What do you get when you mix Georgia pecan nut milk and South Carolina coffee rum?

Treehouse Pecan Milk Rum

I wasn’t planning on having my day shot to hell. But then the nut milk delivery lady showed up. That’s right, I said nut milk. delivery. lady. She handed over the frosty glass jar of her sweet Georgia pecan nut milk, and was heading back to her car, when she turned and delivered the words that would indeed shoot my day (my life?) to hell – “if you’ve got any vodka, it’s great in a White Russian!” She said it so cheerfully. And why shouldn’t she? If any drink can be spoken of in cheerful terms, surely it is the White Russian. Especially one made with locally-made, hand-delivered, sweet Georgia pecan nut milk.

As I carried my pecan milk back into the house, I was already mentally checking my liquor cabinet. Hmm, vodka? Yes. I hardly touch the stuff, but I do make sure to always have a bottle on hand for guests. And I knew exactly where the fifth of Cathead¬†vodka was in the cabinet, hidden behind a bevy of gins, collecting dust in the back corner. The only other thing I would¬†need for a White Russian was Kahlua, and surely I… no… dear God… I don’t ¬†have any Kahlua.

I went down to the liquor cabinet to check, and sure enough… no Kahlua. That led me into the rabbit hole of searching the internet for homemade Kahlua¬†recipes, but frankly I didn’t have the patience. (One of the recipes included the step of steeping vanilla beans for THREE WEEKS! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THREE WEEKS!? My nut milk would never last three weeks, never mind the fact that I would need to go buy some fresh vanilla beans to get it going, and if I’m doing that, I could just as easily have gone out and gotten the goshdarnt Kahlua in the first place).

Treehouse Pecan Milk RumLuckily, I discovered an old bottle in my liquor cabinet that eliminated the need for Kahlua. It was a Java Rum from Sea Island distillery on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina. I had bought it on a visit to the distillery several years back, and was super impressed at the time (though apparently not impressed enough to drink much of the stuff, as the bottle was still nearly full). In any case, I twisted off the cap, took in a deep whiff, and knew right away that my lack of Kahlua was no problem at all. Better still, the Sea Island Java Rum even eliminates the need for vodka as well, since it clocks in at 70 proof (Kahlua is just 40 proof).

OK, so, coffee rum? Check. Nut milk? Check. Ice and glass? Check. That’s it. No recipe needed, just mix the two to taste and give it a swirl, then sip, and OH MY LORD this is good stuff. The subtle pecan notes in the creamy nut milk, which also has small amounts of honey and vanilla, works wonders with the chewy, dark-chocolatey, coffee-intense Java Rum. This is the kind of thing that I could drink gallons of over breakfast. Or after dinner. Or during any of the minutes that take place in the span of¬†hours between breakfast and after dinner. In fact, if I were to open a chain of coffee shops that only offered this one drink, 24 hours a day, it would bring the Starbucks empire to its knees within weeks, even factoring in the seasonal bump for PUMPKIN SPICE!

So what do we call this drink? This heavenly blend of sweet Georgia pecan milk and South Carolina-bred coffee rum? You could riff on the White Russian and call it the White Southern. And that makes sense theoretically (it is white in color, and it is in fact Southern), but, um… no. I wouldn’t say the name¬†sounds unintentionally racist, but it kinda sounds unintentionally racist.

That leads us to the inevitable Big Lebowski reference and the equally inevitable moniker Рthe Southern Dude. Perfect. You get your Big Lebowski/Dude/White Russian connection for the inspiration of the drink, and you get your Southern emphasis for the Georgia pecans and the South Carolina rum that make it unique. I need to get busy printing up t-shirts and bumper stickers and ironic trucker hats featuring the Southern Dude and plentiful references to nut milk.

Now, about my day being shot to hell… I may have had just one of these tasty beverages. Or I may have downed the entirety of those two bottles of nut milk and rum. Either way, I am now working diligently on my business plan to launch a chain of coffeeshops dedicated to spreading the joy that is the Southern Dude. It¬†will come in sizes ranging from 4oz up to a gallon. And, like the nut milk company that inspired the drink, we’ll even deliver. But that’s the only drink we’ll offer. Except maybe a seasonal Southern Pumpkin Spice. Because how else are we really going to beat Starbucks?

Treehouse Pecan Milk Rum

Good news from the fine folks at Treehouse Milk, who produced the pecan milk discussed above: “We promise, everything tastes better with pecan milk. Pecans are high in vitamin E and manganese, which is good for your heart. They are packed with 19 vitamins and minerals, and¬†come from a farm in South Georgia.” They also make¬†almond, cashew, macadamia, and cacao¬†almond milks;¬†and they really will deliver right to your door (if you live in Atlanta, for a small fee – I highly recommend it). Also found at fine shops and coffee shops like the Mercantile, Savi Provisions, and Spiller Park.

