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!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Bonus


Here is a little bonus on top of the 12 Drinks of Christmas.  These two festive cocktails are a perfect way to tempt your taste buds and bridge the food and beverage binge between Christmas and New Year’s.  These two drinks provide something for everyone, a refreshing vodka treat in the Poire Victoire and a bourbon based beauty in the Jeff One.

Both drinks are recent creations from a couple of Paris' better Bar Anglais.  The Poire Victoire from the Hemingway Bar in 2008 and the Jeff One from the Cambon Bar in 2002.  As with the other delightful creations from Colin Field, these both posses the depth of character and flavor of drinks from centuries past.

First the Poire Victoire, this is an elegantly simple drink with such amazing flavor, it quickly became the favorite at a recent Christmas Eve party.  Start with two and a half ounces Grey Goose Poire in a cocktail shaker, add two ounces of apple juice and half an ounce of fresh squeezed lime juice.  Fill with ice, shake and serve in a cocktail glass.  When your guest asks what it is, summon your inner Frenchman and let Poire Victoire roll off you tongue like it’s your first language.

Second the Jeff One.  Construct this one in an old fashioned glass, start by cutting the ends off of a mandarin orange, slice down one side of the peel and carefully remove the peel in one piece, place it in the glass, place the orange inside it and muddle.  Fill the glass with ice, add one teaspoon of superfine sugar, two ounces of bourbon (Maker’s Mark is always a good choice), and fill the glass with ginger ale (about three ounces).  Stir well to dissolve the sugar and serve to your Old-Fashioned appreciating friends.  This is a nice refreshing alternative to mix into your repertoire, that will help you survive even the preachiest of christian Santas.

Poire Victoire
2 ½ oz grey goose poire
2 oz apple juice
½ oz lime juice.
Add all ingredients to ice filled shaker, shake and serve in a cocktail glass.

Jeff One
2 oz bourbon
3 oz ginger ale
1 tsp superfine sugar
1 mandarin orange
Cut ends off the orange and discard.  Remove peel from orange and place in an old fashioned glass, place orange in the center of the peel and muddle.  Fill glass with ice, add sugar, bourbon, ginger ale, and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mulled Wine


We’ve made it, our journey through holiday drinks and the days leading to Christmas has sadly come to a conclusion.  The bright side is I have just over twenty-four hours left to do my Christmas shopping, prepare a Christmas Eve feast and enjoy the season!  To end our collection of concoctions we have a very nice Mulled Wine, a drink that can easily be served anytime of day throughout the colder months.  I like to make sure that none of my Christmas day guests leaves the house without one of these in hand!

Mulled Wine has dozens of names and slight variations depending on where you are in Germany and Alsace it is known as Glühwein.  In France, vin chaud.  In Italy, mulled wine is typical in the northern part of the country and is called vin brulé.  In Russia, Glintwein.  Glögg is the term for mulled wine in the Nordic countries.   All are typically made with red wine, sugar and a combination of spices.  The oldest known record of one of these variants is attributed to the German nobleman and first Riesling grower of the world, Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen around 1420.

In a saucepan warm 1500 ml of Burgundy over medium heat until steaming; add six ounces of fresh squeezed orange juice and a cup of brown sugar.  Stir in two teaspoons of ground cinnamon.  In a tea ball place one teaspoon whole allspice, one teaspoon whole cloves, and one teaspoon cardamom seeds.  Place spice ball into pan and simmer over the lowest possible heat for twenty to thirty minutes.  Remove the spice ball and serve garnished with a cinnamon stick.  To keep the wine warm for an extended period, pour it into a covered crockpot on low heat.  The wine can also be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for twenty-four hours (this also lets the flavors blend nicely), either reheat on the stove for ten minutes before serving or in the crockpot.

Mulled Wine
1500 ml burgundy wine
6 oz fresh orange juice
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp cardamom seeds
Heat wine over medium heat, add orange juice, sugar, cinnamon and remaining spices in a tea ball.  Simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes.  Serve with a cinnamon stick.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Robertino


Today’s delight comes, once again, from the Bar Hemingway.  It is sure to please all members of the fairer sex that you may be entertaining, as well as any gentlemen who stop by.  The Robertino has just the right amount of sweetness to it, the balance impeccably perfected at the esteemed establishment of its birth.

Once again there is not a depth of history involved , it was created in 2005 by one of the bartenders at the Ritz for a regular who frequently brings models, actresses and rock stars into the bar. It is obviously influenced by the Cosmopolitan, but the flavor seems more balanced and enjoyable.

