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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.

Kimchi Cocktail Recipe: An In-Class Creation

Devin Kidner

In our cocktail classes, we don't like putting Baby in a corner. That's why we don't centre our classes around recipes for certain cocktails.

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We know that what makes a good drink isn't a stuffy bar director or bartender or anyone else telling you that a drink is good. Nope. It's about your palate and your preferences!

In our classes, we give you the tools you need to succeed: Not just the muddlers and the mixers, but the science of how we taste and how to think about creating your perfect drink from the chemical effects to troubleshooting a finished product that doesn't make the cut.

With that, we're stoked when class-goers come up with interesting, creative creations that stem from their own imagination, and even more joyous when they share their recipes for others to enjoy.

Here's the cocktail we're sharing this week:

Just Add Noodles - a bright, spicy, and tangy drink that's both savoury and a little sweet. It's the fermented flavour of a Bloody Mary with the sweetness of orange, like a Mimosa! 

  • 2 oz. dry gin
  • 1 forkful of kimchi and a splash of the juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • ½ fresh cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Muddle the kimchi and cayenne into the gin. Add orange juice, then shake vigorously over ice. Serve cold in a small Ball Jar. Garnish with kimchi, a cayenne pepper, and an orange peel on a skewer.

Devin Kidner

Meet Our Farmers & Producers

Devin Kidner

Our Holiday Mixology, Bitters, and Bloody Mary Classes are up and running (with more to be posted soon!), and we’re so psyched to be featuring local farmers and producers in our classes.

Supporting local folks has been one of HOLLOW LEG’s main missions, and we're excited to be showcasing their produce and products in our classes. After all, the best cocktails are made from the best ingredients, and we want everyone coming to a class to taste the best the Midwest has to offer.

To us, cocktails are more than a drink, they're a glass of stories, passion, and an honest day's work. Please take a moment to meet the people who make (and will make!) your in-class creations possible.


Why they're amazing: I've personally known René (the lady half of this farming duo, Bruce is her husband) for years and have had the pleasure of seeing her at Green City Farmers Market. She and her husband are dedicated to sustainable farming, and, according to their website, is "verified in MAEAP for all crops produced. MAEAP stands for Michigan’s Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program and certifies environmentally sustainable agricultural practices." 

 The Ellis Family on the farm 2015, picture courtesy of Ellis Family Farm

The Ellis Family on the farm 2015, picture courtesy of Ellis Family Farm

 Peter and me (Devin) modelling for Crain's Business, photo courtesy of Crain's, photo by Lisa Predko

Peter and me (Devin) modelling for Crain's Business, photo courtesy of Crain's, photo by Lisa Predko

  • Eggs from Meadow Haven Farm (Sheffield, Illinois)

    Jeremy and Cherie House are some of my favourite humans, as well as some of the most incredible stewards of the land they work and the animals they raise. In any egg-based drinks we make (egg white drinks will be featured in our holiday classes), we exclusively use their eggs - read why here.
 Jeremy and Cherie House of Meadow Haven Farm feeding their healthy, happy chickens

Jeremy and Cherie House of Meadow Haven Farm feeding their healthy, happy chickens

Savoury cocktails are both complex and interesting, and whether you're creating a Bloody Mary in our Bloody Bar Workshop, or inventing a new creation, this kimchi is the best. Bushel & Peck preserves everything by hand using produce from their certified organic farm.

  • Spices – Epic Spices (Chicago, Illinois)

    Fresh and well-sourced spices are a must for making quality, potent bitters. Epic Spices is our go-to because Steven is incredibly knowledgeable and has a huge selection.

Holiday cocktails beg for some homespun caramel made from the best darn butter you've ever tasted. Enter Nordic Creamery. On top of being amazing folks, Al and Sarah Bekkum are award-winning cheese and butter makers. Their cows are pasture-raised and their butter never has chemicals or preservatives. 

