Now Serving – Fire Fueled Cider

By The Gentleman

Fire Fueled Cider

We’re all about finding and using locally made spirits here at the Cocktail Challenge. You already know of our love affair with Australia’s award-winning gin and our continued education in the wide world of craft vodka. Over the next few posts we’ll be showing you our latest find, Fire Drum Vodka. We spent all weekend playing with fire and mixing up some fresh drinks with this fine Tasmanian vodka. Our first drink is the Fire Fueled Cider, which pairs craft vodka with craft cider…we are so crafty.

Fire Fueled Cider

Fire Fueled Cider

45ml Fire Drum Vodka
B Cider Company Two Pink Ladies Cloudy Apple Cider
Juice of a Lime
2 dashes Bittermen’s Burlesque Bitters
Apple for garnish

Fire Drum Vodka

Fill your cocktail shaker with ice and then pour in your vodka, lime and one dash of bitters. Shake hard for about 20 seconds. Grab a champagne flute and pour into the glass.  Add the second dash of bitters and then top with the cider. Garnish with an apple slice.

Fire Fueled Cider

Fire Drum Vodka is made from 100% Tasmanian barley and Tasmanian mountain water. There is quite a pronounced barley and malt aroma, hinting at it’s full bodied but slightly sweet flavour. We really think the malty flavour of the Fire Drum Vodka paired well with the spiciness of the bitters. The drink had a nice peppery spice aftertaste as well as a subtle pepper and apple aroma. You got quite a nice tingle on your lips. The B Cider Cloudy Apple Cider proved a great addition to the spicy bitters and malty vodka. B Cider Company are a small South Australian cider maker who make good cider with cute and quirky labels. It had a more subtle apple flavour than we expected but it had a delicious richness that paired well with the malty flavour of the vodka. The cider also provided a little bit of fizz, giving the drink a nice texture, and wasn’t as sharp or sweet as other ciders. Also you definitely need to dip your apple wedge in and enjoy the boozy flavour soaking through the apple, delicious. We also have to warn you that this drink is alcohol mixed with alcohol and it’ll send some heat through you. Tread carefully friends.

Fire Fueled Cider

For our first go-around with Fire Drum Vodka we were suitably impressed. It had a nice aroma and rich malty flavour that made a damn fine cocktail. We can’t wait to show you what else we whipped up with this bad boy, but for now sit back and enjoy some Fire Fueled Cider!

Fire Fueled Cider

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Now Serving – Modified Admiral

By The Gentleman


So the other night it was the midweek slump and The Lady was enjoying a night with the girls and I was on my lonesome catching up on House of Cards Season 2. All that political intrigue, backstabbing and Kevin Spacey Southern drawl made me work me up a mighty thirst. As I perused the bar I remembered there was an open bottle of Noilly Prat dry vermouth in the fridge from our adventures during Small Mouth Week that probably needed some attention while a bottle of Bulleit Rye Whiskey caught my eye  as aside from a recent sampling of Old Fashioned’s it’s not a spirit I recall using much. Looking at these two ingredients I wondered if there was a drink that combined the two and their is, an Admiral.

Modified Admiral

Modified Admiral

60ml Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth

45ml Bulleit Rye Whiskey

45ml Fresh Orange Juice

2-3 dashes Bitter Tears Lucille Blood Orange and Ginger Bitters

Orange Peel


Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add vermouth, rye and orange juice. Shake to combine and to cool the mix. Use bitters to coat a rocks glass. Strain into glass. Squeeze peel over glass to release oils then drop into glass to garnish.

Modified Admiral

Now I’ve called my drink a Modified Admiral because, as this was a spur of the moment thing, I didn’t have the other essential ingredient. An Admiral typically uses lemon juice instead of orange juice but I didn’t have any lemons on hand and couldn’t bring myself to use the little squeeze bottle of lemon juice. Channeling my inner Frank Underwood I didn’t let such a minor thing stop me on my path to drinking greatness, so I improvised and ever so slightly bent the rules. I also decided, since I’m already not making a proper Admiral, to try and jazz it up a little bit hence upping the amount of rye for some extra spicyness and the bitters, to just give it a hint of something different.

