Monthly Archives: February 2016

Hot Drinks for Cold Nights

Looking for the perfect drink for a nightcap, a party, a tailgate, or after a long day playing outside with the kids? A warm cocktail may be just what you’re looking for, something with just the right amount of warmth for the inside and a little extra something to help you relax after a long day.

One of the best-known warm cocktails is the Hot Toddy. Mix 1-1/4 ounces of brandy or bourbon in a mug with one teaspoon of sugar, then add enough hot water to the mug to fill the mug. Serve with a garnish of orange or lemon and enjoy.

Another popular warm cocktail is Hot Buttered Rum. Add two ounces of rum, one teaspoon of sugar, a cinnamon stick, and a clove to mug, then add hot apple cider to the mix. Float a teaspoon of butter on the top of the drink, and serve with a garnish of a lemon peel.

If you’re a coffee connoisseur, you may be partial to a Hot Nutty Irishman. Mix 3/4-ounce each Frangelico and Bailey’s Irish Cream to a mug, topping it off with hot coffee and whipped cream. Another popular hot coffee cocktail is Irish Coffee. Starting with a hot glass (rinse it with hot or boiling water first), add a jigger of whiskey (around 1-1/2 ounces), two teaspoons of sugar (some recipes recommend brown sugar), and coffee to fill the glass. Slowly pour fresh cream over the back of a spoon so that the cream floats on top of the mixture, and don’t mix the cream into the drink. Sit back, sip, and enjoy.

If your preferred hot drink is hot chocolate, you may opt for a Hot Chocolate Stinger. Once again, warm the mug or glass you’ll be using, then add one ounce of dark crème de cacao and 1/2 ounce of peppermint schnapps to the glass. Stir in two ounces of hot chocolate and three ounces of hot coffee, and top the concoction with whipped cream.

If you’ll be serving a group, try this punched-up Hot Apple Cider recipe. Warm 1/2 gallon of apple cider in a large stock pot or crock pot. When warm, fill glasses or mugs approximately 3/4 full of cider, and add 1/2 ounce of Apple Pucker and a splash of spiced rum. Wine lovers may be interested in Mulled Wine, another cocktail great for a large group. In a stock pot, combine two 750-ml bottles of dry red wine, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 12 cloves, four cinnamon sticks, and zests of one lemon and one orange. Simmer the ingredients, mixing occasionally (approximately 10 minutes), before adding 16 ounces of ruby port and 16 ounces of brandy; simmer again briefly before serving to your guests.

The Truth about Absinthe

Once banned in the United States and many European countries at the start of the 20th century, Absinthe is now making a fashionable comeback. Many rumors say it can make a person crazy and whilst that may be true of the old drink, many toxic ingredients have been reduced or removed in modern absinthe. So what is the truth about absinthe? Let’s find out more;


A European spirit, authentic absinthe was mainly made in France, Switzerland, Germany and the Czech Republic. It rose in popularity in the 1900’s as it was cheap to make and very strong.

This eventually bought around a ban as the effects of alcoholism on society became a problem, with absinthe getting the brunt of the blame. It was said to destroy families, bring women to shame and was said to kill people. This caused mass hysteria that eventually saw it banned in many places.

It is now produced in many countries including the United States and is made under stricter guidelines. Although now made and legal to buy in the USA, importing absinthe is not advised as it is a prohibited item and may be seized by customs. This is because absinthe served in the United States must have less than 10 ppm of thujone- a plant component-to be classed as safe.

Look and taste of absinthe

Good absinthe is made from fennel, wormwood, and anise but other ingredients may vary as many countries have no legal definition of it.

There is no doubting that this spirit looks rather curious with its green glow, and has been referred to in the past as ‘The green Fairy’. There are other variations around the world and it can also be found in red and clear varieties.

The taste is often described as a mixture of cough medicine and washing up liquid. It has a strong fiery presence of licorice and anise, and it not particularly pleasant to most palates.

Stories surrounding absinthe

It is commonly thought that absinthe has hallucinogenic properties but this is not completely true. In the past cheap illegal versions had chemicals added to them, and with some being poisonous, this is what created the hallucinations. Modern absinthe, provided it bought from a reputable supplier, is safe in moderate quantities.

One of the most famous stories regarding absinthe would be that of Vincent Van Gogh, the famous artist. It is widely believed that he cut off his own ear after becoming mentally disturbed from too much absinthe consumption. This is yet to be proved by historians and many different reasons have also been cited.

How to drink it

Traditionally a silver slotted spoon was used, balanced over the glass. A drinker would place a cube of sugar on top of the spoon and chilled water would slowly be poured over it until it dissolved. This would be done until the desired sweetness and dilution was achieved.

A more entertaining method used in modern bars it to make it with the added showmanship of a flame. A spoon of sugar is dipped into the absinthe, taken out, lit and poured back into the drink. As it burns, water is added to douse the flame and dilute the drink.

