Burnt Whiskey Sour & A Giveaway!

** The giveaway has ended. Congrats to the winner: Amy! **

OK guys, are you more curious about the giveaway, or the word “burnt” in a cocktail? (Just kidding, I know it’s the giveaway! And if it isn’t, it should be, because it’s an awesome one.) Back in December, Kevin Liu of the geeked-out collaborative food blog Science Fare got in touch with me about a cocktail science book he was writing called Craft Cocktails at Home. We spoke a bit about my work with shrubs, and I even had a chance to take a peek through an early draft and provide a few tips on the layout of the book itself. As I was skimming through the text, I continually found myself pausing to read bits here and there because, frankly, the content is fascinating. I have been trying to think of a way to best describe this book, but I really don’t think I can do much better than the tagline on the homepage: “Think of it as your PhD in Drinking.” Seriously, this book covers it all. The basics you need to start your home bar. Breakdowns of the roles of flavor and mouthfeel in drinks. Filtering methods for homemade infusions. Making a DIY cold-smoker for $20. How to make crystal-clear ice. (I bet you never even thought about that one before, but now you really want to know, right?) The list goes on. (Oh, and[!] for those of you that are interested in DIY bitters, there’s an awesome section where Kevin and Eva of Adventures in Cooking taste-tested a variety of bittering agent extracts and gave their interpretations of the flavor profiles. Super-duper cool, especially if you want to experiment with building your own bitters instead of following a recipe.) And, of course, there are a variety of recipes for drinks, tinctures, and syrups. In short, this is one hell of a book, and a pioneering publication in the field of cocktail geekery. And I have one to give away to a lucky reader!

OK, now before I get into this mysterious, delicious burnt cocktail, let’s go over the rules of the giveaway. To enter, simply leave a comment below telling us about one of the best and/or most unique drinks you’ve had. (I had a mezcal cocktail this past summer that had a giant smoked ice cube in it. Never before have I felt so hyper-aware of the role that scent plays in our enjoyment of food and drink.) Also, if you’d rather just ask Kevin a specific question, he’ll be keeping tabs on the post and will happily chime in to answer (and your question will of course be counted as an entry). The giveaway will end on Wednesday at 11:59pm. We do ask that only U.S.-residents over the age of 18 participate. And the randomly chosen winner will be announced on Saturday, March 9th. Good luck!

Also, attention Kindle owners: There’s actually a promotion running until tonight (Saturday) where you can download the ebook for free! You can snag your free copy on Amazon up until 11:59pm. And, for those of you that might not have have a Kindle or the patience for a giveaway, you can purchase the paperback version here.

And now, let’s talk burnt cocktails. Or burnt sugar syrup, to be exact. This is one of many recipes you’ll find in Craft Cocktails at Home. In the book, this is used in conjunction with other ingredients to create “instant aged” liquors, and also as a component of bitters. I first discovered this on the book’s website, when Kevin did a post called “Caramel syrup: a kick-ass way to add depth to cocktails,” and wrapped it up with a burnt whiskey sour. In the book, Kevin details creating either a burnt sugar syrup or a caramel syrup. Both are made by heating sugar and then adding water once the sugar reaches a certain temperature. For caramel syrup, you add the water before the sugar reaches 350° (the temperature at which sugar burns, smoke alarms start blaring, and cats start running for cover — trust me on that one). For burnt sugar syrup, you let that scary hot sugar blaze right on past 350° into lovely charred smokey blackness, then add the water.

I actually made both syrups, just to see what they were both all about. As you can imagine, the burnt sugar syrup is a bit more prominent than the caramel syrup, and stands up nicely in drinks that welcome the complexities of a bitter, smokey flavor. I used the caramel syrup for the photographs (because I liked the color), but I really enjoyed the burnt sugar syrup in the whiskey sour. It makes for a lovely, complex drink, and it’s a welcome addition to a cocktail that can sometimes assault you with a heavy tart/sweetness (depending on how it’s made).

The following recipe was borrowed from Craft Cocktails at Home, with a few of my own additional notes on working with sugar below.

