Brian » Wonderland Kitchen
Browsing All Posts By


Mixing Islay: The Coal Fire Cocktail

The Coal Fire Cocktail - Wonderland Kitchen

At home, I’ve been on a bit of a single malt scotch kick recently. The smokier and peatier the better. Maybe it’s the time of year, but right now there is nothing more satisfying to me than 2 ounces of peaty, smoky, and briny Isaly scotch. It could also be that I’m just projecting our desire for a wood burning fireplace in our living room into my glass. But let’s not get too psychoanalytic.

Though single malts are best taken neat with just a few drops of water, I simply couldn’t resist trying to find a way to get those flavors into a cocktail. If you think you would like the taste of the last log in the fireplace, burned all the way down, embers ashy yet aglow, then this cocktail is definitely for you. That description pretty much sums it up. The recipe calls for Ardbeg 10, but any smoky and peaty Islay single malt—like a Lagavulin 16 or Laphroaig Quarter Cask—would certainly make an acceptable substitute. Sláinte!

Coal Fire

1 1/2 oz. Pikesville Rye
1/2 oz. Ardbeg 10 Year Islay Single Malt Scotch
1/2 oz. Taylor Madeira Wine
1/2 oz. Grade B Maple Syrup
1/4 tsp. Los Nahaules Mezcal Joven
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Flamed orange peel for garnish

Combine the rye, scotch, Madeira, maple syrup, mezcal, and bitters in a mixing glass. Stir with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Flame an orange peel and drop it in for garnish.

Champagne Cocktails for Valentine’s Day

Champagne Cocktails for Valentine's Day

The devil is in the details. An idiom, a truism, and something I firmly believe. It’s the little things—the subtleties—that make something truly sparkle and definitely very sexy. And when it comes to champagne cocktails, for me, at least, subtlety is key. If I’ve got good bubbles, I want to taste them. But just the right amount of subtle accent can take a flute of champagne to a whole other level. I created this trio of distinct champagne cocktails in honor of Valentine’s Day with the hope that you can take your love to the next level. Cheers.

Champagne Cocktail: French Kiss
A riff on the classic French 75, French Kiss is the lightest of the three champagne cocktails presented here. A subtle sweetness from the St-Germain and spice from the ginger liqueur mingle with herbaceous, sour, and dry, adding a surprising layer to this “fruit-on-the-bottom” drink.

French Kiss

1 oz. Plymouth Gin
1/4 oz. Lemon Juice
1/4 oz. St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 barspoon Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
4 oz. Moët & Chandon Imperial Champagne
Lemon twist for garnish

Place a sugar cube in a champagne flute. Combine the gin, lemon juice, St-Germain, and ginger liqueur in a mixing glass. Shake with cracked ice and strain into the champagne flute. Top with the champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.

Champagne Cocktail: Rich and Famous
My personal favorite of the bunch, Rich and Famous is at least half of its name. Hopefully the famous part will follow.

Rich and Famous

1 oz. Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac
1/2 oz. Bénédictine
1/4 oz. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
3 1/2 oz. Moët & Chandon Imperial Champagne
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 demerara sugar cube

Place a demerara sugar cube in a champagne flute and drench with the bitters. Combine the cognac, Bénédictine, and allspice dram in a mixing glass. Stir with ice and strain into the champagne flute. Top with the champagne.

Champagne Cocktail: Difficult Loves
A trinity of Italian ingredients come together in this bitter but savory champagne cocktail, named in honor of Italian writer Italo Calvino’s short story collection of the same name.

Difficult Loves

1/2 oz. Cynar
1/2 oz. Carpano Antica Formula
1/2 oz. Cocchi Americano
4 oz. Moët & Chandon Imperial Champagne
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 sugar cube
Orange twist for garnish

Combine the Cynar, Carpano Antica, and Cocchi Americano in a mixing glass. Stir with ice and strain into the champagne flute. Top with champagne and garnish with an orange twist.

