December 8th – Candy Cane Mojito

While doing research for this series of cocktail posts I found a recipe for the Candy Cane Mojito on, of all places, As a fan of Mojitos, I usually stay away from flavored ones as I prefer the original flavored with only mint and lime, but it’s Christmas time so I thought making an exception would be appropriate.

The recipe, as it stands, tends to not be very sweet. It’s a personal preference, but I think too many Mojitos today are way too sweet. If you would like a sweeter drink you can up the amount of sugar called for in the recipe or substitute lemon-lime soda for the soda water. Even though candy canes come in many flavors nowadays, the recipe assumes you will be using the traditional peppermint candy canes.

Candy Cane Mojito

1 Mini Candy Cane (or half a regular sized one)
1 tsp. Sugar, granulated
4-5 Mint Leaves, fresh
1/4 Lime, juiced
3 oz. White Rum
Soda Water

In a tall glass crush the candy cane, along with the sugar, until the candy cane is crushed to almost dust. Add the mint leaves and lime juice and muddle just until the mint leaves are well bruised. Add the rum and stir until the sugar and most of the candy cane is dissolved. Fill the glass with ice and top with soda water. Give a quick stir and garnish with a mint sprig, a slice of lime or a mini candy cane.


December 1st – Gingered Cider Bourbon Cocktail

About 1 1/2 weeks ago my wife convinced herself that Godiva should make an Advent Calendar for the Christmas season. After searching both the web and the local store we discovered that they do not make an Advent Calendar, but if we so desired, we could purchase individual chocolates and create our own. I opted to pass on that one, but it got me to thinking about other adult versions of Advent Calendars and thus the concept for The Christmas Cocktail Advent Calendar was born.

I am going to attempt to post a cocktail a day between December 1st and December 24th. The goal is to keep them all holiday themed, or at the very least, incorporate the flavors of the season. Some will be re-hashes of cocktails I’ve posted about in the past, some will be adaptations of cocktails I’ve run across while doing “research,” and some will be completely new creations that I’ve come up with all on my own.

Of course, this type of undertaking requires a lot of “research” and “experimentation,” but I’m willing to make the sacrifice for my dear readers. So, I hope you enjoy these cocktails as much I’ve enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy over the next month, creating and refining these drinks. It looks like it’s going to be a very festive holiday season for me, filled with the Christmas “spirit.” Hopefully, you will join me for a drink or 2.

To start things off, I wanted to combine my favorite alcohol, Bourbon, with my favorite seasonal beverage, cider. Add in a hint of ginger and touch of maple syrup and you have a drink that is both refreshing and warming. Perfect for those cold, bleak, early December days.

Gingered Cider Bourbon Cocktail
1 oz. Bourbon
3 oz. Cider
1 tsp. Maple Syrup (the real stuff, not the artificial pancake syrup)
squeeze of fresh Lemon juice
2 slices Ginger, fresh, sliced paper thin

In a shaker, filled with ice, combine all the ingredients. Shake for, at least, 30 seconds to give the ginger enough time to impart a bit of its flavor to the cocktail. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Serve as is, or garnish with an orange twist.


It’s been awhile since I’ve been in the gin mood. For the last year I’ve mainly been drinking rum and, my personal favorite, bourbon. But recently I was in a gin kind of mood. It was hot out, unseasonably hot. It was only the beginning of June but between the high heat and the lack of rain the grass, in our yard, has the brown, stunted look and sharp, prickly texture of August. I was in the mood for gin, but I didn’t want anything too heavy and aromatic and, for once in my life, wasn’t in the mood for a Gin & Tonic. Luckily I didn’t have to search far. The folks over at Sloshed! are a great resource for well crafted cocktails. A quick search of their gin drinks and I came across a drink called the “Florodora.” It was exactly what I was looking for. You can find their recipe here. The folks over at Sloshed! originally found the recipe in “Esquire Drinks” by David Wondrich. They slightly altered the recipe by using Ginger Beer instead of Ginger Ale, and I had to agree with their choice as I am a fan of the bite of Ginger Beer. Also, in the classic cocktail (this one has quite a history) they use a raspberry liqueur, but Sloshed changed it to raspberry syrup. Since I had raspberry syrup around this is what I went with. For a more decedant drink by all means use a raspberry liqueur like Chambord. I have also slightly altered the recipe further by increasing the amount of Raspberry Syrup since I am a sucker for anything “raspberry.”

I do hope you give this drink a try, even if you don’t like gin. Gin’s strong, piney, juniper taste is easily tamed by the sharp Ginger Beer and the floral and fruity qualities of the raspberry syrup. I truly believe that even if you are not a fan of gin you will like this one. Try it out and let me know!