To me this is a drink meant to share with someone, so this will make enough for two.  Start by placing a sprig of fresh mint in a shaker, add two ounces of Grey Goose vodka, and muddle slightly.  Add one ounce of fresh squeezed mandarin orange juice and an ounce of Cointreau.  Lastly add six ounces of cranberry juice.  Fill the shaker with ice and mix.  Pour the contents into two ice filled old fashioned glasses, garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.  Serve while Labelle's Lady Marmalade plays suggestively in the background.

Robertino
2 oz vodka
1 oz mandarin orange juice
1 oz cointreau
6 oz cranberry juice
2 springs of mint
Add vodka and a sprig of mint to a shaker, muddle.  Add orange juice, Cointreau  and cranberry juice.  Fill with ice and shake.  Serve in an ice filled old fashioned glass with a sprig of mint.  Serves two.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hot Buttered Rum


To stick with our theme of winter drinks, here is one that will make your cardiologist cringe.  But as we all know, anytime you are using butter in a cocktail, good things are going to happen!  The Hot Buttered Rum is one of those gluttonous pleasures that would not cross your mind eleven months out of the year, but when candy canes and cookie trays constitute a balanced breakfast a Hot Buttered Rum is the perfect drink to end a long day.

While I have found no evidence to support his creation of the drink, Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr., also known as Trader Vic, definitely made it popular.  It appeared in “Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink,” published originally in 1946.

To make this delightfully decedent treat you need to make a batch of butter batter first.  Place one stick of butter at room temperature into a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt, add a quarter teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  Beat until the butter is creamed and the spices are well mixed.  Slowly, add one pound of brown sugar and continue to mix.  Store the batter in the refrigerator.  When ready to make the cocktail place one to two heaping teaspoons into a mug, add two ounces of dark rum (I’m currently using Myer’s), and fill with boiling water.  Serve with a cinnamon stick and an angioplasty tenth one’s free punch card.

Hot Buttered Rum
1 lb brown sugar
¼ lb butter softened
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground nutmeg
a pinch of sugar
dark rum
Cream the butter, salt and spices in a mixing bowl, add sugar and mix.  Store in the refrigerator until ready for use.  For each drink place 1 to 2 teaspoons of the butter batter into a mug, add 2 ounces of dark rum and fill with boiling water.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coquito


I have recently come to the conclusion that Christmas should either be white or tropical, nowhere in between.  Fortunately whether you are sitting by a roaring fire watching the snow accumulate by the foot or stretched out with your feet in the sand enjoying the peaceful sound of the waves hitting the beach this drink has you covered.

The Coquito is a traditional holiday drink from our island neighbor Puerto Rico.  History is pretty sparse, but as it is similar to eggnog, I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate that it evolved due to the abundance of indigenous ingredients.

As this, once again, is a cocktail made for celebrations, the recipe here is for a crowd.  Start by warming eight cups of coconut milk in a saucepan over low heat.  When the milk starts to steam add three quarters of a cup of sugar and stir until dissolved. Meanwhile place sixteen egg yolks in a mixing bowl add four tablespoons vanilla extract and whisk until well blended.  I do not use much spiced rum, but this is a circumstance where I think the spice adds to the drink.  Stir in two cups of Captain Morgan’s and then slowly pour the egg mixture into the saucepan stirring constantly and using caution not to let the mixture boil.  Remove from heat when completely mixed.  While the Coquito is traditionally served cold, I enjoy it hot as well.  To serve it cold, place the mixture in a glass container and refrigerate until ready to serve.  This recipe also makes for a lighter libation appropriate for all of your guests, I personally like to add another ounce (or more) of rum to my cup when serving.  To finish it off, top the mixture with fresh ground Ceylon cinnamon before serving.

Coquito
8 cups coconut milk
¾ cup of sugar
16 egg yolks
4 tbl vanilla extract
2 cups spiced rum
Gently heat milk over low heat, add the sugar and stir to dissolve.  In a separate bowl whisk eggs and vanilla, add the rum.  Slowly mix the egg mixture into the milk, stirring constantly.  Serve with freshly ground cinnamon over the top.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wassail


Seeing that our list is a little short on classic holiday drinks there will be at least a couple appearing this week.  Here is a classic from Jolly Olde England that is sure to warm your soul and fuel your caroling long into the cold night.

