5 Cocktails to Make with the Weird, Dusty Bottles on Your Shelf
It’s never a bad time to brush up on your bartending skills. Fortunately, for those who want to avoid a run to the liquor store, there’s a wealth of opportunity in some of the bottles that gather dust on the back shelf of most home bars.
Compared to spirits in regular rotation, many liqueurs are used either rarely or in such minute amounts that the bottle never seems to empty. Here are five bottles you might find on your shelves, and drinks to make with them.
Jump straight to a recipe
Courtesy Briana Volk, co-owner, Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, Portland, ME
Chambord, a French raspberry liqueur, packaged in a distinctive round bottle, offers more than jammy sweetness. This ingredient, made with a Cognac base and vanilla, is layered enough to sip straight, splash into wine for a classic Kir, or mix with sparkling wine for a Kir Royale.
Want a next-level option? Try it in a Spritz-style cocktail.
Volk offers a versatile Spritz template that works with almost anything. She recommends to add “something bubbly” to Chambord, whether that’s soda water, Prosecco or something else. A squeeze of lime is a great addition, if you have it. If not, “lemon, orange or grapefruit also works,” says Volk.
You can punch up your drink with Cognac or additional preferred liquor, but feel free to omit for a refreshing low-alcohol cocktail.
- ½ lime
- ½ ounce Chambord
- 4 ounce sparkling wine or soda water
- 1½ ounces Cognac or another favorite spirit (optional)
Fill large wine glass with ice. Squeeze lime into glass. Add Chambord, sparkling wine/soda water and spirit, if using. Stir briefly to mix.
Courtesy Jeffrey Morgenthaler, bar manager, Clyde Common, Portland, OR
Perhaps the only classic cocktail that calls for Drambuie is the Rusty Nail, two parts Scotch to one part Drambuie. But what’s in that bottle?
Drambuie is a Scotch-based liqueur sweetened with honey, herbs and spices. The recipe dates to 1745, when the producer claims it originated as a “personal elixir” for Scottish royal Bonnie Prince Charlie. Today, it’s often employed to sweeten drinks made with whiskey, particularly Scotch.
Another option? The Kingston Club, a tiki-style drink that balances the sweetness of Drambuie and pineapple juice with a teaspoon of bitter, aromatic Fernet.
Since spiced syrups and liqueurs play a key role in many tiki drinks (allspice dram, falernum, etc.), a spiced liqueur like Drambuie can star in this drink.
If you don’t have Fernet on hand, substitute any amaro, but the more bitter, the better.
- 1½ ounces Drambuie
- 1½ ounces pineapple juice
- ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon Fernet Branca
- 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 ounce soda water, to top
- Orange twist, for garnish
In cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients except soda water and garnish. Shake well, then strain into Collins glass over fresh ice. Top with soda water. Garnish with orange twist.
Courtesy Eric Johnson, partner/bartender, Sycamore Den, San Diego
Galliano, a bright yellow herbal liqueur from Italy, is known for two things. First, it’s an indispensable ingredient for the Harvey Wallbanger, popularized during the swinging ’70s. Second, it’s known for being packaged in a tall, thin, tapered bottle that resembles a baseball bat and doesn’t fit well on any bar.
While the original Wallbanger uses just a splash of Galliano alongside vodka and orange juice, all but ensuring you’ll never get rid of that bottle, modern-day adaptations like the Hardly Wallbanger make better use of the spirit.
Although the main components of the original Harvey Wallbanger remain (vodka, orange juice, Galliano), partner and bartender Eric Johnson “brightened it” with lemon juice, vanilla extract and a splash of bubbly soda water.
- 1½ ounces vodka
- 1 ounce Galliano
- 2 ounces fresh orange juice
- ½ ounce fresh lemon juice
- ¼ ounce simple syrup (recipe below)
- 2 dashes vanilla extract
- Soda water, to top
- Orange wheel and cherry, for garnish
In cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients except soda water and garnish. Shake well. Strain into Collins glass over fresh ice. Top with soda water, and garnish with orange wheel and cherry.
To make simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and hot water. Stir until sugar dissolves and syrup becomes clear.
Courtesy Salvatore Calabrese, bar consultant, London
If you don’t have “GrandMa” on hand, it’s easy to substitute, though the flavor may be a bit less rich. Try Cointreau, anything with Curaçao on the label (like Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao, less sweet but delightful), or any bottle marked “triple sec.”
Although many drinks are called a “breakfast martini,” this is the original, created by Calabrese, an Italian native, in 1996. He says that the drink is a riff on the classic White Lady (gin, egg white, orange liqueur, lemon juice). It draws inspiration from the orange preserves often served with breakfast in England, his adopted homeland.
- 1¾ ounces gin
- ½ ounce orange liqueur, like Grand Marnier
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon orange marmalade
- Shredded orange peel, for garnish
In cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients, and stir to dissolve the marmalade. Fill with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Shred orange peel atop drink with grater to garnish.
Courtesy Jon Santer, created for Bourbon & Branch, San Francisco
Kahlua is a rum-based coffee liqueur hails from Mexico, where it originated in the 1930s. It’s a natural for the classic White Russian (2 ounces vodka, 1 ounce Kahlua, ½ ounce or more cream). Its flavor profile, which resembles coffee with sugar plus a hint of vanilla, is also pleasing in Bourbon drinks. The vanilla note that whiskey receives from barrel-aging integrates perfectly with the coffee liqueur.
Think of this cocktail as a variation on a Manhattan. Kahlua, or another coffee liqueur, stands in for sweet vermouth and lends nuanced coffee aroma and flavor.
- 2 ounces Bourbon
- ½ ounce coffee liqueur, like Kahlua
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- Flamed orange twist, for garnish
In mixing glass, combine all ingredients with ice. Stir, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with flamed orange twist.
- 1Chambord: Shift Drink Spritz
- 2Drambuie: Kingston Club
- 3Galliano: The Hardly Wallbanger
- 4Grand Marnier: Breakfast Martini
- 5Kahlua: Revolver