Tag Archives: bourbon



Sometimes, it’s the little things that matter, like a stone in your shoe or that damn fly that won’t stop buzzing around your face while you’re sweating through a hangover on a hot summer’s day (hint: have a hair of the dog. It won’t deter the fly but it will make you feel better). In the case of the Zapatero cocktail, the little things are the smallest amounts of ingredients – two kinds of bitters and a pinch of top-notch cinnamon – that pack the biggest flavour-punch and pull the drink’s disparate ingredients together into a cohesive, delicious whole. In terms of flavour, it’s a bit like a complex, layered dessert; there’s a hint of baked goods and a note of the heady tropics rounded out by an earthy smokiness and the feeling that you probably shouldn’t be indulging in something quite so decadent on a weekday but to hell with it, you’re going to. If you’re in that mood (and really, who isn’t?), here’s the recipe.


45ml mezcal

15ml bourbon

2 barspoons orgeat

1 dash Angostura Bitters

1 dash Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters


Old-fashioned glass or tumbler


Half-fill a mixing glass with ice. Add all ingredients and stir until mixture is ice-cold.

Strain into an old-fashioned glass that’s half-full of ice.

Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a orange twist.


This one’s from our good friends at Liquor.com.

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Whisky Sour


For years I’ve been making whisky sours ‘the wrong way,’ using a bastardised version of a recipe from Shaken: 250 Very Sexy Cocktails (Murdoch Books, 2004) and not really caring because the people who matter most (ie my drinking buddies) love it. For the record, the recipe in the book is:


45ml rye whiskey

15ml Cointreau

15ml lemon juice

15ml sugar syrup

maraschino cherry




Shake all ingredients (except the cherry) in a cocktail shaker that’s half-full of ice. Strain into the glass and garnish with the cherry.

I’ve always omitted the cherry (it’s odd how as soon as I buy a jar they, er, disappear) and used bourbon instead of rye, for reasons that are lost to the mists of time but basically involve a combination of ignorance (‘Is rye whiskey the same thing as bourbon?’) and convenience (‘I don’t know but we have bourbon so let’s use that instead’) that, fortunately, had a good result (‘Oh, this? This is a house whisky sour. You can only get this at 52 Cocktails HQ…largely because no-one with half a brain would ever confuse rye and bourbon.’*). It’s a jelly-bean-sweet concoction that bourbon-lovers love, even if it is a bit unorthodox. I’ve been making it for so long now that it deserves its own name – Bourbon Sour would be the logical choice, especially now that I’ve finally got around to making an actual whisky sour with actual whisky. Logic would dictate that to do so, I’d simply use the recipe above, but hey, logic has never been my strong point – especially after a few Bourbon Sours. And so I used a recipe from a Dan Murphy’s** catalogue to make my first Whisky Sour using, well, whisky. As you’ll see, the recipe is quite different to what I usually make – here it is.



60ml whisky (I used Johnnie Walker red label)

15ml sugar syrup

25ml lemon juice

20ml egg white

maraschino cherry, to garnish




Add all ingredients except the cherry to a shaker, and shake until the egg white is frothy. (This is often called ‘dry-shaking’ because, unlike most cocktail recipes, it does not involve ice. Not yet, anyway. Dry-shaking helps the egg white to go frothy. But how does the drink end up cold, you ask – read on.) Add a good scoop of ice and shake well. Strain into a glass that’s half-full of ice, garnish with the cherry and serve.


This is completely different to the Whisky – OK, Bourbon – Sour that I usually make. It’s light and fluffy, nowhere near as sweet and, curiously, lacks the punch of flavour I’m used to. It’s still a damn good drink, though, with a cloud-like texture that makes it more of a dessert cocktail than a pre-dinner drink.


Naturally I couldn’t help but make this cocktail with bourbon instead of whisky, just to see what would happen. And what happened was, I ended up drinking two cocktails that were pretty good, all the while thinking how much I preferred a good old House Bourbon Sour. Lesson learnt: when in doubt, er… make lots of cocktails.

*Don’t fret – this was a long time ago and I have since learnt the error of my ways. If you’re not sure what’s what, there’s a good article here that explains the difference between scotch, whisk(e)y, bourbon and rye.

