Vintage Cellars

From bar to kitchen bench: Failsafe Tips for Cooking with Spirits

A splash of wine into Nonna’s red sauce is a must, sure, but for many aspiring Carmy Berzattos, cooking with alcohol is expert level territory.


While sherry-spiked trifle and masala-laced tiramisu are low-key achievable, levelling up your savoury spreads with top-shelf spirits like vodka and gin are less intimidating than they seem. Bonus: you can mix up a cocktail to match at the same time (and good time management is essential in every kitchen). 

In the spirit of expanding horizons, we’ve selected three of our go-to classics — vodka, tequila, and amaro — and curated dinner party-perfect menu pairings that will have you giving big <The Bear> energy all round.

Vodka: Spicy Vodka Rigatoni + Parmesan Martini

For the Rigatoni 


1 shallot, diced
2 splashes (around 2 tbsp.) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. pepper
2 tbsp. red pepper flakes (add more for extra spice)
2 tbsp. oregano
3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
30g tube tomato paste
⅓ cup Grainshaker Corn Vodka
1 cup heavy cream
400g rigatoni or pipette pasta
½ cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Handful fresh basil, chopped (optional)


1. Boil a medium pot of water with a generous pour of salt.

2. Place a medium saucepan over low-medium heat and add olive oil. 

3. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally for around 5 minutes. 

4. Add your spices (salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano) and fry for 2-3 minutes. 

5. While the onion mix is cooking, place pasta in the pot of boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally until al dente, reserving half a cup of pasta water before draining. 

6. Add the garlic and butter to the onion mix, followed by the can of tomato paste to your saucepan.

7. Stir together for a minute or two before adding in the vodka followed by the heavy cream. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally. 

8. Add drained pasta to the saucepan and stir in Pecorino Romano cheese.

9. Once the cheese melts in with the sauce, add ½ cup of pasta water to emulsify the ingredients.

10. Plate, and garnish with basil and a sprinkle of cheese. Serves 4.

For the Parmesan Martini

Ingredients (serves 1)

45mL Grainshaker Corn Vodka
15mL Dolin Vermouth Dry 
Twist of lemon or 1-3 olives, for garnish

For the Parmesan Crisps

½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
½  tablespoon finely chopped thyme
½ tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper


1. Place vodka and vermouth in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with a scoop of ice.

2. Mix until chilled.

3. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon or olives. Serves 1. 

4. For the Parmesan crisps, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

5. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. 

6. Place 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan mix at a time on the tray, leaving room to spread.

7. Place tray in the oven and cook crisps for 5 minutes or until golden.

8. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Makes 10.

Tequila: Prawn Ceviche + Mexican Mule

For the Prawn Ceviche


455g peeled cooked prawns
¼ cup (60mL) Patron Silver Tequila
¼ cup (65mL) lime juice
¼ cup (60mL) red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
½ cup (120mL) cucumber, seeded and diced
1 ripe avocado
Pinch of sugar
1 tablespoon (15mL) of salt
Sprigs of coriander to garnish


1. Mix all ingredients together, except for avocado and coriander.

2. Wrap and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

3. Once you remove from the refrigerator, you will notice that the shrimp have turned to a light pink colour. If they need more time, place in the refrigerator once again for another hour.

4. In the meantime, place avocado in a food processor and blend until smooth.

5. Once the ceviche is ready, fold in the avocado, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and garnish with coriander. Serves 4. 

For the Mexican Mule

Ingredients (serves 1)

60mL (¼ cup) Patron Silver Tequila 
90mL (½ cup) Fever Tree Premium Ginger Beer
1 jalapeno
8 sprigs fresh mint leaves
15mL (¼ cup) fresh lime juice


1. Cut the jalapeno in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and stem and discard. Cut the jalapeno across in 2 sections and place in a cocktail shaker, along with the mint leaves. 

2. Muddle until the jalapeno juices are released and the mint is fragrant. 

3. Add ice to the shaker, along with the lime juice and tequila. Cover and shake vigorously for about 15-30 seconds. 

4. Place ice cubes in a cocktail glass and pour the tequila mixture over. 

5. Top with ginger beer and stir.

6. Garnish with lime slice, mint sprigs & jalapeno.

Amaro: Chocolate Cake + Amaro Espresso Martini

For the Chocolate Cake


20mL freshly brewed coffee
1¼ cups (250 g) white sugar
¾ cup (165 g) light brown sugar
180 g unsalted butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing the pan
¾ cup (70 g) + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
½ cup (125 ml) Okar Bitter Amaro
2 cups (250 g) all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
125 g bittersweet chocolate, grated or finely chopped
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup chopped walnuts


1. Place freshly brewed coffee, sugars and 1½ cups of water in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking to dissolve. 

2. Stir in the butter and ¾ cup cocoa and heat until butter is melted. Add amaro and pour into a large heatproof bowl. Set aside to cool completely.

3. Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Grease a 25cm springform pan and dust with the remaining 2 tablespoons cocoa powder.

4. Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in a bowl. Stir in the chocolate.

5. Whisk the eggs and vanilla into the cocoa-amaro mixture, then set a mesh strainer or sifter over the bowl and sift the flour mixture over the top.

6. Tip walnuts and any remaining chocolate pieces in the strainer into the bowl. Fold everything together to combine.

7. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. 

8. Allow to cool on a rack before removing sides of the pan. Dust with icing sugar to serve. Serves 8.

For the Amaro Espresso Martini

Ingredients (serves 1)

30mL espresso, cooled
45mL Mr Black Cold Brewed Coffee Liqueur
30mL Grainshaker Corn Vodka
7.5mL Grand Marnier
15mL Okar Bitter Amaro
1 pinch fine salt
1 tbsp. sugar
Orange twist (for serving)


1. Place coffee liqueur, espresso, vodka, Okar Bitter Amaro, Grand Marnier, and 1 pinch salt in a cocktail shaker. 

2. Fill with ice and shake until well chilled, about 10 seconds. 

3. With the sugar and remaining salt, combine and rim the glass.

4. Strain into the chilled, rimmed cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.