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Take a Peat Monster Poolside

Compass Box’s whiskymaker John Glaser doesn’t produce your typical Scotch whisky. With names like The Peat Monster, The Spice Tree, and Great King Street, these small-batch scotch whiskys bridge traditional techniques and more innovative approaches. USQ will be pouring tastes of four whiskys from the collection as part of our Fluid Fridays series for the month of June. But beyond whisky neat, there, of course, will be cocktails from Compass Box brand ambassadors Elana Effrat and David Bailey.

Scotch-based cocktails seem to be the rage right now and we certainly aren’t complaining. There is something about mixing a smoky dark spirit with refreshing spring and summer ingredients. For a start to the sunny season, try out the Smokey River Trading Company, a citrus-inflected, Peat Monster-based concoction whipped up by the bartenders at Avenue Grill in Denver, Colorado. And for a even chiller drink, “Poolside,” mix in some elderflower liqueur and fizzy water with Orangerie.

Smokey River Trading Company
2 oz. The Peat Monster
½ oz. Averna Amaro
½ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Add ingredients to a shaker. Shake and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.

1 ½ oz. Orangerie
splash St. Germain
seltzer water or club soda
orange slice, for garnsih

Fill a tall glass with ice. Add Orangerie and St. Germain. Fill with seltzer or club soda. Stir, and garnish with an orange slice.

Check out the Compass Box lineup here.

Flowers in the Form of Drinks: Mother’s Day Cocktails

Who needs to give flowers on Mother’s Day when you can give floral cocktails?! Our friends over at Serious Eats agree that botanic-inspired drinks are definitely the way to go this Sunday and hence, have compiled a list of eight blossoming concoctions and recipes. Instead of creating our own cocktails this week, we figured we’d share theirs, such as the lavender- and honey-laced H.K. Rose and the agave-tinged, bubbly punch, Jalisco Flower. We’ve also got all the spirits and wine ingredients handy, ready for you to hit “add to cart.”

Off to the Races: Kentucky Derby Cocktails

Sure, we know that this Saturday, May 5, is the infamous margarita-guzzling holiday of Cinco de Mayo. But for those southern folks among us, it’s Derby Day, as the first Saturday in May always hosts the Kentucky Derby. This year marks the 138th running of the horse race, which kicks of the Triple Crown. Time to don those big hats with floral accoutrements and seersucker suits as you sip bourbon-based cocktails and sweet tea!

The “holiday” basically calls for drinking of all sorts, as horse lovers place bets on the 22 horses ready to post on the track, and the who’s who of horse racing and Kentucky society post up in the grandstands. While we can’t always make it to the races, we can mix up the cocktails. Here are two to start your Derby Day celebration, the classic Mint Julep, the official drink of the Derby, and the Man O’ War, a signature Maker’s Mark cocktail inspired by the famous racehorse.

Classic Mint Julep
According to the Kentucky Derby’s website, almost 120,000 mint juleps are served over the two-day period of the Derby events. It requires 1,000 pounds of fresh mint and 60,000 pounds of ice! While the official derby cocktail uses Early Times bourbon, we prefer Jim Beam, the everyman’s bourbon and the spirit Stephanie’s father, a Kentucky Colonel, uses in his drinks.

½ cup Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup water
3 to 4 sprigs of fresh mint

Chill down a silver derby cup or highball glass. Meanwhile, make a simple syrup by boiling the sugar and water together for a few minutes. Cool and place in a covered container, keep chilled. Fill the chilled cup or highball glass with crushed ice. Add one tablespoon of simple syrup and 2 oz. of Jim Beam bourbon. Stir rapidly. Garnish with a sprig or two of fresh mint

Man O’ War
This cocktail was concocted by Maker’s Mark in honor of the horse of the same name. One of the winningest horses in history, Man O’ War only lost one race in his career! While he never ran the Derby, we can get behind this perfect afternoon tipple.

1 ½ oz. Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1 oz. orange curacao liqueur
½ oz. sweet vermouth
½ oz. orange juice
Maraschino cherry, for garnish

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker and shake for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Are you ready to sing “My Old Kentucky Home” with a glass in hand?