Burnt Sugar Syrup or Caramel Syrup

  • 220g granulated sugar
  • 1.5 cups water

Heat the sugar in a stainless saucepan over medium heat. Stir with a chopstick every 30 seconds or so. You will see the sugar melt over time. Once the sugar becomes fully liquid, it will become progressively darker very quickly.

For caramel syrup, the syrup is as hot as it needs to be once everything goes liquid. For burnt sugar syrup, the syrup is done when it starts smoking and releasing burnt odors.

Quickly pour in the water and stir rapidly. Be careful: the water will steam and may sputter a bit. Both the sugar and water will be crazy hot. If the sugar forms hard chunks, leave the pan with water on medium heat until everything combines into a smooth syrup.

Notes from me: If you aren’t used to working with heated sugar, the process might seem a little intimidating. And for good reason too, because that stuff gets HOT, and it can do some serious damage if you aren’t careful. Be sure to heat the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan with high sides. When your sugar begins to boil, the mixture will bubble up quite a lot, and the last thing you want is molten sugar spilling over onto everything.

If you haven’t caramelized sugar before, watch some videos online to get a sense of what happens visually. Things will seem to progress rather slowly at first, as the sugar at the bottom of your pan begins to melt and brown a little, chunks begin to form as you stir, and then eventually, everything dissolves. At this point, you’ll start to notice some tiny little bubbles, then a little bit of smoking, then some more serious bubbles (like the bubbling that would precede a monster rising from the depths of a swamp, if that makes sense). This is the point when sh*t starts to get real, and things progress very quickly. Foamy bubbles will start to form, and the sugar will begin to grow rapidly in size. Soon, it will stop growing, and the bubbles will begin to take on a “thicker” look (I can’t really think of a better word than that). This is the point when you have around 10–15 seconds before the sugar hits 350° and totally burns.

For this recipe in particular, I made caramel syrup by adding the water right when the sugar hit the aforementioned “thicker” bubble point. (Kevin’s recipe notes that you don’t even need to let the sugar cook this much — you can instead simply add the water once everything has dissolved, and before it begins to bubble up. I’m not sure if letting it cook longer made any difference in flavor. It might be slightly richer, but I can’t say for sure. If you aren’t comfortable with testing your hot sugar observation skills, add the water at the earlier point.) And for the burnt syrup, I waited another 15 seconds or so, until the sugar began to take on a very dark color. The burning of sugar happens very quickly. You’ll think to yourself, “I wonder if this is going to burn soon?” And the next thing you know, the room will be filled with smoke. Which brings me to another point: If you have a range hood, use it. It also doesn’t hurt to disable your smoke detectors while you’re doing this (especially if you’re making the burnt syrup).

If you make the burnt syrup, stir carefully after you’ve added the water. The sugar will probably seize, and you’ll want to do a little bit of stirring to help it dissolve. And with the water, it will slosh and splatter much more easily.

Above all, caution and planning will make working with heated sugar an easy and gratifying experience. Have everything you will need (in this case, the water) at the ready, as you don’t want to walk away from the pan once you’ve begun.

Burnt Whiskey Sour

(from the CCaH blog; adapted with further suggestions from Kevin)

makes 2 drinks

  • 4 oz light Canadian Whiskey
  • 2 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1.5 oz burnt sugar syrup
  • 4-6 dashes angostura bitters
  • 4-6 drops 3:1 saline solution (3 parts water to 1 part salt [by weight, preferably])
  • 1/2 of an egg white*

* You can leave out the egg white if you wish, but it adds a wonderful body to the drink. If you need a little more convincing, I’ll leave that to Adam.

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled rocks glass. (You can add the traditional maraschino cherry for garnish if you like, but I’m with Kevin on preferring it sans cherry.)


  1. says

    I am sad to say that I really haven’t dove into the world of cocktails yet. But, I guess that’s what this book would help me do! I had an amazing cocktail when I was in Italy… I wish I could tell you what was in it, but the language barrier detoured me a bit, haha!

  2. says


    “Saline solution” is just “salt solution”. A 3:1 saline solution means measure out 3 parts water to 1 part salt (by mass, preferably) and put it into a bottle.