The Florodora

makes 1 drink

2oz. Gin

1oz. Raspberry Syrup (homemade or higher quality product)

1/2 oz. Lime juice (fresh please, no bottled stuff)

Ginger Beer

Lime wedge

Fill a collins glass with ice. Pour in the gin, the raspberry syrup and the lime juice. Fill with ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge. Give a quick stir just before drinking and be prepared to make another one as these go down quite easily!!!

This past Saturday the family and I headed down to Wauwatosa (a suburb of Milwaukee) for the #MKEfoodies Potluck Picnic. #MKEfoodies is a group of food bloggers, food writers, food enthusiaists and anyone interested in the Milwaukee food scene. While Fond du Lac is about an hour north of Milwaukee I became aware of the group this past spring when I donated a few dozen cookies to their bake sale in support of kid’s cancer research. Since then I’ve lurked among the fringes of the group, following their exploits via Twitter. With the long drive, crazy schedule for both my wife and I, and the fact that we have a 4 year old, I haven’t had a chance to make to any of their events. So when I heard that they were having a picnic on the weekend I knew I had to get involved.

Needless to say, it was a great time, with the folks (Lori & Fred) over at Burp! Where Food Happens, organizing the whole event. Thanks you guys!!! Everyone brought a dish or 2 to share while the meat was donated by Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly, Big Frank’s Wiener Waggin’ and Bunzels. There were even Cherry studded Brats donated by Cherryland’s Best. We ate plenty of great food, met some wonderful people, drank some good beer and wine, and even Gigi made a few new friends.

Our contribution to the event, besides eating all the good food, was a pasta and vegetable salad made from vegetables in our CSA box. It was tri colored rotini tossed with shaved fennel, dried cherry tomatoes, scallions, green pepper, and yellow squash, all tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. I also made Bourbon Peach slushes to serve. And I think I have a new favorite summertime beverage!!!

The recipe below will make about a half gallon of slush mix or about 8-10 servings, but this recipe is easily doubled or tripled and since you are putting it in the freezer why not make a large batch to keep around for those hot summer days. The other great thing about this recipe is that you can play with the ratio of bourbon to peach schnapps. For this party I went a bit heavier than the 1:1 ratio, favoring the peach schnapps. If I was making this for me I would probably go heavier on the bourbon although my wife would probably disagree. As long as the total amount of booze doesn’t go above 2 cups then feel free to play however you wish, even going so far as to drop the peach schnapps all together if you really like bourbon.

Bourbon Peach Slush
makes 1/2 gallon of slush mix

4 tea bags, black tea
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 6oz can orange juice concentrate
1 12 oz can lemonade concentrate
1 cup bourbon, your favorite brand (don’t use the really cheap stuff, but also no need to use ultra expensive either)
1 cup peach schnapps
lemon lime soda

Place tea bags, sugar and water in a sauce pot. Heat to just below boiling, turn off heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and add the frozen concentrates to cool the tea down. Add the bourbon and peach schnapps and place in a plastic container. Freeze for 3-4 hours. Stir and allow to freeze at least 6-8 hours longer, preferably overnight or longer.

To serve, fill a cup 2/3’s of the way with the slush then fill with lemon lime soda. Give a quick stir and serve.

The last couple of weeks, here in Wisconsin, have been unseasonably warm. We hope for days in the 70’s in May, though often it only gets into the 60’s, but the last week or two has seen temperatures in the upper 80’s and even lower 90’s. Looking for ways to cool off I decided to make a few drinks based on rhubarb, seeing as I have a huge patch of the stuff just begging to get used up.

Rhubarb has the same tart quality that makes citrus fruits such wonderfully refreshing drinks when the weather gets hot. Unfortunately it doesn’t contain much sweetness so the first thing I needed to do was create a syrup with the rhubarb to sue as a base for any drinks I made. After doing some experimenting I decided on pairing the rhubarb with sugar and lime to form the syrup from which I would then create a couple of drinks.

For the alcoholic version I wanted to create I decided to use rum as the liquor. After numerous experiments and tastings (oh, the sacrifices I make for this blog) it was determined that standard white rum worked best. While, generally, I am more of a fan of gold or dark rums, I found that these rums had too much character that tended to overpower the taste of the rhubarb. Rhubarb may be quite tart, but its flavor profile is rather delicate and can easily be overwhelmed by other strong flavors.

Rhubarb Lime Syrup
2 pounds rhubarb, cut into chunks
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 cups water
1/2 cup fresh lime juice

Combine rhubarb, sugar, and water in a nonreactive sauce pan, bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 10 minutes or until the rhubarb starts to fall apart. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain liquid into a pitcher and add the lime juice. Chill until ready to use.

Rhubarb Spritzer – nonalcoholic

4 oz. rhubarb syrup
seltzer water

Fill a glass with ice. Add rhubarb syrup and top with seltzer water. Give a quick stir and garnish with a lime wedge.

