A Love Letter from the Tasting Bar at Indian Creek Distillery

When I first came to Indian Creek Distillery to host the Tastings on Tour days, I knew a fair amount about whiskey. I knew a decent amount about cocktails. I knew a good amount about history and just a little bit about the family history of the Staleys.

Me being me, I had to know more, I had to know as much as I could because wanted to answer your questions, I wanted to tell you the story of whiskey and the story of the Staley’s eloquently.

The first few months I think I plowed through nearly all the books ever written on whiskey. I listened to Missy tell her family’s story hundreds of times and I can still recite the PBS documentary about Indian Creek Distillery by heart.

In the middle of my first summer at the distillery, Joe & Missy built a new tasting bar upstairs in the StillHouse and that became our ‘Tasting Tavern’. For me, it became home. It became my favorite place to be each week. Right around that time as tours were getting busier and busier, I found my groove and it seemed that every group that sat at my bar became my friends. And what I can tell you is this: that there is something magical here, something that beckons you to come to the farm & this land, to breathe the air, walk the grounds and to drink the spirits.

The several years that I worked the Tasting Tavern (it’s located on the second floor of the distillery), I would be directly above the oldest working copper pot stills in the country, next to the oldest Grist Mill in Ohio and on the last standing intact Pioneer Agricultural/Industrial Complex in the United States. That's a lot of history and probably is what attracted me to the Staley Mill Farm in the first place.

On a daily basis at the distillery, the ‘girls’ as we so lovingly refer to the Stills, are filled and as they begin to heat up, the entire StillHouse has that wonderful cooking aroma of hot sweet mash ferment. It would waft its way up to the tasting tavern and me. The family’s Rye mash bill that is over 200 years old creates the incredible flagship spirit, the aged Staley Rye Whiskey. The whiskey is unique, complex and incredibly flavorful, a true taste of early America.

So I give you some of my favorite vintage recipes and a few creations of my own inspired by this beautiful farm, the gorgeous whiskey and the family that has so lovingly preserved its history throughout the years. Thank you for being so interested in this magical place that is Indian Creek Distillery and from the bottom of my heart, thank you for helping to keep a piece of American history alive, every time you purchase a product from Indian Creek Distillery.

I’m Sailor and I am a lover of flavors, a mixer of happiness and a sorcerer of tastes. Or so I have been told. I was lovingly labeled the Resident Alchemist at Indian Creek Distillery for the several years that I was a part of their... history. It was a life changing experience for me. Cheers!

(Sailor Guevara, our good friend and mixologist extraordinaire has experienced an incredible journey herself. She is a veteran of the spirits & hospitality industry, whisk(e)y educator, published mixologist, feature writer for American Whiskey Magazine & podcast host. In February of 2020 Guevara won a World of Whisky Icon award for the coveted Brand Ambassador of the Year for American Whiskey. Sailor’s passion for whiskey & spirits history is unmatched & easily contagious when she is in the room. In late 2020 Sailor launched her own company SAILOR GUEVARA EXPERIENCES providing virtual cocktail & spirits experiences & custom cocktail boxes.)


Leatherneck Cocktail

This cocktail is actually circa 1951. I rarely make cocktails that were born in the fifties, because, well, I just don’t like most of them. However, this guy is an exception. The term leatherneck is slang for a U.S. Marine Corps or British Royal Marine soldier, and it actually goes all the way back to 1798. The term derived from a leather stock once worn around the neck of Marine soldiers. And what was the coolest reason for wearing these collars? It was to protect the soldier from the blade of a Pirate’s sword. Arrghhhh! I love any story involving pirates.

Another interesting thing about this cocktail is the use of Blue Curacao. I rarely use Curacao with whiskey cocktails, especially the Blue version, however, this cocktail is delicious and fun and, I can’t help but feel like I’m on the bridge of a Starfleet vessel when I sip on this concoction. Like Saurian brandy, right? Any Star Trek fans?

Moving along, let’s talk a bit about curaçao which is a liqueur flavored with the dried peel of the Laraha citrus fruit, grown on the island of curaçao. This liqueur has been on record since at least 1575, as that was the year the Lucas Bols Distillery was founded, the oldest distillery brand in the world. Whether that is true or not this curaçao liqueur has been around for a long, long time. The Laraha citrus fruit is a descendant of the domesticated orange. So this liqueur, whatever the color, has a similar flavor to an orange.

The most common curaçao liqueur is either orange in color or blue in color, both are artificially colored.

Now, I am not a proponent of anything artificial, but here is where I will make an exception. On special occasions and with its few ingredients, it’s quick and easy to make.

This drink is great for a summer party. Just add a drink umbrella and garnish with fruit to give it a tropical Tiki look. Or add some edible glitter for a New Year’s Eve cocktail. Easy to make and interesting looking, perfect for a party and, it’s still a whiskey cocktail!

  • 2 ounces of Staley Rye Whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce of blue curaçao
  • 1/2 ounce of fresh lime juice

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with a small handful of ice. Shake well and strain into a cordial glass. Now celebrate!


