How to Make a Smoky Negroni?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

There are several ways to make a Smoky Negroni including using a smoked gin, smoked ice cubes, or smoking the Negroni with a dedicated cocktail smoking kit.

The Negroni is one of the best smoked cocktails, and it's good to know how to make a Smoky Negroni. It's easy to do, and producing a smoky take on one of the world's most popular cocktails will surprise your guests. You'd better be prepared to make seconds, though.

What Is a Negroni?

A Negroni is an Italian cocktail that was probably first made in Florence in 1919 at the request of the grandly-named French General Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni. It's a simple cocktail recipe to remember: one part gin, one part sweet red vermouth, and one part Campari. Garnish it with a slice of orange peel and you're done. It's one of those cocktails that, if a guest asks you for one, you don't need to go to the bookshelves or the internet to look up the recipe. You just need to be sure to have the ingredients on hand. But how do you make a Smoky Negroni?

Buying Smoked Gin

One way to make a Smoky Negroni is to use a smoked gin instead of your regular gin. Normally a London Dry Gin with its strong juniper flavors works best in a Negroni. Because a Negroni does only have three ingredients, changing any one of them can make a big difference to the overall result. It may take a few experiments till you perfect making your Smoky Negroni.

In the USA, The New York Craft Spirits Distillery makes ESP Smoked Gin using Applewood- smoked juniper berries, which should add several layers of flavor to your standard Negroni. In the UK you can find a Smoked Rosemary Gin made by That Boutique-y Gin Company, which should also work well.

Smoke Your Own Gin

As there aren't too many smoked gins on the market, it will be easier and cheaper to try smoking your own gin. One advantage here is that you can use the same recipe and gin as you do for a standard Negroni, but you're simply adding smoke to the gin rather than altering the recipe by using a different gin with a different flavor profile.

You can smoke your own gin by using a dedicated cocktail smoking kit. Although these are intended for smoking the finished cocktail, they can also be used for smoking pure spirits. Put several measures of your regular London Dry Gin in a glass and smoke the gin before making the Negroni. Try using the Whiskey Barrel Oak Smoking Fuel. A Negroni already has a lot of flavors swirling around in there, so a simpler smoking fuel will be better.

If you're the kind of person who's a bit of a control freak then you might even want to go the whole hog and make your own gin from scratch. After all, gin is simply flavored vodka, which is the kind of remark you make if you want to annoy a gin distiller. It's true, though. Gin starts off as a neutral spirit, i.e. vodka, and the botanicals including juniper are then infused into it. You can achieve the same results by using an inexpensive Gin Essence which, for a few dollars, allows you to turn vodka into gin. It isn't cheating as many gin distillers simply buy in their cheap neutral spirit (they don't like to call it vodka, but it is) and add their botanicals. You can then smoke the gin, as above.

Use a Cocktail Smoking Kit

Alternatively you can make your Negroni absolutely as normal, and simply smoke the end result with the smoking kit. Again, try starting with a lighter smoking fuel like the Whiskey Barrel Oak Smoking Fuel, before experimenting with anything stronger.

Use Smoked Ice Cubes

Another way to turn a Negroni into a Smoky Negroni is to use smoked ice cubes. This way the smoky flavor slowly builds up as the ice cubes melt, and when it gets to the level you think is perfect you can take the smoky ice cubes out and replace them with regular ones.

How do you smoke ice cubes? For this you'll need the Foghat Smoking Cloche Set, which gives you a bigger surface area to smoke than the cocktail smoker does. Place a tray of ice cubes on the cutting board, and use the smallest ice cubes that you have. Smoke the ice cubes until they melt, and then refreeze them. You'll get better results if you smoke ice cubes rather than smoke an ice cube tray filled with water, as the smoke molecules stick to the ice more easily than they would penetrate the water.

You needn't limit this to Negronis, of course. If you keep a tray of smoked ice cubes in the freezer, you can use them with any whiskey cocktail, or a Margarita, to gradually create a smoky version of the cocktail as you drink it.

Use Smoked Cocktail Glasses

If you want to go for broke with the smoking, you can also use the Foghat Smoking Cloche Set to smoke your cocktail glasses just before you make your Negronis. Combine this with smoked ice cubes and a regular Negroni cocktail, and you also have a Smoky Negroni. Use a smoked gin as well and you'll have an Ultra Smoky Negroni. That may be going a little too far, but at least you now know how to make a Smoky Negroni several different ways.

by Mike Gerrard

Who Invented the Barrel?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

Who invented the barrel isn't known for sure but the history of this remarkable object goes back at least to the time of the Ancient Egyptians.

