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!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tom & Jerry


Egg Nog may get all the glory, but the Tom & Jerry deserves a place at your holiday table. This heated cousin of Christmas’s most popular beverage is a complex combination of flavors, textures and spirits. It takes a little advanced preparation, but the result is well worth it.

Pre-dating the cartoon of the same name by over one hundred years, this holiday hangover cure was created in the 1820’s by sports writer Pierce Egan. It is a reference to Egan's book, Life in London, or The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom.

David Embury has outdone himself and I have found no reason to stray from his formula. The following measurements make enough for a crowd, so mix up a batch and invite all of your friends over for some holiday cheer. Start by separating a dozen eggs. Beat the whites to stiff peaks and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the yolks with ½ pound of sugar, one tablespoon each of allspice, cinnamon and ground cloves. Then gradually pour in four ounces of dark rum; Myer’s is my personal choice. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture. When ready to serve, place about ½ cup of the batter into a large mug, add two ounces of your favorite bourbon, and fill the mug with hot milk. Stir until the whole drink foams. Float one teaspoon of cognac on top and dust with freshly grated nutmeg.

Tom & Jerry
Batter:
1 dozen eggs, separated
½ pound sugar
1 tbl allspice
1 tbl cinnamon
1 tbl ground cloves
4 oz dark rum
Each Drink:
2 oz bourbon
hot milk
1 tsp cognac
nutmeg
Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves. Add rum. Fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture.
For each individual drink, place ½ cup batter into a large mug, add bourbon and fill with hot milk, stir vigorously, top with a cognac floater and freshly grated nutmeg.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reinvigorating the Vodka Soda

I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a cocktail or two with some truly incredible women, and this seems to be the favorite among them (there is the rare whiskey drinking woman, but they are few and far between). I personally have always found the vodka soda to be a little bland, tasting like a watered down vodka tonic, so I have shied away from it. But I do see the allure in a simple, refreshing cocktail that is easy to concoct so I took it upon myself to delve into this feminine favorite.

My goal was to find a combination that stayed true to the beautiful simplicity of this drink and its three ingredients, but that overcame the dull flavor. I found the secret is in the vodka. My local purveyor of spirits has an entire wall dedicated to the simplest of grain alcohols, the number of brands and flavors is incredibly overwhelming, so I focused my search on the citrus flavored options as I felt they would stay most true to the drink while adding some complexity of taste without sacrificing ease of concoction. I hope to deeper immerse myself in this wall of flavors in hopes of finding some truly unique flavor combinations, but for the time being the cocktail made in my house for the fair maiden desiring a vodka soda will be the following.

Start with an ice filled glass; add two ounces of orange vodka. I like Three Olives Rangtang, the name is awful, but the taste is unmatched (try it by itself on the rocks). Add three ounces of club soda and squeeze a wedge of lime. In the spirit of simplicity the drink is complete here, but muddling a slice of clementine in the glass adds another nice subtle flavor (a clementine slice is also a nice garnish). Serve this to the next woman who asks for a vodka soda and you will be remembered as the person who re-awakened her taste buds and gave new life to her go-to drink.

Vodka Soda
2 oz orange flavored vodka
3 oz club soda
Add vodka and soda to an ice filled glass with a wedge of lime.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Country Gentleman

There is something about the flavor of calvados that reminds me of fall. Maybe it is the apples being harvested, the apple pie on the table or maybe just the bite to match the chill in the air. Whatever the reason I have a handful of calvados cocktails to share with you. The name also inspires images of an Englishman returning to a one of the quaint villages of the Cotswolds after a day in the field for a drink with his mates.

There is no history to be found on this cocktail which leads me to believe that it is a recent creation, but with other recently coined concoctions covered here, it follows in the traditions of cocktails of decades past.

Begin by donning your finest tweeds, then add one and one-half ounce of calvados to an ice filled shaker, add three-quarters of an ounce of Cointreau, one-quarter of an ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice, and a teaspoon of simple syrup. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon and serve speaking with your best English accent.

Country Gentleman
1 ½ oz calvados
¾ oz cointreau
¼ oz lemon juice
1 tsp simple syrup
Mix all ingredients in an ice filled shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Maple Old Fashioned

For your holiday drinking pleasure I have a nice variation on one of the all time classics. While I am typically against altering the perfection that is an Old Fashioned, the slight hint of maple in this recipe makes it a perfect accompaniment to all of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes. It would probably go great with pancakes and sausage too if you need to fortify yourself for a day of eating and watching football.

The sweetness of the maple syrup can be a little overwhelming so use caution. I start with one-half ounce of pure maple syrup in an ice filled old fashioned glass. Add two ounces of your favorite bourbon; Wild Turkey seems appropriate for the holiday. Jim Beam Red Stag is good too and imparts a hint of cherry flavor. Finish it off with a couple dashes of orange bitters and stir well, making sure the syrup dissolves into the bourbon. You now have the perfect cocktail to toast the brave souls from the Mayflower and the Native American who saved their asses from starving to death.

Maple Old Fashioned
½ oz pure maple syrup
2 oz bourbon
2 dashes orange bitters
Mix all ingredients in an ice filled old fashioned glass, stirring well.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Manhattan Revisited


In an effort to make up for my recent dereliction of duty, I am coming with one of the best recipes to cross my lips in a very long time. Most would argue that it is a losing proposition to try and improve on one of the all time classics, but this amazing variation comes damn close. Whichever version you prefer the Manhattan is the epitome of a classic and seems most in its element in the cold months of the year; if you can add a roaring fire, a tweed jacket and a pipe, you’ll become my new mascot and poster boy.

A friend of mine told me that locals in Manhattan don’t drink Manhattans, I am still debating the statement, but either way it is where the drink originated. As with many cocktails from the nineteenth century, there are many who claim credit for creating the drink, and many variations on the story. It is safe to say that the drink as we know it originated in the 1860s or 1870s in Manhattan, whether in the Manhattan club or another bar. The history behind this variation is very clear though. The recipe appears in the 1930 holy book of cocktailing, the Savoy Cocktail Book. In a reckless act of pure genius that could only have been pulled off by a Yank serving a bunch of Brits, the ratio of vermouth and whiskey is switched from the more traditional version served on this side of the pond. Add a bit of maraschino and you have Craddock’s take on the Manhattan.

To create this drink start with two ounces of sweet vermouth, my current favorite is Cinzano, in a cocktail pitcher. Add an ounce of good bourbon, Maker’s Mark has not failed me yet in a Manhattan. Add a teaspoon of the syrup from your cocktail cherry jar and two dashes of Angostura bitters. Fill with ice and stir well. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass with three homemade cocktail cherries.

Savoy Manhattan
2 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz bourbon
2 dashes angostura bitters
Stir all the ingredients in an ice filled cocktail pitcher. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with cherries.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sazerac

Imagine yourself in pre-Civil War New Orleans; walking down the street you have the sudden urge to wet your whistle. You come upon the Sazerac Coffee House. Similar to its use in Amsterdam today, coffee house was a kind euphemism, except in the mid-1800s the drug of note was alcohol. Once inside you belly up to the 125 foot long bar and one of the dozen or so bartenders would have gladly made you a Sazerac cocktail. A bold cocktail, not for the faint of heart; the intense flavor rivaled only by the difficulty in making it.

