Posts Tagged ‘flavored vodka’

Krooked Tusker Distillery

September is one of the months where we typically schedule a vacation. Usually the weather is still pleasant, and in normal years, the kids have gone back to school and aren’t hanging around where we want to play tourist. Our original plans for the week we had off was to go to San Francisco. But in the 11 months between booking the vacation and actually taking the vacation, the world exploded. And then the West Coast started on fire. So in the end, it worked out that we couldn’t go cross country, and were forced to stay in our own state.

We had been looking forward to spending some of our time in Napa Valley and sampling California wine, so when it came time to decide what we were going to do, we stuck to the wine theme and spent vacation in the Finger Lakes in NY. I’ve posted about the area before, and we go every summer to see the goats, but this time we wanted to explore some of the areas we don’t typically visit – namely Keuka Lake. We spent 6 nights in the Finger Lakes area, each night in a different town, and on Saturday our friends came down to join us in Penn Yan. After a quick lunch we drank our way south to Hammondsport, visiting several wineries and breweries, and one distillery – Krooked Tusker.

A PSA: Due to covid, and everything being limited, many of the wineries are requiring reservations for tastings. This impacted us a little bit, because a few of the places we wanted to visit were booked. There are so many wineries in the area though, that it didn’t matter that much for us. But just be aware, if you are intending to do some wine tasting, and you have a specific destination in mind, make a reservation.

Krooked Tusker is a distillery on the west side of Keuka lake, outside Hammondsport. They have a nice big covered deck area, and a huge lawn with chairs and games to play. They offer a variety of spirits including a standard vodka as well as infused flavors, corn whiskies, gin and aged bourbons. When we sat down they gave us a cocktail menu to peruse, as well as an option for a flight of straight spirits. One thing not on the menu? A Bloody Mary. We ordered and were enjoying the patio when I spotted a Bloody Mary at another table. Of course, I had to try it.

Krooked Tusker’s every day Bloody

Their standard single Bloody Mary is served with 2 olives in what looks like a sippy cup haha. All their drinks on the patio are served in plastic with lids for safety. But wait…the waitress told us that on Sundays they have a Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar! It was Saturday…we were staying the night in the area…I had no choice but to insist we return the next day for the Bloody Bar.

Build your own Bloody menu

Check out those options! With 4 different mixes, plus their different spirit options, you really can get whatever flavor profile that you want. Add in the garnishes and voila!

Krooked Tusker BYOB

I opted for the horseradish vodka, which I also had the day before, and the classic Bloody mix. I am assuming the mix they used is a Powell and Mahoney mix, since they sell it in their store, but I am not sure. I added in Worcestershire, more horseradish, dill pickles, pickled garlic, cherry peppers, beets, bacon and shrimp. I don’t normally opt for shrimp but it was calling to me.

Krooked Tusker BYOB

The cocktail had a great flavor, if a tad sweet. It had a light spice level that builds. I was a little surprised that there weren’t additional spice options to add to your base mix, like Tabasco or Frank’s, or a dry spice to mix in or add to the rim. If like me, you didn’t opt for an already spicy mix, and/or don’t like horseradish, there was nothing to add in.

I am intrigued by the Ginger/Lemon vodka, and think that could be a delicious option for a future visit. I don’t usually go for whiskey, but I’m assuming the Hellhound Hooch is spicy, which might be great too.

Yes, it was raining, as is typical for our vacations.

All this can be yours for only $12, Sundays only. They offer an early bird special from 11am-noon, where you can get 2 for $20. So either drink fast, or bring a friend but definitely check it out.

Bloody Mary Infused Vodka

If you’ve gone into any liquor store in the last few years, you’d notice an explosion of flavored vodka. From the “standards” like citrus and orange, to crazy things like fruit loops, birthday cake, sriracha and Swedish Fish (sorry, renamed red licorice). Some are good (Swedish fish), some I personally didn’t like (blueberry) and some can’t possibly be good (cucumber watermelon – aka what they will serve me in hell). For bloody mary purposes I have bottle of sriracha vodka, a few different brands of hot pepper vodka, and some chipotle vodka as well. I’ve had some bloodies made with bacon vodka and I’ve seen tomato vodkas at the store which might be tasty as well.

But it’s more fun to make your own.

Enter the internet. It’s super easy to infuse your own vodka in whatever flavor combinations you might want. Some bars, like the 2 Russian bars we visited in NYC, even infuse and serve their own, although apparently this practice is illegal in California according to The Home Distiller’s Hand Book, or at least was when the book was published. But it’s totally cool to do it on your own at home, as long as you’re using already created spirits.

