Holiday Cocktails with Andrew Stevens

I came to K&L without much wine knowledge because I had spent the previous ten years as a bartender. Since coming here, I have indeed fallen in love with wine and my palate has shifted towards that side of the business; however, my first love will always be spirits especially as they pertain to cocktails. This holiday season I've actually challenged myself to choose a particular liqueur and do sort of an Iron Chef challenge with it, just to see how many different recipes I could make utilizing one unique selection.

I wanted to do this in part because I often hear customers tell me that, while they want to purchase a certain liquour or aperitif for a cocktail, they don't know what to do with the rest of the bottle after mixing up that one particular drink. Even if the drink is insanely delicious, we all know that variety is the spice of life. No one wants to be chained down by one cocktail. I certainly understand that mentality as I rarely have the same cocktail two nights in a row. Although I have my standby drinks and my personal favorites, I prefer to rotate through a cycle of drinks, while continuing to introduce new ones into the mix. 

The first liqueur I've chosen to experiment with this holiday season is the Tempus Fugit Creme de Noyaux. Although rather sweet in nature, the complexity of this little oddity astounded me, going from an almost candied cherry nose to orange chocolate on the palate with hints of almond and black cherry. Being a whiskey guy primarily, I decided to see if this would work as a variation to my normal Manhattan, giving the drink a sweeter, more holiday-oriented character. Due to the extra sweetness I chose to use Rittenhouse Rye as a base and Peychaud Bitters rather than Angostura. While ordinarily I use a 2 to 1 ratio for my Manhattans (I like a good strong cocktail) I went with a smaller measure of Noyaux so as to allow the rye more presence in the drink. I also chose to use the Peychaud Bitters because ever since I began drinking Sazeracs (while bartending for a New Orleans bistro) I've have loved that flavor for all my whiskey cocktails. Here's the breakdown:

- 2 oz Rittenhouse Rye

- 3/4 oz Tempus Fugit Creme de Noyaux

- 3-5 dashes Peychaud Bitters

- Garnish with a cherry or orange twist.

Overall, I thought the cocktail came together beautifully. Between the Peychauds and the Noyaux there was a distinctive cherry note that accented the vanilla of the rye. It had a cherry chocolate richness with the baking spice notes of the rye finishing it off, keeping the drink from becoming cloying or overly sweet. The variation went over very well with everyone I shared it with that night, as well. I'll definitely come back to it again as the season goes on as chilly nights require good drinks with good friends. 

If you're shopping in our San Francisco store, feel free to ask for me if you ever need help putting together drink recipes or have any other questions about spirits!

-Andrew Stevens

David Driscoll