The bar’s owner’s, Antoine Amédée Paychaud, had started his life in the Big Easy in the late 1700s as an apothecary, after migrating from the West Indies. In the 1830s, Pharmacie Peychaud’s proprietary cure all, Peychaud’s Bitters, quickly became a very popular ingredient to his late-night patrons. The Sazerac was initially made with an imported cognac named Sazerac de Forge et Fils, hence the name, but overtime the cognac was replaced by locally produced rye whiskey. Also of note is Peychaud served the drink in egg cups known to the French as coquetiers, it is believed that the word cocktail derived from the inability of most Americans to pronounce this word properly. Recognizing that he was onto something, Peychaud opened his “Coffee House” in 1852.

If you want to truly impress your friends while introducing them to a true piece of American history all while getting them highly inebriated, read these instructions carefully, this will quickly become your go-to cocktail for the fall. Start with two old fashioned glasses for each cocktail you wish to make. Pack one full of crushed ice and let it sit. Take the other glass and add ¼ ounce of simple syrup, three dashes of Peychaud’s bitters, and two ounces of rye whiskey. Many recipes call for only 1 ½ ounces, but my good friend David Embury suggests 2 to 2 ½ ounces, and I like his style. I have been using High West’s Rendezvous Rye with favorable results. Next add ice to the glass containing the mixture and stir to chill. Going back to the first glass, empty the crushed ice and add ¼ ounce or so of absinthe and swirl around, coating the glass with the green fairy and dispose of the rest. Strain the contents of the second, whiskey filled, glass into the absinthe glass and garnish with a twist of lemon. Embury suggests serving the cocktail with an ice water chaser, but I say drink it strait.

Sazerac
2 oz rye whiskey
¼ oz simple syrup
3 dashes peychaud’s bitters
¼ oz absinthe
Place the first three ingredients in an empty old fashioned glass, add ice and stir to chill. Pour the absinthe into a second, chilled old fashioned glass, turn to coat the glass, and pour off the excess. Strain the whiskey mixture into the absinthe-coated glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Blood and Sand

Scotch to me is a very interesting spirit, as popular as it is by itself or with a simple mixer like water or soda, I rarely see many people drinking it in a cocktail. Perhaps this is due to it being so complex and flavorful on its own.

Named after the silent 1922 bullfighting film staring Rudolf Valentino, the drink dates back to the 1930s and possibly even earlier. A glance at the ingredient list will turn many people off of this drink, but I assure you it is worth trying. It is as strange as it is delicious.

In an ice filled shaker, add ¾ ounce each blended scotch such as Dewar's (save the single malt for sipping neat), Cherry Herring, sweet vermouth, and fresh squeezed orange juice (blood oranges seem appropriate, but not required). Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. I also really like this drink with bourbon instead of the scotch; it is slightly reminiscent of a Manhattan.

Blood and Sand
¾ oz scotch whisky
¾ oz cherry herring
¾ oz sweet vermouth
¾ oz orange juice
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Old Pal

To kick of the season of the brown liquors I present to you the Old Pal. A name that just sounds comforting, conjuring memories of great friends and college haunts, or the loyal dog that you grew up with. This is a surprisingly simple recipe that produces a very complex balance of flavors. At first glance it looks to be similar to the Boulevardier, but the difference between sweet and dry vermouth makes to two drinks very distinct.

There is not much history to be discovered with this drink, it appeared in the 1922 version of Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails and is apparently one of the first drinks to use Campari, one of my personal favorites, as an ingredient. What I really like about it is that it is a great introduction to both the distinct flavors of rye and Campari.  At first sip, this drink is very bold, but it will quickly grow on you, and you will find yourself ordering another.

As I said, this is a fairly simple drink, start with an ounce of rye whiskey in a shaker or pitcher, I have been using High West’s Rendezvous Rye, add ¾ ounce each of dry vermouth and Campari, shake or stir with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and serve.

Old Pal
1 oz rye whiskey
¾ oz dry vermouth
¾ oz campari
Mix all three ingredients with ice in a shaker or pitcher, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Whisk(e)y Season

The calendars have turned to September, temperatures are dropping, leaves are changing and football is underway, all signs point to whisk(e)y season. That wonderful seven-month season where the bottles of gin and rum start gathering dust and the Manhattan becomes my go to drink. It is also the season where all manner of whisk(e)y drinks call to me. There is a great deal of confusion surrounding this family of spirits, and rightly so, even a seasoned imbiber like myself has to carry a cheat sheet in my wallet.

Coincidentally, I am often asked about the difference between whisky and whiskey, and why it means different things to different people depending where you are. Entire books have been written on the subject and they are well worth reading, consider this the Cliffs Notes version, suitable for sounding more intelligent than your booze hound buddies, but not sufficient to carry on an in depth conversation.

Loosely, whisky or whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Different grains are used including barley, rye, wheat, and corn. The word derives from the Gaelic uisge beatha, pronounced ooshky-bay, meaning water of life. It eventually morphed into uiskie and later whiskie.

To totally bastardize the bard, to “e” or not to “e” is the question facing most of us today. The usage of the letter that was conveniently left off all of our report cards, really has little rhyme or reason. Whiskey, typically refers to American and Irish flavors. Whisky, is generally used for Scotch, Canadian and Japanese varietals. A couple of exceptions are Maker’s Mark and George Dickel which have chosen the shorter whisky, perhaps to save space on their labels or a copy writing error that has been overlooked for decades.

To make matters even more confusing, within the US there are multiple variations as well. We have rye, bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. Bourbon is made primarily from corn. Rye is made from mostly rye (go figure). Tennessee whiskey is basically bourbon that goes through a different filtration process. There are further variations within this theme, but this is enough detail at this point.

I will fully admit that this is not a comprehensive explanation, but for our purposes it will provide enough information for the upcoming recipes. For many of the soon to be revealed pleasures of the palate, these spirits can be substituted for one another, providing a slightly different flavor, allowing for personal preference. For my part, I will publish the recipe in its most traditional form but will note where I personally prefer a variation. Regardless, embrace the colder weather and the fresh palate of flavors that awaits you!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Angostura Sour

To round out the month I have a truly unique cocktail experience for all of you. As you may have realized I have quite a fondness for bitters, most drinks call for a couple of dashes of bitters, in this one, bitters is the dominant ingredient. As I was making this I was struck by the lack of a well know spirit and was concerned where the prerequisite kick was going to come from until I looked at the bottle of biters and realized that it is actually just about forty-five percent alcohol, slightly higher than the bottle of Plymouth gin I also had on the counter, so my fears were quickly allayed. As I said this is a very unique drink, but not overly bitter as one might assume. It is a drink that allows you to truly taste the herbs and other flavorings in the bitters. On top of the taste the deep red color of the bitters makes for a visually stimulating experience as well.

As far as history goes, the best I could come up with is a reference to an Angostura Fizz in Charles Baker’s, Gentlemen’s Companion from the 1930s, this slight variation has been claimed by a handful of bartenders as their own. I am not nearly as concerned over who actually created it as I am over why I have not tried one before! The actual creator of this drink is a true genius and will be praised by high school kids everywhere when they realize that they can walk into any grocery store and procure all of the ingredients to make this drink without having to show any form of identification.

To make this drink, start with an empty shaker add one egg white (be sure that your eggs are not on the recently recalled list) and ¾ ounce of fresh lime juice. Shake until the egg is frothy. Add 1 ½ ounces of Angostura bitters plus one ounce of simple syrup. Fill the shaker with ice and shake again. Strain into your favorite cocktail glass and prepare for sensory overload.