With my bounty of garden produce, I thought I would attempt a Bloody Mary Infused vodka from a “recipe” I found on pinterest. I filled up a small-ish jar with 1 jalapeno, 1 Portugal hot pepper, 1 tomato, 1 clove of garlic, and some peppercorns, and then filled it to the top with vodka (no celery for me!). I didn’t want to go overboard and make a giant amount in case it was terrible. I let it sit in the fridge for 2+ weeks, shaking it every once in a while.

Bloody Mary Infused Vodka!

Bloody Mary Infused Vodka!

To be honest I was sort of scared to try it. The recipe page suggested drinking it on the rocks, so that’s what I’m doing right now! And it’s pretty good! It definitely has a fresh garden smell and flavor to it, like a bloody mary lite. It turns out my jalapenos, though the biggest I’ve ever seen, are not very hot so I’m glad I threw in a Portugal pepper as well. The infusion ended up with a nice spice kick to it, though not overwhelming. I’m not one to drink liquor straight, so I probably would not consume it this way again, but it’ll definitely be good in a regular bloody mary. I don’t know how long it’ll keep, with the veggies still in it…I suppose a brave soul could eat them, but not I!

Try it, add celery if you like, the choice is yours! Cheers!

Washington DC!

In the middle of last year my friend Cassie moved to Washington DC for a new job, and my first thought was 1. I should go to a Sabres/Capital game in DC some time, and 2. DC has a Bloody Mary Fest!! I had my first random vacation week booked for the end of April, and their Fest is some time in the spring, but I waited, and waited, and waited, and WAITED for them to announce the date hoping it was magically during the week I already had off, or if not, a week I could switch to, but I finally gave up and booked a flight to visit her. What takes them so long to figure it out?! Ugh.

But I wasn’t going to let the lack of a Fest deter me from having a selection of DC’s Bloody Marys. I asked the Bitches who Brunch on Twitter for recommendations, googled the hell out of it, and gathered a list of places to potentially try. First up was Founding Farmers.

The Bitches pointed me in the direction of last year’s Fest winners, which included Founding Farmers with their chicken and waffle garnish. Whaaaaat? Unfortunately when I tweeted the restaurant about the garnish, it was something special only for the fest, but their menu looked so good we went there for breakfast my first day in town before heading down to the Williamsburg area for the day.

Founding Farmers Bloody Mary - no chicken and waffle garnish :(

Founding Farmers Bloody Mary – no chicken and waffle garnish 🙁

For $12, Founding Farmers bloody featured their house made mix with habanero infused vodka, and is served every day, not just for brunch on weekends. It took a little while for me to get my drink, our food had already arrived, but the waitress claimed it was because they had made a fresh batch of their vodka and she wanted to make sure I had the new stuff. Ok, cool. There was only a lime for garnish, with a spiced rim and visible spice in the mix. It was really delicious, a bit tart, a nice pepper taste, and a tiny bit of smokey habanero flavor. The heat level was purely from the infused vodka, with no hint of any vinegary hot sauce thankfully. Very good, I recommend it if you are in the area of one of their 3 locations.

After breakfast we drove to the Williamsburg area to try to see the load of giant President heads sitting in a field, which we failed at, and to visit the Historic Jamestowne site (not the Jamestown Settlement museum and reenactment site, which you reach before you get to the National Park, and probably tricks everyone like it tricked us. Luckily they gave us a refund when we realized we were not where we wanted to be. It’s probably a perfectly nice place to visit, but we wanted to see the actual colony that they are still conducting archeological digs at.)

Jamestowne, Arlington, Arboretum

Jamestowne, Arlington, Arboretum

Saturday turned out to be the big day – 3 drinks at 3 different places. We decided on trying the Evening Star in Alexandria for brunch, because their bloody features a bit of grilled cheese sandwich and bacon for garnish. The restaurant was really cute, decorated with all sorts of things made from erector sets, and fun shadow box “alternative art”.

Grilled cheese garnished bloody!

Grilled cheese garnished bloody!

Costing $7, this bloody comes in a fancy little glass with their fun little garnish. I didn’t know how big the sandwich piece was going to be, but I thought it was fair, especially for the price (which I thought was fairly cheap.) Upon taking a sip I was immediately hit with pickle flavor, but while I’ve complained about strong pickle flavor before, it wasn’t bad. It was balanced nicely with the other flavors in the drink. There was a decent spice level, nothing overwhelming, and visible pepper in the drink. The garnishes were cold, but that was to be expected.

Bacon garnish is always welcome.

Bacon garnish is always welcome.

