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2524 W Chicago Ave, #4
Chicago, IL, 60622

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HOLLOW LEG creates original cocktails, provides recipes, and teaches cocktail classes. All of our cocktails are as local, seasonal, sustainable, and organic as possible!

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Blog

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

Girl Scout Cookie Cocktails, Part 2

Devin Kidner

In case you're just joining the Girl Scout cookie cocktail conversation, here at HOLLOW LEG we're celebrating the sale of Girl Scout cookies by creating their boozy counterparts! 

(Here is Part 1, our take on the Samoa, in case you missed it...)

And if you're thinking you're going to find cheap liqueurs and store-bought syrups with high fructose corn syrups, well madam/sir, please just click away. Everything in these recipes is DIY, natural, and sources incredible ingredients. 

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Now, drumroll, please: Here is our take on the Trefoil Girl Scout cookie!

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz butter liqueur (ingredients/directions to follow...)
  • 3 dashes vanilla/Rhine Hall Oaked Grappa bitters
  • a tiny piece of fresh, organic ginger (I mean tiny, like a small pebble)
  • 1 oz vanilla ice cream (you can use Whole Foods 365 Organic Vanilla Bean if you like, or any incredible local brand you want to support!)

Method:

Shake the first three ingredients together and add ice. Shake for 10 seconds.
Strain liquid into another shaker and add ice cream. 
Shake vigorously for about 15 seconds to break up the ice cream.

For a mini-shooter, strain into smaller glasses. For a big ol' glass of shortbread goodness, pour into a larger glass.

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Garnish:

See the garnish? It's made with fresh whipped cream and very simple shortbread crumbles.

For the whipped cream, just toss heavy cream into a mixer and whip it until it forms firm peaks. I don't add sugar because the drink is already so sweet.

For the shortbread crumbles, into a small bowl, add a tablespoon of butter, a tablespoon of sugar, and a tablespoon of flour. Rub together the ingredients with your fingers until they start to make little pebbles. Toss on a baking sheet (on top of some parchment) into a 350° oven for 10 minutes.

Pipe the whipped cream onto the top of the glass and sprinkle with shortbread crumbles!

Let us know what you think! And if you're interested in learning our natural recipe for the Thin Mint cocktail, subscribe to our newsletter!

This Valentine's Day, Give Her (or Him!) a Cocktail!

Devin Kidner

Okay, don't JUST give her/him a cocktail. Also take them out to dinner. But mix them a cocktail to set up the evening (or as a nightcap), and start the night out right!

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The Penny Lane tastes like a boozy chocolate dipped cherry. Find the recipe and technique below!

"Penny Lane"

2 oz. Ceres Vodka from Chicago Distilling Company
2 oz chilled hot chocolate made with local dairy (I used Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa)
2 tsp. cognac
1 oz cherry juice

OPTIONAL: 1 Meadow Haven Farm egg white

The Technique:

If omitting the egg white, shake the ingredients together with ice for 10 seconds. Strain into a glass and garnish with a cocoa powder heart.

If adding the egg white, shake all of the ingredients together without ice for 20 seconds, then incorporate ice and shake again for 10 seconds. Strain into a glass, gently shaking the egg white on top.

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The Garnish:

See that picture above? This is how you accomplish an awesome garnish on top of this drink, or really any drink.

It's super simple. Take a piece of cardboard and draw a shape on it. Then carefully cut it out.

Sit it on top of the glass and carefully shake cocoa/cinnamon/sprinkles over top.

Remove the template carefully and voila!

A few tips:

  1. Make sure the amount of liquid in the glass is near the top but not right to the edge, otherwise, your template will get wet!
  2. If the template does get wet, just let it dry out on a flat surface. It will dry and you can reuse it.
  3. If you don't remove the template carefully, you will damage your cute little garnish! To save it, you could re-shake the cocktail then try again!

Adorable, right? Happy Valentine's Day!

Girl Scout Cookie Cocktails, Part 1

Devin Kidner

Heads up, folks! If you haven't already, you can start ruining your New Year goal to lose weight and invest in Girl Scout cookies.

If you haven't already been assaulted with cubicle-to-cubicle sales by eager mothers/fathers pimping out the cookies on behalf of their little scout, or persuaded into a case of Thin Mints by that clever gal at your doorstep, you can join the digital age, download an app, or yes, even search to see when cookies will be available at retail areas near you!

And if you're like me and you've decided you're ready for something a little more...grown up, then ditch the palm oil and indulge in something that, after a few of them, will make you forget you just blew your diet!

I present to you...HOLLOW LEG's first Girl Scout Cookie-Inspired Cocktail, the Liquid Cookie.