Angostura Sour
1 ½ oz angostura bitters
1 oz simple syrup
¾ oz fresh lime juice
1 egg white
Shake the egg white and lime juice in a dry cocktail shaker. Add the bitters and simple syrup. Fill with ice, shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Daiquiri

No treatise on rum would be complete without discussing the Daiquiri. I am not talking about the cheap rum spiked slurpees so popular at every all-inclusive resort south of the Mason–Dixon Line, I am talking about the sophisticated concoction that was a favorite both John F. Kennedy and Ernest Hemingway. Forget everything that you think you know about a daiquiri and read on for a brief education on a true classic.

It is difficult to pin down the exact origin of this godly nectar, as sugar, lime and rum were combined in various ways throughout the Caribbean and South America since the beginning of time. For the purposes of our discussion we will focus on the Cuban origins. Daiquirí is the name of a beach near Santiago, Cuba, as well as an iron mine in the same area. Around the turn of the century a group of American mining engineers were in the Venus bar in Santiago and they are credited with inventing an early variation of this drink that was served over ice in a tall glass. Over time the drink evolved into one that was made in a shaker and served in a cocktail glass. The drink spread to the US early in the 20th and slowly gained popularity.

David Embury lists this drink as one of his six basic cocktails and there is little need to diverge from his original recipe. In a cocktail shaker start with ¼ oz of simple syrup, add ½ oz of fresh lime juice and 2 oz of white rum. Embury calls for a Cuban rum, but unless you have some pre-embargo stuff lying around we will need to use something else. Basic Bacardi is prevalent and will make a passable cocktail. As this is drink is almost all rum though, consider using something a little nicer such as Cruzan Estate Light Rum. Fill the shaker with ice, shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Serve this with the smugness of knowing that you will never again stoop so low as to consume the common bastardization of such a great cocktail.

Daiquiri
¼ oz simple syrup
½ oz lime juice
2 oz white rum
Mix all ingredients in an ice filled shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dark ‘n’ Stormy

For our next rum based dream we head north to the bucolic island of Bermuda. Known as Bermuda’s national drink, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy is very unique in that it is a registered trademark in not only one, but two countries, Bermuda and the United States. In other words, legally there is a specific way this drink has to be made.

First a little history, this drink started to appear in Bermuda shortly after World War I. The drink gets its name from its presentation. When served, the rum floats on top of the ginger beer giving the impression of a storm rolling in. It is a very visually appealing drink when served this way, but it needs to be stirred for the flavors to blend and be truly enjoyable.

Back to our little legal dilemma. The trademark, held by Goslings Rum, dictates that the drink must be made using their Black Seal Rum and ginger beer. Although Goslings has recently released their own brand of ginger beer the trademark does not specify a brand of ginger beer. Fortunately for my vast legal team and I, we are not going to break any international laws with this variation. I am, however, going to commit the eighth deadly sin by my choice of ginger beer. Traditionally Barritt's has been the mixer of choice in this drink and many would argue that its brand is equally as important in this drink as Goslings. I am going to risk an international incident and recommend another. Due to the fact that I have been unable to locate Barritt’s, save for shipping in a case from the east coast, which I am still tempted to do. I have been using Bundaberg ginger beer, which to really complicate things and ruffle some feathers comes from Australia and is produced by a company that also makes rum!

On to construction. As this is a great warm weather, having a great time drink, I like to make them big, it saves me from having to remove myself from the comforts of the back porch too often and keeps the party going. A sixteen-ounce glass is necessary for these proportions, but adjust to fit the needs of your glassware and liver. Fill the man-sized behemoth of a vessel with ice, add ½ ounce of fresh squeezed lime juice (please do not report me to Gosling’s legal team), pour in 5 ounces of ginger beer. Next slowly pour in 3 ounces of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum (hopefully this will appease the aforementioned legal team) so that it floats on top of the ginger beer. Garnish with a wedge of lime, and serve with a stir stick. For the first round or two your guests will be impressed by the look of the drink, after three of four rounds serve them premixed and get ready to experience the storm!

Dark ‘n’ Stormy
3 oz gosling’s black seal rum
5 oz ginger beer
½ oz lime juice
In a large ice filled glass add lime juice and ginger beer. Float rum on top and serve with a lime wedge and a stir stick.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

El Presidente

Right on the heels of the Old Cuban, a fantastic drink that is not really old nor Cuban, I bring to you the El Presidente, one that is both old and Cuban. This is a rum based drink that is more reminiscent of a Manhattan, and will be a pleasant surprise to your palate if you always associate rum with excessively sweet and fruity cocktails.

As with many of the fine cocktails we have enjoyed together, this one has its origins during prohibition. Also like many others, this one was created by an American bartender who had gone overseas to share his God given gift of cocktail creation with the world, and the hoards of Americans who had to leave the country just to get a good drink. The man credited with the creation of this masterpiece is Eddie Woelke. After bouncing around in the US and Europe a bit, Mr. Woelke settled on Havana, an excellent choice in my opinion, at the Jockey Club. In a shrewd political move he named the drink after then Cuban President Gerardo Machado.

Enough history, let’s get onto the drink. In an ice filled cocktail mixer, start with 1 ½ ounces of a quality aged rum, I am currently pouring Cruzan Estate Single Barrel, but any of the better rums work well in this drink. Next add ¾ ounce of dry vermouth and ½ ounce of orange curacao (Cointreau can be substituted). Add ½ teaspoon of grenadine, try and find one that actually uses sugar and fruit juice instead of just high fructose corn syrup and “flavorings,” I like this one. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with an orange twist or cocktail cherries.

El Presidente
1 ½ oz aged rum
¾ oz dry vermouth
½ oz curacao
½ tsp grenadine
Stir all ingredients in an ice filled mixing glass. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist or cocktail cherries.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Old Cuban

August has become the month of rum for me and I have a handful of libations for your late summer indulgence. The first of which is the Old Cuban. Think of this as a more sophisticated mojito, a drink fit for a heavily compensated leader of a banana republic.

The true origin of this drink is much less romantic so I prefer to let my imagination wander to simpler times when the shady politicians and unscrupulous businessmen plied their trades with little government intervention and the world was none the wiser. The drink actually originated recently by Audrey Saunders of the Pegu Club in New York, not to be confused with this Pegu Club. It has the complex flavor balance of other vintage cocktails we have sampled and deserves a place among the old classics.

Start with ¾ ounce of fresh lime juice, ¾ ounce of pure cane simple syrup and six small to medium sized mint leaves in a cocktail shaker, muddle. Fill the shaker with ice, add two ounces of an aged dark rum, I like Cruzan. Top it off with a couple dashes of Angostura bitters and shake. Pour the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass and top it off with chilled Champagne, approximately 1 ½ to 2 ounces. For your first sip, close your eyes and imagine yourself as a United Fruit Company executive hopping around Central America on a Pan Am Clipper.

The Old Cuban
¾ oz lime juice
6 mint leaves
2 oz aged dark rum
2 dashes angostura bitters
1 ½ - 2 oz champagne
Muddle lime juice, syrup and mint in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice; add rum and bitters, shake vigorously. Pour into a cocktail glass and top with champagne.

Pure Cane Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is an ingredient called for is so many different cocktails that I decided to spend some time using different sugars and ratios of water just to see what I could come up with. One of my earliest experiments was using Sugar in the Raw, unrefined pure cane sugar. The result is a dark, caramel colored syrup with a distinct flavor that I think lends itself well to rum and bourbon based cocktails. There is just a hint of molasses flavor to it. I really like it in an Old Fashioned and an Old Cuban.

I like a ratio of one to one and the sugar dissolves easily enough that I find it unnecessary to heat the mixture. In a an empty 750 ml liquor bottle add one cup of sugar and one cup of water. Shake vigorously until the sugar is dissolved. Store the syrup in your refrigerator and shake briefly before each use to remove any crystallization.

