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Local Libations: The Fixer Upper

2011 October 7
By Pete Vasconcellos and Allison Rizzolo
Ballard-Wildflower-HoneyNew York City, NY – Autumn has arrived with a vengeance, bringing with it a damp chill and that inevitable change-of-seasons head cold. Allison is a firm believer in the healing qualities of alcohol, and contests that a bottle of red wine once cured her of the flu. Thanks to the soothing qualities of honey, it would probably take less than a bottle of Sarah’s honey wine to return you to health next time you’re sick. Hurry, Sarah! Pete’s throat hurts!

In the meantime, we’ll have to try a recipe of our own. A natural start is the Penicillin: one of the cocktail world’s “new classics” (developed by Sam Ross of the influential mid-aughts Milk and Honey crew), so named due to the healing qualities of honey, ginger and lemon combined with the “Good Night Irene” qualities of both blended AND Islay Scotch (PLEASE try one!).

With this delicious drink as our backdrop, and escape from the perpetual cold rain in the Northeast as our inspiration, we have decided to focus on the warmer flavors in the Penicillin (honey, vanilla, smoke, cinnamon), mirroring them with alternative elements, including rum and apple cider.

CLICK HERE for the full post and recipe.

Ginger will take center stage here. Pete has cobbled together a ginger brew that stems from the recipe found in the Speakeasy cocktail book. Unlike Speakeasy’s cleaner spicier syrup, this syrup is all about the baking spices (cinnamon, clove, anise). It’s the same homeopathic stuff cold and allergy sufferers sport in their home remedies, except, you know, yummier. This syrup naturally wants to be married with cider.

Depending on the sweetness of your particular cider, and the richness of your region’s particular honey, you might want the option of dialing down the other sweeteners. We’ve chosen wildflower honey from Ballard Apiary in Roxbury, NY. It is incredibly dark, rich and caramelized. Our drink therefore uses less honey, so as not to beat up on the other ingredients. We’ve chosen rum for our base, which surprisingly takes a backseat … almost. An excellent choice is the supremely mixable White Rhum Barbancourt; heavier than most white rums, it falls short of being an assertive slow-sipper. It’s floral on its own, and has the subtle orchard fruit, citrus and cinnamon notes found in our other ingredients. Finally, we’ve finished this drink with a rinse of absinthe, just to give it depth. This is optional, as some of us really hate the taste of anisette. Enjoy the fall and stay dry. Of course, as of this writing, it has climbed to 72 degrees outside. T-Shirt and Jeans weather – enjoy it while it lasts.  The drink is no less delicious.

The Fixer Upper

Prep time: 1 hour 30 min

Active prep time (for drink): 2 minutes

Yield: 1 cocktail, though the ginger beer and honey syrup can be refrigerated for later use. Both will yield several servings.

Tools: Knife, juicer, food processor, mesh strainer or cheesecloth, nonreactive sealed container, lidded pot, liquid measuring cup, measuring cup, jigger, strainer, ice, double old fashioned glass


For the Ginger Beer

  •  2 lb peeled and chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 1 red chile pepper, chopped
  • 2 cup water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 bay leaf
  •  1 cup demerrara sugar
  •  1/4 cup honey
  •  1/4 cup fresh lime juice

For the Honey Syrup

  • Equal parts honey and water

For the Cocktail

  • 2 oz Rhum Barbancourt
  • 3/4 oz Cold Pressed apple Cider
  • 1/2 oz honey syrup
  • 1/2-3/4 oz ginger syrup
  • 2 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1/4 oz Absinthe


For the Ginger Beer

  1. In a food processor, combine ginger and cucumber and process to a pulp
  2. Squeeze the pulp of any juice you can through a cheese cloth or mesh strainer. Reserve the juice
  3. Add pulp, chile, water, cinnamon, clove, peppercorn, anise, bay leaf, sugar, honey and lime juice to a lidded pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  4. Store in a non reactive sealed container, pulp and all, overnight in a cool, dry place.
  5. Strain mixture through a mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Make sure you press it for as much juice as possible.
  6. Add the reserved ginger cucumber juice.

*Will keep for approximately 1 week in the fridge.

For the Honey Syrup

  1. Combine equal parts honey and hot water. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature naturally.

*Will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge.

For the Cocktail

  1. Rinse a double old fashioned glass with 1/4 oz absinthe. Discard the absinthe.
  2. Combine Cider, Lemon, Ginger, Bitters, honey and rum in a cocktail shaker. Shake over ice. Strain into a glass over ice.
  3. Garnish with a lemon twist

The-Fixxer-UpperPete Vasconcellos has been tending bar in Boston and New York for fifteen years. He has finally forgotten how to make a Malibu Bay Breeze.

Allison Rizzolo improves democratic problem solving by day and moonlights as an at-home bartender, Spanish teacher and casual photographer. You can follow her on Twitter and read more about her libation-related adventures at her blog, Veni Bevi Vici.