Many nightclubs and bars also serve this drink neat for those with strong stomachs, although this is not advised. Drinkers in bars are often limited to only 3 shots per visit in the UK.

You can make a variety of absinthe cocktails that are extremely potent and not for the faint hearted. A simple one is the Green Monster;

Half a can of Monster Energy- or any other energy drink

One shot of vodka

One shot of absinthe

Mixed together, these create a potent twist to the popular UK drink of vodka and red bull.

The effect

At around 40-70% ABV, this is not for the faint hearted. It creates a sense of drunkenness but at the same time a heightened sense of clarity. This is due to the different effects of the herbs that absinthe contains. It also goes some way in explaining why it was so popular with bohemian artists in the past, who were said to use it for inspiration.

Provided a person drinks absinthe responsibily, it can be an enjoyable drink. In the UK it costs from £20-£40 depending on quality or $45 USD. Absinthe is a great bottle to take to a party or gathering as it’s unusual and many people have never had the chance to try it.

Tips for Choosing Japanese Whisky

Japanese whisky production started just before the turn of the 20th century and the first commercial brew were on the shelves in 1924. Japanese whisky is somewhat similar to Scotch whisky which explains the following of the Scottish spellings and has omitted the letter “e”. Today there are ten distilleries producing whisky in Japan.

There was a belief that whisky produced outside of Scotland could not be as good as whisky from Scottish distilleries. When Japan began to export whisky overseas there were a number of blind tastings which included Japanese whisky alongside Scotch whisky and on more than one occasion the Japanese whiskies have scored higher.

The Japanese distilleries had deliberately and intentionally set out to reproduce if not exceed the malts and whiskies from Scotland. Taketsuru studied the process of making Scotch whisky. Yoichi in Hokkaido was chosen as a location for its climate and terrain which are somewhat similar to Scotland.

There is today a considerable choice in malt whiskies coming out from Japan. There is a smoky and style of Islay. There are also heavier sherried flavors  to the much lighter and softer Speyside.

According to The Sunday Times Yoichi 20 year old malt, distilled on the shores of the Sea of Japan is the first variety out of Scotland to win the coveted single malt award hosted by Whisky Magazine.

Japanese whiskies are now sold throughout the world and consist of many different pure malts and blends. These whiskies are distilled to directly compete and surpass Scotch whiskies in taste, smoothness and aroma.

Suntory Whiskies:

The Yamazaki single malt whisky, this whisky is known as being spiritual and deep.  It has a multilayered taste which is favored thorough the world. Yamazaki is the best single malt whisky in Japan and is sold in more than twenty five countries.

The Hakushu single malt whisky, this whisky comes straight from Japan’s mountains and streams. This is a fairly recent newcomer to the market. With a green and fresh taste this is a whisky to partake with good food. It is a vibrant whisky which will enliven one’s taste buds.

Hibiki Suntory whisky, Hibiki meaning resonance in Japanese. This includes various types of pure single malt whiskies aging in various types of casks. This includes Mizunara a rare Japanese oak. There are according to the Suntory website a full orchestra of flavors and aromas.

Nikka Whiskies:

Single Cask Yoichi, this is a single cask whisky with individual bottling from each cask. This allows the drinker the character and flavour from each individual cask. This whisky is known for being powerful and distinctive. Yoichi malt comes from the harsh environment of northern Japan and has enjoyed high praise. The Yoichi distillery is the first to obtain certification from The Scotch Malt Society.

Miyagikyo Single Cask, this is a single cask whisky with separate bottling from each cask. This whisky is distilled at a distillery at Sendai. Sadly due to the recent earthquake the future of this distillery is uncertain. This whisky is known for its opulent nose and exquisite taste. Miyagikkyo distillery gained certification from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in 2004.

Taketsuru Pure Malts:

Taketsuru Pure Malt, This is a malt whisky distilled from only barley malt and is known as the forerunner of all other types of Japanese whisky. It is divided into single malt whiskey and pure malt whisky. These are excellent full bodied whiskies.

Taketsuru Pure Malt 21 Years, This is a pure malt whisky and is characterized by a deep flavor and superb balance as one might expect from a 21 year old whisky. You will enjoy the nose and ripe fruit of an aged cask.

Blended whiskies:

Black Nikka Clear Blend, This is a whisky with a black label with the bearded King of Blenders. This is the best known brand of Nikka. This is the first Japanese whisky to use non peat malt, which gives it a soft aroma and smooth taste.

Black Nikka 8 Years, is a mature whisky with a pleasant scent acquired during the 8 year long aging process in casks. It has a fragrant and ultra smooth taste.

Black Nikka Special, is a perfect blend of Coffey grains. It is nicknamed Bearded Black and has been on the market since 1965.

