Soul Sister Sour

The owner of the gastropub I work at wanted to have a few drink specials in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th , 2019. She asked me to come up with a few ideas for a potential drink for the night. Our main bartender on nights had recently requested a few items to be added to the shelves that she wanted to work into drinks, and one of the bottles to arrive that morning was a bottle of Midori.

Midori, Sour Mix, Hard Cider with a Kiwi garnish

Since neither of the ladies or I had ever tried the bright green melon liquer, we opened it up and tried a sample. I suggested that we shake it over ice with sour mix, and then pour it on top of some ice and Smackintosh hard cider from Tandem Ciders in a rocks glass. Seeing as we were playing around with some different fruits as potential garnishes, I threw a slice of kiwi on a bamboo skewer across the top.

The result is a drink that is mildly effervescent, sweet, and sour. Its vibrant, bright green color boldly conveys a sense of the drink’s pluckiness.

The clean and crisp tones of the cider, melon, and lime all interplay to make a drink with an interesting mix of tart and sweet reminiscent of a Jolly Rancher apple candy…. without being sickly sweet like the ubiquitous drinks found in clubs and dive bars in the 90s

Soul Sister Sour
Pour 3 oz Hard Cider into a rocks glass with ice
2 oz Midori
1 oz Lime Juice
1/3 oz Simple Syrup
Shake the Midori, lime, and simple syrup and strain into the rocks glass
Garnish with a slice of kiwi fruit

Prickly Pear Mule and Soul Sister Sour by If the River Was Whiskey

New Holland Artisan Spirits – Beer Barrel Bourbon

I recently decided it was time to get familiar with the Manhattan, a legendary drink utilizing whiskey, rye, or bourbon. I picked up a bottle of Beer Barrel Bourbon from New Holland Brewing in Holland, Michigan.

The bourbon is aged for a length of time before it spends its last few months inside a “second use” barrel of Dragon’s Milk Stout (which is a stout aged in bourbon barrels). The barrel’s life cycle of bourbon to stout and back to bourbon imparts an interestingly smoky, malty sweetness to the finished product.

Elemental signs of coffee, sweet malt grains, chocolate or caramel all come out strong. The crew over at Barrels and Mash reviewed it and astutely claim notes of milk chocolate, vanilla, and cereals… with a silky mouthfeel.

I poured a myself a Manhattan . Then another. And then one more, just to be sure that I really liked them. It turns out that I really did like them! After that, I was feeling adventurous… I broke out the Fernet Branca and poured a Toronto… maybe that was a little too much adventure for me…

Beer Barrel Bourbon by New Holland
New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon – If the River Was Whiskey rating 3 out of 5 jugs

The MANHATTAN

Rinse a rocks glass with 14 oz Sweet Red Vermouth (just swish around in the glass and then dump it down the sink) and then throw in some ice
Pour 2 oz Beer Barrel Bourbon
4 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
Orange Peel garnish

The TORONTO

2 oz Beer Barrel Bourbon  or your favorite Canadian whiskey
1⁄2 oz Fernet-Branca
14 oz maple syrup (only 100% real maple syrup!)
4 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
Orange Peel garnish

Pour everything into a rocks glass with ice. Stir thoroughly in the glass for at least 30 seconds, probably more. Take the orange peel garnish and expel the oils into the glass by quickly squeezing the orange over the glass. Rub the little slice of orange peel around the rim quickly to leave traces of the oils behind for a nice olfactory experience for the drinker.

Long Road Distillers – Aquavit

Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids, Michigan has quickly become a serious contender in premium spirits. I have been a fan of the Bartender’s Blend Gin for a wile, and simply cannot lay down enough superlatives on the multiple award winning Michigin.

I had read about Aquavit in our local alternative press in Grand Rapids, and was very curious to try something new and mysterious. Aquavit is a neutral spirit, with a dryness and a heat to it that is similar to rum. The caraway used to flavor Long Road Distillers Aquavit is surprisingly delightful. It immediately calls to mind a high quality rye bread that can be found only at the best independent bakeries.

