Category Archives: DIY

Weekend Cocktail: Morgenthaler’s Chinese Five Spice Dark ‘N’ Stormy

One month ago, I posted about Lisa’s favorite cocktail—at least it was when I met her—the Dark ‘N’ Stormy. As mentioned before, home bartending has become my hobby ever since we built our own bar cart. As I’ve read more about the art of tending bar, I learned who some of the major players and innovators of the industry were and came across Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s book “The Bar Book” at our fair city‘s local library (I’m going to miss you Cambridge Main).

As one of very few books devoted entirely to bar techniques, with a handful of recipes that utilize them, it’s a great starter book for anyone with an interest in bartending. When I came across Jeff’s recipe for ginger beer and then later his Gosling’s Chinese Five Spice Rum, I knew I found a winning combo. But enough from me, I couldn’t possibly describe it better than he does below.

.I love it too Jeff! A satisfying highball it most certainly is!

Enjoy it Responsibly!


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DIY: Ginger Beer

With the first week of March complete, the doldrums of winter nearly over (fingers-crossed), and a historic Pi Day approaching at week’s end, it’s time for a project post! This time it’s about making our new favorite cocktail variation on a longtime favorite, the Morganthaler Dark ‘N’ Stormy, an ideal springtime libation with a spicy kick in the pants!

Recently Lisa and I sent out invitations for a party we decided to host in honor of this year’s once-in-a-lifetime Pi Day (3/14/15). While our party may not be the grandest celebration in our fair city, (see MIT’s admissions letters going out here), we will have fun! We’re asking our guests to bring sweet or savory pies (think apple, key lime, shepherd’s, even pizza) and I plan to make a batch of my new favorite variation of our favored drink for our guests.

What follows is my guide to making Morgenthaler’s ginger beer recipe with champagne yeast. Then in a few days, I’ll post his pain-free Chinese Five Spice Rum recipe, which frankly could not possibly be easier. This will be my fourth batch of the ginger beer and through my own experimentation I’ve found one hack that yields greater consistency when using yeast than Morgenthaler’s original recipe on his blog or in his book.

My contribution to his recipe is a volumetric measure of yeast. Morgenthaler’s suggestion of the “tip of a paring knife” or “roughly 25 granules of yeast” (who’s really going to count granules?) didn’t satisfy me, through trial and error I found the volume—one pinch (1/16 tsp.) that produced the best result for my tastes (see below).



In the following ratios you’ll need (per 16 oz. bottle):

  • 1 oz. fresh ginger juice
  • 2 oz. finely strained fresh lemon juice
  • 3 oz. simple syrup
  • 10 oz. water
  • 1/16 tsp. (one pinch) Red Star champagne yeast

Or (if using 12-oz. bottles) adjust to:

  • .75 oz. fresh ginger juice
  • 1.5 oz. finely strained lemon juice
  • 2.25 oz. simple syrup
  • 7.5 oz. water
  • 1/16 tsp. (one pinch) Red Star champagne yeast (yes, I realize this is the same as a 16 oz. bottle, but I until I find a means of measuring 1.75/32 tsp. it’ll do)

Making the ginger beer:

As Morgenthaler suggests, there is one piece of equipment you need if you plan to make ginger beer more than once, and that is a juice extractor (we use this breville juicer, better one’s exist, but it works sufficiently well). Alternatively, I’ve seen people use a blender/food processor in concert with an orange squeezer and cheesecloth. I find that even with the juice extractor the ginger pulp is still moist enough that I now use this second method to increase the yield. One last word, I peel the ginger root before juicing it, but I’ve seen others not peel—your choice (I imagine the skins would give a woodier taste).


Notice how moist the pulp still appears.


I recommend squeezing the pulp out with an orange press (make sure you wrap it first in cheesecloth).

Next, you’re going to need your freshly squeezed and filtered lemon juice. While one could certainly use the breville juicer for this step, lemons are so soft and easily juiced that it can more easily be done by hand. In this case, I used a citrus hand press, which can be found on amazon for less than $10 here, or comparably priced in any restaurant supply store—we bought ours at China Fair in Porter Square. Just pay attention to the ratios above.

