Category Archives: Bitters

A Mother of a Cocktail

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Needed something to put me at ease after a day spent at the ball park. A Cardinal’s loss and two burnt knees later, I needed a drink.

Went with an improved cocktail.

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It being an all booze drink, I of course stirred it, didn’t want to bruise the booze. I decided to serve myself the drink with a two inch ice cube, in a short single old fashioned, with a cherry on top.

For the spirit I chose the Trybox Series Rye, which is unaged Rittenhouse, clocking in at 125 proof. For the liqueur I went with Maraschino. For the bitters I chose Bitters, Old Men Gangsta Lee’n Bitters. They’re a smokey bacon bitters. Tossed a house cherry in to finish.

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I ended up with a strong, complex, sweet, not just improved, but perfect, cocktail. Just like my mom.

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Summer is here.

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Summer is here, the Cardinals are playing tonight, the Schlafly Farmer’s Market started today, the Masters starts tomorrow, the mercury has hit ninety in the last week, I don’t care what the calendar says, it’s summer, and that means it’s time for more gin, more KMOX Cardinal’s baseball, and more seersucker.

Nothing like sitting on the porch, sipping Aviations, and listening to Mike and John call a Cardinal’s game. I know you’re probably thinking, listening to the game, yes. For one, I can’t spend 162 nights glued to a TV, I need to be doing things around the house. For two, radio is the theatre of the mind, and listening to a game keeps the imagination and mind sharp. For three, Mike and John are the best announcer team in baseball, and I don’t feel like I’m drinking alone when I listen to Mike Shannon call a game.

So,what am I drinking? 20120404-194659.jpg
Tonight I am having my first Aviation of the season. This is my go to drink when the weather gets warm. It’s also my go to drink if I want to test the mustard of a new cocktail lounge. If they have Maraschino and Creme de Violet, they ought to be able to shake one of these up.

This once blew up in my face at 360, the over hyped, douche filled, completely disappointing bar at the top of the Ball Park Hilton across from Busch Stadium. The bartender made me an on the rocks Aviation with way too much Creme de Violet after I simply asked for an Aviation. The barman asked if I liked it, my shock at the fact that there was cubes of ice in my drink kept me from bringing that up, but I was able to mention the fact that my drink was cloyingly sweet. His response, “I usually make these for women.” What? DoIi look like a woman? What does that have to do with the ratio? If you don’t know how to make one, ask the customer, don’t assume anything. It’s a quarter ounce of Creme de Violet , wether or not the patron has a penis or a vagina, unless the customer asks for some other version, never assume they want anything other than a classic. In addition to that, my buddy who asks for Last Words when he sees Maraschino and Chartreuse, asked for a Last Word, and I had to walk the moron barman through the equal parts cocktail. Terrible. That place is a huge disappointment. Why have the liqueurs if all your barmen know how to do is pour a vodka tonic?

Anyway, unlike that no talent ass clown, I’ve made a million Aviations, the right way, but I thought I’d try something new and asked Dr. Adam Elmegirab for some advice on the Twitter, follow me at @AmuseDouche11, follow Dr. Adam at @AdamsBitters, I wanted to know what bitters to try in this traditionally bitterless beverage, so i asked the good Doctor. I wasn’t looking to add sweetness, sorry, still bitter about the 360 experience. Dr. Adam suggested his Spanish Bitters, for more on them click here , they worked wonderfully, and I wasn’t surprised as when it gets warmer Fee Brothers Rhubarb and Peach, Dr. Adam’s Spanish, and Bitter Truth’s Grapefruit are my usual reach fors.

Aviation
2.0 ounces gin
1.0 ounces Maraschino Liqueur
.50 ounces lemon juice
.25 ounces Creme de Violet

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Shake ingredients for twenty five seconds and then double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. I garnish with a strip of lemon.

I went with Dr. Adam’s Spanish Bitters, but could have easily gone with Bar Keep’s Lavendar Spice. It would have accompanied the Creme de Violet nicely.

