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Category ArchiveSpirits and Liqueurs


Deciphering Cocktail Spirits In Six Easy Steps

This post is extra special as we are featuring many friends on this post! The three collaborators I am working with:

Sandra Lim, The Juniper Chick – Gin

  • Instagram name – @TheRealJuniperchick

  • Twitter – @juniperchick 

Alexandra Al, Lalan Giggles – Vodka

And the Rum Raiders: Robert (Sage), Steele, and Vugee  – (Can you guess the spirit?)

  • Instagram Names: @rumraiders @abysssage, @steele_harden, and @soybury

  • Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @RumRaiders

  • Email: therumraiders@gmail.com


You’ve probably heard the word “spirit” before, but just don’t know them by that name. Gin, Vodka, R[h]um, Whisk[e]y, Tequila/Mezcal, & Brandy/Cognac. These are the spirits that keep the cocktail world (and our heads!) spinning.

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Gin, also called Genever, is made from Juniper berries primarily (Fun Fact: Genever is the Dutch word for juniper!). This spirit is made by flavoring a neutral grain spirit with juniper and other botanicals/herbs!

Note: Gin and Vodka are usually always clear because they ARE NOT  aged in casks, unlike our other spirits! Vodka I’m sorry if you like Vodka. I’m just biased. I feel that people who prefer drinking vodka straight are pretty basic.

I’m going to hand it off to Sandra Lim, A.K.A. The Juniper Chick!

Juniper Chick

My real name is Sandra Lim but most people in the social media circles know me better as Juniperchick. I’m a Gin enthusiast and enjoy a wide variety of cocktails. My love for gin started when was enthralled by the iconic blue Bombay Sapphire bottle design and the very clever marketing campaigns.

Interesting Facts

Did you know the highest gin consumption per capita comes from the Philippines?The British Navy tested the strength of the gin by lighting the gunpowder still, this was how the Navy Strength Gin at 57% ABV got its name.

Historical Background

Gin has been around for over 300 years and first used for medicinal purposes, in the Low Countries which is now the Netherlands, part of Northern France and Luxembourg. Genever or Jenever is the juniper flavored liquor from Netherlands and Belgium, where gin is evolved from.

When William of Orange descended the English Throne, he brought what was known as genever with him from Holland, mainly to crush the French economy. He raised the import taxes of wine and brand from France and encouraged the distilling of grain spirits to boost the English economy.

The gin craze came about in the early 18th century when numerous distilleries sprung up in London, due to the high taxes on imported spirits. In 1736, the government brought in the Gin Act, also known as the Fifty Pound Act, to curb the popularity of gin, which was getting out of hand.

William Hogarth produced the famous Gin Lane etching in 1751, depicting the debauchery caused by gin. was predominantly funded by the beer industry to disrepute the Gin industry. It was also the same year, that the Gin Act 1751 was passed, to reduce the consumption of spirit.

The term London Dry Gin, came about as many of the early gin distilleries were in London and it was clear, unsweetened spirit flavored with juniper, coriander seeds, angelica roots and orris root being the four core ingredients. London Dry Gin doesn’t have to come from London, it’s the production method which means no flavoring or coloring can be added after the distillation process.

Most gins use the same 4 botanicals (juniper. coriander seed, angelica root. orris) and the quantities used dramatically change the flavor. The differentiation starts getting down to the quality of the water and type of base alcohol, or ‘liquor’ to differentiate quality. When done well, such as Oxley, it can be an amazing expression of gin. Another example is Martin Miller using highly mineralised Icelandic glacial meltwater to add a complex flavor tones.

In March 2009, Sipsmith was the first copper pot distillery for more than 200 years and this was the beginnings of the new Gin era. Today there are hundreds of gin brands from larger producers to the small batch craft producers. The main types of gin are London Dry, Old Tom Gin which is a sweeter version of the London Dry Gin, Plymouth Gin – the only protected geographical indication gin made in Plymouth. More recently, the styles of gin have evolved including barrel aged gins which give the gin a different flavor profile, depending on the type of barrels used.

Notable Cocktail and Recipe

Gin Cocktail Recipes
G&T of course. A standard serve would be 1 part gin to 3 parts tonic. The quality of tonic has an effect on the G&T, as well as the garnish to enhance the botanicals.
Negroni – one can’t go wrong with a Negroni, made up of equal parts of Gin, Campari, and Sweet Vermouth. It’s such a versatile cocktail, and you can swap the ingredients with other spirits. You can also play around with the proportions of Campari and Sweet Vermouth by adding Aperol, or other bitter flavored spirits like Amaro or Byrrh.
Martinez – one my favorite cocktails, a precursor to the Martini. Another versatile cocktail, depending on the type gin used. Originally made with Genever, you can also use Old Tom and of course London Dry. I like the following recipe:
50 ml London Dry Gin
50 ml Antica Formula Carpano
5ml Grand Marnier
A couple dashes of orange bitters


Alexandra Al

A Sydney based, caffeine obsessed food blogger. I believe Happiness is infectious and that we have the power to uplift those around us. I love brunch, cake, coffee, and cocktails!

