The Great Escape

Make These Campfire Cocktails Perfect for the Great Outdoors

Distiller Emily Vikre shares recipes, tips, and tricks for making drinks in the wilderness.

emily vikre shaking a camping cocktail
Photography by Hanna Voxland, design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

Growing up in Northern Minnesota, Emily Vikre was used to a certain kind of camping. This is a region where winter lasts nine months out of the year and you’re practically born with a canoe paddle in your hand. 

“We grew up in a community of campers and canoers and my dad was a very hardcore person,” she remembers. “It was very much, let’s rough it, travel light, and eat all our food from packets.”

But, after traveling to the East Coast, Vikre gained a new perspective. “I met people that would go for a weekend to the cabin, bring bottles of wine and chorizo burgers,” she says. “I was like, ‘Wow, now we’re talking!’ I like roughing it just fine, but I also like the finer things in life.” 

Now the co-owner of Vikre Distilling in Duluth, Minnesota, she took that full gamut of experience and channeled it into her book Camp Cocktails, which details camp-friendly barware, flask cocktails, make-ahead batch recipes, and explains foraged ingredients and garnishes—for every level of outdoor adventurer.

“I’ve gone on every kind of camping trip imaginable,” she says. “Being a distillery on the edge on the North Shore of Lake Superior, I was fielding a lot of questions about camping cocktails. I thought surely this book must already exist, but I loved the idea of connecting the land and water and creating drinks that evoke the spirit of that place.”

Vikre started by doing research with classic cocktails and at her bar and, along with her husband and their friends, would schlep spirits and equipment along to picnics or camping trips to test what could work in different environments.  

“Think about streamlining so you’re not bringing the full bar,” she recommends. “You can pack brown sugar, citrus, and herbs—things that are very easy to transportt. Remember that sugar and limes go with just about anything.”

She also says to think about the kind of drinker you are and what you prefer at home. If you know you like more bitter, boozy, stirred cocktails, those are great examples of things you can pre-batch in a thermos beforehand. 

“You can’t exactly camp with bottles of whiskey, Luxardo, vermouth, and sherry clinking around,” she says. “But if you want to make a Trident or a Negroni, you can make them at home undiluted and they will be stable for months.”

Other tips include avoiding citrus juice and dairy since the flavors won’t hold up and will get affected by changing temperatures. She says, instead, bring whole citrus and cut it fresh, or look for garnishes in nature like spruce tips or lilac. But you don’t have to be too fancy.

“I love beautiful barware in a bar. But, if you’re camping, you don’t need that all of that,” she says. “Leave the silver stirring spoon and crystal carafe at home. Your cocktails can still be special and exceptional in your camping cup.”

Vikre says, over the years, she’s had so many great memories of enjoying drinks in the great outdoors. There was the time she and her husband popped a bottle of Dom Perignon while hiking the Presidential mountain range in New Hampshire. Or a camping trip in Western Massachusetts where the menu consisted of pulled pork, fresh coleslaw, and Old Fashioneds by the fire. “A far cry from my dad and soy nuts,” she laughs.

But Vikre insists there is no right or wrong way to enjoy camping and drinks with friends. “Both being in nature and drinking cocktails have this celebratory element to them,” she says. “At their best, they’re about pulling you into a particular place in time to be deeply present.”

Next time you’re planning a camping trip, consider making one of these campfire cocktails.

camping cocktail in a flask
Photography by Hanna Voxland

Shetland Sweater

For an 8-ounce flask

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces blended Scotch
  • 1 ½ ounces Laird's bonded applejack
  • 1 ½ ounces Averna Amaro
  • 1 ½ ounces Amaro Nonino
  • 1 ½ teaspoons maple syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 ½ ounces water

Directions:
Combine all ingredients, stir gently to combine, and pour or funnel it into your carrying vessel.

Magia Oscura

For an 8-ounce flask

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces mezcal
  • 3 ounces sweet vermouth
  • ½ ounce Fernet Branca
  • 1 ½ ounces water

Directions:
Combine all ingredients, stir gently to combine, and pour or funnel it into your carrying vessel.

Campsite Mojito

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium-size fresh mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ ounce water
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 ounces white rum with crisp light flavors (eg. Flor de Caña)

Directions:
In a shaker or water bottle, gently muddle the 6 mint leaves. Add the sugar, water, and lime juice, and stir or swirl until the sugar starts to dissolve. Add the rum and about ¾ cup ice cubes. Shake vigorously for about 10 seconds, then dump the cocktail—ice and all!—into your cup. Garnish with a mint sprig. Settle into a hammock and let your cares drift away.

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Jess Mayhugh is the editorial director of Food & Drink for Thrillist, and may need to step up her usual straight-whiskey-from-a-flask camping routine. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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