Wassailing is an ancient southern English tradition that was originally performed with the intention of ensuring a good crop of cider apples for the next year's harvest.  It evolved into the yuletide tradition of caroling door to door with a bowl of sherry-soaked warm cidery goodness.  The name comes from the Middle English salutation ‘Waes Hail’, meaning ‘good health’ or ‘to your health’.  The revelers would go door-to-door singing in exchange for a refill.

To make this cold weather cocktail, warm two quarts of apple cider over medium heat until it starts to steam.  Add one half cup of brown sugar and two teaspoons ground nutmeg.  In a tea ball place, approximately six cinnamon sticks, a dozen each cloves and allspice berries, and a vanilla bean.  Drop the tea ball into the cider and let simmer for 30 minutes while enjoying another of our holiday favorites.  Remove the tea ball and add one cup each of fresh squeezed lemon and orange juices.  Pour in one and a half liters of dry sherry.  Find the worlds largest roady cup and head out into the cold with your band of musical merry makers singing this:
            Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
            Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
            Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
            With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

Wassail
2 qts apple cider
½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp ground nutmeg
6 cinnamon sticks
12 whole cloves
12 allspice berries
1 vanilla bean
1 cup orange juice
1 cup lemon juice
1 ½ liters dry sherry
Heat cider over medium heat until steaming.  Add sugar and nutmeg.  Put remaining spices in a tea ball and set in the cider.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove tea ball and add the remaining ingredients.  Serves six to eight.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Whiskey Cobra

The next treat I have for your caroling consumption is similar to an Old Fashioned but not as sweet. It grows on your palate as the flavors blend and the oils seep from the orange peel, the last sip will be the best and leave you wanting more.

The Whiskey Cobra is another recent revelation originating in 2007at the Cambon Bar. The Cambon Bar resides near the back door of the Ritz in Paris. As mentioned earlier, I spent some time enjoying the cocktails of the Bar Hemingway recently, and Colin Field introduced this drink to me. It is named after the Bell 209/AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter.

Start by carefully peeling a mandarin orange so that the peel resembles a cobra. I find it easiest to start by cutting around the end of the orange in a circle, but stopping before finishing the circle and then peeling around the orange to create the body and tail. Place the peel in the glass tail first so that the head protrudes above the age of rim of the glass. Squeeze the juice of the orange into the glass; add four drops of Angostura bitters. Fill the glass half full of bourbon, I suggest Marker's Mark, and stir. Fill the glass with ice and serve with the cobra facing outward.

Whiskey Cobra
3 oz bourbon
4 drops bitters
1 mandarin orange
Peel the orange in the shape of a cobra, place in an empty old fashioned glass tail first. Add the juice of the orange, the bitter and bourbon. Stir well and fill with ice.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Bloody Sunday

As the halfway mark of our holiday journey falls on a Sunday just two short weeks before Christmas, I can only hope that the rest of you are feeling better than I am this morning.  Apparently there is such thing as too much Christmas spirit.  But fear not, along with being one of the all time classic brunch cocktails, the Bloody Mary is also an amazing hangover cure (the shampoo effect).

While there is some evidence to discredit the commonly held belief that the Bloody Mary was invented at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris around 1920, I love the bar and its history so I am going to stick with that until proven otherwise.

At its most basic level this morning after favorite is a combination of vodka, tomato juice and any number of fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings. Everybody has their own personal touches to the point that one of the only compliment’s I can still give Delta Airlines is the Bloody Mary condiment tray in the crown room that allows each weary traveler to dress their cocktail as desired. I like this version as it is heavy on the citrus and a packs a nice kick. Start by mixing the tomato juice mixture below in a large pitcher and refrigerate until well chilled, it should make enough for six to eight cocktails. The time of day will dictate the amount of vodka to use. Prior to 10:00 AM use use one ounce, from 10:00 to 11:00 AM work your way to an ounce and a half, and from 11:00 to noon work from an ounce and a half to two. Once the clock hits twelve all bets are off, make them as strong as you desire. When ready to serve fill a glass with ice. Add the appropriate amount of vodka, fill glass with tomato mix and stir. Garnish each drink with a lime wedge and a spear of pickled asparagus.