Frequenting the Sydney cafe and night scene bringing you amazing creations from some of our top baristas and mixologists!

Historical Background

Today I’m going to be talking about vodka. You’re all probably wondering where it came from. It originated in Russia in the 9th Century, and it was first used for medicine known as ‘the water of life’. Russia then began exports to Sweden in 1505, and more than a century later Poland followed suit.

Russian soldiers used to drink vodka, because I mean who wouldn’t right? This helped spread its popularity around countries such as England, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, Austria, the Neverlands and many more during the 17th-19th centuries.

Did you know vodka was originally discolored like scotch or whiskey. Now I don’t know about you, but if I saw brown colored vodka I’d think there was something wrong with it!

It wasn’t until the late 19th century that new technology arose to bring us clear distilled vodka we know and love today.

The brand Smirnoff was then introduced in Paris in 1935. A brand that is known for its quality and affordability, and one which I personally love and use as a base to my cocktails!

Shortly after it was bought out by a US company for distribution worldwide. Western countries such as Australia and Canada caught on to the vodka craze and it was recognized on an international scale.

Traditionally vodka was made from fermented cereal, grains or potatoes. Personally, I prefer the flavors of brands such as Belvedere or absolute, who use sugar, herbs, and fruits to flavor their vodka bases.

There is a real art to the craft of vodka, from the small differences in ingredients used to the distillation processes. There are so many varieties of flavors available to us today. My personal favorites are Smirnoff’s green apple vodka, Soho Lychee vodka and Smirnoff Nordic Berries, and Grey Goose.

Vodka is one of my favorite spirits which I regularly drink, and my go-to vodka cocktail would have to be a Cosmopolitan. You can’t go wrong with cranberry and vodka!

Her Favourite Cocktail + Recipe

  • Here’s a recipe for you all to try out!
    – 1/2 oz juice of a lime squeezed
    – 1/2 oz Cointreau
    – 1 oz cranberry juice
    – 1 1/2oz Vodka
    Combine ingredients in a shaker.
    Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.
    Garnish with an orange twist 👌


There are 3 types: French Rhum, and Spanish/English Rum. I feel that the French always have to add a fancy letter. Something to do with surrendering? Ahem. Exclusivity, I mean. R[h]um is a spirit made from sugarcane & molasses. Easily my favorite spirit – think tropical and tiki drinks. Now, you’re thinking of your own little, lovely island in the Caribbean. Mhmm.

There are 3 types: French Rhum, and Spanish/English Rum. I feel that the French always have to add a fancy letter. Something to do with surrendering? Ahem. Exclusivity, I mean. R[h]um is a spirit made from sugarcane & molasses. Easily my favorite spirit – think tropical and tiki drinks. Now, you’re thinking of your own little, lovely island in the Caribbean. Mhmm.

Rum Raiders

We started Rum Raiders at the end of last year (2017) around the beginning of November. Steele was into pirates so logically for him trying out different rums was next. He ended up buying 13 bottles of rum and invited Robert and [Vugee] over. The three of us did a full blown tasting of all 13 Rums in one sitting. It was during the tasting that we talked about the scarcity of rum knowledge in the US. For most people here, rum is either Bacardi or Captain Morgan. Rum is considered a mixing liquor. It invokes an “ew” from most people and is not something to be sipped and enjoyed straight. There also wasn’t a lot of reviews available online either and the videos that were available were done by the distilleries themselves or by professional speaking a language we couldn’t understand while drinking. We were looking for tasting and reviews done by normal people like us. Real and unbiased reviews that anyone can easily relate with. We fell in love with rum during that tasting. Unlike cognacs and bourbons and others liquors, there are no major regulations for rum. Cognac has to be from the Cognac region of France and bourbon from Bourbon County in Kentucky. Same with Scotch from Scotland. Rum is different. The only regulation for rum is that it has to be made from sugar cane, either molasses or raw sugar. There are no other restrictions for rum. Because of this rum is made all over the world. This means that there are rums that taste exactly like cognacs, bourbons, rye whiskies, Canadian whiskies, even rums that are similar to sweet dessert-like liqueurs. We want to share with people the story of rum and show there are more to rum than Bacardi and Captain Morgan. Rum has a full blown culture and history that we are excited to explore and share with our followers and subscribers. That’s where the idea of Rum Raiders came from.

