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Gin Cocktail Recipes

steer_80Gin! It’s made from juniper berries! No other plant is more iconic to the West than the juniper bush (except possibly the tumbleweed). From the deserts to the mountains its twisted, bushy and spiky green shape provides a bit of shade for your dogs and a promise of a tasty cocktail when you return to home base. It pairs incredibly well with citrus (to keep away scurvy) and is a very good friend to have in your cabinet.

As with our whiskey cocktail recipes, these recipes are fashioned to maximize our Cocktail Basics list. They are pretty classic, and you may see variations of these. Try them! The recipes that follow are our favorite ratios and mixes, but you may like things a little different. A great source is Cocktail DB for alternatives.


Classic Martini

2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1 dash orange bitters

Add the gin, vermouth and bitters to a cocktail shaker (or martini pitcher). Add lots of ice, stir vigorously, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. *

*We have found this to be a solid ratio, but also realize that certain gins are tastier with more or less vermouth. Or possibly with meyer lemon bitters instead. So start here but feel free to adjust and experiment. We cannot overstate the perfectness of this drink: simple, strong and delicious.



2 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce simple syrup
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

Combine in a cocktail shaker, add a lot of ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass.

BONUS: add a splash of soda water and you now have a Gin Fizz.

The Gimlet is traditionally made with Rose’s Lime Juice, but high fructose corn syrup is not something we support, and we think our version of the cocktail is perfect. We do recommend evaporated cane sugar syrup for a richer flavor.


Gin Rickey

1 1/2 ounces gin
juice of 1/2 lime, plus the (now empty) half lime shell
soda water
1/2 ounce simple syrup, or flavored syrup of your choice (optional)

Mix the gin, lime juice and syrup (if using) in a shaker with ice. Strain into an ice-filled glass, add the lime shell and top with soda water. Some of us prefer the crisp coolness of this drink without the sweetness of a syrup. Some like to get a bit fruity. It may not technically be a Rickey when you add these things, but you can always make up a name if anyone complains.


Tom Collins

1 1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
soda water

Mix the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice, shake and strain into a highball glass with a few cubes of ice. Top with soda water. Garnish with a good quality bourbon or maraschino cherry, if you are so inclined.


The Aviation

Adapted from the fabulous book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, by Ted Haigh

We have seen this cocktail made with Creme Yvette, and we don’t want to say that is wrong, but we don’t think it is right, in a moral sense. This drink is perhaps our biggest gin fave and this is partly due to its strength and simplicity.

2 1/2 ounces gin (here we recommend a classic dry London-style gin, or one that is more juniper than floral. Floral gins and maraschino liqueur don’t get along very well, in our humble opinions.)
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 or 3 dashes maraschino liqueur*

Add the gin, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass.

*It is kind of hard to dash with maraschino liqueur. We like to do a quick pour from the bottle. This stuff is super sweet and intense and too much will overwhelm your gin. Use a gentle touch.


The Blue Moon

Also taken from Ted Haigh’s book. There are so many great recipes in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails that you should definitely invest in a copy if you want to further your cocktail career. Our copy is well-loved and well-used and starting to fall apart. It’s not a book that won’t get used.

2 ounces of gin
1/2 ounce Creme Yvette
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Add the gin, Creme Yvette and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass. You may like a lemon twist.


Palm Beach Special

One more from the venerable Ted Haigh, though we have an addition here that we think is magic.

2 1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
cardamom bitters (optional, but delicious)

Add the gin, grapefruit juice and vermouth to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Add a few drops of cardamom bitters to the top.


Have a question? Suggestion? Please contact us!


Whiskey Cocktail Recipes

diamond_80There are so many ways to love whiskey. For the most part, we do not discriminate about where the whiskey comes from (though we are wary of the Indiana whiskey, primarily on principle), or what type it is. Open our liquor cabinet today and you will see at least two bottles of Scotch whisky, four bottles of bourbon and one bottle of wheat whiskey… we have also been known to drink Japanese single malt, Irish whiskey and rye. We do tend to care about which shelf it came from, and of course have our favorites. We do not collect whiskey, or hoard it, and dabble around as the budget allows. We do not claim to be experts, and don’t care much for blind taste tests (how can you be influenced by the packaging if you can’t see it?), but we do love our whiskey.

These recipes are fashioned to maximize our Cocktail Basics list. They are pretty classic, and you will see lots of variations of these. Try them! The recipes that follow are our favorite ratios and mixes, but you may like things a little different. A great source is Cocktail DB for alternates. If you fancy gin, head on over to our gin cocktail recipes.



Whiskey (or Whisky)

Pour it in a small glass. Is it good? Drink it. Is it pretty good? Maybe add a splash of water or an ice cube. Better now? Enjoy!


Whiskey Soda

1 1/2 – 2 ounces whiskey (we prefer bourbon or rye here)
splash of soda water

Sometimes a splash of soda and some ice with your whiskey hits the spot. It’s refreshing! We wouldn’t use our fanciest whiskey for this, but we would use something with good flavor. Add a couple of drops of bitters, if that is your style.



