Tag Archives: Recipes



We are now reaching the end of summer, but there’s still time for the beach, pool, and (for those of us with no shame) even yard sprinklers. For the grown ups, it’s a season for what I call “boat drinks”—fruity concoctions filled with rum and other exotic liqueurs—that make you feel relaxed, like you are floating away. Boat drinks—aka tiki drinks—are fantastic for parties because they are playful, but they can be dangerous, especially when the weather is hot. Their sweetness quenches thirst, but also disguises the liquor inside. Too much tiki may equal a headache the next day, if you’re not careful. Jesse Goldstein guides you through all things tiki here. We invite you to try a few, or have a party to test them all out. Still, unless you have an extra day of vacation to recuperate, try not to drift too far away from shore. From Jesse:

I used to think of tiki drinks only as sweet, brightly colored cocktails with paper umbrellas. You know, the kind you would find on cruise ships and poolside bars at resorts? Over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about what really makes a tiki drink, the crazy history that brought them to life, and how to create my own. As a result, I’ve realized how wrong I was to oversimplify or brush off tiki drinks as unrefined.

To tell the story of tiki drinks, you have to start the tale all the way back in the days of Prohibition, when there was a constitutional ban on selling, producing, importing, and transporting alcoholic beverages. Prior to Prohibition, rum was not that popular here in states—where people more often reached for gin, whiskey and bourbon. And though Prohibition closed the domestic distilleries making most of those spirits, that ban did not apply to our neighboring countries, whose distilleries increased their production to keep up with this new demand. Those Americans who chose to keep drinking had to obtain spirits that were produced illegally and smuggled in from other countries. “Rum runners” introduced the country to a wave of delicious rums from the Caribbean, and the taste for rum was established.

But you need more than just rum to create a tiki drink. You need the mix of Polynesian kitsch and fresh flavor combinations. For that, we have to thank a man named Raymond Beaumont Gantt, more commonly known under the pseudonym Don Beach. He was quite the world traveler and lover of tropical culture. He settled in California with suitcases full of souvenirs from his travels to the islands and a dream of opening a restaurant that brought together creative rum drinks and foods loosely based on Polynesian, Hawaiian, and Cantonese cuisines. This dream became a reality in 1934 when he opened “Don the Beachcomber” in Hollywood, California. The concept was a success and soon others followed his lead, opening new tiki concepts like Trader Vic’s.

As soldiers returned home from WWII, they longed for the flavors of the South Pacific. The entire nation soon developed a romanticized obsession with the tropics, thanks in part to films and music of the day. Trader Vic’s and others opened locations around the country to fill that demand, each trying to outdo the next with elaborate Polynesian structures, décor, and even fake lightning and rainstorms. The competition between these bars was so fierce that unique, top-secret recipes were often written in code to avoid poaching from competitors. Some of these historic recipes are highlighted in Beachbum Berry’s Potions of the Caribbean, where mysterious sounding ingredients like “Don’s Spices #4” actually refers to cinnamon simple syrup.

But by the mid 1960s, Americans were stunned by the horrors of Vietnam and no longer romanticized wartime images; the idea of pretending to spend your evenings in far away beaches no longer held the mystique it once did. Tiki culture slowly fell out of favor and most tiki bars closed their doors.

Thankfully there’s a resurgence in tiki demand, due in part to the inventive success of bars like Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago and Tiki-Ti in Los Angeles. People are rediscovering the lively world of tiki drinks and seeking them out wherever they go. Of course, traveling to Chicago just to go to a bar doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for most of us, so we’re left to make these cocktails at home. Those of us with the desire to DIY must ask the question “what makes a drink a tiki drink?” A tiki drink is best represented through multiple layers of flavors achieved in three basic categories of ingredients: booze, fruit, and spice.

Though admittedly not all tiki drinks are made with rum, many are. And many of those drinks are not only made with rum, but multiple types of rum. There are recipes that call for two, three, and sometimes even four different rums. Others might use a combination of gin and rum or cognac and liqueurs. The use of more than one spirit helps establish the foundation of flavor in most tiki drinks. It also means that they are often quite potent.

