December 31, 2009

And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give us a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

For our New Year's Eve post, I'm of course using champagne, but I'm doing a little something different with it. Not a lot of non-lushes realize that champagne makes a great mixer. You get the effervescence of club soda with the flavor of wine, plus hell, anytime the champagne gets broken out, it's a party in and of itself.

This drink has many many stories as to it's origin, but it seems most likely that it originated just after World War I. Some say it was first made with cognac, which I can see, because cognac and champagne would have a lot of similar flavors going on, both being grape-based spirits, but my version, which could perhaps be considered the British version (as I am an unrepentant Anglophile), is made with gin. Named after the rapid-firing artillery piece that proved so useful to the French in WW I (contrary to popular belief in the US, the French are not the cheese-eating surrender monkeys they're so frequently portrayed as), I present to you, the last drink on this blog for 2009...
The French 75 Cocktail

1 oz gin
3/4 oz lemon juice
2 bar spoons simple syrup
champagne to top

Shake the first three ingredients with ice and strain into a small champagne flute. Add champagne to top. Garnish, if desired, with a lemon peel spiral and/or maraschino cherry.
Rather than the single-minded sweetness that so often plagues champagne, this really is a complex drink. The gin adds a little crispness that's most welcome here, and the lemon juice and small amount of sugar syrup also tweak the flavor profile of your champagne, making for a really interesting drink. The only problem is that it's waaaaay too easy to down two or three of these in rapid succession. And then, well, the eponymous machine gun may feel like it's opening fire on your sobriety...but hell, it's New Year's Eve!

Thanks for sticking with me so far, dear readers. I hope to keep things lively and interesting for you well into 2010 and beyond.

French 75 Cocktail

December 26, 2009

"And of course, you remember the Gray Rabbit and the Blue Chipmunk?"

First of all, if any of you know what movie the line I used for the title came from, I'll be very much surprised. If you do, drop me a line so I can applaud you.

Now, on to the drink. I must say up front that I would never have tried this drink were it not for scomorokh over at "Science of Drink." He featured this one about a week ago, and I sampled it and quite enjoyed it. He also takes photos that put mine to shame. Go on. Look at them. I'm almost ashamed to post mine, but no matter. I tried something new with my photo on this one, and I think you'll find it amusing.

This drink is sort of a herbal, woodsy flavor in a glass. With a cherry. It's called...
The Yellow Daisy

1 1/2 oz London dry gin
1 1/2 oz dry vermouth
3/4 oz Grand Marnier
a few drops of absinthe

Shake all with ice, strain into chilled glass. Add a cherry.
Simple enough, but it's really quite interesting. All those botanical notes from the gin, the vermouth and that little bit of absinthe in there really go to work, pairing up and sounding off just like some sort of alcoholic square dance (and I'm of the opinion that if you plan to go square dancing, you're going to need some alcohol to live with that decision). The little bit of the sweet orange flavor from the Grand Marnier shines through, and the cherry is just sweet dyed icing on the cake. Try it out.

Yellow Daisy Cocktail

December 24, 2009

"I got a lot of problems with you people!"

Happy Belated Festivus, dear readers. I should have a new drink for you this weekend. For now, I'm self-medicating in advance, the better to deal with my family tomorrow...

And when that drink gets posted, you'll know I'll have made it through my family time unindicted, and that will be a true Festivus Miracle.

December 20, 2009

Make way for the seaway...

I was bumbling around CocktailDB the other night, trying to find uses for dry vermouth. I picked up a second bottle for Thanksgiving, thinking that what I had on hand wouldn't be enough. Ha. Silly me. I had MORE than enough for my friends at Thanksgiving, and so I've been trying to use up some of this stuff...

Well, I fumbled my way through the database, and I landed on this first glance it seemed like another Manhattan variant, but this one has 3 parts vermouth to 2 parts whiskey. Canadian, of course, given the name. I tried it and liked it, and am now featuring it here.
The St. Lawrence Cocktail

2 1/4 oz dry vermouth
1 1/2 oz Canadian Club whiskey
3/4 oz Grand Marnier
dash of Angostura bitters

shake well with ice, strain into cocktail glass.
What's interesting in this drink is how the whiskey plays backup to the's still well balanced, it's just not what you expect. The orange flavors of the Grand Marnier keep it from veering too far to the dry side of things, though, and make for a nicely tuned flavor. Give it a passport required.

St. Lawrence Cocktail

December 17, 2009

"In a pagoda, she orders a soda; banana-fanana...hey diggity!"

OK, first, before you wonder if I'm having some sort of transient ischemic attack and talking funny, watch this video. I'll wait.

All done? Excellent. The song is an old one, as evidenced by it's presence in the "Jeeves and Wooster"'s called "Nagasaki" and dates back to 1928. I figured, since in my last post I was experimenting with reconstructing the old Jamaican Ginger, sans paralytics, I might as well make one up of my own creation. And so I give you tonight's drink:
Hot Ginger and Dynamite

3/4 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz Dubonnet
3/4 oz London dry gin
1/4 oz Jamaica Ginger (or equivalent. I wound up using a barspoon each of ginger syrup, ginger beer base and ginger extract)

Shake all with ice, strain into small cordial glass.
It's small, it's spicy, it's complex, and it'll make a great digestif. The gin and Dubonnet work nicely together, as always, the lemon and ginger play along, and all in all, it makes for a really interesting little concoction. I think if I had a spicier ginger extract, things would be even better. I'll have to keep plugging away at that.

Hot Ginger and Dynamite

December 10, 2009

Adventures in Illicit Ingredients

This drink cannot be made the way it was originally intended. It just can't. One of the crucial ingredients no longer exists. And frankly, it's a good thing that's the case. The original version of this drink used an ingredient called "Jamaica Ginger," which was a patent medicine of the 1930s, a 150-proof nostrum of ethanol and ginger, that managed to dodge Prohibition agents, at least for a short while, by virtue of being "medicinal." However, much as Listerine now adds an agent that makes its mouthwash "non-potable," the T-Men of yesteryear insisted that changes be made in the formulation of Jamaica Ginger to discourage it from being quaffed straight. A bit of a battle ensued, with bootleggers replacing ginger solids that existed in the drink (a measure by which Department of Agriculture inspectors would test) with actual pieces of ginger, or other adulterants like castor oil or molasses.

One day, however, a pair of bootleggers who were too smart for their own good, Harry Gross and Max Reisman, tried adding a plasticizing agent, tri-ortho cresyl phosphate, or TOCP, to the mix. It passed the Treasury and Department of Agriculture tests with no problems, and was assumed at the time to be non-toxic. It wasn't. It wound up being a neurotoxin, and scores of Jamaica Ginger drinkers wound up with severe, often permanent, cases of peripheral neuropathy...they lost feeling in their hands and feet. Leg and hand muscles atrophied. It's estimated that between 30 and 50 thousand people in the US were affected by this adultering agent. Jamaica Ginger, sometimes called "jake," was quickly yanked from the market.

Today, there are several ginger spirits on the market, and it's easy enough to make ginger-beer base, but I decided, on a whim, to try to make a rudimentary ginger extract. I soaked about an ounce of shredded ginger in enough 190-proof neutral grain spirits to cover it, and let it sit in the fridge for a week or so. It's crude, but it'll do. Had I some distillation apparatus, I could perhaps make a better quality jake. But then I'd likely have ATF and T-Men beating down my door. I'd rather avoid that. So I just combined some ginger-beer base, a fraction of an ounce (maybe 1/16th) of ginger extract, and a little leftover ginger liqueur. Seems to work, although it merits mentioning that even the most meticulously prepared ginger solution eventually loses most of it's pungency, in as little as two weeks. For best results, make your ingredients as fresh as possible.

There's more than a few drinks out there that call for Jamaica Ginger, and I'm going to try a few over the next few weeks. Tonight, though, I thought I'd try one that sounds appropriate. For me, the name conjures up visions of a ridiculously hot area on a steam ship. You may think that sounds uncomfortable, but given that the high-temperature here today was in the single digits, I'll take that trade-off, thanks. And so I present to you...
Hot Deck Cocktail

2 dashes Jamaica Ginger (two eyedroppers of ginger extract, two barspoons each ginger beer base and ginger liqueur)
1 oz sweet vermouth
3 oz Canadian Club

shake all with ice, strain into chilled glass.
As long as you've got fresh ginger extract, beer, and liqueur, this should be a remarkably potent drink. The nose-searing character of the ginger should meld with the slight spice of the Canadian Club (it's got a little rye in it, after all), and be tempered just a bit by the sweetness of the vermouth. Oh, yes...this is a fine one for those cold winter nights. Plus, tons of booze, for that extra warming effect.