Four ATL cocktail recipes you need right now

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 4.41.53 PMTime to pimp my work over on Creative Loafing Atlanta – where you can now find recipes for four quite-excellent, surely-iconic Atlanta cocktails… plus a bit of background from the fine barkeeps who created the drinks.¬†These four fine drinks are:

Greg Best’s Southern Cola

Julian Goglia’s Goonies Never Say Die!

Jerry Slater’s Bufala Negra

T. Fable Jeon’s Unsung Hiro

Get the full store HERE—–>¬†(that means click) AND MORE in Creative Loafing‘s Cocktail Issue.¬†



Cocktail Recipe: Rhythm and Soul Redux

Greg Best cocktail

Cold rain outside, dark gray skies, I needed something warm and rich and mellow to ease me into a good night. And I thought of this cocktail recipe from Greg Best called Rhythm and Soul, a drink that’s as smooth as Otis Redding, as rapturous as Al Green, as‚Ķ OK, I hate the forced metaphors, too… ¬†it’s just a damn great cocktail. He calls it halfway between a Sazerac and a Manhattan, which captures the taste pretty well.

Best’s version calls for French absinthe, rye whiskey, Averna, and Carpano Antica. My retread this night went with Herbsaint instead of the absinthe, Sazerac rye, Amaro CioCiaro instead of the Averna, and Coccchi Vermouth di Torino instead of the Carpano Antica. It’s amazing either way.

First you get the anise/fennel punch in the nose, then a rich, deep, cinnamon and clove whiskey base note, then a bright herbal high note that goes on and on like Whitney Houston digging in hard on the national anthem. It’s rich, complex, multi-layered, all those things that make you sit back and just say‚Ķ damn that’s good. Like Booker T & the MGs laying down Green Onion, with Al Green and Otis Redding clapping time and crooning along in the background. Whitney’s just taking it in, smiling and nodding. That’s some rhythm and soul.

Rhythm & Soul, Redux
Inspired by Greg Best’s Rhythm & Soul¬†(as in, basically this is the same recipe, with the closest ingredients I had on hand!)

1 bar spoon Herbsaint (or absinthe, or pastis if you must)
2oz rye whiskey
1/2oz Amaro CiaCiaro (or Averna, or similar)
1/2oz Italian sweet vermouth (Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Carpano Antica or similar)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon peel for garnish

1. Fill a rocks glass with crushed ice. Let it chill for a bit, then pour in the Herbsaint and roll around to fully coat.

2. In a separate mixing glass with ice cubes, stir the rye, amaro, vermouth, and bitters to mix and chill. Discard Herbsaint and ice from rocks glass, then strain the mixing glass contents into the chilled rocks glass. ¬†Twist the lemon peel over the drink to release the lemon oil. Discard lemon peel and enjoy, or toss it in the glass if you’re feeling it.

Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants v Buffalo Bills

Cocktails: The Witch Hunt

Since today is Halloween, I thought I’d bring back from the (almost) dead a cocktail I first tried at Leon’s Full Service in Decatur, GA, a few years back. At the time, Miles Macquarrie shared the recipe, and we did a quick little video showing off Leon’s bar and the making of the drink itself. Miles is now slinging excellent drinks at sister restaurant Kimball House (go. now. for oyster happy hour 5-7pm. and great cocktails. really.), but brought back this drink for Fall. It’s great for easing into the cooler weather, a mix of house-made apple-cardamom syrup, gin, Liquore Strega (Italian for witch), a bit of lemon, and an absinthe rinse. Full recipe below.

Leon’s Full Service: Miles & the Witch Hunt from Thirsty South on Vimeo.

The Witch Hunt

1.5 oz Dry Fly gin (or similar)
3/4 oz apple cardamom syrup (see below)
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz Strega liqueur
Absinthe for glass rinse
Orange peel for garnish

Rinse cocktail glass with absinthe, combine all other liquid ingredients in cocktail shaker, shake vigorously with ice, strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze orange peel into glass and drop in!

Apple Cardamom Syrup

Combine 1 cup water, 2 cups granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup cracked green cardamom pods in saucepan. Simmer over Med-High for 5 minutes, until very fragrant. Add 3 cups fresh pressed apple juice, simmer until reduced in half (roughly 15 to 20 minutes). Strain, cool, add a dash of neutral spirit as preservative, may be refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

Kimball House
The bar at Kimball House

Coffee, Fernet Branca, Rum: Whynatte?