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Either way, it’s a dynamite cocktail.

I’ve been known to make pitchers of Aviations in preparation for a Cardinal’s game.

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They’re great, but you need to use large cubes so that the drink isn’t diluted to far. You can see I used round ones from a ice sphere mold my boss gave me.

I’ve had Aviations without the Creme de Violet, they aren’t bad, but they lack the beautiful sky like blue color and a bit of sweetness. Go that route if you don’t have the Creme de Violet, but feel like a boozey, yet refreshing, warm weather cocktail. But, go get a bottle, it’s not that pricey checking in at about $25 a bottle, and at .25 an ounce per drink, it’ll take a lot of Aviations to run through a bottle. At one Aviation per Cardinal’s game, you’d go through two bottles on a season, a worthwhile investment. While you’re investing, get some Dr. Adam’s Spanish Bitters at cocktail kingdom or thebostonshaker.com.

There’s no Cardinals baseball tomorrow, but as it’s officially summer in my book, which is the only book that matters, I’ll be rocking the seersucker

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and white bucks,

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to start the new season. I’m sure I’ll also find a reason to have a spot of gin on the porch. The only thing better than seersucker and an Aviation is seersucker and a Mint Julep. The Kentucky Colonel Mint I picked up at the Schlafly Farmer’s Market will help with those later this summer.

#STRAIGHTHEAT

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How to end a good meal?

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I was feeling pretty full after taking down a torta and a taco al pastor or three at my local cantina on Cherokee Street. Even after walking a couple blocks and then driving home my stomach was still feeling a bit distended. What do I reach for? Tums? Pink stuff? Italian herb infused liqueurs? I go with the latter.

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Today I felt like treating my belly right, and pulled a bottle from the private reserve. The opening photo shows Amaro Nonino, my swankiest option. Nonino is a wonderful digestive, but awfully pricey and a bit sweet for my everyday budget and taste. When I do splurge and pour myself a glass, it’s up, ungarnished, and in antique glassware.

The four bottles just above are Averna, Cynar, Fernet-Branca, and Elixer by Bitter Truth. Elixir is closer to a sweet vermouth than the others, but can certainly be enjoyed after dinner.

The other three are your classic digestives. Some may label them Italian bitters, but regardless try are post meal sippers. Averna, made from roasted beets and tasting of coffee and chocolate. Cynar, made from roasted artichokes and being the perfect artichoke delivery system, other than maybe Pasta House salad. And finally, Fernet-Branca, the industry favorite. The Industry Sour at Taste consists in Fernet-Branca, lime, and another industry favorite, Chartreuse. I am not the biggest Fernet-Branca fan. It has too much if a menthol taste in the background, and having never smoked a pack of what I is, or Kools, I’ve never been a fan. I can’t imagine how awful their even more menthol forward, Brana Menta, tastes. Fernet can occasionally be taken in shot form, chased by a ginger beer or ale, it is also mixed with Coca-Cola Classic in some areas. That sounds disgusting to me, but I do love a certain Fernet.

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Luxardo’s version is great, less menthol, and is best enjoyed on a rock with a lemon peal. A cool side note on Fernet-Branca, almost all of the world’s saffron supply goes into it’s production.

Cynar is likely my second favorite and goes well with Bitter Truths Mole Bitters.

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Averna is a bit sweet for me, but goes well in coffee or along side an expresso. In his book Boozehound, Jason Wilson lists the Black Manhattan, a mixture if 2 ounces of rye whiskey and a 3/4 ounce of Averna, married with a dash each of Angostura and orange bitters then garnished with a cherry. Stirred, obviously. This drink is alright, but only useful if for some strange reason a Manhattan Manhattan won’t do.

In the end, I’ll take mine on a rock, with a twist of lemon, or on a rock with a dash of mole bitters.

