A refreshing summer cherry limeade...with booze!

Even though tonight I'm sitting here with the windows open enjoying a nice breeze and temps in the low 70s—low 20s if you use the less precise space points that most of the world uses—this has been an overly warm summer here in Minnesota. Multiple instances of 110°+ (40°+ LSSP) heat index has driven me indoors for a good portion of the summer.

Now, I'm not one to complain about heat. Legitimate chances of snow 9-10 months out of the year will do that to you after 40-plus years of dealing with it. No, but that doesn't mean I don't want to enjoy a nice refreshing drink when the heat proves to be a little too much to handle (or sometimes even when it doesn't). And it just so happens that I stumbled across just such a refreshing drink while making this year's batch of Orange-Spiced Cocktail Cherries. It's really simple actually. I just mixed equal amounts of the syrup and lime juice and topped with soda water. But since much of the country has ripe cherries in the store at the moment and probably also has a few more months of lemonade weather, I thought it might be nice to share the recipe. And the recipe you'll need to make the recipe.

Arok's Cherry Limeade

  • 2 oz Orange Spiced Cherry Syrup (see recipe below)
  • 2 oz fresh squeezed lime juice (use less if it gets too tart or add some sugar...I like it tart though)
  • 1 oz 100° proof bourbon (or higher, if you'd like)
  • Ice
  • Soda water

Pour all your ingredients, except soda water, over ice. Top with soda water. Take a photo if you are the type, then stir and sip this tart cherry goodness.

Arok's Orange Spiced Cherry Syrup

Syrup Ingredients

  • 2 cups cherry puree (puree pitted sweet cherries in a blender, run it through a fine mesh screen sieve, discard the solids)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups sugar

Syrup Spices

  • 2 tbsp cinnamon chunks (crushed cinnamon sticks)
  • 2 tbsp Juniper berries
  • 2 tbsp whole Allspice 
  • 2 whole Star Anise (broken up slightly)

Syrup Sprits

  • 6 fluid ounce Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao 
  • 3.5 fluid ounce new make rye (I used Buffalo Trace)
  • 9.5 fluid ounce Bourbon (I used Knob Creek)

In a medium saucepan, combine the cherry juice, water, sugar and the spices and bring almost to a boil. (If you want to avoid straining it later, tie the spices up loosely in a piece of cheesecloth so you can fish them out). Once the mixture is at a simmer, let it simmer for 5 minutes to infuse the spices. 

Allow the cherry juice to cool to at least below 160 degrees (don’t want that alcohol boiling off), remove the spices, add your spirits and stir. 

At this point, you can bottle it and refrigerate. It made just under a quart and a half of syrup. My math says that with the spirits I used the proof of this syrup is roughly 40° proof, so it should keep a little while. But your proof will vary depending on the proof of the spirits you use.


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My Wandering Eye: Bareceló Imperial

My wandering eye is a series reacting to the crazy rising prices in the bourbon world. We’ve reached a place where even average products have hit the range where they compete price-wise with other types of aged spirits. If I’m going be asked to drop $40 to $70 on a mid-range bourbon, I might as well see what else I can get for that money. See if another spirits category offers something that is downright tasty in that price range. The goal isn’t to find cheap spirits, but to maximize the quality, I’m getting at a particular price point.

So. Yes. I'm back on the rum train today, mostly because that's what I've been drinking since I got back to Minnesota. On January first, I went from 73 degrees Fahrenheit in Miami to -12 in Minneapolis a few hours later. A negative swing of 85 degrees. 

I haven't been warm since. 

I experienced it and still can't really comprehend it. But to try to pretend that warmth is a thing that still exists in the world, I drank a lot of rum. A drink I associate with warm places now. 

Tonight's rum is Bareceló Imperial. I bought it during our stop in the Dominican Republic because it is made there and because it was only $20 for a 700 mL bottle. It turns out that it is also available in Minnesota, but it is about $28 for a 750 mL. Mostly I didn't drink this one neat. It was way too sweet for my palate for that. But I did go through a hell of a lot of Rum Old Fashioneds with it. Here's the recipe I used:

Rum Old Fashioned using Barceló Imperial

2 ounces of Barceló Imperial Rum
4 shakes of Woodford Reserve® Sassafras and Sorghum bitters
1/2 Tablespoon or so Simple Syrup
Orange Peel
Ice to taste

So an Old Fashioned is basically the easiest drink you can make. You put the bitters in your glass. Add the simple syrup. I felt that the rum, in this case, was plenty sweet, so I didn't add a lot. Add the rum and however much ice you like. The final touch really helps this one though. You need to express the oils of an orange peel over the drink, rub it around the inner and outer edges of the glass, and drop it in. In this case, the hint of orange makes the drink.