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This gorgeous little number is inspired by my personal favourite, the Samoa, which, according to Wikipedia, are "Vanilla cookies coated in caramel, sprinkled with toasted coconut and laced with chocolate stripes."

I don't know about you, but when it comes to both cookies and cocktails, I'm no longer impressed by the fake stuff. Palm oil in my cookies? No thanks. Cheap coconut rum? Can't we do better? 

At HOLLOW LEG, we're all about using the best products sourced from awesome folks, and this cocktail has none of the fake stuff. With the Liquid Cookie, you'll taste the difference because it's made with the best ingredients...some of which will surprise you!

Samoas are known for their coconutty goodness. Instead of using something filled with artificial flavours, I went with a base of Rhine Hall Oaked Grappa.

Grappa, for those of you who don't know, is liquor made from the leftovers of wine making, called pomace. All of the seeds, peels, pulp, and stems are fermented and distilled creating what I can only describe as a liquored up wine drink. Rhine Hall, based in Chicago, then ages their grappa in oak barrels, mellowing out the flavour, and, creating a grappa that is sweet, toasty, and has lovely coconut notes, which are enhanced by the other fabulous ingredients in this cocktail. It's really something.

Now that we've got our coconut base, it's time to add caramel to your cocktail. We won't be doing this through flavoured vodka or (gasp!) high fructose corn syrup filed sauces. Nope! We'll be adding homespun caramel into our cocktail, which really is a cinch and so much more delicious than the store-bought stuff. 

I love Sally's Baking Addiction's recipe, which can be found here, except I don't add any salt and I use Kilgus Farmstead heavy cream. Oh, and I know y'all are gonna roll your eyes, but I also make my own butter from heavy cream and use that. I know, I know...

If you don't have time to make your own butter, then go for something organic and grass-fed. Local is better, but Kerrygold works, too. The most important part is that you start with ingredients that taste good!

Frozen hot chocolate. So. Good.

Frozen hot chocolate. So. Good.

Now we need chocolate. And I'm not talking a measly little drizzle. I'm not talking only a garnish. I'm talking chocolate.

Frozen hot chocolate.

Frozen hot chocolate is not difficult to make and the payoff is great. I usually take a really good hot cocoa mix, say Ghirardelli, make it to the specifications on the packaging + melt some extra dark chocolate into the mix, then let it cool by tossing it into a Ball Jar and then into the fridge.

Once cool, blend with ice in your blender. Remember, you want a little icy crunch so you feel like you're indulging in a cookie. In this drink, a little crunch is good!

This is the one!

This is the one!

You're almost there! Now you just need vanilla bitters to add that vanilla cookie flavour and add some complexity. Surprise, surprise...I make my own....but you can buy extraordinary bitters these days, my suggestion being these Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters from Bittercube based out of Wisconsin!

RECIPE:

2 oz Rhine Hall Oaked Grappa
1 oz homespun caramel
2-3 dashes vanilla bitters (or more if desired)

2.5 oz frozen hot chocolate

Garnish: Chocolate curls and/or a cocoa/cinnamon/sprinkles heart

Shake together the oaked grappa, bitters, and caramel first. You want to make sure the caramel is incorporated into the alcohol BEFORE shaking in the frozen hot chocolate.

Then pour in the frozen hot chocolate and shake again, for about 5-7 seconds. Pour into a glass.

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For a garnish, I cut a heart out of a piece of cardboard and then set it over my glass. In the picture below, I'm dashing a drink with pink sprinkles. On the Liquid Cookie I make the heart out of cinnamon, but you could also use bitter cocoa!

Enjoy your drink, darling!

5 Easy Cocktail Gifts that Impress

Devin Kidner

Tis the season to be busy, and we're in holiday crunch time! So when it comes time to gift-giving, take it easy on yourself and give a simple gift that will delight any cocktail lover (or anyone, really!).

The following gifts are easy to create and customise:

1. Rosemary-Honey Simple Syrup. A staple in cocktails, but also great in tea, drizzled over ice cream, or added into club soda for a naturally sweet and herbal taste, this syrup is luxe without putting a dent in your wallet.

What you'll need: 

  • 8 oz. Ball Jar
  • 1/2 cup raw honey (raw and local are ideal - check out Chicago Honey Co-Op)
  • just over 1/2 cup water
  • 1 large sprig of rosemary (dried or fresh)
honeyrosemaryingredients

How to make it: Combine the raw honey and water into a pan. Heat slowly, allowing honey and water to combine, and then increase to a boil.