Now for the simple syrup. You have options here, depending on how much you need, you could make it on a stovetop, or even in a microwave. Just remember that “simple” syrup is a 1:1 mixture of sugar and water. Again, pay attention to the ratios.

Finally, mix your ingredients together with water and fill your bottles using a funnel. For consistency, make sure to measure out either 12 ounces or 16 ounces, depending on the size of bottles you’re using, with a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Add your yeast, cap, and store under the kitchen sink for 48 hours.

Mix and pour into your bottles.

Mix and pour into your bottles.

IN 48 hours your delicious goodness will be ready!

In 48 hours your delicious goodness will be ready!



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DIY: Limoncello, Part 2: Bottling


Limoncello is an italian lemon liqueur that is traditionally served after a meal in Italy, as a digestif (or digestivo, in Italian). The genesis of my interests in mixology along with Lisa’s recent borrowing of Eugenia Bone’s cookbook “The Kitchen Ecosystem” collided in late December when flipping through Bone’s book I discovered her limoncello recipe. As I was still in the Christmas giving mindset I thought what a wonderful gift idea! It’s a DIY gift, so the giftee will know it came from the heart, took both time and forethought, and it will last for months—so it’s a perfect gift! Only problem, it takes 2 months to make.

As promised in our original post, here’s the final product (the recipe, is here).

5. Filter the limoncello, first through cheesecloth, then through a coffee filter. Bottle it and store it in your freezer (it’s best served cold). It will keep forever.

Filter first through a cheesecloth.

Filter first through a cheesecloth.

Close up.

Close up.


Then through a coffee filter.

Notice the color change.

Notice the color change.



PS- In case you’re wondering, Lisa gave it her approval. I’ll second that! Not too sweet, not too strong. Perfect.

Remember that Limoncello, like gazpacho, is best served cold.

Remember that Limoncello, like gazpacho, is best served cold.

PPS- Team white and gold!

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DIY: Limoncello, Part 1


Limoncello is an italian lemon liqueur that is traditionally served after a meal in Italy, as a digestif (or digestivo, in Italian). The genesis of my interests in mixology along with Lisa’s recent borrowing of Eugenia Bone’s cookbook “The Kitchen Ecosystem” collided in late December when flipping through Bone’s book I discovered her limoncello recipe. As I was still in the Christmas giving mindset I thought what a wonderful gift idea! It’s a DIY gift, so the giftee will know it came from the heart, took both time and forethought, and it will last for months—so it’s a perfect gift!

I decided to try it and see if it comes out any good! Here’s the recipe (I’ll add a Part 2, final product post in late February):

Makes 1.5 Pints of Limoncello (or roughly a full 750 mL bottle)

  • 4 lemons (thoroughly scrubbed)
  • 1 pint of vodka (preferably 100 proof, pictured is 80 proof Stoli)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3/4 cup of sugar

The steps:

1. Remove the zest of your scrubbed lemons with a vegetable peeler, being careful to avoid the pith (per Bone’s recipe, you need about 1/3 cup)

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2. Combine the lemon zest and vodka in a pint jar, or any large jar (preferably a Ball-type jar). Screw on the lid and give it a healthy vigorous shake. Set aside for 1 month. Shake periodically (I found this part a great stress reliever).

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3. After a month, transfer the lemon vodka mixture to a quart jar (I started with a half-gallon Ball jar, so I skipped this part)

4.In a small sauce pan, heat the water and add the sugar. Once the sugar is completely dissolved remove it from the heat and let cool. Add the simple syrup to the lemon vodka mixture. Give the mixture a few good shakes and put the limoncello away for another month.

Almost there! Stay tuned for “DIY: Limoncello, Part 2: Bottling” to see the final product.


