Thursday, January 17, 2019


1 oz Rittenhouse Rye
1 oz Angostura Bitters
1 oz Pineapple Juice (*)
1/4 oz Cinnamon Syrup

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
(*) Increasing the volume of pineapple juice can improve the flavor here. Perhaps 1 3/4 oz to make the build an even 4 oz.

Two Thursdays ago, two of my long time out-of-town regulars, Bruce and Tammy, visited me at Nahita. The topic of conversation eventually wandered over to Angostura-heavy recipes such as the Magic Julep, and they asked me if I had ever tried the Daywalker. The recipe was crafted by Adam McGee at Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan, and Tammy was the first person to publish the recipe online back in 2010. To rectify the situation, I made one as soon as I got home from my shift.
The Daywalker began with an allspice and clove aroma that led into pineapple and cherry wood notes on the sip. Next, rye whiskey joined clove, cinnamon, gentian, and woody flavors on the swallow. One of the comments to Tammy's initial post was that the balance improved with additional pineapple juice, and when I added a touch more to the drink, I would have to agree.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

:: bartend as if you were the guest ::

First published on the USBG National blog in March 2017, and slightly modified for publication here. Photos are from my adventures during Portland Cocktail Week 2012.

One of the ways I learn to be a better bartender has been sitting at various bar stools and restaurant tables and observing how it feels to be a guest. I am not just talking about the good moments that you should figure out how to deliver to your own guests, but also the bad moments that you should figure out how to avoid. In a nutshell, I strive to bartend how I like to be treated as a patron.

Things I have thought about are: "How does it feel to be strong-armed into another round?" And, "How does it feel to be interrupted?"

For the former, I can recall a bartender that I knew socially who helped to rejuvenate an old establishment’s program. I was one of his few guests that night and about two-thirds of the way through my first cocktail, he was already asking me if he could start on the next. When that happened as well on my next round that I was rushed to get, I just asked for my check. I finished my drink, paid, and left never to return thinking, “Dude, I’m not your cash-cow.” On busy nights, there is definitely a need to turn over seats, but on slower nights, shortening your guests’ visits makes the bar look more desolate and might impact their desire to return. Part of buying a drink is being able to rent the stool for your own third space needs, whether it is to catch up on your phone or with your friend. A guest being rushed out (who is done ordering) when there is a line behind them will hopefully understand the reasons, but when there is not a line and in fact empty seats, it might seem like that bar stool has too high of a cost associated with it. All too often, I have seen bartenders ask (or perhaps almost demand) if they can get a guest anything else – one in no appearance of being in a rush – and then hand them their bill; the bill is promptly paid and the guest abruptly leaves. This seems to fly in the face of hospitality and how I would want to be treated, especially when I am visiting on a slow weekday night. In a way, it sort of delineates the difference between a guest and a customer.

For the latter in terms of interruptions, there are brunches and nights where I am catching up with my wife after not having spoken to her for several days due to differing schedules. How does it make me feel when a server or bartender interrupts me mid-sentence for something trivial? And how does it feel when I realize that I have lost my train of thought? How does this translate to two guests that meet up at your bar and need a moment to catch up? There is a point perhaps where you need to save them from themselves and refocus them on the fact that they met for food and drink, but understand that the drinking and dining part might be secondary in their evening’s plans.

Some of these concepts even trickle down to drink service. When going out for beer, how does it feel getting an expensive brew with 2-3 inches or more of head? Or what about receiving an IPA with no head at all? Or in cocktail service, what does it feel like when a you receive a drink that has a sea of ice shards, a poorly presented garnish (if any), etc. at an otherwise respected cocktail joint? What is it like to be served by a drunk bartender or a bartender who is more interested in his friends or co-workers than you? In essence, serve drinks like you want to be served. Treat each request from mocktail to “make me something special, not too sweet… and with vodka” with the same respect as you would want your or your date’s drink order taken.

Often, it is hard for a well-known bartender to get the same treatment as the commoner in many establishments. For example, there is one establishment in town that I like to go, but I recommend it with caution on lists of places to go for my guests; I explain that I get treated well there and the drinks are good, but I have often observed them treating guests rudely. However, there are always places and bartenders that do not know you in town who can give you their average handling, and if not, there are plenty of opportunities when traveling. On one trip, I went with my drinking buddy to three places after we broke off from the main group. The first was a recommended cocktail establishment, the second a whiskey bar, and the third a true dive bar. At the first, the three bartenders in suspenders were talking to their friends and I observed no drinks being made. After being ignored for a while at their dirty bar, we left. At the whiskey bar, we were given average treatment; after a Facebook photo that I posted, a friend contacted the owner who texted the bartender to give us a pour of something special. At the third place, Jack, the 70ish year old white-haired bartender, was the sweetest bartender I met all while still maintaining the room. He provided such warmth that I would return again if I were in that city (just as my drinking buddy did this time); drink-wise, all he had to offer us were cheap pours of Old Granddad Bonded. My friend commented that the second establishment’s bartender was so great to us; I replied yes-and-no: unlike the second, the third was great because he did not need to be told by his boss to treat us special – he just did.