    Gosh I wish I’d made that more clear now…

    AND – This is an amazing write-up!! Wish I had your skills. Folks: can you imagine what a book by Carey would look like?? just saying… :-)

    • says

      Oh my god, that makes a lot more sense! Ha! (It didn’t even occur to me to consider the very literal defintion.) Admittedly, I did google whether or not one could drink saline solution, just because I was curious. What I’d read seemed to suggest it was fine, although they may have been talking about homemade salt + water solution as well! :)

  3. Patrick Farrington says

    I don’t know how exotic it is, but one of my favorite cocktails currently is the French 75. I haven’t tried the Blood Orange version yet but soon.

  4. bruin says

    i just had a cocktail last night that featured celery infused tequila in it–delicious! this book looks so interesting!

  5. says

    I’m not sure it qualifies as very unusual, but it opened my eyes to well constructed cocktails. The Sweet Ginger Rye at the SoHo Grand is amazing. Rye whiskey, lemon juice, and ginger infused honey.

  6. says

    Seriously gorgeous photos- the use of light is just perfect!

    As for cocktails, not unusual but definitely one of my favorites is the Caipirinha. The first time we stepped into the hotel in Brazil, they handed us one and I’ve been hooked ever since!

    • says

      Thank you, Erin! I’ve been meaning to add a bottle of cachaça to my liquor cabinet. Perhaps I’ll do that once the weather warms up, especially since the Caipirinha seems like a perfect summer drink. :)

  7. says

    Your photos continue to amaze! I love caramel and I love whiskey sours so this sounds great–I’ll have to try it soon! I can’t say what my favorite cocktail is–I have had a really interesting liqueur made from milk that was then strained to be clear…so that’s my “entry.”

  8. Meagan says

    You know, I’ve never been a huge cocktail person – they are always too sweet or too savory…I think I just haven’t been to the right place / don’t have the right instructions!! I do love a good Italian Spritz though. Simple, beautiful. Thanks for the giveaway!!

  9. says

    I haven’t had too many outstanding cocktails in the past. I’m a craft beer guy, so I could tell you about some killer sour ales, but not so much on the mixed drinks. Seems like something I would enjoy.

    Oh, and have to say that I really dig your site. It’s designed very well.

    • says

      Actually Brian, if you want to tell me about some killer sour ales, I would LOVE to hear it! They are, by far, my favorite style of beer. And quite hard to come by around these parts, especially on tap, because we couldn’t possibly expect a bar to bump one of the two dozen IPAs they’re pouring to make room for something else. (I’m a gal who doesn’t like IPAs living the land of hops—can you tell?) :)

  10. says

    I’ve had two cocktails that have changed the way I think about how drinks are made.

    One came from Prohibition Pig in Waterbury, VT. I can’t remember the name anymore, but it mixed an italian amaro, a chocolate stout, a whole egg, and bitters. I thought this was going to be a heavy drink, to say the least, but it was refreshing yet velvety, rich but through some strange alchemy tasted just like rose water. More than any cocktail this one tipified for me how a cocktail is more than the sum of its parts.

    The other is the “simple” Campari and soda. When I bought my first bottle of Campari I saw that it recommends Campari and soda on the back. Not heeding the directions, I poured a small bit of Campari together with lots of soda water. I hated it; it tasted like pickle brine. Months past, and I’m looking at the back of my Campari bottle again and notice that the proportions for Campari and soda were more precise than I initially thought (1/3 Campari to 2/3 soda). I was surprised what a difference following the directions made in the taste. Gone was the pickle taste and the sweetness/bitterness of Campari was on display yet very drinkable. It was only two ingredients, but they had to be -just so- in order to be in harmony; a simpler lesson in alchemy than the Prohibition Pig cocktail but no less influential.

    • says

      Yes! Pro Pig! That’s where I had that mezcal & smoked ice cocktail! (Sorry, I just got REALLY excited.) :D They do some really awesome cocktails there, and I try to swing by for a drink whenever I’m in the area. The bar is just gorgeous too. (Hard to believe it was filled with flood waters just a year and a half ago!)

      Love the Campari and soda realization too. It’s a great lesson in the way we experience flavors, and how that can change depending on proportions.