I enjoyed the drink, but I can’t really say the same for my breakfast. I ordered the breakfast burrito, which wasn’t at all spicy, was smaller than expected, and didn’t have much of any taste. It came with a salad, which is always a let down hahaha. I was hungry very quickly afterwards, but that turned out to be a good thing.

On the way to the restaurant we drove past Arlington Cemetery, and while the National Arboretum had been the goal for the day, we decided to visit Arlington as well. Very nice, solemn spot, and we had perfect timing to witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As a “newer” country, without a monarchy or anything like that, it sometimes feels like we don’t have much heritage or ritual, but things like the changing of the guard makes you realize that we do.

We started the drive to the Arboretum and looking at the map on my phone I realized we’d be driving right by one of the other bloody mary spots on my list – Buffalo and Bergen inside Union Market – and it was one of the ones with the most potential. I made Cassie detour to the market for me 🙂

Union Market was super cool, if not super hipster, with a ton of little food booths. So many choices that looked delicious, I’d definitely frequent the market if I lived near by. But this trip there was only one destination and one thing to be ordered – the Lox’d and Loaded Bloody Mary from Buffalo and Bergen.



Oh holy Jesus, look at that bloody! A bloody mary with an everything bagel sandwich featuring cream cheese, onions, capers and a giant serving of lox, finished off with a lemon and pickle on top, and a large slice of lettuce underneath to keep the sandwich dry (brilliant!!) At $19.50, this is the 2nd most expensive bloody mary I’ve ever ordered but given the fact that the sandwich alone would have been $10.75, it was totally reasonable. After being overwhelmed by the sandwich (which was delicious – first time eating lox, and it was pretty good) the drink had a very spicy, fresh taste. It was clearly spicy from Frank’s hot sauce, which made it a bit too vinegar-y for me, but it was do-able because of a hint of horseradish and bit of pepper. Clearly the best garnish I’ve had in my bloody mary drinking career.

We finally made it to the Arboretum with an hour to explore, so we didn’t get to see that much, but it has a ton of potential for future visits. There are a lots of little paths into the various garden areas, plus with Cassie and I taking tons of photographs of the various flowers and plants, we’d really need all day there.

That night we went to Okra’s in Manassas to see Cassie’s friend play jazz, and since there was a bloody on the menu, guess I had to order it. Called the Proud Mary, it had no description in the menu, but I made sure it was actually a bloody, and the waitress said it was, but spicier. Game on.

Proud Mary keep on burning!

Proud Mary keep on burning!

Garnished with 2 olives and a lime, it had a Cajun garlicky spiced rim. Served in a hurricane glass, the drink had a heavy celery taste, and was not too spicy despite what the waitress said. There was a lot of cracked pepper in the drink, and no vinegar taste. It was drinkable but fairly basic. I ordered the Pasta Diablo, which was delicious, and the jazz was good even though I know nothing about jazz haha.

Sunday we visited the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum in VA, an extension of the museum on the National Mall, which features the Space Shuttle Discovery…!!!…Oh man, it was awesome to see the shuttle in person, plus other legendary air craft like the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, which was ridiculous, and the Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb.

OMG THE SHUTTLE! (and the SR-71 and Enola Gay)

OMG THE SHUTTLE! (and the SR-71 and Enola Gay)

Monday I was on my own as Cassie had to work, but I made the most of it even if I didn’t get to have any more bloody marys. I began my day by visiting almost every memorial beginning at Einstein and Lincoln, and ending at Jefferson and Washington before crossing town to go to the National Zoo. According to my fitness tracker I took nearly 28,000 steps and walked 12 miles. I was just about dead by the end and happy to sit on a plane home, even if I did have to go through a torrential downpour to get to the car, including walking through a river to put my luggage in the trunk, and stepping into a virtual pond where the water was over my sneakers, filling them enough that I could pour the water out. BECAUSE IT WOULDN’T BE ONE OF MY VACATIONS IF I DIDN’T GET COMPLETELY SOAKED AT SOME POINT!!!

Jefferson Memorial, and Washington Monument in the mist.

Jefferson Memorial, and Washington Monument in the mist.

My fav president FDR, and the Jefferson Memorial

My fav president FDR, and the Jefferson Memorial

I had a great time visiting Cassie, and a few nice cocktails. I’d call that a successful trip.

Russian bar vs Russian bar – NYC

One more time, J and I went to NYC to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. I couldn’t not go after they announced that the original Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell, was reprising the roll. !!! It was something I didn’t think I’d ever see, and now that I have, my life is complete. He was phenomenal, even performing injured, in a knee brace! Gah. So good. If I lived in NYC I’d go catch him again for sure.

I digress.

