Bitter Sweets: Cheesecake With Ginger-Lemon Bitters

My friends, the holidays are upon us! All the baking, all the cocktails, I’m getting tired just thinking about it. You know what we need? No-bake desserts. No-bake desserts with bitters. What’s the best part of no-bake sweets? The simplicity. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be up to my elbows (or down to my knees) in flour, butter, dough, pumpkin puree, spiced lattes, pecans, apples, pears, crumble and whatever else you’ll be baking this November. I’m talking cheesecake here. Cream cheese, graham crackers, a little butter, condensed milk, lemon and of course our bitters. It doesn’t get easier than this. You could go through the trouble of baking a cheesecake. I don’t recommend it. I recommend this! Let’s get started, friends.




Ginger-Lemon [No-Bake] Cheesecake

1 8oz. Package of Cream Cheese

1 14oz. Can of Condensed Milk

1 1/2 Tablespoons of Hella Bitters Ginger-Lemon Bitters

1 Lemon Juiced

Splash of Vanilla extract

For Graham Crust, utilize the same recipe from our Bitter Key Lime Pie.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and blend until smooth. Your cream cheese should be at room temp. Add the cheesecake mix and refrigerate to set; at least 5 hours or up to overnight.



Dress your cheesecake up however you like. Mixed berries, apple-pear compote, whatever you want. Just be sure to add a few extra dashes of bitters to the mix!





Spring Cocktails: Mezcal

Mezcal, the smokey sister to Tequila. Not new to the world of agave spirits, but making huge waves in the cocktail game these days. With it’s robust flavor, Mezcal is unmistakeable in a cocktail. El Buho Mezcal really packs a punch in flavor. Notes of smoke, roasted agave, ancho chili, spice, citrus, vanilla and dark chcoclate, El Buho is distilled from 100% Espadin Agave. El Buho is produced in Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca, Mexico where the agave is roasted underground. Check out the cool video of how El Buho is hand made here.

El Buho Mezcal makes for wonderful fresh spring cocktails. The taste of this spirit is unmistakeable. Great on it’s own, this Mezcal also pairs well with many different flavors. With it’s rich smokey flavor, try substituting Mezcal for other spirits in classic cocktails. A smokey Margarita, smokey Negroni, the Last Word and so many others. Here, we’re going to start with a smokey Thyme Paloma.







Smokey Thyme Paloma:

2oz. El Buho Mezcal

2oz. Fresh Grapefruit Juice

3/4oz. Thyme Syrup

1/4oz. Fresh Lime Juice

Club Soda

* For Thyme syrup, bring 1Cup of water and 1Cup of sugar to a boil with 5 or so sprigs of thyme. Cook until sugar is dissolved and remove from heat. Let the syrup sit for about 30 minutes for flavors to marry and cool then bottle.

**For cocktail, add all ingredients to shaker minus club soda. Shake until chilled and strain into highball glass over fresh ice. Top with club soda and garnish with a sprig of thyme.



El Buho Penicillin Cocktail:

1 1/2oz. Scotch

1oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

1/2oz. Honey Liqueur

1/2oz. Ginger Syrup

~1oz. El Buho Mezcal

*Add all ingredients to shaker minus Mezcal. Shake until chilled and strain into rocks glass over fresh ice. Float Mezcal atop cocktail and garnish with lemon wheel or candied ginger.



Give your cocktails a smokey flare this spring with El Buho Mezcal. Cheers!