The humble barrel is such a commonplace object that it's easy to take it for granted, but some historians have compared the invention of the barrel to the invention of the wheel. Without barrels to store food and fresh water for hundreds of crew over hundreds of days, long sea voyages by explorers like Captain Cook and Christopher Columbus would simply not have been possible.

Barrels made international trade easier, and have been used for storing liquids, food, oil, gunpowder, nails, coins, and even dead bodies. The British hero Lord Nelson, who was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, was taken back to his home country preserved in a barrel of brandy or rum.

Who invented the barrel?

What's remarkable about the barrel, even more so than the wheel, is that it's been around for about 5,000 years virtually unchanged. The only modern adaptation has been to use metal hoops instead of wooden ones to hold the barrel's staves together. 

The earliest depiction of a barrel is on the walls of the tomb of an Egyptian official who lived in about the 3rd millennium BC. His tomb shows a barrel, which was probably made from palm wood and held together by wooden hoops. It was being used to measure grain of some kind, which is another key use of a barrel: to provide standard measures. Oil is still measured in barrels, as oil was stored and measured in whiskey barrels when oil fields were discovered in Pennsylvania in 1859.

So we know that barrels were around in the 3rd millennium BC, but it's likely they were invented several hundred years before that. There was a thriving wine industry in Egypt's Nile Delta by about 3,000 BC, and other wall paintings show barrels holding grapes, so it's probable that barrels were in common use back then.

Barrels conquer the world

While we may not know for sure who invented the barrel, we do know that the Romans helped to spread the use of barrels around the world. By the time the Romans conquered Egypt in 30BC, barrels were being used in both countries. The Romans had found even more uses for them. They turned them into weapons of war by filling them with burning pitch and firing them at their enemy using giant catapults. It was a bull's-eye if one landed on the building that held the enemy's store of gunpowder... being held in barrels, of course.

Roman armies carried some empty barrels with them when they traveled, so that they could be tied together to create improvised bridges for crossing rivers. They also used them to line wells to keep the water clean.

The Creation of Cooperages

According to the Roman historian and author Pliny the Elder, writing in the 1st century AD, the first European people to use barrels widely, and to build cooperages, was a Celtic group called the Gauls, living in what is now the French Alps. The usage of barrels was now becoming more sophisticated, too. Cooperages were springing up in towns and villages in southern Europe, and these were often one-man businesses with the cooper's skills being passed from father to son.

Different coopers began to specialize in different types of barrel, as demand increased. The easiest kind to make were those for storing grain and other solid items, as they didn't need to be waterproof. They did, however, need to be tight enough to keep mice and bugs out. Grain had previously been stored in hessian sacks, which were no barrier to mice and rats.

Other coopers specialized in making watertight barrels, for keeping wine and water in. This was a pivotal time in the coopering industry. Coopers where divided into "Dry Coopers" making barrels for grains or other products, and "Wet Coopers" who made barrels to hold liquids. The skills of distillation hadn't yet arrived, so no-one knew yet that barrels would add flavors when spirits were stored in them for long periods. Yet another kind of cooper would make what were called simply large barrels, which was an even harder skill to master.

A further virtue of the barrel, people discovered, was that they could be dismantled and rebuilt, as necessary. You could transport goods in them on a long sea voyage, then take apart any that weren't needed for the return journey. Even today, used American white oak bourbon barrels are taken in pieces for shipping to Scotland for use in the whisky industry, with the staves numbered to make re-assembly easier.

So, we may not know for sure who invented the barrel, but the world is glad that they did!

by Mike Gerrard

What is Charcuterie?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

Charcuterie is a French word for cooked meats usually served as an appetizer with cheeses and the tastes can be enhanced by smoking the meats and cheeses first.

Meaning of the Word 'Charcuterie'

The word charcuterie derives from two separate French words, chair, meaning flesh, and cuit, which means cooked. It's been around since at least the 15th century, and the word was originally chaircuiterie, but it's changed slightly over the years. It was a way of preserving meats before the days of refrigeration.

Back then a charcuterie usually meant a pork butcher's shop, as well as the cooked meats that you could buy there. The person who sold the meat was a charcutier. Pork was the main meat that was widely sold because beef was an expensive treat, and chickens were something that many peasants kept for themselves for both eggs and meat.

Foghat Smoked Charcuterie Board with Foghat Cloche & Foghat Cocktail Smoker

What is Charcuterie Today?

The most common cooked meats from the pig are ham, sausages, and bacon, although if serving or ordering a charcuterie it can also include patés and terrines, and these days it won't be confined to pork meat. You'll probably find things like chicken paté and cheeses served alongside the meats on a plate of charcuterie.