Historical Background

The history of rum is pretty much unknown. Sugar cane originally came from South and South-East Asia where there are written records of alcohol made from the sugar and molasses of sugar cane. It is widely accepted now though, that rum distillation as we know it came from the Caribbean with most sources pointing to Barbados. Depending on the colonization, rum (English) is also known as Ron (Spanish) and Rhum (French). Essentially every country has their own version of rum. India’s most popular rum is Old Monk while Australia’s rum is Bundaberg. Every country also has their own restrictions on rum, though it is generally accepted that all rum needs to be aged at least one year. The distillation process is usually done in copper or steel stills. More premium rums are then additionally aged in barrels. Now, most distilleries are opting to for bourbon barrels to add extra depth and complexity. There are a few main styles of rum: white/black, gold, flavored or spiced, and dark (aged). White and black rums are usually meant for mixing, although a Portland distillery made a delicious and easy to sip white rum (4 Spirits). Gold rums are the beginnings of an aged rum, normally less than 8 years. A great one that comes to mind is Ron Abuelo. Flavored and spiced rums are usually white or gold rums with added flavoring. Plantation Pineapple is an excellent example. Now here is where we get into the best rums, the aged rums. The majority of them are blends; Ron Zacapa 23 is a blend of 6-23-year-old Rums while the El Dorado 12 is blends of rums aged at least 12 years. Rum really takes on the personas of the country of origin. Some of our favorites are from France and from Barbados. With such a wide variety of stylings and flavor palates, there is a rum that is suited for every drinker out there.

Rum-Raiding Cocktails + Recipe

  • Daiquiri – In a shaker 1 part rum, half part simple syrup and half part lime juice. Shake and serve

  • A Swizzle – Similar to a daiquiri but instead of a shaker put into a highball with ice and then fill with fresh pineapple juice. Stir and enjoy. 

  • Double rum on rocks: Rocks glass with a few cubes of ice and a double of any aged rums. Robert (whiskey/scotch drinker) 

  •  Captain Steele: in a highball filled with ice squeeze a couple wedges of lime, tear up a few mint leaves, add rum using a pirate pour (whatever looks good in the glass), and then fill with club soda. Stir and enjoy. Steele hates sweets.

  •  Rum and Ginger: In a highball filled with ice pour a shot or two of rum. Stir and add a lime wedge for garnish (1-4 ratio on the rum and ginger) – Vugee (cognacs/rye whiskey)


We are whisk[e]y people. Chances are, you know one type. Straight whiskey, Bourbon, Tennessee Sour, Rye, Irish Whiskey, Scotch Whisky, (notice the difference between Whiskey and Whisky?) Blended, Single-malt, and Blended Malt Scotch, and Japanese malt whiskey. Whisk[e]y is distilled from corn, rye, barley, or wheat (a fermented mash of grain, which is beer). The whisk[e]y is then aged in casks, as I was saying above. That’s what give these spirits their brown color.

Interesting Facts

There are two types of ways to spell Whisk(e)y: In Ireland and the U.S., it is spelled as whiskey, whereas in Scotland, Canada, and Japan, it is spelled as whisky without an “E”.

The word Whiskey comes from the Gaelic term “uisce beatha”, which translates into “water of life.” Apparently, whiskey was thought of as divine, just as it is now. (Haha).

Historical Background

This is a big one. Since it is so large, I will be covering Scotch and Irish whiskey only. Expect a large post covering all types of whiskies soon!


Whiskey, from Ireland, may have begun in the twelfth century A.D., but was around since the fifteenth.  There are historical sources that carry the implication that a powerful liquid that was being “boiled” in Ireland must refer to distillation.

Irish Whiskey had great success, followed by an unfortunate crash. Thankfully, Irish Whiskey today has made a strong comeback. Starting with hundreds of whiskey distilleries before the first World War and after the ends of the first and second world wars, an Irish Civil War, the Great Depression, and Prohibition of the United States (1921-1933) they had been reduced to the four distilleries that exist today. These are the four distilleries left: Jameson-Midleton in County Cork/Republic of Ireland, Old Bushmills in County Antrim/Northern Ireland, Kilbeggan Distillery in County Westmeath/Republic of Ireland, and Cooley Distillery in County Louth/Republic of Ireland.

Two decades ago, there were only two distilleries, which means that Irish Whiskey is coming back into demand. The growth is exponential and the world should expect much more Irish whiskey. Now would be the time to jump on the Irish bandwagon.

The whiskey is a natural when it comes to mixability and this is what justifies its large growth. Irish Whiskey is being recognized by the world and it maintains the reputation that some of the best whiskey comes from the Emerald Isle.

Irish Whiskey is less strict about their industry’s standards whereas Scotch is specific about which type of grain is allowed and which kind of still is chosen. The Irish allow malted and unmalted barley, as well as any other type of grain (the Irish mostly use wheat and corn, but have used oats and rye in the past). As for stills, they allow both pot and continuous stills. Sometimes the malt is peated, but most times it is not. The Irish allow any type of barrel, but as with most whiskey producers, used bourbon barrels are the standard and most common. The Irish are now using used sherry, port, Madeira, and wine barrels. Irish and Scotch whiskeys must be matured for a minimum of three years in barrels.There are four fundamental kinds of Irish whiskey:

Single-malt whiskey: made from 100 percent malted barley in a pot still in a single distillery. Bushmills leads the way in this category, but Midleton and Cooley also make some.Grain whiskey: continuous stills make this light whiskey of wheat or corn.

Pure Pot-Still whiskey: made from malted and unmalted barley in a pot still. Redbreast is the classic.

Blended Whiskey: A marriage of single-malt and/or single pot-still and grain whiskeys. Jameson and John Powers are examples of single pot-still and grain whiskey blends, while Bushmills’ blends are single malt and grain whiskey. Paddy and Tullamore Dew are blends of single pot-still, single-malt and grain whiskeys.