 The adorable Bekkum Family on their farm in WIsconsin

The adorable Bekkum Family on their farm in WIsconsin

  • Tomatoes, Garlic, and Onions – Leaning Shed Farm (Berrien Springs, Michigan)

    Fresh tomato juice in Bloody Marys is only made better when sourcing locally grown tomatoes from Leaning Shed. Dave and Denise grow over 45 types of heirloom tomatoes, 5 varieties of garlic, and the best darn onions this side of the Mississippi!
 Dave showing off what he grew, picture courtesy of Leaning Shed

Dave showing off what he grew, picture courtesy of Leaning Shed

  • Cold Brew CoffeeDark Matter Coffee (Chicago, Illinois) or Printer's Row Coffee Co. (Chicago, Illinois)

    We're stoked that Dark Matter are our neighbours, and their philosophy is that they produce "quality coffees [that] are sourced based on traceability, innovation and social responsibility." You'll love their stuff.

Printer's Row Coffee Co. feature our friends Nick and Nicole, and their small batch coffee tastes as pure and fresh as their passion for the craft. They're always surprising us with brews that are unique and thoughtful, perfectly pairing with whatever cocktail we may have in mind!

 Nicole and Nick, the wife and husband team behind Printer's Row Coffee Co.

Nicole and Nick, the wife and husband team behind Printer's Row Coffee Co.

  • Soda - Seasons Soda (Chicago, Illinois)

    It's not often enough you get to see an amazing success story bloom before your eyes, but then again, most people haven't had the pleasure of meeting Bobby Chang. Bobby sold his handcrafted sodas at Green City Market before turning his tent into a full-fledged business sticking to the philosophy, "source responsibly, process minimally, and deliver a beverage that embodies the essence of its origins."

    His sodas are interesting and nuanced: Bitter Lemon Tonic, Ginger Demi-Sec, and Maple Demi-Sec, just to name a few.
  Bobby Chang of Seasons Soda, photo courtesy of Seasons Soda, photo by Amanda Jane Jones

 Bobby Chang of Seasons Soda, photo courtesy of Seasons Soda, photo by Amanda Jane Jones

  • Edible Flowers/Unique Herbs - Pyrite Sun (Chicago, Illinois)

    Sarah Mallin is a gem. By far one of the most knowledgeable and down-to-earth folks I've ever known, her garden bursts with the most interesting and coveted edible flowers and herbs. If ever someone has made our cocktails more beautiful, it's Sarah's expert gardening and keen eye for the uniquely beautiful. She's also an amazing pie-maker. For serious. Check her out on Instagram at @pyritesun.
 Sarah Mallin and her gorgeous pies, photo courtesy of Pyrite Sun

Sarah Mallin and her gorgeous pies, photo courtesy of Pyrite Sun

I doubt the Ball Jars company knows how grateful we are for their jars. We use them exclusively for all of our events to store our mixers and syrups, and as our cocktail shakers. Made in the USA and locally to boot, we're thrilled with the quality, the convenience of the measurements on the side of the jars, and the many accessories that have been designed to make pouring and sipping easier. Cheers, Ball Jars!

At HOLLOW LEG, cocktail-making is a community affair. We hope you enjoy the drinks you create in class with the world-class ingredients we've sourced for you!

Leftover Halloween Candy Cocktails

Devin Kidner

Face it: You can’t eat as much candy as you could when you were 10. But before you chuck the whole lot in the bin, think of transforming your candy into some fun cocktails, and check out our upcoming classes for more inspiration. Here are 5 popular candies and how you can incorporate them into cocktails this week:

Reese’s Black Russian: Ceres Vodka and a syrup made from Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Dark Matter cold brew is simply to die for. Normally made with coffee liqueur, we opted for something…a little more interesting.

To make the syrup, add 2 oz Dark Matter cold brew, 2 Tblsp. Whole milk, and 2 tsp. powdered sugar into a saucepan. Heat on medium heat until the mixture steams. Chop up 3 Mini Reese’s (equivalent to about .75 oz, or 1 classic-sized Reese’s) and add into liquid. Stir until completely melted (this will take longer for the peanut butter, and we used a silicone spatula to break the candy apart). Pour into a shaker.

Over the syrup, add the Ceres Vodka and dry shake your drink, completely combining all ingredients. Take a quick sip and, if you desire, add 1 extra teaspoon of powdered sugar. Stir, then pour over crushed ice into a glass, and garnish with a Mini Reese’s (or a Reese's Pumpkin!).