If you're a cocktail enthusiast or professional that's come up with a better, more accurate reproduction of that hoary old Jamaican Ginger, do let me know how you made it, won't you? I'm a ginger fanatic, after all...

Hot Deck Cocktail

December 9, 2009

And now I'm back, from outer space. Or at least Chicago.

Oh, and what a libation-filled weekend I had, too, friends. Mixing drinks at a birthday party, mixing drinks at a combination housewarming/holiday party, making a pilgrimage to the new Chicago Trader Vic's and befriending my bartender...oh glory and trumpets it was a swell weekend.

But now I'm back, and after a weekend with no small amount of Tiki drinks (three of 'em at Trader Vic's alone), I figured I'd go for something a little more, well, sane and easy to make. This is yet another classic from the Savoy Drink Book, and is yet another variant on a whiskey cocktail. This one, however, is called:
The Commodore Cocktail

2 barspoons simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
juice of 1/4 lemon or 1/2 lime
1 1/2 oz Canadian Club (the Savoy Drink Book calls it, so that's good enough for me)

Combine all in shaker with ice, shaking well to combine. Strain into cocktail glass.
Yep, another variant on a whiskey cocktail or whiskey sour, but still...I never really get tired of them. Even in the little tweaks from drink to drink, there's still enough variety to keep things interesting. In this case, the lime juice and orange bitters are strong enough together to keep it from getting too sweet, and the Canadian Club has just enough heft to add just a little spice to things. It's a nice, very reasonably sized and tasty drink for a civilized gathering.

And speaking of civilized gatherings, I'll have to tell you all some time about some of the fantastic spirits my host at the housewarming/holiday party was good enough to share with me...oh, mercy, those were good.

Commodore Cocktail

December 4, 2009

An ever-so-brief hiatus.

There won't be any posts this weekend, as I'm headed down to Chicago tomorrow afternoon to visit some old friends. I should resume next week, though.

December 1, 2009

If you make it with shoddy knockoffs, is it an Astroturf Cocktail?

This was the third drink option at Thanksgiving this year, and before you even ask, I have no idea from whence the name springs. It doesn't look like grass, it doesn't taste like grass, and it certainly isn't kicked up by the cleats of football players (US football or the rest of the world football...this is one happy area where the terms overlap). It does, however, make for a very good drink.
Turf Cocktail

2 oz London dry gin
3/4 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz Maraschino liqueur
dash absinthe
dash citrus bitters (orange, grapefruit or Jamaican are all good here, in their own ways)

Build all in mixing glass over ice, stirring well to combine and chill. Strain into cocktail glass, garnish with lemon zest.
It's herbaceous, which I suppose could contribute to the name...but more than that, it's got a clean, crisp, woodsy character to it that really fit in well with the fall weather on Thanksgiving Day.

Now, of course, it's moving into winter, and more hearty drinks will have to be mixed. Perhaps some mulled wine or hot buttered rum is in the cards? Or a Tom and Jerry? Who can tell? Stay tuned, true believers!

Turf Cocktail

November 29, 2009

Can't get theah from heah...

This was another libation I served at Thanksgiving, and again, it will require a little prep for one of the ingredients. However, it's non-alcoholic, so little Johnny and Susie can have one, as well as Mabel, your tee-totaling great aunt, thrice removed on your mother's side. I got this recipe from the November/December 2009 issue of Imbibe Magazine, and they built it thus:
New England Buck (mocktail)

4 oz apple cider
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz sage and juniper syrup (recipe follows)
2 dashes orange bitters
ginger beer (I used mostly ginger ale and a splash of ginger beer base I had sitting around)

Combine all but ginger beer with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake to mix. Strain into an ice-filled double old-fashioned glass and top with ginger beer. Gently stir and serve.
Sage and Juniper Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
5 fresh sage leaves
10 juniper berries, cracked in mortar and pestle

Heat ingredients in saucepan until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, let stand 10 minutes, then strain into a clean squeeze bottle or glass container. Keeps for up to a month in the fridge.
The cider's natural tartness plays with the really fresh flavors of the sage and juniper and makes something that's really unique and crisp-tasting. The ginger gives it a little warmth, too. It's really an appealing drink, and a good one to serve at any fall or winter family gatherings. It would also work well for, say, a brunch with certain family members who don't believe in mimosas before noon.

New England Buck

November 26, 2009

This drink is not kosher, halal or safe for vegetarians.

As I said, as long as I had leftover base ingredients from my Thanksgiving mixology experiments, I would share the fruits of my research and testing. And tonight, I have something that may shock, terrify and amaze you. Those of you with sensitive dispositions, please leave the room now. If you have small children...why the hell are they reading this blog with you?

Tonight's drink requires you to devote several hours over the better part of a week making one of the ingredients, and the guide for that will follow the main recipe. Believe me, though, it's well worth the effort. Behold! I give you...
The Bacon Old-Fashioned

2 ounces bacon-infused bourbon (recipe follows)
1/4-1/2 oz maple syrup (less if you use Grade B, which is stronger in flavor)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
orange zest
Urban Moonshine Maple bitters (optional, but if you have them, great)

Place orange zest in the bottom of an Old-Fashioned glass with Angostura bitters and maple syrup. Gently muddle to express oils. Add ice and bacon-infused bourbon, stirring gently to combine. Add two dashes Maple bitters to top.
Bacon-Infused bourbon (makes about 750 ml)

750 ml bourbon (nothing too pricy...I used Evan Williams)
4 strips of bacon
a 1-liter Mason jar with lid

Slowly cook bacon over low heat, in a cast iron skillet if you have a well-seasoned one, reserving drippings (which should total about 1 ounce). Eat the bacon or set aside to eat later. Allow drippings to cool slightly. Meanwhile pour the bourbon into your scrupulously clean Mason jar (rinse well with boiling water, and swish a little high-proof neutral grain spirits around inside if you have them) and add the bacon drippings. Store at room temperature overnight (or about eight hours) then move to the fridge for three days. Move to the freezer for one day, and then strain out solidified drippings. Run bourbon through a paper coffee filter, rebottle and refrigerate. Bourbon should keep for several weeks in the fridge.
Yes. Bacon-infused bourbon. No, I have not lost my mind. It really is fantastically good...the sweetness of the bourbon is the predominant flavor to begin, but then the smokiness of the bacon makes itself known. It's also wonderful for horrifying your friends when you tell them what you've made. Well, horrify or delight...the reactions usually go to one of those two extremes.

Bacon Old-Fashioned

November 24, 2009

A new homemade ingredient

I've been making a whole slew of tinctures and other homemade ingredients lately, some of which you'll hear about in the post-Thanksgiving drinks. But one that I recently started mentioning here in my drinks is "Jamaican bitters." Let me tell you how I make them.
Jamaican Bitters

Zest of two grapefruit, with as little pith as possible. A Microplane grater works well for this.
2 slices fresh ginger, with skin still on
6 allspice berries
6 whole cloves
1 inch of cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
6 tbsp neutral grain sprits (the higher the proof, the better. I used 190-proof...basically generic Everclear.)

In a mortar and pestle or food processor, break up the spices into small pieces, but don't pulverize. Macerate spices and grapefruit zest in neutral grain spirits for a week. After a week, add two tablespoons of water and filter through a coffee filter or double-thickness of cheesecloth into a small jar or used (and well cleaned!) bitters bottle.

Makes a scant 1/2 cup.
This has a predominantly grapefruit flavor, as you'd expect, but it's got an underlayer of spice that really makes it interesting. If you've got a week in which to make them, it's really a fun flavor to play around with.

Aw, how can I stay away from you guys?

Ok, I stumbled across a drink that sounded too interesting to keep under my hat until after Turkey Day here in the US...I went looking for drinks that might use some of the 1/3 remaining bottle of Dubonnet in my fridge, and while this one takes only two barspoons of it, that's still two barspoons I don't have to contend with anymore. Plus, it's sort of unusual in its proportions, so that's worth something, as well. And third, it's got an interesting name, and thus I bring it to you this evening.
Alfonso (Special) Cocktail

1 dash Angostura bitters
2 dashes Jamaican bitters (or 2 dash Bittermens Grapefruit bitters...this is my addition but it works)
2 barspoons Dubonnet (or, lacking that, sweet vermouth)
1 oz London dry gin
1 oz dry vermouth
2 oz Grand Marnier

Shake well with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
With two full ounces of Grand Marnier, you may think that a sweet citrus flavor would dominate, and it's there, make no mistake...but the bitters and gin and dry vermouth and even the Dubonnet to a degree help temper that, and while the predominant flavor is of course orange, it's still got enough other things going on in there that it's not too monotonous. It has some other citrus notes in there, some spice, and some botanicals. As long as you serve it in a scrupulously chilled glass after no less than 30 seconds of shaking, it's a great just functions best when ice cold.

