Links: How to Write Tasting Notes

I am horrible at describing how a spirit tastes or smells. As part of trying to educate myself on how to improve in this area, I’ve been looking around the web for good how-to articles. Most of what I’ve found has focused on wine, but I think most of the points for wine tasting are very applicable to spirits. Here are a couple that I’ve found:


Quora Answer: What is the best cocktail based on rum and how do you make it?

This is another post in my series recapping answers that I’ve given to various cocktail questions on Quora. This answer covers two popular rum-based cocktail recipes. There are several other good answers to this question as well, and I suggest you check them out on Quora.

The question: What is the best cocktail based on rum and how do you make it?

The Zombie was the creation of Don the Beachcomber and certainly had several variations over the years.  The 1934 recipe (courtesy of Beach Bum Berry) is:

0.75 oz lime juice
0.33 oz white grapefruit juice
0.16 oz cinnamon-infused simple syrup
0.5 oz falernum
1.5 oz gold Puerto Rican Rum (e.g. Bacardi gold)
1.5 oz aged Jamaican Rum (e.g. Appleton V/X)
1 oz 151-proof Lemon Hart Demerara Rum
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1/8 tsp Pernod (or other Absinthe-like liquor)
1 tsp Grenadine
6 oz crushed ice

Blend for 6 seconds, and garnish with a mint spring.

This one is rather dangerous.  Don only allowed customers to purchase two in an evening, and I can attest that they are quite strong after making them for a party recently.  They don’t taste that strong, however.

Lemon Hart 151 can be tricky to find.  It is currently distributed by Ministry of Rum, and you may be able to find a local seller at:…

The origination of the Mai Tai involves a lot of controversy…Did Don the Beachcomber originate it, or was it Trader Vic?  Regardless, I appreciate Trader Vic’s recipe a whole lot more and I prefer the variant from Employees Only in NYC:

2 oz rum (I use Flor de Cana 7 year)
1 oz lime juice
0.75 oz orange curacao
0.75 oz orgeat syrup

Garnish with a mint spring and a lime wheel.

I use Fee Brother’s Orgeat, but you can also make your own.  If you use an artificial orgeat, like Torani’s crappy version, then you probably should reduce the orgeat and add some simple syrup in it’s place.

Trader Vic’s recipe used two rums (Jamaican and Martinique) and less orgeat and curacao, but added some simple syrup.  I haven’t tried this, but I don’t have a Martinique rum that won’t dominate the other ingredients that it’s mixed with.

A comment on this answer by Jim Donahue suggests using a mixture of Appleton and St. James rums in place of the Flor de Cana. I’ve tried that, and I think it works really nicely.


From the Past: Holiday Spiced Vodka Cocktails (Dec 22, 2010)

This post is one in a series of posts discussing cocktail exploits or recipes from before I started this blog. This post comes from my old blog and describes some of the first alcohol infusions that I ever attempted and some cocktails that we made using the best of those infusions.

December 22, 2010: Holiday Spiced Vodka Cocktails

A couple weeks ago I became interested in creating infusions…the idea of adding the flavor of one or more ingredients to a base alcohol such as a vodka, bourbon, or tequila. I was initially most interested in making my own bacon-infused bourbon, but when I investigated the topic I discovered that there were many options.

This week I finally made my first few infusions.  I tried three different infusions, each using a different base liquor.  First, I tried making a bacon-infused bourbon using the PDT recipe from this blog post.  My first attempt used Four Roses Bourbon and bacon from a local meat market, but unfortunately it was pretty subpar.  I think this is because I didn’t do a very good job of cooking the bacon, letting it end up a bit burned, and the burned flavor carried over quite strongly into the bourbon.  Unfortunate, but at least I’ll know what to do next time (also, I think I’ll buy some smokier bacon).