Rhubarb Rum Cocktail

3 oz. rhubarb syrup
2 oz. Bacardi rum
1/2 oz. grenadine (preferably homemade)
seltzer water

Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add the syrup, rum and grenadine. Stir to combine. Top with seltzer water and garnish with a lime wheel.

One January 1st, I posted about the dish, Hoppin’ John, and how, in many households, it is eaten on New Year’s Day to bring good luck. I could have chosen any number of recipes, from around the world, that are eaten for the same reason- to bring luck in the new year. I think one of the reasons I chose Hoppin’ John is because I’ve been thinking about my time down South for a few weeks. What got me thinking about my time living in Atlanta and New Orleans is the fact that a few weeks ago I got a craving for Hurricanes.

Anyone who has spent any time in New Orleans should be familiar with the bright red, potent drink carried all through the French Quarter in gigantic plastic “to-go” cups. It’s the drink that made Pat O’briens famous. The story goes, that in the early 40’s Scotch and Whiskey were hard to come by because of the war. Liquor distributors down south would force bar owners to purchase numerous cases of cheap rum, from the Caribbean just to get a case or two of the other liquors. Pat O’brien, facing a mountain of rum created a new drink using rum, orange juice, passion fruit syrup and lime juice, put it into hurricane shaped glasses (so named because they resembled hurricane lamps) and thus created the Hurricane. The drink became very popular among sailors as it was cheap and potent and remains popular today, not because it is cheap-Pat O’briens charges a hefty price-but because they still pack a mean kick.

As a young cook in New Orleans, me and my friends usually tried to stay away from the touristy spots in the Quarter, most often seeking out those shady, less wholesome (and that’s saying a lot in a town not known for its wholesomeness) bars that border the Quarter. Occasionally though, we would venture into the the heart of the Quarter in search of young ladies who had come to New Orleans to party. Hey….I was 23 years old, unattached, and we lived by the motto “work hard, play hard.” We struck out way more often than not, but that was okay in our minds. We still had a great time….I think. Many of these nights found us hanging out at Pat O’briens, throwing back hurricanes with wild abandon. Luckily, my roommate and I lived just off of one of the major bus lines that ran 24/7 so we always had a ride home no matter what time of night or morning.

Looking back on those nights, at Pat O’briens, those hurricanes were pretty nasty. All alcohol bite with a lot of sugar and just enough fruit juice to make them palatable. The drink has come a long way from it’s early days and unfortunately it hasn’t weathered well. Nowadays, you can even purchase a powdered drink mix so that you can take the taste of New Orleans home with you. Don’t bother unless you are the kind of person who also doesn’t mind subsitituing orange Kool-aid for orange juice in your Screwdrivers, Mimosas, or Captain & OJ.

Searching the web for recipes is quite confusing also. While there are a number of sites that give some great recipes, there are also a ton of sites out there that are offering up recipes, for Hurricanes, made with vodka, gin, tequila, amaretto, or worse, all of those alcohols together, in the same drink.

Just because a Hurricane is potent doesn’t mean it’s an “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of drink like a Long Island Iced Tea, Bahama Mama, or Alabama Slammer. Like so many of the cocktails created in the first half of the 20th century, the Hurricane requires only a handful of ingredients, mixed in proper proportion to create a well balanced drink. Be careful though, this drink is still quite potent and it’s easy to overdo it as they don’t taste nearly as strong as they are.

4 ounces gold rum*
3 ounces passion fruit juice or puree (I use Looza brand juice as that is what I can get most often, if you can get puree, then even better though if you use puree you might want to also add a splash of simple syrup as the puree is rather tart)
2 ounces orange juice
1/4 each lime
2 Tbsp. grenadine

Fill a hurricane glass or pint glass with ice and set aside. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add all the ingredients. Shake to mix then strain into prepared glass. Garnish with a cherry and orange slice.

*Many tropical style cocktails benefit from the use of gold or dark rums as opposed to white rums as gold and dark rums bring much more flavor to the drink and add a nice complexity. While this drink would still be good made with white rum, personally I would never substitute more than half the rum with white rum.


Back in 1993 I moved to Atlanta, a good 12 hour drive from Indiana and my family. Luckily, I wasn’t there long before I made many friends, many of them in the same position I was in with the holidays coming up and no family to spend it with. It was then that I decided that I would throw an annual Thanksgiving potluck get together. The premise was simple. I would cook a turkey, the dressing, and the gravy, and everyone else was to bring their favorite dish from their Thanksgivings at home.

The first year I did this we had a modest amount of people drop by. I think it was in the 12-15 person range but it quickly grew and by the time I left Atlanta I as hosting 30-40 people who would drop in throughout the day, with the main meal seating anywhere from 15 to 25 of my friends. Not only were friends with family far away attending, but friends with family right in Atlanta opted to skip the family drama and spend the holiday with us.