Whisky, from Scotland, is viewed as the gold standard of whisky making today. When you ask for whisky at a bar, the bartender will tell you about their selection of Scotch bottlings more often than not. Scotch is believed to be around by the thirteenth century, but evidence comes in the form of a Scottish tax record from 1494 A.D.: “To Friar John Cor, by the order of the King, to make aqua vitae, eight bolls of malt.” Eight bolls are equal to over 1,100 pounds of malted barley.If any other grains are used, it must be called “grain whisky.” If the malt whisky comes from a single distillery (as opposed to blends from several distilleries), it’s called a “single-malt whisky”.As I’ve said above, Scotch is stricter with its industry standards. The Scottish are very particular about which type of grain can be used.  It can be distilled from corn or wheat, or from malted barley.  When the grain is barley and has semi-sprouted, it’s referred to as malted barley. A “malt whisky” can be made only from malted barley. Single-malt whisky is called so when a malted barley beer has been double/triple distilled in a pot still at a single distillery.

95% of Scotch whiskies sold to the U.S. market and world markets are Blended Scotch whiskies and not single-malt whiskies. Blended Scotch whiskies have many single malt whiskies blended into them. They do this to add many different types of personalities and a complex mix of a few of the best distilleries in Scotland. One thing to remember about Blended Scotch is that there is more grain whisky than single-malt whisky.

To Remember: Blended Scotch whisky consists of a large amount of grain whisky and at least one single-malt whisky.As you can see, grain whisky is the largest part in blended Scotch whisky, and therefore, an important factor. These grain whiskies are distilled to similar proofs such as vodka. Their flavors and aromas pale in comparison to single-malt whiskies. Unlike Vodka, grain whiskies go without several distillations and filtration and keep its grain flavor.Blended Scotch saw its rise one hundred and fifty years ago. People couldn’t handle the amount of flavor in single-malt whiskies. Distillers began adding in large amounts of grain whisky into single-malts and Blended Scotch turned heads. Blended Scotch made Scotch into a national industry.Some more information on grain whisky: it is grain whisky when it is not made from malted barley, and you use grains such as corn or wheat. Continuous stills are generally used and the neutral grain spirit is distilled to around 190 proof – WHOA.

Roasting is a very important part in Scotch production. Scotland only had one form of fuel for most of its history and this was “Peat”. Coal was not accessible due to high prices and there were not many forests as they had been cleared when the Romans invaded Britain. When Peat – compressed vegetation, close to coal – is damp and cut from the ground, it is allowed to dry. When it is burned, it becomes strongly smoky. Malted barley is traditionally roasted over these smoky fires, powered by peat, which results in a whisky that smells smoky! Incredible. Not all barley is peat-smoked in Scotch whisky.

More specifics (Thank you, Scots): Barrels. As with Irish whiskey, used bourbon barrels are frequent choices, but sherry barrels are also desired, as dried fruit characteristics can be leached out into Scotch. Unfortunately, sherry barrels are expensive (compared to a century ago when they were not) whereas bourbon barrels are relatively cheap.

All scotch whiskies must be aged for a minimum of three years in wood barrels. Scotch producers will buy new barrels and “loan” them to sherry makers. Ten or twenty years later, the sherry barrels are finally sent to Scotch producers. That is crazy.

The categories of Scotch whisky are:

Single Malt-Whisky: a whisky made of malted barley, double distilled in pot stills (only one malt distillery, Auchentoshan in the Scottish Lowlands, triple distills) at one distillery, distilled no higher than 70 percent abv, and aged in oak barrels for a legal minimum of three years. At present there are about 100 malt distilleries operating around Scotland.

Blended Scotch Whisky: a whisky made of malt whisky (double distilled in pot stills) and grain whisky (probably distilled in continuous stills to a very high proof) and aged in oak barrels for a legal minimum of three years.

Blended Malt Whisky (formerly known as Vatted Malt Whisky): a blend composed only of at least two single-malt whiskies, instead of products of only one (single) distillery, and aged in oak barrels for a legal minimum of three years.

Grain Whisky: a whisky distilled from any grain (typically either wheat or corn), usually in continuous stills, and aged in oak barrels for a legal minimum of three years. There are around eight Grain distilleries in Scotland.

Notable Cocktails and Recipe

  • Manhattan
    • 2 ounces of Bourbon / 1 ounce of Sweet Vermouth / 3 dashes of Angostura
  • Rob Roy
    • 2 ounces of  Scotch / 1 ounce of  / 3 dashes of Peychauds
  • Rusty Nail
    • 2 ounces of Scotch / 1 ounce of Drambuie


Beautiful, beautiful agave spirits. You’ve heard of the Margarita, right? Tequila perfected in a glass. There is also the other end of the spectrum: you know when your stomach is like, “Wait, who invited these guys. These Mexican (Tequila) gangbangers are messing everything up in here!” Finally, the bouncer has to throw them and all of the other spirits out. All over the ground.

