1 1/2 oz Van Gogh Wild Appel Vodka 1/2 oz Van Gogh Dutch Caramel Vodka 1/2 oz Licor 43 1/2 oz Lime Juice 1/2 oz Cranberry Juice
Shake with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
A lot of cocktail people look down their noses at vodka, especially flavored vodka. I don't get it myself. I've always been a fan of vodka, and I enjoy experimenting with the flavored variety in different drinks. They're certainly not the first thing I reach for, but that doesn't mean they should never be used.
This was based on a recipe I found in Gaz Regan's book. It has delicious fall flavors and has quickly become one of my wife's favorite drinks.
You don't need to use the Van Gogh brand vodkas, although I've found these varieties to be very tasty. The Sobieski Karamel is also good.
If you don't have any Licor 43, you can replace it with a little simple syrup. It's not going to taste quite the same — the Licor 43 has a very nice sweet vanilla flavor — but it'll give you the general idea.
With the renaissance of the craft cocktail movement, and the increased focus on making quality drinks at home, several companies have moved into the market with syrups and mixers designed for both home and bar use. One of the latest to come to my attention is Powell & Mahoney.
Founded by a couple of cocktail fans, Powell & Mahoney produce a line of twelve mixers, including such popular flavors as Bloody Mary, Margarita, and Mojito. They also make a few that are more unusual, like Peach Bellini and Hot Toddy.
I was contacted by the fine folks at P&M recently to see if I'd be interested in writing about their products. I was, so they sent me some of their mixers to sample.
What first impressed me with their products was the interesting range of flavors and, even more importantly, the ingredients they contain.
P&M mixers contain no high fructose corn syrup, which goes so poorly with alcohol (and most everything else). Their mixers contain real fruit juices and purees, natural flavors, and organic cane sugar. If you're going to use a mixer instead of crafting ingredients on your own, this is the way to go.
I found the ones I tried to be tasty and true to their promised flavor, without being overly sweet or cloying. As much as I sometimes enjoy making a cocktail with five or six ingredients, there are also times when I just want to drink something easy that still tastes good. Mixers like this can come in very handy, as long as you don't rely on them too much.
My favorites were the Ginger and the Peach Bellini. The Ginger contains filtered water, organic sugar, citric acid, natural flavors, natural ginger flavor, ginger extract, fennel extract, elderflower extract, milk thistle extract, and caramel color. I whipped up a Highball with three parts whiskey (your choice — I used bourbon) and one part Powell & Mahoney Ginger. Add a little ice and you're ready to go. You can stretch it with some seltzer if you'd like, but I didn't bother.
The Peach Bellini contains filtered water, organic cane sugar, concentrated peach puree, orange juice concentrate, natural falvors, citric acid and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). I used it to make Peach Bellinis, with three parts Prosecco (use something inexpensive — I chose Cupcake) and one part Powell & Mahoney Peach Bellini. Combine in a champagne glass and you've got a delicious, quick, refreshing drink. My wife and I went through several glasses of this.
Some people turn up their noses at pre-made mixers like these, but I'm not one of them. There are many people who don't have the materials, time or inclination to make their own fresh cocktail ingredients. For them, it's important to have quality products they can use and still make good tasting drinks. Powell & Mahoney's mixers fill the bill quite well.
PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur Fruit Liqueur Final Grade: A- Price: $24 (750ml)
PAMA is the category leader in pomegranate liqueurs for a reason — it is by far the best one on the market. There are only a few of them out there, and none captures the pure flavor of pomegranate as well as PAMA does. In an area where the competitors taste, at best, merely like sweet, generic fruit, PAMA stands out for its authenticity and balanced flavor.
Its aroma and flavor resemble good quality pomegranate juice (like POM), with just the slightest hint of an alcoholic kick. (It's slight for a reason: PAMA is only 17% alcohol.)
I tried it straight first, chilled from the fridge, and was impressed. It's sweet, but not too sweet, with a satisfying, fruit flavor. It gives a mild warming feeling in the chest that one associates with drinking alcohol, but you probably wouldn't even notice if you weren't paying attention.
Although PAMA can be drunk neat, this liqueur is really designed to be mixed in cocktails, and its possibilities are almost endless. Its deep crimson color and balanced flavor (without a high sugar content) mean it makes a very nice addition to a wide range of cocktails. True grenadine — not the syrupy cherry-flavored stuff — is a pomegranate syrup, so the use of this fruit in cocktails is well established. (You could even substitute PAMA for grenadine in recipes.)
The PAMA website contains several recipes for using the liqueur in both cocktails and food. I actually whipped up something of my own, and then later discovered that they have a similar version already on their site. (I'll grant you — it's not the most original idea for a drink you'll ever come across.)
1.5 oz Vodka 1 oz PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur 3/4 oz Lime Juice 3/4 oz Simple Syrup
Shake with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
I find this variation on the Cosmopolitan to be a tastier drink. It's simple enough that the home bartender can easily whip one up, and it's especially appealing for female drinkers. Give it a try the next time you have friends over. (If the guys are being fussy, give 'em a Pabst Blue Ribbon or something.)