Ladies Choice cocktail

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of presenting a session about food at YoUnlimited,  a local women’s conference here in Victoria.

The day was filled with presentations and panels all touching on various aspects of mind/body/soul, and was a great opportunity to connect with other women I normally only get to see in passing, or wave at via social media.

The evening prior, Carolyne Taylor, YoUnlimited’s founder, teamed up with the Seaside Times to run a Women in Business Mixer to help celebrate their most recent issue highlighting some of the great work that women entrepreneurs on the Penninsula are doing!  I have to say, Sidney is bursting with business activity — certainly not the sleepy little town I remember growing up here!

I was asked to create a cocktail to commemorate the weekend.  One of the ingredients I was hoping to showcase were the herbal teas produced by Lily Fawn, of Earth’s Herbal.   I’ve used her Root Beer tea in this cocktail, and it really does taste like root beer — all the herbs, spices and roots I put in my own root beer!  (I may be using it in my next root-beer batch – I’ll let you know it goes!).

I’ve called this cocktail “Ladies Choice”, in part to recognize the women building community here in Victoria, BUT also because I went with Forty Creek whisky as the base spirit — a whisky that distiller John Hall has said he created with his wife’s palate in mind. I also added ginger syrup, and a splash of Fernet Branca.

Ladies Choice

created by Janice Mansfield, 2012

  • 45 ml Forty Creek whisky
  • 20 ml ginger syrup
  • 20 ml grapefruit juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 5 ml Fernet Branca
  • 60 ml Earth’s Herbal Root Beer tea
  • 2-3 dashed grapefruit bitters

Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker.  Strain and serve straight up in a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a grapefruit twist and a piece of candied ginger.





MxMo LXIV (Tiki) The Misfits Cocktail

MxMo-Tiki-LogoIts the third week in February, and time for another MxMo!  This month, the ever-tiki-loving Pegu Doug is the host for the festivities, going all-out with a tiki makeover over on his blog!

The rules of MxMo LXIV are pretty straightforward: make it tiki, make it good! and do a little writeup about it!  So hang onto your hats, we have a surprise in store for you here!

If you've been following along here or over on Youtube, it was full-on Fernet Fever here in January for 30 Days of Fernet Branca!  While I've stopped taping nightly episodes,  I am still on the stuff (qualify that: went off for a week to determine if there was any difference, and then hopped back on the bandwagon to determine the longer-term effects of the daily dose).

This means Fernet Fever still has me in its herbacous grip, and I was determined to come up with a tiki drink that used at LEAST 1/2 oz.  I think we've done well here – I've managed to whip up something with a full 3/4 oz. and its pretty darn delicious if I do say so!

Having tasted many Fernet Branca concoctions through January, there were a few things I learned about pairing this stuff that I drew on while creating the perfect Fernet Combo!

  • Go big or go home with the Fernet:  It is a bully, and a whisper packs almost as much of a flavour whallop as a 1/2 oz., so just roll with it!
  • Fernet and ginger is a natural pairing!
  • Fernet and rum also play nicely, particularly rums with lots of vanilla notes (similar to cola!)

And so, without further ado, I present this month's MxMo beverage!

The Misfits

(Created by Janice Mansfield, 2012)

  • 3/4 oz. Fernet Branca
  • 3/4 oz. Jamaican rum
  • 1/2 oz. Orgeat
  • 1/2 oz. Ginger syrup
  • 1 oz Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. Lambs Navy 151

Combine everything except the Lambs Navy 151 in a cocktail shaker and shake to mix.  Strain into a highball glass or a tiki mug filled with crushed ice.  Float the 151 on the top.   Garnish with a Meyer lemon wheel with a cherry and a fresh ginger spear.  Serve with a straw.

30 Days of Fernet Branca: An experiment in healthy living

Some of you are aware that my New Year started off with a challenge that is a bit of a departure from the usual resolutions.  I decided to take at least one shot of Fernet Branca per day for 30 days, and see whether it contributed to my overall health and wellbeing!

