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Milwaukee, WI – January 27, 2012

Friday night and in no mood to cook…so what to do?  A quick flip through the entertainment book and viola, there it was, a coupon for Kiku.  Kiku is a Japanese restaurant in the heart of downtown Milwaukee and was voted Best Sushi in The Shepard Express reader’s poll for two years running.  Not a sushi fan?  No worries, they also have a complete tempura, teriyaki and noodle menu as well.

As usual, Gwen and I had a cocktail before our dinner.  I tried the TyKu Tini (at least it wasn’t called a martini – I can live with that!).  It was pretty basic, consisting of Ketel One Citroen and TyKu.  Mostly TyKu at that.  I enjoy TyKu, having created a number of cocktails that use it.  This was a bit on the bland side.  It tasted like TyKu (which is fine) with a dash of lemon.  I would have liked a third flavor component as well (sake?  a bit of ginger?  lychee fruit?).  However, it did make an agreeable compliment to the sushi we had for dinner – which was very generous in portions and very good.

I definitely recommend Kiku, the sushi and the cocktails.  Give ’em a try!


Milwaukee, WI – January 26, 2012

“Feeling different feeling strange
This can never be arranged
As the light fades from the screen
From the famous final scene”

My apologies to Mr. Seger and the rest of the Silver Bullet Band.  However, having played the “Stranger In Town” album until I wore it out as a teen, how could I resist a drink named “The Famous Final Scene”? 

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Mark Stoffel and I decided a Men’s League night was long overdue and headed downtown for a man date and a few good drinks.  We started at Umami Moto where I had their Shanghai Mule.  A twist on the classic Moscow Mule, this cocktail substituted TyKu Soju for vodka.  It was mild and refreshing cocktail, and actually would be a great poolside sipper on a warm day.  My original notes called it innocuous, which may have a little harsh, but there wasn’t a lot memorable about it (actually, if it were not for my notes, I wouldn’t be writing about it here because I did forget about it).

After our start at Umami, it was on to Distil, our primary objective of the evening.  Distil is one of Milwaukee’s latest hip cocktail lounges, serving up true cocktails, including several that are homemade, along with a great selection of hard to find and rare bourbons and other assorted spirits.  “The Famous Final Scene” was the cocktail that caught my eye, and not just for the name.  Consisting of Bulliet Rye, sweet vermouth, HUM Botanical liqueur and orange bitters, it reminded me of some of the rye cocktails I’ve conjured up at the Twilight Lounge.  I’m a fan of rye and orange bitters, and was really looking forward to trying this out.  Unfortunately, this cocktail (pictured above) was overwhelmed by the spicey ginger flavor of the HUM liqueur.  I couldn’t detect the rye or the orange bitters, and the vermouth helped sweeten it, but also wasn’t really discernable.  I’d love to try this drink with half the amount of HUM in it, but unfortunately, this cocktail is mass produced by the bar manager and stored in jugs waiting to be ordered, so the bartender on duty couldn’t tinker with the recipe to see if we could get it right. 

Fortunately, not all was lost for the evening.  Mark and I also ordered up a taste of the George T. Stagg 15 year old.  This cask strength bourbon clocks in at around 140 proof, but you’d never know it by how smooth and mellow it was.  Nice notes of charcoal and vanilla to my nose made this a delight.  Adding just a drop of water mellowed it even more so and allowed cherry notes to emerge as well.  All in all, an excellent sipping bourbon!

So, 1 out 3 got Albert Pujols $240 million … and all it did was keep me from getting a hangover!


Day 301, Cocktails 301 & 302

We had some fresh grapefruit in the house, which is currently one of number 2 daughter’s favorite snacks.  I figured that she wouldn’t miss one (it’s not like their that big or anything…), so I grabbed one and took it down to the Twilight Lounge with me.  I didn’t have anything in mind, figuring I’d just experiment and see what I could come up with.

For my first effort I wanted to use the Death’s Door gin that I had in the cabinet.  I was almost out and figured that maybe this would be a good way to use it up, particularly since it is not overly botanical like the London dry gins.  As I looked throught the liqueurs cabinet my eye was drawn to the Luxardo maraschino liqueur (another shock, I know).  I also grabbed the bar syrup figuring that the tart grapefruit would need a little sweetness beyond what the maraschino would provide.  Thus, after a little tinkering, the Death by Grapefruit was born.