The second essential tiki element is fruit. Tiki drinks are best when made with fresh fruit juices. Obviously many of these are tropical in nature like citrus, pineapple, passion fruit, guava, coconut, and mango. As with the spirits, many recipes require multiple juices for a single cocktail, helping to mask that dangerous potency from all the booze.

But I think the true key to tiki drinks comes in the form the third element, which we’ll call spice. Be it ginger, cinnamon syrup, freshly-grated nutmeg, a dash of bitters, or even a couple drops of almond extract, unique spice combinations were part of how individual tiki bars could differentiate their cocktails from competitors. This addition of spice is an instantly recognizable element in many tiki drinks today.


Tiki at Home

If you’re looking to create your own tiki drinks, you should start by collecting a few different types of rums. Of course not every tiki drink is made with rum, but if you have good rums you can make a variety of delicious cocktails. Purchase high quality versions of white, dark, spiced, and even flavored rums. Look for rums from Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Barbados, and the Virgin Islands. Next, you might want to invest in some of the more unique ingredients like falernum, pimento dram, and orgeat. Falernum is available as both a spirit and a non-alcoholic syrup and is flavored with almond, ginger, nutmeg, and lime. Pimento dram is an allspice liqueur that adds a distinctive flavor to classic tiki drinks like the Voodoo Grog. Orgeat is an almond-flavored syrup that you can buy online, if not at your local liquor store. It’s worth the purchase, as there are literally dozens of classic tiki drinks that call for this ingredient.

Next, you’ll want to do a little prep in the way of syrups. Three of my favorites are a demerara simple syrup made with equal parts demerara sugar and water, a cinnamon syrup, and a passion fruit syrup. I’ve been able to find frozen passion fruit puree in Latin markets and add it to a simple syrup. To make cinnamon syrup, boil a cup of water with a few broken cinnamon sticks. Add a cup of sugar, stir until dissolved and let it sit overnight before straining.

Finally, go get some fresh fruit and juice it. Oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit are a great place to start. Fresh pineapple juice requires an electric juicer, so it’s entirely forgivable if you choose to purchase it instead.

When making tiki drinks, I prefer to use crushed ice, as it has more surface area to help cool and dilute the boozy recipes. If you have a Sonic Drive-In near you, they’ll usually sell you a bag of their ice (really!)—it’s perfect for tiki drinks.

Now, on to the cocktails! I offer a few classics, alongside several of my own invention, created to inspire you to get behind the (tiki) bar and play!


Mai Tai
1 oz dark Jamaican rum
1 oz light Puerto Rican rum
1 oz fresh lime juice
½ oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao (or homemade curaçao)
¼ oz orgeat syrup
½ oz demerara syrup (equal parts demerara sugar and water)
Fresh mint and lime wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients and shake with crushed ice. Pour entire contents into glass and top with more ice, if needed. Garnish with a sprig of mint and lime wheel.

1 oz gold rum
1 oz dark Jamaican rum
1 oz overproof rum
¾ oz fresh lime juice
½ oz white grapefruit juice
½ oz falernum
¼ oz cinnamon syrup
1 barspoon grenadine
Dash Angostura bitters
Fresh mint for garnish

Combine all ingredients and shake with crushed ice. Pour entire contents into glass and top with more ice if needed. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

La Playa Royale
2 oz silver tequila
1 oz white rum
1 ½ oz fresh orange juice
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz cinnamon syrup
½ oz orgeat
Cinnamon stick and strip of orange zest for garnish

Combine all ingredients and shake with crushed ice. Wrap the strip of orange peel inside the glass, pour entire contents into glass and top with more ice, if needed. Garnish with cinnamon stick.


Sailor Bait
1 oz apricot brandy
1 oz dry gin
1 oz gold rum
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz mango nectar
½ oz orgeat
2 dashes angostura bitters
Wedge of lime
Lemon wheel and cherry for garnish

Combine all ingredients and shake with crushed ice. Pour entire contents into glass and top with more ice, if needed. Squeeze the wedge of lime into the drink and garnish with lemon wheel and cherry.