I'm documenting the progress through the 30 Days with a little video clip- usually taken at night as I take my daily dose (you can follow the fun over at my Youtube channel, and on twitter via the hashtag #fernetcure).

I'm finding it an interesting sociological excercise as well, as I try to describe to friends and random strangers just what I'm up to.  Reactions have ranged from "Cool!" to "what the heck is Fernet Branca?" to "WHY?", and a few headshakes that suggest folks secretly think I'm off my rocker.  And so I figured it was time for a quick blog post about why on earth I am doing  this!  

It began innocently enough, starting with … a conversation … at a bar!  

Actually, it was back in November, and I was talking with a few people, including Shawn Soole at Clives Classic Lounge about the mysteries behind herbal-based infusions.  And thus, the conversation naturally turned to Chartreuse and Fernet Branca!

The history of many of the alcoholic beverages we enjoy today have their roots as health tonics.  Juniper was originally added to gin, for instance, as a means of helping people feel better.  Chartreuse has 130 different herbs, spices and roots, most of which have medicinal properties, and Fernet Branca was available for consumption during Prohibition because it was considered a health tonic (marketed mainly to women at the turn of the Century as the Midol of the day).

I remember saying jokingly, that it might make an interesting experiment … to take a regular dose of said tonic, and see whether there was any different or not!  

Over the next couple of days, moving from the half-serious conversation to the practical, I began doing a bit of digging into some of the ingredients behind Fernet Branca, and discovered that many of the ingredients in it not only have digestive benefits, but are also powerful antioxidants, anti-spasmodics, anti-inflammatories, disinfectants … and the list goes on.  And so, I figured, ultimately it might be a little like going to an herbalist and walking away with beneficial herbal tincutures (which are often extracted using 80 proof alcohol), except that the kind folks at Fratelli Branca had done us the service of combining a number of these together! 

Thus, 30 Days of Fernet Branca was borne!  The rules are simple:

  • every day I will take at least one "dose" of Fernet Branca (a dose being the 2 cl. line on the official Ferent Branca shot glass!).
  • that dose may be consumed as a shot, but can also be incorporated into other forms (e.g. cocktails).
  • the dose cannot be cooked (e.g. downing a plateful of Fernet Branca marshmallows doesn't count).
  • every day I will capture the moment on film.
  • I will do my darndest to talk about something new about Fernet Branca each day.
  • These are quick one-take videos — no makeup, minimal lighting, so don't come expecting glamour shots 😉

I'd love it if you joined me (there are 15 days left!), or just follow along to see how things go!

The Chartreuse Toddy (good for what ails!)

A conversation on twitter the other night, combined with the dip in ambient temperatures has got me thinking about those spirits that we consider "medicinal" and why we don't consider drinking them in hot form.   We all recongize the magical herbal powers of Fernet Branca, and talk in hushed tones about the mystical maceration of 130 herbs and spices in Green Chartreuse, but the default is to down a shot glass of it, much like medicine.  In fact, until recently, both Fernet Branca and Unicum (and for that matter even Jaegermeister) were available behind the counter at many pharmacies!

But to swig a shot is akin to taking the superhighway to one's destination, and missing the beauty of the scenic route!  Albeit it takes longer, but the surprises along the way more than make up for it.  I began to wonder why an ancient spirit such as Chartreuse has never been turned into a toddy — possibly one of the first "cocktail" incarnations ever invented.  Basic: spirit + sweet + warm non-alchohol base.  I've seen some combinations with hot chocolate, but that doesn't hold much appeal for me personally – I like Chartreuse, and feel the chocolate would overpower the herbal notes.

In the spirit of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!" I'm keeping things simple here.  I love the herbal flavour of Chartreuse, and had just picked up a Tropical Lagoon (a white tea blend from Silk Road Tea) that I thought would be a perfect pairing.  A little lemon, a little honey or agave, and a knob of ginger, and you have a pretty tasty hot toddy!