The difference between Mezcal and Tequila is simple. Tequila can only be made in five states in Mexico. Not only the location of the agave fields, but also, the species of agave used, and the process of how the harvested agaves are cooked separates Mezcal and Tequila. The hearts of agave plants – pinas – are fully matured when they are between 6 – 12 years old. They are roasted in ovens and then milled, fermented, and finally, column or pot distilled at least twice.

Interesting Facts

The Spanish word for Daisy is “Margarita”.

Historical Background

Tequila is actually a Spanish invention, but it is still a Mexican spirit through and through. Elixir dates go back over a thousand years. Before the Spaniards came with their knowledge of distillation in the early sixteenth century, the Aztecs already had a drink, similar to wine, called “pulque”, which was a fermented syrup made from the heart of agaves plants. It was called “Vino de Mezcal” by the Spaniards.

Impressively, the agave plant was used for much more by the Mexican people: food and drink, shoes, soap, building supplies, rope, and even medicine. Pulque was not consumed for pleasure, but rather for religious rites.

Tequila had a slow rise to fame with it’s neighbor to the north. Only a handful of U.S. border states consumed Tequila whereas the rest of the U.S. ignored it. Until Prohibition. With the alcohol ban nation-wide, any alcohol was good alcohol. Tequila became a little notorious and became a subject in the media.The Margarita did not put Tequila on the World map, but it sure did help.

People became acquainted with the Mexican spirit and began to play with said spirit. The most popular cocktail in the U.S. is the Margarita and if anybody hears the word, “Margarita”, there’s a good chance that they’ll know what it is. Maybe the Margarita did put Tequila on the world map?

Three quarters of export sales come from the U.S.  The rest of the world has given Tequila a harder time. Around 1970, Tequila began breaking into the European markets through “Rock n’ roll” and counterculture. Look at me now, Mom!

Notable Cocktails + Recipe

  • Margarita
    • 1 1/2 Tequila
    • 1 oz. Cointreau
    • 1/2 oz. Lime
    • 1/2 oz. Agave
    • Shake all ingredients and strain into a salt-rimmed coupe glass


Brandy is simply distilled wine, and aged in barrel casks. Brandy can also be many other things: it is made by heating up wine in a pot still to produce vaporous alcohol, and slapping on a tag saying “Distillation process complete”. From here on out, Brandy can get complicated (For example, grappa, eau de vie, marc, etc.). Cognac is distilled brandy within the Cognac region of western coastal France. Very fancy. But damn good. Then we have the clear spirited Pisco Brandy from Peru (Pisco Sours anybody?). Made from raspberries, pears or cherries, Eau De Vie (Or water of life), another clear distillate, calls Central and Western Europe home. Shall I go on?

Interesting Facts

  • As most Brandy lovers know, Brandy comes from the Dutch word, “brandiwijn”, which means ‘Burnt Wine’.

Historical Background – Cognac & Armagnac

Will I be going into Armagnac, Cognac, Marc, Grappa, Pisco, Calvados, and Eau De Vie? Well, yes, eventually, but not in this post. A few of the above definitely have overlap, so let’s begin with a brief history of Cognac, & Armagnac.

Despite being the first to distill, centuries before Cognac, by the way, Armagnac’s sales pale in comparison to Cognac these days. Armagnac originated in Basque country, which is a region in France. The Basque people living in France and Spain isolate themselves from the rest of the world and have often acted hostile to outsiders for hundreds and hundreds of years.

While Armagnac was from a rural part of France, Cognac was located in a part of France that was under British rule, and during the British rule, they fell in love with Brandy. Being a British Empire, which stretched across the globe, they ensured that everybody else under their rule loved Cognac as well.

By the end of the sixteenth century, Cognac started to distill and within half of a century, it became well known and praised for its amazing marketing. In response to the imitations of Cognac (Such as Conyac), the Cognaçais cracked down by protecting their name and beginning to create a global image that screamed exclusivity and excellence so as to stay in the market game for the long term, as opposed to being a short-term boom and bust company.

In the 1860’s, the North American bug phylloxera louse spread across Europe’s vineyards, feasting on grape vines until, in 1880, there was nothing left. North America, being the cause of the destruction of the vineyards of Europe, was also the savior: American stock vines were brought to existing European vineyards.

The Cognac region of France eventually recovered from the devasting blow, but the blow took away the world dominance they have secured and established: Gin and Whiskey had taken hold of the world’s palate.

Notable Cocktail + Recipe

  • The Sidecar
    • 1 3/4 oz. of Brandy (Hennessy VSOP)
    • 3/4 oz. of Fresh Lemon Juice
    • 3/4 oz. of Cointreau
    • Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake, double strain into an ice-cold, sugared rim, coupe glass

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So, you remember that night when the all the spirits, except for Tequila and Mezcal, went to that one club – I think it’s called Club Sto-Mach – and then Tequila and Mezcal showed up anyways. Then everybody got booted out? Well, SOMETHING CRAZY WENT DOWN.

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If you’re into everything cocktail, sign up for the Curious Cocktailian Email List and we’ll send you the new posts right when they come out. That’s the only thing we use the list for – Don’t worry about getting tons of spam or other nonsense!

