Thursday, November 14, 2019

marley's ghost

1 1/3 oz Appleton V/X Rum (Appleton Signature)
2/3 oz Punt e Mes
1/3 oz Smith & Cross Rum
1/3 oz Myer's Dark Rum (Gosling's)
1/3 oz Cardamaro

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with a grapefruit coin twist.

My search for Cardamaro drinks continued on the Punch Drinks site where I spotted the Marley's Ghost by Pip Hanson. I grew to appreciate Pip's drink aesthetic through the Northstar Cocktails book with recipes like the bitters-heavy Angophile and the Negroni riff Double Double, so I was excited to try this one that he crafted at the Marvel Bar in Minneapolis. While the name might be a reference to the character in Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the trio of Jamaican rums suggests that it could be a tribute to the reggae master Bob Marley.
Marley's Ghost entered the room with a grapefruit oil over dark and aged rum aromas. Next, caramel and grape swirled on the sip, and the swallow jumped out with funky and almost smoky rum notes that transitioned smoothly to lightly bitter herbal ones.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

midnight mass

2 oz Scarlet Ibis Rum (Privateer Navy Yard)
3/4 oz Cardamaro
1/4 oz Benedictine
1 dash Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with an orange twist.
Two Wednesdays ago, I began a search for an inaugural recipe to take my new purchase of Cardamaro on a test run. I noted that the Death & Co. Cocktail Book had a few recipes, and the one that caught my eye was the Midnight Mass by Joaquin Simo circa 2009. The drink came across like a rum Preakness with Cardamaro subbing in for the vermouth; Trina's Starlite Lounge had a rum Preakness that they called the Tony Montana, but I was curious to see how the amaro would shape the drink. Once prepared, the Midnight Mass incanted an orange, aged rum, and herbal grape aroma. Next, caramel and grape convened on the sip, and the swallow offered up dry rum and minty-herbal flavors.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

five families frank

2 oz Rittenhouse Bonded Rye
1/2 oz Cocchi Barolo Chinato (Dubonnet Rouge)
1/4 oz Averna
1/4 oz Zucca (Sfumato)
1 tsp Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe.
For a nightcap after work two Tuesdays ago, I ventured back into Leo Robitschek's The NoMad Cocktail Book and spotted the Five Families Frank. The recipe was subtitled, "An Italian-style Manhattan as smooth as Frank in his suit"; I decided to utilize another quinquina since I have only purchased one bottle of Barolo Chinato in the last 13 or so years, and due to the price tag (that one was $60 back then), I probably would not buy another bottle for home. With the Dubonnet, the Five Families Frank presented the nose with herbal bitterness from the Sfumato's Chinese rhubarb root. Next, caramel and a hint of cherry on the sip gave way to rye on the swallow with Averna's smoothness and Maraschino's nuttiness balancing Sfumato's smoky roughness.

Monday, November 11, 2019

:: the joys and agonies of opening a new bar ::

First published on the USBG National site in December 2017 and slightly edited here to reflect time change.

When it comes time to look for a new gig, there are plenty of opportunities to fill a spot on an existing bar's roster, but there are occasionally chances to help to open a new bar program. Is it worth going through the challenge of forming new systems or is it easier to jump in for someone else departing in a more developed establishment? These are some of the things that I pondered before I made a move to open another restaurant's bar some time ago.

One of the perks of joining an existing program is that the staff can teach you the way things are done there, and after that training week or so, you can get right into the swing of earning a living from the regulars and the crowds that have already been built up. For less experienced bartenders, learning from the veteran staff is a great way to get oriented on how to do your job. And for less opinionated or more flexible bartenders, adopting their systems without complaint or input is just part of getting situated in the job.

In opening a new spot, often there are few systems firmly in place, but the bar manager or lead bartender will have ideas on how things should work. Sometimes the ideas match the space and other constraints, but sometimes aspects need to be figured out during the training period and adapted after open. Some leaders are very open to letting the other bartenders have great say in how things should be done and thus decide by consensus, while other leaders feel that it is their right to exert their system to begin with and adapt from there. This can range from house recipe specs to how the wells should be set up. Regardless, rules and standards will be in flux from dress code to comp policies, and sometimes you are alerted to these midway through your evening's shift.

