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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.

Ginger and spice and all of it's nice!

Devin Kidner

Currently, if you couldn't tell by my most recent creations, I'm obsessing over ginger and the use of pepper in drinks.

Since most people equate the pungency of ginger and the burn of pepper as autumn and winter flavours, I couldn't help but be inspired to try them with late summer fruits like blackberries and nectarines.

Balancing the sweet juiciness of fresh fruit by adding a punch of ginger makes my mouth water. In the case of the Black Velvet, the depth of the blackberries pair perfectly with the lingering taste of ginger, and keep you coming back for more. Working with ginger liqueur over fresh ginger also seemed like a no-brainer. Peeling and pressing fresh ginger can be a pain, and you often have to add more sweetness to the drink to even out the pungency. KOVAL's Ginger Liqueur is already balanced and ready to go. Unlike other ginger liqueurs, it's bolder and more pronounced, so you don't have to add as much for flavouring.


Black and red pepper are becoming a staple in my drinks, made in the form of simple syrups. Equal parts water and evaporated cane sugar, sprinkled with whole black peppercorns or crushed red pepper, then simmered with the sugar mix until thickened, makes for a lovely surprise in drinks on the back of the palate. Imagine the Pep in Your Step, a fresh nectarine flavour off the top, finishing with some well-balanced heat!

Red pepper simple syrup. Notice the gorgeous amber colour!

Red pepper simple syrup. Notice the gorgeous amber colour!

There are a few tips when employing strong flavours in your drink:

1. Always start out with less than you think you need. When blending one cocktail, start with 1/4 - 1/2 ounce, then build onto that according to taste. You don't want to add too much ginger or pepper and come out with a cocktail that makes you gag and your throat burn uncomfortably.

2. When making simple syrups, make sure to strain off the pepper! It may sound like a no-brainer, but believe me, if you don't strain correctly, you could end up with more than you bargained for! I also give my simple syrup a gentle shake before spooning out, just to make sure any flakes left behind are evenly disbursed.

3. Simple syrups can last a while, if made properly! A little squeeze of lemon juice won't alter the flavour drastically, and can really help to preserve your simple syrup! Keep it labeled in the fridge for 2-3 weeks!

Over the next few weeks, I'll be experimenting with other ways to make kicky drinks. Keep on checkin' out the blog for updates!