  11. says

    I love things that add depth and intrigue to cocktails. I can’t wait to try this syrup. I’m still enjoying some very potent Allspice Dram that I made before the holidays last year, it has a similar deep smokey effect on drinks.

    The book sounds great!

  12. Amanda says

    I was in Stockholm a few years ago, and among the many amazing cocktail concoctions I had was a Death in the Afternoon. Champagne + Absinthe, pretty tasty! (But talk about two ingredients that can lead to nothing but trouble!)

  13. says

    The most shockingly lovely cocktail in my recent memory was a remix of The Rocketman: 1.5 oz Plymouth Gin, 1 oz green chartreuse, broiled lime and arugula… The organics muddled with peppercorns, then shaken with the liquors and served up. Mine was garnish with some pepper. Soooooo good, but my, I might have to reevaluate after making this.

  14. erin mc says

    my partner is a super cocktail enthusiast, so i actually was excited about the word “burnt” and then i saw the book link. so great! must have for the libation library. the best drinks i’ve had out on the town were at http://thefranklinbar.com/?page=drinks – all of them. i recommend just reading through each offering. with spirits, bitters, shrubs, tictures, fresh juice, housemade sodas, wine, etc., each is a work of art!

    so happy to find this! thank you.

  15. Beth says

    Living in Chicago and going to places like Aviary and The Violet Hour, I’ve had a lot of interesting cocktails, but one of the most interesting one was the Pistol Smoke at Untitled – scotch, pipe tobacco, chamomile tea, vanilla, and lemon.

  16. says

    I finally tried a caipirinha at a party this weekend, and now I MUST get my hands on some cachaça! There was also prickly pear syrup mixed with tequila and fresh squeezed orange juice at said gathering. Both cocktails were heavenly.

    I’ve been meaning to try a whiskey sour for a long time. I gotta get on that, especially with this burnt sugar situation. It sounds amazing!

    • says

      Whiskey sours (and other sours) were something I avoided for a while because I didn’t want to deal with the possibility of getting something made with some store-bought sour mix (bleh). But it seems like more and more places are using fresh lemon juice and simple syrup these days……or maybe I’m just going to better bars. Of course, making them at home takes the uncertainty out of the process! :)

  17. says

    Definitely not an unusual cocktail, but I had a spicy margarita that had jalapeño-infused tequila that was amazing. I like margaritas that aren’t packed full of sugar so that the tequila can really stand out and this drink did just that, with an added bit of spice.

  18. Jamie Z says

    There is a bar in Charleston called the Gin Joint and all of their drinks are incredible with lots of interesting options. I would say the Smoked Maple Old Fashioned is my favorite, though!

  19. Celine says

    As a true Wisconsinite, my favorite cocktail is a brandy old-fashioned. I also came across and lavender infused gin & tonic that was amazing, and while living in Ithaca NY for a few years really fell in love with some of the cocktails on Stella’s ever-changing menu (http://www.stellabar.com/menus/StellasDrinks.pdf). We always find some good inspiration there for house infusions.

  20. says

    Such a fun post, and I’m loving the cocktails described in the comments! Burnt sugar syrup sounds incredible in the cocktail – this just totally blew my mind! And I’m super excited about this book – definitely getting it, one way or another. :)

    The first cocktail that came to mind was one that I had at Alembic in San Francisco, one fall many years ago. They roasted pumpkin, then put it through a juicer, and mixed the roasted pumpkin juice with brandy. Then they made horchata with the pumpkin seeds and nutmeg, turned it into foam, and added the pumpkin seed horchata foam to the top. Those guys are bad ass. Though it would probably have been extra amazing with a bit of burnt sugar syrup, come to think of it. ;)

    And I’m casting my vote for a Reclaiming Provincial book, too.

    • says

      Oh man, that drink sounds crazy awesome. I just took a peek at their cocktail menu, and I like how they give a silly little intro for each drink. (I don’t know if that’s something everything would be into, but I can stare at a cocktail menu for 15 minutes and still have no idea what I want. [I blame that on the fact that I’m a Libra.] I’d appreciate a little bit of a drink blurb to sway me one way or the other! And having a drink that pays homage to a Sonic Youth song definitely wins points too.)