Opening a place also takes a decent sense of humor and humility. Often recipes and processes will change on nights that you are not working and frequently the communication system to alert everyone is not in place. If you are into firm rules and boundaries, these rapid and poorly announced alterations can be jarring especially if delivered with the wrong tone. In addition, expectation for things like closing protocols can be written on paper, but following those to another's judgment when they arrive the next day can be very different.

There are two major problems financially with opening a new bar. The first comes with the open date. Very few places open when they think they will due to construction, city inspections, or other. Unlike joining an established program, the start time for training and opening are not fixed. If you are between jobs, that can mean an extended and indeterminate amount of unemployment (followed by underemployment since most places pay minimum wage for the training hours and sometimes training can drag an extra week or so past the standard expected two weeks). If you are in a position and looking to switch, that can mean playing a waiting game as a sleeper cell; unless of course you are honest and open about your plans to move on with your employer and do not fear them letting you go as soon as they hear that you are not 100% committed to their establishment.

The second financial consideration is earning potential. As mentioned above, the time waiting for training to begin and for the opening night can cost a bit in lost earnings. Following that, building up the guest traffic can be variable. Some places have such a buzz that they gain crowds from the open and continue on through. But in some restaurants, the opening week or two are filled with foodie tourists who are looking to check off that new box and most rarely return. Other spaces start slowly whether being in a developing neighborhood or due to a lack of public relations buzz being built up. Getting the right guests who agree with what you are offering to come in and you providing the right service, food, and drink to get them so that they return is a long haul process. Having some money saved up for this wage gap is necessary; some bartenders will keep a few shifts at their old bar and have fewer days off to tide them over in the meanwhile.

There are also differences in choosing your coworkers. In an established bar, you can sort out the dynamics while staging and quickly discern if there are some trouble spots on the roster. When opening a place, frequently there are only a few pieces in place when you accept, so perhaps you might know the bar and general managers, but the rest are a mystery. And once you gather together, often some percentage will drop out and some will enter into the equation starting in the middle of training and going into the first few weeks of service. If a manager hired well with both personality and talent in mind, there is a chance that a team can gel together rather quickly. Moreover, it is easier for a new hire to carve out their role in the team when it is forming than in joining one that has already hit their stride.

It can also take a bit of time to get the bar firing on all cylinders. Often there is a bit of over-staffing to make up for the inefficiencies of the start up effort. This can lead to frustration of money being split too many ways that can be compounded by other problems such as figuring out where things live (or where they moved to in that rearrangement that happened when you were not there).

When it comes time for a change, it is a good idea to weigh out all the options. New places can come with promises of tip and sales expectations or program greatness, but these are never set in stone. Joining an established program is less risky of a venture, but it can take a lot longer to make an imprint on how the bar functions. In the end, picking a new gig is a lot like dating. There has to be a mutual acceptance of the program and the worker, but after that, it is still a roll of the dice. It can be exciting to see who your regulars will be; although you can pick your food and drink offerings, the guests who return chose you. While you can escape that crazy regular and mourn your kind and generous ones at your last bar, you will find out what develops over time as to who will fill those two roles in the new location. Moreover, opening a new place can give you great insight into various bar programs’ philosophies and techniques as people are often really open to discussing how things were be done in their old spots. While there can be a lot of pleasure in opening a new spot, there is generally a lot of discomfort (both financial or psychological) involved: it is a lot like childbirth where new moms swear off of having another kid, but many return to it with renewed optimism over time.

mount makana

2 oz Pot Still Black Rum (Coruba) (*)
1 oz Pot Still Gold Rum (Smith & Cross)
1 1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Fernet Branca
1/2 oz Coffee Liqueur (Kahlua)
3/4 oz Demerara Syrup

Shake with crushed ice, pour into a Tiki mug, and garnish with Tiki intent (mint sprigs).
(*) Coruba is a blend of pot and column; the only pot still black rum that I know of (and do not have) is the Hamilton's.
Two Mondays ago, I made another recipe that I had spotted on BigSmokeTiki's Instagram feed called the Mount Makana. His Fernet-laden riff on the Mr. Bali Hai was named after the mountain (also known as Bali Hai) on the South Pacific island of Kauai and is the last part of the United States to see the sunset every night. Once prepared, the Mount Makana erupted with caramel, mint, and menthol nose. Next, lemon, pineapple, and caramel on the sip flowed into dark and funky rums on the swallow with a menthol and coffee finish. Surprisingly, the Fernet Branca was kept in check here by the other strong flavors.