Once boiling add rosemary and reduce to a low simmer for 10 minutes.

At boil: Notice the foam!

At boil: Notice the foam!

At simmer.

At simmer.

Remove from heat and let cool for 2-3 minutes, transfer into Ball Jar.

Make it pretty: Suspend a sprig of rosemary inside the Ball Jar (just be aware that the rosemary will infuse more, intensifying the taste). Use twine to wrap around where the bottom of the metal lid and the top of the glass bottle meet. Tie simple short bows (I tied two on top of each other), and call it a day. 

You can make the top pretty by following the below pics:

After you tie the twine bows around the jar, then work on the top. This will make designing the top easier. Fill in any gaps by wrapping more twine around the jar and knot.

After you tie the twine bows around the jar, then work on the top. This will make designing the top easier. Fill in any gaps by wrapping more twine around the jar and knot.

3. Apply more hot glue to the top of the cap, and proceed to step 4 quickly!

3. Apply more hot glue to the top of the cap, and proceed to step 4 quickly!

1. Spiral the twine.  Leave space in the middle and don't use glue yet. Just spiral and secure with your fingers until you cover the whole lid.

1. Spiral the twine.  Leave space in the middle and don't use glue yet. Just spiral and secure with your fingers until you cover the whole lid.

4. Secure the spiral onto the glue. 

4. Secure the spiral onto the glue. 

2. Use a touch of glue from a hot glue gun to secure the loose end over top of the spiral. Carefully remove spiral off of top and place aside until step 4.

2. Use a touch of glue from a hot glue gun to secure the loose end over top of the spiral. Carefully remove spiral off of top and place aside until step 4.

5. Tie a double knotted bow and secure to the middle with glue. If you'd like to get precise, attach one of the bow tails to the spiral tail and secure with glue. It will look like th 

5. Tie a double knotted bow and secure to the middle with glue. If you'd like to get precise, attach one of the bow tails to the spiral tail and secure with glue. It will look like th 

Final product:

Pretty, rustic, and delicious!

Pretty, rustic, and delicious!

2. Quick Cherry Bitters. It’s no secret that bitters add complexity and flavour that is unrivaled. The biggest problem is that in a time crunch, they’re hard to create. Some bitters take up to three weeks to cure! Since we’re already elbow deep in the holidays, here’s a quick way to get great bitters into the hands of friends and family (and let’s face it: your own).

This is a HOLLOW LEG original quick bitters recipe for ya bad self:

What you'll need: 

  • 1 oz bitter bottle with dropper (can be found at The Container Store or in bulk online)

    For the cherry base:
  • 1/2 cup packed dried cherries - I use Montmorency cherries from Michigan
  • just over 1 cup water

    For the bitters base:
  • 2 oz above 50% ABV liquor (i.e. vodka or Everclear or whiskey that is ABOVE 100 proof!)
  • 2 oz water
  • A combination of bittering agents (see below).
Almost all of the above can be sourced locally. In the bowls, from top, clockwise: black fennel seed, coriander seed, black walnut leaves, and chicory root. On the board, from top, star anise and dehydrated ginger.

Almost all of the above can be sourced locally. In the bowls, from top, clockwise: black fennel seed, coriander seed, black walnut leaves, and chicory root. On the board, from top, star anise and dehydrated ginger.

Now, here's the thing. You can use any of the combination above to create some amazing bitters. For this particular recipe, which strives to be as local as possible, I used a few teaspoons of black fennel, a heaping teaspoon of coriander, a big chunk of ginger, and a teaspoon of chicory root. I like the earthiness/smokiness of the chicory, the pungency of the ginger, the licorice flavour of the fennel, and the bright, floral notes of the coriander.

Montmorency Cherries

Montmorency Cherries

How to make the cherry base: Combine the cherries and water into a pan. Heat slowly, stirring several times, and then increase to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer for 10-12 minutes.

Using a sieve, strain off the cherry juice and let cool while making the bitters.

Bitters in the pot!

Bitters in the pot!

How to make the bitters base: Combine the alcohol, water, and bittering agents into the same pan you cooked the cherries in. Toss in cooked cherries you just separated from the juice. Again, bring the pot to a boil while stirring often.

Cut the heat, place a cover on top and let the spices steep in the liquid. for 20 minutes, or for several hours, just depending on how much time you have.

Strain the liquid into a separate bowl.

How to create the final product: It's simple. How do you like your bitters? I like to add 3/4 oz of cherry juice in with 1/4 oz of bitters, but it's up to you! Play around by doing a 1:1 ratio, then taste a little. Too bitter? Add more cherry juice. Not bitter enough? Add more bittering solution. Once you've got it the way you like it, use a funnel to put it in the amber bottle.