Bareceló Imperial

Purchase Info: $20 for a 700 mL bottle at Dufry Puerto Plata (at the Amber Cove Cruise Port)

Details: 38% ABV. Made in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.

Nose: Molasses, oak and faint citrus notes.

Mouth: Brown sugar and black cherry notes predominate with baking spice along the sides of the tongue.

Finish: On the gentle side of medium with lingering brown sugar, black cherry, and nutmeg notes.

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Thoughts: For me, this is too sweet to drink neat. I love it in an Old Fashioned though. Using the recipe above, I think I love it better than a whiskey Old Fashioned (though to be fair, I have never thought of an Old Fashioned as my favorite whiskey cocktail). I'm going to say here that the average of loving it in a cocktail and finding it a bit meh neat will be that I like it. And since mine is now empty (I've been rebelling against Dry January), I'll need to pick up another bottle soon.


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Mr. Boston Drinks website

I don't make a lot of cocktails. Wait, check that. I make a ton of cocktails, they just all happen to be a variation of the Manhattan. And over the course of the last couple years, I've been trying to expand my horizons. Which is why last year when Sazerac launched the Mr. Boston site, I bookmarked it.

And then waited a year to remember that I had done so.

Last week, I was cleaning up my bookmarks when I remembered it was there. Of course, this seemed like a great excuse to put it through its paces and see if I could find anything interesting. 

According to Wikipedia, Mr. Boston was started as a distillery in, you guessed it, Boston in 1933. Within a few years, they were publishing their Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide to help promote their products. For the next 77 years, the company and its various owners published the book with the last edition being published in 2012. In 2009, Sazerac bought the brand and its guide as part of their purchase of the Barton Distillery and brands. According to the company, they immediately started working on bringing the venerable old publication into the modern age by putting it online. 

And this is the part that I find pretty cool. They have digitized the records of every edition they could lay their hands on. That means, if a drink was in multiple editions, you can swap back and forth between the editions to see how the recipe has changed over time. I find that pretty cool and is a step that many companies wouldn't have bothered to take since it probably took a lot of extra time and money to accomplish.

So is the site any good? Yeah. I love it. It's designed with a cool Art Deco feel that is very appropriate for a site that celebrates a history that goes back to when Art Deco was cool the first time. It is easy to use both on the desktop and on your phone. The directions come with an image of the glass you might want to use and a difficulty level so that you know what you are getting into. You can search for recipes by ingredient or name or you can use a "Discover" option that allows you to find recipes based on an event or occasion. If you log in, using Facebook or Google, you can save your favorites and even add your own recipes. 

While doing research over the last week or so, I decided to try as many new cocktails as I could find. I have limited ingredients in the house and even so, I was able to find more than I had time to drink. I even learned that my homemade cranberry juice goes well with bourbon. I have a feeling that I am going to be keeping this particular bookmark and trying a lot of new options.


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Barrel Aged in a Bottle Oak Infusion Spiral

It really is amazing what you find when you clean your office. A little over a week ago, I got fed up with the disorganized mess that used to be my office. When I realized that I had started to record my monthly (ish) Patreon video in another room, I decided that the time had come to bring it back to a less stressful level of disorder. 

As I was cleaning, I found something that I received on a visit to a local craft distiller that I took with a couple of friends. It's an Oak Infusion Spiral created by The Barrel Mill here in Minnesota. He was talking about some failed experiments that he had tried and held one up. Since he wasn't using it, he asked if we wanted them. There were three of them and three of us, so we all said yes. Upon returning home, I promptly set mine on one of my desks and proceeded to let the sediment of time cover it in a pile of papers, notebooks, and folders. 

So when I found it last week, I was anxious to do something with it. While I have almost no desire to add it directly to a bottle of spirits, I did have a couple of ideas of what to do with it. I was in the process of making a batch of orange bitters and tossed half of it in there while the liquid rested. To be honest, I never thought to do a control batch on that, so I have no idea if it helped, hurt or did nothing. 

With the other half of the spiral though, I decided to get a little more ambitious. I made 750 mL of Manhattan (minus the water/ice) and poured half of it into each of two 375 mL bottles. With one, I put the spiral into and with the other, I left it out. I figured I would let them both sit for seven to ten days and then try each along with a freshly made Manhattan using the same ingredients. (I'll be setting the no spiral one aside to allow it to bottle age for three to six months. Look for that post in the future.)