Pure Cane Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar in the raw
1 cup water
Combine ingredients in an empty 750 ml bottle. Shake vigorously. Store in the refrigerator.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tonic Tasting Twenty-Ten

To follow up on my recent windmill chase I decided to see how my old standby tonic, Schweppes, stands up against a couple of self-proclaimed “premium” tonics, Q Tonic and Fever Tree. To maintain the scientific integrity of this experiment, I used the proportions found here.

I am sure that my high school science teachers would be disgusted with me, but I went in with a fairly weak hypothesis, “I don’t have a clue which one will prove superior, but I get to mix three cocktails and drink them all!” About half way through my testing, I decided to add a little bit of merit to this by judging each tonic on three tiered variables. First and foremost was taste. Second, based on the claims of one bottle, I compared carbonation. At the bottom, and to be used purely as a tiebreaker, I decided to look at the ingredients used. I intentionally did not take cost into account, as obviously you cannot put a price on an amazing cocktail.

I will begin with taste; for the sake of journalistic integrity I will admit to enjoying all three immensely and at the end of three cocktails, could not crown one the obvious winner. Q Tonic had a more distinctive flavor, it was lighter and less sweet than the other two, but the result left me felling like my drink was watered down. The Fever Tree and the Schweppes versions were nearly indistinguishable in taste. I doubt that even the most discerning palate would be able to tell the difference between the two on the first sip and surely not after two or three rounds. For round one, I am declaring a three-way tie between the competitors, but the judge deserves an honorable mention for triple fisting on a Friday afternoon!

Carbonation, the only reason I included this is I felt I needed another paragraph and Q Tonic makes a point of saying they use “champagne carbonation” on their label. I will save you all the suspense and admit that after thirty seconds in the glass the carbonation in all three was nearly gone and none of them seemed any different.

This brings me to our last criteria the quality of ingredients. I have often been accused of using premium booze in drinks where the average drunk will not be able to tell the difference, and while I agree with this to a point, I also feel that to make a well made cocktail one cannot scrimp on the quality of the booze. I feel the same about the other ingredients in a drink. So in looking at these three tonics, the premium brands seem much more concerned with their ingredients. Q uses organic agave as its sweetener and Fever Tree uses cane sugar, while Schweppes uses “high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar.” That vaguery of “and/or” makes me a little wary. The balance of the ingredients is also indicative of the smaller companies choosing to use more organic and natural ingredients. So for this round, I have to give a nod to Q and Fever Tree.

In conclusion, I will say that neither of the challengers proved to be so superior to Schweppes that I feel a need to replace it, but both were also tasty enough to be used without reservation. I do like the fact that Schweppes is readily available, where as I had to search in nicer specialty stores for the other two. So it comes down to your tolerance for mass-produced products containing high fructose corn syrup versus products produced in smaller quantities using superior ingredients. In a perfect world, I would probably throw my support behind Fever Tree due to it tasting nearly identical to Schweppes but made using better ingredients from a smaller company. The fact that it is more difficult to get though will probably equate to me still using a healthy amount of Schweppes. As for Q, I do like the distinctive flavor and am going to do some follow up experiments with different spirits and see if I can find it a permanent place in my mixer repertoire.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Building A Better Gin & Tonic (A.K.A. Reinventing the Wheel)

Few things taste better on a hot summer day than an ice-cold gin and tonic. In a heat induced haze I decided to set out on a quixotic journey to try and find the perfect recipe for this warm weather staple and then improve on it.

Most people are at least mildly familiar with the history of this combination and its place in the lore of the British Empire. For those like me who are casualties of the American education system, this grand concoction was introduced by the army of the British East India Company. Tonic contains quinine, which was used to prevent malaria, but it had a very bitter taste. So someone had a brilliant revelation: what better way to make medication more palatable than to add booze and sip it at sundown!

My own history with this cocktail is much more sordid, not only was this the drink of choice on my twenty-first birthday, but it is my very best inept bartender story. I was in London a few years ago after two weeks in the UK. I had sipped scotch in Scotland and and consumed more than my fair share of pub pints around the city. It was my last night and I felt it my obligation as a man of the cocktail to have a gin and tonic before leaving. I wandered down to the bar in the lobby of my hotel, a nice establishment in an upscale neighborhood, and asked the kind chap behind the bar for a gin and tonic. He responded with a look of confusion and I became mildly concerned. I was in London, at a bar and a simple gin and tonic was causing the barman distress, at first I thought it was a joke, what reasonably educated bartender in London can’t make this British staple. I quickly realized that this guy was not joking and preceded to painfully walk him through the drink, literally ice cube by ice cube. The result was drinkable, but I was totally disgusted at what passed for a bartender. That was my last trip to London, but next time I’m staying at the Savoy, or at least near enough I can use their bar as my own.

Okay, back to the drink at hand. Despite my previous anecdote, I don’t think I’ve ever had an awful gin and tonic, but I also can’t recall having an incredible one. I decided that this warm weather and medicinal classic deserved better and I undertook the enviable task of creating the quintessential gin and tonic. I went into this well aware that I was probably fighting an uphill battle against not only the laws of physics, but probably Murphy as well. I began with the most basic dilemma the gin to tonic ratio and from there experimented with different techniques to bring the drink to life. Alas, the results were worth the time and effort; behold the second coming of the gin and tonic!

Start with two ounces of Plymouth gin in an empty old fashioned glass, gently place a slice of lime into the glass and muddle well to release the juice as well as the oils, fill the glass with ice and add three ounces of Schweppes tonic. I have sampled most of the readily available supermarket brand tonics and Schweppes is the best of them. That’s all there is to it. I polled a distinguished panel of judges to validate my findings against a cocktail made with the same proportion of ingredients in the traditional manner and the results were conclusive.

While at its peak the sun may have never set on the British Empire, but the time has come for the sun to set on mediocre gin and tonics. Serve these to your friends with a nod to the absolute genius who thought to fight malaria with cocktails and the ballsiness needed to take over half the globe from an island in the Atlantic!

Gin & Tonic
2 oz gin
3 oz tonic
slice of lime
Pour the gin into an empty old fashioned glass, add the slice of lime and muddle. Fill the glass with ice and add the tonic. Stir and serve.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Suffering Bastard

I have wanted to write about this cocktail for quite a while purely because it has such a great name, but it is also a great drink. I am not sure exactly why, but this cocktail came to mind the morning after my son’s first birthday party. But I realized that the name was the perfect description for the way I felt. I have never used this as a hangover cure, but if you could stomach it, I think it would do wonders for you.

This is another drink with some vague details about the original recipe, even the creator seems to contradict himself, but the history seems to be consistent. This fine drink was born in the 1940s at the Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo Egypt by bartender Joe Scialom. The story goes that it was originally called the Suffering Bar Steward, but was slurred by regular patrons into its current designation. I have always made this drink with bourbon, but in researching another drink I found some variations that call for rum, most of those are poor modern bastardizations. There is some evidence that brandy was used in the original recipe, which would make sense; I doubt bourbon was highly prevalent in Egypt in the 1940s. I turned to Robert Hess, one of my favorite resources to see what he uses; he also uses bourbon so I have stuck to my original recipe.

Do not be scared off by the first two ingredients, it is an interesting combination that works well together. Start with an old fashioned glass full of ice, add an ounce each of bourbon (Maker’s works well here) and gin (Plymouth is my preference), pour in thee ounces of ginger ale, top it off with a dash of Angostura bitters and a wedge of lime. Prepare to silence your doubters with a perfectly executed “don’t question my cocktails” look.