I made it pretty by writing with permanent marker on a mini ornament!

3. Local Booze. It's as simple as simple can be, Local distillers work hard to create craft spirits that are different from the mass-produced stuff on the market.  

Brews from: 5 Rabbit, Pipeworks, Forbidden Root, Upland, and Chicago Distilling Company's Ceres vodka

Brews from: 5 Rabbit, Pipeworks, Forbidden Root, Upland, and Chicago Distilling Company's Ceres vodka

Surprise and delight your alcohol-loving friends and family by presenting them with craft beer and spirits. You can discover all of the local Midwest Micro Breweries here! The two spirits below are new releases from Rhine Hall Distillery and KOVAL Distillery.

Rhine Hall Distillery's Plum Brandy

Rhine Hall Distillery's Plum Brandy

KOVAL Distillery's Dry Gin

KOVAL Distillery's Dry Gin

4. Customised Cocktails. It's not as hard as it sounds. Creating a cocktail that speaks to the unique taste buds of someone on your list is fun and easy. All you need is to know their favourite poison, and then play around with flavour combos.

I suggest that you present this gift in person, and pair it with homemade dinner. It's great to work together to create something delicious, and laugh if you create something horrible. Whether it's a smashing success the very first time or not, you're sure to impress someone with your Julia Child-like conviction!

5. Teach them how to drink for life. Buy your friends a gift that will keep on giving and send them to a cocktail class! Keep checking out HOLLOW LEG's Upcoming Events page for classes, or secure one through KOVAL or Rhine Hall!

See?! Gift giving for the cocktail lovers in your life can be as easy as 1...2...drink! (I had to do it.)

Happy Holidays, y'all!

You put WHAT in your winter cocktails?

Devin Kidner

One of the biggest challenges anyone dedicated to the local, seasonal way of eating faces, especially in the Midwest, is what the heck to do in the winter, when there's less variety of produce and it seems root veggies are in every. single. dish. 

It's no different for us here at HOLLOW LEG. Being dedicated to sustainable cocktails, working within the limits of freezing Chicago winters seems ridiculous.

Spoiler Alert: Citrus doesn't grow in a climate like Chicago's. Picture by Kilroyart

Spoiler Alert: Citrus doesn't grow in a climate like Chicago's. Picture by Kilroyart

Sustainable cocktails, sure! But is this a sustainable business model? What the heck are you spiking cocktails with in the dead of winter?

And forget about the winter! Did you know here at HOLLOW LEG, when we work the Midwest scene, we steer clear of citrus fruits, which are pretty much the staple in mixology? They are used in everything from garnishes to anchoring flavour, and for good reason: they lend their acidity, bitterness, and characteristic sharp flavour to create complexity and balance in cocktails.

I’ve been asked why. Why no citrus? Why not just make my life easier and squeeze that wedge of lemon into the Pucker Up, a drink that uses fresh cranberry sauce, rose hip liqueur, vodka, and egg whites? Isn’t there something lacking without citrus?

The answer to me is simple. It’s unnecessary.

Unlike our lack of common baking spices in the Midwest (if someone knows where I can source local cinnamon, black pepper, and mace, please let me know, because for now I’m sourcing Fair Trade!), acidity can be achieved right here in the Midwest through a seemingly unusual but traditional source: Vinegar.

That’s right, y’all. Vinegar.

Mine doesn't look so beautiful, so here's a pic from Williams-Sonoma. Gah, overachievers.

Mine doesn't look so beautiful, so here's a pic from Williams-Sonoma. Gah, overachievers.

It was easy here in ChiTown when the spring and summer stopped by for a visit. Anyone who has tasted rhubarb knows you need no lemon to make it zing; young blueberries and blackberries are tart as all get-up; tart cherries hit at the perfect time and make for a gorgeous sour syrup; quince and crab apples are fantastic tart-ing staples; and persimmons nearly burn your tongue off with their astringency, which can fake as something sour when balanced well. 

It’s when cranberry season comes ‘round, I know we’re at the end. As soon as cranberries hit the market this year, I had a mini-panic attack. How am I going to incorporate acidity into cocktails through the long winter? 

I have a whole pantry of locally dried fruits and preserves, but it was a Midwestern baking tradition that made me reach for vinegar.

Vinegar Pie.