**Dan Murphy’s is an Australian chain of alcohol stores, aka my second home.

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Palmetto Cooler


Tasting a bit like a mint julep but with an earthy undertone, the Palmetto Cooler is a refreshing, reviving drink – perfect on a hot day when you’re feeling like cactus.


60ml bourbon

15 ml apricot liqueur (confession: I substituted apricot brandy as that’s what I had handy. Don’t judge me)

15ml sweet vermouth

3 dashes Angostura bitters

120ml soda water

mint sprig




Two-thirds fill the glass with ice. Pour in everything except the soda water and mint sprig and stir. Then add the soda, stir again, and garnish with the mint sprig. (Two lots of stirring helps your drink to chill down quickly, so don’t think you can get away with bunging everything in the glass and stirring only once!)



This one’s from The Cocktail Bible by Steve Quirk (New Holland Press, 2010).

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Southern Mint Tea


On a long, slow, hot day, when all you want is an ice-cold beverage….don’t make this drink. Make a mint julep or a Tom Collins or a Southside – they’re easy and refreshing. Southern Mint Tea – similar to the sweet tea that’s served in the Southern parts of the USA – is easy and refreshing, too, but it takes aaaaaages to make, since you have to wait until the tea is cold – ice cold – before you can serve it.

The good news is, it’s worth the wait. This heady, instantly addictive mixture – not too sweet, not too tannin-y, with as much or as little bourbon as you’d like – tastes like the kind of thing you’d sip while sitting on a back porch in a cane chair overlooking your plantation, fanning your face occasionally as beads of sweat trickled down your face in a somehow alluring, not gross, manner towards your pristine white outfit, just like in all those cliched movies you’ve seen set in the South.

So check the weather forecast, and if there’s a hot day on the horizon, make this recipe the night before. Then you can sit around in your underpants next to the air-con unit drinking and feeling smug, which isn’t the traditional method of drinking a Southern-style ice tea but hey, whatever works for you…


8 cups water

1/2 cup white sugar

8 black tea bags (do not, repeat, DO NOT use Irish Breakfast or Earl Grey or any other fancy tea bags or the flavour will be all wrong)

Juice of 1-2 oranges (I used one-and-a-half)

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

This will make about 2 litres of iced tea, which is about 16 serves. It’s delicious as it is but it seems to be missing something….ah yes, the bourbon. It’s up to you how much you add per serve – I used 45 ml, but you might like to make it weaker/stronger. Don’t use your best bourbon – save that for a fancier cocktail. I used a cheapie and it worked out just fine.


Boil 4 cups of water and pour into a large bowl or saucepan.

Add the tea bags and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. If your tea bags have those little paper tags on them, you might like to cut them off before adding the bags to the water. Otherwise you’ll end up with soggy bits of paper in your drink. Ugh.

Leave it to steep for 10 minutes, then remove the tea bags.

Add 4 cups of cold water and the orange juice. Chill the mixture in the fridge (you can pour it into a large jug first, or just leave it in the saucepan.)

Just before serving, add the mint leaves and bruise them against the side of the jug/saucepan with the back of a spoon so they release their refreshing flavour.

Half-fill a tumbler with ice, then three-quarters fill the glass with ice tea. Strain out the mint leaves as you go, or leave em in; it’s up to you.

Add however much bourbon you like (as I said, I used 45ml), garnish with a mint sprig and serve.

Store any leftover ice tea in the fridge; it will last for a few days.

If you’re feeling especially hipster-ish you can store the leftovers in a mason jar, like the one below, which has been converted into a cobbler-style cocktail shaker. Bonus: thanks to the in-built strainer, it’s easy to strain out the mint leaves as you pour yourself yet another glass.



The hardest part is the long, slow wait for the tea to cool. It’s best to make the tea the night before you plan to serve it so the wait isn’t so frustrating (translation: you can let it cool while you’re drinking something else).

This Southern Mint Tea recipe is a mash-up of this recipe by The Bitten Word and this recipe by Joy the Baker. So while we’re claiming it as our own, really, we couldn’t have done it without them.