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So, go grab a bottle, it’ll set you back $25ish, but will be well worth it. Cynar being the best bang for your buck in flavor and approachability, is the one I’d suggest starting with. It also comes in a full liter, which is nice. And next time you have some folks over for dinner, bring out the Cynar, tell the ladies it’s for your health, and pour one more for the road. I find it also goes down great while washing dishes.

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Everyday I’m Bittering

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Bitters are the salt and pepper of your drink. Not sure how many times I’ve heard that one. Its true in that bitters bring out flavors, add complexity in your drinks and tie the components together. The also ARE the difference maker when comparing drinks at home and drinks made by a pro at a bar. Similar to how the use of stock and demi-glacé are the difference makers in comparing restaraunt food and home cooked meals. So maybe bitters are the demi-glacé of your drink, as they elevate a recipe to something you’d actually pay for.

Let’s start using demi-glacé instead of salt and pepper, demi-glacé is a far douchier comparison/metaphor.

I must note that if you free pour you will have an unbalanced drink no matter the use of bitters or quality of your ingredients.

Everyone knows Angostura of Trinidad and most drinkers know Peychaud’s of NOLA fame. Those two are must haves, but I would add Regan’s Orange to that list and if you were to offer four bitters I’d go with Boker’s.

The first three are available at most fine grocers and certainly any liquor store worth it’s salt. Boker’s isn’t. You have a couple options on this, make your own or buy Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s version, also available at Cocktail Kingdom , my go to for difficult to find cocktail related gear and ingredients.

I own Dr. Adams Spanish Bitters and Dandelion and Burdock bitters. They run you about $25 a pop. I made my own Boker’s because I could and didn’t want to drop another $25 into Dr. Adam’s limey pocket. He’s based out of England and I am a Patriot.

Therefore I needed a recipe to make my own. If you don’t own a copy of David Wondrich’s Imbibe I suggest you buy it, both for it’s history of the cocktail and individual cocktails and for the authentic recipes. The Joy of Mixology is the other must have. In Imbibe Wondrich gives an excellent recipe that you can tinker with as far as quantities.

BOKER’S BITTERS
1.5 Oz Quassia
1.5 Oz Calamus
1.5 Oz Catechu
1.0 Oz Cardamom
2.0 Oz Dried Orange Peel

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Macerate for ten days in a half gallon of over proofed rum, such as Trader Vic’s from The Wine and Cheese Place. You can then add water to get whatever proof you wish. I don’t add any as I want my bitters strong.

Some may suggest adding the cardamom a day or two into the maceration process as it tends to overpower in flavor. These seemingly rare ingredients are readily available at Cheryl’s Herbs on Manchester just west of McCausland.

So, now you have all you truly need, but you’ve probably seen a lot more then these four at your local cocktail bar or liquor store. Mole, peach, hops, cherry, mint, etc. Why do they have these? It’s the same reason Anchorman enjoyed the smell of mahogany and leather bound books. It’s to make you want them or think that those who have them are somehow above you. I’ve got a lot of wood, books and bitters myself.

Though not necessary at home they can be fun to play with and though not necessary at the bar they help you know that the bar your at at least has the ingredients to make a good drink and I personally love the aesthetics of having them all lined up at the bar as seen here at Root Down in Denver.

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Three more bitters I’d buy, but aren’t must haves, are Tiki, Rhubarb and Mole. First, I’d buy Bittermens ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters, great stuff. Just wonderful in summer rum drinks like the Baguio Skin.

Fee Brothers makes a great Rhubarb bitters. It’s an excellent way to add some sweetness and that funky rhubarb flavor. It can be too sweet if you add too much, but when using sparingly can be a great additive to rye or bourbon.

The above mentioned Bitter Truth Mole Bitters is another great addition to a home bar. Using it is like adding the essence of bitter-sweet chocolate. It’s adding that essence and no sweetness that makes their product shine. And is also what I love about my house made varieties.