Skittles Cosmopolitan – Cosmos are a classic drink, made with Triple Sec (orange liqueur), tart cranberry juice and lime juice. In this recipe, however, you will forgo the Triple Sec and infuse the vodka with orange Skittles as a substitute – adding both a sweet orange flavour and cool colour!

  • 3 oz. orange Skittle-infused vodka (we’re using Chicago Distilling Co.’s Ceres vodka - recipe below)
  • 2 ½ tsp powdered sugar
  • 1 oz. fresh cranberry juice
  • 1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice

Separate out all of the orange Skittles from your candy bag - you'll need at least 15. Place them in a jar that has a top. Cover with 3 oz. vodka and 2 ½ tsp. powdered sugar (or more, to taste). Screw on the lid and shake vigorously. Let sit for 20 minutes, shaking intermittently.

While your vodka is infusing, pour cranberry juice and lime juice into a shaker.

Once vodka is infused (the colour should be opaque and very orange), pour into the shaker. Shake vigorously with ice for 12 seconds. Strain into a martini glass and serve with a shot of Skittles!

Breakfast Caffè Corretto With Almond Joy Bitters is the perfect way to wake up: Bitter, oaky, slightly sweet, and caffeinated, it's perfect for folks who need something a little less candy-like. 

  • 1 oz. Rhine Hall Oaked Grappa
  • 2 shots of Dark Matter Espresso, served in a cup large enough to add booze
  • 1 oz. Almond Joy Bitters (recipe follows) 

For the bitters: Chop up 2 Snack Size Almond Joys into small pieces (Mounds work, too, if you have nut allergies) and place into a jar. Cover with ¼ cup Everclear and ¼ cup Rhine Hall Oaked Grappa. Let sit for several days to a week in a cool dark place, shaking the contents of the jar every day. Strain.

For the cocktail: Head to Star Lounge (or your favourite coffee shop), and ask for a double shot of espresso in a small to-go cup (unless they allow drinking, in which case, ask for a small latte cup). 

Pour the oaked grappa and Almond Joy bitters in the cup. No need to stir. Sip and enjoy, while munching on Almond Joys in between. 

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Candy Corn Mimosas are surprisingly delicious, even if you don't like candy corn. We infused aged rum with the corn, creating more complexity and depth of flavour. The orange juice brightens the drink, and the bubbly, of course!

  • Rum (we used Grander Rum because it's been matured in Bourbon barrels which lend an oaky, spicy flavour that balances the sweetness of the candy corn)
  • Candy Corn (we used Brach's Autumn Mix because they use real honey and the pumpkins are adorable for garnishes. We used the traditional candy corn in the bag, not the chocolate ones.)
  • 1 oz OJ
  • Bubbly (any brand will do as long as it's a dry bubby, but we used Illinois Sparkling Company's Extra Brut because it's local and delish!)

To make the Candy Corn Syrup: Place 3 Tblsp. candy corn into a jar with lid. Cover with 4 ounces of rum. Let sit overnight, shaking intermittently. Strain.

To make the cocktail: Pour 2 oz. of candy corn syrup and 1 oz. of orange juice into a glass. To taste, add bubbly, adding more if you like a sweeter cocktail, and less if you want something a little less sweet).** Garnish with candy corn pumpkins on a skewer!

**PRO TIP: Mimosas are usually 1 part OJ to 1 part bubbly, but for this cocktail it's more like 1 part syrup and 1/2 parts OJ to 2 parts bubbly. This should make mixing fairly easy. (1 oz : 1/2 oz : 3 oz; or 2 oz. : 1 oz : 6 oz; and so on)  

York Peppermint Patty Brazilian Mojitos are as refreshing as they are decadent - and it's easy to interchange ingredients! You'll need:

3 oz Cachaça*
3 York Peppermint Patties, chopped
1 small wedge of lime
Mint for garnish (we used Chocolate Mint - an heirloom variety)
Splash of club soda

Melt the Cachaca and peppermint patties in a saucepan, stirring frequently, until completely melted and combined. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

In your coupe glass, squeeze in lime wedge and fill the glass halfway full with crushed ice. Pour the peppermint patty mixture over the ice and add a splash of club soda. Garnish with a peppermint patty and some mint. 

*You can use white rum, which is traditionally used in a mojito. White rum is a little richer in taste, as it's made from molasses, and not fresh sugarcane juice.