Alfonso (Special) Cocktail

November 23, 2009

Just a heads up.

No, I haven't forgotten that I have a blog. I'm just waiting. You see, I've got some great drinks for Thanksgiving planned, and I want to make sure I've got some of the base ingredients left over so that I can prepare them for the blog. Trust me, they're spectacular. So just bear with me, gang, and I'll have some new stuff featured soon.

November 15, 2009

Adventures in horrible drink names

I was just hanging out in the chat room for Tiki Bar TV, and an unofficial challenge was hanging in the air. Create a drink or shot themed around "sweat." I decided to go with something that I've termed:
Frog Sweat

1 oz absinthe
1/2 oz gin
3 dashes Jamaican bitters (or Bittermens grapefruit bitters if you don't feel like waiting a week while your homemade Jamaican bitters mature)

build in a chilled shot glass.
Very spur of the moment, but the name's kinda whimsical, in that absinthe is traditionally associated with the French, those Frenchy-froggy-froggy-Frenchies. Tastes good, though.

Here's a quick photo I snapped off of it.
Frog Sweat

For the full list of Sweat themed cocktails (some of which may not be very good...they wound up drifting toward the theoretical), please visit Dogs and cats, living together...mass hysteria.

November 13, 2009

If this drink is Irish, then Sean Connery's a Spaniard...

As promised, I'm bringing you a drink this time that's about as un-Irish as you can get, despite it's name. You see, this one is named, I suspect, for it's color, not it's cultural awareness. You'll see why when you run down the list of ingredients...gin, Cointreau, and green curaçao. Yes, green curaçao. Remember, it comes in many colors, but only one flavor. If you don't have green curaçao and don't feel like tracking down a bottle of it, just use triple-sec (which, if you'll recall, is "white curaçao") and add a couple drops of green food dye to it. That way, you can mix up your own:
Hibernian Special

1 1/2 oz London Dry Gin
1 1/2 oz Cointreau
1 1/2 oz green curaçao (or your homemade equivalent)
splash of lemon juice

shake all with ice, strain into cocktail glass. toast in the direction of the Auld Sod, or possibly the Caribbean.
Yes, as Data said about Aldebaran Whiskey in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "It is green." I suspect that's what made this drink's creator think of Ireland. Perhaps he was homesick, perhaps he was just really quite drunk, who knows. That being said, it's not bad's very orangey, but you get the botanicals from the gin and the sourness from the lemon keeping it out of cough-syrup territory. Worth a shot. But then please wash it down with something authentically Irish...Jamesons or Guinness or something. Even a wee dram of poitín, if you've a mind...

Hibernian Special

November 11, 2009

Oh, ye think ye're a true Scotsman, do ye?

Yes, it's been a bit since our last drink. Sorry, all.

I'll make up for it by writing this one in a Scottish dialect. Set your brains to Sean Connery mode.

Thish drink ish shimple enough to make, but it'sh shtill quite'sh got four very shimple ingredientsh, and while none of them are Shcottish, I enjoy it jusht the shame.
The Old Chomlean Cocktail

1 1/2 oz Canadian Club whishkeh
3/4 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz Grand Marnier
3/4 oz lemon juicshe

Shake all with ische and shtrain into your chilled cocktail glassh.
OK, enough with the Connery, before he starts telling off-color jokes about Alex Trebek's mother. I have no idea why I opted for that, apart from perhaps the word "Chomleans" having a Connery-esque chewy feel in the mouth when you say it. Anyway, this is a simple drink, but a good one. You don't need or want an expensive whiskey in it, just one strong enough to hold up to the various orange-y liqueurs and the lemon juice. In some ways, it's similar to a whiskey sour, but it's got enough different from it that it's worth a taste.

Next time, a drink with a true Irish name that contains absolutely nothing Irish.

The Old Chomlean Cocktail

November 2, 2009

Lone Pine Mall serves this drink in their food court.

I was nosing around some of my cocktail guides, looking at the pages that I'd dogeared for future mixing and consumption, and stumbled across this old beauty. It's another one from the great old Savoy Cocktail Book, and it's called:
The Lone Tree Cooler

juice of 1/4 lemon
juice of an orange
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1 oz London dry gin
1 oz grenadine
club soda to top

shake all but club soda with ice, strain into tumbler, top up with soda.
This is really a nifty drink...the flavor is so much more than the sum of it's parts. I find it really hard to describe, but it's so simple to make, perhaps you should try it for yourself and see what you think? Yes? Hmm?


Lone Tree Cooler

October 31, 2009

It's Halloween! This calls for a spooky-looking drink!

Ah yes, Halloween. A time when bartenders bust out their Bailey's, their corn syrup laden grenadine, and some sort of schnapps or another and make a shot that looks like brains. Lovely. Doesn't taste like anything you'd care to drink any other time, but it's got the panache you need for a good Halloween drink.

How about I give you something that looks appropriate and tastes good too? Here's an oldie-but-goodie from the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book:
Albemarle Fizz

juice of 1/2 lemon (about 3/4 oz or so)
1/4 oz simple syrup
1 1/2 oz gin
2 bar spoons raspberry syrup

Shake lemon juice, syrup and gin with ice, strain into glass. Top with seltzer and add two bar spoons raspberry syrup.
There you go. It's a modified gin sour, but with the added benefit of a little fizz, and the lovely, somewhat bloody look of the more dense raspberry syrup settling in the bottom of the glass. Tip tip hurrah, boils and ghouls!

Albemarle Fizz

October 24, 2009

Mixology Monday XLIII: Vermouth

0EE1C1B7-51D9-464A-9FD4-3362608E69F5.jpgYes friends, it's already time for another MxMo, and October's theme is the fortified wine we know and love; vermouth, and is hosted by fellow lush Vidiot over at Cocktailians. Vidiot says:
Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to present a delectable vermouth cocktail for us all to drool over. Sweet/Italian or dry/French vermouth are fair game of course, as are quinquina, aperitif wines like Pineau des Charentes, or for that matter any fortified, aromatized wine such as Lillet (red or white), or Dubonnet (ditto.)
So, I figured one of my favorite drinks, with a little rejiggering, would fit that bill quite nicely.

First of all, I've been remiss, in my previous Mixology Monday posts, in thanking the booze bloggers that have hosted them previously, so let me correct that now: Vidiot, Chris, Amelia and RumDood, thanks for taking so much time to nudge and massage my half-drunken posts into a valid submission. You all have made me feel most welcome in the MxMo world. And now, on to the hooch.

You may remember my take on the Manhattan, the Golden Manhattan, which I named for it's reflecting the "Golden Ratio," a+b:a::a:b. That is, 2 parts whiskey to 1 part vermouth, and 2 parts dry vermouth to 1 part sweet. Normally, I like to make it with rye whiskey, but I stumbled across a new bourbon at the store today, and it was marked down by $9, so feeling frugal, I figured I'd grab a bottle and give it a whirl. And then, I also received some new bitters in the mail today, from Urban Moonshine and thought that they might a nice and novel addition to my drink as well; plus they came in nifty little sprayers, so that upped the coolness factor. Believing that the brands matter in this concoction, I'm going to name names (but not in a Elia Kazan sort of way), but feel free to jigger to your liking and taste if you want to. And so I present you with my contribution to Mixology Monday XLIII;
The Golden Manhattan (Redux)

3 parts Jefferson's Very Small Batch Kentucky Bourbon
1 part Noilly Prat dry vermouth
1/2 part Noilly Prat sweet vermouth
3 sprays (or dashes) Urban Moonshine Maple bitters (divided)
1 spray (or dash) Urban Moonshine Citrus bitters

Combine bourbon, vermouth, and two sprays/dashes of Maple bitters in mixing glass with ice, stirring well to combine. Strain into Double Old Fashioned glass, add one spray/dash each of Maple and Citrus bitters.
The distillers of Jefferson's bourbon say that it's got a nose of vanilla and peach, and a taste that's smooth and sweet, with hints of citrus, and that's not far off. It pairs incredibly well with the hint of maple from the bitters, and the always excellent vermouths from Noilly Prat really balance the drink, mellowing the often harsh burn from the bourbon. This is an awesome variation on my traditional way of making a Manhattan, a little sweeter and more nuanced than the rye-based version, and definitely one I'd like to return to.

Golden Manhattan (Redux)

It's worth noting, I feel, that I paid for all these name brand liquors out of pocket. Just in case anyone's worried about me getting kickbacks...I'm far too small a blog to be sent free product. In the off chance that it ever happens, I will indicate that the product was sent as for promotional consideration. I will, however, be honest in my reviewing of it...if it tastes like fetid dingo's kidneys, I will say as much.

October 22, 2009

Perfect for your speakeasy or other den of iniquity!

