Cheers! A drink to celebrate a distiller's success | Michigan Radio

Cheers! A drink to celebrate a distiller's success

Apr 20, 2018

Tammy Coxen getting ready to concoct a new cocktail.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings wanted to mix a drink to honor one of Michigan’s distillers.

“Our friends out at Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids just won a big award. They were named ‘Best of Class’ for their 'Old Aquavit’ at the American Distillers Institute.”  (See award winners here.)

Aquavit is a little like gin in that it starts out as a neutral spirit. While gin is sometimes flavored with juniper or other botanicals, aquavit is flavored with caraway.

The spirit is popular in Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Sweden, and Iceland.

Instead of using a recipe, Coxen decided she’d try to develop a cocktail while mixing it.

“I just thought it would be a fun thing to go through my thought process,” she said, adding, “Then, we’ll see if this drink is any good!”

She decided to try an old fashioned-style cocktail.

She started with the aquavit which, because of the caraway, reminds her of rye bread.

Then she added some of Long Road’s Rye Whisky.

“I’m going to take the rye idea, and I’m just going to play that up,” Coxen said.

Using a sort of free association method, Coxen thought about rye bread’s cousin pumpernickel, which is a dark rye bread. Coxen says it's colored with cocoa powder. That’s where it gets it’s dark color. So she decided to add crème de cacao to sweeten the drink.

Finally, she decided to use a couple of dashes of Peychaud’s bitters because it has some flavor notes that she thought would complement the aquavit.

Coxen mixed the ingredients with ice, but before serving she gave it a taste test. This is the last chance to make adjustments. She stirred the drink a little longer to dilute it a bit more.


I took a sip and declared it tasted nothing like what I expected it to taste. Coxen asked what I thought of it.

“It’s a success,” I replied. 

Coxen responded, “Then that’s what I’ll name it: Success.”

The cocktail 'Success' with the award-winning Long Road Old Aquavit.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio


1 oz Long Road Distillers Old Aquavit

1 oz Long Road Rye Whisky

¼ - ½ oz crème de cacao

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Lemon peel garnish

Pour ingredients into mixing vessel. Add ice and stir. Strain into Old Fashion glass with ice. Squeeze peel over drink to express oils. Rub peel on rim of glass. Use lemon peel as garnish.