Cocktails are meant to be fun! Use the above recipes as guides to incorporate other candies in cocktails, and remember: It's okay to trick-or-treat at any age...especially in the name of cocktails!

We make fun, themed, and seasonal cocktails all year long! Check out our upcoming events and classes here!

Happy Halloween!!

Meet Your Eggs: A guide to using safe eggs in cocktails

Devin Kidner

Eggs are used in cocktails to add a creamy texture and mouthfeel, increase volume, create rich flavour, and add an appealing foam. 

Eggs are often used raw in drinks, and so it is important you buy high quality eggs from a source you trust.

In our classes, we only use Meadow Haven Farm eggs. Now, if you're not in the Chicago-area (or near one of these pickup locations), you're not necessarily out of luck! Head over to this site by the USDA and search for farmers market near you - and look for someone who sells eggs. Use Meadow Haven farm's "Meet Your Eggs" poster below as a guide to ask the farmer how they raise their chickens and collect/wash their eggs.

This handy poster talks about Meadow Haven Farm's egg production from the soil, up! Use the info here as a guide to understanding how your local farmer produces their eggs.

Don't be scared to use egg whites in your cocktails! According to this Washington Post article, Don't Fear the Egg White: 

Of course, salmonella is no joking matter. But the reality is that since the salmonella scares of previous decades, the danger of encountering the bacteria has become infinitesimal. You’re more likely — about four times more likely — to choke on a handful of bar nuts than you are to get salmonella poisoning, according to statistics from the National Safety Council. Beyond that, most cocktails that call for raw eggs also call for fresh lemon or lime juice — and the citric acid, along with the alcohol, further neutralizes salmonella risk.
— Jason Wilson, Washington Post

As the season continues, we'll update this post to include links to egg white cocktail recipes, tips and tricks of how to incorporate eggs into drinks, and other useful information! Check back soon!

Stop the "After-Shot Shiver"

Devin Kidner

The final Presidential debate is on tonight, and that means you’re probably whipping out your Bingo cards or consulting this hilarious little site, which is dedicated to drinking during the debates – and features a live drink-totaling scoreboard!

We’re all for drinking while watching the debate (as long as you’re being responsible), but we also don’t want you to suffer as you drown your delirium with shot after shot.

We’re taking this moment to (briefly) scientifically describe to you the best way to take a shot without that pesky Hillary shimmy every time (spoiler alert: the key is to breathe!).

So, why do we often shiver when taking shots?

Well, it's related to the way we taste. As you probably know, there are 5 basic flavours that receptors on our tongue can detect: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and Umami. This contributes to taste (along with our olfactory sense), but isn't the end-all-be-all.

There are, in fact, chemical senses that we pick up on, too, that are not related to flavour such as the pungency of ginger; the cooling effect of menthol (mint); the sting of alcohol (that causes you to shiver); the burn of cinnamon; and the heat of peppers. 

These chemical stimuli are not detected by our tongues, but rather a nerve called the trigeminal nerve.

When you take a shot, you are overloading your sensitive nerves with a lot of chemicals, thus causing you to shake. Remember that alcohol is ethanol, which is volatile, and, in shot form, is a concentrated dose!

So, how should you best take a shot without the shimmy? 

Breathe out.

It's that easy. Before you take a shot, take a nice deep breath in. Then throw back your shot, and the moment you swallow, breathe all the way out, pushing the alcohol fumes upward to your nasal cavity and out of your mouth, minimising the sting of alcohol on your nerves.

And there you have it! An easier way to take a shot, without all the shimmy! Try it tonight as you watch the debates. America!

After Class: Where Should I Go?

Devin Kidner

We are asked all the time where folks should go after class for dinner and drinks, and this post should be helpful for all of your needs!

Whether you're looking for a great place for a large group dinner, a cozy spot to get intimate, or a hip new bar to try, see below for our recommendations!

HOLLOW LEG HQ is located in the heart of Ukrainian Village, in the trendy West Town neighbourhood. We're proud to feature local haunts that are a quick walk or Lyft ride away!

