All posts by KM

Maraschino Liqueur Cocktail: Gin Sunset

I’ve had a draft of a post about a Maraschino Liqueur Cocktail sitting for half a year at this point, but wasn’t able to decide on a good drink recipe to showcase it. While playing around the other night, I finally decided on one.

The Gin Sunset is a simple, sweet, but not too sweet, Maraschino Liqueur Cocktail. It is the perfect happy hour drink for the fall season. We have been enjoying it in the cool, crisp air sitting in the warm sun hence the name.

Without further ado, The Gin Sunset.


Maraschino Liqueur Cocktail: Gin Sunset


  • 2 oz Gin
  • 1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur
  • 4 oz Blood Orange Soda

Maraschino Liqueur is a really interesting and distinctive fruit/nut liqueur that can really put a good drink over the edge to great. It’s an essential part of a well-stocked bar, as there’s really nothing else like it.

From Wikipedia:

Maraschino (/ˌmærəˈskn/ marr-ə-SKEE-noh) is a liqueur originally from the city of Zadar in Croatia, obtained from the distillation of Marasca cherries. The small, slightly sour fruit of the marasca cherry tree (cerasus acidior), which grows wild along parts of the Dalmatian coast, lends the liqueur its unique aroma.

A post with more detail on Maraschino Liqueur is coming soon, so check back once you’ve made this!



Vermouth Is Better Than You Think


My experience thus far with Vermouth is a poorly made Martini and a poorly made Manhattan, so I wasn’t surprised that I wasn’t too excited about writing a post about it. But, bear with me, and you’ll find that Vermouth is better than you think. Way better.

A good friend of mine suggested it would make a good post and got me started with some great information, so I bought a bottle of sweet/red and dry Vermouth. After playing around with it in a few drinks, I ended up drinking it neat, and now love it. I doubt most people would enjoy it neat, but this is always a great way to really understand your cocktail ingredients and what flavor they impart.

Things to know about Vermouth

First, let’s talk about what vermouth is. Vermouth is an aromatized  and fortified wine. That basically means that it’s wine with brandy and botanicals (herbs, spices, roots, bark) added. That leads us to the first thing I, and probably most people, didn’t understand. Unlike the rest of your liquor cabinet, these guys spoil just like wine. Because of the higher alcohol content, it might take a little longer than wine, but it will still definitely spoil.

Second, Vermouth is a pretty cool drink that has been a staple aperitif for forever. However, it’s pretty unappreciated in America, and has been for a long time. Not really sure why, but I can definitely support this. I’ve only had it once or twice as a secondary ingredient, and I’d be willing to bet most people are the same way.

Third, there are a bunch of different varieties that you can somewhat connected across makers, but Red/Sweet and Dry are what are most commonly available. For this post, I’ll concentrate on the Red/Sweet.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s drink it!

Vermouth Spoiling Taste Test

Earlier in the post we talked about how Vermouth spoils after opening, so let’s taste test how.

Not knowing this, I of course had a bottle of Sweet Vermouth open in my liquor cabinet for months, which makes for a perfect comparison. We tried both the brand-new and the old and opened Vermouth neat.

The brand-new Vermouth was sweet, bright, and had a nice herb smell and aftertaste, like  having a glass of Italian Red Wine and one of those little rosemary breadstick things the have in Italian restaurants (kind of brought me back to Italy, actually). Now that I know that, I’ll enjoy it frequently neat or on the rocks.

The old Vermouth was probably not old enough to have a off odor or taste, but it will if left unconsumed long enough. Instead, it wasn’t that bad, it just wasn’t that good. It had lost all the best parts of the brand-new Vermouth, and had gotten fairly boring.

The best advise I was given here is to only buy the little (375 mL) bottle unless you know you’ll go through more quickly. Also, be aware that you may get bad Vermouth at a bar or restaurant if they’re not going through it quickly.


Some really good additional information can be found here:

Blood Orange Season!

blood orange cocktail

Blood Orange Cocktail Recipe

My local grocery store has blood oranges, so here’s a blood orange cocktail recipe to celebrate:

We tried it with both Vodka and Gin, and prefered it with Gin. It might be fun to try with a dark Rum as well, be we ran out of oranges. See our previous post taste testing Triple Sec versus Cointreau, and use Triple Sec for a sweeter drink or Cointreau for a cleaner, stronger drink.

Triple Sec Taste Test


Triple Sec Taste Taste

In our last taste test post, we compared some different quality rums and additions to see how they affected a few different drink recipes. This time, we’ll keep it simpler.

I’ve always wondered how much the quality of a Triple Sec in a Margarita matters, especially given that it could easily be overcome by all the other ingredients. So we conducted a blind Triple Sec taste test to find out.

The Test

We made two different margaritas and blind taste tested both:

  • 1.5 oz Tequila Blanco
  • 0.75 oz Cheap Triple Sec (Dekuyper) in one, Cointreau in the other
  • 0.5 oz Lime Juice
  • No salt on the rim

Final 2

The Results

If I were trying to impress anyone, I’d say there was a huge difference. There isn’t.

That said, there was a subtle but definitely noticeable difference.  The version with the Cointreau had a strong fresh orange taste and smell upfront, with a cleaner finish. Cointreau has a higher alcohol content (40% versus 15%), so it made a stronger margarita, with a crisper finish.

On the other hand, my wife preferred the version with the cheap Triple Sec (Dekuyper), as it was sweeter and not as strong. I really didn’t mind this version either.

In all, at around triple the price, the Cointreau definitely added a subtle difference. For our admittedly unrefined palettes, it probably wasn’t worth it given the other majority ingredients in the drink. In a drink where it was the majority ingredient, it might be.


Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Kids

I am not super into getting gifts for kids for Valentine’s Day, but I do like to get a little something fun. Preferably something that is not candy (they get enough of that) and not crappy plastic toys. Here are my picks for gift ideas for kids for Valentine’s Day.

Valentine's Day Gift Ideas for Kids - Fresh Take 5

1. Philips Sonicare Electric Toothbrush for Kids

With all the candy they will receive you can’t go wrong with a toothbrush. This will probably be our pick for a Valentine’s Day gift for this year. We have gone through a ton of those cheapo electric toothbrushes and are ready to invest in a highly rated and recommended rechargeable option.

2. Kinetic Sand

This has been on my wish list for the kids for a while now. A sensory sand that never dries out, sounds fantastic.

3. Thermos FOOGO Phases Stainless Steel Straw Bottle

These things are awesome for day to day use and therefore make a great gift.

4.  Melissa & Doug Deluxe Latches Board

Another toy that has ulterior motives of teaching. Parenting win.

5. Llama Llama I Love You

A cute Valentine’s Day book from the acclaimed Llama Llama series. I love gifting books and this one is perfect for helping understand what Valentine’s Day means.


Rum & Limes

Rum Header

Taking a couple key ingredients at a time from our previous post “How to Stock Your Home Bar“, we’ll explore the various drinks you can make and how much the quality of the ingredients really matters.

We all know the price difference between the top and bottom shelf at the liquor store, but how much does it really matter? Do you need to be a connoisseur to taste the difference? Can you tell in drinks with a lot of other ingredients?

For this week’s post, we chose two of my favorite ingredients: Rum & Limes. Based on the “How to Stock Your Home Bar” post, limes are an absolute staple of your home bar. Rum is as well, but choosing which rum to keep in stock may be a challenge as many drinks separate between white, gold, dark and aged rums.

We played around with three different rums throughout the drinks: A cheap white rum (Cruzan), a cheap gold rum (Bacardi), and a good blended aged dark rum (Zaya). There is a pretty large gap in quality there, as the Zaya is over double the price of the other two.



The Daiquiri is the simplest combination of rum & lime. It’s really just rum (usually light/white rum), simple syrup, and lime juice (See the recipe here).

We tried this with both a cheap light/white rum (Cruzan) and a good dark rum (Zaya).

With the sweetness of the simple syrup and the tartness of the lime, it was tough to tell much of a difference between the two. The version with the better rum was noticeably better, but my recommendation here would be to stick with the traditional cheap white rum as the taste difference was not worth the price difference especially where the traditional expectation here is for the white rum.

Captain’s Blood


The Captain’s Blood (See the recipe here) usually adds dark rum instead of light/white rum in addition to Angostura bitters. This added a nice complexity that allowed us to compare the cheap gold rum (Bacardi) to the more expensive dark/aged rum (Zaya).

We were a little surprised by the results. While the bitters added a nice complexity, we appreciated it more with the cheaper rum, probably because the cheaper rum lacked complexity in the first place. We actually wished we hadn’t added it with the better rum, as it masked some of the complexity and vanilla/caramel taste that was already there.

All in all, I’d recommend the expensive rum here, but would tune the other ingredients down to not take away from the rum. A perfectly valid  alternative is to use the cheaper rum and go nuts with the bitters!



The Brookstone is a variation of the Captain’s Blood, found on the Perfect Drink app I’ve mentioned before.  the only difference is that it swaps simple syrup for maple syrup.

Based on our previous findings, we used only the Zaya on this one, and played with the Maple Syrup versus simple syrup.

The difference was subtle, but we noticed that the simple syrup brought out the lime flavor, while the maple syrup brought out the really nice vanilla/caramel flavor in the rum without imparting any noticeable maple flavor. This was well worth it. I’ll be keeping maple syrup on hand from now on, as it will be interesting to play with in the future where simple syrup is called for.

How to Stock Your Home Bar – Updated


**Update: After playing with the data in the spreadsheet a lot more, I’ve come up with a better list that excludes a lot of drinks that include a single ingredient you’d probably never actually buy.**

For a while now, I’ve been obsessed with making cocktails. The existence of the free Perfect Drink App for iOS hasn’t helped. It was developed by Brookstone to work with a scale they made, but I never bought the scale (you don’t need to if you have a decent kitchen scale). It does two really neat things:

  1. Lets you input what ingredients are in your liquor cabinet, and tells you what you can make.
  2. Has drink recipes complete with weights of each ingredient, so you can just place a shaker on the scale and pour your ingredients to weight.

Anyway, my main frustration has been this: What can I buy for my liquor stash that will allow me to make the greatest variety of drinks?

So, of course, I made an excel spreadsheet with most (not all) of the drinks in Perfect Drink (it’s a pretty complete recipe book if you ask me) and then sorted all the ingredients by how many times they were in any drink recipe.

So, here’s what to keep in your bar at a minimum (these are all the ingredients that were included in at least 4 drinks):

 Tier One (Used in 10 drinks or more)


  1. Gin
  2. Vodka
  3. Bourbon
  4. Triple Sec


  1. Sweet Vermouth


  1. Angostura Bitters


  1. Lime (Keep fresh limes)
  2. Lemon (Keep fresh lemons)
  3. Orange


  1. Simple Syrup

 Tier Two (Used in more than 5 drinks)


  1. Light Rum
  2. Dark Rum
  3. Tequila Blanco


  1. Dry Vermouth


  1. Amaretto Liqueur
  2. Coffee Liqueur


  1. Cream

 Tier Three (Used in 4-5 drinks)


  1. Rye
  2. Absinthe


  1. Cranberry


  1. Dubonnet


  1. Benedictine
  2. Peach Schnapps
  3. Galliano


  1. Orange Bitters
  2. Campari


  1. Club Soda
  2. Cola
  3. Egg White