My second infusion came from The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan.  This is a tequila infusion, called the “Lark Creek Inn Tequila Infusion.”  It involves a whole pineapple, a sprig of taragon, and single serrano chili that has been cut in half and gutted of its seeds.  This infusion came out okay, but it has a taste that reminds me of slightly decomposing pineapple.  I wonder if my infusion vessel was not sufficiently air-tight, which might have allowed the pineapple to decay somewhat during the infusion process.  I plan to try this again, but with a different infusion vessel, to see if it comes out better. (Editor’s Note: After giving this one a few weeks to settle, it actually came out quite nice.)

The definite winner of my initial three infusions is the Holiday-Spiced Vodka, which used approximately these ingredients:

1 750ml Stoli Vodka (any vodka will do…this was on sale at the local CVS)
3 Cinnamon Sticks
1 Crushed Nutmeg
2oz Fresh Ginger Finely Sliced
10 Whole Allspice Crushed

I let these sit for four days, shaking every day.

The result is a nice, but subtly, spiced vodka reminiscent of eggnog, pumpkin pie, and other holiday delights.

By itself, the vodka is quite nice, but of course I also had to try a variety of cocktail variations.  I made a large number of different cocktails using the vodka, but four particularly stood out.

The best was the Holiday White Russian:

2oz Holiday Spiced Vodka
0.25oz Maple Syrup
0.5oz Tia Maria Coffee Liquor
1oz Half and Half

Assemble all ingredients except the half and half in a rocks glass, stir, add the cream in a layer on top, and serve.

A simple second favorite was the Holiday Hard Cider:

2oz Holiday Spiced Vodka
4oz Apple Cider

Assemble in a rocks glass, stir, and serve.  Very easy to make and quite nice.

The third and fourth drinks that I’ll mention bear some similarity to cocktails I’ve seen made with Calvados or Applejack.  Note that I tried making several drinks with the Holiday Spiced Vodka and Applejack or Calvados, but I found the apple brandies made the resulting drinks a bit too strong.  I tried lowering the alcohol content with a dry vermouth (Vya), but the strong flavor of the particular vermouth that I chose did not mesh well with the spiced Vodka.  It’s possible that with a longer infusion, and thus a stronger spice, that something would be possible here.

Note also that I don’t have particularly good names for these drinks.

First, the Holiday Spiced Martini:

1.5oz Holiday Spiced Vodka
0.5oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
0.25oz Maple Syrup
1oz Apple Cider

Assemble in an iced cocktail shaker, shake, and serve in a cocktail glass. Garnish with an apple slice.

My preference, although a bit sweeter, is the Holiday Spiced Manhattan:

1.5oz Holiday Spiced Vodka
1oz Gran Marnier
0.5oz Lemon Juice
0.5oz Apple Cider

Assemble in an iced cocktail shaker, shake, and server in a cocktail glass.  Garnish with an apple slice.

I recognize that the latter drink is not a true Manhattan, since it does not use a rye or bourbon.  The Spiced Vodka is darker though, and thus I feel this latter concoction is more like a Manhattan.  Probably I should have spent some time to come up with more creative names, but I didn’t.  Oh well.

From the Past: Two of My Own Cocktail Creations (Dec 6, 2010)

This is the first in a series of posts discussing cocktail exploits or recipes from before I started this blog. This post comes from my old blog and discusses a few recipes I came up with shortly after I began learning about vintage cocktails. Both are simple variations on common cocktails that I found to be pleasant.

December 6, 2010: Two of My Own Cocktail Creations

I’ve been getting into vintage cocktails and cocktail making over the last few months.  I mostly make the stuff I find in books or online, and of late almost everything I’ve been trying has been from the excellent Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. Of course, I have also tried making my own variations. These are generally not worth recording, but I’ve come up with two that I don’t want to forget.

A pretty obvious variation of the Sidecar, but the honey flavor adds something beyond the typical recipe.

1oz Cognac
1oz Fresh-squeezed Lemon Juice
1/2oz Honey
3 dashes Orange bitters

St. Germain Manhattan
It’s not hard to find a recipe that combines St. Germain Elderflower liqueur and bourbon, but I found the addition of a few dashes of Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur cut the sweetness of the St. Germain and made the drink much more balanced.