Food, Great for Groups:

 The Ukrainian fare at Tryzub, photo courtesy of DNAInfo

The Ukrainian fare at Tryzub, photo courtesy of DNAInfo

  1. The Cotton Duck ($$$; 5 min. drive) - This BYOB spot serves up American food in a super cool space that doubles as an art exhibit. Make reservations (not necessary for smaller groups) at (773) 661.6131.

  2. Haywood Tavern ($$; 3 min. drive) - An American Gastropub that has great food, brews, and craft drinks without an ounce of pretension. Located on California Ave. near Rootstock Wine and Beer Bar and California Clipper! Make reservations at (773) 661.1084.

  3. Yuzu Sushi & Robata Grill ($$; 5 min. drive) - Another BYOB restaurant specialising in Japanese food that is creative and interesting! Make reservations at (312) 666.4100.

  4. Tryzub Ukrainian Kitchen ($; 3 min. drive) - Casual craft pizza place with lots of beer on tap and a fun atmosphere. Make reservations at (773) 698.8624.

  5. Forbidden Root ($$; 5 min. drive) - A local brewery with great food housed in a historic theatre. Make reservations (not necessary for smaller groups) at (312) 929.2202.

Food, Great for Couples:

 The patio at  a tavola , picture courtesy of  a tavola

The patio at a tavola, picture courtesy of a tavola

  1. Briciola ($$; 4 min. drive) - A BYOB Italian spot that is as authentic as they come - Chef Mario makes you feel welcome and the cozy interior will make your evening even more romantic. Reservations at (773) 772.0889.

  2. Boeufhaus ($$$; 5 min. drive) - French-German food in this brick-exposed brasserie. Incredibly yummy and great service! Reservations at (773) 661.2116.

  3. a tavola ($$$; 3 min. drive) - Italian cuisine, and the best gnocchi in the city. Romantic, incredible wine list, great patio. Reservations at (773) 276.7567.

  4. Kai Zan ($$$; across the street!) - Best sushi in the city, hands down. Reserve in advance - this hot spot is always busy!  Reservations at (773) 278.5776.

  5. Rootstock ($$; 2 min. drive) - Great wine bar with a selection of amazing mezcals, beers, and other liquors. Small plates of seasonally-inspired food. Doesn't take reservations!

Local Watering Holes:

 Rhine Hall Distillery, photo courtesy of Rhine Hall

Rhine Hall Distillery, photo courtesy of Rhine Hall

  1. The Beetle (across the street!) - Our local watering hole, The Beetle has plenty of beers on tap in a casual setting. A pool table and lots of TVs ensure that you won't miss the big game.

  2. Rhine Hall Distillery (6 min. drive) - A family-owned grappa and brandy distillery using locally sourced produce.

  3. Bar DeVille (5 min. drive) - This joint often has a DJ, stand-up comedy, and is super hip. Lots of microbrews and two pool tables!

  4. Sportsman's Club (5 min. drive) - This place is gnarly. Taxidermy theme, table games, and lots of unique cocktails and local beer. Cash only.

  5. California Clipper (2 min. drive) - Totally retro bar (circa-1937), with lots of old-fashioned cocktails and often, live music!  

Quirky Neighbourhood Staples:

 Ruth and Phil's Ice Cream

Ruth and Phil's Ice Cream

  1. Fatso's Last Stand (2 min. drive) - Amazing fast food including fried shrimp, burgers, and fries. Try the Fatso's Sauce! Cash only.

  2. The Empty Bottle (3 min. drive) - Tiny venue with live music, dancing, cheap beer, and good people. Bring ear plugs; cash only.

  3. Spinning J Bakery and Soda Shop (3 min. drive) - Pies, soda fountain classics, and gelato in the most adorable vintage spot, ever. Featured in the Netflix show Easy.

  4. Ruth and Phil's Gourmet Ice Cream (3 min. walk) - This ice cream is the best. Seasonal, locally-sourced, and unique flavours. Drop by and say hi to Alison for us!

  5. Star Lounge - Dark Matter Coffee (across the street!) - Just the best darn coffee/espresso in the city with the best baristas in the coolest space.

If you need ideas for catering, take out, or delivery for your class, please drop us a line at hollowlegproductions@gmail.com.  

See you in class!

We're gonna be on TV!

Devin Kidner

SEE Chicag.png

WGN-TV just launched a new show, SEE Chicago, which gives tips on all Chicago has to offer, from shopping to events and entertainment - and we're going to be on it!