Coral Reef
2 oz gold rum
1 oz white rum
1 oz melon liqueur
¼ oz pimento dram
¾ oz fresh lime juice
1 oz fresh orange juice
Orange slice and orchid for garnish

Combine all ingredients and shake with crushed ice. Pour entire contents into glass and top with more ice if needed. Garnish with slice of orange and an orchid blossom if you have one on hand.

Tidal Pool
1 oz Mount Gay Barbados rum
1 oz white rum
1 oz blue curaçao
2 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
½ oz falernum
Freshly grated nutmeg
Pineapple wedge and cherry for garnish

Combine all ingredients except nutmeg and garnish and shake with crushed ice. Pour entire contents into glass and top with more ice, if needed. Grate nutmeg on top and garnish with pineapple wedge and cherry.

Passion Poison
1 oz white rum
1 oz gold rum
2 oz passion fruit syrup
1 oz fresh lime juice
¼ oz crème de cassis
1 oz black spiced rum
Lime wedge and cherry for garnish

Combine all ingredients except black spiced rum and shake with crushed ice. Pour entire contents into glass and top with more ice if needed. Float black spiced rum on top and garnish with lime wedge and cherry.



Barbeque lovers are often staunch proponents and defenders of their favorite preparation, favorite meat, and favorite sauce—or lack thereof. Just as there is an entire range of styles of barbeque (everything from pulled pork with slaw to smoked chicken to a plate of burnt ends), there is a whole spectrum of barbeque sauces. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of sugary red sauces; but as an Alabama native, I must wholeheartedly profess my love of our native white barbeque sauce.

Many of you may be unfamiliar with this particular variety of sauce, as it is a North Alabama specialty. But, it is a staple of almost every barbeque restaurant in the area and has found its way to our tables and local grocery store shelves. White sauce is a tangy condiment made of mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and pepper. While that might sound a little odd to the uninitiated, those in the know are evangelists for the stuff.

While white barbeque sauce has been served in the area for years, local lore suggests that Bob Gibson of the legendary Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama, invented it in 1925. Bob worked for the L & N Railroad Company, but would host barbeques on the weekends, smoking meat over a hickory pit in his backyard. Eventually, his food became so popular that he quit his job at the railroad and opened a proper restaurant.

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With Father’s Day quickly approaching, this month’s cocktail post from our Nashville-based cocktail expert Jesse Goldstein discusses the importance of an often-overlooked component of boozy drinks—water. Want to know when to shake and when to stir (or the perfect cocktail for celebrating the fathers in your life)? Read on. From Jesse:

It was in 1806 that The Balance and Columbian Repository first defined the word “cocktail.”  Simply defined, it read that a “cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” For those with a keen eye, you might recognize this as the basic recipe for a classic Old Fashioned cocktail. But what I think of when I read that is what most people take for granted in a cocktail; the water. Besides booze, water is perhaps the most important ingredient in any cocktail, imparted usually through the use of ice. The correct proportion of water in a drink can help make it more palatable. Too much simply waters it down. So how do you get it right?

The key, I’ve learned, is all in preparation. Cocktails are made in more less two manners—shaken or stirred. Yes, there are some that you simply build in a glass, but for the sake of argument, let’s put those in the “stirred” category. With one simple rule, you can look at the ingredients of a cocktail and know which method is preferred.

James Bond always seemed like such a badass when he ordered his “martini, shaken, not stirred.” But what I’ve come to realize is that he was doing it wrong. Of course there’s room for personal preference, but if you’re like me, you like having some rules to go by. So here it is; if a cocktail has fruit juice or syrups, shake it. If a cocktail is only comprised of spirits, you stir it.


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In this month’s cocktail post, contributor Jesse Goldstein goes deep into the margarita well (or pitcher, as it were). Everyone loves a good margarita on Cinco de Mayo—but here are a few options that will carry you through the rest of the summer in high style. From Jesse:

I catch myself feeling sorry for inanimate things every now and then. You know, the chair in the living room you never sit in, the vegetables people love to hate, and tequila. My sorrow for the latter really comes from how it’s been vilified by memories of college parties gone wrong and bright green, sickly-sweet margaritas served in many restaurants and bars.

