Swig & Swill

The Coconaut

Westervin: The Coconaut


Sometimes, when winter feels relentless, you just need a tropical drink. Here’s our current favorite tiki cocktail. It’s really easy to make as long as you have a blender.

The Coconaut

8oz Coconut Cream

7oz Jamaican rum (we used Appleton)

2oz of fresh lime juice

Add all of that to a blender with ice, blend, and serve. It makes quite a bit, so we usually halve the recipe for two drinks.


In no time, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a tropical isle. Also, check out that awesome coconut mug that Sarah got me for Christmas. If you’d like one of your own, have a look at retroplanet.com.

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Swig & Swill: Brewing Coffee

I’m a bit of a coffee tinkerer. I don’t like getting into too much of a routine with my brew. Switching between a Chemex and an Aeropress creates a lot of variety. Both yield different results, yet neither is necessarily better.

You can also get a lot of variety from just changing how you brew a pot of Chemex coffee, and even more so with the Aeropress. It’s fun to try different things yourself, but it’s also pretty helpful to see how others go about brewing. Enter: brewmethods.com. Brew Methods is a great resource for coffee brewing recipes for those who are always searching for the best or wanting to change it up.

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The Hippocrene

the hippocrene

I was recently lucky enough to be asked by the fine folks at the Poetry Foundation to whip up a fancy-pants cocktail to celebrate 100 years of Poetry magazine. The cocktail was to be called the Hippocrene after the mythological fountain created by Pegasus. After much experimentation and some very helpful taste-testers, I ended up with:

The Hippocrene


  • 1 1/4 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounce ginger liqueur (domaine de canton)
  • 1/2 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon mint tea (brewed at double strength) and chilled
  • 2 ounces dry, sparkling wine
  • Fresh basil, for garnish
  • Dash or two grapefruit bitters


Single glass preparation:

Combine all ingredients except sparkling wine, basil, and bitters (if using) in a mixing glass over ice. Stir and strain into a glass and top with remaining ingredients.

Punch preparation:

Combine all ingredients (in greater quantities) except sparkling wine, basil and bitters in an adequately sized serving bowl, along with some large blocks of ice. It’s best to let this mixture chill and dilute a little while before adding everything else, but if time is short, it could be refrigerated beforehand and water (sparkling or still) can be added along with the rest of the ingredients at service time. The basil should still be added directly to the glass, as it is the aroma and not necessarily the flavor that you’re after. It would also be nice to garnish the mixing bowl with some citrus slices, for color and a generally vigorous appearance.



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The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger: tequila, rosé, and lemon cocktail

We’ve finally been enjoying some bright, summery(ish) weather here in Chicago, and we found that the best way to celebrate is with a refreshing afternoon cocktail. Obv. If you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth, you’ll love The Lone Ranger, which can really pack a sugary punch, depending on the the rosé, syrup levels, and garnishes you choose.

The Lone Ranger

1.5 oz Silver tequila

1 oz Lemon Juice

.5 oz Rich simple syrup (two parts sugar, one part water)

2 oz Brut rosé sparkling wine

Garnish: a few mint leaves and a cherry

Glass: collins

(from Liquor.com)

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Moonshine Cocktails

moonshine hillbilly arnold palmer cocktail

While we were in Gatlinburg on our Dollymoon, we stopped by the Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler to check out the distillery operation and sample some shine. Lemon Drop was one of our favorite flavored moonshines that we tried. If you mix it with iced tea you get a hillbilly Arnold Palmer, which seems like it’s about the perfect simple summer cocktail. We like to add about two shots of the lemon moonshine to a mason jar filled with ice and then fill the rest with tea and a lemon slice. Adding some mint is pretty tasty, too.

moonshine tropicália cocktail

Now if you can’t get to Gatlinburg to pick up some of the flavored Old Smoky Moonshine, you may still be able to find their original moonshine in your area. This stuff is made with 80% corn and comes out at 100 proof. While it definitely has an interesting flavor too it, I was surprised how much the aroma reminded me of Cachaça. I thought I’d try to adapt a recipe and see what happened.

Tropicália Moonshine Punch

1 good chunk of pineapple
3 sprigs of mint
1/2 oz basil lime syrup*
2oz Original Old Smoky Moonshine
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash grapefruit bitters
bottle of Limonata or lemon-lime soda

Add all the ingredients except soda to a mixing glass and muddle, add ice and shake. Strain into an ice filled highball glass and top with soda. Garnish with a lime wheel.

This recipe is a modified version of Primo Avenue Punch from Bitters, and I was pleasantly surprised how well it turned out. The flavor of the moonshine holds up to everything, and it really makes for a nice summer cocktail.

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Pegu Club Cocktail

The Pegu Club was a gentelman’s club for British officers in Burma, which was set up in the late 1800′s. The signature drink of the club is the now classic Pegu Club Cocktail, which for one reason or another I had never made. But with the weather heating up, it seemed like a good time to give it a go. If you’re a gin fan, I’d suggest you try it as well.

Pegu Club Cocktail

2 oz London Dry Gin

3/4 oz Orange Curaçao

1/2 oz fresh lime juice

1 dash Angostura

1 dash orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lime twist.