Sunday, November 10, 2019


1 jigger Dry Gin (1 1/2 oz Beefeater)
1/2 pony Brandy (1/2 oz Camus VS Cognac)
Juice of 1/2 Lime (1/2 oz)
3 dash Grenadine (1/2 oz)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass; I added a lime wheel garnish.

Two Sundays ago, I turned to the wood-covered 1939 Just Cocktails by W.C. Whitfield for the evening's libation. There, I spotted the Flamingo that seemed like an egg-free Pink Lady of sorts. There are two other Flamingo that I know of with the first one being the one that I probably sourced off CocktailDB (most likely through Stan Jones' Complete Barguide) for the International Migratory Bird Day cocktail party we threw in our home in 2008. That Flamingo was gin, lime, apricot liqueur, and grenadine akin to the Bermudian that was later renamed the Boston Cocktail (I surmise that it was the Mr. Boston books that did so). The other Flamingo is the one from Ted Saucier's 1954 Bottoms Up with rum, pineapple, lime, and grenadine. Interestingly, all three recipes have an overlapping aspect of lime and grenadine.
The Flamingo from Whitfield's book began with a pine, berry, and aged brandy nose. Next, lime and berry notes on the sip flew into juniper supported by Cognac's richness on the swallow with a pomegranate finish. While contemplating the "brandy" aspect of the recipe, I did wonder if an unaged pisco would work better than Cognac here.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

brown sugar

1 oz Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum
3/4 oz Rittenhouse Bonded Rye
3/4 oz Lustau East India Solera Sherry
3/4 oz Cynar
2 dash Bittermens Mole Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe.
Two Saturdays ago, I was excited to crack into my new purchase of Leo Robitschek's The NoMad Cocktail Book; I had held off for years when it came as a mini addendum to the NoMad cooking book, but now that it was a stand alone (as well as expanded) version, I gladly made the purchase. The first recipe that clicked with me as I flipped through the pages was Leo's Brown Sugar with a 1919 Cocktail feel to it. Once prepared, the drink greeted the nose with a brown sugar and grape bouquet. Next, the sip continued on with grape and caramel notes, and the swallow offered rum, rye, nutty sherry, and vegetal bitterness with a rye spice and chocolate finish.

Friday, November 8, 2019


1 1/2 oz Scotch (Cutty Sark Prohibition)
1/2 oz Ruby or Tawny Port (Sandeman Tawny)
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz Zucca or Sfumato (Sfumato)
2 dash Orange Bitters (Regan's)

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with a lemon twist. Perhaps increasing the port to 3/4 oz and decreasing each of the amaro to 3/8 oz might balance the drink for a wider range of palates. Or perhaps 2 oz Scotch, 1/2 oz port, and 1/4 oz each amaro (with the bitters).

After work two Fridays ago, I had been thinking about how well Campari and rabarbaro (such as Zucca and Sfumato) can join forces to make a complex bitter note like in the Cosa Nostra. Since Scotch and Sfumato paired so well in drinks like the Caustic Negroni, I began to think about classic whisky cocktails and ended up on the port-containing Chancellor from the 1956 Esquire Drink book. With Phil Ward's Baltasar and Blimunda (a Negroni of sorts with port) in mind, I altered the Chancellor to include these two amari.
For a name, I kept with the academic theme that runs in Chancellor-like drinks like the Administrator, Guardian, and Professor and dubbed this one the Preceptor. The drink itself began with a lemon oil aroma over dark herbal smokiness and grape notes. Next, the port's rich grape filled the sip, and the swallow answered with a smoky Scotch flavor and bitter rhubarb root quickly merging into bitter orange on the swallow with a peat smoke finish. While I found the balance to hit the spot for my mood that night, perhaps increasing the port and/or decreasing each of the amaro might make the drink more accessible (see note in the instructions).

