Covid Cocktails

posted on 09 Sep 2020 | Cocktails

So thanks to watching too many "How to Drink" Youtube videos, I've gotten into mixing cocktails. We're all drinking at home anyways, right?

So I made approximately one cocktail per day, mostly things I've never tried before.


On cocktails, goals, and fun: In a pause on my exploration in mixing drinks, some notes:

  1. Anything worth doing is worth making goals about, even your fun. If I don't plan my fun, I'll spend all day doom-scrolling Twitter, or 4AM Civ. I've kicked a bad Reddit habit many times - in the sense that "quitting smoking is easy, I've done it lots of times".

  2. So, my goal was 2 weeks, 1 new cocktail per day. I fell a bit short but I still feel like I learned a lot (don't buy things that don't come in small bottles, don't do substitutions), had some fun, and made some tasty things.

  3. I agree with Greg from How To Drink: sours are a great place to start. All you need is a shaker, a spirit, a citrus fruit, and DIY simple syrup. Don't go nuts buying yourself a liquor cabinet full of white elephants and tools you'll never use. Cobbler shakers are fine. You can even squeeze lime into a shot-glass by hand in a pinch.

  4. I'm just enjoying picking a direction and advancing slowly. I started with Greg's pre-prohibition drinks and now I'm planning on exploring more the '70s party things - lots of coffee, chocolate, vanilla, mint flavors.

  5. If you're already a whiskey drinker, an Old Fashioned is an easy upgrade. Try it. Angostura aromatic bitters are available in every grocery store and are basically a spice-mix for cocktails, go get some.

    If you're a gin drinker: get some Rose's Lime Cordial. Gimlet. OMG.

What follows is my detailed 12 days of notes on the subject.

The 12 Days of Cocktails

Day 1

Day 1 cocktail was a traditional Cuban-style daiquiri for my wife. No blender. Lime, rum, and simple syrup.

Holy crap nobody told me how good fresh-squeezed lime tastes. I even cheated and used a flavorful Jamaican rum instead of a simple white one. Amazing. Seriously, why didn't you people tell me that fresh lime juice with a little sugar tastes so amazing?

Relevant "How To Drink" video:

Other day 1 cocktail was a nice old fashioned. I used my fave Crown Royal rye, which has powerful flavor... I used Greg's cheat (Greg is the How to Drink guy) of simple syrup & dash of aromatic bitters instead of bitters-soaked sugar... I was like "this tastes like sweetened rye".

Then I added a few more dashes of bitters. Wow. Makes all the difference, great drink.

Also, garnished with Tillen Farms Bada Bing cocktail cherries because I'm too damned cheap for Luxardos, and I'm not eating those gross maraschino cherries. Tasty.

An old fashioned is a fun easy upgrade for a rye drinker. Strongly recommend.

Other "How To Drink" video:

Day 2

Day 2 of COVID cocktails: the Manhattan. Because I bought the wrong kind of vermouth by accident.

How To Drink vid:

Crown Royal rye, Dillon's sweet vermouth, and some bitters and a cherry. This was... less successful. Wife found it vile. Seemed like a waste of good rye for me.

Worse yet, now I have a 750ml bottle of sweet vermouth and no idea what to do with it. The stuff only keeps a month so I've got to use it or lose it. Sweet Vermouth tastes like wrong icewine straight... it might be good with club soda.

Day 3

Day 3 of COVID Cocktails: the Bees Knees, which is a prohibition-era sour. I'm using the How To Drink recipe, which is different and simpler from some versions I've seen online.

  • 2 oz London dry gin (I used Tanqueray),
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice,
  • 1 oz honey syrup.
    • Honey syrup = equal parts thick honey and water, boiled.
  • Served shaken in a cocktail glass.
  • I just garnished with a lemon wheel.

I think I went a bit heavier on the honey syrup and I don't regret it at all.

Like all sours, this was a hit. Made for both me and wife, it's an interesting drink - no matter how well I shake it, the honey flavor comes and goes as if it's settling in different parts of the drink. The gin flavors don't quite disappear, but they're subtle against lemon.

I'm going to admit: I ran out of fresh lemon halfway through the 2nd drink and used bottled lemon juice... and honestly can't tell the difference. I guess my palette is crap.

How To Drink:

Days 4 and 5

Days 4 and 5 of Covid Cocktails (I've been blogging 2 days behind, this is a good time to catch up): revisiting Dillon's sweet vermouth. I've switched out my flavourful CR Harvest Rye with a more mixable J.P.Wiser's "Special Blend" (I'm trying to buy Canadian).

So, day 4 was Manhattan round 2:

Okay, so the Wisers blend is much milder and works better with the taste of the sweet vermouth for the Manhattan... still not loving it. There's still a strangeness to the flavor of the vermouth that just doesn't work for me.

Day 5 was Sweet Vermouth Spritz. Just pour a pile of ice into a tall glass, 2 oz vermouth, 4 oz club soda. Built in the glass and stirred with a bar-spoon. I know it doesn't really count as a cocktail since it's just liquor and soda.

But this... this actually works for me.

Sweet vermouth still tastes like Wrong Ice-wine to me, and that strangeness still hits me with the first sip, but I was enjoying it by halfway down the glass. I think spritzes and the like are the future of that bottle.