1.5oz Maker’s Mark
1oz St. Germain
3 dashes Agnostura aromatic bitters
3 dashes Domaine de Canton

I assemble all of my drinks in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and then shake.  This is especially important for the Hivecar though, since you’ll probably want to heat the honey to make it mix better. (Editor’s note: The Manhattan should actually be stirred, but I didn’t know that at the time)

While I’m writing about cocktails, I’ll also mention another favorite of mine that is related to the Sidecar.  We found this somewhere on the web, but I can’t find the reference or the name.

Cognac, Cointreau and Bitters
Serve in a snifter and sip…This one is strong.  The bitters are essential.

1oz Cognac
1oz Cointreau
3 dashes Agnostura bitters


Quora Answer: What are some out-of-the-ordinary liqueurs and/or aperitifs that are useful in a lot of cocktails?

This is my first post in a series recapping answers that I’ve given to various cocktail questions on Quora. This answer covers some liqueurs most people may not be familiar with that are useful for making interesting cocktails.

The question: What are some out-of-the-ordinary liqueurs and/or aperitifs that are useful in a lot of cocktails?

Here’s a list in roughly the order I would buy them:

Maraschino Liqueur – This is a staple in many classic cocktails.  Luxardo is the standard brand, and comes in a fairly iconic bottle with a wicker wrapping. Sweet with a floral aromatic scent.

Campari – Needed to make the Negroni, Americano, Boulevardier, and a variety of other classic cocktails. It starts sweet and then becomes quite bitter, but the bitterness can be cut by a variety of other ingredients, especially orange flavors. I’ve heard it said that you need to drink Campari three times before you’ll like it, but it’s great once you get over that initial hurdle.

Chartreuse – This is an herbal liquer made by French monks. It is sweet, but not overly so, and has an excellent herbal flavor.  There are both yellow (80 proof) and green (110 proof) varieties, with the green having a stronger flavor. A little on the expensive side at roughly $50 a bottle, but worth it.  One of my favorite cocktails is a variant of the Sidecar called the Champs de Elysees, which uses yellow chartreuse in addition to the normal brandy, cointreau, and lemon juice. The Last Word is another popular cocktail that uses chartreuse.  If you can only buy one thing on this list, buy chartreuse (probably the yellow, as the green can be dangerous).

Creme de Violette – Tastes like you might guess from the name. A key ingredient in classic cocktails such as the Aviation and the Blue Moon. Not as useful as the above three liqueurs in my opinion, but nice to have on hand.

St. Germain – An elderflower liqueur that has become popular in the last five years. Has a pleasantly sweet taste that pairs well with almost anything. I think it’s too popular at the moment, which is why I don’t have it higher on the list.

Aperol – Related to Campari (above), but sweeter and not as bitter. Aperol is often used as a substitute for Campari in variants of the Negroni, for example, and may be even be mixed with Campari to offset some of Campari’s stronger flavors.

Fernet – An italian amaro with a very unique and complex flavor that is definitely an acquired taste. Cocktail snobs order this straight in bars, but there are many great cocktail options. You can see an interesting list here: Cocktails: What’s the best cocktail containing Fernet Branca?. Fernet Branca is the most common variety, but Luxardo also makes a version that’s available in the US.

There are a bunch more that I haven’t listed here for brevity: Benedictine, Cynar, Galliano, Ramazzotti, Pimms, etc.

Don’t forget to also buy orange bitters, if you don’t have them.

The beginning…

This blog has two purposes.

First, I will use it as an outlet for talking about my cocktail hobby: new cocktails I come across, various cocktail ingredients, etc. Cocktails, especially vintage and classic cocktails, are something I’ve gotten into relatively recently, starting with my wedding a couple years ago.  For that reason, my focus will be on trying to provide information that may be useful to people who are just getting interested to the cocktail scene.

Second, I am working on a cocktail tracking web/mobile app. I will discuss the design and progress on that app here. When it launches, it will appear at

I can be contacted at: