Friday, February 27, 2009

hoskins replica

2 oz Beefeater Gin
1/2 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Mirto
1/4 oz Maraschino Liquour
1/4 oz Clement Creole Shrub

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Flame a lemon peel and drop in the drink. The volumes for the Mirto and Creole Shrub might be reversed.

After my job fair on Thursday, I decided to treat myself to a trip to Eastern Standard to unwind with a cocktail. While looking over the menu, bartendresse Nicole Lebedevitch told me that she and the other bartenders had worked out a possible Hoskins replica, a drink created by Chuck Taggart that can no longer be made at Eastern Standard after their Amer Picon ran out and since neither that nor Torani Amer can be imported into Massachusetts. The drink itself was full of orangy and fruity bitter goodness. While it was not the same as a Hoskins (or my memory of the last one I had quite a while ago), it was a decent substitute and a delight to drink. Maybe other Hoskins fans can go to the bar to request it and report back with their opinions.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

[smoked apple]

(a) 2 oz Laird's 7 Year Apple Brandy
1/2 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz Muscavado Simple Syrup
3 dashes Smoking Ban Bitters
(b) ~3/4 oz Laphroaig Cask Strength Scotch
Orange Peel

Stir the ingredient in (a) with ice. Pour the Scotch from (b) into a modified coupe, light on fire, and squeeze an orange peel over the flame. Drop the peel in, and pour the strained contents of (a) to extinguish the fire.
For my second cocktail at Drink, I suggested apple brandy as a base spirit to Misty. At which point, Misty and Sam started conspiring and came up with this drink. The two elements were earthy undertones from the muscavado sugar and apple brandy and smoky notes from the Scotch. The drink ended up being a tad bit too Scotch forward and these flavors took center stage to the rest of the ingredients. However, it was still a pleasure to drink this one and a great continuation of the smoky Sunday theme.

[smoky tea bourbon cocktail]

2 oz Old Fitzgerald Bourbon
1/2 oz Lapsang Souchong Tea Simple Syrup (1 part sugar:2 part tea)
1/2 oz Allspice (Pimento) Dram
2 dash Orange #9 Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist an orange peel over the top, rim the edge, and discard the peel.

On Sunday night, Andrea and I went over to Drink. When Misty asked what I was in the mood to have, I mentioned that I could go for some rye or Bourbon. Misty keyed in on the Bourbon and then mentioned that night's theme. Whereas two weeks ago the bartenders were on a smoky theme, this night they were in a tea theme. Misty said that they had prepared a Lapsang Souchong tea simple syrup as well as one with Wu Wei. Andrea went with the Wu Wei (see her write up) for her drink, while I went with the Lapsang Souchang which thus continued the smoky theme for me from before.

The cocktail was rather well balanced, especially for a recipe Misty came up with on the spot. The smokiness of the tea really combined well with the spices of the Pimento Dram to make for an intriguing and decently complex drink. Moreover, the Bourbon held up to these flavors and provided a solid backbone. Also of note, John Gertsen added his touch to the drink by picking the glassware and handing Misty a precious antique Old Crow Bourbon cocktail glass which was a promotional piece given out during the 1950's.

[love machine]

2 1/4 oz Chateau du Busca 15 Year Armagnac
1/2 oz Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot
1/4 oz Cynar

Stir w/ice and strain into a small cocktail glass.

This past Sunday (2/22) marked our return to Drink for Sweatband Sunday! Or should I say "Sweat-Tea" Sunday? For my first drink, I named tequila as my chosen base spirit. Misty nodded sagely, and brought out a simple syrup made with Wu-Wei tea (technically a tisane, but Sweat-Tisane Sunday doesn't really roll off the tongue). Wu-Wei tea is a blend of hibiscus, cloves, lavender, orange peel, sweetleaf and lemon balm. Accordingly, the simple syrup and the drink itself were tinted a lovely rose-red color. To this she'd added maraschino liqueur and lemon juice. The result was light and floral and so deliciously drinkable that I finished it before Fred had finished even half of his first drink.

Shortly before I finished my drink, John G. spotted us and Fred brought out a bottle of his new "Smoking Ban Bitters." Upon opening the bottle, John stated that it smelled like MEN. I decided that this portion of the night would be all about MEN. I ordered the steak tartar, and told John that I wanted a scotch-based cocktail. When asked whether I wanted light or intense, I chose *intense*. John returned with a thin-walled, beautifully etched old fashioned glass filled with a big chunk of hand-carved ice (I teased him that the delicate glass marred the manly effect of my food and beverage choices). Into this he poured a scotch old fashioned bittered with Liquid MEN (wait, that doesn't really sound right now, does it?). The scotch he chose was the funky White Horse, a Lagavulin-heavy blend. I was surprised at how light it tasted to me.

Misty had been in control of the bar's iPod for the evening, and she had chosen a Motown-heavy playlist. Jackson 5 was playing as I sipped the last of my scotch old fashioned, and we'd moved from the 60's on into the 70's. I don't remember ordering a third cocktail, but Misty had decided to bring out the Armagnac and the Cynar when I lamented that my desire for intensity remained unsated. The nose of the drink was raisin, the taste very ripe fruit, with the Cynar coming through on the finish. The Orchard Apricot added just the right amount of tangy sweetness. This nicely satisfied my desire for intensity. Aw yeah.

Monday, February 23, 2009

rye montana

2 oz Rittenhouse Rye
1 oz Warres Ruby Port
1/2 oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth

Stir with ice and pour into a rocks glass pre-rubbed with orange and lemon twists.

Last Thursday, Andrea and I went to Rendezvous to pay Mr. Holliday a visit after getting Tibet food at Rangzen. For my first drink, I asked Scott for a drink with ruby port, and he wanted to make me a rye whiskey variant of the otherwise brandy-based Montana which I have made at home and had at Drink.

The large orange and lemon rind pieces that Scott twisted and coated the inside of the rocks glass certainly paid off in the nose of this drink which was indeed rich in citrus oil notes. These notes paired up with the bitter orange peel hints in the Noilly Prat vermouth rather well. Overall, the drink was a more full-bodied but less spicy Manhattan. Well, the Rittenhouse rye was definitely spicy in a fiery sort of way, but the drink was less spicy in a botanical way due to the absence of bitters and lower vermouth ratio than I use in my Manhattans. The rye definitely took the Montana in an unique direction from both the Manhattan and the all grape-based and more mellow original Montana.

Monday, February 16, 2009

casino imperial

Last night, Andrea and I went to the the anti-Valentine's Day industry bash at Eastern Standard which was quite a surreal experience. Their theme was Fourth of July replete with red, white, and blue drinks and a great brass band that slowly made laps through the restaurant space. Luckily we got there early so once it got beyond crowded to just plain packed, we decided it was time to leave and have a night cap at Craigie on Main on the way home. Tommy was in the process of departing to go to the event we had just left, but we did not fear since Mike was at the bar. Andrea spotted some espresso beans at the bar and asked Mike what the beans were being used for; she ended up getting the not-on-the-menu-yet coffee flip (muddled espresso-roast beans, coffee syrup, freshly brewed espresso, rye, Benedictine, Allspice Dram, egg, and bitters) [Post note: the drink was later named "The Awakening"]. I picked one of the new drinks off the menu, the Casino Imperial -- an "Apertif with Timeless Grace" -- perhaps to have a real Champagne cocktail to compare it to the beer ones I had made a few days prior.
Casino Imperial
• 4 oz Sparkling Wine
• 1 oz Calvados (Lecompte)
• 1 Sugar Cube
• A few dashes Herbsaint
• Large Lemon Peel
In a mixing glass, soak the sugar cube in Herbsaint. Partially fill a Champagne flute with sparkling wine and drop the Herbsaint-soaked sugar cube and large lemon peel into the flute. Float an ounce of Calvados over the top and serve.
The drink was a two or perhaps a three phase experience. The Casino Imperial at first was a very dry apple flavor where the Calvados and sparkling wine fooled the senses into thinking the drink was a dry sparkling cider from Normandy. A few sips after that, the apple flavor diminished and a hint of anise-seed and sweetness started to enter the drink from the Herbsainted sugar cube. I guess that there was a third phase which was just an intensification of the sweetness; the sugar cube never fully dissolved by the time I finished the drink, but gradually, it did shrink down to a quarter of the initial size over the duration. Overall, what was listed as an apertif did serve as a great nightcap.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

beer cocktails

This month's Mixology Monday theme, "Hard Drinks for Hard Times" (MxMo XXXVI), was chosen by Matt Rowley from Rowley's Whiskey Forge. Matt gave the description as, "If your 401(k) has taken a beating, or if you or a spouse or friend have been laid off, or if you're simply hanging on to your wallet for dear life, you've probably given some thought to how the economy is affecting your basic expenditures—such as those you make for booze. Here's a chance to share how you're drinking during the downturn; whether it's affordable booze, ways you're cutting corners, or things you've figured out how to mix or make on the cheap, we need to hear it... Maybe you're drinking less, switching brands, thinking about distilling your own, or finally using up those dusty, orphaned bottles of bizarre cordials and regrettably "charming" housewarming gifts."

Upon hearing the theme without the description last month, I was thinking of various ways to use more affordable options like Old Overholt Rye and gussy them up through using more expensive options like absinthe and liquours rather sparingly in dash format. However, with the full description, the route was clear: guests' leftovers from our parties. Two that came to mind were the part of a 12-pack of Heineken Premium Light beer from our Groundhog's Day Party last year and the half of a handle of Tanqueray from our Johnny Appleseed's Birthday Punch Bowl Party. While I like beer and gin, these two brands are not my go to choices and thus have sat there getting dusty. While brainstorming with Andrea, we came up with the concept of making beer (née Champagne) cocktails! Champagne and even sparkling wines and cavas (save for the glorious André option) are rather expensive, and in a down-turned economy, other options for sparkling wine ought to be researched. Also as an interesting note for the dieters out there, Heineken Light has 99 calories per 12 oz serving while the average Champagne has about that many calories in a 4 oz glass. Using Kim Haasarud's 101 Champagne Cocktails and as my two sources for this project, I collected a list of drinks I wanted to try making the beer versions. From there, I narrowed the list down to four: two from Haasarud's book, the classic French 75 and the new school Black Cherry Champagne cocktails, and two from the database, the Air Mail and the Sea Captain's Special.

The drink we started with was the French 75 which, given the beer selection's origin, got dubbed the Dutch 75. I did not have much hope for this drink since in my mind beer and gin should not mix. I was wrong.
French Dutch 75
• 1 oz Gin (the leftover Tanqueray)
• 1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
• 1/2 oz Simple Syrup (1:1 sugar:water ratio)
• Champagne (Heineken Light)
Shake the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice and strain into a champagne flute. Top off with the Champagne/beer, give a gentle stir, and garnish with a lemon twist.
Surprisingly, not bad at all... and actually rather good. The hops and carbonation in the beer worked well with the lemon juice to make a crisp drink with the right amount of sweetness. The cocktail had a slight beer nose but the ingredients made for a very pleasant flavor combination. So I was greatly surprised at how well gin and beer mixed together. Not sure if it would work with all beer choices, but with the Heineken Light, this drink was on the money! Grade: A/A-

The second drink was the Black Cherry Champagne Cocktail. I believe that when we were discussing the concept of beer cocktails, I thought of Miller High Life a/k/a "The champagne of beers" or better yet the defunct malt liquor Champale so we could make Champale Cocktails. However, I could not come up with a crafty Dutch name for this drink so I kept it with the original. The book's recipe had this drink as a highball drink but I scaled it down a notch to a champagne flute-sized version.
Black Cherry Champagne Cocktail
• 2 Pitted Black Cherries (Luxardo Marasca cherries)
• 2/3 oz Cherry Heering
• 1/3 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
• 1/3 oz Simple Syrup (1:1 ratio)
• Champagne (Heineken Light)
Muddle the cherries with the Cherry Heering, simple syrup, and juice. Add ice, shake, and strain into a champagne flute. Top off with Champagne/beer and give a quick stir.
I thought this drink recipe looked a little sweet for me and pre-emptively thought of halving the simple syrup, but Andrea convinced me to stick to the recipe. Using Luxardo cherries (preserved in syrup) instead of fresh fruit also did not help with the sweetness level. The drink turned out to be not too bad and the hops did cut the sweetness back a bit (although not enough for my taste buds). Andrea thought drink was "sort of Lambic-y… over all not bad," and that maybe the choice of beers was fortuitous after all as it was very champagne like. Grade: B

The third drink we tried was the Air Mail. It stood out as a bit different since it used rum instead of gin or whiskey. Its use of lime made me hopeful that it would work with beer given the popularity of the Miller's limey Chelada, Budweiser's Bud Light Lime, and the ubiquitous lime wedges in Coronas. However, not all beers were created equal.
Air Mail
• 1 1/2 oz Gold Rum (Mt. Gay Eclipse Rum)
• 3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
• 1 tsp Honey
• Champagne (again, Heineken Light)
Shake with ice and strain into a highball glass filled with ice cubes. Top off with Champagne/beer and give a quick stir.
Wow, the lime and beer did not work for me. Dutch beer is not the same as Mexican beer. After the first sip, the drink vaguely reminded Andrea of a (mintless) Mojito; she imagined that with a little muddled mint that it might be pretty good. She also thought that the beer brought out some pleasant earthiness in the rum. About half way through this highball, it got sinked. She declared that the drink needs work but has some promise, whereas I was less optimistic. Grade: C

Finally, the fourth drink we tried was the Sea Captain's Special – a drink I had the most hope for since whiskey and beer seemed a priori like the perfect marriage. I was not mistaken.
Sea Captain’s Special
• 1 1/2 oz Rye (Pikesville Rye)
• 1/2 tsp Sugar (1/2 tsp simple syrup)
• 2 dashes of Aromatic Bitters (Fee's Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters)
Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice.
• Champagne (Heineken Light)
• 1/4 oz Pastis (Le Pastis d’Autrefois)
Fill with Champagne and give a quick stir. Float the pastis.
I ended up choosing a less spicy Maryland style rye, Pikesville (similar to Old Overholt), instead of a spicier Pennsylvania style, like Rittenhouse. With this drink, the hops in the beer blended right in with the spice notes in the bitters and pastis. The anise-seed flavor in the pastis was rather compatible with Heineken Light's hop selection. Moreover, the pastis formed a great louche halo over the drink akin to a Half Sinner-Half Saint cocktail. Andrea thought the drink was rather dry and delightful; however, it was not as tasty as the Dutch 75. Grade: A-/B+

In conclusion, this experiment of swapping out Champagne for the cheaper and currently very available bar reagent in our fridge of light beer was a success. Out of the four, we had two rather good drinks, one pretty decent but would have been too sweet regardless of the bubbly we chose drink, and one that just failed flavor-wise but might have worked with another beer choice drink. My google-fu puts the price of a 12 oz can of Heineken Light bought in a 12-pack at a dollar on sale and up to $1.33 at normal market value. Given that we made all four drinks with about a can and a half of beer, any of of these elegant drinks could be made for under a $1.50 per serving which is not a bad price for what might cost you $8-14 out on the town using the bar's choice of sparkling wine. I am indeed curious to hear if people have different successes and failures using other beer selections. Cheers from Fred and Andrea of CocktailVirgin!

1. The round-up of this month's MxMo entries has been posted! Check it out here.
2. Paul Clarke wrote a great article in Sfgate on bartenders who craft cocktails around the beer float for the qualities of the beer itself and not as a Champagne substitute, per se.

Friday, February 13, 2009

rhum old fashioned

2 oz Rhum JM VSOP
1/4 oz Maple Syrup
1 dash Clementine Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass.

For my nightcap at Rendezvous last night, I asked Scott to make me something in the Old Fashioned vein. He decided to stick with rum and went with the VSOP {!} of Rhum JM. The aging process did decrease some of the standard flavors of a rhum agricole but the liquor gained in richness from its time in oak. That richness worked well with the maple syrup Scott chose as the sweetener in the drink. Overall, it was a funky drink with some grassy and spicy notes predominating on the palate.

rude boy

2 oz Wray & Nephew Overproof White Rum
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
1/4 oz S. Maria al Monte Amaro
3 drops Orange Blossom Water

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Drop the orange blossom water on top and garnish with a lime wedge.

Yesterday after the Dada performance at the Lily Pad was over, I walked to Rendezvous to say hello to Scott Holliday who was bartending that night. When I asked Scott what he had been tinkering with, he replied that he had been working on getting the balance of a new daiquiri-like drink using S. Maria al Monte amaro just right. I was game for some rum, so I gave the go ahead. Scott let me taste the amaro in a cordial glass. It was very minty and mentholly and similar to Fernet-Branca in some tasting notes although not the same beast. S. Maria al Monte turns out to be from a different part of Italy than Fernet-Branca so hence some of the difference. S. Maria al Monte is from the northern part and uses the local botanicals of the region which tend toward alpine and menthol notes.

The drink itself was rather dry and complex. The hints of orange blossoms on the nose led into an intriguing menthol-lime flavor which seemed to work well with the taste of the overproof rum. Scott described the concept behind the naming -- he thought the drink reminded him of the cologne a Rude Boy would wear. He did not specify whether it was a 1960's Jamaican version or the more modern ska take on it; however, given that Wray and Nephew is Jamaican, I am guessing the former.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

no. 47

1 oz Laird's Applejack
1 oz Aperol
1 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Stirred with ice and strained into a rocks glass with a large ice cube.

Towards the end of dinner at Hungry Mother last night, Duane made me a No. 47, a drink that was not on the menu the last time I was there two months ago so probably one of their newer creations. The cocktail was spicy from the Bourbon with the right amount of bitter-sweet fruitiness from the Aperol. The applejack was not very detectable given the other two components and perhaps a heartier liquor like Calvados would have added an intriguing fruit component to pair up with the Aperol. What did pair up nicely with the Aperol was the ruby red grapefruit sorbet we had for dessert. While it was a wonderful serendipitous coupling, retrospectively, it was only slightly surprising since I have seen quite a few recipes containing Aperol and grapefruit juice. Perhaps a grapefruit twist squeezed over the drink might recreate this and accent the same citrus notes in the Aperol.

no. 13

2 oz Famous Grouse Scotch
1/2 oz Ferreira 10 Year Tawny Port
1/2 oz Housemade Sour Mix

Shake with ice and pour ice and all into a rocks glass. Garnish with a Marasca cherry.

Last night, Andrea and I went to Hungry Mother for dinner. While waiting for our appetizer of spicy pimento cheese with toast triangles and celery sticks to arrive, I asked Duane to make me a Number 13 off of their drink menu. I had previously had Nos. 42 and 43 so this drink must show off some of the earlier phases of their drink menu development. Andrea went even more old school with a No. 2. No. 13 had a bit of a Rob Roy feel to it mixed with a hint of a whiskey sour. Moreover, it was quite easy to drink; Andrea who usually finishes before the slow poky me was rather surprised at that. Perhaps it was due to how the port and sour mix masked some of the rough edges of the Scotch all while keeping the drink rather well balanced.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


1 1/2 oz Myers's Dark Rum
1 1/2 oz Ron Pampero Aniversario
1 oz Lemon Hart Demerara 151 Proof Rum
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Velvet Falernum
1/4 oz Cinnamon Syrup
6 drops Kubler Absinthe
1 tsp Grenadine
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice and serve in a stemmed tumbler with cracked ice. Garnish elaborately with mint.

For my last cocktail at Drink, Misty suggested that she was in the mood to make another Zombie especially after two gentlemen were in the bar earlier sporting Hawaiian shirts and had requested them. One part of me was curious to see which recipe she would use (and how it would compare to the one Kit made for Andrea at Eastern Standard a few weeks ago) and one part of me did not want to turn down an offer for a multi-ingredient drink.
Misty's recipe came from Beachbum Berry's Sippin' Safari which lists the recipe as stemming from the Zombie Punch (1934) as written down by the Don the Beachcomber's waiter Dick Santiago (this New York Times article provides some of the history on this). The drink itself was sweet but balanced with complex notes coming in from the absinthe, falernum, and cinnamon syrup. Very spicy, very sweet, very tiki. Doing the math on the liquor in the drink (which surprisingly does not taste of alcohol at all), made me realize why Donn Beach limited this drink to two per customer... [1] A very different drink than the Zombie I had at a Halloween party my freshman year at college. That Zombie contained rums, pineapple juice, apricot flavored brandy, and quite a kick; however, it was sweetness minus the complex spice flavors of Beach's recipe. Then again, I am not sure how much the average 18-22 year old would have appreciated anise seed overtones in their drink.

[1] The "Bringing the Thunder" sweatbands, even though swag sporting a wine reference, were rather appropriate for both the drink and the theme of "Sweatband Sunday".

[spicy smoky nuts]

1 1/4 oz Batavia Arrack
1 oz Rhum JM Blanc
3/4 oz Nux Alpina Walnut Liqueur
1/4 oz Sambuca
1 dash Bittermen's Xocolatl Mole Bitters

Stir with ice and strained into a rocks glass.

For Smoky Sunday (it also was Sweatband Sunday -- see the Zombie post) at Drink (the themes they picked during their busy Friday shift), Misty took my "I'm open to any base spirit" to suggest Batavia Arrack and she ran with it to make a rather spicy and smoky cocktail. Batavia Arrack is a slightly smoky and flavorful rum from Java that paired rather well with Sambuca, a smoky anisette. In the post-anise wave of the swallow in this drink, the delightful flavor of the walnut from the Nux Alpina became apparent and paired well with the richness of the mole bitters. The drink was very intense but it worked rather well especially for an improvised cocktail with such diverse ingredients. So cheers to Misty for her drunk-fu!

clementine bitters

Since clementines were in season, I decided to develop some bitters based on them. In my one ounce tester trials [1], I noticed that licorice and tea leaves worked rather well as did some nonsurprising ones like gentian, cinnamon, and chamomile. The flavors in the clementine peel were not very conducive to strong bitter flavors, so I had to tone down the levels as compared to my other bitters.

One of my first scale ups used Darjeeling Muscatel tea leaves and this turned out to be way too bitter as an alcohol-based extraction. Instead I used a steeped version as the water portion of the bitters, although I could have had the tea leaves in a tea ball and removed them after a day or so.
Yarm's Clementine Bitters
• 82.4 grams clementine peels (3-4 clementines)
• 1.2 grams juniper berries (split)
• 1.2 grams wormwood
• 5.4 grams chamomile flowers
• 5.4 grams licorice root
• 3.7 grams cinnamon stick
• 3.6 grams gentian root
• 7.2 grams dried orange peel
• 3.6 grams cardamom pod

• Infuse in 12 oz of Bacardi 151 + 6 oz of Darjeeling Muscatel tea (cooled) for 5 days. Filter through a coffee filter.
• Final volume: 13 oz
• Added: 4 oz caramelized sugar syrup (take 3 oz sugar by volume, caramelize in a pot it over a medium heat, and add 6 oz of boiling water to dissolve the sugar) to make the final volume 17 oz.
• Bottle (6 bottles x ~3 oz.)
The caramelized sugar part made the bitters a lot like Fee's style which are rather sweet due to their use of sugar and glycerol and are very flavor forward and low on the bitter ingredient levels. The effect was an initial sweet taste, followed by a wave of clementine and other flavors, and then bitterness on the swallow. The batch that got bottled used inferior clementines as compared to the ones I had at the beginning of the season. Three of the better peels weighed the same as four of these not to mention having a sweeter and more flavorful taste. Other changes I might do next time is to use a more herbal tea such as jasmine. And perhaps cut out or reduce the juniper berries which added too sharp of a note at the end. The licorice could have been upped a little although it was definitely detectable and added a great flavor at this concentration.

I bottled this batch on Sunday and did not have a chance to experiment with them at home before delivering a bottle to John Gertsen at Drink. He asked what I was in the mood for and I told him something with Old Tom Gin. John asked if an old school Martini would work. I replied with a request for sweet vermouth instead of dry, and John countered by lifting up a bottle of Dolin sweet vermouth to my delight!
• 2 1/4 Hayman's Old Tom Gin
• 3/4 oz Dolin Sweet Vermouth
• 2 dash Clementine Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist lemon rind over the top of the drink, rim edge of glass, and discard.
The clementine notes were rather strong at first and married well with the lemon oil. Later, the more bitter notes started coming out in the drink and interacting with the vermouth. One of the most intriguing ones was how the accents of the wormwood from the bitters mirrored the hints of wormwood in the Dolin vermouth.

Overall, I am pleased with the results of these bitters although I am not finished with tinkering with this recipe. I am curious to see how these bitters would do in a whiskey drink of some sort with a good starting point being an Rye Old Fashioned perhaps with a dash of Angostura to round out the bitters profile.

[1] Generally, I do 6 one ounce trials using the same alcohol and flavor component in each and vary the rest with 2-4 other botanicals. Usually it is a bittering agent or two and an aromatic agent or two (some ingredients do fall under both categories). Everything is weighed out; however, my scale is not very accurate around 0.1-0.2 grams so things are approximate. I do tasting notes every day or so using a cocktail straw to pick up a few drops and note which flavors work well and which do not. And note which flavors need to be toned down or boosted in level. From there, I pick the best ones or parts of the best ones (generally from the best 2 +/- 1) and combine it in a recipe with the addition of other botanicals that might fill in the gaps. My scale-up is usually to a 16-24 oz range (although the output volume is often lower due to losses in dried botanicals absorbing liquid and losses in filtration).

Friday, February 6, 2009

none but the brave

1 1/2 oz Hine Cognac
1/2 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Goslings Dark Rum
1/4 tsp Sugar

Shake with ice and pour ice and all into a rocks glass. Garnish with a long orange twist. The proportions were taken from the CocktailDB recipe with modifications made in terms of liquor brand, glass, and garnish type. Also, the database recommends straining the ice out.

For my nightcap at Highland Kitchen last night, I chose the None but the Brave for two reasons. The first was that I was in the mood for some tasty dram-goodness after tinkering with a new bitters recipe that includes allspice berries. And the second was that I have been wanting to try this drink ever since Lauren Clark wrote about it in DrinkBoston last May (in the same article is a mention of a drink I served at my International Migratory Bird Day party). Lauren surmised that the drink could be named after a 1965 Frank Sinatra movie or a John Dryden poem with the line, "None but the brave deserves the fair". The drink itself did not disappoint. The richness of the brandy and rum was pleasantly tempered by the citrus notes of the lemon juice. The allspice flavors were rather evident in the swallow and served to dry out the drink.

agave punch

2 oz Sauza Tequila
1/2 oz Ruby Port
1/2 oz Orange Juice
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Simple Syrup

Shake with ice and pour into a rocks glass, ice and all. Garnish with an orange wedge. Measurements were estimates since they were all free poured.

Last night, Andrea and I went over to the Highland Kitchen to meet up with Scott Holliday for his post-work drink. Behind the bar were Joe McGuirk and Beau, and I asked Joe to make me the Agave Punch off of their menu. It would normally be a drink I would not be interested in ordering; however, the presence of the ruby port intrigued me especially in conjunction with the tequila. The port did serve to provide a nice mouth-fullness to the drink that would have otherwise been a thinner tequila sour. Moreover, it also added some depth and complexity to the fruit flavors. The one recipe I found online for this drink had an upped amount of citrus and simple syrup (with a very similar ratio between the three), and about the same amount of tequila and port as the recipe above. I think the pleasant effect of the port would have been lost in that recipe as opposed to the one Joe made me, so the modification was rather appreciated.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

blood and sand (variation)

2 oz Dewar's Scotch
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
1/2 oz Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth
2 slices of Orange
1 Marasca Cherry (Luxardo)
1 dash Housemade Orange Bitters

Muddle cherry, orange slices and orange bitters in mixing glass. Add rest of ingredients and ice, shake, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish glass with orange wedge on rim and another Marasca cherry dropped in.