The Rum Diaries: Ron Santa Teresa

Sometimes great rums get overshadowed by classic Scotch and trendy Mezcal. But the lineup at Ron Santa Teresa, a Venezuelan rum company that’s been around for more than 200 years, should have you thinking rum is the new IT spirit. From their perfect-for-bartending Claro (hello, daiquiri!) to the first solera-made rum, the 1796 Ron Antigua de Solera, the brand has established a high standard. Each Friday in April, we’ve poured the Claro, Gran Reserva, and Solera at the Barrel, both neat and in two signature cocktails, the Claro Daiquiri and the S’Lightly Balmy. If you were lucky enough to taste, go to town with these cocktails! If you haven’t, head to USQ this Friday for the last Barrel tasting!

Santa Terea’s Claro was specially designed for shaking and stirring. A blend of 3-year-old rums, the rum boast a pale golden color with fruity, wooden flavors on the palate. It works well in mojitos and, our favorite, the daiquiri. Wonder if Hemingway preferred Santa Teresa?

Claro Daiquiri
2 oz. Santa Teresa Claro
1 oz. fresh lime juice
2 ½ teaspoon brown sugar

Combine all ingredients and shake over ice. Strain into a glass of your choice. We like it up served up.

As much as we adore the claro for its cocktail properties, we can’t cheat on the Gran Reserva, Santa Teresa’s flagship bottling. Thank the 5-year aging in cask barrels for the amber-tinted gold hue and rich mouthfeel. Every now and then we do crave a Dark & Stormy (who doesn’t?), so this twist, S’Lightly Balmy, might take the place in the drink rotation.

S’Lightly Balmy
1 oz. Santa Teresa Gran Reserva
1 oz. cloudy apple juice
1 oz. ginger beer
splash of lime

Pour the rum over ice in a highball. Add apple juice and beer. Squeeze a splash of lime. Drink.

Check out all the bottlings here.

Earth Day, Brought to You by Jars of VeeV

Every time I fly Virgin America (which is often, NYC > SFO), I end up with a VeeV cocktail. But that’s hardly the only time I sip the açai spirit. Heralded for its earth-friendly approach to all-things alcohol, VeeV is distilled from the Brazilian fruit, açai, known for its healthy properties. (Surfers say so, at least.) It makes a good substitute for vodka- or cachaca- based drinks, or just simply mixed with juice.

Given Earth Day, though, we have to spotlight VeeV’s green efforts. The company was the first alcohol brand to be certified carbon neutral. The distillery is powered completely by renewable wind energy. Their innovative distillation process uses 200 percent less energy than traditional pot still. On top of all that, VeeV donates $1 from the sale of every bottle to rainforest conservation efforts. Wow.

If we really need to further win you over with the spirit, though, mix it up in one of these signature cocktails. With the Greenmarket only steps away from USQ, you’ll be eating AND drinking local. Then you’ll be ordering it on your next flight too!

Herbal Advice 
Who doesn’t love a mason jar? Just what we thought. We’re giving you a bit of Herbal Advice with this cocktail: Go Green.

1 ¼ oz VeeV Açai
2 lemon wedges
½ oz simple syrup
2 oz club soda
fresh cucumber, sliced thinly
sprig of mint

Pack the mason jar with ice. Add all of the ingredients and seal the top. Shake and serve, tableside.

Brazilian 57 
Forget Skinny Girl Margaritas. This 125-calorie (not that we are counting, we drink wine and spirits for a living) champagne cocktail should be swapped for that boring mimosa at any Sunday brunch. Including April 22, Earth Day!

1 ¼ oz. VeeV Açai
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz simple syrup
lemon twist, for garnish

Shake the first three ingredients well with ice and strain into a Champagne flute. Top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.

We’ll be tasting VeeV and VeeV-based cocktails this Saturday at USQ during our Go Green Organic Tasting. Stop by. More details here.

Taken by Averna

When I saw the Salvatore Gives You His Word cocktail at Huckleberry Bar on Tuesday night, I immediately thought “shoes.” Hello, Ferragamo! But alas, no, the cocktail was named for the founder of Averna, Salvatore Averna, who developed the caramel-laced liqueur from Italy. And it has nothing to do with shoes, except you can wear really nice ones while sipping the amaro.