Spirit Review: Hush Spiced Apple Moonshine

Psssst! There’s a secret I want you to tell. The secret is moonshine. Spiced Apple moonshine! I know what you may be thinking. Rubbing alcohol or maybe even lighting things on fire. This isn’t the white lightning from papa up in Appalachian. Hush Spiced Apple Moonshine is smooth. As soon as you pull the cork from the bottle, the bright aroma of crisp fall apples fills your nose. We all know the history of moonshine and it’s significance to American boozing. Hush is here to make their mark and change your mind on moonshine. Don’t think “burn” anymore. Think about sipping a fresh fall apple on the rocks. The distillers at Hush use a “secret” process to create the smoothest moonshine possible. The first thing that I enjoyed before tasting was the color. We’ve done plenty of infusions here on FoodieTails and one noticeable change that occurs throughout the time of infusion is the color. This is one reason why I tend to stray away from that wall of “infused” spirits at the liquor store. Apple is the most prominent flavor on the palate with warming spice and the bite of the moonshine on the finish. Hush is definitely one of the smoothest moonshine on the market. With Country Maple flavor, Original Style, Wicked Cinnamon and Spiced Apple, Hush has your holidays covered. Southern Lemonade and Georgia Peach will be rolling out soon. Get your mason jars ready!


Hush was crafted for cocktails as well as sipping on the rocks. And, there are plenty of spiced apple cocktails to be had this time of year.

Hush Spiced Apple Moonshine Sour:

2oz. Hush Spiced Apple Moonshine

1/2oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

1/2oz. Bourbon Infused Honey [Or Regular Local Honey or Honey Syrup]

*Add all ingredients to shaker and fill with ice. Shake until chilled, strain and serve up. Garnish with lemon twist.



Hush Spiced Apple-Vanilla Old Fashioned:

2oz. Hush Spiced Apple Moonshine

1/2oz. Licor 43

2 Dashes Black Walnut Bitters [Or your favorite Bitters]

*Add all ingredients to mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with apple wheel. Cheers!




Banana Clip Theory

On a recent trip to San Francisco, I got to meet up with a few friends for the first time (one of them being the man who created the hashtag. How cool?!) and the best bartender in San Fran, Matt of Blackbird Bar. There’s an app called Barnotes that we connected on, prior to meeting. It’s kind of like Instagram just for cocktails. Matt puts up a great cocktail called the Kokomo. Once I found out I was going to the California coast, getting to that cocktails was at the top of my list. The Kokomo features rum, lime, orgeat, coconut water and a banana liqueur (the real stuff, no chemicals).  The drink was amazing. My mom had one too. He whipped us up an old fashioned (you know, when the bartender is shaking one cocktails and stirring another simultaneously) and another tipple with a beet shrub. Just awesome.

I had to try and recreate the Kokomo once I got home. Here in NC, we don’t carry Giffard Banane du Bresil…of course, so the only option is banana infused rum. Don’t buy that chemically flavored schnapps stuff. Trust me.


For Banana Infused Rum:

1 Cup White Rum

Half of a Banana Sliced

*I made a small batch here for testing. If you are infusing the whole bottle (which I suggest, you’ll want to have this in the bar for the winter/holiday season) take your 750ml bottle and douse 2 bananas (sliced or chunked). Let the mixture sit for 1 week. Give the mixture a light swirl once a day. Let sit in a cool place (not the fridge). After 1 week, strain the infusion through a fine mesh strainer and cheese cloth. You’ll want to catch any banana debris. Refill the rum bottle with your infused rum and refrigerate.

I like the use of fresh bananas here opposed to banana chips or other dried banana fruit. The fresh banana takes some of the bite out of the rum (like with many other fruit infusions) and adds a great smoothness. If you’ve been sipping the artificially flavored stuff, you’ll never go back. Bananas are cheap and plenty, get a good rum (Cruzan Aged Light Rum used here) and let it sit.

Banana Clip Theory:

2oz. Banana Infused Rum

1/2oz. Coconut Milk

1/2oz. Lime Juice

1oz. Cashew Orgeat [Or store bought orgeat]


*The cashew orgeat was made the same way we made the hazelnut orgeat a few posts back. Add all ingredients to shaker and fill with ice. Shake until chilled and double strain into rocks glass over crushed ice. Garnish with lime wheel and fresh grated cinnamon. Cheers!