  Death by Grapefruit

  • 2 oz Death’s Door gin
  • 1 oz ruby red grapefruit
  • 1/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • 1/2 oz bar syrup

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill and combine.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Even though I only used 1/4 oz of the Luxardo, it is the maraschino flavor that comes front and center initially, followed by the tart grapefruit and then the juniper of the gin.  It definately needs the bar syrup, otherwise this would be a very tart cocktail.  All in all, a pretty good effort, if I say so myself.

For my next cocktail, I decided to stay in the same vein of gin, but swapped out the Luxardo for Ty Ku, the delightful mangosteen and melon flavored liqueur.  Again, after a little bit of trial and error, here is what I settled upon.

  Ty Ku Grapefruit

  • 1 oz Plymouth gin
  • 1 oz Ty Ku
  • 1 oz ruby red grapefruit juice
  • 1/8 oz bar syrup

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill and combine.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

As with the Death by Grapefruit, the supporting liqueur is what comes through first, in this cast the Ty Ku.  It is then followed by hints of grapefruit and then even more subtly the Plymouth.  I had chosed the Plymouth because of its relatively neutral presentation (for a gin, that is), and because I was almost out of the Death’s Door.

Of the two drinks from last night, I’d have to give the nod to the Death by Grapefruit, although I thought both were good.  Give ’em both a try and let me know what you think!


Day 293, Cocktails 291 & 292

Saturday night and daughter number 1 was hosting a boy / girl Valentine’s Party in the Twilight Lounge.  That means two things.  First, Gwen and I got to stay home Saturday night to chaperone.  Second, the liquor cabinets were locked for the night as well!  What to do, then?  Well, a little advanced planning and move a few key bottles upstairs to the kitchen, that’s what to do!

I had a full bottle of pomegranate juice that had been around a for awhile and decided it was time to put it to use.  I poked around Colleen Graham’s cocktail blog (see the links list below) and found something called the Blushing Geisha.  I didn’t have the rose water that it called for, but went ahead anyway with this variant (that is the beauty of cocktails – you can change ’em any way you want to!).

  Blushing Geisha

  • 2 oz Ty Ku
  • 1 oz pomegranate juice
  • 1/8 oz lemon juice
  • seltzer water

In a shaker combine the Ty Ku, pomegranate juice and lemon juice.  Shake to chill and combine.  Strain into a rocks glass filled 2/3 with ice.  Top with seltzer water. 

I was really suprised how well the Ty Ku flavors, especially the melon tones, came through in this drink.  I really expected the pomegranate to overpower the drink, but it didn’t.  This turned out to be a very nice showcase for the Ty Ku and would make a great cocktail for a warm summer night – and those aren’t that far off around here.

Next up was a totally off the cuff creation.  I had already figured to use vodka and the pomegranate in some type of cosmo type concoction.  Hmmm, I wonder how the Lillet Blanc would play with these?  And what about staying Asian themed by using some lychee juice?  Here’s what I came up with.

  Lychee Pom

  • 1-1/2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 1/8 oz bar syrup
  • 1/8 oz lychee juice

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker and shake, shake, shake.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lychee fruit or leave ungarnished.

Wow, does the lychee ever stand clear!  It’s amazing the flavor that is packed into the lychee juice.  Sweet, and the closest I can come to describe it is pear flavors, but not quite as syrupy as pears are.  Either way, the small amount in this drink was still enough to have it become the defining the flavor, with notes of orange and floral flavors coming from the Lillet Blanc.  We enjoyed this one so much that we each had two.  By the time we were through with the second the party was also finishing up and we called it a night.


Day 290, Cocktail 287

Wednesday night and my stream of consciousness cocktailing took me from the Ty Ku Cherry with it’s gin and maraschino (along with the Ty Ku, of course) to a combination of gin, maraschino and Lillet Blanc.  Why?  Well, regular readers know by now that I love the Luxardo Maraschino liqueur.  Gin, well, that’s a no brainer – just check out the cocktail index and see how many gin drinks there are.  And the Lillet Blanc?  Why not?  It’s been sitting in the fridge, feeling a little left out lately, so I pulled it out.  Here’s what I came up with.

  Cherry Lillet

  • 2 oz Beefeater Gin
  • 1 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 1/8 oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass and stir vigorously with ice.  Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.

Hmmm, delicious.  The floral and orange flavors of the Lillet work wonderfully with Luxardo’s cherry to create a multi layered flavor profile that blends very well with the gin.  I suggest using a London Dry type gin such as Beefeater or Bombay for this drink.  A lighter gin would get lost behind the Lillet and Luxardo.  If you like the Aviation or French 75 cocktails, I think you’ll like this one as well.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!