The main question I wanted to answer was: does this thing do anything? The answer to that is yes. The Manhattan with the oak spiral is noticeably silkier and is better integrated than the freshly made one that I am having next to it. So that's it. The stick does the trick. 

Or does it? Oaked versus fresh doesn't really tell you if it was the time it sat or the spiral doing the work. To answer that, I tried the 10-day-old oaked one next to the 10-day-old non-oaked one. To be honest, I expected that there would be little difference between the two since there wasn't a noticeable "oakier" flavor in the bottle with the stick versus the freshly made drink. But there was a huge difference. The non-oaked version might be the worst Manhattan I've ever had. It basically tastes like I used old ingredients. 

To sum up, I can't say if this will help your whiskey should you stick it in the bottle. But it might help your cocktails. Just don't try to use it with ones that use non-spirit ingredients to minimize spoilage.


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My whiskey is too young, now what?

It happens to all of us. Somehow we find ourselves with a bottle of whiskey whose age is listed in single digit months instead of years. Maybe we were given it by a friend. Maybe we were taken in by a pretty label. Or maybe we just weren't paying close enough attention. How we acquired the bottle doesn't really matter as much as what we are going to do with it now. 

Unless you are a fan of new make, you are probably not going to drink it neat. And unless you plan to use it as a door stop or to clean something, you need to find something to do with it. Well, I can't tell you what to do with yours, but since I found myself with an abundance of the stuff myself recently, I can tell you what I did with mine.

I made cocktails. 

But I didn't make whiskey cocktails, well not really. I mean I used whiskey in them. Wait...let's start at the beginning here, and I'll tell you my thought process. 

I initially thought to myself that if I looked at some colonial-era drinks, well that would be about right since they didn't age the whiskey yet at that point anyway. And while I didn't find many, I did find a couple that worked. 

The first is one one without a formal recipe. And it takes a couple of months. It's called Cherry Bounce, and I found the process I use in Michael Dietch's excellent book: Whiskey. Basically, you pierce a pound of sour cherries with a knife, toss in a bottle of whiskey, a couple of cups of sugar, some freshly grated nutmeg and a couple of cinnamon sticks. Shake it every few days at first and then let it sit for three months before straining off the liquid. It's damn good, and I think I'll be making some every summer from here on out as if you start it when the cherries are ripe, it is done just in time for the holidays.

But I'm guessing you want something you can drink right away, and I won't disappoint. The only other Colonial-era drink I found that worked well with the young whiskey I had was the Whiskey Sling, which has one thing in common with the Bounce above. Nutmeg. It turns out it really does help a young whiskey to be more palatable. A Whiskey Sling is just 2 ounces of whiskey, a half teaspoon of sugar dissolved in a teaspoon of water, a glass, some ice and some freshly grated nutmeg over the top of it all. It really is quite tasty, especially with a young rye. Just try to drink it before the ice melts too much. 

So after I decided that Colonial-Era drinks were kind of a dead-end, I decided to rethink my approach. To me, whiskey that is too young tastes less like whiskey and more like cheap tequila or rum. And so I decided to treat it that way. The first thing I go to work was a riff on a Margarita.

Whiskey Margarita

  • 1.5-ounce New-make to 12-month-old bourbon
  • 1-ounce lime juice (fresh)
  • 0.5 to 1-ounce Cointreau
  • Orange bitters

Shake with ice and pour into a glass. You may need to adjust slightly depending on the whiskey you have, but that'll get you close.

Following the lime juice and young whiskey theme, a mojito riff worked really well too. 

Whiskey Mojito

  • 2-ounce New-make to 12-month-old bourbon
  • 1-ounce lime juice (fresh)
  • 1-ounce simple syrup
  • 6 mint leaves
  • dash bitters
  • soda water

Bruise your mint and drop it into your glass, pour in the lime juice, simple syrup, whiskey and a dash of bitters. Give it a stir. Add ice and top with soda water. 

Branching out a little I also tried a Negroni/Boulevardier with the too young whiskey, and that tasted quite good. I mention Negroni because a Negroni and a Boulevardier are pretty close to the same drink. The Negroni has gin and the other bourbon. In this case, it reminded me more of the Negroni than the Boulevardier. This one is simple.

Too Young Boulevardier

  • 1-ounce New-make to 12-month-old bourbon
  • 1-ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1-ounce Campari

Give it a stir and serve it on the rocks. 

So after all that I guess my point is that when you have a bottle of whiskey that you aren't sure what to do with, sometimes you need to get creative. I made my bottle disappear by making rum, tequila and gin drinks with it. Maybe you can do the same. 


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