This was the start of my Bloody Mary holiday tradition. As the size of the group grew so did my cooking chores. I was still only doing the turkey, dressing and gravy, but now with so many people I was cooking 2 birds and numerous pans of dressing. Since all I had was a standard home oven I had to start pretty early in the morning to get everything cooked in time. I needed a way to help me pass the time and since I was, and am, a big fan of Bloody Marys, I figured they’d be the perfect diversion. I was right, they were the perfect diversion to the long hours of watching over the turkey as my friends slept in, fighting their hangovers from the pre-holiday festivities of the night before. And since I was usually suffering right along beside them, the drinks made a great “hair of the dog” cure to my self imposed ills.

Now, some of you might question the intelligence of consuming large quantities of alcohol while working around large pans of hot food and very sharp knives. While I don’t necessarily recommend this to everyone (I am a professional I will remind you) I can say I made it through all those holiday meals without any major scars. Nowadays though, I limit myself to just a few early morning Bloody Marys while preparing our Thanksgiving feast, and maybe just a few more if someone else is doing the cooking.

So I offer up my version of the Perfect Bloody Mary. I say “my version” because, for Bloody Mary aficionados, a Bloody Mary is a very personalized thing. Luckily this is my blog so I get to give you my favorite version. Feel free to offer up yours in the comments section.

Pete’s Perfect Bloody Mary

3 oz. Vodka (either plain or pepper infused-or create your own infused vodka)
6 oz. Tomato Juice
1/2 tsp. Horseradish
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp. Dill Pickle liquid
2-6 dashes Hot Sauce (depending on the heat level you like, I usually go for 4-6)
2 wedges Lemon, cut into 1/8ths
Black Pepper
Celery Salt
1 each Celery rib, 1 1/2 – 2 inches taller than the glass

Fill a large glass with ice. Pour in the vodka. Add the horseradish, Worcestershire, pickle liquid, hot sauce, juice from one of the lemon wedges, and a couple of shakes of black pepper. Top with tomato juice. Pour entire contents between a cocktail shaker and glass a few times to mix, leaving drink the in the cocktail shaker. Use the remaining lemon to moisten the rim of glass. Pour some celery salt into a dish just large enough to accommodate the rim of the glass then crust the rim with the celery salt. garnish glass with lemon wedge and add the celery stick. Pour contents back into the glass and enjoy.

A few words about garnishes. Just about anything goes when garnishing a Bloody Mary; celery, pickle spears, olives, pickled Brussels sprouts, pickled mushrooms, poached shrimp (nice in a Cajun Bloody Mary or in one using Clamato juice), lemons, limes, etc. In Wisconsin they even like to garnish them with beef sticks. Just avoid the temptation to turn your cocktail into a salad bar. 1 or 2 garnishes is sufficient. I hate getting a Bloody Mary that is so heavily garnished I have to eat my way through to be able to get a drink!

Years ago, when I attended New England Culinary Institute there was a little, local distillery that made a cucumber flavored gin. We had discovered it by accident, but I was glad we had as it made the greatest Gin & Tonics I had ever tasted. While the juniper flavor was still there it didn’t overpower and the combination of the cucumber, lime and tonic created a wonderfully refreshing beverage meant for chasing the heat of summer away. Veranda Gin was well ahead of its time. It was one of the few well crafted gins being created in small batches and using flavors beyond juniper to give their drink a unique taste all its own. Today many distilleries are experimenting with gin and flavors besides juniper, but it took them 10 years to catch up to what Vermont Distillers had created. Unfortunately, I believe that Vermont Distillers no longer exists as I’ve spent a number of hours searching the web to find any information on them. Most references I find are dated from the mid 1990’s and earlier. I had never forgotten those Gin & Tonics though and over the years I have perfected my own cucumber accented Gin & Tonic, which I happily share with you all.

Cucumber Juice
1 1/2 Cucumbers
2 Tbsp. Water

Peel the whole cucumber, but leave the 1/2 cucumber unpeeled. Roughly chop and place in a blender along with the water. Blend until as smooth as possible (about 1 minute). Strain through a fine mesh strainer pressing down on the pulp to extract as much liquid as possible. Depending on your cucumbers this should yield approximately 2 cups-plenty for a night of drinking with friends and then some unless you’re a lush like me!

Summertime Gin & Tonic
1 1/2 oz. Gin (preferably one with a little less juniper flavor such as Plymouth’s or Tanqueray 10)
2 oz. Cucumber Juice
2 wedges Lime (cut into 1/8th)
Tonic Water

Fill a tall Collins glass with ice. Add the gin and cucumber juice. Squeeze 1 wedge of lime into the glass and drop the lime in also. Fill with tonic water and garnish with the additional lime, allowing your guest to add more lime flavor if they want.

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