Hazelnut Orgeat

Pronounced [awr-zhat] (did that help?), this French syrup was originally made with barley and later (more commonly) with almonds. It’s one of the key ingredients that cannot, I repeat, cannot be replaced in the Mai Tai and other Tiki cocktails. It’s essentially a simple syrup made with almonds (and Orange Blossom water if you’d like) or some other type of nut. Here, we’re using Hazelnuts. I’ve seen peanut, pistachio, even sesame orgeat. You can really get creative with your syrups. I’m using Hazelnuts here because I think they’ll add a more complex flavor to my tiki cocktail and other cocktails.


You’ll want to start with roasting your nuts. Especially if you’re using Hazelnuts, this will help with removing the skins.



After roasting, the skins should come right off. If not, don’t sweat it. You’ll be straining later.




Give the Hazelnuts a rough chop and add them to a pot with sugar and water.

This recipe makes a small amount (because I’m not having a backyard luau…I don’t want to waste). The syrup will make about 3 or 4 cocktails.

For Hazelnut Orgeat:

~1/2 Cup Hazelnuts

1/2 Cup Sugar

1/2 Cup Water

Roast the Hazelnut (skin on) with the oven set to 350 for about 30-35 minutes (depending on your oven). The skins will start to pull away from the nuts and they will brown slightly. You should be able to smell the roasting process. Let the nuts cool before attempting to remove the skin. Once skins have been removed, give the nuts a rough chop or process in a blender (not to a fine consistency) and add them to your pot with the sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a simmer to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and let the mixture sit overnight, not straining. The next day, double strain the syrup with cheesecloth and bottle. I did not add orange blossom water to this syrup but you can if you’d like. Remember to be very delicate. The Orange Blossom water can turn your syrup into perfume with a heavy hand. Enjoy!



Strawberry Cognac

Strawberries are here!!! They’re lining the registers at the farmer’s market, even in the nursery area. It’s like a sea of red. You can smell them when you walk into the market. So for me, fresh produce means it’s infusion time!!! And, what an exciting time it is. It’s just something really fun, easy and tasty that takes your spring cocktails to the next level. Plus, you can add herbs and other flavors like peppercorns.There are so many infusions that can be done this time of year. They make for great low alcohol cocktails like “coolers” and “spritzers” even liqueurs. Limoncello anyone? Limoncello + Club Soda or a nice Sparkling Wine and you’re good to go! Back to the strawberries. There’s nothing better than a juicy and sweet strawberry. However, I’ve used them for infusions before and the results weren’t so great. The outcome was good but the strawberry flavor was very mellow. I want a strong flavor from my infusions. It seems like most of the alcohol absorbs into the strawberries once they start to turn white. So, for this infusion, I dehydrated the strawberries before soaking them in the cognac and let the infusion sit for 2 days instead of 2 weeks.



Cut the tops off of the strawberries and give them a slice. It’s important to slice the berries as thin as you can. It helps with the dehydration process; it won’t take as long.

DSC_2910For the dehydration, set your oven to 200 degrees. Lay the strawberries out on a baking sheet and place them in the oven. You could lay the sliced berries out on paper towels before putting them in the oven to dry them out more. I didn’t do this because I didn’t want to lose any strawberry flavor. The idea of dehydrating for me, is to concentrate the flavor of the strawberries and remove as much water as possible.

DSC_2915The dehydration process took almost 2 hours flipping the berries once. Depending on your oven (convection) the time could be shorter or just as long. You can tell when the berries have dried. If they are still moist to the touch during the process, continue to dehydrate them.

DSC_2917Add about 1 cup of the dried strawberries to your container.

DSC_2919Top with 1 1/4 cup of Cognac.

DSC_2920Let the contents sit for 2 days or until strawberries begin to lose color.

DSC_2993After the 2 day infusion, strain the contents through cheesecloth.