Suffering Bastard
1 oz bourbon
1 oz gin
3 oz ginger ale
dash of bitters
Construct this in an old fashioned glass, pour all ingredients over ice, add a lime wedge and stir.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cocktail Cherries

It’s cherry season! This is the time of year to prepare for those long cold winter nights, where a good Manhattan in front of a roaring fire is the only thing that gets you through until spring. As I have mentioned before, those bright red candies in a jar are an abomination that have no business being part of a fine cocktail (with one notable exception). I know that there are other options out there, but they can be expensive and difficult to find, so my recommendation to you is make your own!

Not only are they very simple to make, your friends will be very impressed. So head to the nearest farmers market or fruit stand and pick up a few pounds of cherries and get started!

Start by stemming, pitting and washing three pounds of dark sweet cherries and set them aside. Pour one half cup of sugar into a large saucepan (I am going to try pure cane sugar this year, but in the past I have used just plain sugar), add a half cup of water, an ounce of lemon juice and two cinnamon sticks. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to low add the cherries and simmer for five minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in five ounces of the alcohol of your choice. I use bourbon since most of the drinks I use the cherries in are bourbon based, but brandy, scotch or rum would all impart slightly different flavors, feel free to experiment. Let the mixture cool before placing the entire mixture in a jar. Store these in the fridge and they will last all winter long.

This recipe can be halved or doubled depending on your rate of consumption. Also, in a pinch frozen cherries can be used.

Cocktail Cherries
3 lbs sweet cherries
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 oz lemon juice
2 cinnamon sticks
5 oz bourbon
Stem, pit and wash the cherries. Heat the sugar, water, lemon juice and cinnamon sticks to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the cherries and let simmer for five minutes. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the bourbon. Let mixture cool completely before placing it in a jar and refrigerating.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bicicletta

Over the last month the majority or my alcohol consumption has been in the form of the fermented grape, which, one might say, makes it difficult to refine fine cocktails to be shared with the drinking public, as proof to the contrary I offer you the bicicletta.

The history of this fine mixture continues to elude me despite hours and hours of research. I must admit that my research has been limited to making the drink and lounging on my porch, using the same search terms over and over in Google hoping for different results. For the sake of a refreshing summer beverage, I suggest coming up with your own history, incorporating a beautiful summer day in one of the Cinque Terre, a fantastic trattoria, and stolen glances at a man/woman across the patio.

The base of this drink is white wine, Italian of course, I prefer a crisp Pinot Grigio as it balances well with the second ingredient. The next ingredient is one of my very favorites, and one that no Italian cocktail should be without Campari. This can be constructed in either a glass or a wine goblet, depending on your taste. I typically use the glass because I find ice cubes sloshing around in a goblet awkward. Whatever your choice, fill it with ice and add equal parts of the Campari and wine, two ounces of each is a good amount. Splash enough club soda over the top to add fizz but not dilute the drink; usually just enough to fill the glass after the four ounces of Campari/wine have been added. Stir to mix and garnish with a slice of lemon. This is a very versatile drink that can be served throughout the day.

Bicicletta
2 oz campari
2 oz pinot grigio
club soda
Pour the spirits into a glass filled with ice cubes and top with club soda. Garnish with a slice of lemon.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rosita

I know that my long hiatus has left many of you longing for the early days of June when new recipes were coming out with some regularity. Well fear not, after a short recess for extensive “research,” I have the first tequila based cocktail to wet your whistle!

While many of the cocktails featured here have been rich in history, this one is a little hard to pin down. While the story does not have the cachet of most, it is a cocktail well worth enjoying. The best I have been able to come up with is it was deduced in the late eighties or early nineties (yes, nineteen, not eighteen) by a bartender/writer. The references I have found are all circular between three cocktail writers. One wrote about it and forgot about it until he read about it from another writer, the first writer then asked a third writer about it who told him the he (the first writer) had written it; or something along those lines, there are too many pronouns in this sentence for even me to follow, so let’s all just agree to move on to the best part, the drink!

I think I may be falling into a rut here as the supporting cast for this drink has become very familiar, in the coming weeks we’ll be breaking out of this shell and delving into brave new worlds. For the time being though, Campari, vermouth and bitters are here to stay. In an old fashioned glass full of ice, start with an ounce and a half of your favorite anejo tequila, I like Patron’s mild flavor for this drink. Add ½ ounce each of sweet vermouth, dry vermouth and Campari. A dash (or two) of Angostura bitters rounds out the ensemble. Stir well and garnish with a lime twist. Turn on your favorite Mariachi music and be prepared to sing along and dance til dawn!

Rosita
1 ½ oz anejo tequila
½ oz campari
½ oz sweet vermouth
½ oz dry vermouth
dash of angostura bitters
Build this cocktail in an ice filled old fashioned glass and garnish with a lime twist.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Boulevardier


          Boulevardier
          Pronunciation: \ˌbu̇-lə-ˌvär-ˈdyā, ˌbü-, -ˈdir\
          Function: noun
          Etymology: French, from boulevard
          Date: 1871
          a frequenter of the Parisian boulevards; a man-about-town

The name of the drink is enough to make a lesser man nervous. But have no fear; this is a drinking man’s cocktail.

The origin and history of this cocktail alone, should place it in the same company as the other bourbon based cocktail mainstays, unfortunately this red-headed step child of a drink has been relegated to second class status, known only in small but distinguished drinking circles.

Much like our third president, this drink is all American but very much at home in Paris. Harry McElhone, had been the bartender at the Plaza Hotel in New York prior to prohibition. Once Volstead’s law was passed he headed overseas to ply his trade. After a stint in London, he headed to France, eventually opening his own place. Harry’s New York Bar, maybe you’ve heard of it. The Boulevardier, first appeared in Harry’s 1927 bar guide, Barflies and Cocktails.

Similar to it’s cousin the Negroni, this concoction starts with Campari and sweet vermouth. The gin is replaced by bourbon. I like this drink on the rocks, but it can easily be shaken and served in a cocktail glass. Start with an ounce and a half of good bourbon, I like Gentleman Jack or a nice smooth small batch bourbon. Add an ounce of Campari and an ounce of sweet vermouth. This drink has the confidence to stand on it’s own, without the need for a garnish. This drink should be mixed, served and consumed with an extra air of panache.

Boulevardier
1 ½ oz bourbon
1 oz campari
1 oz sweet vermouth
Build this drink in an old fashioned glass full of ice.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Clementine Negroni

After a slight detour down Morning Buzz Boulevard, we have returned to our gin crusade with a variation on a truly timeless cocktail. I have always longed to love the Negroni, but have found myself infatuated by it’s Yankee cousin the Boulevardier; don’t let it’s ex-pat nom-de-guerre fool you, it's roots are one hundred percent American. This adaptation, or bastardization depending on whom you ask, adds a new flavor to this already complex drink. A gin connoisseur friend of mine was not a fan when I introduced him to the Negroni, he felt overwhelmed by the Campari. The solution is adding clementine juice, completely changing the taste of this drink, resulting in a balance that is pleasing to even the most discerning palate.

As this is a modern deviation, there is no need to delve deeply into the history of this cocktail, just read on and prepare your taste buds for a flavor explosion. As this is a perfect drink to share with a lady friend on a warm summer’s eve, this recipe is for two, adjust as your company dictates…

Start by placing three peeled clementines (or mandarin oranges, for simpletons like the author) in an over-sized shaker. Add four or five solid dashes of orange bitters and muddle thoroughly. Add two ounces Hendrick’s gin (I find the flavor more complimentary), two ounces Campari, and 1½ ounces of sweet vermouth. Fill shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Divide between two chilled cocktail glasses, garnish with clementine slices. Prepare to be praised excessively.

