The holidays are just around the corner, and many of our members don’t know how to shake a cocktail. I’m not a bartender, and my only real experience is from a class I took in Waikiki a few years back. However, I’ve done plenty of reading and practicing over the years and learned a thing or two. My goal for this club was for everyone to feel comfortable hosting a get-together in their homes and shaking some really classy drinks for their guests.

I’m going to run through the recipes and the reactions in the next few sections of this blog, but I recommend taking a look at my post from our previous cocktail event for some pointers on preparing an event like this. It’s a bit different than a regular bourbon club. Just a friendly heads up, most of the best recipes I’ve gotten are from Pintrest. It’s not just for crafty moms. It’s also for cocktail dads. If you’re not sure which cocktail recipe to pick, crowd-source your decision. We use Facebook to organize events and there is an option to send out a poll. I’ve gotten really good feedback this way.

Cold Drinks

1. cinnamon-rosemary old fashioned

Here are the ingredients:

Cinnamon Rosemary Simple Syrup

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup water

6 sprigs rosemary

3 cinnamon sticks

For the Cocktail

4 teaspoons cinnamon rosemary simple syrup

3 dashes angostura bitters

2 ounces bourbon

1 orange peel

rosemary sprig for garnish optional


Part of the preparation for this event was making the syrup for this cocktail. If you haven’t ever made simple syrup, have no fear. It is quite possibly the easiest thing you will ever do on a stove-top. For a normal simple syrup, you take one part sugar, one part water, mix it up, and boil it. When you boil it, it will reduce. Reducing is just the water level going down because it turns to steam and leaves the sauce pan. It is done when you can’t see the sugar at the bottom of the pan any more.

Some people will tell you to wait until you are done with the simple syrup, remove it from heat, and then add the other ingredients. I know from making simple syrup I usually lose about 10% to 20% of the water when making it. My method included starting with everything in the pan and then calling it quits when the syrup had reduced about 15%. This worked fine for me and the syrup was delicious.


Some notes:

A peel is not the same as a wedge or slice. The fruit itself will be overpowering and kill all the other flavors in this drink. The peel contains a lot of bitter flavor as opposed to the sweet, acidic juice in the fruit itself.

Twist the peel over the cocktail before you drop it in. This releases the oils in the peel and helps the bitter elements travel through the drink.

You can use a little extra syrup if you want. Some people may not want to taste the whiskey as much as others. For those who are looking for a lighter cocktail, the solution is more sugar.

Cocktails are sweet by nature and often contain more than a standard ounce of liquor. Be sure to remind everyone to go slow with it even though it’s easy to drink. If needed, wait a good 45 minutes before introducing the next drink.

The reaction:

This drink was immensely popular. Even the Baker’s-neat fans who don’t care for sweet drinks really enjoyed this. The rosemary wasn’t overpowering and was barely noticeable. The orange didn’t kill the other flavors. The honey added sweetness without just tasting like sugar. It had the right amount of bitterness and the oaken flavor of the bourbon still came through.

2. Autumn spiced apple whiskey cocktail


1.5 oz whiskey

1/2 oz simple syrup

Juice of half a lemon

1 oz apple cider

1 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 thin slices apple, for garnish

Extra whole cloves for garnish

Some notes:

The 2 thin slices of apple and lemon are key. Something about the apple with lemon really connects, and that combination was hugely successful. It seemed odd to most of us, but after trying it we were glad we did.

The reaction:

This was the big winner of the night. Members were talking about this cocktail for months to come. It tasted great, it was simple to make, and it looked really fancy. If you stuff enough garnish into a a drink without overcrowding it, the glass looks like you put a ton of effort into it. As a cocktail party beverage, this recipe is outstanding.

Hot Drinks

hot toddy

1.5 oz whiskey

1 tsp honey

2 oz boiling water

3 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1 slice lemon

1 pinch ground nutmeg

Some notes:

Make sure every single person drinking this waits a full 5 minutes before drinking. There are 2 reasons to wait.

First, this drink is hot. This should be obvious. However, to someone who just slammed a sweet cocktail, probably with more whiskey than is called for (there’s always one, and at bourbon club there’s usually more than one) this will not be so obvious.

The second reason to wait is that this is basically tea. In fact, I often throw a bag of earl grey tea into my hot toddy with some lemon and honey. I usually make them when I have a cold. If you don’t wait for the water to infuse with the ingredients you will end up with something that just doesn’t taste all that great.

The reaction:

Everyone liked this, but everyone made changes to the recipe. Most people put more bourbon into it because they couldn’t taste it. It’s very possible they couldn’t taste it because this was their third cocktail. It’s also possible the ratio was a little off.

For several people, this was their first ever hot alcoholic beverage. The idea of it may be a little off-putting for some, but even the ones who were unsure at first, after making adjustments to the recipe, really enjoyed it. They even told me they went home and made this recipe for guests at their homes.

American-style Irish coffee

1.5 oz whiskey

6 oz strong, black coffee

tablespoon brown sugar

whipped cream on top

Some notes:

Make your coffee strong, but use flavored coffee. Even the hipsters in your club won’t be admiring the roast of the bean when the coffee is used in a cocktail. I used Trader Joe’s coffee a cocoa because it comes with chocolate already mixed in.

The cream is important! Not everybody is going to go above and beyond like this, but my wife makes home-made whipped cream and that’s what we put on top of our cocktails. It’s not particularly complex to make whipped cream, and if you have a mixer it’s relatively easy. There is no matching it with store-bought whipped cream and it’s worth every ounce of effort that goes into it.

The reaction:

Every once in a while someone asks for coffee at the end of bourbon club, and coffee after dessert is a common enough thing to have in a restaurant. This was the effect we got with this cocktail. The home made whipped cream evened out the very dark coffee I made, and it was a welcome treat.

Irish coffee is wonderful, and it’s my favorite hot adult beverage. Being an American whiskey club, we opted for Bulleit whiskey in lieu of the traditional Jameson you’ll likely get in a restaurant or bar. I think it’s an improvement in just about every way. American-styled Irish coffee was a huge hit!

Grilling (for the foodies)

This month we grilled chicken breast marinated 2 days in a teriyaki garlic sauce my wife made and some portobello mushrooms soaked separately in the same sauce.


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