I have returned! I know, you all missed me terribly. All twelve of you. Hopefully you'll find my libation tonight tasty enough that you'll forgive me my absence.

Tonight's drink is similar to the Whiskey Sour and Ward Eight cocktails I've previously featured, but it has something in it that neither of them have: vermouth. It's like the Whiskey Sour and Manhattan made a beautiful, alcoholic baby together. Here's how to make one of your own:
Scofflaw Cocktail

2 oz rye whiskey
1 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz grenadine
orange and/or grapefruit bitters, to taste

combine all in a mixing glass and shake well with ice. Strain into cocktail glass.
As I said, similar to that classic Whiskey Sour, but a little different. The vermouth adds a little more complexity, while it still walks that line between sweet and sour. Definitely a nice change of pace from martinis and Manhattans. Despite the name, though, don't go drinking from an open container while speeding past a cop on your way to that back-room poker game. It'll all end in tears.

Scofflaw Cocktail

October 20, 2009

Yes, I'm aware it's been well over a week since my last entry...

No, I am not dead.

I will endeavor to post again soon. Things have just been a little crazy, and money for cocktail ingredients a little short.

Soon, Precious. Soon.

October 10, 2009

With a fanfare of trumpets, I proudly present drink #100

Wow. 100 cocktails posted. It took just over 6 months to get here...I'm not sure if that's too slow or too quick.

I promised you a special ingredient for drink number one-hundred, and I shall deliver. I've been itching for months, nay, years, to sample this one, and at every turn, I found it too expensive, too hard to procure, too poorly reviewed a brand to sample it. But then, glory and trumpets, Mr. Frodo, my favorite local distiller, Great Lakes Distillery, obtained FDA and ATF approval, and now I have it. What is it, you may ask?


Yes, I have tamed the Green Fairy. Well, not really. Turns out multitudes of nations have had what I like to call "cranio-rectal insertion disorder*" when it came to Absinthe for nearly a hundred years. You see, they seemed to think that absinthe made you crazy, because of an ingredient that was contained therein. Grande wormwood, a bittering and flavoring agent in absinthe, was widely regarded as a psychoactive substance. It made good men mad and mad men worse. It contained thujone, which the devil used to slick his beard. As it turns out, while thujone isn't exactly sunshine and daisies if consumed straight, absinthe contains thujone in such small amounts as to be damn near non-existent. Yes, the US government, and governments around the world, decided to stamp out a non-existent problem by making the whole thing illegal, with little to no fact checking. Gee, that's never happened before. *cough-Prohibition* *cough-cough-hemp-cough*

Excuse me. Something in my throat. So sorry.

Anyway, my local distillery has made absinthe, and as soon as I learned it was available, I asked my awesome local grocery if they could procure some for me. They did, and I now have two 375ml bottles of Amerique 1912 Absinthe Verte. GLD also makes an Absinthe Rouge, flavored with hibiscus, among other botanical, but I haven't found those nearby yet. Perhaps when I finally tour the distillery I can procure a bottle.

There are dozens of classic drink recipes that call for absinthe. Many of them acknowledge that a decent pastis can substitute, with somewhat inferior results. However, I decided to go with a drink that has only three ingredients to introduce this spirit, so that the flavors can be easily discerned. It really helps to make this with ingredients that are familiar to you, so that you can pick out just how much flavor absinthe brings to the party, even in small amounts. So here is our 100th drink:
The Absinthe Martini

2 oz good quality gin (I used Rehorst, from Great Lakes Distillery, natch**)
1/2 oz dry vermouth (I used my workhorse, Noilly Prat)
1/2 tsp absinthe

Build over ice in mixing glass, stirring well to combine. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.
I figured I couldn't go wrong pairing two spirits from the same distillery, and I was definitely right. The sharp and sweet flavor from the ginseng and sweet basil in the Rehorst gin pairs so nicely with the anise notes of their Amerique 1912 that you just wanna lay down and cry. The botanicals of all three ingredients mesh in a wonderful way, making the whole drink sing with a slightly acerbic character that I just love.

While the Amerique 1912 doesn't louche (cloud up) as much as many other types of pastis do, flavorwise it's such a wonderfully balanced spirit that it's general transparency is easily overlooked. I can't wait to feature absinthe in more drinks along the way. (I can tell you that using it as a rinse in a classic Sazerac is a thing of beauty.)

So with this exotic ingredient under our belt, it is my hope that you've enjoyed reading and experimenting with me, and that you'll stick with me as I ease on down the road. Here's to another 100 drinks, however long it takes to get there...the company's the great thing on a trip like this, and I'm glad you all have come along.

Absinthe Martini

* - that is to say, they had their collective heads up their collective asses.

** - Definitely not a commercial...that was a declaration of love.

October 4, 2009

Yes, I know, it's been a week. I am ashamed.

Sorry, everyone...this past week has just been not at all conducive to photographing and waxing rhapsodic about drinks...I had my first real challenge of the new job come up (I didn't suck at it, so that's encouraging!) and rehearsals for my current show have gotten a little more frequent, since we're opening in two weeks.

That said, I made it inside the "one week" threshold I set a couple weeks back...that's gotta count for something, right?

Tonight's libation is another one with a silly name...however, it's venerable, dating back at least to the 1930 publication of the Savoy Cocktail Book. While it sounds like something a little old lady would sip in a swanky hotel lobby, unless granny's packing a couple pounds of pig iron in her purse, it's definitely not. In fact, it's far better than the name promises.
Mah-Jongg Cocktail

2 oz London dry gin
1/2 oz Cointreau or triple sec or white curaçao
1/2 oz rum (classically, it uses Bacardi, but I like a nice amber Bermuda rum in it for a hint of color)
dash of Bittermens Grapefruit bitters

combine all over ice and stir until well-mixed. Strain into cocktail glass.
In some ways, with the three very different liquors mixed, this could be viewed as a progenitor to the Long Island Iced Tea...however, this is a hell of a lot better than that hoary old chestnut. The citrus and the gin blend just as well as citrus and rum do...making the combination of the three an unusual but complimentary thing. I like throwing a little grapefruit bitters in there just to pull the sweetness back a little bit, but that's just my take. It's quite a nice drink, and one that I plan to have again sometime soon.

Mah-Jongg Cocktail

As an aside, this is drink number 99 to appear on my blog. I had been hoping and seeking out a very special ingredient for drink number 100, and by gum, I've succeeded. So next time, on a Very Special™ "Urbane, Not Cosmopolitan," you'll see a fun new ingredient that I've never featured before! Woo hoo! Exciting stuff!

September 27, 2009

Mixology Monday XLII: Dizzy Dairy

0EE1C1B7-51D9-464A-9FD4-3362608E69F5.jpg It's time for another Mixology Monday! This month's theme is dairy, which for the purposes of the challenge, will allow milk, cream, eggs, butter, cheese, yogurt, curds, and anything else you can think of (kefir martini, anyone?). I've seldom had any milk-based drinks...the last one I tried was a White Plush cocktail, I think, made with gin, milk and Maraschino liqueur (it foamed all over my counter after shaking). So for this challenge, rather than risk mopping up gin and milk afterwards, I opted to try a different drink, another old recipe from Charles H. Baker Jr.'s "The Gentleman's Companion: Being an Exotic Drinking Book, or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask," which proved to be tasty, though very rich.
Tiger's Milk No. III

1 1/2 oz brandy
1 1/2 oz Jamaican rum (I used Appleton)
2/3 cup half & half
simple syrup to taste
Dale DeGroff's flip spices to garnish (cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and orange zest)

Shake all but spices with crushed ice and pour into a large goblet. Sprinkle with spices to garnish.
As I said, this is an incredibly rich drink, as you're sipping half & half cut with two shots of liquor...oddly, though, it doesn't feel strong, just rich. The spices really add to it, and help it from being too one-note. I'd say this is a great one for late fall or winter, but this close to the autumnal equinox, it's still a little heavy. Tasty, though.

Tiger's Milk No. III

September 24, 2009

Hey gang! Long time no see!