For my second drink at Deep Ellum, I told Max Toste that I was interested in the Blood and Sand unless there was something else he wanted to make me. He paused and then said that he wanted me to try his take on this classic drink, one named after the 1922 Rudolf Valentino as a bullfighter flick. The traditional recipe is:
Blood and Sand
1/4 Jigger Whisky
1/4 Jigger Italian Vermouth
1/4 Jigger Chery Brandy
1/4 Jigger Orange Juice
Shake well with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass and serve. Recipe from Boothby's World Drinks and How to Mix Them (1934).
The most recent issue of Imbibe magazine (Jan/Feb) mentions this drink and that Ted Haigh suggests altering the equal parts recipe by reducing the sweet vermouth and Cherry Heering down to a 1:1:3/4:3/4 ratio to make the drink less sweet and more engaging. Max's approach was similar but more extreme. He skipped the orange juice entirely and replaced it with a muddled orange slice or two in addition to orange bitters. He scaled back the Cherry Heering and sweet vermouth and added back some of the sweetness with the muddled cherry. The end result was very Scotch forward and relatively dry (well, given the ingredients). There was a prominent and pleasant smokiness over the fruit and vermouth flavors. While I had never had a traditional version of the drink, Andrea had. She commented that she enjoyed Max's variation a lot more than the sickly sweet original.

Update: April 18, 2012 -- Max made us another Blood & Sand two weeks ago. Here is his current tweak on the recipe:
• 2 oz Blended Scotch
• 1/2 oz Cherry Heering
• 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
• 1/3 oz Maraschino Cherry Syrup
• 1 Orange Slice
• 3 dash House Orange Bitters
Muddle the orange slice. Add rest of ingredients and ice. Shake and double strain into a rocks glass.

the tommy noble

1 1/4 oz Plymouth Gin
1 1/4 oz Pimm's No. 1
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
1 dash Housemade Aromatic Bitters

Shake with ice. Twist orange rind over an empty cocktail glass and rim the edge, strain the ingredients into the glass, and drop the peel in.

Last night after a dinner at Grasshopper, Andrea and I went over to Deep Ellum where Max Toste was bartending (Max is often at the stick on Mondays and Wednesdays). When Max handed us the drink menu, he mentioned that there were a few new cocktails on the list. The Tommy Noble was the one that called out to me first. My research today tells me that the recipe originated at the B-Side, created by Dave Cagle, and is named after a notoriously bad British boxer who fought 180 times in the 1910s through 1930s. I knew that the name had something to do with the UK given the presence of Pimm's in the ingredient list.

The first sensations of this drink was the vibrant orange oil nose which lingers for the first few sips. Besides that, the drink itself had a nice citrus bite and was rather nice and dry. Max commented that the Pimm's works well with his aromatic bitters which contain allspice, cinnamon, cardamom, gentian, and other botanicals. I would have to agree.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

scotch toddy

1 1/2 oz Laphroaig 10 Year Cask Strength
3/4 oz Bergamot Simple Syrup
Hot Water
Lemon Oil

Served in a glass mug that looked like a junior version of one of those old root beer mugs places used to give away as a promotion.

I was intrigued by the bergamot simple syrup that Misty used in Fred's first cocktail, the Chartreuse Swizzle. Drink buys the rather expensive little bergamot fruits and uses both the zest and juice for the simple syrup. The result is a drier orange flavor relative to a regular orange. Misty said that she likes to mix it with a nice smoky scotch in a toddy. After I'd drained my Tennessee, I decided that this would be my hot drink choice for the evening. As we waited for more hot water, I was unable to resist the temptation of the duck drummettes on the nibbles menu. As I wolfed these down (NOM NOM NOM, watch your fingers), the sweet, rich barbecue-like sauce paired very well with the scotch-n-citrus cocktail. At some point, the gentleman who had initially greeted us came in to announce the SuperBowl status with less than 23 seconds left. It sounded like it was an exciting game. Especially for the chef who'd made my incredible duck drummies - he'd won the football pool and came out of the kitchen to celebrate.

rye tennessee

2 oz. Old Overholt Rye
1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz. lemon juice

Shake on ice and strain into an old fashioned glass (the one they gave me was a beautiful etched, rounded one).