From the Barrel, this is a mature malt which has been blended and re-casked in a process known as marriage. It is a rich harmony of different whiskies and has an expanding aroma.

Japanese whiskies can compete with the very best and are well worth a try. Many whiskies are distilled specifically to be partaken with food as an alternative to wine.

Determining the Worlds best Whiskey

It is said that the art of distilling was discovered somewhere in Asia in approximately 800 B.C. and without doubt this led directly to the production of the world’s best whiskey – Scotch Whisky!

The method by which the processes found its way to the British Isles is uncertain; however we do know that the Moors brought the art of distilling to Europe and that the art was then refined in monasteries throughout central Europe. Apparently the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, carried this trade into the monasteries in 432 AD on a Christian mission. Regardless, the Celts did attain the secret eventually and made their water of life that in Gaelic is pronounced “Uisge Beatha”.

This simple yet not well-known name is how the scotch whiskey came to be, as Uisge means whiskey. The millstone year for whiskey in history would have to be 1494 as a Sir Friar John Cor of Scotland ordered eight bolls of malt. It was reportedly to be used for aqua vitae which is the first accountable proof of production of whiskey in Scotland.

The skill of distilling soon left the monasteries for the farms where just about everyone was making whiskey up until about 1820 this is when the government decided they were going to shut down personal and private distilleries making them illegal. It was not until the eighteenth century that it was discovered that with aging came a mellower brew. The findings of the aging process was practically tripped upon when an old cask long forgotten was found full of the good stuff.

By the year 1725 the English malt tax was forged however not without bloodshed. At this time every second bottle of malt distilled in Scotland was of the illegal kind due to roving excise men, illicit distilleries, and the fashion of smuggling.

In 1820’s much trouble arose in the form of crime and tough taxing policies which eventually became completely unmanageable. To solve the problem, the government ordered the Excise Act which allowed the government to track which distilleries were legal and those which were not by using labels.

Whisky started out as a product for the British market in the 1820s, but today it has become a drink that is appreciated and loved around the world. Much of this incredible development is the result of the introduction of blended whisky. Even today approximately 90 percent of all whisky that is produced in Scotland is used in blended whisky. However the interest in single malt scotch whisky has increased in recent years and this development is likely to continue.

Tips for Choosing Japanese Whiskey

Interest in Japanese whiskey has grown across the globe in recent years. A Yoichi whiskey was voted “Best of the Best” by Whisky Magazine in 2001 beating out its 47 counterparts for the coveted award. Many Japanese whiskies have ranked highly in recent blind tests resulting in an expansion of interest in Japan’s intriguing malt and blended whiskies.

While the whiskey distilleries of Japan have based their process on Scotch model, they have also added some variations of their own. Japan utilizes its natural resources to add flair to their malt and blended whiskies. A rare, slow-growing, Japanese oak is sometimes used in maturing Japan’s whiskies as well as filling them into specially-charred, new oak as is the case with the Yoicho Distillery.

If you prefer the sweet, rich, floral flavors of Speyside (Scotland’s sweetest malts) you might like to try a Yamazaki whiskey. The Yamazaki Distillery’s home style features bright and fruity flavors and is the oldest, whiskey distillery in Japan.

~Suntory Yamazaki 25 Year Old / Sherry Cask is a richly dark whiskey that fulfills the most elegant of tastes. It is a 70cl / 43% bottled whiskey that goes for around $920 in American dollars. This exquisite whiskey has been aged for 25 years in Sherrywood. 

~Suntory Yamazaki 1984 has received much-deserved acclaim very recently. This Japanese whiskey won the coveted “Supreme Champion Trophy” in the International Spirits Challenge in 2010. The apparent secret to this whiskey’s appeal is the proportion of spirits aged in Japanese ‘Mizunara’ oak casks to those aged in European and American casks. A 70cl / 48% bottle of this fine, Japanese whiskey can be yours for about $784 American dollars.

For palates that prefer the more briny, peaty taste of Islay, a Yoichi or Hakushu whiskey is a superb choice. Islay whiskies offer a smoky, seawater taste. Yoichi whiskies taste strongly of sherry and of medium peat. Hakushu whiskies taste lightly of flowers and ocean with a smooth peat flavor. 

~Suntory Hakushu 25 Year Old is highly sought-after and an extremely rare find. A 70cl / 43% bottle is valued at around $920 in US dollars. This Japanese whiskey is the esteemed recipient of the Silver Medal from The Malt Maniacs Awards in 2009.

If you enjoy the rich, aromatic taste of Highland (which is intense, yet rarely potent) you might like to try Yamazaki 18. It has a spicy, but silky flavor with a kiss of smoke. You might also try a Yoichi whiskey.

~Yamazaki 12 (one of the most widely available Japanese whiskies in America) has a smooth, herbal taste with a woody finish and smells like cereal. Yamazaki 12 goes for about $70 a bottle in the United States.

