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!

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


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.

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.