Champagne Cocktails

Award Winning: Lonely Angel No. 35

Lonely Angel #35

A cocktail is always infinitely more compelling to me if it has an interesting story to accompany it. And of the original recipes I’ve created, Lonely Angel No. 35, a Negroni variation that uses the French St-Germain elderflower liqueur, definitely takes the cake in the story department.

I created this drink on the night of Thursday, October 4, 2012. It was my birthday. But it was a birthday night devoid of the usual birthday accoutrements. There was no cake. There was no dinner out at a restaurant (or an exquisitely prepared feast at home). No friends or family around to celebrate, as Molly was in NYC on business. Boo-hoo, right? I wasn’t even home for most of the evening myself as I had performed a concert earlier that night. So when I arrived back at home at 10:30 p.m. that night, I decided that I’d fix myself a drink. Always up for an experiment, I decided to mix a variation on my beloved Negroni.

My choice of ingredients was influenced as much by what we currently had on the shelf as by the disappointment I was still nursing after learning that my cocktail The French Intervention wasn’t eligible for Martha Stewart and St-Germain’s Fifth Annual Can-Can Classic Cocktail Competition because it didn’t feature enough St-Germain. The contest rules–which I originally neglected to read, of course–specified that submitted drinks needed to include 1 oz. of St-Germain; The French Intervention only uses 1/2 oz. A Negroni variation, I thought, could be the perfect showcase for that volume of the liqueur as long as the other ingredients could stand up to it.

I chose Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon in place of the gin and Cynar instead of Campari to shade it more towards the mellow side. The coup de grâce, however, was my decision to float four dashes of Angostura for an initial added kick of bitterness. That simple tweak makes the drink. If you know St-Germain, you know that it finishes strong. So putting the Angostura front and center sets up a really neat effect and balances the drink as it progresses across the palate.

I ended up submitting this drink to the Can-Can Classic Cocktail Competition and promptly forgot that I had. That is until two weeks ago when I received emails from both St-Germain and Martha Stewart Living. Though Lonely Angel No. 35 wasn’t the grand prize winner, it was chosen as a runner up. As a prize I received a bottle of St-Germain as well as a custom St-Germain bicycle. Not too shabby!

Lonely Angel #35

So, the name. The ‘lonely’ part should be obvious—I was alone on my birthday. What’s more lonely than that? The ‘angel’ in the title is a bit more cryptic and convoluted. My birthday is October 4. Written out numerically it is 1004. If you say that number in Korean—one thousand four—it is pronounced chun-sa. In the Korean language that is also a homonym for ‘angel.’ Get it? And No. 35? It was my thirty-fifth birthday. So there you have it.

Lonely Angel No. 35
Runner Up, Fifth Annual Can-Can Classic Cocktail Competition

1 oz. Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon
1 oz. Cynar
1 oz. St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
4 dashes Angostura Bitters
Wide orange twist for garnish

Combine the bourbon, Cynar, and St-Germain in a mixing glass. Stir with ice and strain over one large ice cube into a rocks glass. Float four dashes of the bitters and garnish with a wide orange twist.

A Cocktail for the Rest of Us: St. Festivus Flip

Festivus Cocktail: St. Festivus Flip

Popularized in the late 1990s thanks to an episode of Seinfeld, the “holiday” known as Festivus is now celebrated in varying degrees of seriousness throughout the world. Conceived by writer Dan O’Keefe as an alternative to the over-commercialization of Christmas, it has somewhat ironically bred quite an industry of its own.

Festivus Cocktail: St. Festivus Flip

The symbol of Festivus is a bare aluminum pole, an icon chosen for its stark contrast to the traditional highly decorated Christmas tree. During the holiday, the pole is displayed unadorned and praised for its “high strength-to-weight ratio.” Among the holiday’s traditions is The Airing of Grievances—a ritual during which each member of the family tells the others all the ways in which they have disappointed them throughout the year—and The Feats of Strength. Traditionally, this is where the head of the household challenges another participant in the celebration to a wresting match. Festivus is said to reach its conclusion once the head of the household is pinned to the floor.