Modified Admiral

The drink had quite a murky colour, murky like Frank Underwood’s morals. It is probably one of those times when it needed to be double-strained to further clarify it given the amount of orange juice. That aside this was quite an enjoyable drink to sip as I watched Kevin Spacey plot his next move up the political ladder, he so sly. It was easier to drink than I expected given the fact that it had over three shots of alcohol in it. There’s no horrible after-burn yet the orange juice also doesn’t make it overly sweet either which I was concerned it might. Instead it’s just a pleasant sipping drink with that lovely aroma of orange citrus from the peel, a hint of sweetness from the orange, some spicyness from the rye, a slight tang and a bold dry white wine flavour from the vermouth. The vermouth is certainly the dominant flavour but I think there’s enough from the orange and rye that there’s a bit more complexity which is quite nice.

Modified Admiral

Like one of Frank Underwood’s political opponents I didn’t see this coming. A spur of the moment drink, slightly tinkered with and over three shots of alcohol in it? That sounds like a recipe for disaster nine times out of ten. Still, somehow, this managed to be a very pleasant drink that was the perfect thing for a midweek wind down with some good TV. At least the unexpected result is an enjoyable one, unlike the recipients of a House of Cards style blindside. Seriously, those people, get screwed over so damn much.

Modified Admiral

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Now Serving – The Deadline

By The Gentleman


As you may recall it was end of semester time around Cocktail Challenge HQ as The Lady knuckled down to smash out her last essays. As the night dragged on, the light summer fruityness of the Campari and Corona didn’t cut it. This was serious business with a serious deadline and The Lady needed something strong. Enter The Deadline, a spicy, herbal libation that will help you own your deadlines (or at least that’s what we would say if advertising regulations didn’t forbid the promotion of the effects of alcohol in such a way).

The Deadline

The Deadline

45 ml Four Pillars Gin

30ml Pineapple Sage and Juniper Simple Syrup

20 ml fresh lemon juice

2 good dashes of Angostura Bitters

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and with ice. Give it a good shake. Then strain into glass.

The Deadline

So you’re probably noticing this Pineapple Sage and Juniper Simple Syrup. Yeah I was tinkering again. During the summer I planted a whole bunch of herbs to make shrubs with and now that we are in Winter they have mostly died off, except this Pineapple Sage plant which must have ‘I Will Survive’ as it’s theme song. It keeps growing bigger and bigger and I decided it was about time I did something with it. You can definitely use normal Sage for equally as good results. The method I used for this simple syrup is a little different to others you might have read but I read on some blog somewhere that this method gives a better flavour. Who really knows but for me it worked fine. I also used raw sugar because that is what we always have handy. I think it gave the syrup a deeper caramel sort of flavour and colour.


Pineapple Sage and Juniper Simple Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup raw sugar

8 Pineapple Sage leaves

15 Juniper Berries + 5

In a pan bring your cup of water to a simmer over a medium-high heat. Add your sage leaves and the 15 juniper berries. Simmer for about 2 and a half minutes. Add your sugar and simmer until dissolved. Remove from the heat to cool then add the extra 5 juniper berries. Once cooled strain into a jar or bottle.


By now you’ve probably realised that we are fans of gin and have a particular love affair with local distiller Four Pillars. Surprisingly this was the first drink we had made with Angostura Bitters that classic bitters everyone knows about and everyone seemingly has stashed away somewhere (like we did…it was a rather vintage bottle I think). The two combined exceptionally well to make this drink. The first thing you’ll notice about The Deadline is it smells amazing with all the spices from the bitters, the simple syrup and the botanicals from the gin. I could strongly smell juniper and allspice berries (or something like that). I was a little heavy handed with the bitters (what’s a dash anyway) but luckily Angostura Bitters have both a pleasant aroma and taste that it didn’t really matter. It reminds me of when I was little and would bake with my mum. I’d open the cupboard to get the spices and you’d just be hit with this strong yet enticing and warming baking spice smell. Anything that reminds me of those good childhood times is definitely a plus in my book. The drink has a really pleasant sweetness to it, not overly sweet but more of a tangy sweetness probably from the lemon juice.  The drink is quite layered between all the flavours and a bit mysterious, but like I said I went a little crazy with the bitters and they really rock it. One sip was heavily spiced then another was citrusy, another sweet and finally boozy. It leaves a very nice feeling in your mouth, with a good coating and nice pleasant burn.  The Lady could also pick up some pineapple from the pineapple sage which is good as I wasn’t sure how much flavour the leaves would give out and whether the raw sugar would overpower them.

The Deadline

A spicy, sweet, bold drink that doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to flavour The Deadline is what you need when you’re working to a deadline. A serious drink for serious business.