(from Bitters: A Spirited History)

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Seelbach Cocktail

With the Kentucky Derby just around the corner, it’s not too early to dust off your mint julep recipes to make sure they’ve still got it. What’s that? You’re afraid you’ll catch mint julep fatigue before the big day? Never fear. Just work the classic Seelbach cocktail into your derby repertoire. The Seelbach was created in 1917 at the famed Louisville hotel of the same name. If you happen to like manhattans and champagne more than mint, this may end up being your derby cocktail of choice.

  • 1 oz. bourbon
  • 1/2 oz. Cointreau
  • 7 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 7 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • Champagne

Add all ingredients except Champagne to a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir and strain into a coupe and top with chilled Champagne and a lemon peel.

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Whiskey Rock-A-Roller

As I happened to mention last week, Sarah and I have been working our way through some Las Vegas cocktails from Saveur. After the success of the Blueberry Basil Margarita, we decided to try a variation of the “Whiskey Rock-A-Roller.” We didn’t have any strawberry liqueur on hand, so we substituted St. Germain and a dash of Grand Marnier. I’m sure the original is great, but this elderflower version worked out pretty well, too. Sarah also ended up liking it, and anytime she can get behind a whiskey cocktail, you know you are on to something.

Whiskey Flower Rock

2 tbsp. sugar
5 raspberries
3 oz. Rye
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. St Germain
1 dash of Grand Marnier
4 dashes rhubarb bitters
1 sprig mint

Muddle the sugar and four of the raspberries in a shaker. Add everything else except for the mint and the bonus raspberry. Shake over ice. Strain into an ice-filled glass and garnish with a healthy sprig of mint and a raspberry or two.

based off of the Whiskey Rock-A-Roller

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Blueberry Basil Margarita

Blueberry Basil Margarita


With Spring upon us, it’s time to turn away from winter warmers and to start tippling warm weather fare. Think Juleps and fizzes. Luckily, Saveur has a roundup of some of Las Vegas’s best cocktails, many of which are particularly suited to warmer weather. Sarah and I were particularly drawn to the Blueberry Basil Margarita. Fair warning, this is a Las Vegas-sized drink.

Blueberry Basil Margarita from Patricia Richards

2 oz. fresh lime juice
1½ oz. fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp. sugar
3 oz. fresh blueberries
4 basil leaves, plus 1 sprig
3 oz. reposado tequila
1½ oz. Grand Marnier
1 oz. agave syrup


Boil juices and sugar in a small saucepan until sugar dissolves; cool. Pour syrup into a shaker with all but 4 blueberries and the basil leaves; crush with a spoon. Add tequila, Grand Marnier, and agave. Fill with ice, and shake. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice; garnish with remaining blueberries and basil.

via Saveur

Make sure to read the full article, too. It’s got quite a few tasty drinks. I think the Libertine will be next for us.

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World Party Day: Margarita Jello Shots

Nothing says “party” like jello shots, right? Well, maybe that’s more “college party.” Let’s try again. Nothing says “party” like a crafted gelatin preparation with homemade bitters and infused rye, right? Well, maybe that’s more of a “bourgeois hipster party with artisinal pickles and such.”

margarita jello shots in lemon slices

While both of these can be great, wouldn’t it be even better if we could combine them? Here’s our proposal: top shelf margarita in a jello shot. No preflavored jello, we’re going to be squeezing some limes ourselves. This gelatin will be equally at home in the casual cofines of college or amongst the disposable income set.

colored margarita jello shots

Following the wisdom Gary Reagan’s Joy of Mixology (and if you haven’t been following Gary, I suggest you do) we learn that alcohol + gelatin has been around since at least the mid-1800s, and you can make just about any old-timey cocktail or punch into gelatin if you are careful to adjust the levels of citrus, sugar, and water. Citrus becomes amplified, so it’s a good idea to cut it and/or add some extra sugar. If you are planning on using a cocktail that would have been shaken or stirred over ice, you’ll need to compensate for the water. Reagan suggests calculating the total number of ounces of liquid in a cocktail and using as much extra water as a third of that number. If you’re trying something new, I’d suggest starting with a small batch. You’ll probably have to make a few.

ingredients for margarita jello shots

Not interested in creating endless batches of subpar gelatin. Don’t worry. We’ve got a top-shelf margarita recipe right here:

1oz fresh lime juice
1oz simple syrup
1oz water
1 package unflavored gelatin (1/4 oz)
3oz white tequila
2oz triple sec
food coloring (you’ll probably want some excitement, right?)

Place the lime juice, simple syrup, and water in a small glass mesuring cup, and add the gelatin. Allow this to sit for one minute, then microwave the mixture on high for thirty seconds. Stir thoroughly to make sure that all the gelatin has dissolved, then add the tequila, triple sec, and food coloring. Stir thoroughly again and pour the mixture into a mold. Refrigerate for at least one hour or, preferably, overnight.

cored lemons filled with margarita jello

To make the snazzy lemon peel jello shots, you’ll need a handful of large lemons. We had three total, but you might use more for larger parties. Start by cutting the lemons in half, then scraping out the inside, trying to remove as much pith as pothible. Next, we placed each of the empty halves upright on a cookie sheet and filled them with the liquid jello/drink mixture. You may want to use pieces of crumpled tinfoil as supports to keep the lemon halves upright.Then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

slicing margarita jello shot lemon wedges

After the jello has… well… jello-ed, slice the halves into thirds. And bam! You’ve got lemon slice jello shots! These margarita slices are especially tasty sprinkled with a bit of sugar.

dyed margarita jello shots in lemon wedges

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