Charcuterie Around the World

Although the idea of charcuterie originated in France, the notion has spread around the world and has been adapted into different cultures. In France's neighbor, Italy, it has become antipasto or antipasti, both meaning 'before the pasta'. Antipasto is the singular, referring to the whole plate, and antipasti is the plural, meaning the dishes on the plate. As well as cooked meats, in Italy it's likely to include things like olives, sardines, anchovies, cheeses, and vegetables.

In the UK the meal has adapted into a ploughman's lunch, which is a movable feast. It will include cold meats but also cheeses, pies, a slice or two of bread, pickles, boiled eggs, salad, or any combination of these, along with appropriate condiments like mustard. The original idea was that it was whatever a farm worker like a ploughman could put in his bag and eat easily with his hands at lunchtime.

In the USA the dish is referred to as either charcuterie or just a simple meat and cheese plate, served with bread or crackers and condiments like mustard. You should also include some fruit and vegetables, for vegetarian and vegan guests.

What to Drink with Charcuterie

As charcuterie originated in France, the majority of people would have drunk the local wine. It's traditional to pair red wine with meats, and a merlot or pinot noir would certainly go well. However, charcuterie is very adaptable and because of the salty nature of some of the dishes, you can also try a crisp white wine or even a sparkling wine, like prosecco.

In the UK it's traditional to drink beer with your ploughman's lunch, as that's what workers would have drunk. It was common then for people, even children, to drink weak beer rather than water, as it was less likely to be contaminated. In the USA you can drink beer or wine, or anything else.

How to Serve Charcuterie

Charcuterie is a dish meant for sharing, so you'll need a large serving board to make sure there's enough for everyone. You can serve charcuterie up as individual dishes for people if you like, and these can look good, but it's much more fun to give people a small empty plate and for everyone to dip in and share from the main board.

You can use a plain and simple cheese board for your charcuterie, but if you enjoy entertaining or want to impress someone special, then use a special serving board. You can find wine-themed charcuterie boards, plain charcuterie boards, or even bourbon-themed boards. Yes, you can serve bourbon with charcuterie. A sweeter wheaty bourbon is the perfect match for salty hams and bacon. If you can casually mention that you made your own wheated bourbon, so much the better!

Two Great Ways to Improve Your Charcuterie Board

There are two more ways you can make your charcuterie stand out from the crowd, apart from only using the best of ingredients, of course. The first way is visual: the presentation. When you bring your board to the table you want your guests to say: 'Oh, that looks good!' To find some inspiration look at how other people have done it on somewhere like Pinterest.

The second way to improve your charcuterie board will have your guests asking for it next time they come, and that is by smoking some of the meats and cheeses. Who doesn't like smoked hams or smoked cheeses? And what could be more fun than to smoke your own using something like this Foghat Smoking Cloche Set?

Foghat Smoking Cloche Set with the Foghat Cocktail Smoker

The Foghat actually comes with a charcuterie board, which tells you what it's designed to do. With one of these devices, the sky's the limit with what you can do to improve the meats and cheeses you serve. You don't want to overdo it and smoke everything in sight, but put  a couple of smoked cheeses and a couple of smoked meats on your board and you'll probably find they're the first to get finished.

The great thing about this is that you can do it ahead of time, and also you're only limited in what you can do by your imagination. Suppose, for example, you do have some bourbon-loving friends coming over for dinner, and you want to serve some shots of bourbon or a bourbon cocktail with your charcuterie. What better than to smoke some salami or Swiss cheese with some Bourbon Resurrection Smoking Fuel? Try taking a plain cheese like cheddar or mozzarella and give it the treatment with something like Sweet Texas Mesquite Smoking Fuel. Or make your own Hickory Smoked Cheddar.

So now you know not only what charcuterie is, but how to take your own charcuterie board to the next level.

Foghat Smoked Charcuterie Set with Foghat Cocktail Smokerby Mike Gerrard

What Are the Best Barrel-Aged Cocktails?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

What are the best barrel-aged cocktails, how long should you age them, and which barrels are best for barrel-aging cocktails?

The best barrel-aged cocktails really add another dimension to your favorite cocktails. Why bother with barrel-aging cocktails? Well, the flavors and aromas that cocktails draw from contact with wooden barrels really intensifies everything about them.

Barrel-aging cocktails is a skill that has to be learned, but once you know a few basic rules it will take your cocktail-making skills to the next level, whether you're a professional mixologist or a home bartender.

What Are the Best Barrel-Aged Cocktails?

You can't simply pour any cocktail into a barrel and hope for good results, though. An obvious example is a cocktail that uses fresh fruit juice, like a Tequila Sunrise. The juice will probably go off before there's been any noticeable change in the flavor of the cocktail. Likewise tonic water, which will go flat in the barrel.