Unfortunately, a lot of this comes at odds to bars and restaurants being a business, especially with interactions with the owners and management. And it also comes down to our tips. True, pouring a gigantic beer head means that beer costs go down, but is that what you truly want to give to a guest or receive yourself? When I worked a lot of lunch shifts at a previous job, we were taught a long term view of doing everything we could to get guests to return instead of thinking in the short term of how to maximize every encounter. There are definitely ways of enthusiastically selling to guests to increase their experience without seeming too aggressive. Whether it be dropping hints that there is a special down-cellar bottle or giving them a taste of another IPA to get them thinking about another round, there are ways of making the business side of things happy without stressing out your guests. In the end, try to be the guest’s advocate and sense out what sort of experience and budget they are seeking; your read on their needs can help to ensure that your bar seats are more filled in the future.

So the next time you go out, don’t just think about what to drink, but use the opportunity to take notes on how to improve yourself in the trade. There are definitely some bartenders who I go visit partly just to watch how they interact with their guests to make them feel special all without necessarily sending out free food or drink.

fifth avenue

1/2 Brandy (2 oz Camus VS Cognac)
1/4 Italian Vermouth (1 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino)
1 dash Maraschino (1/4 oz Luxardo)
1 dash Curaçao (1/4 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry)
1 dash Pineapple (1/2 oz)
(1 dash Angostura Bitters recommended, see notes)

The recipe provided no mixing instructions, so I shook with ice and strained into a cocktail coupe. Stirring would be appropriate too.

Two Wednesdays ago, I ventured into Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933 and spotted the Fifth Avenue. Give the prestigious and historic roadway cutting through Manhattan, there are plenty of unrelated drinks under that name including one that I made in my pre-blog adventures. It may have been the overuse of the name or more likely the unbalanced appearance of the recipe that I caused me to pass it over multiple times. The Pioneers book does have several Manhattan-style (spirit + vermouth) with pineapple that have worked well like the Radio Call and the Martinique, so I set about to adapt the recipe. When I posted the drink on Instagram, a follower asked if a dash of pineapple was enough to be detected. My reply was, "If you truly did a dash, it would be useless. A lot of that book needs to be reinterpreted to be interesting and tasty. I view it as a drink skeleton to exercise your personal balance sensibilities. This is coming from making perhaps a hundred recipes from that book."
At first pass (before I added bitters), the Fifth Avenue shared a pineapple aroma accented with nutty cherry notes. Next, the pineapple continued on into the sip where it mingled with the vermouth's grape, and the swallow gave forth Cognac, nutty cherry, and slightly bitter orange flavors. However, the combination felt a bit disjointed, so I added in a dash of Angostura to the mix. Instantly, the bitters helped solved this problem by tying together the disparate flavors and allowing them to provide depth as the elements were glued together.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

zombie nation

2 oz Gosling's Black Seal Rum
3/4 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Cinnamon Syrup
1/2 oz Orgeat

Whip shake, pour into a Tiki mug, fill with crushed ice, and float 1/2 oz (1/4 oz) Herbstura (equal parts Herbsaint and Angostura Bitters). I found a 1/2 oz to be too overpowering for my palate, so I made it with half as much as denoted in paratheses here. I also tended to add the straw before adding the float so that the first sip would be pure of Herbsaint and Angostura spice notes (not done here for the photo's sake). While we had Herbstura pre-batched with a speed pourer on it, making it to order, stirring, and floating it will work well.
For January's Tiki the Snow Away event on Instagram, I decided to make one of my favorite drinks from the River Bar menu in Somerville. The drink was the Zombie Nation created by manager Geoffrey "Trader Geo" Thompson originally for the Tiki Tuesday menu, and it later drifted onto the summer 2017 menu. Somewhat true to the 1934 Zombie by Don the Beachcomber, this contained most of the same ingredients save for rum complexity, falernum, and grenadine; it also added orgeat to the mix and shifted proportions around quite a bit in some aspects. Once prepared, the Zombie Nation greeted the nose with clove and anise aromas. Next, grapefruit and lime mingled with the dark rum's caramel on the sip, and the rum continued on into the swallow where it was accented by almond and cinnamon flavors. Overall, the drink reminded me of a grapefruit-containing Cuban Anole with a simpler rum profile. Later though, as the float entered the equation, the balance got a bit drier with anise, allspice, and clove elements taking charge.

Monday, January 14, 2019


1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum (Coruba)
1 oz Cognac (Camus VS)
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
1/2 oz Orgeat
2 dash Angostura Bitters

Whip shake, pour into a Tiki mug, fill with crushed ice, and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and an inverted paper umbrella.