We were approached earlier this year by the production team who was looking to find hidden gems in Chicago that are a little off the map - and they thought our workshops were a perfect fit! 

We filmed the episode back in June, and have been eagerly awaiting its debut, and now it's time!

Don't miss us this Tuesday at 8.30pm!!

Rhubarb-Strawberry Coconut Frozen Daiquiri

Devin Kidner

A daiquiri on a dreary Monday? 

Yes. All the yeses.  

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We weren't feeling like this Monday was anything special until this baby came out of the blender.  

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Made with Grander Rum, which is aged an "8-year-old rum that is matured in bourbon barrels and bottled at 90 proof," this rum has a lovely whiskey flavour that added a lot of charachter to this sweet-looking daiquiri.  

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 To make this gem, you'll need:

2 oz. Grander Rum

4 oz. Rhubarb-Strawberry Syrup

1/2 - 1 oz (depending on how coconut-y you like it) coconut milk (the solid cream and the liquid) 

A cup full of ice! 

Pour measured ingredients into blender and blend until smooth. Should have a gorgeous, frothy coconut top! 

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Rhubarb-Strawberry Syrup: 

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 stalks rhubarb, chopped

5 strawberries, chopped

Place ingredients into pot and bring to boil. Stir and lower heat to a gentle simmer. Let simmer 5 minutes. Strain and let cool completely!

Red Pepper Rhubarb Margaritas!

Devin Kidner

This year you deserve a margarita with some punch. Forget everything you know and make this gem...now!

I dreamt of making a margarita that was both tart and spicy because I felt like the classic drink can either be too sour or way too sweet, with little complexity. Rhubarb has a rich flavour, red pepper adds heat, and agave syrup is smoky and sweet, making this margarita unforgettable.

The only thing you have to prepare is the Rhubarb Red Pepper Syrup, and you need four ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 stalks of rhubarb (chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper
image.jpg

Toss them in a pot and bring to boil. Turn down the heat and let gently simmer for 10-15 minutes. Once cooked, strain and let cool.


Rhubarb Red Pepper Margarita


  • 4 oz of Rhubarb Red Pepper syrup
  • 2 oz Tequila (we used Jose Cuervo Especial Silver)
  • A couple dashes of citrus bitters (or the juice from one wedge of one lime)
  • Ice (LOTS of it!)

Pour ingredients into a shaker and shake vigorously for about 12 seconds. Strain into a glass half-rimmed with salt and filled with crushed ice. Enjoy!

Rhubarb Roses for Mother's Day!

Devin Kidner

Rhubarb is in season just in time for Mother's Day!

Ever since I was little, I've loved rhubarb. Mostly in the form of rhubarb crumble, an English dish my grandmother introduced me to that is equally tart, sweet, and creamy (thanks to the custard that gets poured on top!). 

This year I wanted to make rhubarb cocktails fit for a Queen, and of course that means garnishing them with roses made from rhubarb (full recipe at the bottom)!

Aren't these roses sweet? First you need to slice some rhubarb about 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick. I do this by using a knife, but you can also use a vegetable peeler. Make sure to get some ruby red in every slice, and don't be afraid to make some strips purely green (they dye a pale pink/orange as you sauté them!).

Make sure you cut them to about the thickness shown below. Too thick and they become very clunky. Too thin and they fall apart as you roll them into roses!

Heat up a large fry pan with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar and bring it to a simmer. Add the rhubarb and poach for about 45 seconds. You want the rhubarb to soften but not break down. It should be easy to roll.

Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes on a paper towel.

Make sure your strips of rhubarb are laid out straight, with the rosiest side facing down, and start gently rolling into a rose from the palest, most colourless side. You want to make sure that the majority of your colour ends up on the outside!

As you roll, periodically pause and use your pinky to push the middle of the flower up. You don't want the middle of your flower to sink!

Return your roses to the paper towel and let them cool completely.

Grab a sprig of mint and place the rose on top. You may have to remove the smaller leaves on top of your mint so your rose lays flush on the larger leaves.