Return to a traditional baking staple for cocktails! Picture by glutenfreeeasily.com

Return to a traditional baking staple for cocktails! Picture by glutenfreeeasily.com

Nelson Algren, back in the 1930s, wrote in his book, America Eats:

Early Illinoisans felt keenly the absence of native fruit. Along toward the spring their systems developed a craving for something tart. To satisfy the craving, ingenious housewives invented the vinegar pie - vinegar, molasses, water, a little nutmeg and flour enough to bring the mixture to the consistency of custard. When baked in a pie tin, the resulting product was much relished and remained a favorite springtime dessert until young orchards coming into bearing provided real fruit pies to take its place.

Brilliant!

With that I thought, “Well, dang. I bet it’d work for cocktails, too.” So I created the Pucker Up, a delightfully unique cocktail with a bitter-fruity cranberry sauce-syrup, smooth CH Vodka, KOVAL Rose Hip Liqueur, a shaken egg white from Meadow Haven Farm, and homemade apple cider vinegar. Just a few drops.

Here’s the recipe:

PUCKER UP!

Ain't it pretty?! Picture by Brett Calomino.

Ain't it pretty?! Picture by Brett Calomino.

2 oz homemade cranberry sauce-syrup (cranberries from Ellis Family Farm)
1/2 oz KOVAL Rose Hip Liqueur
1.25 oz CH Vodka

1/8 tsp (a couple drops) of homemade apple cider vinegar
1 Meadow Haven egg white

(or if you don’t have access to Meadow Haven, use a pasture-raised egg from a source you trust. I cannot stress this enough. It can be harmful to your health if you consume raw eggs, but a local farmer has your back and generally, their eggs are pretty dope!)

Combine all ingredients and shake vigorously. And I mean vigorously. For at least 20 seconds to get an incredible merengue out of the egg.

Then shake with ice. 

Strain into a pretty glass (it doesn’t have to be any particular shape as long as it makes you smile) by tipping the glass at an angle and pouring the libation slowly down the side. Shake out any remaining egg white over top. 

Garnish, or don’t garnish.

What resulted was something tangy, airy, slightly bitter, and aromatic. It was delightful. Folks would ask me, “What is in this?! I can’t put my finger on it,” and when I’d say, “Homemade apple cider vinegar,” their jaws dropped.

It’s true, folks. We’re hard core here in the Midwest. We don’t need no stinkin’ citrus! You can make plenty of varieties of vinegars at home, and they can all be incorporated into cocktails beautifully.

Listen, I’m not knocking those cocktails that use citrus, but I find that when we place limitations on ourselves, it forces us to be more creative with what we concoct.

That’s the whole idea of HOLLOW LEG: Creating unique drinks from local, forgotten and oftentimes underused ingredients to please your palate and inspire you to keep reaching for the weird. 

Because weird can be amazing. 

Grappa and Brandy Cocktails, Anyone?

Devin Kidner

It's a beautiful thing when two small, local businesses come together to create something awesome! 

Rhine Hall's gorgeous distillery, bar in the foreground.

Rhine Hall's gorgeous distillery, bar in the foreground.

HOLLOW LEG is proud (and super stoked!) to announce our new partnership with the one-and-only, Rhine Hall Distillery, Chicago's newest micro-distillery crafting brandies and grappas from local apples! 

That's right! Right along with HOLLOW LEG's mission to create sustainable cocktails, Rhine Hall is dedicated to sourcing their apples from the Great Lakes region, their waste is collected by Chicago composting company, Resource Center, they support the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and their business is father-daughter owned. 

On top of all of those amazing things, they make incredible grappas and brandies.

And y'all know us: Here at HOLLOW LEG we love whipping up cocktails that are delicious, sustainable, and interesting, so of course when we got our hands on the grappas you see above and the brandies you see below, we went, well, a litttttle crazy. 

It wasn't long before we all decided that taking grappa and brandy cocktails to the next level would be the next best thing, and BAM! A cocktail class series was born.

The coolest thing about the classes is that they include a distillery tour, which means you get to learn about the whole process of making brandy and grappa, from tree to still, and then experience creating cocktails in class.

So....tree to tastebuds?

Check out the first class, here!

The Great Truffle Hunt! (video at the bottom!)

Devin Kidner

My morning started out like it always does: Two Italian coffees (I don’t even drink coffee, but am somehow talked into two cups every morning by Rossella, the proprietress of my bed and breakfast, Il Quercin in Castelnuovo Calcea), a couple cornettos with bread and homemade jam, and yoghurt made by Carlo, the B&B’s proprietor. 

But this morning was different because after we fed the donkey (yes, Carlo and Rossella have a donkey!), Carlo took me to go truffle hunting with Beppe, his lady friend, and their truffle hunting dog.