You should also avoid cocktails that use sweet liqueurs, or other sweet ingredients. The more sugar you put in the barrel, the easier it is for bacteria to develop. Avoid honey, too, which will crystalize. If your cocktail recipe needs some sweetness, you might be able to get away with maple syrup, if you don't age it for too long.

Making a Barrel-Aged Manhattan

The best barrel-aged cocktails are those that rely heavily on the spirit itself. A good cocktail to try as your first barrel-aged cocktail is the Manhattan. This uses whiskey (usually rye), vermouth, and bitters. Don't use an expensive whiskey to begin with, either. Use cheaper brands until you've perfected the process.

You do have to be careful using bitters, as they can start to take over if left too long. You can always barrel-age the whiskey and vermouth, and then add the bitters to each glass afterwards, as normal.


5 parts rye whiskey

2 parts sweet red vermouth

Dash of Angostura bitters for each single cocktail measure


Making a Barrel-Aged Negroni

A Negroni is also a good candidate for barrel-aging, consisting as it does of gin, vermouth, and Campari. Remember that Campari is a bitters, so don't let it dominate the taste as it ages.


3 parts gin

3 parts sweet red vermouth

3 parts Campari


Making a Barrel-Aged Boulevardier

A Boulevardier is basically a Negroni but with a different ratio of ingredients and usually rye whiskey or bourbon instead of gin. Remember to take care with the Campari.


1.5 parts whiskey

1 part sweet red vermouth

1 part Campari


Making a Barrel-Aged Martini

A simple Martini can be really enhanced by barrel-aging, and will have your friends or customers saying 'This is an amazing Martini! How did you do that?'


6 parts gin

1 part dry vermouth

Which Barrels Are Best for Barrel-Aged Cocktails?

When it comes to barrel-aging cocktails at home or in the commercial bar, smaller barrels are better. There are two main reasons for this. One is that the smaller the barrel, the more the cocktail comes in contact with the wood, and the quicker the process takes. For a commercial bar this means a faster turnover.

The other reason is that you are inevitably experimenting at first, and if anything goes badly wrong, you don't want to waste too much good alcohol. The ideal barrels for aging cocktails are from 1-3 liters, with 2 liters probably being the optimum size.

The best barrels for aging cocktails are American oak barrels, which have had a light char. Charring means more flavors being drawn from the barrel and into the cocktail. One point to remember is that with each aging process you are extracting flavors from the wood. If your first batch reaches perfection in three weeks, your next batch of the same cocktail may take a few days longer.

Where Should You Keep Your Barrel?

Small barrels that are aging cocktails do look really good whether in a commercial bar or in a home bar, but you should ideally store them out of the light. Extreme changes in heat and humidity will also detract from the end result. If you have a cellar or a basement, use it. There's a reason distilleries and wineries store their precious stocks in cellars!

How Long Should You Barrel-Age a Cocktail?

There's no definitive answer as it depends what you're aging, how big a barrel you're using, and what your own taste preferences are. However, you're probably looking at anything from 1-4 weeks, perhaps even longer. You shouldn't disturb the barrel too often, so check on progress by tasting the cocktail about once a week.

What you should do, when you make up your big batch of the cocktail, is to make more than will fit in your barrel. You should keep an unaged batch standing by as a kind of control group, so that you can taste the unaged and the aged versions side-by-side to note the difference.

This pretty much tells you what the best barrel-aged cocktails are, and how to go about making them. Cheers!

by Mike Gerrard

What Are the Best Smoky Cocktails?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

The best smoked cocktails can be made in various ways, with a smoky whiskey or mezcal instead of a non-smoky spirit or by using a universal cocktail smoking kit.

Any answer to  the question of what are the best smoky cocktails will inevitably focus on whiskey-based cocktail recipes. Many of them have a smokiness about them already, but by switching to a peaty Islay Scottish whisky, for example, or by using a smoky spirit like mezcal, the lovely smoky aroma and flavor can be ramped up a notch, the way many people like it.

Other non-whiskey cocktails can also benefit by being given the smoky treatment, as we found recently with the Smoky Margarita. You can smoke this up either by using mezcal instead of tequila, or by sticking with tequila and using a cocktail smoking kit. You can also try smoking rum cocktails. There are a few smoky rums around, like Mount Gay's The Peat Smoke Expression, which is finished in peated whisky casks from Scotland, though at around $250 a bottle it's not something you want to risk experimenting with. There are cheaper and safer ways.

What Are the Best Smoky Cocktails?

