AlcoHOLidays | Independence Day | Cruzan Independence Sparkler



In honor of those founding fathers’ stand for freedoms from tyranny, we’re going to feature Constitutional cocktails for 2 weeks instead of 1.

We’re going short and sweet without any preamble this week! Courtesy of our friends at Cruzan, today’s cocktail features two of their rums because, hey, twice the rum, twice the fun, right?

Cruzan® Independence Sparkler

1 half of a Lime, cut into quarters
6 Basil leaves
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 oz Cruzan® Strawberry Rum
1 oz Cruzan® Aged Light Rum
Soda Water

Method: Muddle lime and basil with sugar in a tumbler. Add rums and ice, then shake 2 times to mix. Pour into a rocks glass and top with soda. Garnish with 1 basil top and a fanned strawberry slice.

I’m actually on the road this week, so I appreciate Cruzan’s timely recipe suggestion. And I’ll be bringing you a review of the Aged and Strawberry rums next week once I get back to my home bar.


When Life Hands You Lemons…


You shake those babies up!

The Lemon Drop martini is one of those wonderful sweet and sour bevvies that is perfect for a hot summer day. Even though we’re slipping into fall, I don’t think anyone will argue that a lemony libation is out of season.

The best Lemon Drop we’ve had in a restaurant was at Bogey’s at the Hotel DeFuniak–a quaint little B&B (they still used actual keys when we were last there) with a room that is supposedly haunted. (If I’d only known that when I made our reservation I’d have requested that one, instead!) Todd won the drink order*, that night, and I wrote down the menu description for later experimentation. Others have been ordered since then at various places but none have lived up.

Until now, though, the best Lemon Drop we’ve had at home came–I’m almost ashamed to say–from a mix. Almost ashamed but not quite, as the mix was truly exceptional: the Lavendar Lemonade Martini mix from ModMix. Fully organic and incredibly tasty, we mixed them with Vanilla Vodka and a good time was had by all.

Now, though, I want to branch out and create our own home version, not from a mix, and using the wonderful things we’ve learned since first encountering the Bogey’s Lemon Drop.

Lusty Lemon Drop

Research first, I was dismayed at recipes that merely called for Lemon Vodka and a little bit of sugar. 1 ingredient does not a cocktail make, my friends. And to those who claimed any orange liqueur would do, I submit that a Lemon Drop made with Triple Sec would be vastly inferior to one made with Cointreau. (I feel like I need a say-no-to-Triple Sec graphic every time I have to make this point.)

Actually, I was surprised at how many recipes I previews called for the dreaded Triple Sec–it’s the cheap and easy sister everyone expected so much of but who never lives up to her potential. At some point, you have to face facts that she’s just not interested in change.

Oh, wait, that’s a different kind of tart.

A Lemon Drop is very simple in essence: vodka, lemon juice, sugar. But I had a very specific set of ingredients in mind for our Lemon Drop. I knew we’d use Vanilla Vodka (again, our favorite of late is from 360 Vodka) and, in addition to fresh lemon juice, some of our homemade Limoncello for added smoothness.

But what else? The Lavender Lemon Drop had that nice little something extra, what would put this one over the top?

Then it hit me. When I was trying out the Green Angel cocktail for this week’s AGWA de Bolivia review, the basil mixed so well with the Limoncello, I wanted to try it again. And with the idea to combine lemon zest with the rimming sugar borrowed from Inspired Taste, we were all set to try it out. All that was left was to fiddle with proportions!

Lusty Lemon Drop

3-5 Basil Leaves, depending on the size
1 oz Limoncello
2 oz Vanilla Vodka
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Sugar, Basil and Lemon zest for garnish

In the mixing glass of a Boston shaker, muddle the basil and Limoncello together just enough to break up the leaves a bit but not so much that they’re torn to smithereens.  Add ice, the vanilla vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup and shake like you just can’t wait. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with lemon-sugar and enjoy.

Dipping a moistened basil leaf into the lemon sugar makes a great additional garnish.

Basil, in herbal lore, corresponds to love and passion, hence the name.

The homemade sour mix (equal parts lemon juice and simple syrup) tones down the somewhat cloying–but in the best possible sense of the word–nature of the Limoncello and Vanilla Vodka. And the basil? Oh, man, the basil adds a sweet scent and a touch of something to the flavor that, if you didn’t know it was basil you wouldn’t know what it was but you’d know you like it. I suppose this cocktail is a bit like art, in that respect. Either way you slice it, this is a passionate drink, one you’d want to drown in… except for the fact that if you were to depart this mortal coil you wouldn’t be able to make and enjoy another one!