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More Curious Cocktailian

If you want to understand Liqueurs better, check out these posts:

Fernet Branca

Yellow Chartreuse

And here’s the cocktail basics that every bartender needs to know:

An Easy Guide To Bar Tools

The Ultimate Guide To Making The Perfect Manhattan

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Yellow Chartreuse: History and Review

Ah, Yellow Chartreuse, my lover in the night. Not as strong as your older brother, Green Chartreuse, but still strong, yet sweet; and honey notes for charm. Traditionally a herbal liqueur, Yellow Chartreuse will continue to be a best friend to the cocktail world.

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My rating for Yellow Chartreuse is a 9/10

I’d suggest you buy a bottling of Yellow Chartreuse. Here’s what Your Taste “Bud” found out.


Chartreuse is an aromatic liqueur, originally made by French Carthusian monks. It is made from a mixture of 130 different herbs and is aged in oak barrels. Chartreuse come in two varieties, green and yellow. They are HERBACEOUS, baby! Yeah, I’m loving that word. Remember it.

Green Chartreuse gets its green color from the addition of chlorophyll. It is higher proof, drier and spicier than the yellow variant.

Yellow Chartreuse is made with the addition of honey and is colored pale yellow with saffron. It is lighter and sweeter in flavor and is lower proof than the green variant.

Classic cocktails usually call for yellow Chartreuse, while the green version is more popular nowadays.

What’s Yellow Chartreuse

I’ll let the Carthusian Monks set this straight:

YELLOW CHARTREUSE 40% alcohol (80° proof US)

Milder and sweeter than the famous Green Chartreuse, Yellow Chartreuse was introduced to the world in 1838. It also is presented in the traditional Chartreuse liqueur bottle embossed with the seal of La Grande Chartreuse. Its color is entirely natural with no artificial flavors or preservatives. It, too, can be enjoyed neat or in a long drink.
Only two Chartreuse monks know the identity of the 130 plants, how to blend them and how to distill them into this world famous liqueur. They are also the only ones who know which plants they have to macerate to produce the natural green and yellow colors. And they alone supervise the slow aging in oak casks.

  • Ingredients: alcohol, sugar, 130 plants and flowers.
  • Alcohol content: 40% (80° proof US)
  • Presentation: Packaged in a traditional Chartreuse liqueur bottle. Very elegant with the embossed seal of La Grande Chartreuse.
  • How to drink it: To bring out all its flavor, it should be consumed very cold, even on the rocks. Traditionally considered an after dinner drink, Chartreuse is more and more being enjoyed as a long drink.

Another spirit with a secret. The French and the rest of the world love this drink. And so do I.


Chartreuse has a fun history. If you grab the bottle, it’ll give you a fast little history lesson. Something along the lines of “Chartreuse is an aromatic liqueur, originally made by French Carthusian monks. It is made from a mixture of 130 different herbs and is aged in oak barrels. Chartreuse comes in two varieties, green and yellow.”

Okay, but what does that mean?

400 years ago, in 1605, the Order of Chartreuse (a monastery in Vauvert, which is a small suburb about three hours away from central Paris) received a gift from Francois Hannibal d’ Estrées, Marshal of King’s Henri IV artillery. The Order of Chartreuse, made of monks living at the monastery, were given a manuscript called the elixir, or as it came to be known, “Elixir of Long Life.”

The origins of the manuscript are unknown but many suspect that it was most likely made by a 16th-century alchemist with a great knowledge of herbalism and the skills to blend, infuse, and macerate the herbs. The “Elixir of Long Life” is a complex recipe of 130 herbs, plants, and spices which are blended together to create a tonic. This tonic would become Chartreuse – after years of attempting to solve the enigma.

Although these monks had this manuscript, Herbalism was still in its early stages and as a result, the monks could only understand bits and pieces of the manuscript. Only parts of the elixir were used at the monastery in Vauvert. Until 100 years later, when the Order of Chartreuse handed the manuscript over to their superiors of the order, La Grande Chartreuse.

An Apothecary, named Frère Jerome Maubec, began serious in-depth work on the manuscript to unlock its full potential. Finally, in 1737, he was able to decipher the recipe and shaped it into a workable formula that the monks could use.

In the mountains near Grenoble, where La Grande Chartreuse resides, the preparation for the Elixir of Long Life began. This elixir was named “Elixir Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse”. It was called a “Liqueur of Health” with a whopping 69% abv, 138 proof. It contains all natural plants, herbs, and other botanicals suspended in wine alcohol – this elixir is still made and imbibed by the Carthusian Monks today.

Frère Charles(or Friar Charlie) was appointed the task of distribution and the sale of this early Chartreuse. The monk of Le Grande Chartreuse had limited sales, as he had to travel by mule to deliver small bottles to nearby villages.

Not surprisingly, the elixir was more often taken as a beverage than a medicine. The monks noticed this immediately and began to adapt the Elixir recipe.

