remain popular, especially in the winter, when we're all desperately wanting to be whisked away to some Polynesian Island to where the air doesn't hurt our faces.

Our take doesn't use rum (which generally inspires the tropical feels), but rather mango brandy, which is juicy and sunny. We add complexity with generous amounts of Earl Grey tea bitters, which add astringency and depth, and then balance the sweet and tart with honey and cranberry juice.

Just to keep things light, we add a splash of Season's Soda's maple syrup demi-sec, which adds a zip of bubble along with the earthy, peppery notes of maple.

2 oz @RhineHall Mango Brandy
2 tsp. Earl Grey Tea Bitters
4 oz fresh cranberry juice
2 tsp raw honey
Generous splash of Seasons Soda's Maple Syrup soda 

Shake together first four ingredients without ice first (5-10 seconds), then with ice for another 10 seconds. Pour into a glass with crushed ice, then top with soda. Garnish with plum brandy soaked sour cherries and candied carrots. 

All photos by Brett Calomino.

5 Things to Do in Chicago December 5th - 11th

Devin Kidner

Looking for something different to do this week in Chicago? Look no further than the five things listed below, which have all been tested and true by HOLLOW LEG itself!

1. Take afternoon tea at Brindille

Afternoon tea is a staple during the holiday season, and Brindille's is the best. With Chef Carrie Nahabedian at the helm, you'll be delighted with traditional English crumpets, finger sandwiches with seasonal ingredients, and a whole world of pastries that are executed perfectly (the Sacher torte is to die for!). Make it a Royal Tea with a glass of bubbly.

$60/person. Reservations required. More information here.

 The Spirit Artist, a blend of Bourbon, cherry juice, orange peel, Demerara simple syrup, and chocolate bitters - magically delicious!

The Spirit Artist, a blend of Bourbon, cherry juice, orange peel, Demerara simple syrup, and chocolate bitters - magically delicious!

2. Take in a magic show at Royal George Theatre

Tired of holiday music already? Revamp your spirits with magic! The Rosenkranz Mysteries are running now through December 24 and it's incredible. Ricardo Rosenkranz, a physician at Northwestern, beautifully laces in his story into a magical journey, and the tricks will leave you wanting more. Tix and info here!

Extra boozy bonus? HOLLOW LEG created the custom cocktails for the show, so you can finally have one of our creations outside of the classroom.

3. Get some shopping done at Revolution Craft Show

If you're like us, the majority of holiday shopping is done at small businesses and craft fairs. You can't beat the uniqueness, the quality, and the good feels of helping small businesses! On Sunday 11 December,  Revolution Craft Show will be showcasing some of Chicago's finest, along with beer and food!

4. Immerse yourself in the Golden Age of Radio

If you're looking for something different to do, look no further than the Chicago Cultural Center. Most exhibitions and events are free, including this fun and festive recreation of Meet Me in St. Louis performed live on stage!

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5. Shop and walk through a winter wonderland during West Town Winterfest

Dying to put those snow boots to work? This Saturday, a bunch of West Town businesses will be open so you can peruse, grab a cuppa, and stroll through snow-laden streets. There's a trolley and an after-party, too! More details here.

Enjoy the week!

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