So I tried to pre-plan more than the previous 2 trips, and figure out a place I’d like to go for a Bloody, and places for us to eat dinner so we weren’t all “I dunno” when it came time to eat. Browsing on Yelp, I came across the Russian Vodka Room, which just so happened to be across the street from our hotel. How convenient! Reviews and a glance at their website told a story of several different house infused vodkas, and specifically a horseradish infused vodka. My friend Carolyn had recently linked me to a horseradish vodka, which definitely sounded good for making Bloody Marys but the big liquor store in the area didn’t carry it. Now was my chance!

After the show we made our way to the Vodka Room and met my friend Anthony for a few drinks. J had the Sweet Doggy (Red Grapefruit Infused Vodka, Red Grapefruit Juice, Brown Sugar Rim, Mint), Anthony tried shots of their Peach & Apricot, and Ginger vodka, and we all split a flight including Cherry, Strawberry, Cranberry for sure, then maybe Pineapple and Red Grapefruit (we can’t remember and neither could the bartender), and I made J also get the Garlic Pepper and Dill against his will. And of course, I had the Red Bastard – the horseradish vodka Bloody Mary.


A lemon and lime garnish for $10, holy moly, that horseradish vodka was good. Super strong flavor in a basic Bloody mix. There didn’t seem to be any additional spice from hot sauce or pepper, just the infused vodka, in which you could see little bits of horseradish floating around. It was a simple drink, but full of flavor. Definitely recommended if you’re a horseradish fan.

Once we got the flight, and had all tasted the Garlic infusion, I added that to my drink (J was pretty disgusted by it I think haha I thought it was really good). It was half gone already, so it ended up turning into mostly a garlic drink. A small bit would be a nice addition to the Red Bastard, but perhaps not a full shot, because it was very very strong. The other flavors were decent, especially the Strawberry, Cranberry and Ginger. The 2 we couldn’t remember what they were, were not obviously any flavor, one seeming to be just vodka, the other just indistinct. I’m not a big Cherry fan, but J is and he liked it.

It just so happens that there was ANOTHER Russian bar across the street. While the Vodka Room, which is advertised as a restaurant and piano bar, and did indeed have someone playing piano, was dark and cozy, fairly classy with some Russian art, the bar across the street – Russian Samovar – also a restaurant and piano bar, was the opposite. And while the probability of us having missed a large section of the place is high, we didn’t see any part of it that looked like the photos on the website, and it was a bit dive-y. Nothing wrong with that, by the way, I’m just totally shocked looking at their website because it looks so very classy, and well, it wasn’t. They did have a piano, but no one was playing (it was after midnight for the record), they had modern pop music on and Bruno playing on tv. Both bars had giant jugs of their infused vodka around the room, with Samovar decorating them with military caps.

The infused vodkas offered were mostly the same between the 2, with Samovar having some additional ones like Tarragon, Pear, Plum and Coriander to name a few. It was late-ish so we didn’t try any of them, J just getting a Cherry vodka and soda, which tasted like cough medicine, Anthony getting one of their mixed drinks on offer, and of course, I got their horseradish Bloody Mary – the Bloody Dasha.


Garnished with lemon, lime and 3 olives for $12, it might have looked nicer because of the garnishes, but it didn’t hold a candle to the Russian Vodka Room’s drink. There was more tomato taste than horseradish, you could barely detect the horseradish at all. It wasn’t anywhere close to being awful, but I had just enjoyed an almost overwhelming horseradish vodka drink, so it was a disappointment. It was so subtle, it might be better for someone looking for just a tiny extra something in their Bloody Mary, whereas the Vodka Room’s drink would be for the hard core spice/horseradish fan.

If you’re asking me which one I’d go back to for a Bloody Mary, it’s definitely the Russian Vodka Room. But to be honest, I’d probably walk across the street to Samovar after to try some of their other flavors and drinks too. I’m equal opportunity!

Smoke on the Water

Staycation brought us to the yummy bbq joint near by, Smoke on the Water, located in Tonawanda right on the Erie Canal. We met up with a few friends for drinks on the patio, and I had heard they offer a bacon Bloody Mary, so it went on to the “must try” list.


Served in a soda class for $7.50, it seemed like a pretty standard mix. I asked for it spicy, of course, and seemed mainly spiced from pepper. It looked like it had horseradish in it but I couldn’t taste it, and it didn’t have an overwhelming Frank’s Hot Sauce taste either, which was good. Garnished with lemon and lime wedge, with a strip of bacon, it was decent enough, but not mind blowing.

They’ve got a great menu, and smoke all their own meat. We didn’t eat there this time, but in the past, it’s been delicious.