Made of all natural ingredients, Averna is produced from a secret recipe (what isn’t?) of herbs, roots, and citrus rinds, with the addition of natural caramel. Many people sip it neat or on the rocks as an aperitif, but Huckleberry Bar’s general manager Stephanie Schneider whipped up some snazzy cocktails with Averna’s history as her inspiration. It’s been around since 1868, so there’s a plethora of tradition. While she developed four concoctions in total, we’ve got the recipes for our top two—Salvatore Gives You His Word and Taken By Storm—below. Check out all four, including See You Amaro Morning and the Averna Negroni, at the Brooklyn haunt this month.

Salvatore Gives You His Word
1 oz. Averna
¾ oz. Old Overholt
¾ oz Maraschino
¾ oz. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients. Shake and strain into a coupe. No garnish.

Taken By Storm
1 ½ oz. Averna
½ oz. Gosling’s 151
½ oz. ginger juice
1 ½ oz. grapefruit juice

Combine all ingredients. Shake and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Finish with a grapefruit twist.

Taking Easter Peeps to New Heights: Yellow Chickie Martini

Easter just isn’t complete without Peeps, those sugary, marshmallowy concoctions that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. (And they are super fun to microwave. Try it.) But the classic Peep, the little yellow chicken, inspired our Easter cocktail 2012: Yellow Chickie Martini. It’s a lively combination of Karlsson’s Gold Vodka, Capri Natura Limoncello, Dolin Dry Vermouth, created by our spirits director Tom Smith. The earthy potato vodka and savory, herbal vermouth playfully balance the sweetness of the limoncello. Serve it up or on the rocks.

2 oz. Karlsson’s Gold Vodka
2 oz. Capri Natura Limoncello
2 oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth
Peeps Yellow Marshmallow Chicks

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish by floating a Peep in the martini. Happy Easter!

Get all the ingredients here.

A Miami Vice: Belvedere Vanilla Sour

I’m in Miami, trick! USQite Stephanie just returned from a trip to South Beach, where Belvedere seemed to be the vodka brand of choice. While strobe lights and sparkling bottle toppers may not be your evening routine, this Belvedere Vanilla Sour should make a guest appearance. Red velvet rope not included.

2oz Belvedere Vodka
1 oz vanilla syrup
1 oz lemon juice
dash Angostura bitters
dash egg white

Combine all ingredients and shake well. Strain over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Pop the Portuguese Punch

Now that it’s officially spring, we decided to break out the punch bowls. USQite Seth White whips up a refreshing vinho verde punch, based on the young Portuguese white wine. We, however, determined that it needed a bit more…booze (to celebrate the warm weather, of course). Check out this vodka-and-vinho-verde version, the Portuguese Eastside Punch, to kick-start the sunshine season!

Rosemary Syrup
2 cups water
½ cup sugar
4 sprigs rosemary, rinsed

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer over moderately low heat for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain the syrup and chill. Can be made up to one week in advance.

Portuguese Eastside Punch
7 bottles of Sogrape Vinho Verde Gazela
4 cups Absolut Mandarin Vodka
1 cup rosemary syrup
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
⅓ cup mint leaves

In a punch bowl, mix the wine, vodka, and rosemary syrup. Add the cucumber slices. Let stand for one hour. Garnish with the mint and serve over ice. Note: You can substitute Leroux’s Triple Sec for the rosemary syrup, but you will lose some herbal notes.

Get the ingredients here.

Leprechauns Like Single Malt…Irish Whiskey

Every now and then, we get the shakers and strainers out at USQ and come up with our own seasonal cocktails. The most recent was a springy St. Patty’s Day concoction based on Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey. Since Scotch cocktails are “having a moment right now” we felt it necessary to include their isle neighbors. Tyrconnell’s is made from 100 percent malted barley, a sweet and complex whiskey where no peat is used. Try the refreshing Tyrconnell Clementine for this year’s unseasonably warm St. Patty’s Day party.

2 oz Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey
2 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 oz freshly squeezed Clementine juice
½ oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Fill with ice and shake well. Strain into a martini glass. No garnish necessary, but feel free to skewer a Clementine segment for presentation.

Now we know that’s a quite involved cocktail, especially as the day and evening progresses. Which is why we’re tipping you off to this evening sipper that serves as the best nightcap leprechauns can offer, Nutty Irishman.

Combine equal parts Irish Cream (such as Bailey’s or Ryan’s), Frangelico, and heavy cream into a rocks glass. Garnish with a nutmeg sprinkle.

Get the ingredients here.