The best smoky cocktails are undoubtedly the classic whiskey cocktails, like the Old Fashioned, the Manhattan, the Whiskey Sour, the Sazerac, and the Mint Julep. In each case, take the classic recipe and either substitute a peated smoky Scottish whisky for the standard whisky, or get out your Cocktail Smoking Kit.

The kit is usually the better option. Changing the whiskey in the recipe also makes other flavor changes to the end result, whereas the smoking kit uses the traditional recipe and simply infuses smoke into it, so you genuinely get a smoky version of the cocktail. However, you should also think beyond the whiskey cocktails, to really appreciate the effect that smoking cocktails can have.

How to Make a Smoky Martini

You might think it's going to be trickier to turn a classic Gin Martini into a smoky cocktail, but it isn't. To adapt the recipe, look for a smoky gin. There are one or two around, including ESP Smoked Gin from a distillery in New York.

By far the best way is to infuse the gin with smoke, and this is where a Cocktail Smoking Kit really comes into its own, both for financial and flavor reasons. A smoked gin might cost you $40 or so, and when it's gone, it's gone. If you get a taste for a Smoky Martini, it makes more sense to invest $70 in your own kit and use it with a London Dry Gin and some inexpensive Vermouth Oak Roast Smoking Fuel or Old Towne Gin Smoking Fuel. Both are designed with gin cocktails in mind.

Take your classic Gin Martini recipe of six parts gin to one part dry vermouth. Make enough for at least two cocktails and put the mixture not into a cocktail glass but into a tall glass. Take your cocktail glasses and either put them in the freezer or fill them with ice water and put them in the fridge while you smoke the cocktail.

Put the shavings in the smoker and put the smoker over the tall glass. Smoke the shavings for about three minutes and then remove the smoker, stir the martini to really get the smoky flavor infused into the gin. Pour the Smoky Martinis into the chilled glasses and enjoy.

How to Make a Smoky Negroni

To make a Smoky Negroni you have the same options as for a Smoky Martini - you either use a smoked gin or you use a cocktail smoking kit. The kit is again the better choice for the same reasons, but in this case perhaps use the Whiskey Barrel Oak Smoking Fuel.  With its vermouth, campari, and orange-peel garnish, the Negroni already has a lot going on in it flavor-wise so a simpler smoking fuel will be better.

by Mike Gerrard

How to Make a Smoky Manhattan?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

To make a Smoky Manhattan whiskey cocktail you can try using a smoky whiskey, like a peaty whisky from Islay in Scotland, or use a Foghat Cocktail Smoker.

The Manhattan is one of the world's classic whiskey cocktails, with an interesting if uncertain history [insert link] behind it. It's a drink that's been around for over 150 years, so it's clearly here to stay. When you've tried a few slight variations on the classic recipe (bourbon instead of rye whiskey, say), you might want to take the recipe to the next level and try to make a Smoky Manhattan.

How to Make a Smoky Manhattan the Easy Way

There may be a classic recipe for the Manhattan (5 cl rye, 2 cl sweet red vermouth, dash of Angostura bitters) but there's no classic recipe for the Smoky Manhattan as it can be made in several different ways.

One way to make a Smoky Manhattan is quite easy. Instead of rye whiskey, use a smoky whiskey. And the easiest way to do that is choose a whisky from the island of Islay in Scotland, whose distilleries are noted for their smoky and peaty aromas and flavors. You're spoiled for choice. Try Bruichladdich, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Caol Ila, or an Ardbeg - the Ardbeg Wee Beastie is one we really enjoyed recently.

If you're not a fan of peaty scotches, then you could perhaps try a 50/50 mix of scotch and bourbon to tone down the smoky nature of the Manhattan. It's also a good way to slowly acquire a taste for peaty drinks, as these are, after all, amongst some of the greatest whiskies made. It's a shame to miss out on enjoying them because you've taken one sip of a really peaty whisky and didn't like it. It can be an acquired taste but it's a taste well worth acquiring.

Making a Smoky Manhattan Another Way

There are other ways to adapt the basic recipe to provide you with a smoky cocktail. You could add a dash of paprika or chipotle powder for that smoky taste - but don't go wild! If you look around online you can also find chipotle bitters, which you could use instead of the Angostura bitters.

Then, although it's no longer strictly a Manhattan, you could substitute the smoky Mexican spirit mezcal for the rye whiskey. You'd have something you might call a Mexihattan.

The Best Way to Make a Smoky Manhattan

One final way to make a Smoky Manhattan is arguably the most authentic way, as you still use the original classic recipe. None of your nit-picking friends can argue and say, 'Well it's not really a Manhattan.