Beppe and his dog

Beppe and his dog

As we drove, Carlo explained that most truffle hunters search for truffles on public land, but Beppe owns a section of woods, allowing him privacy while hunting: Both a luxury and a necessity in this sport. And it is a sport.

The woods are steep, and as we meet up with Beppe he gives me a look up and down to make sure I have the proper clothes. It’s humid in the woods, there are plenty of mosquitos, and proper footwear is a must. Beppe introduces me to his dog, a two year old female hunting dog, and although she has been trained to sniff out truffles, she acts just like any other dog: she aimlessly runs around, doesn’t always come when called, wants to jump all over you, and is easily distracted. 

The entrance into Beppe's woods and a little camp area.

The entrance into Beppe's woods and a little camp area.

Within one minute of starting our hunt, however, she beelines to a spot not too far away and begins to dig. Beppe calls her back, the woman doling out a treat while Beppe hobbles forward with his cane to the spot she’s marked. For an older couple, Beppe and his lady friend are incredibly agile, him dropping to his knees and digging into the marked area vigorously, calling the dog back to dig deeper, and eventually hitting gourmet gold: two truffles totaling the size of my palm.

Tartufi!

Tartufi!

They hand me the truffles to smell, and they are beautifully aromatic. In fact, the whole woods smells of truffles: nutty, earthy, and slightly sulfurous.

We move along, Beppe shouting what sounds like, “il itaire,” at the dog. When I ask Carlo what he is saying, he shrugs, “They are speaking the language of Vinchio (the neighboring municipality of Calstenuovo Calcea in Asti), and I do not understand it.”

We climb the steep hills of the woods carefully, every now and then the dog stops to dig and the process starts over. Beppe drops to his knees, takes a handful of dirt from the ground to smell it and mutter something I cannot understand. Sometimes, Carlo explains, since the dog knows she will receive a treat if she digs, she does so even if there are no truffles to be had.

Smart dog.

Two more truffles were found in this location!

Two more truffles were found in this location!

After we found our fourth truffle in less than 45 minutes, Beppe declares that I am good luck.

As we end our hunt, Carlo tells me that I am lucky for the experience: truffle hunting is so competitive, it is rare Beppe allows anyone to travel with him. He also notes that most truffle hunting happens after dark so that the trifolau (truffle hunters) can work secretly, and because truffles supposedly smell stronger at night, making it easier for the dogs to find them.

“It is strange,” Carlo says, “but very interesting.”

QUICK NOTE: Since tortufi lose their aroma and flavour very quickly, it is smart to consume them quickly. Don't wait! I'll be picking up a truffle before I leave for Chicago, but, as per Carlo's advice, did not want to take one home from our hunt! 

VIDEO OF THE FIRST TRUFFLES WE FOUND:

Taglioni with fresh tartufi!

Taglioni with fresh tartufi!

How to Process Pawpaws

Devin Kidner

HOLLOW LEG's Devin Kidner shows you how to process a pawpaw to use in cocktails.

Check out our next video, Maui in the Midwest, showing you how to use pawpaws in cocktails!

#hollowlegNYC

Devin Kidner

As you may know if you follow HOLLOW LEG on Instagram (ahollowleg), we recently sojourned to New York City to be a part of an incredible event hosted by Dstillery. It was an honour to be asked to be a part of such an event, and I had so much fun meeting folks, chatting with them about New York distilleries and local products, and showing NYC what HOLLOW LEG has to offer.

Here's how the trip went down:

After I settled into my hotel, I decided to make a trip over to Union Square Farmers Market. I had already ordered my New York distilled liquors and cordial from Astor Wines, who delivered* my alcohol conveniently directly to The Convene, where the event took place. 

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Once at Union Square Farmers Market, I started hunting for edible flowers. The first ones I came across were from Windfall Farms, and the lovely Nissa helped me out. 

From left to right: Borage and Chocolate Mint Blossoms

From left to right: Borage and Chocolate Mint Blossoms

First, I was looking for a garnish to make my complex, flavourful gin drink stand out. The colour is a very light greenish/yellowish colour, and it needed something to make it pop! Nissa turned me on to the borage (in the pic above), which was just the colour I was looking for! Borage is prized for its oil, and is one of the "few truly blue-coloured edible substances" (thanks Wikipedia!). It had a sweet taste, but also a bit like cucumber, so it paired perfectly with gin.

I also snagged the chocolate mint blossoms because their smell was intoxicating (if you haven't tried chocolate mint before, you're missing out!), and the blooms were delicately pink, which, paired with their green leaves, made them rustic and charming. Their flavour is mildly minty, but chocolate mint should be smelled before eaten because you'll get aromas of chocolate and it is incredible!