Whynatte Cayrum Fernet Branca

Why the hell would anyone want to mix a latte energy drink, Fernet-Branca, and ginger-honey infused rum? The answer lies somewhere at the center of the Venn diagram where hipster bartenders, tweaked-out party twenty somethings, and laid-back Dominicanos converge. And if you read that and think there’s no way that Venn diagram actually exists in the real world, well… you might be right. But I’m hopeful that somewhere down a dark alley not far from the beach in Punta Cana, there’s a mustachioed mixologist with a PDT Cocktail Book¬†on the shelf, a fridge full of Whynatte, an old uncle home-infusing ginger-honey rum, and a raging dance floor nearby. It could happen, right?

The truth is, this drink was inspired by a random confluence of events. I was talking with Jesse Altman, founder of Whynatte, for a profile in Creative Loafing (that came out this week – check it out).¬†For those of you not familiar with Atlanta-based Whynatte, it’s basically a canned latte energy drink that was built for mixing – with things like J√§germeister,¬† Fireball whiskey, and, um, whipped cream vodka. As I said in Creative Loafing, ¬†Whynatte is “decidedly not the stuff you find at reverent temples to cocktail classicism. In fact, it’s tremendously popular at places like Smith’s Olde Bar and the Vortex, and even the Cheetah. Why not?”

In any case, Jesse and I were talking about how Whynatte just doesn’t fit behind certain bars, and I asked if anyone had paired it with something super-bartender-nerdy like… Fernet-Branca. After all, Fernet fits somewhere on the same branch of the spirits tree as J√§germeister –¬†embraced both for its purported medicinal qualities and definitive medicinal taste.¬†The key difference for Fernet-Branca is that it dials way back on the sugary syrup of J√§germeister.¬†Altman said they had once tried a push to get some serious bartenders to get creative with Whynatte, but it was the simple shooters that really seemed to click best.

After our chat, I just couldn’t let go of this seemingly incongruous pairing – between the whipped cream vodka loving party animal and the hipster bar geek. I did a bit of digging around for other similar drinks, which mainly reinforced that Fernet-Branca and (hot)¬†coffee or espresso are frequent companions. So maybe this pairing wasn’t so crazy after all.

I tried simple first – just two ingredients – and landed on 2oz Whynatte and 1oz Fernet-Branca over ice. It makes for a bracingly refreshing cold coffee drink. Then I tried adding in rye, figuring bourbon might be too sweet, and found a nice balance at 2oz Whynatte, 2oz rye, 1oz Fernet-Branca. You still get the herbal punch of the Fernet, the creamy coffee flavors still coat the tongue, and the rye somehow manages to bridge the two with a potent whiskey presence. Not bad.

Doing some further digging, I came across a cocktail recipe that got me thinking that rum could be a good companion. I started rifling through my rum options for inspiration. An unaged rum proved too sharp. An older rum seemed a bit, well, wasted in such a concoction. A spiced rum proved too… much. And then I tried a bottle of Cayrum that I had been given not long ago.

Cayrum, from the¬†Kane Family Rum Company,¬†also happens to be based in Atlanta, though the rum is distilled, aged (three years in bourbon barrels) and infused with local honey and ginger in the Dominican Republic. The ginger really pops in this stuff – it could almost replace a ginger liqueur like Domaine de Canton or the King’s Ginger in cocktail recipes. But it’s the honey (at least, I think it is) that helps bring the Cayrum into harmony with the latte and the Fernet-Branca when you mix those ingredients together.

This is not a drink for everyone. Or maybe I should say, this is a drink for hardly anyone. There’s a 2 in 3 chance that you’ll find it disgusting. And a 0.9 in 3 chance that you’ll find it only mildly offensive. But I like this drink – it manages to be creamy, sweet, bitter, bracing, and spicy in some strange jumble of proportions. The ratio I settled on was 1 part Whynatte to 1 part Cayrum to 1/2 part Fernet-Branca. If you want something more coffee-like and less cocktail-ish, just amp up the Whynatte. If you find the medicinal slap of Fernet offensive, definitely dial back the Fernet-Branca. Me? I’m happy imagining my place at the bar by the beach, chatting with a mustachioed bartender while a nearby throng of partygoers dances the night away.

The Dominicano Hipster All Night Rave
2oz Whynatte coffee and energy drink
2oz Cayrum honey and ginger infused rum
1oz Fernet-Branca
Combine and stir over ice. If you like it frothy, shake it up first.

The Mustachioed Rye-natte
2oz Whynatte coffee and energy drink
1oz rye whiskey
1oz Fernet Branca
Combine and stir over ice. If you like it frothy, shake it up first.

The Why Not Fernet
2oz Whynatte coffee and energy drink
1oz Fernet-Branca
Combine and stir over ice. If you like it frothy, shake it up first.