I set out on a personal mission to make up for all that disdain and rediscover how good a margarita really can be when made with simple, fresh ingredients and good-quality tequila. In the process, I discovered a variety of ways to punch up this spirited concoction into new drinks. They don’t have to be the color of kryptonite. They can be light, bright, and delicious.

Better yet, these tequila cocktails are the perfect warm weather cocktails. Coupled with bright citrus flavors, they’re barely sweet and easy to make even more refreshing with a splash of seltzer on top.


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For this month’s cocktail selection, contributor Jesse Goldstein focuses on something that most Southerners hold dear: a glass of tea. Here he provides us with both hot and cold options that are delicious and simple to prepare—for one or for a whole group.

From Jesse:

When most think of tea and cocktails, the first thing that comes to mind is a good hot toddy. There’s nothing wrong with a classic, but if that’s the extent of your use of tea in cocktails, you’re missing out on a beautiful spectrum of flavors just waiting to be incorporated into all types of boozy beverages.

For me, a great cocktail must have balance. This most commonly comes in the form of balancing boozy sharpness with sugar and citrus, but even that can still fall flat on the palate. Think of a well-balanced cocktail like your favorite meal in a restaurant. The spices and seasonings enhance the main ingredients that make that dish so memorable. When it comes to cocktails, freshly brewed black, green, and herbal teas can impart bright herbal notes and bitter tannins that supplement just a few simple ingredients and compliment many spirits.

If you’ve read the previous blog post, Reclaiming Church Punch, you know that teas have a place in cocktail history. Much like the punches of yesteryear, these new tea cocktails can also be made in large batches for entertaining—or just a lazy weekend afternoon on the porch with friends. Just be sure to always start with fresh, high-quality teas and chill them prior to making iced cocktails.

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In December of 2011, we started playing with bitters. Today, we explore how craft meets cocktail with Jesse Goldstein. Read on to learn how to make variations of your own of cocktail bitters and how to use this relatively simple ingredient to add complex layers to your own drinks:

It was in 1806 when the word “cocktail” was first defined in print. The Balance and Columbian Repository of Hudson, NY classified it simply as “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” Fellow cocktail enthusiasts may recognize this description as what we would call an Old Fashioned today; but it’s that last, often misunderstood, ingredient listed the lineup that has fascinated me for many years.

The term “bitters” typically refers to alcohol infused with a variety of botanical ingredients resulting in a somewhat bitter or bittersweet taste. There are really two classifications of bitters: digestive bitters like Campari are sipped neat or on the rocks after a meal; concentrated tinctures of cocktail bitters (often referred to as aromatic or potable bitters) like Angostura are used in drops and dashes in many classic and modern craft cocktails. I’ve often referred to bitters as the “salt and pepper” of cocktails, providing amazing depth and flavor that you can’t get from basic booze ingredients alone. But the more I looked into bitters, the more fascinated I became with their history, their variety and, eventually, the process of making them myself.

Though modern Americans are only recently regaining an appreciation of bitterness, our ancestors once embraced the taste of bitter flavors. Bitters were originally developed for medicinal purposes, with a history traced as far back as ancient Egypt. The proliferation of distilled spirits and an obsession with pharmacology led to even more concentrated varieties in the Middle Ages. The use of bitters for ailments continued for generations, often used as preventative medicine for everything from seasickness to heartburn.

Bolstered by the renaissance of craft cocktails, bitters have been gaining steam amongst cocktail connoisseurs for the past few years. The old standbys of Angostura and Peychaud’s have been joined by companies like Hella Bitters, Scrappy Bitters, and The Bitter Truth popping up all over the country—reimagining bitters in small batches with flavors created specifically for cocktails. These purveyors are joining classic bittering ingredients of gentian, quassia bark, dandelion, or wormwood with ingredients more commonly found in your kitchen spice cabinet. But these craft bitters are not cheap, often fetching more than $10 for a single ounce.

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Vino or Moonshine? Both, please. Memphis chefs, Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman’s new cookbook, Collards and Carbonara: Southern Cooking, Italian Roots published by Olive Press, showcases their distinctly Southern-Italian dishes—or is that distinctly Italian-Southern dishes? Either way, it’s fusion cuisine with an accent.