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Honey-Green Tea Kombucha Part 2: Bottling

Our first batch of kombucha has been fermenting for 7 days now. It is time for bottling! Kombucha may take longer to ferment depending on the ambient temperature. I tasted our batch after 7 days and felt it was the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. However, if the temperature is cooler in your house, it may need up to 10 days of fermentation. After 7 days, taste it every day by pouring it into a glass until it is to your liking.


Green Tea Kombucha all ready to be honeyed and bottled!

1. With clean hands, lift the scoby out of the kombucha and set on a clean plate. Measure 2 cups of starter tea from this batch of kombucha and set it aside for your next.

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Scooby along with a baby scooby (left) and 2 cups reserved starter tea (right)

2. Divide 3/4 cup of honey equally among the containers you are using to bottle the kombucha. One batch makes six-16 ounce bottles, so I put 2 tablespoons of honey in each bottle. Pour fermented tea over top. Leave at least 1-inch of headspace. Cap the bottles and shake each bottle to dissolve the honey.


3. Store the kombucha at room temperature out of direct sunlight until carbonated, typically 1-3 days. Refrigerate to stop carbonation. Consume within one month.


Bottled kombucha with the next batch already fermenting!

Brewing kombucha at home was so much fun. It can seem intimidating, but was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Now that my scoby is ready, I can make 6 bottles of kombucha a week. I can’t wait to try new flavors by adding fresh fruit, fruit juices, and spices! Kombucha is a great alternative to drinking water. It is healthier than drinking soda and is full of probiotics. I hope you found this tutorial helpful!

Happy Brewing!


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Honey-Green Tea Kombucha

It has been 2 weeks and Scooby the Scoby is now ready to make kombucha. Yes, Scooby is a slimy, jelly-like glob. Let’s admit that he looks kind-of disgusting, but this mass of bacteria and yeast is what turns sugared tea into fermented tea, also known as kombucha. For my first batch, I am going to make a Honey-Green Tea Kombucha recipe from True Brews by Emma Christensen. This involves a basic recipe for kombucha with the use of green tea. Honey has antibacterial properties which can actually weaken the scoby, so the honey is added after the fermentation process during bottling.


Scooby the Scoby (Symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast)

Honey-Green Tea Kombucha: Part 1

From True Brews, By Emma Christensen

14 cups water

1 cup white granulated sugar

8 bags green tea or 2 tablespoons loose green tea

2 cups starter tea from last batch of kombucha

1 scoby

1. Bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Drop in the tea and allow it to steep until the water has cooled.

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2. Remove the tea bags or strain out the loose tea. Stir in the starter tea. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon glass jar and gently place the scoby on top. Cover the mouth of the jar with a few layers of cheesecloth or paper towels secured with a rubber band.

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3. Keep the jar at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and where it will be undisturbed. Ferment for 7 to 10 days. Check the kombucha and the scoby periodically.

4. After 7 days, begin tasting the kombucha. When it reaches a balance of sweetness and tartness that is pleasant to you, the kombucha is ready to bottle!

Check back in 7-10 days to see the addition of honey and the bottling process!


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Update: Scooby the SCOBY

Almost two weeks have past since Lisa’s first post. Without further ado, we proudly introduce to the world, Scooby, our pet kombucha-making Scoby. He’s ready for primetime.


Say hello to our little friend.

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Scooby the Scoby

Today marks the conception of “Scooby” our baby scoby. What’s a scoby you ask? Scoby is an acrocnym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast” and it is used to make fermented tea, also known as kombucha. When I was a second year medical student, kombucha (and matcha lattes) were my guilty pleasure. I probably drank a bottle of kombucha almost once a day, which at $3.69 for a bottle meant that I spent over a thousand dollars on kombucha in a year! Clearly an intervention had to be had, so I stopped my kombucha craze in an effort to save money.

While reading True Brews by Emma Christensen, I realized how simple it is to make kombucha, and so now I am on the quest to brew my own. Hence, the birth of Scooby my scoby. See Emma Christensen’s instructions on how to make your own scoby here. Basically it involves boiling water, adding sugar, steeping tea, mixing store-bought kombucha, and watching the scoby grow day by day.