Clementine Negroni
3 clementines, peeled
5 dashes orange bitters
2 oz hendrick’s gin
2 oz campari
1 ½ oz sweet vermouth
Place clementines and orange bitters into a large shaker, muddles until fruit is pulverized. Add gin, campari and sweet vermouth. Fill with ice and shake vigorously. Divide between two chilled cocktail glasses, garnish with a clementine slice.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Buck’s Fizz

To continue on our pre-noon cocktail cruise, we will follow up the granddaddy of all OJ based morning beverages, the screwdriver, with a precursor (or a mere coincidental creation) to the mimosa, another morning classic. We will make sure to hit that in the future, but today our drink of choice is the Buck’s Fizz, not to be confused with the 80's pop group of the same name.

In an effort to prevent a modern flare up of the Hundred Years’ War and keep our Anglophile and Francophile readers happy, we will make a definite distinction between the Buck’s Fizz and the Mimosa; the former being created in 1921 in the Buck’s Club in London, the latter being created in Paris four years later. (I am starting to see a trend in cocktails named for the club in which they originated.) The Buck’s Fizz is distinct in that it has never revealed secret ingredients, which, according to our sources deep in MI6, this recipe reveals.

To make this clandestine cocktail, begin by pouring 2 ounces of freshly squeezed orange juice into a champagne flute. Add a dash of cherry brandy and ¼ ounce of Plymouth gin (this is one of London’s best kept secrets). Stir gently and top with Prosecco (using Champagne only ignites historical tensions).

Buck’s Fizz
2 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
1 dash cherry brandy
¼ oz gin
prosecco
Pour orange juice into a champagne flute. Add brandy and gin. Top with Prosecco and serve, pinky extended.

A Sophisticated Screwdriver

Breakfast/brunch cocktails is an area that is all to often ignored in the cocktailing community. While cocktail hour has traditionally started at five, there is absolutely no reason that any of us need to wait an entire day to enjoy a libation. This is a slightly more complex version of an old favorite that has been received with outstanding results among my closest friends.

As I am sure most everyone will agree, you can mix just about anything with orange juice and drink it.  In fact, my underage drinking career depended on it, but there are some classic orange juice based morning breakfast pick-me-ups which deserve coverage, many of which I plan to cover in the coming months. Today we will start with the screwdriver, a mixed drink that has saved many a wounded soldier. This is a more complex version though, that will please even the most discerning drunk.

The history or the screwdriver is a pretty simple one. In 1949 Time magazine described a drink where American engineers in Turkey would mix vodka and orange juice and stir it with a screwdriver. The original article is available online here, isn’t technology amazing!

For the purposes of our slightly more high-brow concoction, start by slicing two oranges into quarter inch thick slices and place them into the bottom of a large pitcher, add a pinch of kosher salt and the juice of one lemon; muddle well to release the oils from the orange peel and break up the fruit. Add forty-eight ounces (six cups) of fresh squeezed orange juice and 16 ounces (two cups) chilled vodka. I like Smirnoff, Sky or Absolut in this recipe. Stir well and pour into ice filled glasses and top with one of the muddled orange slices.

Screwdriver
2 oranges cut into ¼ inch thick slices
1 lemon, juiced
1 pinch kosher salt
6 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
2 cups chilled vodka
Place sliced oranges in large pitcher, add lemon juice and salt, muddle thoroughly.  Add vodka and orange juice, stir.  Pour into ice filled glasses, garnish with a muddled orange slice.  Makes six to eight drinks.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Old Fashioned (Well Dressed/Volstead Version)

To finally rectify my greatest crime against cocktail humanity, it is time to put up my “other” Old Fashioned recipe. As I mentioned before, I struggled with this grand predicament, but I came to the conclusion that there is a place for both. This variation is great for summer. The bright colors of the fruit contrast the deep brown of the drink and fit perfectly with seersucker, linen and madras!

It seems that the addition of muddled fruit originates during prohibition when the quality of the whiskey went down drastically and the average speakeasy patron needed something to help mask the god-awful taste of backwoods bourbon. The historical significance alone should give this variation its own place in every bartenders repertoire.

My formula for this is similar to the one I use without fruit. I decrease the amount of simple syrup by half to compensate for the addition of the fruit, and decrease the amount of bourbon slightly since I tend to serve these mid-day and nobody likes to find their guests face down on the croquet pitch with only mad dogs and Englishmen standing about. The steps to build it are much different though. Start with an orange slice, about ¼ inch thick. Peel the fruit from the inside of the slice and place it in the bottom of an old fashioned glass. Take the peel and slice it into two pieces, place these on top of the fruit; add two cherries, two dashes of angostura bitters and muddle. Pour in ½ ounce of simple syrup, an ounce of the bourbon of your choice (I suggest Gentleman Jack), stir well. Fill the glass with ice and add the remaining 1 ½ ounces of bourbon.

The garnish on this drink comes from my oldest and best cocktail companion who will remain nameless to protect his professional reputation. I fell it adds the perfect finishing touch to this drink. In order to comply with rule number two (look to the left of the screen) we need to include a cherry. It pains me greatly to write this as this is the only circumstance where I use them, but the neon red maraschino cherries work best here. You will also need a half an orange slice and a toothpick (I’ve been partial to the little plastic swords since I was a kid). Fold the orange in half around the cherry and stick the sword through to hold it all together, place it flippantly across the top of the drink and the side of the glass. Serve this cocktail with a nod to Utah for being the 36th state to ratify the 21st amendment, repealing the 18th amendment, and ending prohibition!

Old Fashioned
2½ oz bourbon
2 dashes angostura bitters
½ oz simple syrup
1 ½, quarter inch thick orange slices
cherries
Place the fruit from one orange slice into the bottom of an old fashioned glass, slice the peel into two pieces and add it to the glass. Add two cherries, the bitters, and muddle. Pour in the simple syrup, one ounce of bourbon, and stir. Fill the glass with ice and add the remaining bourbon. Garnish with half an orange and a cherry.

The Pegu Club Cocktail

The great gin cocktail quest of 2010 continues with more successes than failures and I have another winner for your drinking enjoyment. The Pegu Club is a fairly simple, easy sipping cocktail, perfect for warm summer nights, the tropics, and while visiting your favorite junta ruled totalitarian state.

This cocktail originated during the 1920s in The Pegu Club in Rangoon. As a far flung outpost of the British Empire, Burma offered few of the creature comforts for which your average Brit yearned, save for a classy gentleman’s club to gather with the boys, enjoy a cocktail, and toast the Queen. The house cocktail spread through the empire and the rest of the world, appearing in Haddocks’s tome, The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930.

This cocktail is a true crowd pleaser. Men and women, gin lovers and haters. Everyone that I have mixed this for has become an instant fan. It has the perfect combination of sweet, sour and bitter, not to mention it packs a pretty hefty punch!

The version I prefer uses two types of bitters, some recipes call for only one. While I have found that the taste difference is nearly indiscernible, I like any excuse to use all the bitters that I can. Start with 2 ounces of gin, I like Plymouth in this drink, but any good London dry gin will work. Next add ¾ ounce of Cointreau and ½ ounce of fresh squeezed lime juice. Kaffir limes are the most authentic, but can be difficult to find. Lastly add a couple dashes of orange bitters, a couple dashes of angostura bitters, shake and serve with a lime slice as garnish.

To Queen and Country!