The Libertine (variations)

This cocktail was originally created by Mariena Mercer at the Chandelier Bar in Las Vegas. When I first sipped this cocktail I loved the myriad of flavors that it offered, however there were a few tweaks that I felt worked better for my palate, so I began working on a variation that I came to really love and make it often. I am going to offer you a chilled and a warmed variation.

Chilled Libertine

  • 2 ounces of Andy's Old No. 5 Bourbon
  • 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp StillHouse Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary syrup
  • 1/2 tsp orange marmalade

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker; shake well with a handful of ice. Strain into a cocktail or coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Note on the rosemary syrup: easy to make at home. Boil 1 cup of water and add 4 sprigs of rosemary, boil for 20 minutes on medium low, covered. With a handled strainer, scoop out the rosemary, and add one cup of Demerara sugar, boil on low until the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow the syrup to cool and store in a glass bottle or jar in your fridge. Be sure to label and date. This syrup should last about 60 days if kept properly refrigerated.

Libertine Toddy

  • 2 ounces of Andy's Old No. 5 Bourbon
  • 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ounce of fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp StillHouse Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 tsp orange marmalade

Add all ingredients to a coffee cup, or microwavable bowl. Stir well and heat for 2-3 minutes, you do not want the mixture to boil! Stir again once heated and carefully pour into a copper mug. Garnish with an orange twist.

Hannah's Hibiscus Fizz

Hannah’s Hibiscus Fizz

Missy’s pioneer great great great grandmother, Hannah, adventured to the Ohio Country with spunk and class. Born in Frederick Maryland, her new home would not be a log cabin, but a beautiful brick Federal style home fitting for a fine lady and wife of her successful entrepreneur husband; Elias mentioned to a customer, “Please bring gold. Hannah will have it no other way”. Smart woman!

  • 1/4 oz. Hibiscus syrup (Hella or Monin)
  • 2 barspoons of rose water
  • 1 Tbsp. Elderflower liqueur
  • 1.5 oz. Dandy John's White Corn Whiskey
  • 2 dashes of Orange Bitters
  • Sparkling water

In a Collins glass add your rose water and roll your glass so that the rose water coats the entire inside of the glass. Pour out the remainder on a small plate; place your glass upside down on the plate so that the remaining liquid coats the rim of the glass.

Flip glass right side up and add ice, whiskey, liqueur, bitters and syrup, stir well and add sparkling water, stir again.

Purple Rain

Purple Rain

This cocktail is a wonderful tribute to the late-great musical legend… Prince. A wonderfully easy to make cocktail that is so visually appealing and absolutely delicious.

  • I never meant to cause you any sorrow... 2 ounces of Elias Staley White Rye Whiskey
  • I never meant to cause you any pain... 1 tsp Crème De Violette
  • I only wanted to one time see you laughing... 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • I only want to see you... 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • Laughing in the purple rain... Chilled Soda Water

Add whiskey, Crème De Violette and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice. Shake well.

In a Collins glass, add a handful of ice, strain the liquid from your cocktail shaker over the ice, pour in soda water to fill the glass and stir lightly with a long spoon. Sprinkle grated lemon zest on top of the cocktail and garnish with a lavender sprig.

Lion's Tail

The Lion’s Tail

This cocktail published in the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book in London in 1937 is a great example of cocktail personalities in the 1930s. “Twisting the lion’s tail” was an American slang for a person’s character that was distinctly British. Some feel that this suggests that the author of the cocktail was a Prohibition “run-away” from the States.

There is an ingredient in this cocktail that may seem very unfamiliar; it’s called Pimento or Allspice Dram.

You can make this liqueur yourself, which is what I had to do for years as it was almost impossible to find and when I could find it, it was very expensive. But now, luckily it has begun to make a comeback in the US, so you can easily find one or two brands in larger liquor stores and very easily online.

So what is it? Well, simply put, it’s a liqueur flavored with allspice berries. It can be known as pimento dram because the allspice berry is from the pimento tree. So don’t think of it in reference to the red bland thing shoved inside a green olive, think of it more like the allspice we use for baking.

  • 2 ounces American BondHouse Bourbon
  • 2/4 ounce Allspice Dram
  • 1/2 ounce of fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon of simple syrup
  • 2-4 dashes of Medicine Man Aromatic Bitters

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice, shake well and strain into a 5 ounce cocktail glass, it can be fluted or a coupe glass. Enjoy!


The Avanella

This cocktail is a tribute to one of the Staley women; Missy’s grandmother Avanella Staley Marker. Missy has often shared stories about the Staley women and what life was like for them. She had a particularly close relationship with her grandmother, so I asked Missy to write a paragraph about her and here is what she had to say about lovely Avanella.

“I loved my grandmother Avanella dearly. Living to the ripe old age of 99, she had an air of class and dignity, loved to laugh and was an amazing businesswoman. My grandfather was an enterprising man; businessman, landowner, international horse trader and auctioneer who once had a record breaking attendance of 5000 for an auction. She had a lot to live up to and she did so with grace, tenacity and accomplishment after he passed away at the young age of 49. She was strong and she was a shining example of the woman entrepreneur and... she is with me always."

