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Sharing your flask around the campfire is sure to put you in your friends’ good graces, but making a craft cocktail at your campsite will evoke “that wow factor,” says Adam Dulye, executive chef of the Boulder-based Brewers Association and consulting chef for outdoor cookware brand Primus, which has its U.S. headquarters in Louisville. And it’s far easier to do than you might think. Just make sure you have a few key products in your campsite cocktail tool kit (see Dulye’s recommendations below), do the prep work at home when you can, and set aside a little time to add the finishing touches. Here are four of his sure-to-impress libations for your next boozy outing in the backcountry.
Campsite Cocktail Tool Kit
Dulye, of course, is partial to Primus’ lineup of outdoor-ready cookware, but no matter what brand you choose, keep these necessities in your campsite cocktail tool kit:
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- Camp stove with griddle plate, ideally with sensitive burners to allow for micro temperature adjustments
- Compact camp stove and pot system
- Insulated, vacuum-sealed travel containers to keep things hot and cold and to prevent devastating spills
- Insulated mugs or cups
- Cocktail straws, napkins, and reusable picks for garnish
Fall/Winter Warmer Wine
With a little spice kick from the apple cider, pear brandy, and black peppercorns to balance the honey or agave, this hug in a mug is perfect for sunset walks and campsite cuddles. Pack it up in a vacuum bottle for easier transit.
1 piece cheesecloth (roughly 8-by-8 inches) and string to tie
4 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
4 black peppercorns
2 units star anise
750 ml red wine (ideally pinot noir, gamay, or another softer varietal)
2 cups apple cider
1 orange, sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds, seeds removed (about 6 slices per orange)
3 Tbs. honey (Or pack in some “honey stix” from Beeyond the Hive)
½ cup Peach Street Distillers pear brandy
Lay the cheesecloth flat on a work surface. Place the cloves, cinnamon, black peppercorns, and star anise inside the cloth and tie with string. Add the bundle to a pot. In the same pot, pour in the wine and apple cider, and add two orange slices. Reserve the remaining four orange slices for a garnish. Over medium heat, bring the wine to a simmer. Do not let the liquid boil. Stir in the honey. Bring the mixture back to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add the brandy, remove from heat, and remove the cheesecloth. Serve and garnish with an orange slice.
Pro Tip: If you’re using a portable stove, add a palate-pleasing smokey flavor by grilling the orange and cinnamon sticks first on the griddle over medium heat until lightly marked. Then add them to the cheesecloth.
While you can always buy chai tea from your favorite local chai company (we love Sherpa Chai), home chefs who make their own get serious brownie points. Save time at the campsite by making the chai tea base ahead of time.
For the chai tea base:
1 cup water
3 black tea bags
4 green cardamom pods
1 tsp. allspice berries
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. vanilla paste or 1 vanilla bean split
2 Tbs. honey or agave
For the creamy mixture:
2 cups half and half
6 ounces Breckenridge Distillery bourbon
Ground cinnamon and nutmeg to garnish
At Home: Combine all the chai tea base ingredients together in a pot and bring to a simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and strain through a fine strainer or coffee filter. Store for up to 2 days.
At the Campsite: Heat the chai tea base over medium heat. In a separate pot, bring the half and half to a boil over medium heat. Combine the heated half and half with the hot chai base. Lay out four mugs and pour 1 ½ ounces of bourbon into each mug. Pour one cup of creamy chai mixture into each mug. Garnish with a dash of ground cinnamon and nutmeg.
Pro Tip: Whip the half and half with a fork or whisk to get a decadent, frothy top before adding to the chai tea base.
Morning, noon, or night, the caffeine in this concoction will keep you going while the adult-friendly additions will warm you up from the inside. Sweater weather never met a better friend.
Lay out two mugs. Add 1 teaspoon brown sugar and 1 ounce half and half to each mug. Add 1 ounce of whiskey and 1 ounce of rum to each mug. Brew up a fresh batch of coffee on your camp stove and add the vanilla bean or paste to the coffee pot. Pour 1 cup of hot coffee into each mug and stir.
Whiskey & Stout Drinking Chocolate
Calories don’t count in the backcountry, right? So go ahead and indulge in this rich treat. Be sure to splurge on some fancy dark chocolate (Our pick: Something lovely from Boulder-based Chocolove).
Place the chopped chocolate into a pot and set aside. In a separate pot, bring the half and half to a simmer. Pour the half and half over the chocolate and stir gently to combine. Over very low heat, bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, and continue stirring. Lay out two mugs and pour 1 ½ ounces of bourbon and 2 ounces of stout into each mug. Pour one cup of the chocolate mixture into each mug. Garnish with a few flakes of candied cherry and sea salt.
Pro Tip: Chocolate and heat don’t always play nice together. Keep an eye on the burner, and stir the chocolate continuously, taking care not to scorch it or let it burn to the bottom of the pan.