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New Orleans Cocktail


New Orleans is known for its wild nightlife, live music scene and spicy cuisine, none of which are reason enough for the 52 Cocktails crew to visit. Nope, the thing that most attracts us to Nola is, of course, its cocktails: it’s the birthplace of the Sazerac, home to the Hurricane and the proud host of the annual Tales of the Cocktail festival, in which bartenders, cocktail experts and people who work in the spirits industry gather for five days of drinking (and workshops and classes, most of which also involve drinking) before queuing up for new livers. We’re determined to get there one day; in the meantime we’re going to drink this New Orleans Cocktail, which tastes a bit like a Sazerac without the absinthe – strong, and heavy on the Peychaud’s, the bitters invented by a New Orleans apothecary.


2 ounces bourbon

3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

2 dashes orange curacao

lemon peel, to garnish (optional)


Cocktail glass


Place all ingredients (except garnish) into a mixing glass that’s half-full of ice and stir well. Strain into the chilled glass, garnish and serve.


Obtaining the ingredients is the hardest part – in Australia, it’s not easy to find Peychaud’s at the shops. We recommend you buy it online from Only Bitters.


This recipe appears in The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff (Clarkson Potter, 2002).

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Nectar-ine of the Julep Gods


There are some things in life that I just can’t explain, such as why my bottle of Crystal Head vodka insists on wearing a pineapple tea cosy as a beanie and why I haven’t, until now, made a mint julep with white nectarine-infused vodka in it. The idea for this concoction came about when, in order to find a really good mint julep recipe, I read loads about juleps, tried a bunch of different ones (it was all in the name of research I swear), and read somewhere that juleps used to be made with cognanc and peach brandy, which is probably why some recipes for modern-day juleps call for peach slices to be muddled along with the mint. Anyway, you’ll hear the outcome of the mint julep research later (hint: the recipe will be in a book, which will be heavily advertised here – after all, what’s a website without nepotism?); for now, you’re probably either wondering why the hell I used white nectarine vodka instead of peach brandy, or you’re wandering off in search of a drink. So I’ll keep it brief: I didn’t have any peach brandy handy. But I did have some white nectarine vodka, which I made last summer. (To make it, slice up some white nectarines, leaving the skin on but removing the stones. Place in a clean jar with a handful of caster sugar, cover the lot with vodka and then store in a dark place for a few months or until you really want to try adding peach brandy to a julep but discover you don’t have any.)
What does adding it to a julep do? It takes the edge off the bourbon, sweetens the drink and lightens it, making it even more perfect for a hot summer day than a regular julep. And it totally counts as a serve of fruit, right?

15ml white nectarine vodka
15ml sugar syrup
60ml bourbon
12-20 mint leaves, plus a sprig or two of mint to garnish
2 drops Fee Bros peach bitters (optional – they add a teeny bit of peach flavour and are a nod to the original recipe)

Tumbler or old-fashioned.

Place the mint leaves in the glass and pour in the white nectarine vodka and sugar syrup. Stir gently to combine. Add a heap of crushed or cubed ice and stir again. Add the bourbon and peach bitters and stir again. Garnish with the mint sprig(s) and serve.

If you’ve got the white nectarine vodka handy, this one’s easy. If you don’t, the hardest part will be waiting several months for the fruit to infuse with the vodka, in which case we highly recommend drinking something else instead.

This one’s by the clever folk at 52 Cocktails. Enjoy!

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Bourbon Triple Sour


Some cocktails last through the ages; others die out like the dinosaurs. I’m hoping the Bourbon Triple Sour is in the former category.

The clue is in the title; it’s got bourbon in it, and it’s sour. But it’s a balanced sourness that’s offset by the bourbon’s caramel-ness; and with a gentle orange flavour tying it all together, it’s sort of like drinking citrus cordial for adults. It’s refreshing and tart and tastes way better than it sounds – try it.


30ml bourbon (I used Hogs 3 Bourbon)

30ml triple sec (I used the Marie Brizard brand)

30ml lemon juice

5ml sugar syrup




Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake it. Shake it more. Harder. Keep shaking. OK, you’re done. Strain into a glass that’s half-full of ice. Garnish with a lemon wedge. (The original recipe calls for a cherry and a slice of orange AND a slice of lemon as a garnish. If you want a fruit salad in your face while you’re drinking. go for it.)


Maybe one degree, since you have to squeeze a lemon. Can you have one degree of difficulty? Gah, I don’t know, I’m not a mathematician.


This recipe appears in The Cocktail Bible by Steve Quirk (New Holland Publishers, 2010).