I know, I's been a week since my last post. Though it has not been devoid of interest...I've started my new job, my iPod died and I tried to play Dr. Frankenstein and resurrect it (sadly, it went to that big iPod kingdom in the sky, but the Apple Store replaced it free because they're awesome and I didn't do anything wrong to it and it was not even two weeks out of warranty) and tonight, thanks to my job, I managed to procure a bit of dry ice. And if you've ever played with dry ice, you know how awesome it can be. However, I wound up getting quite a bit of it. And because I have pets that are rather low to the ground, and because CO₂ sinks, I really was kind of anxious to get it all sublimated and out of my hair. So I figured, "What the hell? Might as well toss it into a drink!" And it is through that circuitous and rather tortured train of thought that I arrived at tonight's drink, in full Mad Scientist mode:
Hell Broth

2 1/2 oz gold rum (I used Mount Gay Eclipse)
1/4 oz triple sec
1/4 oz real pomegranate grenadine
4 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters
dry ice

Combine all but dry ice in mixing glass, stirring well to combine. Pour into small goblet and (using gloves!) add dry ice (I used the equivalent of a ping-pong ball's volume of dry ice). The intelligent person would use a straw to drink it, if only to avoid small bits of frostbite on their lips.
I was going for a vaguely spicy, vaguely sweet thing here, and I think I achieved it. The Bittermens, with it's spice and chocolate notes, really lends itself to more amber liquors, and the pomegranate and orange notes of the grenadine and triple sec pair well with those flavors. The dry ice also adds a little bit, as that bite from the carbon dioxide sublimating in your glass sort of tempers the heat. For a completely improvised drink, I think this shows potential. Plus, you could serve it for your Halloween guests, and be all spooky and stuff. Blah blah!

Hell Broth

September 17, 2009

short, sweet, and to the point.

Or in this case, tall, spicy and to the point.

I finally, after almost 10 months of being unemployed, got a job. It's part time, but it promises to be fun. I go for orientation next week Tuesday. I'm very excited, so much so that I'm not even gonna do a fancy drink tonight. I'm drinking something extremely simple, but so damned good. C'mon...celebrate with me!
Double Bourbon (Rocks)

3 oz Bulleit Bourbon (if you've got some good stuff, use it, fer cryin' out loud!)
2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters (good ol' Angostura will do nicely, as well)

Dash bitters over ice in a DOF glass, pour in the bourbon, swirl gently to combine. Sip.
The blog will, of course, continue, but it may take a breather here and there, depending on scheduling. Still, if I don't post at least once a week, you can comment on here saying how you're gonna kick my butt if I don't hook you all up with a drink soon.

Thanks for coming with me so far, gang...we're actually coming up on my 100th drink (I don't really think I'll count this one, as it's nothing special), and I hope to have a fantastic mystery ingredient obtained for that one. Stay stewed for the nudes! Er...stay tuned for the news. Cheers, all.

Double Bourbon (Rocks)

September 15, 2009

*insert accordion and Gallic shrug here*

Tonight's drink is just over 60 years old, at least since it's first publication. It appeared in Charles H. Baker Jr.'s seminal drink guide, "The Gentleman's Companion: Being an Exotic Drinking Book, or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask," published in 1946. It's another way to use some of that kirsch that I proved to be less than enthralled with. First things wants you to use shaved ice. As I'm not in Hawai'i, land of shave-ice, I don't have any means of making it, so I crushed the ice, and then blended it with the liquid ingredients...not perfect, but it got the job done. Anyway, here we go:
The Parisian Cherry Ripe

1 1/2 oz London dry gin
3/4 oz kirsch
3/4 oz Cherry Heering

Blend with shaved ice (or blend well with crushed ice), pour into tumbler, float two bar spoons of Cherry Heering.
It's nice, I'll say that. The Cherry Heering tempers the funk of the kirsch nicely. That said, it's a little flat and a little sweet; next time I'll add a splash of lemon or lime juice to it, just to tart it up a little.

Certainly is un bête beaux, however.

The Parisian Cherry Ripe

September 12, 2009

Science Fiction Double Feature

"Wait! I can explain!"

I picked up a small bottle of a new ingredient today, and decided to play around with it a little bit tonight. I'm frankly kind of disappointed in it, but since it was a little bottle (not a 50ml sample, but nowhere near full size) I'm not out too much money, only about $4.50 or so. I will survive.

The ingredient is kirsch, also known as kirschwasser. It's a cherry brandy of's not sweet, as other fruit brandies frequently are. Truth be told, it tastes remarkably similar to it's cousin, maraschino's got a sort of funk that stems, in part from being fermented (or macerated, in the case of maraschino) with the skins and stones. Kirsch is typically made from Morello cherries, rather than the eponymous Maraska cherries of maraschino, but they're remarkably similar in taste...the big difference is that the kirsch is a lot drier, not being a liqueur.

Anyway, I mixed it with two drinks tonight both of which sound like they could be from 1950s B-grade sci-fi movies; one drink fared far better than the other...let's get to them, shall we?
Blackthorn Cocktail

1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz Dubonnet rouge
1/2 oz kirsch

stir all in a mixing glass with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Eh. It's not a fantastic's still orders of magnitude better than what you'd find at your local fraternity dive bar, but it really strikes me as one dimensional. The kirsch and the Dubonnet run together (which surprises me), and it's left as being ginny with some unnameable-but-rather-sweet fruit flavor floating in the background.
Blackthorn Cocktail

Our second drink proved to be rather better than this one.
Cat's Eye Cocktail

1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz kirsch
dash lemon juice

stir all with ice in a mixing glass, strain into chilled cocktail glass.
This one is not nearly as sweet or boring...the lemon juice and dry vermouth keeps it more balanced, and the tiny bit of orange you get from the Cointreau works very well with the cherry and almond notes the kirsch brings to the drink.

Cat's Eye

September 10, 2009

"Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel..."

This drink, which I'm posting quickly upon realizing it's been more than 5 days since my last post, is called the Blinker Cocktail. "Blinker" was another word for "blinders" as a mule or horse might wear to keep them looking forwards. I'm not sure what connection that has to the drink, but hey, if Ted Haigh researched it, it's good enough for me.
The Blinker Cocktail

2 oz rye whiskey or, failing that, a bourbon with a lot of rye, like Bulleit
1 oz grapefruit juice
2 barspoons (about 1 teaspoon) raspberry syrup (it's available commercially, or you can mash 1/2 pint of raspberries and put it in to boil with your next simple syrup batch)

shake all with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass.
It's a nice balancing act this walks; tart from the grapefruit, sweet and tangy from the raspberry syrup, and spicy from the rye (or bourbon). But it works. And it's such a lovely color.

The Blinker Cocktail

September 4, 2009

Appropriately, it's a short drink...

Tonight I feature a new ingredient for the blog, one that'd read about for months on end, but until lately, have not tried. It's called Dubonnet, and like vermouth, it's a fortified wine. Unlike vermouth, however, it contains quinine, which makes it a quinquina. Among the fortifying spices and flavorings in Dubonnet Rouge, the red variety that's by far the most common, are chamomile, cinnamon, orange zest, and unroasted coffee beans. (I must tip my hat to Tim, of the previously-mentioned Ginger Bitters blog for turning me on to the existence of this drink in the first place, as well as his helpful information on Dubonnet. If all bars were like the New Zealand bar he manages, the drinking scene would be vastly improved. As ever, Cheers, Tim!)

So, this drink is sort of a kissing cousin to the Fifth Avenue Variation I mixed up last month; gin based, has a little Fernet Branca backing up the fortified wine, but instead of dry vermouth, we've got a sweeter Dubonnet taking up that role, and some citrus is added with the inclusion of orange curaçao (I used a good triple-sec, a.k.a. white curaçao, but Cointreau or Grand Marnier could work, as well.) Furthermore, this drink is first and foremost a gin drink...there's four times as much gin as the other ingredients combined. Despite that, there's still a remarkable complexity to it... Here's how it's made:
The Napoleon Cocktail

60 ml (about 2 ounces) London dry gin
5 ml (about 1 teaspoon) Dubonnet rouge
5 ml (about 1 teaspoon) Fernet Branca
5 ml (about 1 teaspoon) orange curaçao/triple-sec/Cointreau/Grand Marnier

Combine all ingredients with ice, stir well to combine, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe.
Thanks to the properties of the Fernet and the Dubonnet, this is really an ideal after-dinner drink, for calming down the stomach and kicking the digestion of the meal into gear, a traditional digestif/digestivo. As I said it's a remarkably complex drink, but a very enjoyable one. Dubonnet is remarkably inexpensive, so go get a bottle and start playing around with it.

The Napoleon Cocktail

September 2, 2009

I wouldn't have guessed this would be as tasty as it is...

You're all familiar with gin and tonics and vodk tonics, I'm sure. Ever heard of a rum tonic? You wouldn't expect it to work, but it does, and it's as spectacular as it is simple. You just need to make sure you've got a good rum, as you're gonna taste a lot of it.
Rum Tonic

2 oz good amber rum (I used Mount Gay Eclipse)
tonic water to top
slice of lemon
grapefruit or orange bitters

build over ice in a tumbler.
See? Super simple, but it's incredibly good. I was doubtful at first...I couldn't imagine the slightly bitter tonic water finding a match with the rum, but it all ends up being smoothly tempered, and quite tasty. I like using Bittermens Grapefruit bitters here, just to add some extra tartness to the lemon, but orange bitters would work too, I think. Give it a try...I believe you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Rum Tonic

August 30, 2009

"Drinks Named for Gemstones" for $200, Alex...

