Friday, July 25, 2014

Spirit Review: Reyka Vodka and the Ice-Truck Cocktail

Reyka Vodka and the Ice-Truck Cocktail
Reyka Vodka may be one of the most interesting vodkas I have ever had. Mind you, I don't pay much attention to vodka in general. I don't buy a ton of really high end vodkas, and I don't make a whole lot of cocktails with vodka.

But Reyka may change my mind.

They distill this stuff in Iceland using spring water that comes from melting glaciers, and they use a Carter-Head still, which is the same thing used by Hendrick's gin. But they only distill it once. That's right. Most premium vodkas are distilled five times or more, but Reyka only needs to do it once. The Carter-Head still is that efficient.

And then they filter it through lava rocks. How cool is that?!?

And what you get is a wheat vodka that tastes like silk and grass. There's a terroir here in both the smell and the smoothness. It is ultra smooth, yes, but there's a subtle flavor that comes out, especially neat. It's wheat and grass and hints of pepper.

Reyka Vodka is great in a Martini, but I wanted a special cocktail to highlight its flavors, so I made the Ice-Truck Cocktail. Yes, I've been watching Dexter lately, and something about this drink made me think of it, so there we go. But the cocktail is no killer; it's just the Ice-Truck Cocktail.

To make an Ice-Truck Cocktail, combine with ice:
  • 1 1/2 oz Reyka Vodka
  • 3/4 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
shake well, and strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Then top with soda water.

It's refreshing and clean and easy to drink, and it highlights the smoothness of Reyka Vodka well. So get some Reyka Vodka and try the Ice-Truck Cocktail. It's a good match.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Fernando Cocktail from Employee's Only: Fernet, Bianco Vermouth, Galliano

The Fernando Cocktail is an Employee's Only original that features Fernet Branca.

I have mentioned before that Fernet and I have a love/hate relationship. I love its crazy qualities, but it tends to make everything it touches taste like medicine. There are some great drinks with Fernet, such as the Newark Cocktail, the Hanky Panky, or my own Fashionista Cocktail, but these drinks use a 1/4 ounce or less of the stuff. After all, Fernet is strong. Meaning that it just takes over a drink. A little is all you really need.

But Employee's Only's Fernando Cocktail is awesome. It uses over an ounce of Fernet, and it's just right. Like a more herbal Manhattan.

To make a Fernando Cocktail, combine with ice:
  • 1 3/4 oz white or blanco vermouth
  • 1 1/4 oz Fernet Branca
  • 3/4 oz Galliano
Strain into a chilled coupe, and garnish with a mint sprig.

The Fernando Cocktail is good. It has the right balance of herbal, medicinal, and sweet, and it goes down easy, which is surprising, considering it uses Fernet. Even when I just get a shot of the stuff, it takes me an hour to drink it.

Not the Fernando. Maybe a half hour at best. And then I'm ready for another one. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Texas Cocktail News: July 2014

Anvil Bar and Refuge in Houston, TX. Photo from
Don't forget: about once a month, I will try to keep you abreast of happenings around Texas. If you are planning something cocktail, beer, or spirit related, and you want it featured in my Texas Cocktail News feature, just send it to me. Anything from news to menus to openings to special events. Send it to  

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Karbach Brewing Company Tour

Karbach Brewing Company is the second fastest growing brewery in the United States, and it's no wonder why. They make good beer. Oh, is that beer good. Even the styles that I don't really like that much, they do them well. The Weisse Versa, the Mother in Lager, the Yule Shoot Your Eye Out, they're all good. In fact, I haven't met a Karbach I didn't like. And I have had most of them.

And they're located in my hometown, Houston. Hell yes.

They have a great back patio/beer garden, where you can go to drink three pints of their tasty beer by paying $12. Go. You won't regret it.

I had the El Hopadillo Negro Black IPA, the Hop Delusion double IPA, and the Adweiss, which is a beer I can't find any information on. I had never heard of it, so I tried it. It seems to be a spiced version of their Weiss Versa, or maybe something different. Whatever it is, it's good. It's full of clove and other spices, and it's sweet and easy to drink. I'm not sure if you can find it anywhere else, but if you go to the brewery, be sure to try it.