~Yoichi 15 Year Old is a big, oily spirit in the Highland style. A bottle goes for around $142 US dollars.

For those who like the light, mellow taste of the Lowlands, Miyagikyo is an admirable choice. 

~Nikka Miyagikyo 1988 is comprised of 4 different styles of Miyagikyo malts (some peated, some not) and has matured in a mix of re-charred casks and a cherry butt. This delicious, Japanese whiskey can be obtained for around $385 and comes in a 70cl / 50% bottle. 

Japan’s whiskey distilleries also offer something for those with a taste for the rare, blended and unusual. 

~Kawasaki 1976 / 33 Year Old / Ichiro’s Choice / Grain sustains a whopping 65.6% abv. and comes in a 70cl bottle.  This potent, Japanese whiskey is a long-aged, single-grain whiskey from the now-defunct Kawasaki Distillery. It has been bottled under the popular Ichiro’s Choice range and costs around $376 American dollars.

~Ichiro’s Malt Hanyu 23 Year Old Cask Strength is another distinctive, Japanese whiskey. It can be purchased in a 70cl / 58% bottle for around $778 US dollars. This 23 year old whiskey is one of the oldest Japanese whiskies that boasts a 58% abv. It has a pleasing sherry presence with a tropical fruit finish.

~Suntory Hibiki 30 Year Old was the elite recipient of the title of “Best Blended Whiskey in the World” in the 2007 and 2008 World Whiskies Awards. The award-winning flavor of Suntory Himiki 30 Year Old arrives in a 70cl / 43% bottle and can be enjoyed for around $870 US dollars.  

If you want to try a little of everything you might enjoy the Nikka 70th Anniversary Selection / 12 Year Old. It is a spectacular, Japanese whiskey set comprised of 4 different, 12 year old malts. You can purchase this set of 4 lovely, engraved bottles (280cl in all and 58% abv.) for $544 in American dollars. This splendid set includes a bottle of Yoichi, a bottle of Miyagikyo, a bottle of a single Coffey grain and a fourth bottle which is a blend of the other three.

Ordering online from Europe is currently the best way to obtain Japanese whiskey.  The Japanese whiskies mentioned in this article can be purchased online at,, and

Yamazaki 12 and 18 are currently available by the bottle in the United States. There are liquor stores in states such as California, Florida, Texas and Kentucky that offer Japanese whiskey by the bottle. There are also some lounges around the United States that offer samples of Japanese whiskey by the glass. San Fransisco’s Nihon Whisky Lounge offers the widest variety of Japanese whiskies.  The Nihon Whisky Lounge serves Yamazaki 12 and 18 as well as 1986 Sherrywood, and Vintage 1994, Nikka Gold and Hibiki 12 and 17.


Cocktails Liquor

With names such as Bad Babysitter, Angry Dragon, Pornstar and Burning Smurf, you will have to be very careful what you serve to not ruin your date.

Like with any drink, cocktails will depend on the preferences and tastes of the people or person you plan to serve it to. Pina Colada might be your favourite, but if your date hates coconut you are doomed. Make sure you know before the time what his or her preferences are when it comes to alcohol and flavours.

If you can afford it have a variety of options. This is especially important if you are having a party with more people than just you and your date. 

Mojito’s are always popular and can be cheaper than the more exotic cocktails with many ingredients. The main ingredients of a Mojito are rum, brown sugar and lime with a few mint leaves for decoration. Nothing stops you from being creative and you can always experiment with variations. It might be necessary to have a trial session before you serve it to guests or especially to one special guest.  For a slightly weaker drink you can, for instance, top a Mojito up with some lemonade.

Daiquiris are very popular with ladies and also use rum as a base. Mix it with some grenadine and lemon juice for a quick refreshing drink. The fun thing about a Daiquiri is that you can make various types by blending different fruits with crushed ice to add to the basic Daiquiri. It is easy, tasty and there will be something for everybody’s taste.

Champagne cocktails are very romantic and if you want to make someone feel really special you should consider one of these. Because it is Valentine’s Day use red champagne.  A Southern Belle sounds charming and is made with champagne, a shot of apricot brandy and a shot of Amaretto.  A Russian Pom might sound like something that will scare James Bond, but the ingredients suggest a rather exotic drink with only a hint of danger. A Russian Pom is made of a shot of Vodka, a shot of pomegranate liqueur and champagne to fill the glass.   

If you want to pull out all the stops consider a 3 Headed Parrot. You might want to change this one’s name for romantic purposes. The ingredients spell luxury as they consist of chocolate, cream, cream liqueur, honey liqueur, chocolate liqueur and strawberry liqueur. 

With cocktails you can experiment as much as you like to create your own version or you can just omit an ingredient that you really don’t fancy. Just remember to test before you serve. Some concoctions don’t work.