Day  288, Cocktail 286

Monday night rolled around and I was in the mood for something a bit lighter.  I’ve been pretty whiskey heavy lately, and my detour through brandy for a week still kept me in the same vein of brown liquors.  So as I contemplated what do make down in the Twilight Lounge I pulled out my trusty bottle of Beefeater Gin to use as my base.  Next I opened up the liqueur cabinet (yes, I have one whole cabinet dedicated to liqueurs, and one dedicated to liquor – each about the size of a double door upper cabine in your kitchen) and started to root around.  The Ty Ku bottle was near the front and I swear I could hear it calling my name, so I picked it up.  As I did so, my hand brushed against the Luxardo Maraschino bottle and it the touch was electric…I knew that these two must somehow form a winning combination.

  Ty Ku Cherry

  • 2 oz Beefeater Gin
  • 1 oz Ty Ku
  • 1/8 oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.  Stir to chill and mix.  Strain into a chilled coupe.  Garnish with a lemon peel.

Hmmm, this was nice.  Light, refreshing, with just a hint of melon from the Ty Ku and cherry from the Luxardo.  The Ty Ku has enough volume to tone down the gin (not that gin needs toning down) so that it wasn’t an overwhelming flavor.  This cocktail makes a great before dinner drink for lighter fare – think summertime menus of crisp salads or grilled tuna.  I can’t wait for warmer weather to arrive so I can have one while sitting out on the patio overlooking the pool!

I wanted to also comment on my use of the ‘ol 1/8 oz measure.  It’s actually pretty easy to achieve 1/8 oz as that is the volume of my bar spoon.  So when I make a cocktail that needs 1/8 oz it gets 1 bar spoon full of whatever it is.  1/4 oz is two bar spoons, etc.  If there is one piece of equipment worth having, it is the long handled bar spoon!


Day 276, Cocktail 278

I was armed with several fresh oranges and a hankering for something Asian tonight (maybe Gwen’s homemade fried rice for dinner had something to do with my urges). 

When I hit the Twilight Lounge I started to rummage through the liquor cabinets.  The Ty Ku came out and then after pondering for a moment I pulled out the Domaine de Canton as well.  My reasoning was that the ginger in the Domaine de Canton was first, an Asian flavor and second, would meld well with the Ty Ku and its melon overtones.  I was also pretty sure I could use my orange as well.  This is what I came up with.

  Ty Ku Dream

  • 2 oz Ty Ku
  • 1/2 oz Domaine de Canton
  • 3/4 oz orange juice

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill and mix.  Strain into a chilled coupe.  Garnish with an orange twist if desired.

This is a nice, summer weight cocktail – slightly sweet yet refreshing.  The Ty Ku with its mangosteen and melon flavors is front and center with a distinct ginger flavor chiming in from the Domaine de Canton.  And, because the Ty Ku is only 40 proof and the Domaine de Canton only 56 proof you’re not going to get as tipsy as quickly as if you were drinking vodka or gin.  That’s like a double winner in my book!


Day 165, Cocktails 163 & 164

As I contemplated what to drink tonight I decided I wanted to strike out on my own.  I’ve been a fan of Luxardo maraschino since my first Aviation and really like how well it works with gin.  But rather than the lemon juice that makes up the third leg of the Aviation I decided to experiment on my own and see what else I could come up with.

My first effort used Plymouth gin, Luxardo maraschino and Ty Ku, the asian superfruit flavored liqueur.

  Ty Ku Flyer

  • 2 oz Plymouth gin
  • 1/2 oz Ty Ku liqueur
  • 1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with 4-5 ice cubes.  Stir to combine and chill.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Wow, pretty good, if I say so myself.  It’s not often that the first crack at a cocktail yields a drink that is well balanced and tasty, but I think I hit this one on the first try.  The Ty Ku mellows the Luxardo, leaving a delightful cherry, melon flavor that mixes well with the relatively mild Plymouth.  No garnish is needed for this one!

The next one I tried really was a flyer.  I switched to Bombay gin, kept the Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and tried using Pernod.  Pernod is considered an absinthe substitute and is one the many annise flavored liqueurs out there.  I keep sipping this trying to like it, but the Pernod is a flavor that doesn’t seem to play as well with gin as it does with rye or scotch.   At this point, although I’m counting this as a cocktail drunk towards my goal, it is not a recipe that I’m ready to publish.

Ultimately, the point here is to go ahead and experiment.  Try mixing and matching flavors that you like and see what you get.  If you come up with something good let me know and I’ll publish it here!