      After working on books for over 8 years, I’d probably be a publisher’s worst nightmare. :) At least I’d insist on typesetting my own book, so they’d save some money there!

  21. Miranda says

    At Nostrana in Portland, OR I had a cocktail called “Green Smoke.” It had, among other things, absinthe, fresh lime, and a smoked salt rim. It was lovely. If I weren’t such a lightweight, I’d have ordered another.

  22. p j says

    The burnt sour sounds great. Some great cocktails I’ve had lately include a spicy rye manhattan with bulleit rye, zucca, byrrh, cocchi, lillet, orange bitters, and a blend of homemade allspice dram and clove bitters. Another one had gin, st. germaine, grapefruit juice and thyme syrup.

  23. says

    admittedly, i am not much of a drinker, i enjoy a glass of wine sometimes, if that counts. i wrote for an online drinking site a few years ago and they sent me to this new restaurant in town that was bringing the old school mixed drinks back. i tried their entire cocktail menu and it was amazing but the one drink that stands out the most for me was a bourbon mix on ice — i felt like such a grown up sipping on that drink. it was called the Sticky Wicket: bourbon, smoked maple syrup, Fernet Branca, soda water, served short over ice with an orange peel. (i also felt very masculine and i kinda wished i had a cigar…)

    my most favorite drink tho is non-alcoholic. it’s a lemonade with thyme and i’ve tried unsuccessfully to recreate it. it’s the most perfect balance of sweet and sour and earthy.

    good luck with this giveaway, i hope it goes to someone who can make great use out of it. and your pictures are so beautiful, THE LIGHT!

    • says

      Thyme simple syrup is one of my favorite things in drinks. It tastes like spring. I love it with lemon, and it’s killer with grapefruit too. :)

  24. says

    DIY cold-smoker?? OKAY.

    So my most interesting drink experience would have to be the amazing cocktails at Bourbon & Branch in SF. And of course, because they keep all their menus and everything secret, I have NO IDEA what they were…sad but true. Must go back to SF soon. :) Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

  25. amyfaith says

    I feel extremely fortunate to have not one, but two close friends who are dedicated cocktail enthusiasts, so I’ve been able to sample all sorts of lovely new flavors, aromas, and textures over the past few years. But I always end up coming back to the good ol’ sidecar. (I like it on the sour side without a sugared rim — I like my margueritas w/o salt too!)

    Well, that and manhattans (with Maker’s Mark and a Luxardo cherry, thankyouverymuch).

  26. says

    I was really intrigued by that burnt caramel syrup when I was reading the book, too! It looks like it came out perfectly for you (such a gorgeous amber color to those drinks), and pairing it with a whiskey sour sounds faaaaantastic. We’re doing two “signature cocktails” for our wedding in September, I’m doing a Marionberry Margarita but Jeremy hasn’t decided what his will be yet. He is a whiskey man, and I have a feeling this will be right up his alley! I’m going to make this for him and see what he thinks. I’d have to make a large batch of the burnt sugar syrup to give to the bartender at the wedding but from the sound of it it would be totally worth it. So excited to try this!! :D

    • says

      Oooo, that’s awesome that you guys are each coming up with a cocktail!

      Making this made me want to work with heated sugar a little bit more often. I do it so infrequently that every time I set out to do it again, I get a little nervous. I often wind up burning the first batch and having to start again, so it was GREAT that I was actually trying to burn it this time!

      • says

        Hahaha! Yes, I have made the mistake of burning sugar on the ban too, always when I’m trying to make caramel. So frustrating! Now I am just paranoid and start cooking the sugar on a ridiculously low heat so it doesn’t get to the burning hot stage as quickly, but the downside with this is that it takes so long that I get impatient and start assembling other things and then it just ends up burning again….I need to get better at focusing on one task at a time.

  27. Amanda says

    This could be an obvious Chicago choice for most unique cocktail, but I have to say that the “In the Rocks” at Aviary is pretty darned awe inspiring. Their hollow ice sphere is perfection, and the old fashioned inside is quite nice as well.