The Deadline

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On the Shelf- Bittermens Burlesque and Hellfire Bitters

In searching for the first bitters for my collection I quickly discovered that craft bitters are a booming industry. There are so many different brands and flavors to choose from that it can become quite daunting. That is why it is very convenient that I’m somewhat shallow and most definitely judge a bitters on how it looks. When I remembered that it was quite obvious that I was going to choose Bittermens Burlesque and Hellfire Bitters because I wanted them to go On The Shelf.


With the recent wave of boutique bitters Bittermens could be described as a bit of an old hand as they formed in 2007. Beginning with only one offering, the Xocolatl Mole Bitters, the company has expanded considerably offering a wide range of bitters and, most recently, formulating some of their very own spirits. It is quite remarkable what the company has been able to achieve in so little time. Reading the site and seeing the extensive list of recipes they have devised that use their bitters you can understand why, they know their drinking.

The Burlesque bitters is a combination of hibiscus, açai berry and long pepper. According to the site the flavor is sweet, spicy and a bit of a tart and suggested as a good accompaniment to Italian amari, Mexican tequila, British gin and Caribbean rum. I love the fact that the burlesque theme plays throughout the label and down to the tasting notes. At first the bottle looks quite plain, a simple black and white front but when you turn it there is a cheeky burlesque from the shoulders down. Corset, stockings, feathers, heels, what more could you want really? The splash of dark red across the girl is a nice touch, it really draws the eye.


The Bittermens website lists a ‘Rum Row’ Old Fashioned that uses the Burlesque bitters and sounds particularly tasty, with its mix of two different rums and combination of the Burlesque bitters with Angostura Orange.


The Hellfire Habanero is actually what is known as a shrub. I’d never come across the term before discovering the Hellfire so I’ll let the good people at Bittermens explain what it is:

“Shrubs are classically refreshing fruit and vinegar-based syrups that were sweetened and diluted to make a beverage since revolutionary times.”


The guys at Bittermens then decided what would happen if you made a shrub with hot peppers and there you have the Hellfire Habanero. The flavor is apparently quite intense, its recommended that you only need drops instead of ounces due to the heat. Heat and I normally don’t get along so I’m really curious to see how hot the Hellfire is and whether it is something I’m going to be a fan of. The drink to try it out with looks like the 700 Songs Gimlet that combines gin, lime juice, sugar syrup and cinnamon syrup with the Hellfire. Sounds like a flavor hit alright.


I basically decided to get the Hellfire because the girl reminded me of the Redheads Matches girl. I’ve always thought that was a great bit of branding and it works equally well with the Hellfire Habanero. Again the sparing using of color also works well, this time focusing on the girls hair and cheeks. I really appreciate the fact that Bittermens went to the effort to craft different labels for each of their bottles which also have some connection to the brand.

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On the Shelf – Bitter Tears ‘Lucille’ Bitters

It’s funny to think that bitters were originally developed and marketed for medicinal purposes. Now they are an essential part of any bar to add a little something extra to a cocktail or even drunk straight up or with ice. The humble bitters has come a long way and there are now many other companies, outside of the industry institutions Angostura and Peychaud’s. In choosing the first bitters for my collection I decided to go for something a little different and chose the ‘Lucille’ by Bitter Tears.

Bitter Tears are a small batch bitters company based in Los Angeles, California. The company was founded in 2010 with just three flavors and have since expanded to make twelve different flavors, with six flavors forming the core of the brand.

They really seem to be trying to differentiate themselves from the traditional offerings of Angostura and Peychaud’s with such flavors as smoky bacon and peppercorn in the Ms. Piggy. As the people from Bitter Tears explain, bitters can be made from pretty much anything these days so the crazy flavors aren’t so surprising. For my first bottle of bitters though I wanted something a little less out there, but still full of flavor. In the end I settled on the Lucille.


Lucille’s main flavors are blood orange and ginger with hints of anise and cinnamon. And yes, the site does say the drink is named after the comedic redhead. I’m basically a fan of anything with ginger and cinnamon in it and the introduction of blood orange sounds great as its such a strong and distinct flavor.


The company has also developed a very distinct branding that runs across all their bottles that I am a fan of. Each bottle features the eyes with a single tear, but a different color range for the pattern on the bottle. It is very well done and looks quite effective when you seen an image of all the different bottles lined up together.


I’m quite looking forward to sitting down with a nice cocktail that’s been amplified by a few pulls of my Lucille bitters from Bitter Tears.


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