Even with all the bitters I have, the one bittering flavor I longed for, but couldn’t find was ginger. I wanted to add ginger without adding sweetness. I tried using Canton, but it is far too sweet for my palate and doesn’t add enough gingery heat. So, I took some fresh grated, dried cracked and powdered ginger, added a allspice berry or two and some lemon peal with a pint of 151 and let it sit. After two weeks I strained it with a coffee filter and added more cracked ginger and let it sit for two more weeks. Add as much ginger as you want. In a pint jar I probably had an inch of solids at the bottom. What I was left with was exactly what I was searching for. A spicey, gingery, dry bitters to perfect the following two recipes;

IT’S A FALL DAY
1.5 Oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1.0 Oz Drambuie
0.5 Oz Lemon Juice or Aperol
4.0 Drops Ginger Bitters

If using Aperol, combine in stirring pitcher with ice, stir 25 times, strain into coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. If using lemon then shake the drink.

Working a bit of Allspice or Pimento Dram into this equation is a nice option. Or just a dash or two of Angostura.
20120122-162357.jpg
The drinks name came from a song my sister and I used to sing that my mom always brings up when its a fall day. The drink recipe came from me working with Esquire Magazine’s Aperol based formula. They use Aperol as a bittering agent. This is popular with other Italian bitters, Amaros, and Avernas. My favorite being Cynar, but the industry’s favorite being Fernet-Branca, I actually prefer Luxardo’s Fernet, less Menthol. That’s all for another blog.

The other drink is the El Diablito, my shrinking of the long/tall drink the El Diablo into a short cocktail. Long drinks just aren’t my thing.

EL DIABLITO
2.0 Oz Reposado Tequila (Espalon)
.50 Oz Creme de Cassis
.50 Lime Juice
5.0 Drops Ginger Bitters

Combine in Boston Shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 25 seconds, double strain with your normal strainer and a tea strainer and serve with a grape fruit twist.

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The two most commonly seen bitters at the bar are Angostura and Peychaud’s, but Fee Brothers and Bitter Truth are the top brands for your “flavored” bitters. Many prefer Bitter Truth because they are alcohol based as opposed to glycerin and because they are dryer and are more complex. Fee Brothers are much cheaper, but tend to be too sweet for my palate. The difference is $5 per bottle on FB and $15 per on BT.

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I have a collection of each brand. I’d like to acquire BT’s Lemon and their Celery bitters. My most recent purchase was Black Walnut by FB and I’ve been happy with it and look forward to using it this summer with ginger beer based concoctions.

Along with the Boker’s and Ginger Bitters I’ve also made a few other bitters.

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The Christmas bitters is the same formula with a lot of baking spices and some 151. I used the Boker’s recipe minus the cardamom and orange. The other ingredients in the Boker’s add the bittering flavor and help tround out what you add to make it “X” bitters. The Fruit Loop bitters are heavy on the cardamom and fruit peels, more of an experiment.

You will find with different base spirits, different bitters are best. Boker’s with gin, Spanish with wood aged spirits, hops and grapefruit with Tequila. BT’s Mole works well with a lot of spirits. I love it in Cynar. The FB options, especially the peach, are good when used to soak a sugar cube with before you then toss it in a St. Germaine coated champagne flute and then fill with champagne. That’s as good as a Kir Royal or some funky cold medina when it comes to the ladies. FB’s cherry adds something to a Manhattan and FB’s mint to a Julep, but depending on the drinker, what they add may be a bit too sweet or overpowering. Use FB’s offerings conservatively. You can’t take them out once you’ve dashed them in.

In the end, embrace bitters, use them liberally, and help bring your at home cocktail to the level of an at the lounge cocktail. It’s also a nice piece to add when taking pictures of your concoction for Facebook, they really tie together and add complexity to the photo as well.