And go on the tour, too. Don't just sit there and drink your beer all night. Or even go for the bike night. Or the run night. They start at the brewery and bike or ride to different bars. Awesome.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Sugar Land Wine and Food Affair 2014: The Hendrick's Cocktail Class

I wrote about the Top Shelf Bartender Competition back in 2011, and, believe it or not, it has been going on since then. I just haven't been able to go. This time, however, I was able to make it, and I got to attend a seminar from Hendrick's Gin, which was the first gin I ever got interested in, part of the reason I now like gin as much as I do.

The Hendrick's seminar was great, and we got to make some wonderful cocktails, including the Cucumber Lemonade. To make one, build over ice:
  • 2 oz Hendrick's gin
  • 1 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • top with sparkling water
Then there's Hendrick's Blueberry Delight. To make one of these cocktails, build over ice:
  • 2 oz Hendrick's gin
  • 1 1/2 oz blueberry green tea syrup
  • 1 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • top with sparkling water
  • garnish with a cucumber spear and some blueberries
The trick is how to make the blueberry green tea syrup. If you try it yourself, do the following: mash a bunch of blueberries, add some water to make it one cup (or two, depending on the quantity you want), add one cup of sugar (or two, see above), and boil with some green tea bags in it. Then strain it through a fine mesh strainer.

To make Hendrick's Tenured Punch, which was fantastic, combine
  • 3 parts Hendrick's gin
  • 2 parts lemon juice
  • 2 parts simple syrup
  • 2 parts sparkling water
  • 5 parts green tea
  • 1 part Lillet
  • Add Angostura bitters to each glass
The punch was the best thing there. The others were, good, but not nearly as flavorful as the Tenured Punch. The combination of the fragrant gin, the green tea, and the Lillet worked perfect together.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to stay to try all of the bartender competition drinks, so I can't say who won or comment on all of them, so I won't try to do so right now.

But Hendrick's has my heart.

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Stay at Home Original--The Green Sprite Cocktail: Chartreuse, Rum, Sprite

So my friend came over and wanted a cocktail, and I was on the phone, so he made do with what was on hand. He took some of my ultra-premium vodka, opened a 2-liter of Sprite, and made himself whatever that is called.

This guy likes highballs. At home, he drinks Crown and Coke, or Captain Morgan's and Coke, or vodka and cranberry juice. So he made his cocktail, drank it, and then went home.

But now I had an open 2-liter of Sprite. No one in my family drinks Sprite. We had it left over from a party. So what do we do with an open 2-liter of Sprite? We make cocktails, of course. Time to update the highball.

Enter the Green Sprite Cocktail. To make one, build over ice in a large glass:
  • 1 1/2 oz 1998 Plantation Rum from Grenada
  • 1/2 oz green Chartreuse
  • 4 oz Sprite
Garnish with a mint sprig.

Chartreuse and Sprite go surprisingly well together. You get some of the medicinal herbs from the Chartreuse, but the Sprite's lemony sweetness cuts all of it. Next time, you want a highball with Sprite, try the Green Sprite.

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Stay at Home Original, the Summer Cooler: Aperol, gin, grapefruit, lemon, Angostura

Sometimes I can't think of a good name. Sometimes I just want to drink something straight. But that doesn't make for a good cocktail blog. After drinking some Aperol on the rocks and realizing that I had one grapefruit left from my winter grapefruit buying frenzy, I knew the two had to go together. (For those wondering, I wrote this post several months ago, but I now figure it's time to post it. Grapefruit may no longer be in season, but you can still find them.)

Why is it time for a Summer Cooler? Because it's hot in Houston. One day, it's 90 degrees and beautiful. The next day it's 95 and humid. That's Houston in June. Summer is here.

No matter when, it's a good time for a Summer Cooler. To make one, combine
The Summer Cooler: Aperol, gin, grapefruit, lemon, Angostura
  • 1 1/2 oz Aperol
  • 1 1/2 oz Aviation Gin
  • 3/4 oz grapefruit
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 3 dashes Angostura
shake with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish it if you want. Or just leave it as is. A sprig of mint would actually be tasty with it. Or a grapefruit peel. Or just drink it as is. I'm feeling lazy, so I'm not garnishing it. Hell, I like Aperol by itself. Anything else is gravy.

But you know, mashed potatoes aren't done until there's gravy.