Thursday, November 7, 2019

over the yardarm

1 1/2 oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado 5 Year)
1/2 oz Plantation OFTD Overproof Rum
1 oz Amontillado Sherry (Lustau)
3/4 oz Crème de Cacao (1/2 oz Tempus Fugit) (*)
1/2 oz Swedish Punsch (Kronan)
1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Whip shake, pour into a Tiki mug, and fill with crushed ice. Float 1/2 oz Amaro Ramazzotti (*) and garnish with mint and cherries (omit cherries).
(*) For a less sweet drink, perhaps decreasing the crème de cacao to 1/2 oz and Ramazzotti to 1/4 oz and/or increasing the lemon juice to 3/4 oz would help the balance.

After work on Thursday, I decided to make a drink called the Over the Yardarm that I had spotted on Instagram. The recipe was crafted by BigSmokeTiki in London as he riffed on Trader Vic's Tortuga (which was perhaps a riff on the Floridita Daiquiri). The combination of dry sherry and citrus reminded me of the Kuula Hina that I created at Russell House Tavern years ago. Moreover, the Swedish punsch-crème de cacao combination was one that I had observed working well in the Battle Over Dutch and Swedish Sweet Tart.
The drink name may derive from the expression "The sun is over the yardarm"; in the North Atlantic, the sun would appear above the upper mast spars or yards around 11 am which coincided with the time when officers would take their first rum tot break of the day. The Over the Yardarm raised up a mint and root beer aroma. Next, lemon, caramel, and grape on the sip gave way to funky rum, chocolate, and nutty grape flavors on the swallow with a black tea finish. As the Ramazzotti float entered the equation, the balance got a bit sweeter and gained cola-like notes. Overall, the combination was perfect for the Autumn air as advertised.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

gully brood

3/4 oz Mezcal (Sombra)
3/4 oz Campari
3/4 oz Rabarbaro Zucca (Sfumato)
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Rich Simple Syrup (2/3 oz 1:1)

Shake with ice, strain into a Collins (rocks) glass, fill with crushed ice, and garnish with a grapefruit twist.

Two Wednesdays, I selected Clair McLafferty's 2017 The Classic & Craft Cocktail Recipe Book for the evening's libation. There, I honed in on the Gully Brood by Beckaly Franks who now lives in Hong Kong where she owns The Pontiac bar. I was able to uncover a 2015 version of the Gully Brood that she created at Portland's Clyde Commons that lacked the Campari, but the additional amaro in the mix seemed like a great addition; indeed, Campari and Zucca/Sfumato worked well in the Low Down.
The Gully Brood awakened the senses with a grapefruit and smoky-herbal nose. Next, lime and hints of roast on the sip led into smoky mezcal, bitter orange, and smoky-bitter rhubarb root flavors on the swallow.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

el puente

2 oz Mezcal (Fidencio)
1/2 oz Elderflower Liqueur (St. Elder)
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
3 slice Cucumber

Muddle cucumber slices in lime juice and simple syrup. Add the rest of the ingredients, shake with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with a grapefruit twist.
After my work shift two Tuesdays ago, I spotted Greg Boehm and Jeff Mason's 2009 The Big Bartender's Book on the shelf and wondered if there were any passed over gems in there. The one that I uncovered was a Jim Meehan number called El Puente perhaps created in the early days of PDT that was never published in either of his books. The El Puente paired cucumber and elderflower liqueur together which worked elegantly in the Easy Street, so I was intrigued by this recipe. Once assembled, the El Puente met the nose with a grapefruit and smoke bouquet. Next, lime, grapefruit, and unripe melon on the sip crossed over into smoky mezcal, floral, grapefruit, and cucumber flavors on the swallow.

Monday, November 4, 2019

tropic thunder

2 oz Plantation OFTD Overproof Rum
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
1/2 oz Don's Spices #2 (1/4 oz Vanilla Syrup + 1/4 oz Hamilton's Allspice Dram)

Shake with crushed ice, pour into a Hurricane glass (Tiki mug), and garnish with a mint sprig and a lemon wheel (nasturtium flower).