So this cocktail I created to encompass that spirit.

  • 2 ounces of Elias Staley White Rye Whiskey or Dandy John's White Corn Whiskey
  • 1/2 ounce Apparol
  • 1 tsp Herbsaint
  • 3 dashes Medicine Man Aromatic Bitters
  • 2 Luxardo bourbon cherries
  • Chilled sparkling water

In a cocktail shaker, add one bourbon cherry and bitters, muddle the cherry gently by pressing the muddler down and twisting, just enough to smash the cherry, no need to break it apart.

Then add Herbsaint and Aperol. Add a handful of ice and shake well.

Strain into a coupe or cocktail glass then add chilled sparkling water and stir gently. Garnish with the remaining bourbon cherries and serve.

The Liberal

The Liberal or Liberation

The name of this cocktail refers to drinking spirits liberally. So I just adore this one. And, this cocktail features an Amari predominantly.

This drink was discovered by cocktail historians in the book Old Waldorf Bar Days, written by Albert Stevens Crocket and published in 1931. Apparently this book is a bit of a bore; it’s said to contain basically 70 gin martinis. Haha, I love gin, but yikes!

Fortunately, they were able to pull out a few forgotten beauties and this was one of them. It’s unclear who invented any of these cocktails and it’s hard to determine the origin, but at least we know the period in which these come from.

Before we get into building this cocktail, brands are very important here. As with many spirits, certain brands can be vastly different in flavor and complexity from each other.

  • 3/4 ounce Andy's Old No. 5 Bourbon
  • 3/4 ounce Italian Vermouth- Carpano Antica* is best for this cocktail
  • 3 dashes of Torani Amer*
  • 2 dashes of orange bitters

Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass with a handful of ice, stir well and strain into a stemmed glass.

* Carpano Antica is by far my favorite Italian vermouth and has the perfect flavor profile to marry with the Torani Amer. I would highly suggest making this brand your staple.

* Torani Amer is an aperitif which is also included in the ‘Bitters Liqueur’ category, you know... Amari. This specific Amari in made in the style of Amer Picon which is French. The Torani Amer has a higher proof than many of its fellow Amaros and brings a great orange forward flavor which is crucial for this cocktail. I think you will come to love it.

Bon Vivant

The Bon Vivant (Summer Variation)

This cocktail is a variation on the Old Pal. The first known use of the term Bon Vivant is from 1674, talk about vintage! Its meaning is a person having a cultivated, refined lifestyle, especially with respect to food and drink. If you were a Bon Vivant, you were basically a lover of life and good times.

  • 1 1/2 ounces of Elias Staley White Rye Whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce of St. Germain Liqueur
  • 3/4 ounce of dry vermouth
  • 1/2 tsp Cointreau
  • 1 orange twist or basil leaf

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice, strain into a coupe glass and add garnish.

Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned Cocktail

The Old Fashioned Cocktail is the beginning of cocktails...

Although the true origin of the “cocktail” is widely disputed, I tend to go with the most plausible and romantic stories for origins.

And so the story goes that the first documentation of the word “cocktail” in the US was in 1806 in a US newspaper, The Balance and Columbian Repository. The description was of something that “seems” to be the Old Fashioned Cocktail “rum, gin or brandy, significant water, bitters and sugar with a nutmeg garnish.” At the time it’s reported that this was the literal description of this drink.

By the 1860’s the cocktail came into vogue and was then called The Old Fashioned Cocktail. At this point in time all the “popular” cocktails were made with whiskey, Rye specifically since Rye Whiskey was more popular at the time than Bourbon. Later on in the early 1880’s Bourbon could be found in your Old Fashioned Cocktail as well.

The Perfect Old Fashioned Cocktail

  • 2 ounces of Staley Rye Whiskey
  • 3 dashes of Medicine Man Aromatic Bitters
  • 1/4 ounce of simple syrup
  • 1 large orange rind
  • 1 tsp distilled water
  • 1 Luxardo cocktail cherry

You will need a mixing glass/pint glass and an old fashioned or rocks glass, a muddler, a long handled spoon, a lighter or match and a paring knife or vegetable peeler.

First add your simple syrup, water, bitters and cherry to your mixing glass. Muddle all ingredients gently, just a light mash up in enough. Then add your whiskey and stir well.

Add a large ice cube to your glass or an ice sphere.

Then take your orange peel and heat the rind. You will want to hold a match or a lighter to it for about 20-30 seconds, making sure to get the entire rind. This will open the pores and allow the oil to come out freely and impart flavor into your beverage.

Drop your rind into the old fashioned glass with your ice cube; now you will strain the liquid from your mixing glass and pour over the ice cube and orange rind.

Give it a light stir and enjoy!

Sadie Hawkins' Punch

Sadie Hawkins' Punch

  • 1 bottle of Dandy John's White Corn Whiskey
  • 2 cups of pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 cups of grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 cup of Campari
  • 3/4 cup of rosemary simple syrup
  • 2 cups of chilled sparkling water
  • (Add sparkling water right before serving)

Garnish: Float rosemary sprigs and grapefruit slices