  28. says

    Carey, I swear that once I am of drinking age, I will have about a bajillion recipes from your blog to try out. This is cruel, you’re putting caramel in it!? That’s like mixing dessert with drink! Perhaps the burnt sugar/ caramel syrup could be used for other things…hmmm…it would be interesting to see how the smoky flavour could be used in other drinks… smoky caramel hot chocolate? or oooh smoky caramel coffee

    {obvs, I’m not entering the giveaway, I don’t fit either criteria hahah}

    • says

      Hehe! I’ve been considering the possibilities of this burnt syrup in actual dishes. One of the first things that came to mind were marshmallows. I mean, can you imagine?! Mallows and charred smokey syrup — it seems like a perfect match. And I think it could work really well as a swirly bit in ice cream of some sort. I could also see it going well with a lot of different meats, especially in a glaze on things to achieve a faux-grilled flavor. And I bet it would be awesome in hot chocolate. So many ideas! :)

    • says

      Hi Alle! It was actually a family hand-me-down. My dad’s uncle had it before me, and who knows where it came from before that. It’s one of my favorites. :)

  29. Amity says

    My favorite cocktail I’ve tried has been a Cranberry Caipirinha, with fresh cranberries, in France on a night out a couple of years ago. Perfect balance of sweet and sour, and the most beautiful color!
    The book looks incredibly fascinating!

  30. Miya says

    This book sounds right up my alley – cocktails and nerdiness ;-) I’m new to craft cocktails so basically everything is mind-opening to me right now, but I just had a Sloe 75 – sloe gin, aperol, prosecco, and bitters. Loved the balance of fruit and bitterness.

  31. says

    The most interesting drink I’ve had lately has been… a paloma from Raines Law Room. Since I’m not well-versed in the area of drinks and cocktails, I’m not sure how it was supposed to taste, but this version contained a jalapeno agave syrup and celery bitters, both which I loved.

    I’m a huge sucker for drinks with grapefruit. Would that flavor go well with burnt syrup? Or is it based more on the alcohol you pair it with? Ah! There’s so much to learn.

    Anyway, love the idea of burnt syrups! Sugar and heat result in all kinds of magic, and this burnt whiskey sour looks incredibly enticing!!

    • says


      When I think grapefruit, I think “malt” or “bread”. Kind of like a hoppy IPA. I would use a small amount of burnt sugar/caramel syrup to amp up the aged notes in a anejo tequila or rum before mixing with grapefruit. Maybe in a riff on an old-fashioned?


    • says

      Oooo, I love that they used celery bitters in their paloma! A couple years ago I had a dish that was skate over celeriac purée with grapefruit pieces scattered about. When I tasted the grapefruit bits with the celeriac, I freaked out and pretty much pushed the skate aside so I could focus on just those two things together. Definitely a revelatory combination.

      I’d say that the use of the burnt sugar syrup would be weighed more against your base liquor. The anejo tequila and rum that Kevin suggests would be great pairs. There is this one drink called the Blinker that’s rye, grapefruit juice, and raspberry syrup, and I think it might actually work well in that, in a small amount. I’ve only made it using a raspberry shrub instead of syrup, so the drink that I’ve tasted might be more welcoming to smokiness, to offset the tang of the shrub. (I actually spent the past couple evenings working on tweaking this recipe into a more citrusy soda that I could bottle for a party. What I came up with was kind of a hybrid of the Blinker and the Ward Eight, and it was so dang tasty. I think it worked out to be something like 2 1/4 oz. rye, 3/4 oz. lemon juice, 1/2 oz. cara cara orange juice, 1/4 oz. blood orange juice, 1/2 oz. raspberry shrub, plus a dash each of coffee-pecan bitters and orange bitters. Alas, the final bottled product used up the last of my raspberry shrub! It is a sad day for my liquor cabinet.)

      Also, (I was already telling Izy a little about this above), I really want to try using the burnt sugar syrup in marshmallows in some way — kind of like a smokey swirl. And that would give me a reason to finally make your bourbon marshmallows, because I think that would be an over-the-top combo. Ahh!!

  32. Paige says

    Hi Carey!

