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craft cocktails

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Sometimes summer nights demand a drink that’s not so sweet and not so high in alcohol content. You just want something light and refreshing.

A new line of soft drinks from Casamara Club in Detroit imitates amaros, but doesn’t have the intense sweetness or the alcohol.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

When we do a test taste of Tammy Coxen’s (of Tammy’s Tastings) concoctions, I’m often surprised by the ingredients on the counter. This time there was a Mason jar full of preserved peaches.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

With summer finally arriving, let’s look at a great new summer drink.

“This is a twist on a classic cocktail called the Bee’s Knees, but we’re going to put some beer into it and make it a Beer’s Knees,” Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings said.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Cheers! team received a request from a listener. Bruce Schermerhorn asked whether Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings could come up with a cocktail using something from Faygo that would be nice for sipping while on his pontoon boat this summer.

Lester Graham

It’s sad when the bottle is nearly empty. That’s what Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings found when she visited a friend’s house for a party and the bottle of Ann Arbor Distilling Company's new Absinthe Violette was almost gone.

“What have you done to go through that much absinthe?” she asked. The reply was they had been making Necromancers. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

You might have left the Cosmopolitan cocktail behind after the HBO TV series which made it famous stopped production. But, just as Sex and the City is still a bit of a cultural phenomenon, so is that drink.

When Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings discovered Ann Arbor Distilling’s Water Hill cranberry liqueur, she was inspired to make a Michigan version of the Cosmo that she’s calling a "Michipolitan."

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

On the counter there was a big stone mortar and pestle, and a capped bottle with a vivid green liquid in it labeled “ARUGULA.” It was clear, this was going to be a different kind of drink.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the inspiration for our drink on Cheers! If you’ve ever been on Bourbon Street late at night, you’ll see people sipping from a rum-heavy, red, sugary drink in a plastic cup called the Hurricane. It’s like someone spiked a kid’s slushy.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Bees and Blossoms sounds like it might be a drink for spring, but Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings says you can only get one of the ingredients during the winter.

“One of the few things that I appreciate about winter is that we get this great influx of really interesting citrus fruits,” she said. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Combining the best of an after dinner coffee and an after dinner amaro, Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings came up with the perfect night cap thanks to a collaboration between a Grand Rapids distiller and a Grand Rapids coffee roaster.

Tammy has been playing around with a new product from Long Road Distillers named Amaro Pazzo in a collaboration with Madcap Coffee.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The copper mug was on the mixing table, but I knew Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings was probably not going to be mixing a Moscow mule. She was about to throw me a curve.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

“One of the most popular drinks that I teach in my classes is hot buttered rum,” said Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings as she was putting the kettle on to boil.

However, we are not making hot buttered rum.

“I am a sucker for clever wordplay, so when I came across a recipe for hot butternut rum, I had to make it,” Tammy said.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Cheers! cocktail this week comes with lots of flavor, but none of it from the alcohol in the drink.

“For me, cocktails are all about the interplay of flavor,” said Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings.

Vodka brings nothing to the glass as far as flavor is concerned.

It’s odorless, flavorless, and colorless.

“It's meant to be very neutral and very smooth,” Tammy noted.

There’s an advantage if you have a drink that already has great flavors: vodka doesn’t interrupt the ingredients as they play off of each other.

Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio’s Stateside colleagues April Van Buren and Mercedes Mejia challenged the Cheers! team to make a pina colada using paw paw.

The Cheers! drink expert, Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings, loved the idea.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Cheers! team met at the Alley Bar in Ann Arbor to taste a cocktail made with a new Michigan-made spirit. It’s a fairly new spirit to the U.S., but Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings noted we have played with this spirit before.

The spirit is aquavit.

Cheers! We've got a honey of a Michigan cocktail for you.

The website for Bløm Meadworks suggests, “…if the word ‘mead’ automatically conjures a drinking hall filled with Vikings for you, think of ours as its friendly, approachable descendants, without the pillage and plunder.”

Cute.

But we’re taking the Vikings to Mexico.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It is the most famous drink to ever come out of Detroit. It is known worldwide as the hummer.

“This was created by a bartender at the Bayview Yacht Club named Jerome Adams in 1968,” explained Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings.

Adams had recently gotten a job as a bartender at the Detroit yacht club. He wanted to come up with a drink that would impress his colleagues and impress his customers, Coxen said.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This spring, the Last Word’s Casey Miller had just returned from being named one of three Midwest Finalists in the 2017 United States Bartending Guild, Incorporated’s World Class competition. (His colleague at The Last Word in Ann Arbor, Giancarlo Aversa, has also been among the finalists in years past.)

“This cocktail I call the Kibby Cobb. It’s named after a little region of Jackson, Michigan where we would always go back in the summer,” Miller said. While his family was from Michigan, Miller grew up in Tokyo.

He says the cocktail includes ingredients that make him think of summers and springs in Michigan.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Distillers in Beer City, USA are turning beer into whiskey.

Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids has been working with (so far) four local breweries to produce some distinctive whiskeys. Look for more in the series in 2018.

The Cheers! team of Tammy Coxen of Tammy's Tastings and Lester Graham of Stateside had to check that out.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Wright and Company is a second floor restaurant and bar housed in a Queen Anne style commercial building done in brick with brownstone trim at 1500 Woodward in downtown Detroit.

The Cheers! team of Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings and Lester Graham were there for a surprise drink mixed by Mark Cooney.

cocktail and bottles of liquor
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.)

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Tammy Coxen was coughing.

“I did a really stupid thing,” she said, explaining, “I told my friends, ‘It’s been great; I haven’t gotten sick all year.’ Now, I have a cold.”

There’s a drink for that. Well, there wasn’t, but Coxen, of Tammy’s Tastings, came up with one.

“This is Tammy’s Cure-All,” she said between coughs.

Her inspiration was trying to put all the things people say are good for fighting a cold: orange juice, ginger, lemon juice, and honey.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Swilling and spilling green beer is part of the Saint Patrick’s Day tradition for some folks. There is an alternative if you prefer something other than a cheap lager with green dye. It’s a cocktail named the Tipperary after the town and county in Ireland.

“It does have one green ingredient in it,” Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings quipped, adding “…the drink itself is not green.”

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

“I was listening to your great piece from a couple of weeks ago about Brewed in Michigan,” Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings said about a recent interview with author William Rapai on Stateside. (You can hear the interview conducted at Arbor Brewing Company here.)

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It’s Black History Month and the Cheers! team of Tammy Coxen and Lester Graham have a cocktail recipe used by America’s first celebrity bartender, Cato Alexander.

“I wanted to make sure that we gave a shout out to some of the amazing black bartenders who have worked in the past and in the present,” Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings said.

Coxen holding a snifter of hot toddy
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

When you come in from the frigid temperatures we’ve been experiencing, mixing up an ice cold cocktail might not seem the best way to end the day. What you really want is something warm.

Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings says that’s why we have the hot toddy.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

You don’t have to have a password, or pull a secret lever, or push a button for entry, but the Sidebar in Grand Rapids definitely has that speakeasy feel. The address is available: 80 Ottawa Avenue NW, but finding it is a little tricky. Hint: go down the steps toward the pizza place.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

“It’s like Christmas in a glass,” said Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings.

She’s talking about a cocktail invented by the principle bartender at The Last Word craft cocktail bar in Ann Arbor, Giancarlo Aversa.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Cheers! team, Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings and Lester Graham, found a distiller serving up a cocktail with a spirit made with all Michigan ingredients.

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