On New Year's Eve, I was thinking about what drink to make for myself when I got home from working the Holiday shift. At midnight, it would be January and that meant that it was the beginning of the 2019 #TikiTheSnowAway event on Instagram; last year I also did a just-after-midnight post to leap into the event with the Negroni Grog. On the way to work, I was inspired by the 1940 Pat O'Brien's Hurricane as a starting point (and not the current bastardization they serve now), and somehow it entered my mind that I could cross it with the Japanese Cocktail from Jerry Thomas' 1862 book. For a name, I opted for the Japanese term for the storm: Harikēn.
The Harikēn cast about a woody spice that accented the orgeat's nutty notes on the nose. Next, lemon, caramel, and hints of passion fruit on the sip shifted into funky rum, Cognac, nutty, and passion fruit flavors on the swallow with a clove and allspice finish. Despite ending up similar to my Mai Tai riff the Manuia, the lemon and brandy elements took the basic idea in a different flavor direction.

Sunday, January 13, 2019


2 oz White Rum (Uruapan Charanda Blanco)
3/4 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Giffard Banane du Bresil
1/2 oz Pineapple Juice

Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
Two Sundays ago, I decided to make the Parasol that recently appeared in Imbibe Magazine by Shannon Mustipher of Glady's in Brooklyn. The recipe was part of a preview of his forthcoming book Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails due out in March (and available for pre-order now), and the structure reminded me of another drink from a previous issue of Imbibe called the I Love Lamp with rum and tequila as the base spirits. In the glass, the Parasol cast a nutty spice accent to banana melding into aromatic rum on the nose. Next, lime and pineapple on the sip opened up to funky rum, banana, and pineapple flavors on the swallow. While not too many surprises here, it definitely made for a tasty Daiquiri riff.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


2/3 Haig & Haig Scotch (1 1/2 oz Famous Grouse)
2 dash French Vermouth (1 oz Dolin Blanc)
1 dash Lemon Juice (1/2 oz)
(1/4 oz Simple Syrup)
1 dash Orange Bitters (Regan's)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Two Saturdays ago, I sought out a means to treat myself at the end of my work day with something from Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933. The one that called out to me was the Skidmore that was a Whisky Sour with French vermouth. I decided to balance the citrus element with blanc vermouth and a touch of simple syrup instead of opting for the more obvious dry vermouth alone which would have left this rather on the tart side. As prepared, the Skidmore showcased a floral and lemon bouquet that led into a white grape and lemon sip. Next, Scotch, herbal, floral and white grape flavors filled the sip that ended with a rather clean finish. Even with a different base spirit and spirit-to-vermouth ratio, the Skidmore reminded me of Nick Detrich's A Thousand Blue Eyes and Robert Vermeire's X.Y.Z. in feel.

Friday, January 11, 2019

noblesse oblige

1 1/2 oz Grosperrin VSOP Cognac (Courvoisier VS)
1/2 oz Mezcal (Fidencio)
1/3 oz Pedro Ximenez Sherry (Oxford 1970)
1/3 oz Byrrh Quinquina
1 dash Chocolate Bitters (Bittermens Mole)

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with orange oil from a twist.
For a nightcap two Fridays ago, I selected Tom Sander's 2012 World's Best Cocktails book in search of inspiration, and I landed on the Noblesse Oblige. This Cognac over mezcal number was created by Nicolas de Soto at the Experimental Cocktail Club in London's Chinatown, and the format reminded me of the Chancellor and quinquina-containing riffs like the Administrator. Once prepared, the Noblesse Oblige called forth orange, raisin, and smoke elements to the nose. Next, a rich grape sip bowed to Cognac, smoky agave, and dried fruit flavors on the swallow with a quinine and chocolate finish.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


1 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1 oz Bourbon (Four Roses)
1 oz Sweet Vermouth (Cocchi)
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with 3 cherries (1 cherry).

After my work shift two Thursdays ago, I ventured into my collection of Food & Wine: Cocktails volumes. In the 2008 edition, I spotted a lesser-known Sam Ross recipe called the Grandfather that he crafted at Sona in Los Angeles called the Grandfather. While the combination of whiskey, apple brandy, and vermouth dates back to before Prohibition in drinks like the Caldwell (and the whiskey, brandy, and vermouth formula to 1862 with the Saratoga), I was still up for trying Sam Ross' take on it. Moreover, I thought about using Old Grand-Dad in this recipe; however, the only mark that I currently have is the 114 proof which would probably dominate the balanced here. Therefore, I took the opposite slant and went with a softer one -- Four Roses Yellow Label -- to allow the apple flavors to take center stage.
The Grandfather entered with apple, whiskey, and clove aromas that gave way to a grape and malt sip. Next, the Bourbon and apple flavors entered the swallow along with complementary clove, allspice, and anise accents.