Bloody Mary
46 oz tomato juice
¾ cup fresh orange juice
3 tbs worcestershire sauce
2 tbs prepared horseradish
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp tabasco sauce
1 ½ tsp celery salt
Vodka
Mix first seven ingredients in a large pitcher and chill. For each drink pour one to two ounces of vodka into an ice filled glass. Pour in tomato mixture and stir. Garnish with a spear of pickled asparagus and a lime.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Serendipiti

I had the good fortune of spending some time with bartender Colin Field at the Bar Hemingway at the Ritz in Paris recently. We discussed many topics ranging from cocktails to shotguns, mostly cocktails. This is a calvados and champagne based concoction of his creation and is a great way to start a cold winter’s eve.

While this is a recent creation it comes from one of the all time classic cocktail birthing grounds and it has all the characteristics of a good cocktail.  It was created in 1994 by Colin at the Bar Hemingway.  Based on the name I am guessing it was somewhat of an accidental discovery, but that is purely conjecture on my part so let's move on to the best part.

There is just something about Calvados that calls out to be consumed in the late fall and winter, this is a perfectly balanced blend of flavors that will dance across your tongue. In deference to Colin’s unimpeachable credentials (and an already perfect cocktail) I am leaving the proportions just as he wrote it.  Begin with an old fashioned glass, add one and a quarter ounces of calvados, a teaspoon of sugar, and two sprigs of fresh mint, muddle.  Fill with ice and add one and three quarter ounces of apple juice, stir, and top with champagne (about three ounces).

Serendpiti
1 ¼ oz calvados
1 ¾ oz apple juice
1 tsp sugar
2 springs of fresh mint
champagne
Place the first four ingredients in an ice filled old fashioned glass and stir. Fill with champagne.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Brandy Alexander

Next on the list for December’s barrage of cocktails, is one that is sure to delight your most decadent guests and repulse those looking to maintain their figures this season. This silky, creamy, dream is wonderful as a cold-day warm-me-up or as a capper just before settling down for a long winter’s nap.

The roots of the Brandy Alexander are much like Henry VIII of the Tudor dynasty in that this cocktail gets all the glory and all the women, while it was the father (Alexander, a gin based variant) is largely forgotten in history. The original Alexander first appeared early in the twentieth century. While the Anne (or Mary) Boleyn chasing playboy we are drinking today was created for the wedding celebration of Princess Mary and Viscont Lascelles in London, in1922, and became widely known by the middle of the twentieth century.

This is a very simple drink to make. Start with one and a half ounces of brandy in an ice filled cocktail shaker, any mid-priced option will work here. Add one half ounce of heavy cream and one half ounce of crème de cacao. Shake briskly (I’ve been using the thesaurus again) and strain into a cocktail glass. The traditional garnish is fresh ground nutmeg, but I prefer a light dusting of cocoa powder. Serve this with the rakish arrogance of Henry VII to all of your guests and see how the night proceeds.

Brandy Alexander
1 ½ oz brandy
½ oz crème de cacao
½ oz heavy cream
Mix all ingredients in an ice filled shaker. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a dusting of cocoa powder.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Eggnog


No list of Christmas cocktails would be complete without this merry classic. I know a few of my faithful followers are wondering if this is THE eggnog recipe, and the answer is no, I’ll take that one to the grave with me as it is my signature Christmas gift and if I gave it up, I would be forced to use my creative juices on Christmas shopping for my friends every year, thereby further neglecting my duties here. This is however a great version steeped in history and suitable for a single cup or as a large batch (my recommendation). Before we get to the details, a little history.

Once again we are presented with a handful of tales, innuendo and flat out lies about where this drink came from. One version has it as a drunken conjunction of “egg and grog,” easily slurred to eggnog after a few merry rounds of rum based heaven by a mutinous crew. In the more civilized version of the story it came across the Atlantic to the colonies from England in the 18th century where it was popular with the aristocracy who were the only ones able to get eggs and dairy products, they mixed it with brandy and sherry. In the new world it was mixed with rum due to its abundance and low cost. After the Revolutionary War, locally produced spirits were substituted.

This would explain why there is no definitive liquor choice when it comes to eggnog. Rum, brandy and bourbon are all good options individually or in some combination. As a true patriot I am going to use bourbon, but as the picture above illustrates rum is a great option. I am going to once again rely on my old friend David Embury here, as his recipe provided a starting point that I fine-tuned to my liking. He also has some good pointers on how to properly mix the ingredients. Start by cracking an egg into a cocktail shaker, add two teaspoons of superfine sugar, whisk together until the egg is slightly frothy. Add six ounces of half and half and bourbon (or your liquor of choice). Fill with ice and shake, pour into an old fashioned or Tom Collins glass (never serve over ice), garnish with some freshly grated nutmeg. This recipe is for a single cup, but should be increased to match the size of your gathering using a large pitcher. Eggnog is a drink made for sharing with friends, although it is also a welcome companion when you are awake at 1:00 AM Christmas morning, trying to put together that god damn, million piece train set for your kid who will be jumping on your bed in three hours.

