Cocktail Time: Experimenting with Low-Carb Cocktails

IMG_1582 (1)by Karen Frazier

In the wake of my visit to the Sandstone Distillery last weekend where I obtained some pretty spectacular spirits, last evening I gathered a few friends as a tasting panel and mixed up a few low-carb cocktails. I wanted to play with the flavors and see what I could come up with after really enjoying the flavor of my Orange-Bacon “New Fashioned” last weekend.

The Cocktails

Here, in the order of most successful to least successful (and trust me, they were all varying degrees of tasty) are our low-carb cocktails. Thanks to Andy Skinner, Kasci Lawrence, and my hubby Jim for acting as my guinea pigs! Each of the recipes below makes two to three cocktails unless otherwise indicated.

The Best! – Low-Carb Orange-Bacon Martini

Andy’s comment: “This is bleeping delicious.” Everyone agreed this the best of the night.

  • Juice of one orange
  • Juice of two limes
  • 2 shots Sandstone bacon whiskey (or you can try bacon-infused vodka here)
  • 1/2 to 1 shot of orange spice low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Ice

In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients. Shake to chill and strain into martini glasses. Garnish with orange slices.

In Second Place – but Still Tasty – Low-Carb Rasiltini

Raspberries, basil, anise…what’s not to like? This went down smoothly and had a wonderful flavor. Andy’s comment, “I love how the flavors keep coming long after I’m done sipping it.” He was right. It opened up on the palate endlessly, long after we’d savored our last sip.

  • 4 or 5 fresh raspberries
  • Juice of two limes
  • Juice of one orange
  • 2 shots Sandstone Distillery black gin (or try infusing gin or vodka with star anise)
  • 1/2 to 1 shot of raspberry, basil, fennel-infused low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the raspberries.
  2. Add the lime juice, orange juice, gin, syrup, and ice. Shake to chill. Strain into martini glasses. Garnish with additional raspberries.

Third Place but Yummy – Low-Carb Rosemary Lemon Drop

“Fresh and lemon-droppy,” Jim said, tipping back his glass for more. “Summery!” I noted. That’s what I was going for. “More rosemary,” Andy added, and I agree. I’ve added a touch more rosemary in this recipe than what we had last night to really infuse the flavor.

  • Juice of two lemons
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 shots Sandstone Distillery rosemary vodka (or infuse your own vodka with rosemary)
  • 1/2 to 1 shot rosemary lemon infused low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Ice

In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients. Shake to chill. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and rosemary sprig.

My Favorite – Low-Carb Jalapeño Lime Kamikaze

This was my favorite, although others felt it was a bit too spicy. To tone down the heat, I’ve adjusted the amount of jalapeños used from what I did last night. Feel free to add as much heat as you want. Leaving the seeds from the jalapeños out will adjust the heat levels.

  • Juice of two to three limes
  • Juice of half an orange
  • 2 shots vodka
  • 2 to 3 (or more depending on taste preferences) slices of fresh jalapeño
  • 1/2 to 1 shot jalapeño-infused low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Ice

In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients. Shake until chilled. Strain into old-fashioned glasses filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a twist of lime.

Worth Trying – Low-Carb Blackberry Thyme Martini

I think this one could still use a bit of work to perfect it, but it wasn’t without its charms. Everybody drank it all – there wasn’t any left. “It kind of tastes like bubble gum,” Kasci noted. I agree – it was a bit sweeter than I typically like a drink, but you know what? We were a few cocktails in by this time and may have missed the nuances. The size of my pours may have been off…And it was still really tasty, particularly if you’re a blackberry fan. Perhaps in the future I’d replace the black gin with vodka to have more of the blackberry and thyme flavors with less licorice.

  • 4 to 5 fresh blackberries
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Juice of one lime
  • Juice of one orange
  • 2 shots Sandstone Distillery black gin (or vodka or gin you’ve infused with star anise)
  • 1/2 to 1 shot blackberry thyme low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Ice
  1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the blackberries.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients. Shake until chilled. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with additional blackberries.

Also Worth Trying – Low-Carb Lime Jalapeño and Avocado Margarita

This one was surprising….it tasted good but was unexpected. It almost had a hint of banana flavor to it – weird given there were no bananas. We used the Sandstone Distillery White Whiskey (which tastes a lot like tequila), but you could substitute tequila here. “It tastes like a fresh garden smoothie,” Kasci said. It was our last cocktail of the evening, however, so who knows how discerning our palates were at that point.

  • Crushed ice
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • Juice of one orange
  • 1 avocado, peel and pit removed
  • 1 shot lime jalapeño low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • 2 shots Sandstone Distillery white whiskey (or tequila)
  • Crushed ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Puree until blended.

We also changed up the recipe to the Orange Maple Bacon New Fashioned I made the other day, this time using a maple-ginger infused syrup (recipe below) in place of the pure maple syrup. This made the drink low-carb and added an interesting dimension to it that was equally tasty.

IMG_1581

Andy, enjoying a cocktail and not worrying for even a second about his lab rat status.

The Low-Carb Simple Syrups

I found using these was a great way to add flavor to the drinks. I used Truvia (not the baking blend, which has sugar – the granulated kind that comes in the little plastic jar-thingie and is a combination of erythritol and stevia) as my sweetener, but you could also use erythritol, Swerve sweetener, or, if you’re seeking a more paleo approach, organic raw honey (which isn’t low-carb). Syrups will keep in the freezer indefinitely – just thaw a bit to use them, or you can refrigerate them for up to six months.

Orange Spice Infused Low-Carb Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or another low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 one-inch strips orange zest (try not to get any of the white part, which can taste bitter)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 whole allspice
  • 1 whole nutmeg

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Raspberry-Basil-Fennel Infused Low-Carb Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or other low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 raspberries, crushed
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seed

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Rosemary-Lemon Infused Low-Carb Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or another low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 half-inch strips of lemon peel (avoid getting the white part, which can be bitter)
  • 1 sprig rosemary

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Lime-Jalapeno Infused Low-Carb Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or another low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 half-inch strips lime peel (avoid the white part, which can be bitter)
  • 1/2 jalapeno, thinly sliced (or more or less depending on your heat preference)

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Blackberry-Thyme Infused Simple Syrup

  • 6 blackberries, crushed to release juices
  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or another low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 whole black peppercorns

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Maple-Ginger Infused Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
  • 6 to 10 slices ginger root

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Infusing Your Own Spirits

I realize it may be impossible to make it to my local area to get to the Sandstone Distillery, but don’t despair. You can approximate your own versions of the liquors using botanicals and dried spices. Just infuse the spirit of your choice with the flavoring of your choice (using fresh herbs – not dried; whole spices – not ground; and citrus peels without the bitter white pith) for two to three days, shaking it up every day. Then, strain the solids away and use a funnel to put it back in the original bottle – or keep it in a well-labeled mason jar.

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