The cocktail is an art form that peaked in the middle of the 20th century and has been in rapid decline since. As a young lad, I was schooled in the fine art of cocktailing by my father and grandfathers, I learned many valuable lessons that I plan to pass on. I also want to resurrect some of the old classics that vastly surpass the sugary & fruity concoctions made today with their simplicity, elegance and bold flavors. Most of the time I will focus on one drink, and to provide, at least in my opinion, the definitive recipe, but hope to expand to other related topics as I see fit. Please mix yourself a cocktail, read, drink, and enjoy!

Monday, February 13, 2012


Like chocolate and peanut butter, this is the joining of two simple ingredients where one plus one equals three.  This is a drink that has kept me in a quandary for a long time over the debate between Rose’s lime juice in its current corn syrup state and products using real sugar and lime juice.  As much as I wanted to find a way to have it all, I have thrown in the towel and accepted Rose’s (that is until I find a way to import the real stuff).

This is another drink with no clear history, the name seems to have been coined in the 1920s after either a tool of the same name or a surgeon who pushed this as a measure of preventing scurvy on ships.  Seeing as how in 1747 it was discovered that lime juice could prevent scurvy and sailors were no doubt mixing lime and gin purely for its medicinal value by the nineteenth century, I am going with the scurvy story.  Either way the cocktail has a long and glamorous history.

In a mixing glass combine three and a half ounces of gin, use Plymouth’s here, and one and a half ounces of Rose’s lime juice, fill with ice and stir.  Pour into a cocktail glass.  This is one I will also build in an ice filled old fashioned glass and serve on the rocks.  As you drink this, think of all the good things the vitamin C is doing for your body!

3 ½ oz gin
1 ½ oz rose’s lime juice
Stir together both ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, pour into a cocktail glass.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Grandma’s Whiskey Sour

Meyer lemons are in season, which means it is time to make whiskey sours!  The whiskey sour gets a bad name due to the preponderance of the pre-made sour mix unfortunately used in so many college bars, dorm rooms and fraternity houses.  A true whiskey sour though balances the sweet and sour tastes as an undertone to the true star of the show, whiskey.  Besides, if they were good enough for your grandma, they are good enough for you!

The sour as a style of drink goes back to the mid 1850s and was covered in Jerry Thomas’ “How to Mix Drinks” in 1862.  I found a crazy tale about an Englishman creating the whiskey sour in Peru in 1872 as reported by an Argentinian newspaper in 1962, but that seems a little far from home for a simple bourbon based drink to come to life.  Fortunately, the famous Wisconsin paper, the Waukesha Plaindealer, mentioned the Whiskey Sour on January 4th 1870; returning this American classic to its rightful home.

I like my whiskey sour heavier on the prior and lighter on the latter so proceed with caution.  This is also one of the few times I have found Colin Field and David Embury in agreement on the proportions.  Start with one ounce of fresh squeezed meyer lemon juice in a shaker.  Add two teaspoons of superfine sugar.  Lastly, add four ounces of your favorite whiskey, Gentleman Jack works for me.  This is only the second time I have condoned using them, but the bright red color of maraschino cherries shows through the drink like a ruby red setting sun, place three of them in an old fashioned glass then fill with ice. Fill the shaker with ice and give it a good shake to make sure the sugar dissolves.  Strain into the ice filled glass and serve.  I have been asked about building it in the glass instead of shaking the drink; it can be done this way, but the shaking better dissolves the sugar and adds a slight froth from the agitation which I think makes for a better drink.  You can also add a dash or two of bitters to this drink if you are feeling adventurous!

Whiskey Sour
4 oz whiskey
1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp superfine sugar
Combine all ingredients with ice in a shaker, strain into an ice filled old fashioned glass.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Negroni

In 1947 Orson Welles reported on the drink in correspondence with the Coshocton Tribune while working on his film Cagliostro.  He said "The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other."  I love his logic.

This is one of those drinks that I have found people either love or hate.  I made one for a gin loving friend of mine who had never met a drink he did not like and he could not even finish it.  I will admit that Campari can be an acquired taste, but the combination of flavors in the negroni dulls some of the bitterness.

The most popular account of this drinks creation takes place in Florence, Italy in 1919 at Caffè Casoni, (now called Caffè Cavalli).  Count Camillo Negroni, needing something a little stronger than his usual Americano, asked bartender Fosco Scarselli to replace the soda with gin.  I love his logic too.

There really is not much to making this drink; it is equal parts of three ingredients.  I like Plymouth gin in this; I also like to make them small so I can have a few.  One ounce each of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in an ice filled old fashioned glass with a twist of orange is all there is to this Italian classic.  Do not forget to toast the good count and his boozy ways as you suck these little guys down.

1 oz gin
1 oz campari
1 oz sweet vermouth
Combine all ingredients in an ice filled old fashioned glass and garnish with a twist of orange.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Champagne Cocktail

As much as I love a good cocktail, there is something about the simple elegance of a glass of champagne to start a meal. The champagne cocktail is the perfect compromise, you may never be as suave and debonair as Rick Blaine, but this is a good start.

Champagne cocktails of various types have appeared in publications going back as far as the 1860s.  Mark Twain’s travelogue “The Innocents Abroad,” published in 1869, mentions one.  That's really all the pertinent background for this one, because we all know nobody is here for a history lesson.

This is a pretty standard recipe that I find starts an evening off in the right direction.  Begin by placing a sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne glass (coupe if you have them, if not a flute works too), douse the cube in angostura bitters, fill the glass with champagne, and garnish with a lemon twist.  I prefer slightly sweeter champagne to better balance the bitters.  When this drink was first created, doux champagnes (over 5% sugar) were quite popular, I would not go this sweet, but a dry (1.7-3.5% sugar) or extra dry (1.2-2% sugar) works well.  Serve this the next time a Moroccan bar owner, gun runner, or Spanish freedom fighter strolls in off the street.

Champagne Cocktail
1 sugar cube
6 dashes bitters
Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne glass, douse with bitters, fill with champagne, and garnish with a lemon twist.