I picked up some fresh squeezed grapefruit juice today at the grocery store, and I was flicking through my drink guides to see what I could make with it that wasn't a Greyhound or a Salty Dog. I stumbled on this beauty by Dale DeGroff:
Garnet Cocktail

1 1/2 oz London dry gin (I used Boodles, Mr. DeGroff suggests Tanqueray No. 10)
3/4 oz Cointreau or other good triple-sec
1 oz pomegranate juice
1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters (my addition, to play with the fruit juices in the drink)

Shake all with ice and serve in a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish, if desired, with a flamed orange peel.
This may look like a Cosmopolitan, because it's pinkish, but it's definitely more interesting. The grapefruit juice gives it a gloriously tart character, but not overly so...there's still plenty of sweetness in it. It's really well balanced. Definitely worth adding to your repertoire.

Garnet Cocktail

August 27, 2009

In which I attempt to not get sued...

Tonight's drink is one where I get to use a name that I've been itching to use for quite some time...and one that I've been afraid of. You see, I'm naming it after a much beloved fictional character in a tremendously popular series of books. Now, the author and publishers have shown wonderful restraint in not going after, say, writers of fan-fiction who use their characters names, perhaps because there's no profit to be made there. I should point out that I really don't make any profit on this blog, either (current Google AdSense total for the first 5 months of operation: $1.35, plus one generous donation from a reader). So in that spirit, and recognizing that there's alcohol in the books as well, I hope that they'll be lenient about my introduction of a ginger-laced rum punch named after the most amusing ginger-headed clan I know of. I give you:
Weasley Rum Punch

3/4 oz berry shrub base
1 1/2 oz ginger liqueur (or ginger syrup if you want it to be a little less boozy)
3/4 oz black strap or other molasses-y rum
1 1/2 oz aged rum
2 oz seltzer
scant 1/8 oz homemade spice extract
2 dashes Bittermens Grapefruit bitters

Combine first three ingredients plus spice extract in a shaker full of ice, shaking well to combine. In an tall-ish glass, add two cubes of ice, dashing grapefruit bitters over the ice before pouring in rum mixture and topping with club soda.

It works as a Weasley because of both the "ginger" connotation and the's pretty much a fiery red. I really like this drink's flavor, as it's an unusual take on the classic Planters Punch formula of 1 of sour, 2 of sweet, 3 of strong and 4 of weak, plus spice. The vinegar base of the shrub really works in a very subtle way, and the heat of the ginger plays with everything as well, as shrubs were traditionally topped with ginger beer. I like how the spices play with the smoky molasses nature of the rum, and the brightness of the grapefruit bitters really makes it all sing.

Now, as long as I don't get sued out of existence, I'll be happy! Ms Rowling, if you read this, please enjoy the drink as much as I enjoyed your books. (And please don't sue me!)

Weasley Rum Punch

August 23, 2009

I'd mentioned this one before, but now there's a photo!

A few weeks back, I gave you all my recipe for what I consider to be the perfect Manhattan, a drink that I've termed the "Golden Manhattan" to distinguish it from the "Perfect Manhattan" (equal measures of whiskey, sweet vermouth and dry vermouth). I've named it that as it reflects the golden ratio, at least in one small step. I make it as follows:
Golden Manhattan

3 parts whiskey (rye or bourbon)
1 part dry vermouth
1/2 part sweet vermouth
2 dashes bitters

stir all with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass with a maraschino cherry in the bottom.
I call it "Golden" in light of the ratio used: a+b:a::a:b, that is, 2 parts whiskey to 1 part vermouth, and 2 parts dry vermouth to 1 part sweet. I like my Manhattans a bit on the drier side, and up until two days ago, I used a dash of Angostura and a dash of orange bitters. Now, however, since I got my Bittermens, I've been putting in two dashes of the Xocolatl Mole, as the cocoa and spice notes really add a nice warmth and depth to the drink. If you have them on hand, I can't sing their praises highly enough, and they're not even paying me. But if you don't have the Bittermens on hand, a dash each of Angostura and orange more than do the job. This is really my go-to drink, if I can't figure out what I feel like having. It's incredibly satisfying and nuanced. I highly recommend you sit down for a quiet evening and figure out how you like your's a fantastic drink.

Golden Manhattan

August 22, 2009

In which I play with one of my new toys...

Probably close to a year and a half ago, I stumbled across Bittermens Bitters while perusing my cocktail blog circuit. I read about some of the flavors they had come up with, and I was enthralled. So I followed their site with great interest, and earlier this summer, they announced that they had entered into a partnership with another bitters maker, The Bitter Truth, based out of Germany, to manufacture and distribute two of their bitters...Grapefruit and Xocolatl Mole. Well, as soon as it was available for pre-order from The Boston Shaker, I bought one of each, and yesterday afternoon, oh glory and trumpets, Mr. Frodo!, the bitters arrived. And then I had to wait, for in some circles, drinking a cocktail at 3 in the afternoon is seen as slightly gauche, and while I'm happy to say I don't run in those circles, I still felt it was a little early. So around about 7pm, I started tinkering, and the first drink I made was one that was listed on the back of the bottle of Grapefruit bitters, and it was so excellent, I made another tonight and am posting it for your reading pleasure now.
Updated BVD Cocktail

1 1/2 oz gin
1 1/2 oz white rum
1 1/2 oz dry vermouth
two dashes Bittermens Grapefruit bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice until well chilled, and strain into coupe.
Now before you ask, I have no idea where the "BVD" moniker comes from. I've seen this made with a few different liquors, and while I suspect it may have started out as an acronym for one or more of the spirits, it doesn't really match up neatly with any of the recipes I've seen. So, passing over that, and with the assurance that it definitely does not taste like a pair of underwear, go make this drink. Well, you'll have to order the bitters first, so do that, and then go make this drink. The sweet acidity of the Grapefruit bitters really tie this together, smoothing over the rough corners you'd expect from equal measures of gin, rum and really works amazingly well together, and I think without those magical Bittermens bitters in there it wouldn't be half the drink it is.

Stay tuned in the near future for a drink made with the Xocolatl Mole bitters, although if you're impatient, go make a Manhattan with those in place of Angostura. You'll thank me.

Updated BVD Cocktail

August 19, 2009

Lebkuchen? Gesundheit!

I was casting my mind around to see what I could do with some of this ginger liqueur I made, and I though perhaps something with a lot of spice notes could be interesting. I remembered a great cookie my mother and I made years ago called "Lebkuchen," a traditional German cookie that's related to gingerbread. It seemed like we threw the whole spice rack in there, so I set out to invent the alcoholic equivalent of it, and came up with this:
Lebkuchen Cocktail

1 1/2 oz ginger liqueur
1 oz aged rum
1/2 oz bourbon
dash Angostura bitters
dash pimento dram
dash homemade spice extract

Build all over ice, stir to combine.
This is really kind of uncanny. It tastes almost exactly like a spice cookie...the allspice of the pimento dram, the myriad spices in my spice extract, the ginger, the silkiness of the rum, the sweet spiciness of the bourbon; they all combine into a drink that greatly resembles the cookie of my memory. It does not, however, pair as well with milk.

Lebkuchen Cocktail

August 16, 2009

In which I create a drink and name it for a celebrity.

So, on the heels of the "RumDood's Revenge" of the other night, I decided to create another cocktail, but name it after a real celebrity this time. (Sorry,'re only famous in our mixology circles.) And I figured, who better to name it after than a person who's interest in classic drinks is quite well known. We've already seen David Wondrich name a drink for a broadcaster famous for "truthiness," so let's name one after another newscaster. Ladles and Gentlemints, I give you...
The Maddow Sling

1 oz Plymouth Gin
1/2 oz ginger liqueur (mine's homemade, but Domaine de Canton will work, too)
1/2 oz double-strength Earl Grey Tea
1/4 oz Cherry Heering
1/4 oz 2:1 simple syrup
1/8 teaspoon Fernet Branca
dash orange bitters
2 oz seltzer, to top

Build all except soda over ice in an Old-Fashioned glass. Stir to combine, then top with seltzer.
It's really a nice, subtle drink. Not one-dimensional, lots of flavors in there, but all working together. Ginger naturally pairs with bergamot and tea quite well, so that's the Earl Grey right there, the Cherry Heering brightens the whole thing, and that tiny bit of Fernet Branca adds a little more complexity. I quite like it, and if she's reading this, I hope Rachel Maddow likes it, too.

Maddow Sling

August 15, 2009

It's not a drink, per se, but it's got booze in it!

I decided earlier this week to try to make my own ginger extract/liqueur. I haven't tried it yet, but I wanted to document it before I forgot. So here's what I did...