Take the original recipe given above, and scale it up for however many drinks you want to make. Put all the ingredients in one suitably-sized glass, and mix them thoroughly. Use a Foghat Cocktail Smoker to infuse the Manhattan with smoke. Try the Whiskey Barrel Oak Smoking Fuel, or go for broke and use the Peat Bog Fog for a truly smoky result.

Let the glass rest for three minutes. Swirl the cocktail around again with a cocktail spoon to thoroughly mix the ingredients, including the smoke. Pour over ice in a cocktail glass or a lowball glass. Savor the aromas and sip. Now that's the best way to make a Smoky Manhattan!

by Mike Gerrard

How Do You Make Peach Moonshine from Scratch?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

Can you make Peach Moonshine from scratch, and if so then how do you do it and what is the best and easiest way to make Peach Moonshine?

If you want to make peach moonshine from scratch then you certainly can. Well, almost from scratch as if you want to make your own moonshine you should first read our post on Is It Legal to Make Whiskey at Home? [insert link] The same laws apply to making moonshine at home, or any other kind of spirit.

What Is Moonshine?

Firstly, what is moonshine anyway? It isn't just an American term for hooch made in the backwoods of Appalachia. Countries all around the world have their equivalent of alcohol that's been distilled at home using local ingredients.

Making moonshine is usually illegal, though this doesn't stop it happening widely, particularly in traditionally poor rural areas. In the past, even if legal alcohol was available, not everyone could afford to buy it, so it's only natural some people would try their hand at making their own. After all, the skills of distilling have been around for a few thousand years.

In Ireland, as one well-known example, they call it poteen (pronounced pocheen) and it's often made from potatoes, the country's most widely-grown crop. In Greece they call it raki or tsipouro, and it's made from what's left of the grapes after the winemakers have finished with them. In the USA it's called moonshine and often made from corn.

What Is Peach Moonshine?

If peaches are grown widely, as they are in parts of the USA and Southern Europe, for example, then you can make moonshine from them. They provide their own sugar, to help the fermentation process. In the USA it's called peach moonshine while in other countries it might be called peach brandy or peach schnapps.

The main concern is a financial one. Peaches usually fetch a high price, so it's more profitable for the grower to sell them than to make moonshine from them. However, there will always be some peaches that are imperfect, so why throw them out when you can make perfectly good liquor from them?

Peach Moonshine Recipes

There are numerous recipes online for making peach moonshine, and they don't all involve using a peach brandy or peach schnapps as the base spirit. Some use white spirit, some blend white spirit with peach juice.

Some recipes use a grain alcohol called Everclear, produced by Luxco, and available at differing strengths according to your needs: 60%, 75.5%, 94.5% and 95% ABC (120, 151, 189 and 190 proof). It's potent stuff but remember that if you make a spirit that's too strong for you, you can always dilute it later with pure filtered water down to your preferred strength. After all, that's what distillers do unless they're making a cask strength spirit.

The Best Way to Make Peach Moonshine from Scratch

Some of the recipes for peach moonshine are quite complicated and involve tracking down several ingredients and then following complex instructions. You also often have to wait several days for the peach moonshine to be ready. The quickest, easiest and best way to make peach moonshine from scratch is with a Moonshine Magic moonshine making kit.

The Moonshine Making Kit is perfectly legal as you have to provide the base spirit. The kits come with a reusable 1-liter ceramic moonshine jar, and the essence for making three distinct moonshine flavors, including peach. The Peach Essence includes natural extracts, essences, and oils, and some caramel color of the kind often used by distilleries to add a little color to whiskies, rums, and other spirits. (They don't usually shout about it, but they do it.)

For the spirits, you can use Everclear or an inexpensive plain vodka. Costco sells vodka that is both cheap and better-than-average bottom-shelf vodka. Later (the moonshine jar is endlessly re-usable) you can experiment and try a corn or rye-based whiskey or bourbon. Only use small amounts of this at first, and you may want to mix it with some vodka initially, so as not to overpower the peach flavor, which is after all what you're looking for. This is by far the best and quickest way to make peach moonshine from scratch.

by Mike Gerrard

How to Make a Smoky Margarita

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

There are several ways of making a smoky margarita, like using mezcal instead of tequila, or you can put on a show and use the Foghat Cocktail Smoker.

Several weeks ago we enjoyed a smoky margarita without having to make it. It was a cocktail in a can and was so delicious my wife said: 'We have to learn how to make these.'

How to Make a Smoky Margarita the Easy Way

Looking online, there were lots of recipes for making smoky margaritas, some easier than others. The easiest way of all is simply to use mezcal instead of tequila. Most mezcals are naturally smoky, because of the way they're made.

What is Mezcal?