I created this drink to contribute to the surprisingly small number of Festivus-themed cocktails; to be able to offer up something egg nog-ish but a little more quirky to holiday guests this year; and, of course, to make use of one of The Brewer’s Art‘s finest seasonal brews. What does it taste like? A Festivus Miracle, of course!

St. Festivus Flip

3 oz. Brewer’s Art St. Festivus Ale
1 oz. Cruzan Black Strap Rum
1/2 oz. Grade B Maple Syrup
1 Whole Organic Egg
Cranberries and grated nutmeg for garnish

Combine the beer, rum, and maple syrup in a mixing glass. Swirl to decarbonate the beer. Add the whole egg and dry shake for 15 seconds to allow the egg to emulsify. Add ice, shake, and strain into a chilled fizz glass. Grate the nutmeg over the top of the drink and garnish with three cranberries.

Scotch Cocktail: The Lamplighter

Scotch Cocktail: The Lamplighter Cocktail

Back in the old days, when men were men and lights weren’t electric, it was someone’s job to make sure all a town’s street lights were lit before it got dark. That responsibility fell to the lamplighter. And depending on the village or town where the lamplighter was employed, he might be tasked with the additional duty of night watchman. Nowadays, the lamplighter is an anachronism; a relic of a simpler time with darker nights. Visitors to Brest, Belarus, however, can still glimpse a bona fide lamplighter, who has been employed since 2009 as a tourist attraction.

Scotch Cocktail: The Lamplighter CocktailWith The Lamplighter Cocktail, I was after two things: 1) to create a scotch cocktail, and 2) to use citrus in a drink that you’d see fit to place within the fall/winter spectrum. What I ended up with was an extremely well-balanced cocktail that elegantly combines smoky, sweet, and tart. A perfect way to light up a cold, dark winter night.

The Lamplighter Cocktail

1 1/2 oz. Dewar’s White Label Blended Scotch
1/2 oz. Laird’s Applejack
1/2 oz. Sapling Vermont Maple Liqueur
1/2 oz. Galliano
1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
Lemon twist for garnish

Combine the scotch, applejack, maple liqueur, Galliano, and lemon juice in a mixing glass. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Rye and Maple Thanksgiving Cocktail: Poor Sap

Rye and Maple Thanksgiving Cocktail: Poor Sap

My job takes me all over the country. I travel about 100 days a year and make a complete circuit of the lower 48 every two and a half years. As you might imagine, I go to some pretty neat places as well as some not so neat, but who really wants to hear about that? One of the perks, as you might also imagine, is that I sometimes stumble upon some unique spirits that I wouldn’t normally see on the shelves of my local shop. I’m learning, albeit gradually, that although some of these intriguing bottles don’t always deliver, the disappointment of letting one slip away far outweighs the disappointment of a less than thrilling taste. Case in point: I’m still kicking myself for not picking up a bottle of Montana Rye just last month. Live and learn.

One of the bottles I am glad I didn’t pass up was Sapling Vermont Maple Liqueur, which I happened upon a year ago while staying in Burlington, Vermont. Though it languished unopened on my shelf for nearly a year, I finally decided to try it out in an autumn-inspired cocktail. What I ended up with is a bit of a riff on the Manhattan, with the maple liqueur taking the place of the sweet vermouth. Contrary to what you might think, Sapling doesn’t have a completely overwhelming sweetness, especially when set against the rye, but I found that a touch of Fernet Branca balanced the drink out quite nicely. A bit of house made grenadine fills out the profile of this mildly boozy drink that’s perfect served as a crisp autumn evening warm-up or a post-Thanksgiving cocktail.

Poor Sap

2 oz. Pikesville Rye
1 oz. Sapling Vermont Maple Liqueur
1/4 oz. Fernet Branca
1/4 oz. House made grenadine
House made cocktail cherry for garnish

Combine the rye, maple liqueur, fernet, and grenadine in a mixing glass. Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.