This also marks the point where I'm not just doing cocktails from How To Drink but instead going out and researching "hey, I'd like to try that".

Day 6

Day 6 of COVID cocktails: Gin Sling!... with vermouth - some recipes call for the vermouth, some don't.

Full recipe here. - 1.5 oz gin - 1 oz sweet vermouth - 3/4 oz lemon juice - 1 oz simple syrup - Dash Angostura Bitters - 3-4 oz club soda - Garnish: lemon peel - Ice

gin sling picture

Build in shaker everything but the club soda over ice, fill glass with more ice, strain from shaker to glass, fill to top with club soda. This tasted amazing. Nice mix of sweet pound-backable drink and complex flavors. Although I misread the recipe and skimped on the soda. My pic is missing the garnish because wifey saw the peel on the cutting board and mistook for waste, so it got binned.

Yay, vermouth!

What's funny is that I've had a sling before... A Singapore Sling while I was at a work trip in Singapore. That was an umbrella drink that builds an incredibly complex series of flavors and then obliterates them with endless sugar.

This was simpler and I like it a lot.

Day 7

Day 7 of COVID Cocktails: we introduce a new ingredient, Galliano L'autentico, and leave behind the pre-prohibition drinks for the '70s.

Yup, I made my wife a Harvey Wallbanger.

It was tasty! I got that creamsicle flavor and she loved it. ... but yeah, I didn't fill the glass well.

Harvey Wallbanger

Day 8

Day 8's Covid Cocktail was the Gimlet.

Equal parts Tanqueray gin and Rose's Lime Cordial. Fun little drink - sweet but not too sweet, an explosion of bitter and sour lime flavors.

gimlet picture

How To Drink:

Day 9

Day 9 of COVID Cocktails... I wanted to get creative - building the Difford's guide "Key Lime Pie #3" but with some substitutions based on ingredient availability.

So I did

  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 1 oz Galliano L'autentico
  • 1.5 oz pineapple juice
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz lime cordial
  • rimmed glass with brown sugar (supposed to be crushed graham crackers, this is a substitution)

key lime pie picture

The big switch was replacing vanilla liqueur (and some vodka) with Galliano, which has vanilla and licorice flavors in it and I really fell in love with it in the Wallbanger.

It wasn't what I'd hoped. The gimlet made me love lime cordial, so I overused it here, especially since it combines with the bitter notes of Galliano to over-bitter what should be a confection. I was really hoping for the vanilla of the Galliano to shine through here, but they got kind of lost. It tasted like a bitter lime vodka sour. Which is fine, but not what I was going for.

Also, rimming a glass is harder than I expected, especially with clumpy brown sugar, but I've never rimmed a glass before. Too much lime juice, I think.

But Lindsey loved it! So I should take my victories where I find them.

Day 10

Day 10 of COVID Cocktails: the whiskey sour... I'd been scared to make this because of the raw egg white... worth the risk. Sooooo goooood.

I used Greg from How To Drink's recipe for this.

  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup (mine is 1:1 so milder than Greg's)
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 oz whiskey
  • Dry shake 10 seconds.
  • Shake with ice 15 seconds.
  • Dash of angostura bitters in the foam, mixed in with a toothpick.

whiskey sour picture

I think I overshook it because it was all fizz until it settled.

The taste was heavenly. Wifey turned up her nose at it between the bitters and the egg white. Her loss.

(HTD vid is already upthread for the daiquiri)

Day 11

Day 11 COVID cocktail: a nice boring Tom Collins.

  • 1oz lemon
  • 0.5oz 1:1 simple syrup
  • 2 oz gin

Shake with ice, pour over ice, fill to the top of the glass with club soda.

Tom Collins

... it was fine, I guess? I found it kind of bland. Had to stir it up just to get passed the club soda. Drank it about a third of the way down, said "screw this" and added syrup and orange bitters.

Maybe I used too much club soda, I dunno. Or maybe if I had a gin I liked better than Tanqueray, which is fine but its flavors aren't that great to taste diluted with lemon and a splash of sugar.


Day 12

Day 12 of COVID Cocktails, we return to the '70s with another Galliano drink, the Golden Cadillac. And again, Martin re-learns that he doesn't know enough about mixology to do substitutions.

Equal parts cream, creme de cacao, and galliano L'autentico.

golden Cadillac picture

Apparently, 360 double-chocolate vodka is not creme de cacao, and I am an idiot for thinking otherwise. It is a chocolate nuke that obliterates all other flavors... Which is why I like it and have it in my cabinet, but it fails here. I couldn't taste the Galliano, or even the cream.

Either way, though, I won't be attempting this again even if I pick up creme de cacao. With nothing to add color or layers, it looks like milk. You shave chocolate on top just to make it look more like a cocktail.


My favourites, overall: Obviously, the Old Fashioned and the Gimlet, as above - but the Old Fashioned is more a treat for somebody who's already a whiskey-drinker. The Whiskey Sour blew my mind.

Special mention goes to the Gin Sling that turned me around on the red vermouth.

Lindsey's favourites were the Harvey Wallbanger and the Cuban Daiquiri (which is technically just a Daiquiri, but there are two very different drinks bearing that name).

So yeah, it's been fun so far. Before this I was mostly a beer drinker, with the occasional emergency whiskey. Nice to try something new.

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