*We have an unofficial contest every time we go out where we sample each other’s drinks and, sometimes, when one clearly surpasses the other, that person wins.

Introducing: AGWA de Bolivia


AGWA de Bolivia banner
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of press releases from different companies running contests or touting new or improved alcohols and I’m thrilled to be able to share then with you guys. Don’t worry, though, I won’t be turning this into an announcement list for beverage distributors–we’re going to be pretty choosy about what makes it through the gate.

One bit of news that did catch my eye was about the new liqueur, AGWA de Bolivia. Not going to lie, what made me sit up and take notice was the fact that this liqueur is distilled from Coca leaves.

Yes, really, those coca leaves.

A few years back I picked up a book that looked interesting, mostly because I misread the title as I wandered through the bookstore. What I though was about Native American medicine (thinking medicine wheel or trail of tears sort of thing) turned out to be about alternative/natural medicines among various ancient cultures spread out around the world. And while the author did spend quite a bit of time searching for and describing the potential of a Viagra-substitute, the book was an interesting read and featured a bit about the importance of coca to the Peruvian culture.

And, of course, being from the South we all know about coca being part of the original Coca-Cola.

But back to the topic of the day! AGWA de Bolivia is a coca leaf liqueur (along with over 30 other herbs) but before anything else happens, the leaves are decocainized. I didn’t know that was a process, either, but I suppose it’s like decaffeinating coffee beans or tea leaves. And, really, it’s not like it’d be allowed in this country if it were truly laced with cocaine, right?

The same folks who kindly offered to send me a sample of this new liqueur also included a few starter recipes to try it out.

Trio of Agwa de Bolivia applications

The 3 AGWA-migos!

First I tried the Bolivian Kiss–it’s a simple 1-2 punch of bite the lime, take the shot. Only I don’t really see the point in shooting alcohol: it want to taste what I’m drinking, not get drunk. So the shot? Not so much. But the flavor combination of the lime and the AGWA was quite refreshing. On the agwabuzz website they also have a recipe for the AGWA Fresca and I’ll bet it’s delicious with the lime and soda water.

Next up was the Red Devil: AGWA and Cranberry. Todd and I both found this one to be surprisingly good. I mean, cranberry gets mixed with a lot of different alcohols and does pretty well, but on it’s own the juice can be a little thin, a little sharp, and very tart. It’s cranberry, after all. But add about an ounce of AGWA? Totally different story! The AGWA doesn’t assert itself over the cranberry, it blends together and creates this warm, soft, round flavor and feel–even on the rocks. This one we will be trying again.

Finally it was time to test the recipe that really made me curious from the original information: the Green Angel. It has two ingredients I dearly love–gin and limoncello–so I knew we had to give it a whirl.

The Green Angel

4 large Basil leaves
1/2 oz Limoncello
1 1/4 oz Gin
3/4 oz AGWA de Bolivia
3/4 oz Apple juice
Lime and Vanilla sugar for garnish

In the bottom of a shaker, bruise the basil leaves into the limoncello with a muddler. Fill the mixing glass half-full of ice and stir to coat with the limoncello. Strain off the limoncello and add the gin, AGWA de Bolivia and apple juice to the mixing glass. Shake like your attempting lift off and strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with vanilla sugar.

I adjusted their recipe a little–converted it from milliliters to ounces, muddled the basil with the limoncello rather than just stirring it around (and using only half of what they called for since I had huge basil leaves), and I shook it instead of stirring. It’s a preference thing.

The Green Angel reminds me of these little candies a friend gave me back in high school. They were French rosewater sugar drops with a little bit of licorice in the center. This cocktail has almost an anise touch to it–Todd said it reminded him of the monkey-face licorice we got back in Nebraska–but I don’t know that there’s any licorice actually in there, it’s just the first impression we each got. The lemon and basil are subtle, the gin in pretty good accord with the AGWA and the apple adds enough sweet to balance out the herbal notes from both alcohols. Not as sweet as I thought it would be, but a very tasty libation.

The Red Devil was obviously our favorite. If you’d like to give it a try you can find out who in your area is likely to carry AGWA de Bolivia (if you’re lucky enough to have a BevMo, try there first) at

Oh! And an aside about the limoncello. For the love of lemons do not just pour out the limoncello and discard it! The hint of basil in the limoncello adds an amazing depth of flavor. In fact, I’d even suggest giving it a try on purpose.

FCC Disclaimer: If it isn’t already obvious, I was provided with samples of the product to try. The rambling opinions are entirely my own.