    It was great to see you and John at the Pig the other day! Thanks for telling me about this giveaway–the book sounds great. Also, I bet I can guess where you had that mezcal cocktail with the giant smoked ice cube this summer :)

    I have two cocktails to mention for my entry:

    One was actually a cocktail my boyfriend ordered at Death & Co. on my birthday and involves the power of scent, just like the Mezcal Blues. It was the first time I really realized how much I’d learned in a few short months working behind the bar at Prohibition Pig. The drink had just a couple of sprays of a peaty scotch on the chilled glass, and when I went to take a smell and a sip, I recognized it immediately (I’ve never, and honestly still don’t, know much at all about scotch) and was proud of the fact that I could place it so easily.

    The second is a wonder of a drink called the Eight Amaro Sazerac that can be found at Amor y Amargo in New York City (a few doors down from Death & Co., in fact). The drink is (obviously) a play on the original Sazerac, however, 8 different Amari take the place of Rye in the drink, and there is a rinse of Chartreuse on the glass instead of Herbsaint or Absinthe. It was incredible, and I will not give up until I figure out the proportions of Amari to recreate it myself.

    • says

      Hi Paige! It was great to finally see you at the Pig. (I wish we could get down there more often. In the summer we’re out that way a little bit more, since I like to drag Johnny out to Bohemian Bakery in East Calais every weekend. And the Pig is a great pit-stop on the way home!)

      That Eight Amaro Sazerac sounds amazing. (It’s funny how much I used to despise the smell and taste of anything even reminiscent of anise, and how much that has changed [and is still changing] over the past few years.) I also love the idea of using Chartreuse as a rinse. Speaking of rinses, there was this Italian liqueur that my (Italian) ex’s family had called Centerba that I find myself thinking of from time to time since I started learning about cocktails. Back then, I had no idea what anyone would possibly ever use it for, but now that I know what a rinse is :), it seems like it would be interesting to play around with. I have no idea if it’s even available for purchase in the US (and even if it is, I’m not sure I would want to spend a lot of money on it). BUT, I am curious!

  33. Claudia says

    Not terribly exciting, but we tried a Haar Potter themed Goblet of Fire recently. I’d never lit a drink on fire before, so that was exciting!

  34. Jillian says

    Hello! Bourbon neat or with an ice cube is my drink of choice on most occasions but every now and then I splurge on a beverage of more complexity. More recently, I’ve become interested in drink creations inspired by a little ol place in Missoula, Montana- Montgomery Distillery. They have the most delicious cocktails! My favorites, at the moment (they rotate their menu seasonly) are the “Red Dawn”- muddled beets, vodka and lemon thyme syrup and the “Rocky Mountain Flip” – gin, fir-tip juniper syrup, egg white, cardamom bitters, lemon and nutmeg.

    What a fun, useful giveaway! Thank you!!

  35. says

    What a gorgeous cocktail–and a fabulous book! I think my first transcendent cocktail experience was at Heaven’s Dog in SF–my sweetheart made me an Airmail and I realized there was an incredible boozy world to discover!

  36. Ann says

    the best I had recently was a “thai collins” at 5 & 10 in Athens, GA, with thai basil and lime. It could have been that I was going through a green curry faze my own-self and using/falling deeply in love with thai basil I was growing in my own yard. I tried to re-create it at home, with not much success. For that summer, I kept mostly to green curry…maybe next there’ll be some thai collins?

  37. Viper says

    I keep trying to make kombucha (fermented tea! so I guess I’m answering the “oddest cocktail” prompt as well) work in cocktails but to no avail! I’d like to know what Kevin’s suggestions for that might be!

    • says


      I’ve never actually made kombucha myself, but it’s a great road to go down for cocktails. Carey actually pointed me to a great resource on fermentation that she referenced when she was making shrubs. It’s called the art of fermentation by Sandor Katz. I’ve only had time to scan it so far, but it has great reviews and has been getting a lot of buzz.


      • says

        I’ve been meaning to play around with kombucha in cocktails, and your comment is making me want to bump that up on my priority list. I made a ginger tonic a couple weeks ago, and I theorized that it might be good with some rum and mango kombucha, but I haven’t actually gotten around to trying that out yet. Kombucha is a funny thing, since its intensity can vary depending on the other flavors and the person/company brewing it. For stronger, punchier brews, tequila and rum would likely work well and balance out the flavor, without muting it entirely. For weaker brews and mellow flavors, vodka would probably be the way to go. A honey syrup would probably also work well at enhancing the tea qualities of the kombucha, as would a little bit of citrus.