One of the good things about this recipe is it doesn’t try to be high-fallutin’. There’s no requirement that you use top-notch bourbon, and it actually calls for triple sec instead of Cointreau (yes, I know the two are different things and have their own qualities, and I know triple sec is pretty damn good in a cocktail, but I’m a snob and still think Cointreau is better). While I’m tempted to try making this drink using, say, Buffalo Trace bourbon and Cointreau, I’m not sure there’s any point – it’s great just as it is. One day I’ll do an A-B test and find out which one is best – it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. If you’ve already conducted such a scientific experiment, please let me know the results in the comment section below. Cheers!


Gertrude the dinosaur appears courtesy of Make it Wednesday: https://www.facebook.com/MakeitWednesday

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Brown Derby


Australia is home to many Big Things, such as the Big Lobster (which looks like it should be near the Giant Saucepan but isn’t), the Big Potato (which looks like a giant turd but isn’t) and of course this hugely popular website (which looks like it should be earning its writer millions of dollars but isn’t). Not to be outdone, America is also home to many Big Things, such as the World’s Largest Talking Cow (which sounds like it should be a snarky talk-show host but isn’t), another Big Potato (which also looks like a giant turd but isn’t) and a giant bowler hat (which, because it’s America and they talk funny over there, is called a derby). All of this proves two things: (1) These once popular but now kitsch roadside attractions were once Big Things in more ways than one, and (2) You cannot build a giant potato without it looking like a massive poo. But I digress.

The aforementioned giant bowler (derby) hat was once home to an LA restaurant called – can you guess? – the Brown Derby. Though there is some debate as to its origins, this week’s cocktail was named after it, and it’s so good we here at 52 Cocktails take our hat off to it….although with some reservations (see below).


This is a nicely balanced drink – tart yet sweet, smooth yet tangy. 52 Cocktails first made it as a bulk batch of the recipe found here so we’d have enough for pre-dinner drinks with friends. We recommend you do the same regardless of if you’ve got friends round or if you’re drinking alone, as it’s so good you’ll want more than one anyway. The following quantities serve four generously or six less-generously.


200ml bourbon (we used Old Virginia)

100ml grapefruit juice (we used freshly squeezed ruby grapefruits)

100ml honey syrup (2:1 ratio)


Should be a coupe glass. If a picture tells 1000 words, we f*cked up here. Oops.


First, make the honey syrup. Combine 65ml honey with 35ml boiling water and stir to dissolve. Let it cool.

Next, squeeze your grapefruits. No, not those grapefruits, pervert, we mean the giant citrus fruit. Strain.

Now combine all ingredients in a giant cocktail shaker, if you have one, or in a clean glass bottle or jar. Shake with ice, strain into a glass and garnish with a strip of grapefruit peel.


OK, remember the “…with some reservations” mentioned above? Here we go.

The first time we made a Brown Derby we used fairly cheap bourbon and very cheap honey, the kind that is probably just sugar syrup flavoured with honey, and the result was delicious.

The second time we (foolishly) decided to use higher quality (read: more expensive) ingredients in a vain attempt to improve on an already great drink, opting for yellowbox honey and Buffalo Trace bourbon.

What a mistake.

The second batch somehow tasted dirty, and not in a good way. The honey’s flavour was cloying and the bourbon was almost lost beneath it, leading us to conclude:

There is little point in using fancy bourbon in a cocktail like this one; all you’ll taste is the regret that you wasted a bourbon that should be drunk on ice.

And please, please, do not use artisan honey harvested by hipsters on a rooftop in this drink. Its flavour will be too strong; it will overpower the cocktail and muddy the whole thing. And besides, you don’t want to encourage the hipsters.


Use cheap ingredients and it’ll be the next Big Thing.


This version is based on the one that appears on punchdrink.com

PS If you’re wondering why there’s a horse on the cocktail in the photo – that’s because in Melbourne, proud home of 52 Cocktails, derby equates to Derby Day, a horse race that ushers in the Spring Racing Carnival. The SRC is such a Big Thing here that Melburnians get a day off work for the major event, the Melbourne Cup, which is one of the biggest of the Big Things in international horse racing. Yep, that’s the reason. Honest. It is not because we got drunk on the second round of not-as-good-but-we-still-had-to-drink-them Brown Derbies and ended up playing a game of “which plastic object balances best on this glass”. Not at all…

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