Tagged ,

Everyday I’m Bittering

20120122-163045.jpg
Bitters are the salt and pepper of your drink. Not sure how many times I’ve heard that one. It’s true in that bitters bring out flavors, add complexity in your drinks, and tie the components together. Like The Dude’s rug. They also ARE the difference maker when comparing drinks at home and drinks made by a pro at a bar. Similar to how the use of stock and demi-glacé are the difference makers in comparing restaraunt food and home cooked meals. So maybe bitters are the demi-glacé of your drink, as they elevate a recipe to something you’d actually pay for.

Let’s start using demi-glacé instead of salt and pepper, demi-glacé is a far douchier comparison/metaphor.

I must note that if you free pour you will have an unbalanced drink no matter the use of bitters or quality of your ingredients. MEASURE!

Everyone knows Angostura of Trinidad and most drinkers know Peychaud’s of NOLA fame. Those two are must haves, but I would add Regan’s Orange to that list and if you were to offer four bitters I’d go with Boker’s.

The first three are available at most fine grocers and certainly any liquor store worth it’s salt. Boker’s isn’t. You have a couple options on this, make your own or buy Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s version, also available at Cocktail Kingdom , my go to for difficult to find cocktail related gear and ingredients.

I own Dr. Adams Spanish Bitters and Dandelion and Burdock bitters. They run you about $25 a pop. I made my own Boker’s because I could and didn’t want to drop another $25 into Dr. Adam’s limey pocket. He’s based out of England and I am a Patriot.

Therefore I needed a recipe to make my own. If you don’t own a copy of David Wondrich’s Imbibe I suggest you buy it, both for it’s history of the cocktail and individual cocktails and for the authentic recipes. The Joy of Mixology is the other must have. In Imbibe Wondrich gives an excellent recipe that you can tinker with as far as quantities.

BOKER’S BITTERS
1.5 Oz Quassia
1.5 Oz Calamus
1.5 Oz Catechu
1.0 Oz Cardamom
2.0 Oz Dried Orange Peel

20120122-162806.jpg
Macerate for ten days in a half gallon of over proofed rum, such as Trader Vic’s from The Wine and Cheese Place. You can then add water to get whatever proof you wish. I don’t add any as I want my bitters strong.

Some may suggest adding the cardamom a day or two into the maceration process as it tends to overpower in flavor. These seemingly rare ingredients are readily available at Cheryl’s Herbs on Manchester just west of McCausland.

So, now you have all you truly need, but you’ve probably seen a lot more then these four at your local cocktail bar or liquor store. Mole, peach, hops, cherry, mint, etc. Why do they have these? It’s the same reason Anchorman enjoyed the smell of mahogany and leather bound books. It’s to make you want them or think that those who have them are somehow above you. I’ve got a lot of wood, books and bitters myself.

Though not necessary at home they can be fun to play with and though not necessary at the bar they help you know that the bar your at at least has the ingredients to make a good drink and I personally love the aesthetics of having them all lined up at the bar as seen here at Root Down in Denver.

20120122-181115.jpg

Three more bitters I’d buy, but aren’t must haves, are Tiki, Rhubarb and Mole. First, I’d buy Bittermens ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters, great stuff. Just wonderful in summer rum drinks like the Baguio Skin.

Fee Brothers makes a great Rhubarb bitters. It’s an excellent way to add some sweetness and that funky rhubarb flavor. It can be too sweet if you add too much, but when using sparingly can be a great additive to rye or bourbon.

The above mentioned Bitter Truth Mole Bitters is another great addition to a home bar. Using it is like adding the essence of bitter-sweet chocolate. It’s adding that essence and no sweetness that makes their product shine. And is also what I love about my house made varieties.