Sweet Tea + Kombucha starter


Scoby all packaged up

Check back in 1-2 weeks to see how Scooby is!


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DIY: The Bar Cart

Shortly after Lisa matched to residency in Boston in March 2014, we realized we needed to address our furniture problem. Although I was 27 and she was 25, neither of us had nice furniture. We were trapped in that awkward period after college where spending money on furniture is an absolutely terrible idea for two reasons: 1) it’s extraordinarily expensive, and 2) once you have furniture, you’re suddenly less mobile—not exactly an appealing idea for anyone in Gen X.

Around this time, I had been following an online magazine/blog geared towards young men called Primer and casually had been bookmarking ideas from a series of posts called the intentional apartment since I knew we would be moving. One post Lisa and I both particularly liked was Andrew Snavely’s DIY bar cart post.

Here is our final result:

The final product, crooked growler lamp and all!

The final product, crooked growler lamp and all!

Next—the best part—stocking your cart. Below are a few suggestions for stocking your bar cart with essentials. I compiled this list using Faith Towers’ Primer magazine post as well as my own research mostly using a book Lisa bought me last year: The Ultimate Bar Book: The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1,000 Cocktails by Mittie Hellmich, which I would describe as the definitive tome on cocktails.

This list is not intended to be exhaustive. We don’t personally own every item; the idea is to work towards this. Cheers!


  • Bourbon (ideally small-batch bourbon)
  • Brandy (ideally French brandy)- Hennessy, Rémy Martin, Martell, Courvoisier
  • Blended Whiskey (such as Canadian Whiskey)
  • Blended Scotch (unless you prefer sipping a single-malt)
  • Gin- London Dry’s: Beefeater, Tanqueray, or BoodlesNewer Gins: Hendrick’s (our personal favorite)
  • Tequila (ideally 100% agave)
  • Vodka
  • Light Rum– Bacardi


  • Apricot brandy
  • Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
  • Créme de cacao (white & dark)
  • Créme de menthe
  • Kahlúa (or other coffee liqueur)
  • Pernod (or other anise-flavored liqueur)
  • Other liqueurs, according to your cocktail preferences (such as amaretto, créme de cassis, chambord, Frangelico, sambuca)


In all fairness, this DIY project turned out nicely. For less than $50 USD we successfully made a nice industrial-looking bar cart. Our one complaint, the floor underlayment on the bottom shelf blocks the path of the bottom-most bolts, which means we had to go without them; this affects the sturdiness of the whole rig, but if you’re willing to put up with that, it’s a cheap solution and a nice weekend project (of course, you don’t need the floor underlayment, but I think it adds something). The bright red color helps make the cart a focal point of our living space, but you could easily paint it another color. Finally, the nice thing about having a bar cart is that it allows us the flexibility to wheel around our liquor collection—for example, onto our first floor balcony the next time we have a soi·rée at our Cambridge crib.

How about you? What DIY apartment hacks have you created with a tight budget and a little ingenuity?

Bummer, no space.

Bummer, no space.

Collective sigh.

What could have been…














New City, Kinda New Furniture

Moving to a new place, whether it be a hundred miles away or down the street, is never an easy task. Ryan and I just left the beloved city of Providence, Rhode Island to move to the lovely Cambridge, Massachusetts at the beginning of the month. Yes, I know we moved just an hour away, but after eight years of living in RI, I accumulated a lot of things, including furniture which I were hand me downs from old friends or things I found on the sidewalk. When I decided to move to Cambridge, I originally had plans to just do away with the old furniture and buy all new things. However, that idea was quickly buried in the ground once I realized how expensive furniture is. So I decided that I would revamp the old furniture to make it look updated and kinda new! Here are some examples:

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It was surprisingly easy to repaint or restain/reupholster all these items! I got all the paint from Sherwin Williams. The colors from top to bottom are: Oceanside, Bistro Walnut, Hazel, and Invigorate.


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