In 1764, as we know it today, the monks created “Green Chartreuse” – it was a much milder version than the Elixir Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse, distilled at 55% alcohol, 110 proof. The road to success happened immediately and Green Chartreuse’s fame spread far beyond the monks’ vicinity. Herbaceous, baby, yeah!

Unfortunately, after a few decades, everything started to go downhill for the monks. In 1789, the French Revolution erupted and resulted in all Religious Orders being ordered out of France. In 1793, the Carthusian monks left their country. There was only one copy of the recipe made and it was held by one of the monks who remained at the monastery. Another monk, who held the recipe, tried to leave the country but was arrested and sent to a prison in Bordeaux.

The recipe was fortunately smuggled out with Dom Basile Nantas. He ended up selling the recipe to a pharmacist in Grenoble. This pharmacist did not end up concocting the recipe because Emperor Napoleon had it confiscated (Napoleon ordered all the “secret” recipes of medicines to be sent to the Ministry of the Interior, Monsieur Liotard). Fortunately, the “secret” recipe was refused and sent back to the pharmacist. When the pharmacist died, his heirs gave the recipe back to the Carthusian monks, who had returned to their monastery in 1816.

20 years later, in 1838, Yellow Chartreuse was created. The new recipe was a sweeter form of Chartreuse at 40% abv, 80 proof.

But once again, in 1903, things went sour. France nationalized the Chartreuse distillery and its trademark “Chartreuse” was sold to a company, that went bankrupt in 1929.

Luckily, the shares were bought by friends of the Carthusian monks; Chartreuse had returned home to the monks.

Today, as you know it, Chartreuse and the “Elixir of Long Life”, is still being made by Carthusian monks. YOU JUST CAN’T KILL THESE GUYS OFF – must be the elixir… One of the most heavily guarded secret and for good reason: The drinker can taste Chartreuse’s rich history from start to finish in every bottling.

My Take

As I boast throughout the post, I love Yellow Chartreuse. Everybody’s taste is definitely subjective and I can’t get over this herbal liqueur. And after researching Chartreuse, I like the products even more now.

I randomly stumbled upon Green Chartreuse and there has been many a night with Chartreuse on the rocks. Trust me.

As for Yellow Chartreuse and its use in cocktails… This is a very versatile product and it plays well with others, sometimes being the dominant flavor and at other times, playing a strong side character. This herbaceous liqueur is an ingredient that I won’t ever get tired of playing with.

As for shots, these guys are great. Green Chartreuse burns a lot more (I do enjoy them as well as Yellow) and two shots will keep you feeling alright.

A wonderful cocktail ingredient. Pairs well with a variety of spirits. Do you want to mix Yellow Chartreuse? Well, you should.

• • •




  • Yellow Chartreuse
  • Ice cubes


In a tasting glass:

  • Yellow Chartreuse
  • Ice cubes to taste

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More Curious Cocktailian

If you want to understand Liqueurs better, check out these posts:

Fernet Branca

And here’s the cocktail basics that every bartender needs to know:

An Easy Guide To Bar Tools

The Ultimate Guide To Making The Perfect Manhattan

• • •


Fernet Branca

Looking for a digestif that’s perfect for imbibing after a hardy meal? Try this Bitter Italian Amaro, whether after a romantic meal, during a celebration with friends or while you take in a perfect sunset.

• • •

My rating for Fernet Branca is a 7.5/10

I’d suggest you buy a bottling of Fernet Branca. Here’s what Your Taste “Bud” found out.


Fernet Branca has been in the business since 1845. They’ve been slowly crafting and perfecting this bitter liqueur. It’s perfect for shooting and can be a great mixer.

Fernet is an Italian digestive, and she is quite bitter. I’d suggest all you Negroni drinkers out there to add a few drops of this into your cocktail.

What’s Fernet

Let’s break it down quickly for you:

  1. Ingredients: Alcohol, unique blend of selected blossoms, aromatic herbs, and flowers.
  2.    Alcohol content: 39% (78° proof US)
  3. Presentation: Packaged in a traditional Fernet-Branca liqueur bottle. Very sleek with the embossed seal of Branca.
  4. How to drink it: Drink straight, on the rocks, or with a splash of mineral water. It is a wonderful bitter mixer. Traditionally considered an after dinner drink.

Straight from the guru’s themselves:

  • “It’s decisive tone is derived from the unique taste of its individual ingredients which results in an undeniable rich bitter that finishes with a delicately spiced aftertaste.
    Proudly bitter since its inception in 1845, Fernet-Branca has been produced according to the original recipe that has been handed down from generation to generation and continues to be the true Italian Bitter, truly the one and only Fernet.
  • “Fernet-Branca isn’t only a digestive bitter, it’s a true legend. With 27 herbs, roots and spices, it’s formula is one of the world’s best-kept secrets, so tightly kept, that since its origin even those who collect the spices do not know the exact quantities needed. Today, the only custodian of the Fernet-Branca secret formula is the President, Niccolò Branca, who personally measures out the spices during the production process. The recipe is the true pride of Fernet-Branca and demonstrates how a century-plus tradition and know-how are the secret to its success. When you choose Fernet-Branca, you embark on a journey of the discovery of places, scents, and flavors. It is the awareness of the superiority of its strong, intense and unique taste.”