Chartreuse Toddy

(Janice Mansfield, 2011)

  • 1 1/2 oz. Green Chartreuse
  • 1 tsp. honey or agave syrup
  • 2 quarter sized coins of ginger
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice (or more to taste)
  • 5-6 oz. hot tea (I used Silk Road Tropical Lagoon, but you can pick a nice green or white tea with citrus notes)

In a heatproof mixing glass, bruise the ginger, and add the honey or agave syrup.  Add the Green Chartreuse, and lemon juice, and then the hot tea, stirring briefly to mix. Let stand 1 minute, and strain into a warmed mug,  Float a lemon slice on top.


Caveat: recently, the ever-talented Bradford Knudson from Swing Wine Bar in Olympia, created the Hot Buttered Fernet — a hot bevvie of epic proportions!  A pot was regularly at the simmer through the cold days of last winter over at Clives Classic Lounge, and I may have enjoyed a few 😉 .

Disclaimer: I am considering going on a 30 days and nights of Chartreuse challenge in the new year, to see if the healing properties will be beneficial as a tonic, as some claim.  In this vein, I am determined to also come up with as many ways of consiming Chartreuse as possible.  Personally, I'm hoping for a more luxurious head of hair at the end of the month, but if it can help me feel as good as fussing about with an assortment of herbal tinctures, I say huzzah!!! 

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

As many of you know, I spent the better part of last weekend at Art of the Cocktail — a cocktail festival that supports our local Film Festival.  Its been growing by leaps and bounds since it was first conceived three years ago, and this year, they added a Home Bartenders competition to the mix.  Due in part to peer pressure, I submitted an entry, and thus on Saturday, found myself in front of an audience and three judges (Simon Ogden from Veneto Lounge, Darcy O'Neil of, and Peter Hunt from Victoria Spirits).  Five brave souls entered the competition, and more than a couple had some pretty spectacular looking ingredients and barkit!  There were flames, hand-carved ice, foams, and what looked like some serious deliberations by the judges.  In the end, my cocktail, Healthy Wealthy and Wise was deemed the winning concoction! (the recipe is at the end of the post).


The theme for this competition was herbs — a pretty broad category with a lot of possibilities.  I decided to go a bit balls to the wall on the herbal front for this one, and make herbs present in pretty much every element of the drink (save 1!).  I figured it would either work really well, or people would shake their heads in pity.   I also opted to work with sage as the primary herb — something that I find is underused in both food and drink.  (the sage you see in the picture is a variegated sage from my garden, and in addition to looking beautiful, has a slight citrus note.

As I began looking up the health associations of various herbs in the herbal manuals, the drink began to fall together on its own:  Sage for wisdom and longevity; ginger for money and success; and green tea for riches and strength.   The Beefeater 24 provides a great canvas to work with as a base spirit in this drink — its soft, has the addition of green tea and soft citrus notes, and took the sage infusion wonderfully.

To create the drink, I began playing around with punch formulations — being limited to 6 ingredients, meant some of the traditional prep (i.e. macerating citrus in sugar) had to be done in shortcut form with the addition of a ginger-sage syrup.  I also opted to scale back on the citrus by using a 10% citric acid solution — this gives you the sour, without the citrus notes, letting the herbal notes shine through everything.  All in all, I think its a very pleasant drink, with some depth to it.  Despite being a punch, it does have a bit of a kick to it, with the Green Chartreuse providing complexity and depth, and the Fernet Branca giving just the right note of bitter on the finish.  (It also batches very well!)

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

(created by Janice Mansfield, 2011)

  • 15 ml citric acid – 10% solution (you can find the crystals at most health food stores)
  • 30 ml ginger-sage syrup*
  • 45 ml sage infused Beefeater 24 gin (about 12-15 large sage leaves per 750 ml for 2-3 days)
  • 20 ml Green Chartreuse
  • 5 ml Fernet Branca
  • 45 ml strongly brewed Japanese Sencha tea

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a small sprig of sage.

*ginger-sage syrup — cut 220 grams (1/2 lb) ginger root into 1" pieces.  Chop fairly fine in a food processor.  Dissolve 3 cups sugar into 2 cups water, bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Put all the ginger into the hot syrup with about 12 large sage leaves.  Let sit overnight to fully infuse.  The next morning, strain.  Keep refrigerated.