Love the emerging artisanal distillers

Here is a story from the Charlotte Observer about a new Gin from North Carolina made in a former textile mill….

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Vodka infusions

Initially I was not impressed with the idea of flavored vodkas, seemed all to frou-frou and contrived, and many of them are, but as we put aside pride and assumptions we can be surprised.

Vanilla-flavored vodka was my first tepid venture, and I survived. In fact I started thinking about many of my assumptions on cocktails, and started experimenting with a variety of flavors. While they were not always to my liking, it was fun, and I have branched out the tasting experiments to a range of spirits and flavors.

For me, the fact that all these infused vodkas looked exactly the same as straight vodka was unappealing, and I have started to make my own infusions.

The first experiment was with vanilla vodka, and it has been a hit. I take a bottle of vodka, generally Stoylichnaya (because I like the name, the bottle, and am comfortable with the price,) add a couple of vanilla beans from Costco and leave the vodka out on the bar for a couple of weeks. The result, an amber-colored spirit with a rich vanilla nose. I leave the bottle in the wine fridge by the bar. Recently, I took an empty half-gallon bottle of Grey Goose and filled it with six or seven vanilla beans and vodka, and have left it on the bar as decoration. I use it to top up the regular bottles. I add more vodka to the mix as the level allows, and add a vanilla bean about once every six weeks. It seems to be working.

I like the color, it looks good, the nose is richer and more full than the packaged vanilla vodka. I prefer my own, it’s fun, but the infused vodkas are excellent as well.

I now use the vanilla vodka in quite a few recipes.

Last weekend I decided to try something different and put about two inches of crushed red chili flakes in a vodka bottle. I left it on the bar for two days and strained the vodka through cheese cloth. Man, it’s intense. The color is a translucent pimento red, the heat is fantastic — a little will go a long way — and the first cocktail I made with it was excellent. I have one more tasting of the cocktail tonight, and if it passes I’ll post about it.

Emboldened by this “success” I am branching out. Today I put cocoa nibs into a bottle; we’ll see how it works.

Love to hear about your experiments.


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Recipe Updates – Chocolate Martini

I originally concocted the Chocolate Martini for Carol in 2009 using the Godiva Original Dark Chocolate Liqueur. Godiva in their wisdom changed their formula for that liqueur and, while the new formula still works for making the chocolate martini the texture, color and consistency are very different from what I intended.

I wanted to make this a dark chocolate martini, no creamy taste or texture, and after some searching I have found an excellent substitute for the old Godiva, Trader Vic’s Chocolate Liqueur. It tastes very similarly and is a bit less expensive.

I’ve talked to several of you about making the chocolate martini with new Godiva formula and there seems to be no problem, so just make a note in your book about the choice you’ve got now between a dark chocolate martini with the Trader Vic’s or a chocolate martini with the Godiva.


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Register your Luxury Edition

Merry Christmas! And Happy Holidays!

Those of you that bought or received the luxury edition this holiday season, thank you!

I just finished making an Old-Fashioned, cheers, to use up some of the oranges my aunt sent from Florida (she is very thoughtful about my needs for garnish.) And we are debating on how early we will start on the egg nog in the morning – I think 10 is not too early… before heading out to dinner here in Sun Valley.

I hope you will register your copy with us so that I can send you updates, corrections, and as new editions are published the new recipes to add to your personal copy if you want.

Send me an email to with your book number and your contact information.

When you register I’ll immediately send you a copy of the pocket edition of Frank’s Little Black Bar Book to carry with you. The pocket edition will fit in your shirt pocket, or inside jacket pocket and includes all the recipes in the luxury edition without the commentary. I’ve found that invariably my memory flags just as I sit at the bar and this pocket edition is a great help in my advancing years.

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Prep work

A few years ago I decided that I was tired of the same old, same old.

So we dusted off an old tradition and started enjoying the cocktail hour. This was at the beach, and we generally have a rotating crowd of house guests, so cocktail hour became a participatory sport. We ended up throwing away a lot of our efforts, but we also found some great old recipes and invented some new ones.

As soon as we settled on that evening’s cocktail, we mixed up a pitcher and loaded up on the boat for our cocktail cruise, and so sprang our signature for evenings at the beach.

“Darn!” (As in it’s a damn shame that we have to be here doing this!)

We ended up with 15-20 solid cocktails from that summer and enjoyed many of them (and added a few more) during the chillier months back in Nashville. And cocktails became a tradition for when folks came to visit.

The following summer the tradition blossomed and grew into a continuing topic of conversation, and we added more cocktails to our list.

When Christmas rolled around I drew our future son-in-law’s name for the handmade gift. As we were weaning ourselves from a wine-centric view of drinking, Tom, who was raised in Liverpool and lives with one of our daughters in London, was beginning to branch out from beer; so a bar guide seemed like an enterprising gift.

I had a blast writing up our experiences and researching cocktail recipes. I learned a lot and realized how much about spirits and cocktails that I had no clue about.

I came up with a bar book design that can be expanded, personalized and used. I wanted it to be nice enough to be appreciated and flexible enough for Tom, or me, to add notes and ideas.

It seemed to work, and when we launched our publishing company last year, we decided to publish it for others.

We published Frank’s Little Black Bar Book, Luxury Edition (marketing department added that last bit) and are selling it through specialty stores here in Nashville and in Southern Pines, NC. It is in a limited edition, all signed and numbered.

We’ll be adding a registration to this blog and you’ll be able to receive corrections, updates and new recipes.

And thought I would use a blog to chat about and gather new cocktail recipes. Cocktails are about having fun with friends and family, and celebrating the vast variety of spirits and flavors that our cultures have developed over the past several thousand years.

I look forward to hearing from you.


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