On Monday, I took pretty much the remainder of my bottle of J. Wray and Nephew White Overproof rum, about 300 ml or so, added 2 oz of shaved ginger (unpeeled) and let it sit, covered, but shaking it periodically, until Thursday night, when I added another ounce of crystallized (candied) ginger chunks. I let those sit in there until tonight (Saturday), when I strained it into a clean bottle, mixed up some simple syrup in a 3:4 water:sugar ratio, and poured that in, shaking to combine.

By my back of the envelope calculations, it should still be about 40% alcohol by volume, plenty strong to be shelf stable, There's about 16 or 17 ounces of liqueur in there, so I may try a rye and ginger tonight, and we'll see how it turns out. If it's good, there's be some posts in the future featuring it. If it sucks, well, at least you'll have had some entertainment making this for no good reason whatsoever. Maybe you could use it as a marinade, or something...

EDITED TO ADD: Oh, yeah, that's nice and spicy. That'll be a featured drink soon!

August 14, 2009

I have been informed that today is International Rum Day!

That means, of course, a rum cocktail. And I'm going to take a page out of Matt "RumDood" Robold's book and modify an existing drink. Earlier this year, he took an El Presidente and turned it into a Machado Cocktail. Well, I'm taking his Machado and turning it into what I'm going to call:
RumDood's Revenge

1 1/2 oz aged rum
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz orange liqueur
1/8 oz pimento dram
2 dashes Angostura bitters
splash of grenadine

build over ice in a Double Old-Fashioned glass, stir, and garnish with lemon twist.
This drink turned out to be so ridiculously smooth it ought to be illegal. The aged rum is so incredibly mellow, the dry vermouth keeps it from veering too far to the sweet, the orange liqueur and lemon zest brighten it, and the bitters and pimento dram add a smoky, spicy complexity. Oh, Sweet Saint Seryn the Merciful*, this is a good drink.

RumDood's Revenge

*Saint Seryn the Merciful is patron saint of brewers, bakers and kind of people.

August 10, 2009

"Hey, that almost sounded dirty, fella!"

Tonight marks my 100th post, though not my 100th drink. So I'll do some counting a little later, and I'll make sure my 100th drink is something awesome. Or at least tasty.

Tonight's drink is another one I modified, because honestly, what good are classic cocktails if you can't take them apart and put different after-market components in them? It's based on a venerable old drink called the Whiskey Squirt (you there in Pennsylvania; stop snickering!)
Whiskey Squirt (modified)

1 1/2 oz rye whiskey or bourbon
1/2 oz pomegranate grenadine (the fresher, the better)
1 bar spoon 2:1 simple syrup
1/8 teaspoon lemon extract (I use Penzeys, because they're local and awesome)
seltzer to top

build all except seltzer over ice in a Double Old-Fashioned glass, stirring to combine. Top with seltzer, swizzling gently to mix.
The traditional version is made as a highball, in a tall glass, rather than the DOF, and doesn't have the lemon extract. It can be garnished with fruit, though, as desired. Me? I like things to be simple to assemble, and while there's definitely a place for garnish, sometimes I just can't be bothered. I like using the lemon extract because it's a very strong, clean taste, and it's already dissolved in alcohol, so I don't have to worry about it mixing poorly. It's just a nice, simple drink, and one that you can throw together in no time flat. Just stop giggling about the name, will you?

Whiskey Squirt (modified)

August 9, 2009

"And now the purple dusk of twilight time steals across the meadows of my heart..."

With that line, Hoagy Carmichael set the scene for his most memorable (and often undeservedly mocked) song, "Stardust." While the prose may seem a little purple by today's standards (pun intended), it's still a beautiful song, especially when it's performed by someone who can sell it. So, start this video playing and listen to the song as you read the rest of this entry about one of my new favorite cocktails.

I stumbled across this drink while reading one of the many mixology blogs I peruse. That blog got it, in turn, from Tales of the Cocktail's 2008 session, and it was the namesake drink of The Violet Hour, a cocktail lounge in Chicago that I really need to visit on my next trip down there. It's based on a Manhattan, but it makes a couple changeups that really take it to a new level.
The Violet Hour

2 oz bourbon (I used Bulleit and did not regret it)
3/4 oz sweet vermouth (Noilly Prat for me)
1/4 oz dry vermouth (Noilly Prat again, though I've heard Cinzano is good, as well)
1/8 oz (or more, to taste) Cruzan Black Strap rum
3 dashes bitters (Fee Brothers if you can get it, otherwise Angostura works)

Shake all with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass
It starts off like a Manhattan or a Brooklyn, the bourbon and vermouth really dominating, but then, as you swallow, there's the terrific molasses and spice notes from the rum, even though there's only a tiny bit in there. It really makes for a great drink, and would likely do even better come autumn or winter. In fact, when the weather starts to cool in October, I think I'll remake this, but in lieu of the bitters, I'll add just a scant 1/8 oz of maple syrup, while halving the sweet vermouth. That, I think, will make for a really interesting drink.

And with that, I leave you to sip this cocktail, steeped in the classic tradition, and listen to, as Hoagy said, "the music of the years gone by," even if it was never composed, and exists only in your memory.

The Violet Hour

August 6, 2009

Mixology Monday XLI: Vodka is Your Friend

0EE1C1B7-51D9-464A-9FD4-3362608E69F5.jpgAugust's Mixology Monday challenge is one that I had some trepidation I'm not much of a vodka fan...I think the asking price for what's essentially neutral grain or potato spirits on a lot of big name brands is ludicrous, and being relatively flavorless, vodka just never appealed to me. That being said, it is the first alcoholic beverage I ever had, so I suppose, deep down, there's a small part of me that still likes it (and hates it, for the same reason, presumably). But, as it turns out, there's a local distillery that produces a vodka that caught my attention despite all this, so I figured I'd see what I could make with it.

The distillery, as I've mentioned in my post on gin martinis, is Great Lakes Distillery, the founder and distiller is Guy Rehorst, and it's his name that's on the gin and vodkas. The vodka that caught my eye is Rehorst Premium Milwaukee Citrus and Honey Vodka. It's made with Wisconsin honey and real lemons, so my usual grumping about test tube flavors doesn't apply. And it's local, which is a big deal for me, because I like keeping as much of my money in the local economy as I can.

So, what did I make of it? Well, I came up with two drinks. One's pretty easy and straight forward, the other is a little more complicated, but has a lot more depth of flavor. We'll go with the simpler one first.
Milwaukee Lemonade

1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
2 1/2 oz Rehorst Citrus and Honey Vodka
seltzer to top
splash of pomegranate grenadine

shake all but seltzer and grenadine with ice, pour into ice filled DOF glass, top with seltzer, drizzle in grenadine.
This one really lets the vodka come to the forefront. It's a really great spirit in that, while it's got the fruit and honey in it, it's not overwhelmingly sweet. In fact, sipping the vodka straight, it's really smooth and mellow in the mouth, with no burn, and no cloying sweetness. I tasted the lemon first, and then the honey, faintly but there, in the back of my mouth. I really, really like this vodka. I mean really. Anyway, I mixed it with a little lemon juice and even less simple syrup, shook it up, added some seltzer for fizz, and drizzled in the pomegranate grenadine. It's pretty, and it's tasty, really letting the vodka shine.
Milwaukee Lemonade

The other drink I made is one that's got a lot of layers going on, but reflects my initial approach to mixing with this spirit; I was brainstorming what flavors complemented both lemon and honey and the first one I could think of was ginger. And so I ran with that.
Fiery Citrus Cocktail

a scant 1/2 oz thinly sliced ginger (unpeeled)
1 oz simple syrup
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz limoncello
2 oz Rehorst Citrus and Honey Vodka
dash of orange bitters

Muddle the ginger with the simple syrup, then add remaining ingredients. Shake all with ice, and double strain into glass
This one really has the ginger sitting in the forefront, but once that blast of heat dies down, then the lemon and the sweetness from the simple syrup and the round mouth-feel of the honey pipe up. This would be a good cocktail for soothing your throat, too, come winter, although my old college voice and diction teacher would kill me for suggesting that alcohol can soothe the throat. However, after a couple of these, you likely won't care if you actually feel better as long as you're not feeling anything! I like how this one turned out, but I think that the Milwaukee Lemonade showcases the spirit better.
Fiery Citrus Cocktail

August 5, 2009

Admit it, after last night's "Colbert Report," you knew this was coming...