2 ounces bourbon (or rye)
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
2 dashes aromatic bitters
1 strip of lemon zest

Pour the bourbon, vermouth and bitters in a shaker. Add a lot of ice. Stir (we use a chopstick) 50-100 times. Strain into your glass. Squeeze the lemon zest over the drink, rub the zest along the rim of the glass and then place it into the drink. If you like a little treat at the end of your drink, you may also want a good quality maraschino or bourbon cherry as garnish.


Bourbon Side Car

2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce orange liqueur (we use Grand Marnier)
1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 bourbon or maraschino cherry (optional)
1 strip of lemon zest

Pour the bourbon, Grand Marnier and lemon juice into a shaker. Add a lot of ice. Shake! Strain into your glass. Add a good quality maraschino or bourbon cherry (skip it if you don’t have one). Squeeze the lemon zest over the drink, rub the zest along the rim of the glass and then place it into the drink.


The Derby

Adapted from the fabulous book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, by Ted Haigh

1 ounce bourbon
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce orange liqueur (we use Grand Marnier)
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Fill with a lot of ice. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge or a mint leaf.


Have a question? Suggestion? You can contact us!

Cocktail Basics

Our friend just retired. His wife is still working, so she thought he might want to work on his cocktail skills to ensure that he has something tasty to hand her when she comes home from a hard day at the office (and he had an adventurous day in the mountains). This inspired us to write up some cocktail guidelines, for those that are uncertain where to start, but appreciate that cocktail hour is the second best hour of the day.


If you are alive you are probably aware of the new and improved cocktail scene in the US. No longer are your cocktail choices a gin & tonic or a screwdriver. Not that there is anything wrong with those… except for the screwdriver. For many of us, there are several reasons to mixologize at home rather than at a bar: those drinks get expensive! You may live in Utah where a mixed drink can only have 1.5 ounces of booze (see recipes… there are very few that have only 1.5 ounces of booze). Like us, you might prefer the company of your dogs when you imbibe… Whatever the reasons, if you choose to take this on at home, you can get as fancy as you like and spend a small fortune on equipment, booze, and glassware. That is not, of course, the Wild Westish way. We have done our share of dabbling with numerous liqueurs, syrups, bitters and eclectic booze, and are here to offer our pared down list of essential tools, liquor cabinet staples and cocktail faves.

How Much Booze do you Really Need?

Building up a liquor collection is a whole lot of fun and we embraced it with gusto. And then we moved, and moved again, and we started to realize that some of the same bottles were getting packed and unpacked and re-packed and not getting used. It turns out that we have a few favorite cocktails, a few favorite spirits and we just don’t need quite that much variety in our cabinet. There are seasonal favorites, or course, and new faves, and quite possibly you enjoy flavors that we do not, but hopefully our simple list can be a starting point for your inner mixologist.


Yes, buy the good stuff! If you wouldn’t drink it straight then don’t drink it at all. This doesn’t mean mix your very best whiskey (we save that for sippers) but it means it should taste good without anything in it. If you mix crap booze with good ingredients, you are going to have a half-assed cocktail. (And if you mix crap booze with crap you will have a crap cocktail…) We believe in quality in the Wild Westish, because it is delicious. The very best should be sipped neat.

The Liquor Cabinet

We love gin and we love whiskey. And we love tequila and cognac and rum! However, for basic everyday drinks we drink more gin and bourbon than anything else. So if you are like us, start with gin and bourbon.

There are so many options in the gin category these days, with flavor profiles that range from a classic London dry to quite floral and complex. Try a few and see what you like. Some will taste great in a simple drink like a Rickey but clash horribly with maraschino liquor in an Aviation. You may end up with a couple of different flavors, depending on what you like to drink and that is okay! You may end up with something you don’t like at all (beware the Genever), but it’s all fun and there is always punch to get rid of the weird ones.

For whiskey based cocktails, we tend towards bourbon. Bourbon, too, has quite a bit of variety. We tend to favor those that are less sweet and have been aged a bit longer. Rye is also a wonderful whiskey for cocktails, but a good rye can be harder to come by in the West.

Vermouth: dry and rouge. Please please please put your vermouth in your refrigerator and drink it within ~3 months of opening. This stuff goes bad, so if you are not going to drink Manhattans or Martinis enough to use it up, get small bottles or drink it over ice with a squeeze of lemon. But do not put manky old vermouth in your quality gin or bourbon. We favor Dolin brand, but as with everything, try some and see what you like.

Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur: Oh-so important for our gin fave, the Aviation. It tends to be used by the half ounce, so it lasts a long time and is worth the investment. Note that maraschino liqueur is not the same as cherry liqueur, not at all.

Grand Marnier: Others may not agree, but this is our favorite orange liqueur. We use it in margaritas, we use it in a sidecar… Sometimes we will use Cointreau, which is sweeter. But mostly we love the full flavor that is the mix of orange and cognac in a bottle of Grand Marnier. We never use Triple Sec (see quality above… we wouldn’t drink it on its own).

**Extra Credit** Creme Yvette: This is not essential but it is truly delicious. We love a Blue Moon and so we keep a bottle of Creme Yvette around.