Eggnog
1 egg
2 tsp superfine sugar
2 oz bourbon, rum, or brandy
6 oz half and half
Place egg and sugar into an empty shaker (or large pitcher for multiple batches), whisk until frothy. Add bourbon, half and half, ice and mix. Strain into individual glasses or a serving pitcher. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Gibson

Our next cocktail is another classic variation on a classic. While many would say that the Gibson is just a Martini with onions, the flavor imparted by the garnish is different enough that it deserves its own place in your mixing repertoire.

The Gibson has a history as sordid as this authors, with many rumors, half-truths and unverifiable alibis. The most likely origin is from the Bohemian Club in San Francisco in the 1890s, named after prominent San Francisco businessman Walter D.K. Gibson, this seems to have the most corroborating evidence. Another popular story places its creation in New York at the Players Club as a challenge to bar tender Charley Connolly by Charles Dana Gibson. In the scheme of things though who really gives a shit, it is a damn fine cocktail.

This is another drink where the ratio of gin to vermouth can be debated ad nauseam but I prefer about a 5 to 1 balance. As this is a clear drink and the onion deserves to stand out, I like to mix this is a pitcher. In the ice filled pitcher add two and a half ounces of gin, I really like Hendricks in my Gibson. Then add one-half ounce of Lillet Blanc. Stir until the ingredients are well chilled and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with three onions and serve to your most distinguished guests.

Gibson
2 ½ oz gin
½ oz dry vermouth
Mix both ingredients in a chilled pitcher with ice, stir. Strain into a chilled glass. Serve with three cocktail onions.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Rob Roy

For my first foray into spirits to keep you in the holiday spirit I have a classic for you, the Rob Roy. This Scottish cousin of the Manhattan is here in proxy as the Manhattan has already been covered not once, but twice. The Rob Roy has a deeper flavor than the Manhattan due to the peaty, earthy flavor of scotch, and in fact tastes very different depending on the type and region of the scotch used. I encourage you to experiment excessively to see whether you prefer a blend or single malt.

One would think that a scotch-based cocktail would originate in Scotland, but the Scots would not defile their water of life by mixing it with anything. This drink originated in Manhattan coincidentally, at the Waldorf hotel in 1894. The drink is named after the Scottish folk hero and outlaw of the same name. He was also known as the Scottish Robin Hood.

This drink is simple to make and will appeal to scotch drinkers and Manhattan drinkers alike. I prefer a different ratio from the Manhattan for the Rob Roy though, otherwise the flavor of the scotch overpowers the vermouth. Start with an ice filled shaker and add two ounces of blended scotch, I like Johnnie Walker Red. Add an equal amount of sweet vermouth. Then a dash or two of Peychaud bitters, I think it melds better with the scotch. Shake vigorously and pour into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with three cherries and serve.

Rob Roy
2 oz blended scotch
2 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes peychaud bitters
Combine all ingredients in an ice filled shaker.  Strain into an ice-cold cocktail glass.  Garnish with three cherries.

The 12 Drinks of Christmas

After a six month hiatus I am back just in time to fuel your holiday cheer! There is no better time of year to drink in excess with the simple excuse “it’s the holidays!” So to compensate for my extended absence I am bringing you the 12 Drinks of Christmas.

Over the next 24 days you will experience a combination of classics, newcomers, and traditional holiday spirits that is sure to please everybody on your invite list. They will be coming at a feverish pace, so please feel free to take a break with some of the holiday favorites that I have already covered like the Manhattan or the Tom and Jerry!

The first drink will appear shortly with another following every couple of days.  As they are added I will add them to the list below as well.  Enjoy!

  1. The Rob Roy
  2. The Gibson
  3. Eggnog
  4. The Brandy Alexander
  5. Serendipiti
  6. Bloody Mary 
  7. The Whiskey Cobra 
  8. Wassail 
  9. Coquito 
  10. Hot Buttered Rum
  11. Robertino
  12. Mulled Wine 
  13. Poire Victoire
  14. Jeff One