My upcoming sommelier exam isn’t just about wine. Part of the service exams entails some knowledge of cocktails, liqueurs and spirits. It’s been fun sampling and exploring realms of taste and distillation processes. Some of these cordials are so obscure and old-fashioned that our grandparents are more familiar with them than our generation of infused vodkas, energy drinks and dyed blue “exotic” martinis. A few of my favorites (so far):
Drambuie. Infused whiskey with honey. Sweet as bear bait. I detected a drop of cinnamon oil and almond. Mix this with Scotch and you have a Rusty Nail. Careful with this one–the sweetness beguiles you into ordering another & another. You’ll feel not so sweet the morning after. But try this in a (one) hot toddy during this cold season and see how you feel. Drink it neat and warm up on a cold night.
Looking for something fresh for your next brunch, baby shower or engagement party?
Try St. Germain, fresh berries and some bubbly. St. Germain is made by distilling hand-picked, macerated Elderflower blooms. Sweet as the nectar from the pistil, this smooth, floral liqueur works with vodka-based drinks and martinis. Or sip on it after dinner instead of dessert.
I love digestifs. These are originally inspired by pharmacists to alleviate stomach discomfort after big meals. Fitting that these are mostly European blends that finish off a five or six course meal. These include bitters, herb and plant-based concoctions, including Angostura Bitters, Jagermeister, and Fernet Branca. Ever heard of a Harvey Wallbanger? Get out the vodka, orange juice and dust off the bottle of Galliano. A blend of sweet and herbal flavors with star anise at the center of this libation.
Layers of vanilla, toasted oak and mint add harmony. I like to sip this after dinner, trying to discern the layers of taste.