What is the spirit that makes cocktails such as the Dark & Stormy, Classic Daiquiri or basically all Tiki cocktails, which are arguably the most delicious and fun to make cocktails in the world, so good? The answer can be found in the pages of history, specifically in the 1600’s Caribbean as well as North & South Americas: Rum.
Distilled from sugarcane, Rums origins are steeped in history and encompass a wide array of distillation preferences depending on what country is producing it. When freshly made, Rum is a clear spirit, and like tequila, it can be and often is aged in barrels that impart layers of rich, sweetness and a darker color before bottling; dark rum and light rum.
Doctor Bird Jamaican Rum is the bottle we recommend to first time rum drinkers, and when mixed with coconut syrup and ginger beer it makes for a delicious libation we call Tropical Storm.
Check out some of our rum-based cocktail recipes below!
Simple as it may be, there are few things as obtain-ably decadent as a freezer chilled splash of vodka after a long day and if you aren’t on board yet with that (no problem, take your time), pop a bottle of AMASS Vodka in your freezer and see for yourself. We think you’ll see this is one situation that is not fake news.
A fairly straightforward method of production, vodka can be made from a wide range of fermented bases, such as honey or fruits, but most commonly it’s made from cereal grain, wheat or potatoes. Occasionally it’s made from seemingly very weird stuff that you would probably never associate with Vodka, or even spirits for that matter, like rice or quinoa, or cow’s milk, or coconut water. And you know what? Some are pretty damn good. One in particular, and technically it’s a lambanog, is a once-distilled coconut water “vodka” that tastes like all those flavored vodka’s should: fresh and authentic. Just like us.
An ideal foundation in which mixologists can build toweringly tasty creations, it can also offer such a simply perfect cocktail in the Vodka Tonic, which we love in the right combinations of botanical Vodka (it’s a thing now, but still is not gin) and tonic, or with a more straight-forward vodka and an array of tonics with flavors that carry perfectly well with Vodka.
In “real” cocktails, vodka is most widely known for Moscow Mules and Cosmopolitans. Vodka is also very conducive to infusions, for instance, St. George distillery makes an excellent green chili vodka that is unbeatable in everyone’s favorite Sunday brunch companion the Bloody Mary, or if you want to dress it up a bit and go bolder, check out the Hi-Lo version: the Hellish Mary.
Check out the Bloody Mary, or the Hi-Lo take on it, the Hellish Mary.
Perhaps a bit misunderstood in the general zeitgeist, Vermouth is simply an aromatized and fortified wine that’s then tinkered with a bit more by adding various herbs and spices, most often imparting local flavors from the surrounding native botanicals.
Although there are various offshoots and subcategories, vermouth can be broken down into two categories: sweet & dry. Not all white vermouth is sweet, but most red vermouth is indeed sweet.
Originally thought of, and still widely drank as an aperitif (just pour it over rocks and enjoy with your dinner-faring amigos), Vermouth has become an MVP in cocktail creation, serving as the key ingredient in a myriad of classics such as the Martini and the Manhattan. But we maintain that the old school method of slinging some Vermouth into a glass chilled with ice is still a great way to get steeped in the essence and complexity of the drink. Vermouth has so much to it, it’s good to get to know it a bit before going cocktail crazy. Though we recommend that too.
Because of its easy sipping and crucial-to-cocktail status there are a quite a few Vermouth options to chose from, and though we tend to recommend Dolin as a standard for your vermouth needs, be it their Rouge in a Manhattan or their Dry in a Martini. However, that’s not to say there are not more interesting or appropriate Vermouth situations you should be getting into. For example, Lo-Fi Sweet Vermouth in a Young Martinez is a “must” at some point in your life!
Check out the Young Martinez cocktail recipe, only by Hi-Lo.
Tequila, the multifaceted and delicious distillate of blue agave, is a spirit who’s vast history can be traced back to 1000 B.C and also serves as the spirit that absolutely everyone has had “that one night with…” at some point in their life. We probably all started off on the wrong foot: cheap, acrid tequila can really turn people off, and honestly for good reasons! But avoiding Tequila entirely because of a bad start one sordid evening long ago robs you of the amazing productions that are occurring by dedicated artisans that understand the beauty of the agave plant that can be extracted and enhanced, with the right amount of care for the splendid juice that goes behind a label.
Although agave can be grown in various regions, its distillate can only be called Tequila if it’s from the central western Mexican city Jalisco, which is about 500 miles south of Laredo, TX. Tequila comes in 3 forms: Blanco, Reposado, and Anejo. These all refer to the amount of time the juice spends in barrel; the longer the time, the darker the color and softer the taste. Some Tequila is referred to as “extra anejo” if it’s aged significantly longer than the minimum time to meet the standard for an anejo, but doesn’t specify an exact age.