Edible violas from Bodhitree Farm

Edible violas from Bodhitree Farm

Before leaving the lovely ladies at Windfall, I asked them if they knew of anyone else growing edible flowers in the market. They highly recommended Bodhitree Farm, because they're a no-spray farm that produces gorgeous produce and herbs.

It took me a minute to locate the gorgeous edible violas above, but Dylan, one of the lovely salespeople, was awesome about getting me fixed up! Violas are a little larger and have a lovely, delicate taste of sweet peas. The best part about violas, though, are their colours!

Violas can be yellow, yellow/purple, orange/white, purple/lilac, and more! They are stunning and I thought they'd pair beautifully with my rich purply black cordial drink!

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I also grabbed a few New York grown apples because not only do they make for a gorgeous display, but because I was hungry! :o)

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Once I arrived back at The Convene, it was time to get to work! My liquor/cordial had arrived, and I had some pre-batching to do!

For this event, and for my drinks, I went with the above alcohol. Widow Jane Whiskey is distilled in Brooklyn and has the most lovely kick, full of spice, vanilla aroma, and oak. It was full-bodied and the flavour lingered long after your first sip.

To even out the burn and add a twist to the whiskey, I decided that American Fruits Black Currant Cordial would pair perfectly. Forget a simple syrup: this cordial had the perfect blend of sweet and deep fruitiness, along with the distinct smell and taste of black currants to create an X-factor that will keep you drinking. The best part? Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery sources their black currants locally and organically!

Do I even have to explain why I used Greenhook Ginsmiths? This gin is so dang smooth and complex, you'll be guessing what spices and herbs are in it. I noticed cinnamon and citrus off the bat, which made it perfect for my bathtub gin drink I concocted.

 

Pre-batching the Number 81 (gin drink). Notice how all of the ingredients separate into layers based on density! Honey on the bottom, gin in the middle, fresh pressed lime juice at the top along with the fresh mint.

Pre-batching the Number 81 (gin drink). Notice how all of the ingredients separate into layers based on density! Honey on the bottom, gin in the middle, fresh pressed lime juice at the top along with the fresh mint.

A little about the creations for this event: 

 

The display for the Black Apple

The display for the Black Apple

The Black Apple

As we ease into autumn, you might need a drink to warm you during your last hurrahs celebrating on Brooklyn rooftops. May I suggest a Black Apple?

Apple cider, made from NY apples, is sweet and adds a depth of flavour, thanks to the naturally occurring yeasts that can cause fermentation. Whiskey acts as the binder for the ingredients, and is a great complement to the cider, with it’s sharp flavour and spicy, oaky notes. A splash of black currant cordial is the “twist” in this cocktail that a lemon just can’t stand up to... it’s tartness is well balanced, and has a jammy, not too sweet flavour that lingers on the palate. Finished off with a sprig of rosemary for aromatics, and you’ve got a great fall cocktail!

Display for Number 81

Display for Number 81

Number 81

Gin and honey...the combination has been around since Prohibition. Because professionally manufactured alcohol was in short supply, many folks brewed noxious, nearly unpalatable bathtub gin! To make the drinks taste better, these gins were mixed with plenty of sugar and flavourings to mask their sharpness. It’s been 81 years since we said good bye to Prohibition. Let’s raise a glass and celebrate!

The Number 81

The Number 81

See how the borage makes the gin drink pop! 

The Black Apple

The Black Apple

Check out those violas!

And last, but not least, a fun couple of pictures of me at the event pouring on the left, and posing with Marco, my willing sous-mixologist who attended the event and, to put it simply, rocked that Hawaiian apron! Thanks, Marco!

I hope you liked this recap of HOLLOW LEG's adventure to NYC! For information about how you can book HOLLOW LEG for an event, please click here!

*I cannot stress how absolutely important it is that you order alcohol in advance of an event and then have someone else deliver it. That stuff is heavy!

Ark of Taste, and why it's important!

Devin Kidner

Whenever I tell people that I love making cocktails from Ark of Taste ingredients, I'm inevitably met with a lot of blank stares. I get it, though, because Ark of Taste is almost as unheard of as the products it lists. Today, we are going to change that.

What is Ark of Taste?

The Ark of Taste is a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. By identifying and championing these foods we keep them in production and on our plates.
— Ark of Taste website

How can I learn more?

Watch this awesome video!

Besides being great for biodiversity, how does this apply to mixology?

We all know cocktails are delicious, but they can be even more wonderful when you use ingredients not commonly used in cocktails. Using Ark of Taste products can help expand your palate, introduce you to interesting flavour combinations, and create cocktails that are unique to your region!

