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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.

Filtering by Tag: KOVAL

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:

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. 

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