Even with all the bitters I have, the one bittering flavor I longed for, but couldn’t find was ginger. I wanted to add ginger without adding sweetness. I tried using Canton, but it is far too sweet for my palate and doesn’t add enough gingery heat. So, I took some fresh grated, dried cracked and powdered ginger, added a allspice berry or two and some lemon peal with a pint of 151 along with many of the components of the Boker’s bitters and let it sit. After two weeks I strained it with a coffee filter and added more cracked ginger and let it sit for two more weeks. Add as much ginger as you want. In a pint jar I probably had an inch of solids at the bottom. What I was left with was exactly what I was searching for. A spicey, gingery, dry bitters to perfect the following two recipes;

IT’S A FALL DAY
1.5 Oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1.0 Oz Drambuie
0.5 Oz Lemon Juice or Aperol
4.0 Drops Ginger Bitters

If using Aperol, combine in stirring pitcher with ice, stir 25 times, strain into coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. If using lemon then shake the drink.

Working a bit of Allspice or Pimento Dram into this equation is a nice option. Or just a dash or two of Angostura.
20120122-162357.jpg
The drinks name came from a song my sister and I used to sing that my mom always brings up when its a fall day. The drink recipe came from me working with Esquire Magazine’s Aperol based formula. They use Aperol as a bittering agent. This is popular with other Italian bitters, Amaros, and Avernas. My favorite being Cynar, but the industry’s favorite being Fernet-Branca, I actually prefer Luxardo’s Fernet, less Menthol. That’s all for another blog.

The other drink is the El Diablito, my shrinking of the long/tall drink the El Diablo into a short cocktail. Long drinks just aren’t my thing.

EL DIABLITO
2.0 Oz Reposado Tequila (Espalon)
.50 Oz Creme de Cassis
.50 Lime Juice
5.0 Drops Ginger Bitters

Combine in Boston Shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 25 seconds, double strain with your normal strainer and a tea strainer and serve with a grape fruit twist.

20120122-162254.jpg

The two most commonly seen bitters at the bar are Angostura and Peychaud’s, but Fee Brothers and Bitter Truth are the top brands for your “flavored” bitters. Many prefer Bitter Truth because they are alcohol based as opposed to glycerin and because they are dryer and are more complex. Fee Brothers are much cheaper, but tend to be too sweet for my palate. The difference is $5 per bottle on FB and $15 per on BT.

20120122-163440.jpg
I have a collection of each brand. I’d like to acquire BT’s Lemon and their Celery bitters. My most recent purchase was Black Walnut by FB and I’ve been happy with it and look forward to using it this summer with ginger beer based concoctions.

Along with the Boker’s and Ginger Bitters I’ve also made a few other bitters.

20120122-163715.jpg
The Christmas bitters is the same formula with a lot of baking spices and some 151. I used the Boker’s recipe minus the cardamom and orange. The other ingredients in the Boker’s add the bittering flavor and help round out what you add to make it “X” bitters. The Fruit Loop bitters are heavy on the cardamom and fruit peels, more of an experiment.

You will find with different base spirits, different bitters are best. Boker’s with gin, Spanish with wood aged spirits, hops and grapefruit with Tequila. BT’s Mole works well with a lot of spirits. I love it in Cynar. Just as certain bitters wok well with certain spirits, certain spirits work well when making certain bitters. 151 is what I use when I’m going to have baking spices in the mix. If it’s an herbal formula, I reach for some white dog rye. I don’t used everclear or vodka. I don’t make drinks with those products, so why let them sneak in through my bitters.

The FB options, especially the peach, are good when used to soak a sugar cube with before you then toss it in a St. Germaine coated champagne flute and then fill with champagne. That’s as good as a Kir Royal or some funky cold medina when it comes to the ladies. FB’s cherry adds something to a Manhattan and FB’s mint to a Julep, but depending on the drinker, what they add may be a bit too sweet or overpowering. Use FB’s offerings conservatively. You can’t take them out once you’ve dashed them in.

In the end, embrace bitters, use them liberally, and help bring your at home cocktail to the level of an at the lounge cocktail. It’s also a nice piece to add when taking pictures of your concoction for Facebook, they really tie together and add complexity to the photo as well as the glass.

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