So: gin, bourbon, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, maraschino and Grand Marnier. With these 6 bottles you can mix up a pretty decent selection of drinks, impress your friends and make your spouse/partner/roommate happy if they’ve had a rough day at work.

Syrups and Soda Water

Simple syrup: so easy to mix! We do it cold so that we don’t have to do it in advance. 1 part water, 1 part sugar (we always use evaporated cane sugar because it is more delicious). Shake in a  jar until it is dissolved. Typically we make ~¼ cup at a time and store the extra in the fridge. We know from experience that it goes bad… in a very bad way.

Honey syrup is also quite amazing but requires more forethought. Mix equal parts honey and water in a small sauce pan and warm until the honey is dissolved (best not to boil). Store in a jar in the refrigerator.

Maple syrup: one of the best sweeteners around that we use when we get a hankering for a Fifth Route. Luckily it can also be used for waffles and so never goes to waste.

Other syrups and soda water: When we want a gin & tonic, we use a tonic syrup (Jack Rudy makes a fine one, but there are others). Reasons for this: no high-fructose corn syrup, no need to use the whole bottle right away (like bottled tonic water, which will go flat), and syrup has the benefit that you can add a little or a lot, depending on preference. Our key to this is a Sodastream machine that makes your soda water in-house. If you happen to love soda water, please consider the Sodastream hack, which will change your life, save your money and save you from having to buy and return those proprietary Sodastream canisters. You can probably find a barely used Sodastream machine at your local thrift store, if not, this one works just fine.

Other syrups, usually fruity, are great, easy to make (we just whipped out a batch of rhubarb syrup) and are a fun substitute for simple syrup. They do go bad, so if you make a batch, remember to use them up… These are also handy for mocktails! For example: mix a little rhubarb syrup, lime juice and soda water and suddenly the non-drinking guest feels cared for.


We have at least 20 different kinds of bitters, used 1-2 dashes at a time. We like them! However, as with other things, we tend to like them simple (aromatic, orange, cardamom…). Complex bitters (such as lavender/grapefruit/hops…) can be confusing and might not get used unless we make a conscious effort to fit them with a specific drink. To start, get some sort of aromatic bitters, as well as orange bitters. Those that dig bitters will have ample opportunity to experiment.


A shaker (we highly recommend an insulated one, such as this one). Hipper folks will go with a Boston shaker but we like to mix our drinks and drink them, not worry about how hip our equipment is. Non-insulated shakers will sweat and often leak all over the place.

A jigger. Exact measurements are important! Get a jigger that measures ½ ounce to 2 ounces.

Hawthorne strainer. Essential for stirred drinks.

Small, sharp knife for slicing open fruit and for cutting your citrus twists.

Lemon/citrus squeezer. Fresh juice is a must.

Small glasses. I would recommend a variety of shapes, sizes, decoration and color for maximum enjoyment. Etsy and your local thrift store are all packed with eras worth of amazing glassware.

That’s it! Ready to have a drink? We have recipes for whiskey cocktails and gin cocktails.

Have a question? Suggestion? Please contact us!

Cocktails & Coffee

Our Philosophy of Coffee

heart_80Coffee is the very best part of every day. Most evenings we can’t wait to go to sleep so that we can wake up and have coffee! Coffee, coffee, COFFEE!!! Coffee for the Wild Westish team involves a few very important machines that we think of as part of the family. Rocky, Miss Sylvia, and of course Gene.

Gene is our coffee bean roaster. Some years ago there was an emergency when we moved to a town empty of decent coffee beans. Gene was graciously and swiftly donated to the cause by a family member, and has been roasting beans close-to-perfectly ever since, one half pound at a time. We now have access to well-roasted fancy coffee beans, but it turns out that nothing is more satisfying and delicious than coffee from freshly home-roasted beans with the BONUS that the cost of green beans is roughly five dollars a pound. Extra bonus: we love the smell of roasting coffee beans… and hopefully the neighbors do, too.

coffee_450Rocky and Miss Sylvia are our burr grinder and espresso machine. While we try not to be too involved with things, we would grab these if the house was on fire.

Coffee is important every day, so we always travel (and camp) with a hand grinder and stove top espresso pot. Once we visited a friend in Oakland and woke up in a coffee-less house. That was the last time we travelled without coffee, because looking for coffee when you haven’t had any coffee is a toe-stubbing unhappy time, and a bad start to the day.

How We Do Booze

whiskey2_450We like cocktails and we like whiskey, straight. In the Wild Westish home base, there is some disagreement about how sweet a cocktail should be, but for the most part it is agreed that simpler is better and not-too-sweet is best. We tend to favor citrus as a flavor. Once upon a time there was a flurry of homemade syrups and shrubs… but in the end we had a fridge full of colorful, flavorful syrups and a glass of whiskey, neat, in our hand. Not to say we don’t enjoy a good mixed drink, just that a few faves kept floating to the top and they rarely included homemade honeydew shrub. Our motto is make them strong, simple and delicious.

The bookends of a great day: coffee and cocktails.