The Blackberry Poblano Margarita

The luscious purple color of this drink is a stunner! Taste a berry first to check for sweetness; if it’s not super-sweet, add a tablespoon of sugar when muddling the berries.

  • 1 Tablespoon fresh blackberries
  • 1 Tablespoon diced poblano peppers (or 1 1/2, if very mild)
  • 1 ounce silver tequila
  • 3/4 ounce Cointreau

In a cocktail shaker, muddle blackberries and poblano peppers. Shake together with tequila, Cointreau, and ice, and strain into a martini glass.

Spiced Caramel Apple

This decadent recipe was commissioned by Van Gogh Vodka to showcase their Dutch Caramel flavor.

  • 2 oz. Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
  • 1 oz. Van Gogh Dutch Caramel vodka
  • 2 ½ oz. apple cider
  • 1 dash lemon juice

Add liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into martini glass.

Optional touch: rim the glass with agave syrup and crumbled gingersnap cookies.

The Aperol Spice

From Spice & Ice: 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.

This rosy glow of bitter-sweet aperitif Aperol is warming enough on its own. But mixed with a duo of spiced syrups, this drink is a standout. If you prefer a spicier drink, double up on the Serrano syrup and skip the milder cinnamon-clove sweetener Angostura also has clove notes, so you’ll still get the aromatic effect.

  • 2 ounces Aperol
  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1/2 ounce Serrano chile syrup
  • 1/2 ounce cinnamon-clove syrup
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine Aperol, gin, syrups, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously, and strain into a cocktail glass. Dash in bitters and serve.

Sidebar: making spiced syrups. Make these once, and you can use them for weeks to add depth and heat to cocktails, non-alcoholic drinks (just add a splash to club soda), even to pour over desserts or morning waffles!

Serrano Chile Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 serrano chiles, cut

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, uncovered. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then lower heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Cool and remove the peppers. Pour the syrup into a container with a secure cover.

Cinnamon Clove Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon clove powder or whole cloves

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, uncovered. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then lower heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Cool and remove the cinnamon pieces and cloves (strain through cheesecloth if using clove powder). Pour the syrup into a container with a secure cover.

Spiced Iced Tea

From Spice & Ice: 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.

A flash infusion of orange-spiked tea and hot peppers adds heat and bright flavor in a hurry.

  • 1 teabag (Constant Comment, or other orange-flavored black tea recommended)
  • 4 ounces Vodka
  • 2 ounces Triple sec
  • Thai chile or Serrano pepper, sliced
  • One whole pepper, for garnish

Immerse the tea bag in hot water for 10 seconds, then remove it and immerse it in the vodka. Allow to steep for five minutes. During the last minute, add the chile pepper. Remove the teabag before proceeding with the next steps.

In a shaker filled with ice, shake infused vodka and triple sec. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with whole pepper.

The Sparkling Ginger Daisy

From Spice & Ice: 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.

A daisy is a classic juice-based cocktail sweetened with grenadine or a red liqueur, and often topped with sparkling wine. Here, the bright spice of ginger plays against a backdrop of bubbles for a festive holiday sparkler. And if you feel like gilding the lily, try one or both of the optional special touches below.

  • 1 ounce Plymouth Gin
  • 1 ounce Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
  • Lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine
  • Brut champagne

Combine gin, ginger liqueur, lemon juice and grenadine in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir until well chilled, and strain into a Champagne flute. Top with champagne.

Optional touch #1: If desired, rim the flute with sparkling sugar before pouring in the drink.

Optional touch #2: Garnish with a cherry at the bottom of the flute.

The Highland Tequila Fling

A sophisticated approach to tequila, loosely based on the classic Highland cocktail.

  • 1 1/2 ounces reposado tequila
  • 1 1/2 ounces chamomile-infused dry vermouth*
  • 1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
  • 1 dash Fee Brothers peach bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass, with ice. Stir well for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with orange peel knot.

*To make infused vermouth: dunk 4 chamomile tea bags in hot water, then remove and place the tea bags in 1 cup vermouth. Allow to steep for at least 5 minutes, then squeeze out any excess liquid and discard the tea bags. Makes enough for several drinks.

Peppered Poire

A finalist for the 2010 “Pear Panache” contest sponsored by USA Pears.

Poire William is a luscious, deeply aromatic pear liqueur, based on the Bartlett pear, which also is showcased in this fun fall sparkler. The piquant zing of black pepper and the light fizz of sparkling wine helps keep the pear flavors fresh and bright.

To make Black Pepper Syrup – enough for several drinks


  • ½ cup whole black peppercorns
  • 2 pinches (1/8 tsp) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the black peppercorns and red pepper flakes, and toast for 30 seconds, shaking often to prevent burning. Carefully add water and sugar, stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for a few minutes until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from heat. Allow to cool to room temperature, then strain the syrup, discarding the solids.

To make Peppered Poire Cocktail

  • 1 ounce Gin
  • 1/2 ounce Poire William, or another pear-flavored liqueur
  • 1/4 ounce pureed or finely chopped fresh Bartlett pears
  • 1/2 ounce Black Pepper syrup
  • Sparkling wine

In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine gin, pear liqueur, pear puree, and black pepper syrup. Shake well, and strain into a Champagne flute. Fill the remainder of the glass with sparkling wine.

Optional garnish: float 2-3 whole black peppercorns on top of the fizz.