The two chefs and best friends opened the upscale Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis back in 2008. After much acclaim, they opened a more casual sister restaurant, Hog & Hominy, right across the street in 2012. The two attended culinary school together in Charleston, South Carolina, and refined their skills in Italy. They compare their partnership to the dynamic of being in a band; they feed off one another for ideas and are always discovering inspiration together. The cookbook is a manifesto of sorts that establishes the greatness of duplicity in heritage cooking. At the root of their success is the fact that they simply love to play and work and learn and cook together. They share their stories revealing the secret to their success and the gospel of food according to these good Italian boys.

Each dish represents a new discovery and a step on their culinary pathway. The funky fusion dishes are as beautiful as they are humble. Warm pig’s ear salad with pears and Gorgonzola, fried green tomatoes with blue crab and bacon jam, gnocchi with caramelized fennel and corn; the pairings may seem unusual, but the flavors make sense together. Recipes for basic dishes like their famous boiled peanuts and pizza dough each have unlikely nuances that bring Italian and Southern American cuisines together.


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In anticipation of upcoming holiday celebrations, we asked Jesse Goldstein, our cocktail contributor, to come up with a couple of new twists on classic sparkling cocktails. Celebrate responsibly and come back for more great cocktail recipes in the new year.

I’ve often said that it’s a shame sparkling wine seems to be reserved for special occasions. Gone are the days that the only options at your local wine shop are cheap, sweet bubbles or expensive French Champagne. These days you can find many amazing (and affordable) varieties of Italian Prosecco, Spanish Cava and California sparklings. Even better, you can also find outstanding rosé varieties, which often have more depth and flavor than their white counterparts.

But just because you’ve got a good bottle of bubbly does not mean there’s no room for improvement. Adding a splash of cordial or a special garnish turns up the flavor of your bubbles and makes it more memorable and delicious for your guests.

Here are a few of my personal favorites.


1 bottle chilled rosé Prosecco
6 cherries (pitted and frozen)
6 ounces pineapple juice
2 ounces brandy
1 ounces Cointreau or Grand Marnier

If using fresh cherries, freeze them first. This helps break down the cellular structure of the fruit and makes for better flavor absorption. Place the frozen cherries in a small jar with the pineapple juice, brandy, and Cointreau. Seal and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, mix with the bottle of chilled rosé Prosecco, reserving the cherries to drop into each glass as a garnish.


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Last year, when delving into the history of holiday carols, I found myself asking a question that I’ve wondered about since my youth: What exactly is figgy pudding?

The traditional English dessert is mentioned several times in the popular carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (Now bring us some figgy pudding and bring it right here), referring to the caroling traditions of 16th century England where Christmas treats and drinks were given to carolers by wealthy well-wishers as a thank you for the songs. Often, these treats included puddings.

After a bit of research, I discovered that figgy pudding is actually more cake-like in form. It is similar to modern-day Christmas puddings and plum puddings, and—like it or not—is a cousin to the unjustly maligned fruitcake. But, don’t let that keep you from trying this delicious, boozy dessert. (Yes, classic figgy pudding includes a good dose of rum and brandy—perfect for warming chilly carolers.)

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Thanksgiving is a holiday rich with memories, traditions, and foods we only eat this time of year. For about two days leading up to Thanksgiving dinner, I can guarantee that there is nearly always something either going into or coming out of my oven, and aromas both sweet and savory waft throughout the house.

Our friends at Local Palate share a love of food and storytelling through their magazine, recipes, and blog (look for more on their revamped website and a Q&A in the coming weeks). You can find quite a few delicious seasonal recipes in their catalogue (conveniently sorted by holiday), including this offering from North Carolina-based chef Vivian Howard.

“This combination of turkey, cranberry, pecan, and sorghum, will make you hide your gravy boat for a year or two. All joking aside, these components, when paired with a green bean dish and side of sweet potatoes, would compose a perfectly balanced Thanksgiving plate all by themselves. And if turkey’s not your thing, this profile works beautifully with chicken, ham, or duck.” – Chef Vivian Howard


–From Chef Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, North Carolina, star of the PBS show A Chef’s Life, and featured on the November 2014 cover of The Local Palate magazine 

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