Dill, star anise, and fennel also lend some sweetness, and a little bitterness in the flavor profile, though these are less forward than the caraway in the tasting. They are noticeable in the “licorice” notes apparent in the nose, as well in the mouth.

Cumin is also listed as a component of the flavoring of Aquavit on LRD’s website. This is most noticeable in the smell of the liquor, which manifests in a very mild, yet pleasant aroma that invokes comparisons to the body found in premium tequilas.

Aquavit is a very interesting and enigmatic spirit. At first taste/smell it is a very simple and straight forward spirit, but its underlying sensory appeal has a wild variety and complexity of subtle tastes and smells that defy categorizing Aquavit conveniently or quickly.

Pick up 2 bottles as soon as possible. One for yourself to indulge in, and one to impress your friends.

Long Road Distillers Aquavit – If the River Was Whiskey rating 5 out of 5 jugs

Right Brain Brewery – Northern Hawk Owl

Right Brain Brery’s Hawk Owl Amber Ale 5.8%ABV

Right Brain Brewery out of Traverse City, Michigan is definitely one of the better breweries in the Great Lakes Region. At 10 years of age, Right Brain Brewery has an impressive variety of beer styles to choose from, with a focus on Ales, IPAs and Stouts. All of their beers have creative names, and visually stunning artwork to accompany the packaged product. All of these things makes Right Brain Brewery a brewery that’s easy to love.

A recent trip to one of my favorite stores in Grand Rapids, MI brought me face to face with Northern Hawk Owl Amber Ale. The hand drawn rendering of a cartoon greenish colored owl hawk wearing a yellow flight helmet against the red background on the 4 pack box staring out at me from the cooler shelf proved irresistible. A nice amber ale sounded like a good match to the shrimp, mushrooms, and polenta that I had compiled into my grocery cart.

The ale itself is a nice, solid amber ale. The reddish color is pleasant to look at in the glass. The flavor holds some nice, mildly caramel notes of malty sweetness. It was very reminiscent of a Newcastle Brown Ale in some respects, with a brief scent of a nice sour note just beneath the surface. 

Hawk Owl is part of Right Brain’s year round offerings, which makes sense given that Hawk Owl’s maltiness would be satisfying on cold and grey winter days, while its clean finish, with minimal sweetness, would not be overwhelming in the sweltering humidity of the midwest’s summers.


Northern Hawk Amber Ale is a very drinkable beer that pairs well with food, but is also an excellent standalone beer in its own right.

Northern Hawk Owl Am
ber Ale by Right Brain Brewery rated 4 out of 5 Jugs

Kentucky Waffle House

This drink is inspired by the song “Never Had a Waffle at the Waffle House” by The Urban Pioneers (Texas, USA!), and the story of how singer/songwriter Jared McGovern has had pretty much everything on the menu at The Waffle House, except their namesake waffles. Apparently, he just flat out doesn’t like waffles!

To make The Kentucky Waffle House gently layer the ingredients in the order below into a tumbler of ice, garnish with an orange wedge, and gently stir once or twice. Enjoy!

1.5 oz Bulleit Rye 95
1/2 oz Kahlua
1/2 oz Bacon Infused Vodka
3 drops 100% Maple Syrup
Orange wedge

New York Sour w/Basil Hayden

I work at a new bar in Holland MI. Not just new to me, but new to the town. They opened in October 2018. In trying to fine tune the menu, they have come to the fortuitous decision to add Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon to the inventory. I decided to celebrate by pouring up a New York Sour.

New York Sour

Its essentially a generous pour of bourbon, with some simple syrup, and lime juice, all thrown into a shaker of ice. Mix that bad boy up and strain into a double tumbler of ice. Top it off with a nice pour of red wine (i used pinot noir) and an orange peel twist.

The end result is a a pleasant mix somewhere in the middle of bourbon and sangria.

2oz bourbon
1oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
egg white (optional, but it adds an amazing texture to the drink!)
Add ice and shake well
pour and top with 1/2oz red wine (pinot noir)
citrus peel twist