Since I decided to make fresh rolls two Mondays ago, I picked extra mint to make a tropical drink later that night. Therefore, I reached for Matt Pietrek and Carrie Smith's Minimalist Tiki book, and I ended up selecting Justin Wojslaw's Tropic Thunder. With rum, passion fruit, and lemon, the combination appeared like a Hurricane riff with half the syrup split with Don's Spices. Once assembled, the Tropic Thunder boomed in with minty and floral aromas from the garnishes over a passion fruit nose from the drink itself. Next, lemon and caramel on the sip slid into funky rum, passion fruit, vanilla, and allspice flavors on the swallow.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

banana spider

1 1/2 oz Pisco (Macchu)
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Giffard Banane du Bresil
1/4 oz Simple Syrup
1 Egg White

Shake once without ice and once with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with Angostura Bitters.
Two Sundays ago, I decided to make a Pisco Sour riff called the Banana Spider. The recipe published in Imbibe Magazine was crafted by Kirk Estinopal at Cane & Table in New Orleans, and the name is a reference to a rather poisonous spider that lives in Peru and other parts of Central and South America that has occasionally turn up in shipments of bananas. While the alcohol content was the only venom to found in the drink, the banana aspect was captured with a crème de banane. Once prepared, the Banana Spider bit the nose with banana, allspice, and cinnamon aromas. Next, a creamy lemon sip crept into pisco and banana flavors on the swallow.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

waldorf cocktail

1/2 Swedish Punsch (1 1/2 oz Kronan)
1/4 Dry Gin (3/4 oz Hayman's Royal Dock)
Juice 1/4 Lemon or 1/2 Lime (3/4 oz Lime Juice)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe; I added a lime wheel garnish.

Two Saturdays ago after work, I reached for the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book and spotted the Swedish punsch-containing Waldorf Cocktail. This recipe was halfway between a Daiquiri and a Gimlet and parallel to the Doctor Cocktail with rum in place of the gin. I was surprised that the drink does not appear in the 1935 The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, but a Waldorf Cocktail of equal parts whiskey, sweet vermouth, and absinthe does. Bartender and author Frank Caiafa replied to my Instagram post that he always thinks of the Waldorf as an absinthe-rinsed Manhattan, and his version in The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book is just that.
This Waldorf Cocktail began with rum funk and caramel aromas on the nose. Next, the caramel continued on into the sip where it mingled with the lime, and the swallow offered up juniper, funky rum, and black tea flavors.

Friday, November 1, 2019

explorer's dream

3/4 oz Batavia Arrack (Von Oosten)
3/4 oz Mezcal (Fidencio)
1 oz Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
1/2 oz Benedictine
1 dash Absinthe (20 drop St. George)

Stir with ice, strain into a punch cup, and garnish with a lemon twist.

After work two Fridays ago, I was thinking about the Poet's Dream after enjoying the Dead Poet. Instead of gin, I honed in on the Batavia Arrack and mezcal duo that worked well in the Smoking Jet Pilot, Airbag, and Esmino's Escape. Here, I felt that the Benedictine could bind the two oddball spirits akin to the liqueur working wonders in the Shruff's End, and I felt that absinthe instead of orange bitters would tie this combination together better.
The Batavia Arrack made me think of exotic trade routes, and I dubbed this one the Explorer's Dream. For a moment, I considered pisco instead of mezcal since it was a spirit picked up by sailors as well as they made their way around landmasses; however, I figured that the mezcal would help to bring out the smokier side of Batavia Arrack. Once in the punch cup, the Explorer's Dream found its way to the nose with lemon and smoke notes. Next, a white wine and caramel sip discovered a smoky mezcal and funky Batavia Arrack swallow accented by chocolate, mint, and anise flavors. My Instagram post inspired user xjthree to make the drink for he explained, "This sounds amazing. I’m going to make one later. Poet's dream was one of my favorites early on in my journey." A few days later, he posted his version with a commentary of "It is very bold, and boozy. Strong funky flavors up front give way to Benedictine sweetness, and an absinthe finish. I'd say it's a bartender drink, not for the faint hearted."