Felicia Corbett is one of the most exciting faces working in whiskey and cocktails today. She’s Angel’s Envy Whiskey Guardian and the “Potions Master” at Trouble Bar, a Louisville female-owned and run whiskey bar, which was recently named to Esquire Magazine’s 2021 list of America’s Best Bars.
The cocktails she helps create at Trouble indicate a masterful understanding of flavor, as well as a penchant for pleasure. Take, for example, their fall menu, with drinks like the Practical Magic (gin, pistachio and cardamom infused honey, lemon juice) and the Hey Mister, We Are the Weirdos (tequila, fig syrup barbarism, lemon juice, lime juice, orange liqueur).
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Ahead of the holiday season, Corbett spoke with Salon about his tips for creating better cocktails at home for beginners, his choices of accessible whiskeys to sip and gift, and what she home made for groups of guests.
His philosophy behind the creation of seasonal cocktails:
I watch a lot of trends and see what people like about the flavor profiles. Then I try to develop a weird twist on it. For example, you can factor in very traditional fall spices and flavors like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pumpkin, but then find a way to add a funky touch to it. I also really enjoy raising other local businesses.
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Over the last few menus, we’ve teamed up with FOKO (a Mexican-inspired breakfast and lunch stand at the nearby Logan Street Market food court) where Chef Paco Garcia and co-owner Josh Gonzalez will cook us. horchata, which I use in my play on a pumpkin and spice latte. He begins by infusing 100 proof whiskey with vanilla bean, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Then I made cold brew syrup and pumpkin puree.
You know, when you taste “pumpkin spice” in drinks, it can be too sweet – and I’m not a fan of sugary drinks. So you have the bitterness of the cold brew, then the brew of the whiskey removes the sweetness from it, then we top it with horchata.
Corbett’s big tip for amateur bartenders:
I taught my mom how to do this, so if I can teach her, anyone can do it. I told him to work on perfecting a simple syrup. There’s room for experimentation – finding your sugar and water ratio for thicker or thinner syrup. Once you have mastered that, you have fun adding herbs and different things to it. A lot of it is playing around, and you can even make maple syrup or honey if you don’t want to make sugar.
Once you have calculated your ratios, your thickness and your sweetness, you also master the start of the cocktail making. Then at this point you can look really fancy saying, “Oh, I grew my own lavender and used it to make a simple lavender syrup.”
While Corbett is personally a fan of rye-flavored whiskeys – which can be a bit intimidating for those new to the spirit – there are a bunch of accessible whiskeys she’s excited about right now:
I’ve worked for them for a number of years so I’m a little biased, but Angel’s Envy is a great whiskey that’s accessible, easy to sip and good to give as a gift. If you want to stick with the finished whiskey, but try something a little different, I’m a big fan of Barrell Bourbons. They get all the liquid and then finish it off in different iterations and it feels like there’s a million. I haven’t met one that I haven’t liked. The Seagrass and the Armida are two that I think are pretty consistent.
Then Willett made a line where the Wheat Bourbon was finished in Chardonnay casks, the Raised Rye is like in a Cab and the Rye is finished in Port; these are really fun if you are looking for something that is not yet very popular, but will be.
here’s how she makes cocktails for groups at home:
For the most part, I will invite people and experiment on them. This is only if I feel up to it because I am a cancer patient and have chemo, so when my taste buds are fully stimulated I will because it makes me happy to see people’s faces when I’m doing something and they’re like, “How did you do that?” However, when entertaining a larger group this is when I usually make something like cider with my own twist or toddlers with a twist!
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