In order to make the rose and leaves stay on the edge of your glass, you will need to take a sharp knife, hold the rose upsidedown (gently), and make one or two deep slits on either side of the rose (mine only needed one). You can then wiggle the rose on the edge of the glass with the mint leaves tucked underneath.

rose8.jpg

If you have trouble finagling the mint leaves, you can always tuck two leaves under the rose once you affix it to the side of your glass (see below). The cocktail below has the rose facing inwards toward the drinker, rather than straight up, which allows Mom to gaze lovingly at your rose every time she takes a sip!


Rhubarb Cocktail (makes 2)


  • 3 1/2 oz. Rhubarb Coriander Simple Syrup (see recipe below)
  • 2 1/2 oz. whiskey (we used KOVAL Oat Whiskey, but any smooth whiskey will do!)
  • 1 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2 oz. Club Soda

Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into glasses and serve ice cold.


Rhubarb Coriander simple syrup is easy to make! Just add 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water to a pot and add 2 stalks of rhubarb and two teaspoons of stalk of coriander. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and let cool.

You can keep this drink completely local and omit the coriander if you wish, but I think the coriander adds a brightness and warmth to the drink!

Happy Mother's Day!

Girl Scout Cookie Cocktails, Part 3

Devin Kidner

It's time for Part 3 of our Girl Scout Cookie cocktail series, and today is really fantastic because it combines whiskey and peanut butter and beer. Oh yes. All three...

In case you're joining the conversation a little late, here is Part 1 (the Samoa) of our GSC cocktail experiment and here is Part 2 (the Trefoil)

Let's get down to business...

The Do-Si-Do has long been one of our favourite cookies. Creamy peanut butter sandwiched between oatmeal cookies are an instant classic. They're casual and perfect for a lunchtime snack.

Our riff is a little more...grown up...but still has all the flavour of these classic cookies, and has a twist...a beer twist.

Garnish:

Before you begin, grab an 8 oz. Ball Jar (we used the 8 oz. quilted jar because it's prettier), and create the cookie garnish.

You'll need:

  • A plate
  • Maple syrup
  • Pastry brush
  • Cookie crumbles (finely crushed Do-Si-Do cookies work well, or make some 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.)

Pour some maple syrup onto the plate and with the pastry brush, paint on the maple syrup around the top of the Ball Jar.

Pour the cookie crumbles onto the plate and roll the top of the jar in the crumbles until evenly coated. Set aside.

  The Do-Si-Do Cocktail without the glorious beer float.   Photo credit: Brett Calomino

The Do-Si-Do Cocktail without the glorious beer float. Photo credit: Brett Calomino

Ingredients:

  • .5 oz creamy peanut butter (we used MaraNatha No Stir, Organic Creamy Peanut Butter)
  • 1.5 oz Four Grain KOVAL Whiskey (the mash is made with, among other things, oats! This gives the cocktail a wonderful oaty flavour, as well as a creamier mouthfeel)
  • 3 dashes of Oaked Grappa/Vanilla Bitters
  • .5 oz maple/brown sugar syrup

Shake all of the above ingredients for 10-12 seconds, or longer, until peanut butter has completely combined with the other ingredients. The mixture will be thick.

Add ice (I used 6-7 ice cubes), and shake again for 10 seconds. Strain into an 8 oz. Ball Jar filled with ice.

Now for the beer float!!!

PBBeer.jpg

See this amazing beer? It's brewed by Slapshot Brewing right here in Chicago. It's a brown ale brewed with peanut butter, and it is incredible. A great nutty aroma, a fantastic peanut buttery finish, it really does add a nice finish to our Do-Si-Do cocktail.

Why top an already fantastic cocktail with beer? A few reasons:

1. It adds a little bubble to the cocktail, making it more interesting to sip
2. It adds an incredible aroma to the top of the beer.
3. It adds more complexity to the beer.
4. Because...beer. Local beer. Local beer brewed with freakin' peanut butter. That's why.

So about that beer float. After you've strained your cocktail into the Ball Jar, fill the rest of the way with beer. It's that simple. Sip away!

Next week we will unveil our final Girl Scout Cookie Cocktail, the Thin Mint, but it will ONLY be available through our newsletter. So if you want to know how to create it, sign up here:

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. 

RH020415-1.jpg

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.

RH020415-9.jpg

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!

PennyLane.jpg

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.

heart.jpg

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.

cookiescout

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!

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