Day 141, Cocktail 140

I’ve been thinking of remodeling the Twilight Lounge and this is one of my concepts … what do you think?

Seriously, Gwen and I ended up on our own for dinner last night so of course this called for a cocktail from the Twilight Lounge.  Being over my run of peppermint schnapps I decided that we needed something refreshing.  What better choice than Ty Ku with its superfruits?

I guess Ty Ku, which you’ve seen on here before, is too new because my two usual interet sources, the CocktailDB and Drinks Mixer didn’t have anything using Ty Ku.  So I went to the Ty Ku web page to find a drink and found this.

  Hello Kitty

  • 2 oz Ty Ku
  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1/8 oz lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with 4-5 ice cubes.  Shake, shake, shake to mix and chill.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist or peel, if desired.

I used Smirnoff for the vodka, which is a decent, value vodka.  With the flavor of the Ty Ku being dominant and the vodka just providing a platform for it I don’t see a need to use a super premium vodka in this drink – you won’t be able to taste the difference.  This ends up as a light, Ty Ku flavored cocktail with the melon and other asian flavors coming through.  Now, about that name…


Oriental Gem or Just Oriental?

Day 62, Cocktails 57 & 58

While this is day 62 of my adventure, these two cocktails are from earlier this week.  Several months ago I purchased a bottle of Ty Ku liqueur at my local Otto’s Wine and Spirits.  Otto’s is definately my go to place for liquor, liqueurs, beer and wine.  The selection is large, the staff knowledgeable and the prices good.  If you are in the Milwaukee area and enjoy a drink now and then, check them out!

So, back to the Ty Ku.  It was on sale, looked interesting, and based on nothing more than that, I bought it.  When I got home I opened it up, poured a small sample and took a sniff.  Hmmm, my initial reaction was not pleasant.  I took and sip and was not thrilled.  The closest thing I could liken it to was a distilled spirit that I had in China that smelled like sweat socks left in a gym locker and tasted worse.  While this was not that bad, it did seem to have the same origin.

I let it sit for a couple of months, during which time my liqueur cabinet has started to overflow.  Being the kind of person that cannot throw liquor away (no matter how unattractive it is) I endeavored to find a use for it.  My quest started at the Ty Ku website.  They are pretty non specific about the geography of its origin, but do give some information on what does make up Ty Ku.  The flavoring components are yuzu, a fruit that is somewhat of a cross between a lemon and a lime, honeydew melon (a flavor that I can detect in it), mangosteen (I have no idea what this tastes like as it is not generally available in North America), ginseng,  green tea, and goji berry.  I won’t even begin to get into the veiled “health” benefits that Ty Ku seems to think it possesses.  My interest is in what I can do with this 40 proof liqueur.

My first Ty Ku cocktail is from their website and is a bit of a twist on a margarita:

  Skinny Senorita

  • 1-1/2 oz Ty Ku
  • 1/4 oz tequila (I used Cazadores)
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • soda water

Combine the Ty Ku, tequila and lemon juice in a shaker glass with 3-4 ice cubes.  Stir well to mix and chill.  Pour into a rocks glass filled with cracked ice.  Top with soda water and garnish with lime slice.

This cocktail, I have to admit, was light and effervescent.  A hint of th melon flavor in the Ty Ku came through, which was very nice.  On their web site Ty Ku claims this is a 96 calorie cocktail, so Gwen appreciated that aspect of it as well.

My second effort with Ty Ku was last night.  The flavor profile (which by now has grown on me) seemed like it would work well with cucumber.  Did somebody say cucumber?  Hendrick’s gin immediately came to mind as a base spirit.  Then I borrowed a page from Chad Doll’s playbook and used my citrus juicer on an unsuspecting cucumber to get its juice.  After several trials, I settled on this little number:

  Melon Cukey Baby

  • 2-1/2 oz Henrick’s gin
  • 3/4 oz Ty Ku
  • 1/8 oz cucumber juice
  • 1/8 oz bar syrup

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with 4-5 cubes of ice.  Shake, shake, shake to mix and thoroughly chill.  Pour into a chilled, 6 oz cocktail glass.  Garnish with a floating cucumber slice.

As I was working this I dialed back on the cucumber juice and increased the gin and Ty Ku to get the balance right.  In the end I thought this was a tasty, summer cocktail with just enough sweetness to refresh but still allow the interplay between the melon flavor in the Ty Ku and the cucumber tones of the Hendrick’s.   Try it out and let me know what you think — and if you have a better idea for a name, please let me know!  I’ll mix you one if have the winning suggestion!