The Pegu Club
2 oz gin
¾ oz cointreau
½ oz fresh lime juice
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dashes angostura bitters
 Add all ingredients to your shaker, fill with ice.  Shake vigorously.  Pour into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a thin slice of lime.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Old Fashioned (No Garbage)

The most glaring omission in my ongoing attempt to educate is perhaps my absolute favorite cocktail, so it has pained me greatly to let it sit idly by and not be recognized as the amazing drink that it is. The reason for my reluctance to add the Old Fashioned to the canonical record stems from my inability to decide whether the fruit belonged in the drink or not. I finally had an epiphany on this matter and am ready to pass on my wisdom (and hedge my bets). I realized that both variants have their place and that there is room in every bar for two Old Fashioned recipes, one made simply without fruit and another with fruit. I am going to start with the first, but will be adding the second in the very near future.

The Old Fashioned is perhaps the most bastardized cocktail I have ever come across. Depending on where you get your recipe you will see soda, sprite, ginger ale and many other preposterous ingredients that I refuse to even reference for fear of aiding in the destruction of one of America’s greatest inventions.

The Old Fashioned originated in the 1880s, at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky. More importantly it is considered the first cocktail as defined by the The Balance And Columbia Repository in 1806, as spirits, bitters, water, and sugar.  Following this definition to the word, the Old Fashioned is made up of bourbon, angostura bitters, water and sugar. In lieu of water and sugar separately, I use simple syrup because it makes the drink easier to make and prevents any un-dissolved sugar from sinking to the bottom of the glass.

While many of the drinks highlighted here have many steps and tools involved this one is as simple as it gets. Start with an old fashioned glass filled with ice, add 3 oz. of your favorite bourbon (I like Woodford Reserve for this drink), 2 dashes angostura bitters, and 1 oz. of simple syrup. Stir and serve, that’s it!

This is one of those cocktails that most people have heard of, but few have tried. It can hold its own in any situation as is. If you feel the need for a simple garnish, use an orange twist. You can also use orange bitters to add a slight citrus flavor.

Old Fashioned
3 oz bourbon
2 dashes angostura bitters
1 oz simple syrup
Fill an old fashioned glass with ice.  Add the bourbon, bitters and simple syrup. Stir and serve a piece of cocktail history.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Satan's Whiskers

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that gin is an area of cocktail knowledge where I am severely lacking for recipes that I really enjoy. I partially blame my devotion to bourbon for this deficiency; I also blame the fact that I have not taken the time to get past the very basics. To remedy this misfortune, I have committed to trying at least one new gin based cocktail per week for the next eight weeks. I was hoping to find three or four that are suitable for publication; on my first dive into the gin filled pool, I came up with a winner. With a name like Satan’s Whiskers how could I have gone wrong!

The earliest reference I could find to this cocktail is the original Savoy Cocktail Book from 1930. Craddock’s recipe is slightly different from mine; I prefer a little less orange juice and a little more Gran Marnier. I was worried that the orange flavor would overpower the rest of the drink, but the gin and sweet vermouth have a nice presence and provide good balance.

This is a fairly straightforward cocktail to make. Since juicing the orange is the only step that requires any effort that is where I like to start. I tried this using both Plymouth and Hendrick’s gin and preferred the flavor of the Hendrick’s, but with all of the other flavors going on, any decent gin should yield favorable results.

One note of caution, this is one of those drinks that can really sneak up on you!

Satan’s Whiskers
¾ oz gin
¾ oz dry vermouth
¾ oz sweet vermouth
½ oz gran marnier
½ oz orange juice
2 heavy dashes orange bitters
Put all ingredients into an ice filled shaker.  Shake vigorously.  Pour into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with cherries and serve.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Well Stocked Bar

I am often asked about where to start when it comes to stocking a bar. I had to put some serious thought into an answer since I have been slowly building up my collection of glassware, tools, liquors, mixers, etc. for the better part of two decades. Let’s start with the most important part, the booze.

At a minimum I would have a solid mid-to-high-end bottle of each of these fine spirits on hand. These six are the cornerstone of any well stocked bar. They make up the base of most mainstream drinks. Only a really pompous asshole would not be able to find a cocktail to their liking with this selection.
  • American Whiskey
  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Scotch
  • Rum
  • Tequila
Moving on to mixers, flavoring agents and garnishes. This list is pretty extensive, but most of the items will last you for a very long time, with the exception of the fruit. Realistically, this list is the one that will probably grow as you explore different cocktails. This is a comprehensive list that will not only see you through most any cocktail party, but impress your guests as well.
  • Sweet Vermouth
  • Dry Vermouth
  • Angostura Bitters
  • Simple Syrup
  • Club Soda
  • Tonic
  • Ginger Ale
  • Coke
  • 7-Up
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Olives
  • Onions
  • Cherries
Glassware and tools round out this discussion and is the area with the most flexibility. In a pinch any glass will work and basic kitchen utensils will fill in for the tools. I will list them in the priority that I would acquire them but you could probably get by with whatever you have in your cupboards right now.
  • Old Fashioned Glasses
  • Cocktail Glasses
  • Tom Collins Classes
  • Various size Jiggers
  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Citrus Juicer
  • Muddler
  • Strainer
This is a good place to start and there is infinite room to grow in all three areas. But before you print this off and rush out and run up your amex card make a list of the five drinks you and your friends drink the most often. Make sure that everything you need to make them is on this list, particularly for your favorite drink. Also keep in mind I did not include any beer or wine on this list, but they are always good to have on hand as well.

Your bar will continue to grow and within a few years you will surely have an obscure bottle of something that sits in the back gathering dust just waiting for someone to use it. A good method for using these up and expanding your horizons is to use the bottle that has been pushed to the very back at least once a month. Pull out the bottle, see what it is and search this site or use another reference to find a recipe that uses it to try. Who knows you may find your next favorite drink!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Mint Julep

With the run for the roses taking place this weekend, I felt it only appropriate to cover the traditional drink of the derby.  The mint julep is the perfect accompaniment to the most exciting two minutes in sports, but is also just as appropriate at any summer gathering.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I have never been to the derby, but the coverage on the TV is very in depth and I love bourbon!

As with most of the drinks I have featured the number of variations is mind blowing.  I think that everyone will agree a mint julep needs bourbon, mint and sugar, beyond that it comes to individual adaptations. The mint and sugar pose the most options. My particular preference is to use simple syrup and to strain the mint. I also like bitters in mine. The funniest debate about this drink is the ice. There are more theories on the way the ice should be presented in this drink than any other I have ever researched. So to muddy the waters even more, I am inserting an additional option as my choice! The best ice for this drink is the little pebble ice that butchers put into the seafood cases. It is the perfect surface area to melting speed ratio. Sometimes it takes a little finesse to get them to hand over a bag of the stuff, but a little white lie about your grandmothers knee replacement surgery usually helps.

The preparation to this drink is the key between an okay drink and an epic drink. The first step is to put your glasses in the freezer at least an hour prior to serving. Julep cups are the traditional vessel to serve this, but if your bar does not include numerous special purpose silver cups, Collins glasses work just fine. Next is the garnish, rinse sprigs of mint and when almost dry, dust them with powdered sugar.

Now comes the actual construction.  For each drink you intend to make, set an empty old-fashioned glass on the bar and put 1 ½ tablespoons of simple syrup in each. Then drop 12-16 small mint leaves into each glass, add three strong dashes of angostura bitters and muddle together. Pour an ounce or two of bourbon in each glass and stir. To keep with the derby theme, stick with a Kentucky bourbon, I like Maker’s Mark, but Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby so, at least for this week, that is what I am pouring! Next, pull your frosted glasses out of the freezer and fill halfway with ice.  Strain the mint and syrup mixture into the glass and stir well.  Top the glass off with ice, fill with bourbon, and stir again. Take a garnish spring and cut the stem just below the mint leave, insert into the drink and serve.