Anyone can make a Bloody Mary from canned tomatoes or a mix, but think what that Bloody Mary would taste like if you used fresh Amish Paste tomatoes that you've crushed yourself! You can have a papaya-based drink, or you could branch out and introduce your friends to a drink flavoured with pawpaws, which taste like papayas, but are indigenous to the Midwest and support a local farmer producing them. 

A good cocktail tastes great, but a great cocktail also tells a story, supports a farmer, and is uniquely delicious.

The Pawpaw, largest fruit indigenous to North America and an Ark of Taste food!

The Pawpaw, largest fruit indigenous to North America and an Ark of Taste food!

I'd like to see what Ark of Taste products are in my region. How do I look that up?

You can visit this link here to explore Ark of Taste foods by region, name, and product type!

Great! This list is huge! Where do I begin?

HOLLOW LEG is based in Chicago, so this is what we are immediately inspired by: Aunt Molly's Ground Cherries, Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet, Moon & Stars Watermelon, Norton Grape, Pawpaw, Oldmixon Free Peach, Traditional Sorghum Syrup, and the American Persimmon, are all flavours we are experimenting with in cocktails.

The Moon & Stars Watermelon

The Moon & Stars Watermelon

HOLLOW LEG will be using more Ark of Taste products as we continue on this journey. Check back with us to see our new creations!

Slow Food Chicago's 2014 Annual Meeting

Devin Kidner

This year's Slow Food Chicago 2014 Annual Meeting, HOLLOW LEG served up some delicious cocktails!

Devin before the event began, about to serve up The Stinger

Devin before the event began, about to serve up The Stinger

HOLLOW LEG joined Slow Food Chicago for their annual get together on Sunday 14 September to enjoy an afternoon of eating, sipping, learning and meeting other people who care about good, clean, fair food in Chicago.

Scrumptious Pantry's Lee and Devin, both are US delegates for this year's Terra Madre in Italy.

Scrumptious Pantry's Lee and Devin, both are US delegates for this year's Terra Madre in Italy.

The event was held at The Plant, Chicago’s first off-the-grid vertical farm and artisanal food business incubator.

Outside of The Plant

Outside of The Plant

HOLLOW LEG created a special cocktail for the occasion, all made from local ingredients. The Stinger was a crowd pleaser, with both humans and yellow jackets alike! As a matter of fact, it was dubbed "The Stinger" because we had to avoid getting stung by the many bees who flocked to the punch bowl!

The Stinger

The Stinger

Made with fresh pressed grape juice from two types of Concord grapes ("Fredonia" Early Concords from Mick Klug and Concord grapes from Leaning Shed), blueberry lavender syrup made from Ellis Family Farm blueberries and Smits Farms lavender, FEW Gin, and topped with edible Nasturtium from Growing Power, the cocktail was sweet, tangy, aromatic, and had a lovely gin punch! The cocktail was topped off with a little club soda for some sparkle!

An unlikely garnish: A yellow jacket!

An unlikely garnish: A yellow jacket!

We had a great time meeting others, serving drinks, and enjoying the beautiful day! Devin's excited to attend Terra Madre this October and see some of the folks she met again.

For information on how to acquire the Blueberry Lavender syrup, please contact Devin at hollowlegproductions@gmail.com. 

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.

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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!

Devin 

What's in a name?

Devin Kidner

Hi, and welcome to HOLLOW LEG!

I'm so thrilled that you've stumbled upon, or purposely clicked, onto this site! You've probably read the "About" page and are still looking for more information. That's why we're here.

"Having a hollow leg," if you've never heard the phrase, means to have a great need or capacity for food or drink (in my case, it's both!). Here at HOLLOW LEG, we take that need seriously, and want to provide you with hands-on workshops, inspiration, and information about how to fill your hollow leg, hoping you'll leave a little room for your own at-home creations.

Our concept is not just to make you a cocktail and hope you like it, but to arm you with cool facts based on science about how to make a great cocktail, and inspiring you to take what you learn and apply it in your own kitchen/bar. We also strive to use local farmers, brewers, and distilleries in our creations, because we truly believe that seasonal tastes better and supporting local businesses is awesome. We throw in some non-local creations, too, based on our travels!

We're starting small and building off of the recent momentum we've been having: Winning Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste Cocktail Competition earlier this year, and will be slowly including workshops for food, too!

I invite you to browse around, toss me a line, make suggestions about local products you'd be more interested in learning about, and keep up with us via social media and this blog!

Here's to good food and good drink!

Best,

Devin
Founder/Owner

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