Mezcal is a spirit made from agave plants in certain areas of Mexico. Technically tequila is a mezcal as it's made from the blue agave, but it has its own specific rules. Mezcals are made from any agave apart from the blue agave. With tequila, the agave hearts, known as piņas, are baked in an oven. With mezcal, they are smoked in a pit in the ground, hence the smoky flavor, although not all mezcals are heavily smoky.

My Easy Smoky Margarita Cocktail Recipe

(Makes 4 glasses)

6 oz mezcal

3 oz triple sec

3 oz lime juice (reduced to 2 oz if using fresh key lime juice)

4 cups ice cubes

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until mushy (to use a technical term). If your mezcal is very smoky, you might want to try equal parts of mezcal and tequila to tone it down a little.

Other Ways to Make a Smoky Margarita

If you don't have any mezcal in hand (and it is harder to come by than tequila) then there are several other ways to make a smoky margarita. With the above basic margarita recipe you could add half a teaspoon of smoked paprika to the blend. You can also mix some paprika with some salt and rim the glass with it, too, for a showier look than salt alone.

Another option, instead of paprika, is to finely chop 2-3 slices of jalapeno and blend that into the mix. Be careful, though, till you know just how hot your jalapenos are. They also add spice as well as a slightly smoky flavor. Instead of the paprika or the jalapeno, you could instead add no more than a quarter teaspoon of chipotle powder to the cocktail. Chipotle is, of course, smoked jalapeno so you get both heat and smoke in your margarita.

How to Make a Smoky Margarita the Fun Way

After a few experiments, we forgot our Smoky Margarita phase and went back to our usual lazy pre-dinner standbys, like Gin and Tonics or Vodka and OJ. Then the Foghat Cocktail Smoker kit arrived.

The obvious first choice to try to make a smoky drink was with a Scottish whisky. I took a Speyburn 10-year-old from Speyside, partly because the bottle was almost gone and there was just enough for a couple of not-so-wee drams, and partly because the whisky was only slightly smoky. The Foghat worked its magic and did something on a par with turning water into wine - it turned a Speyside whisky into more of a peaty whisky from Islay.

Then I had that lightbulb moment - of course, smoky margaritas! I made a fresh batch of our regular margaritas, using the recipe above (but with tequila, of course). I put some fresh wood chips into the Foghat. These were the Whiskey Barrel Oak ones, but I figured they would work just as well. And boy, did they work!

The margaritas were just as good as the ones made with mezcal, and just as good as the canned cocktails that kicked the whole thing off in the first place. It also had me wondering if I could smoke tequila and make my own mezcal? That's for another time, but thanks to the Foghat I can't wait to show friends how to make a Smoky Margarita.

by Mike Gerrard

Is It Legal to Make Whiskey at Home?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

Is It Legal to Make Whiskey at Home?

The answer to the question of is it legal to make whiskey at home is yes and no, if you live in the USA, but there are ways to legally make whiskey at home.

So, is it legal to make whiskey at home or not, in the USA? Why is the answer yes and no? Well, technically it is illegal to make whiskey at home. However, it is not illegal to own and use a still for the purpose of, say, distilling essential oils. It is also legal to distil ethanol for use as home fuel, though you'll need a permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

Ethanol, though, is simply the chemical name for alcohol. So, it is actually legal to make alcohol at home, which you could then turn into whiskey, gin or some other spirit. It only becomes illegal if you drink it.

Why Is It Not Legal to Make Whiskey at Home?

One argument in favor of keeping it illegal to make whiskey at home in the USA is for safety reasons. Spirits are flammable, unlike beer and wine, and you need to be careful and know what you're doing. In addition, if you make a mistake you can potentially produce a spirit that can kill you, or make you blind, or at least seriously ill.

The main argument, though, is financial. The very first tax introduced by the US government in 1790 was a tax on home-made whiskey. It was taxed at 9 cents a gallon. In 1794 when the tax was raised to 25 cents a gallon it resulted in an armed insurrection which became known as The Whiskey Rebellion.

If people are allowed to make whiskey at home then the government will lose out on tax revenue, unless they monitor every home that has a still. Owning and using a still is not illegal, as stills can be used for other purposes than making spirits, like in producing essential oils.

Where Is It Legal to Make Whiskey at Home?

In some countries, such as New Zealand, it is legal to make whiskey at home. In 1996 the law in New Zealand changed and put spirits on an equal footing with wine and beer. In some other countries it's legal by virtue of the fact that no laws have been passed making it illegal.

Incidentally, since New Zealand made the production of spirits legal, there have been no reported cases of any injuries caused either by explosion or ingestion of spirits in the home. It's also notable that the rates for alcohol use disorders are lower in New Zealand than in either the USA or Canada (where making whiskey at home is also illegal).