Tequila is a favorite amongst bartenders and mixologist for its innumerable cocktail possibilities and its ability to “liven things up”! For a tried and true tequila cocktail, the Margarita is and always will be a fan favorite, however, if you’re feeling feisty, we’d recommend giving The Tequila Daisy a whirl and see what happens.
Check out our Margarita recipe below:
Bourbon is the representative spirit for the United States, and the whiskey you’re most likely to find in your glass when you order a cocktail.
Although it’s so strongly associated with the American south, bourbon is made throughout the fifty states and garners its moniker as long as it’s made from at least 51% corn and aged in new charred barrels.
Some notable names in the Kentucky bourbon business include Elijah Craig, Buffalo Trace and Willett Distillery, while some great examples of non-Kentucky Bourbon are Redwood Empire (California), Widow Jane (New York) and High West (Utah).
The base for some of the worlds best cocktails, bourbon is the headliner in an Old Fashioned, a Boulevardier and a Mint Julep, however, we recommend giving The Confirmed Bachelor a spin if you really want to see the versatility of this world-class libation.
Check out the classic Old Fashioned recipe, or the super simple Hi-Lo take on it, the Black Walnut Old Fashioned.
With the longest legacy in American whiskey distillation, rye is the spicier and edgier brother to Bourbon, sharing a similar distillation process but replacing 51% corn with 51% rye grain. Typically preferred the by the seasoned whiskey drinker due to its peppery taste and lingering, smoldering essence of grain and fruit. No self respecting bar is complete without a good bottle of rye like Old Overholt, one of America’s oldest whiskey brands or Sazerac, arguably the premier representation of the style. In fact, if you were to wonder into a bar and ask for a rye cocktail, odds are the bartender would sling you a cocktail called The Sazerac while whistling some New Orleans jazz. We’d also recommend giving The Scofflaw a whirl if you want to see rye truly shine.
If you have a broad palate and can’t decide between bourbon and rye, rest assured, there is a whiskey for you and it comes with a whole host of tasty opportunity: blended whiskey! Precisely what the name implies, blended whiskey’s are mix different levels of rye, bourbon and often times neutral grain spirits with other flavoring. More malleable and conducive to honing in specific flavors in terms of taste or for cocktails, blends embody no limit but the sky when it comes to versatility and creativity. To understand what we mean, we recommend giving Redwood Empire Lost Monarch a taste, first “straight up” to experience the intricacies of its remarkable taste, and then find yourself some sweet vermouth, bitters and cherries to whip up a Manhattan!
Looking for an amazing Manhattan kit? Check this out, along with our Hi-Lo take on the Manhattan: The Confirmed Bachelor.
The “fresh” spirit whose fragrances alone are as enticing as a forest in bloom and whose history is rooted in medieval herbal alchemy. Derived from grain and juniper berries, Gin is one of the most playful and singular to the distiller spirits around due to the freedom to select and utilize virtually limitless combinations of herbs, botanicals and even fruit! For a very long time, it has been, almost uniquely, a British classic, with full stores dedicated to the spirit, in a dizzying array of botanical styles.
Every label of gin is a unique expression of the distiller and the region in which they’re working in or sourcing their ingredients from. The classic “London Dry” gin is still a favorite, but several “New American” distillers and gin styles have been created in an ode to the wonderful expressions of botanicals that are local to California and other regions with excellent horticulture. The list of cocktails that use gin as their base is inexhaustible and contains some of the most popular concoctions on the planet such as the Negroni or the Gin Martini.
With so many classic cocktails to its name, we’d recommend trying something a bit more playful, for example, the Young Martinez.
Check out our Young Martinez cocktail kit, our take on the classic Martinez (or keep it classic!):
It’s impossible to pinpoint one specific reason why Mezcal is swiftly becoming one of the most popular spirits globally but we think the broad answer is simply “Because it tastes SO GOOD!!” Made from the roasted heart of the agave, it’s hard not to love for so many reasons.
A meticulous distillation process with a highly regimented and monitored set of rules for production that takes place mostly in Oaxaca, Mexico, mezcal possesses a particular transportive quality, perhaps more so than any other spirit. The first sip of a new mezcal immediately fills your senses and sends you to straight to where the agave was cultivated and distilled.
A recent trend amongst mixologists has been to supplement mezcal in classic cocktails in place of the standard spirit, for instance, a Oaxaca Old Fashioned or our personal favorite, The Mezcal Negroni made with Madre Espadin Mezcal.
Check out our cocktail recipe for the Hi-Lo take on the negroni with Mezcal.