Serve these with a couple of cocktail napkins to compensate for the cold and be ready for fast refills. If you have enough glasses, start each round with a fresh glass.  If you make these wearing a seersucker suit or jockey uniform you get extra points!

Mint Julep
¾ oz simple syrup
3 dashes angostura bitters
12-16 mint leaves, plus one sprig
kentucky bourbon
powdered sugar
Place cups in freezer an hour before serving. Rinse and dry mint. Dust garnish with powdered sugar. Add syrup, bitters and mint to mixing glass, muddle.  Stir in 1-2 ounces of bourbon. Fill frozen cups or glasses with ice, pour in mint mixture through strainer, and stir. Top with ice, fill with bourbon, and insert trimmed garnish.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks

This being my first non-drink post, I felt it only fitting to pay tribute to one of my most prized resources on the cocktail. I have had this book in my possession for many years. I do not remember exactly where or when it was acquired, but I am pretty sure it belonged to one of my grandparents based on the date of publication. It is none other than David Embury’s classic dissertation on cocktails, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.

I have a dozen or so different books, another dozen websites bookmarked, and multiple apps on my phone that I use as a reference when trying new drinks or just looking for variations on old favorites, but Embury’s is by far my favorite and most used resource. It was not until recently that I realized that this book really is a treasure. One day when looking through it, I had the great idea to pick up some copies and give them as gifts to some of my friends. I figured that I could probably pick them up on Amazon for a couple of bucks each. Boy was I wrong! I quickly realized that my 1958 edition is by far the most valuable book I have ever owned. Depending on the edition and condition of the book, they sell for well over a thousand dollars. Needless to say my friends did not receive copies as gifts. If you are not lucky enough to find one in someone’s basement there is a 2008 edition available from Amazon.

Regardless of its monetary value, its true value is that it can take you back in time. Embury’s work of art was written at the pinnacle of cocktailing. When cocktail hour and cocktail parties meant something. His recipes are not written by the beverage companies looking to promote their wares or the bartenders trying to make a few extra bucks. Perhaps I am a purist, but I like to taste drinks as they were meant to be made, before looking at the changes that have been make in the ensuing decades and passing judgment.

As I have stated in the past, many of the current recipes attempt to mask the taste of the alcohol. The perfect recipe should balance the flavors so that they complement not only each other, but most importantly, the key ingredient. Even with something as simple as a gin and tonic, I want to be able to taste the gin, but not be overpowered by it, the taste of the tonic and lime need to be in perfect balance with the gin.

The Old Fashioned is a perfect example. I have held off from writing on this classic due to the sheer number of variations in how it is made, and what is included. Depending on the source and the year published you may find a drink made with bourbon, rye or Canadian whisky. It may call for soda, sprite, water or grenadine. While some of the variations are quite good, it is hard to know where to start with so many versions available. Starting with a very simple recipe makes the search for the perfect recipe much easier.

If you are fortunate enough to have a copy in your possession, look up your favorite drink and see what David has to say about it, give his recipe a try and see what you think. If nothing else, you have expanded your horizons and spent sometime with one of the classics of American literature.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Castro’s Cuba Libre

This is not the same drink you consumed by the pool over spring break, that was a cheap rum and coke with a wedge of lime. This is a drinking man’s version of an old classic, fit for even the most discerning communist politician. The exact origin, as well as the exact timing of this cocktail is disputed, but suffice it to say, it was created in Cuba in the early years of the 20th century.

My version goes way beyond white or spiced rum mixed haphazardly with cola and served in a plastic cup with the tiniest sliver of lime. As with any great drink, a little effort goes a long way. Start with the lime, your average grocery store lime just will not do the trick this time. Take the time to find somewhere with Mexican or Key limes (if you are forced to use Persian limes, look for small ones and only use half the lime in each drink). Slice the lime in half and squeeze the juice into an empty Collins glass. Drop one squeezed out lime half into the glass and muddle gently to release some of the oils. Fill the glass with ice and add 2 1/2 ounces of premium riserva rum, Pyrat XO is what currently resides in my bar. Lastly, fill the remainder of the glass with coca-cola, but not your average store bought can. Look in the Hispanic food section of your grocery store or seek out a specialty store that carries bottles imported from Mexico. The Mexican version is sweetened with sugar cane instead of corn syrup and has a slightly sweeter and much cleaner flavor.

Grow a beard, light a cigar and invite your friends over for a Cuban themed cocktail party. Serve these along with daiquiris, mojitos, and el presidentes and you will have corrected the wrongs of bartenders all over the world.

Cuba Libre
1 key lime
2 ½ oz riserva rum
imported coca-cola
Squeeze the lime juice into empty Collins glass, drop in one of the squeezed out lime halves, muddle gently.  Fill the glass with ice and add the rum.  Fill the remainder of the glass with coca-cola. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Americano

Arriving on time to a birthday dinner Saturday night, I was of course the first one there so instead of sitting alone at a large table, I found my way to the bar. The establishment is one of the better restaurants in the city and serves very good Tuscan cuisine. I took a quick look at their wine list and drink menu, sitting at the very top was one of the simplest yet unique drinks that is in my usual summer rotation, the Americano.

What I really love about this drink is how easy it is to make, how well the flavors blend together, and that I can drink them by the gallon without falling over! What can be simpler than equal parts Campari and Sweet Vermouth served over ice? I find no garnish necessary, but an orange slice makes a nice accompaniment. The bitter flavor of the Campari really stands out so feel free to adjust the ratio if you like a sweater drink. This can also be mixed in a Collins glass and topped with club soda for a very refreshing summer drink.

Americano
2 oz campari
2 oz sweet vermouth
Pour the both ingredients into an ice filled glass and garnish with a slice of orange.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The French 75

I will never forget the first time I had ordered a French 75. It was New Years Eve and we had gone out to a little French bistro with a group of friends. As everyone was perusing the menu and ordering cocktails I looked over the list of house cocktails and saw the French 75. Always looking to try new drinks and thinking the combination of gin and champagne was interesting I decided to give it a shot.

Sitting next to me was a great friend and drinking buddy of mine. The waitress set down his standard bourbon in front of him and then set a champagne flute in front of me. My friend looked over with a confused look and in one sentence questioned my sexuality, insulted my wife and degraded the French before asking what it was. Once I told him, he asked if he could try it.

I have always enjoyed variations on the champagne cocktail served in the restaurants all over Paris and eagerly order the specialty of the house on most occasions. My current favorite is from the Rôtisserie du Beaujolais, but let’s save that for another time. The French 75 is slightly stronger than many other champagne based apéritifs, but a good balance of flavors.

I like the smooth flavor of Plymouth gin in this drink. Start with a cocktail shaker filled with ice and add 1 ounce of gin, add one teaspoon of bakers sugar (also called superfine and ultrafine) and the juice of one lemon wedge. Shake vigorously and pour into a champagne flute. Fill the remainder of the flute with the champagne (or prosecco) of your choice.

This is a great drink anytime of the day and all year long, but is very well suited to warm weather, green grass and lazy afternoons!

French 75
1 oz gin
½ tsp sugar
juice of 1 lemon wedge
champagne
In a cocktail shaker, combine the gin, sugar and lemon juice and shake well with cracked ice. Strain the gin mixture into a champagne flute. Top off with champagne.