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!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Negroni

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Champagne Cocktail

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


It has been just shy of two years since the first cocktail appeared here and today I have for you the 50th!  I will be the first to admit it has taken entirely too long to get here, but we made it.  As you can see by the diagram to the right, I have a propensity towards drinks that call for bitters; today’s delightful little treat not only follows that path, but takes it to an extreme!

The Sawyer is another recent creation and a variation on the Gimlet, but takes the use of bitters over the top by using three varieties and nearly thirty dashes.  The drink was created by bartender Don Lee and named after the daughter of gin-loving chef Wylie Dufrense.  I’m going to use my artistic license again and assume that little Sawyer Dufrense was named after one of the greatest characters in American literature.

This one is simple to make but complex across the tongue, don’t be alarmed by the bounty of bitters, just try it.  In a shaker, start with two ounces of beefeater gin, add one half an ounce of lime juice, one half an ounce of simple syrup, fourteen (yes one-four) dashes of Angostura bitters, seven dashes of Peychaud’s bitters, and seven dashes of orange bitters.  Fill with ice, shake this baby up and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, no garnish necessary.  After your first sip, you’ll be making them for Becky and Huck too.

2 oz gin
½ oz fresh squeezed lime juice
½ oz simple syrup
14 dashes angostura bitters
7 dashes peychaud’s bitters
7 dashes orange bitters
Combine all ingredients in a shaker, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Harvard Cocktail

After a December to remember, I am sure you have all been missing your bi-daily dive into the library of liquor.  Fear not, I have something to tide you over for the next few days.  The Harvard cocktail just invokes images of 1960’s frat boys sitting around in sport coats, smoking cigarettes, and playing poker.  They no doubt needed a cocktail and this one fits the bill just fine.

Dating back to 1895, this drink definitely makes up for what it lacks in popularity with longevity.  It’s true origin, other than the year it first came to print, has been lost to history so we are left to our own imagination.  Having similarities to the Manhattan, it is quite possible that this made its debut on the Harvard campus during a party when a partially inebriated bartender got a little creative with a drink order.  

In a shaker combine one and a half ounces of cognac, three-quarters of an ounce sweet vermouth, one-quarter ounce lemon juice, a teaspoon of grenadine, and three dashes angostura bitters.  Fill with ice and shake.  Pour into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.  A variation on this drink omits the grenadine and adds an ounce of soda water to the top after straining into the glass.  I prefer the grenadine version, but if there is one time in your life to experiment, it’s college.

Harvard Cocktail
1 ½ oz cognac
¾ oz sweet vermouth
¼ oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp grenadine
3 dashes bitters
Mix all ingredients in an ice filled shaker.  Strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Seelbach Cocktail

To start the year off right I have a pre-prohibition cocktail to add to your recreational rolodex.  The intriguing combination of champagne, bourbon and bitters brought me to this drink, but the smart flavor is what will keep you coming back.

The legendary Seelbach Hotel of the same name, host to presidents, gangsters, writers, and ne’er-do-wells, is the birthplace of this fine pick-me-up.   According to legend the drink was accidently discovered in 1917 when a bartender topped a manhattan from an overflowing champagne bottle.  The drink gained instant popularity but was lost during prohibition when the hotel stopped serving booze.  Fortunatley for us, the recipe was rediscovered in1995 and put back into circulation.

To make the Seelbach cocktail, start one ounce of bourbon in a mixing glass.  To hold to tradition make sure it is a strong Kentucky bourbon, Woodford Reserve is a good choice.  Add one half ounce Cointreau, seven dashes angostura bitters, and seven dashes peychaud bitters.  Stir with ice until chilled and pour into a chilled champagne flute, top with a dry champagne of your choice, and garnish with an orange twist.  Imagine yourself sitting at the bar with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Woodrow Wilson, and Al Capone sharing a cigar, a fine drink, and a healthy amount of bullshit.

Seelbach Cocktail
1 oz bourbon
½ oz cointreau
7 dashes angostura bitters
7 dashes peychaud’s bitters
Combine the bourbon, cointreau, and bitters in a mixing glass, fill with ice and stir.  Strain into a chilled champagne flute, fill with champagne and garnish with an orange twist.