The Legal Way to Make Whiskey at Home

There are, however, two ways in which it is legal to make whiskey at home. The first way is to turn yourself into a bona fide distillery and obtain a DSP (Distilled Spirits Plant Permit). This, however, is both expensive and a bureaucratic nightmare. Ask any distiller what the hardest thing was about opening a distillery and they invariably say 'the paperwork'.

The easier and much cheaper way to have the fun experience of making whiskey at home is to buy a Whiskey Making Kit. Whiskey is, after all, nothing more than a neutral spirit that has been aged in a barrel. If you want to annoy a gin distiller, for example, point out that gin is really just flavored vodka. Any distiller who produces a dark spirit will tell you that 60-80% of the flavor comes from the barrel.

If that is the case, who not buy your own barrel, buy some neutral spirit (i.e. vodka), and put the vodka in the barrel and see what happens? A Whiskey Making Kit includes a new American white oak barrel, exactly the same kind of barrel that has to be used if you're making bourbon. The barrel is naturally smaller than the large barrels that commercial distilleries use, but this puts the home user at an advantage. More of the spirit comes in contact with the wood, extracting its flavors and aromas, and so spirits mature more quickly in a small barrel.

You can monitor progress by drawing off spirit at regular intervals and tasting it, till it reaches the flavor profile that you prefer. You have now discovered the easiest legal way to make whiskey at home.


This information is correct at the time of writing but if you are interested in making whiskey at home you're advised to seek up-to-date advice on regulations in the state in which you live.

The History of the Manhattan Cocktail

by TOB Admin

The history of the Manhattan cocktail goes back to 19th century Manhattan and here's the story of the Manhattan, who invented it, and a classic cocktail recipe.

The history of the Manhattan cocktail can certainly be traced back to New York's Manhattan in the late 19th century, but the exact details are not known for sure.

Was the Manhattan Invented at The Manhattan Club?

The Manhattan Club in New York, which is still going strong as a 4-star hotel, claims that the Manhattan cocktail was invented there. It was first created, they say, in 1874 for a banquet being held there by Jennie Jerome to honor the politician, Samuel J. Tilden.

Tilden was Governor of New York and went on to run as the Democratic candidate in the 1876 presidential election. He became the first candidate to win the popular vote but lose the election. That 1876 election had all the drama, and more, of recent US elections.

1874 was also the year that Jennie Jerome, who was born in Brooklyn, married Lord Randolph Churchill of Great Britain, and became Lady Randolph Churchill. According to one biography, Jerome was already pregnant with their first child at the time of their marriage. That child was named Winston, and went on to become the British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, who led the country through World War II.

However, there's one problem with this story. On the date the banquet was held, Lady Churchill was in either England or France, but certainly not in New York.

When Was the Manhattan Cocktail Invented?

The Manhattan was definitely around by the early 1880s as it was first mentioned by name in a New York newspaper in 1882. In 1884 two versions of the cocktail recipe were included in a book by O.H.Byron called The Modern Bartender's Guide. From then on, the Manhattan was a regular in books of cocktail recipes.

Who Invented the Manhattan Cocktail?

Another account explaining the history of the Manhattan cocktail comes from a bartender, William F. Mulhall. Mulhall worked at the Hoffman House, a famous hotel that used to stand on Broadway and 25th Street. He began working there in the early 1880s and around that time he said that the Manhattan was invented in the 1860s by a bartender named Black, who worked at a nearby bar on Broadway.

The History of the Manhattan Cocktail

To sum up, all we really know about the history of the Manhattan cocktail is that it probably was created somewhere in Manhattan around the 1860s-1870s.

Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

The standard Manhattan cocktail recipe includes just three ingredients: whiskey, vermouth, and bitters. In the late 19th century the whiskey of choice was rye, and the recipe recommended today by the International Bartenders Association still specifies rye:



5 cl Rye whiskey

2 cl Sweet red vermouth

Dash Angostura bitters


Stir over ice, strain into a chilled glass, garnish with a cherry or lemon slice, and serve in a cocktail glass or over ice in a lowball glass.

Even though there are only three ingredients, this still allows for some variations on the classic recipe. If you like bourbon, use bourbon. During Prohibition, Canadian whisky became the spirit used as it was easier to get hold of. You can also try different kinds of vermouth or bitters. You could try using both sweet vermouth and dry vermouth in the same drink, instead of the standard sweet vermouth.

You can also use brandy to turn it into a Brandy Manhattan, or use moonshine to make a Blonde Manhattan. If you use Scotch whisky instead of American rye, then you've made a Rob Roy. However you make it, though, you now at least know the history of the Manhattan cocktail.

by Mike Gerrard