I saw it, it was made by one of my cocktail heroes, so I've gotta make it and try it out. I made one substitution out of necessity, but it's still awesome. I give you the drunk custom-made for Stephen Colbert...
The Colbert Bash

1 1/2 oz Plymouth gin
1 oz Cherry Heering
1/4 oz lemon juice (I used lime because I had it on hand, still works)
generous splash of soda water/seltzer

Build first three ingredients over ice in a tall glass, top with seltzer, and gently swizzle to combine.
David Wondrich made this up for Stephen last night on The Colbert Report and it's damned tasty. Here's the footage of Wondrich's appearance:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Bump Cocktail - David Wondrich
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTasers

The drink is damned tasty...well balanced, tart but not overly so, light and slightly fizzy from the seltzer, and as red as the blood of the bears that Stephen Colbert has personally wrestled into submission and then skinned. If this catches on, and it should, I'll be a happy man.

The Colbert Bump

July 31, 2009

Just a minor variation...

Remember the Hanky Panky cocktail of a few weeks ago, where we started to play around with Fernet Branca? Well, alter the proportions on that one a little bit, swap dry vermouth in for the sweet, and you've got this beauty.
Fifth Avenue Variation

1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz Fernet Branca

Combine all in a mixing glass with ice. Stir to combine, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Simple enough, and a pretty minor change from the Hanky Panky, but oh, how different it is! It's a lot less sweet, for one, which may be a deal breaker for some of you out there...I used to have a major sweet tooth for cocktails, but mercifully, I've outgrown it. There are a lot of flavors and a lot of botanicals in there, but the overarching flavor I take away from it is almost a sweet, woodsy taste...I really quite like it, but I'll be the first to admit it's not for everyone. Still, though, if you feel up to it, give it a try.

EDIT: It merits pointing out, if only so all of you can point and laugh, that when I initally posted this drink three hours ago, instead of "Fernet Branca" I typed "sweet vermouth." I'm not sure where that came from, as I most assuredly made it with the Fernet. I suppose I can blame the booze, but I must thank Tim from Ginger Bitters for pointing out in the comments below that the original drink, as posted, was a Perfect Martini. While it's a damned tasty drink, it's not what I made tonight. Thanks, Tim! Cheers!

Fifth Avenue (variant)

July 29, 2009

Here's a quick one for those sultry summer evenings...

Do you have a bottle of limoncello? If yes, fantastic; stick it in your freezer. If no, go out and get one. They're cheap, and some even omit the yellow food dye (including, remarkably, Danny DeVito's Limoncello, which also has a fantastically goofy theme song...just click on the lemon on the main page under the question "How does a Sorrento lemon sound?"). Limoncello's a liqueur made from the zest of lemons, not the juice, so it's got a very strong lemon flavor and smell, but not a lot of bitterness. It also blends beautifully with gin, so here's what you do...
Gin-Lemon Cooler

2 oz limoncello
1 oz gin
2 oz seltzer

in a small glass, gently mix the gin and limoncello. Top up with the seltzer.
Simple as that. It works best if everything is well-chilled beforehand, so stash that gin and limoncello in your freezer. If you want it a little more sour, feel free to add the juice of a quarter of a lemon, or so. Either way, if your AC breaks some summer evening when it's still 79ºF and humid as a steam room outside, this can help beat the heat, even if just for a little while.
Gin-Lemon Cooler

July 28, 2009

Beware the heavy-handed pour!

I was planning on making something entirely different tonight...a great drink I heard about from Tales of the Cocktail 2009 called The Violet Hour. However, my pouring hand had other plans, it seems. I was attempting to add 3/4 oz of sweet vermouth to my bourbon, already in my mixing glass, and, well...I overdid it. So I'll be featuring The Violet Hour some other time (get it? Hour? Time? Huh? Oh, forget it.) In an attempt to salvage the drink, I turned it into a variant of another bourbon and sweet vermouth concoction, the Fanciulli cocktail. The story behind the name is explained in detail in this article from the Wall Street Journal a few months back, so I'll just show you my variant, which I think holds up pretty well to the original.
Fanciulli Cocktail (variant)

2 oz bourbon
1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz Fernet Branca
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all with ice, stirring well until thoroughly chilled, strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Normally, this drink is just the bourbon, the sweet vermouth and the Fernet Branca, in slightly different (and mostly smaller proportions). Reluctant to let my precious Bulleit Bourbon go to waste (even though it was on sale, no sense wasting good whiskey), and having already mixed it with the bitters when I overpoured the sweet vermouth, I tried to temper it a bit. The dry vermouth countered it somewhat, and the small amount of Fernet augmented the bitters and balanced it out. All in all, this version holds up pretty well to the original, and for a simple variation on the hoary old Manhattan cocktail, it really has a fresh new angle to it. For a mistake, it's, happily, a most palatable one.
Fanciulli (variant)

July 25, 2009

Here's another booze-free one! Y'know, for the kids!

So I'd been meaning to make this one for a while, since I didn't want my Tahitian limeade to go to waste. So I rummaged through my DRY Soda flavors and got an idea. I looked at the Lemongrass flavor, and I thought, "Hmmm...lemongrass...Thai food...coconut, lime, yes, that'd work nicely!" And went and made this:
Thai Fizz

2 1/2 oz Tahitian limeade (remember, it's 3 to 5 parts coconut water to 1 part lime juice)
7 oz Lemongrass DRY Soda
dash of Peychaud's bitters (for color, more than anything)

Combine all in glass. Serve.
And it's a really refreshing drink. It's got a nice complexity from those flavors vying for attention, and it's really quite Thai like in character. That said, next time, I'd add a little bit of ginger beer for some back of the mouth heat...and if you really wanted booze, you could sneak in an ounce of gin...that would go nicely. But for an unusual, refreshing, booze-free tipple, I like it.

Thai Fizz

July 20, 2009

Just a quick one.

It's less common now, but for years, there were cocktails galore named after celebrities...some because the stars in question actually ordered them, some just to cash in on the identity. I've had a few of these (the Bogie was one I've already featured, the Mary Pickford may come later) and some are actually quite tasty. That's not to say that you should just run out and drink celebrity-christened cocktails willy-nilly...can you imagine what a Paris Hilton would be like without shuddering and scheduling an STD test? I certainly can't.

But tonight's libation is one that comes by its name honestly. It was actually ordered by the star in question, though you probably haven't heard of her. Her name was Vera Rush, and though she doesn't appear on IMDb, she was a silent film actress, who featured in such works as The Graven Image and Intemperance. It's quite a simple thing, as drinks go, but eminently quaffable.
Vera Rush

2 oz dark Jamaican rum (Myers's is traditional, but Gosling's, Coruba or even Cruzan Blackstrap can be used with no ill effect)
1/2 oz unsweetened pineapple juice

Pour rum over ice in an Old-Fashioned glass, and float the pineapple juice on top.
A simple drink from a simpler age. Still tasty, still classy, and still simple to order, even if your bartender gives you a blank stare when you mention it by name. Just order it as David Wondrich, of Esquire Magazine et al, informs us Vera herself did; "Myers's on the rocks with a splash of pineapple juice." Tip tip hurrah.

Vera Rush

July 18, 2009

I have found a new spirit!

I've been looking for Fernet Branca for a while now, as it's a rather esoteric italian amaro, or bitter liqueur. It's intended as a digestif, and has a ton of secret ingredients, which, according to the website, include chamomile, wild aloe, bitter orange, myrrh, iris, gentian, European lime-tree, cinnamon, galangal, and saffron. The most dominant taste, however, is menthol, but it's sort of a sweet-bitter thing going on overall. Well, after hearing about it from all sorts of cocktail bloggers, most notably Rick over at Kaiser Penguin, who positively loves the stuff, I decided a few weeks back that if I could find it, I'd buy it.

Well, I found it. And I made a very old drink with it. It was created at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London by the first bartender of renown at the Savoy, and indeed, one of the first female bartenders of renown anywhere, Ada Coleman. It was made for Sir Charles Hawtrey, Noel Coward's mentor, who took a sip and exclaimed, "By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!" And thus the Hanky Panky was born. Now, let it be said that at that time in England, hanky-panky did not mean sexual tomfoolery. No, it was used to connote black magic, sleight of hand, legerdemain...that sort of thing. So the black magic comes in the combining of three unlikely ingredients into one delightful beverage.
Hanky Panky

1 3/4 oz gin
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes (I used just under 1/2 tsp) Fernet Branca

Stir all with ice, strain into a chilled glass, and squeeze a small bit of orange zest over the drink.
It really makes for a most unusual cocktail, but a good one. I can see how Sir Charles deemed it black magic. The orange really makes it, somehow tempering the strange, herbal character of the Fernet, and blending it with the gin and vermouth. I don't know where that pixie came from, but I like her pixie drink!

Addendum: For what it's worth, here's a fun little article from Wayne Curtis (author of "And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails") that he wrote for the Atlantic about Fernet Branca. I am now sipping it straight, and it's everything he says it is. I find myself growing to like it, though! The Bitter Beginning, from the November 1998 issue of "The Atlantic."

Hanky Panky