So, we really don’t know what Fernet is. Essentially, it is a digestive, and the Italians are very proud of it. GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME.


Here is a history of Fernet, via The Straight Up

You gotta check out The Straight up blog as they are doing incredible things!

Fernet-Branca was invented in 1845 by bernardino branca in Milan. Another story claims that a woman named Maria Scala invented the amaro and later married into the Branca family, adopting the family’s name for her creation. However, it is more likely that while Scala did marry into the family, it was after Fernets creation by Bernardino. Regardless of who made it, Fernet-Branca was a hit, and in no time, was being distributed throughout Italy.

Fernet typically refers to the original, but it is also used with other Fernet-Branca like spirits, such as Luxardo Fernet or Fernet Cinzano, which represent their respective companies forays into this flavor profile.

You may be wondering were the “fernet” comes into Fernet-Branca. Shortly after it hit store shelves, a Dr. Fernet Svedese began publishing papers in scientific journals toting the many health benefits of Fernet-Branca. Branca’s creation was the cure for almost any ailment you could think of, from headaches to menstrual pains, to fever, even claiming his family lived into their 100s thanks to Fernet-Branca. Naturally, this built a lot of hype around the spirit. Not to be left behind on this wondrous concoction, other doctors began recommending Fernet to their patients.

Eventually it was discovered that Dr. Fernet, and his healthy old family, were nothing more than a fictitious, marketing ploy by Branca; however, the health claims continued to entrance customers with this bitter amaro. The word Fernet is actually said to have been made up by the Branca family.

The company’s success continued and by 1907, the Brancas began expanding worldwide, including the United States and Argentina. In fact in terms of consumption, Italy, Argentina and the US are the biggest consumers of Fernet-Branca worldwide.


In argentina, Fernet-Branca has become so celebrated, many consider it an official spirit. Argentina was populated by many Italian immigrants who brought Fernet-Branca with them in the late 1800s. Other boosts to its popularity in Argentina came from further Italian immigration during the world wars as well as from college students in the 1980s, during the Falklands War. This war was between the British and Argentinians over control of the Falklands islands off the coast of Argentina. During this conflict, many students boycotted British whiskeys, instead choosing Fernet because they felt it a national beverage. In contrast to the older  generation, who typically enjoyed their Fernet-Branca neat, this younger generation preferred it with Coca-cola, spurring the intensely popular fernet and coke. Currently, Argentina is the only country outside of Italy where Fernet-Branca is produced.

The eagle logo was created by Leopoldo Metlicovitz in 1895. It first appeared in Branca calendars but eventually became the company’s official logo.

In America, Fernet is also hugely popular, particularly in San Francisco. On a recent visit, literally every liquor store I passed had a bottle in clear view of the window. People drank it everywhere. In contrast to Argentina’s Fernet and Coke, San Francisco like to chase shots of fernet with ginger ale.

So what led to its popularity in the states? Chalk this one up to one of the only pluses of prohibition. Due to its many purported health benefits, Fernet-Branca was one of the few spirits still sold in US pharmacies during prohibition. People grew to love their Fernet and this carried through the repeal of Prohibition, particularly in San Francisco, where North Beach and its many Italian immigrants helped make Fernet-Branca a citywide staple.

My Take

Personally, I like Fernet because it’s very bitter, yet refreshing… they also have such a cool site. Fernet Branca‘s site can take awhile to load, but the graphics are well worth it. It’s also in Italian, but there is obvi an option to choose English.

As I said before, Fernet is the perfect shooter. I got a bottle for some friends and myself last weekend. My good friend, Trent, who complains often, said it tasted like cough syrup. He still slurped it down. My other friend, Sean, has acquired a taste for bitterness and so he liked it. He said, “Knowing that there are tons of herbs in this, I feel that it would be okay to do multiple shots of these.” It isn’t that healthy, but it tastes damn good.

Shots aren’t the only use Fernet has. It is also a good cocktail ingredient. It pairs well with a variety of spirits. Wanna mix Fernet?

Let’s take a look at the Brandy Manhattan, courtesy of Fernet Branca. If you want to know How To Make A Perfect Manhattan, check last week’s post.

• • •

Brandy Manhattan


2 oz. of Stravecchio Branca (Instead of Whisky)
1 oz. Carpano Antica Formula (DA best Vermouth)
A couple drops of Fernet-Branca (No Angostura? Cool)


Pour all the ingredients into a mixing glass, stir for a few seconds, then pour the mixture into a glass, filtering out the ice.

Garnish: Orange peel and a Cocktail Cherry

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If you’re into everything cocktail, sign up for the Curious Cocktailian Email List and we’ll send you the new posts right when they come out. That’s the only thing we use the list for – Don’t worry about getting tons of spam or other nonsense!

• • •

More Curious Cocktailian

If you want to understand Liqueurs better, check out these posts:

Yellow Chartreuse

And here’s the cocktail basics that every bartender needs to know:

An Easy Guide To Bar Tools

The Ultimate Guide To Making The Perfect Manhattan

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