        Also, I’m not sure how much this will delve into mixology, but Emma Christensen has a book coming out in May called True Brews that covers homebrewing of lots of stuff, including kombucha. (I’m so excited about this book, and I’m telling everyone about it every single chance I get!)

  38. Lauren says

    Great post, and a fascinating looking book! I will probably need to get a copy no matter the outcome of the giveaway :) The most interesting cocktail I’ve had recently was on Thanksgiving that a bartender friend of mine made – equal parts Cochi Americano, Bluecoat gin, and cardamaro, with celery bitters and topped with a pickled apple. The pickled apple really added a little extra something special to the cocktail

  39. Cheryl Sammons says

    My favorite is the Whiskey Sour. I can’t wait to try cout the Carmel in it. I love the bitters. Sour is where it has to be. I never even considered other options. Thank you for the suggestions. Awesome!

  40. Allison says

    I’ve only just started getting into cocktails, so that book would be awesome! I’m not sure if it’s the winter, but I currently prefer just drinking bourbon/whiskey neat, or simple cocktails like the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or Sazerac. Although- I did have a pretty good blood orange Sidecar recently…

  41. Pat says

    Excited to try the Burnt Whiskey Sour this weekend & this book looks great too. My latest home concoction is in homage to a recent trip to Amsterdam named “Dutch Forest.” It’s a combination of Bols Corenwyn cask-aged Genever, Clear Creek Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir, and a couple dashes of Fee’s Black Walnut, shaken and served up. (Still working on the right garnish.) Cheers!

  42. Ruf says

    I know i’m not eligible for the contest, as i live in northern Canada. But, the most unique drink ive ever had was some whiskey made from beaver tail.

    I would like to say it was good, but shockingly it was disgusting.

    Very oily and smelly. Long story. Laaaaaater.

  43. says

    Every now and then I’ll find one of those drinks that gets me HYPED in the best way possible. This bar in Fredericksburg, Va has an awesome drink called the Jaeger Tron which is topped with a Red Bull that filters into the rest of the drink as you go. Really cool!

  44. Daniel says

    The most interesting drink I’ve had is a Bliss Swizzle from The Kill Devil Club in Kansas City. The cinnamon bark syrup added an incredibly earthiness to the drink, which added a totally different depth of flavor to the contrasting liquor and fresh-squeezed fruit juices.

  45. Leandro says

    Hey guys, great book!

    I really would love to have it!!!!

    I recently start experimenting with bourbon and rye whiskeys, and do it drinking Old Fashion.

    Per an accident I used light brown sugar instead of sugar an make a amazing diference on the drink!

    As crazy drink I do have to say that Deal Closer and another drink with kale from Apotheke in NY are pretty amazing http://www.apothekenyc.com/prescriptions


  46. Kevin Fitzpatrick says

    Kevin –

    What an AWESOME book! I hope I’m the winner of it.

    I’ve really begun to appreciate the art of mixology and the subtlety of essences, tinctures and aromas. I recently had a chipotle-infused gin-and-tonic that was an explosion of sensations. Bacon seems to be a trendy and widely-used ingredient, and I love the saltiness and smokiness that its inclusion brings.

    Carey, I too love your writing and especially your photography. Please start on that book NOW!


  47. says

    A variation that I enjoy is to start with honey instead of table sugar and caramelize/burn it. I make a big batch of that (like a gallon of honey at a time) to use as a homebrew ingredient. I make an interesting hard cider with the burnt honey as an adjunct sugar (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f81/fat-basset-bochet-cyser-cider-burnt-honey-253733/), but it could be used in cocktails as well. Since the honey has some more depth in the first place, the burnt version is really complex and interesting.

  48. John Price says

    Im in the middle of reading this book right now, it’s fucking AWESOME! So many great recipes, notes, ideas, simple breakdowns, I cannot recommend it enough. I am already thinking about how I have to read it a second time to soak in all the useful info. Great book Kevin, well done!


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