DSC_2997Give the strawberries a good twist with the cheesecloth to extract any liquids and flavor.

DSC_2998Bottle and enjoy! Cheers!







Pear-Vanilla Shrub

DSC_2417Before the good Pears go away (and my Vanilla bean goes dry), I decided to make my first shrub of the spring season. Shrubs come in all sorts of flavor combinations. Most shrubs are good just with club soda and citrus. I’ll be using this one in a cocktail. Surprised?  Blackberry Shrub (a classic go-to), an Herbed Shrub, a Spicy Shrub, Apple Shrub…add Ginger and call it a Switchel!

DSC_2419If you’re using a hard fruit or stone fruit, cut the fruit into small pieces (for stone fruit like plums cut into quarters removing  the pit). For this recipe I used one pear diced, half a vanilla bean and covered it with 1/3 cup of granulated sugar. Let your fruit sit overnight up to four or five days. I let the pears sit for four days in the sugar and vanilla and covered the bowl with plastic wrap un-refrigorated. The sugar will begin to extract the juice from your fruit of choice and make a syrup after about one hour. After 4 days the syrup almost covered the pears. On the last day the vinegar can be added. I’m using Apple Cider Vinegar here because Apples and Pears work well together. You could use Champagne Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar, depending on the fruit you use, you’ll have options. Most shrub recipes call for equal parts vinegar to sugar. Here I used less vinegar than sugar. There are a few different techniques you can use to make your shrub. I added the vinegar to the sugar and pear mixture and then strained the mixture through cheesecloth. When making the Pear-Vanilla Shrub, give it a smell around the second or third day…it’s AMAZING!

Pear-Vanilla Shrub

1 Pear [Cut into pieces]

1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar

1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

*Let fruit, sugar and vanilla mixture sit for up to four days. Add vinegar on last day, mix and strain through cheesecloth. Jar and enjoy!






Chez Black

You ever make something and then you’re surprised by how good it turns out? This happened with Chez Black. Lately, every time I make a cocktail I think “wow, this could be in my top five favorites!” As it stands now…Chez Black is high on the list. This is a riff on a classic French 75. The circa 1915 cocktail was created at the New York bar in Paris and was thought to pack such a punch it was equivalent to being shot by a French 75mm gun. Does that sound good to you? It doesn’t to me. The last thing I want to imagine when having a cocktail is being shot. So, this riff uses Cognac and Yellow Chartreuse. The original recording of the cocktail in The Savoy Cocktail Book uses Gin. It was later claimed to be a Cognac based cocktail. I’ve had them both ways and in this application, Cognac is perfect.

The Yellow Chartreuse is optional in this cocktail but it adds a depth of flavor that can’t be substituted. If you can find some or have it already, using it here is a must. It gives the drink a slightly bitter, sweet and complex flavor that pairs with Cognac and ginger. Chartreuse dates back to the 1700’s and is made by Carthusian Monks in the Chartreuse Mountains in France using 130 different herbs, plants and flowers. It’s one of the few liqueurs that will continue to change and “age” in the bottle after opening. If you don’t have any Chartreuse, it should be on your list. I’m not as much of a fan of Green Chartreuse as I am Yellow and I think that Yellow Chartreuse isn’t used enough in cocktails. Green Chartreuse has licorice and anise flavors. I even got a hint of fennel the first time I tried it. I would say it’s an acquired taste.


Chez Black

1 Small Piece Fresh Ginger [Muddled]

Juice of 1 Meyer Lemon [Or half of Eureka Lemon]

1/2oz. Rich Simple Syrup [Depending on type of Lemon Juice]

1 1/2oz. Cognac [Hennessy Black]

1 Barspoon Yellow Chartreuse [Optional]

Champagne or Prosecco

*Muddle Ginger then add all ingredients to shaker minus Champagne and top with Ice. Shake until chilled. Double strain into Highball glass over fresh Ice. Top with champagne and garnish with mint. Cheers!