After a nice meal at Dali on PuppyBowl Sunday, Fred and I headed over to Drink. A familiar-looking gentleman came over and asked me what I wanted, and I stated that I wanted a rye-based drink. "A Fort Point?" "I've had it." "How about a Seelbach?" "I've had that, too." "Oh, he said, you're some serious cocktailians. I have to go get the expert." In retrospect, I guess I must have sounded like a total snot. Oh well. I felt guilty when the gentleman re-appeared with a somewhat annoyed-looking Misty, who had been enjoying a steak taco from Olecita in the back office. I apologised for pulling her away from dinner (which hopefully she had managed to finish), and she got her revenge on me by making me hungry again with her description of the tacos. Maybe it was the glucose finally hitting hitting her system after a couple of minutes, but she perked up and immediately thought of something to address my rye fixation - a Tennessee. Though the traditional Tennessee is made with a corn whiskey (I hesitate to say bourbon), Misty prefers the way rye dries out the maraschino. I was in the mood for something uncomplicated and direct, and this cocktail certainly delivered. Even more glucose must have hit her system while she was preparing my drink, because the cocktails she came up with for me and Fred afterwards were truly inspired.

jet pilot

1 oz Meyer's Dark Rum
3/4 oz Lemon Hart Demerara 151° Rum
3/4 oz Ron Pampero Aniversario Rum
1/2 oz Velvet Falernum
1/2 oz Cinnamon Simple Syrup
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
6 drops Herbsaint
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a stemmed tumbler filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a caramel cherry.

For my last cocktail at Drink on Sunday, Misty and John schemed up to make a vintage tiki drink, the Jet Pilot for me. The Jet Pilot's history can be traced back to the Luau Restaurant, a late 1950's Beverly Hills tiki mecca, and the bartenders at Drink stuck to the original recipe save for rum brands (no alterance in rum styles) and using Peychaud's instead of Angostura. The drink was garnished with an elegant caramel dripped cherry; unfortunately for the photo above, the long stem of caramel was broken off in the process of preparing the drink but it was a marvel to see the artistry in the garnish before hand.

The drink had notes of sweet and spicy due to the flavors in the sugary botanical goodness of the falernum and cinnamon simple syrup which were supplemented by the Herbsaint and bitters. The citrus juice interacted rather well with the sweetness and the spice to round out the drink's profile. Well, not completely as that does not include the richness of the three rums. Nothing more surreal than drinking a tiki drink in the winter and on the eve of Groundhog's Day much less. If only Punxsutawney Phil had drank one of these that night, he might have come to a different conclusion. Or perhaps, he might not have wanted to come out of his hole at all yesterday morning...

Monday, February 2, 2009


1 oz El Tosoro Reposado Tequila
1/2 oz Mezcal del Maguey
1/2 oz Batavia Arrack
3/4 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/4 oz Benedictine
2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters

Stir with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a lit cherry bomb (cherry soaked in Laphroaig Cask Strength).
For my second cocktail at Drink last night, I asked Misty for a suggestion for a next step, and when she mentioned the name of the drink and that it was a Phil Ward (Death & Co., NYC) creation, I was sold without knowing what was in it. According to Paul Clarke in his Cocktail Chronicles blog post about this drink, the cocktail was made at the behest of Avery Glasser of the Bittermens Bitters. Paul wrote, "Recognizing the horrific resemblance of this long list of complex-flavored ingredients to the gruesome spectacle of a car wreck, Phil dubbed this drink the Airbag."
The drink features three smoky flavored ingredients: Scotch, mezcal, and Batavia Arrack, although the tequila could have some smokiness to it as well. Not knowing the history of the drink until today, I figured that the drink was named after the smoky residue that is dispersed when an airbag is deployed. The car crash aspect of it was missed on me since I have seen other creations of this magnitude work. The rest of the drink is very herbal with the Allspice Dram, Benedictine, and Carpano Antica vermouth not to mention the bitters adding a great deal of complexity to the drink. The top picture did not capture the flaming cherry due to the flash but it was the rather pretty blue flame associated with burning alcohol. Overall, the crazy recipe for this drink did indeed work. It was spicy and smoky. Andrea after trying my drink commented that she was "hit in the nose with a giant rush of flavor, kind of like a car accident. Ow... but I'm still alive." So apparently, a better name for this drink could not have been chosen. And thanks to Misty for bringing a bit of NYC magic over here.

chartreuse swizzle

JM Rhum Blanc
Pierre Ferrand Amber Cognac
Yellow Chartreuse
Bergamot Syrup
"West Coast" Ginger Syrup
Lemon Juice
Grapefruit Juice
2 drops Peychaud's Bitters

All ingredients save for the Peychaud's poured into a stemmed tumbler filled with crushed ice and stirred with a swizzle. Glass topped off with more freshly crushed ice and Peychaud's added to top of ice.
Last night, after having dinner at Dali (easy to do even as a large group when it is Superbowl Sunday), Andrea and I went to Drink. We found seats at the center bar where Misty was tending. While Misty was making Andrea a Rye Tennessee, my eyes spied the authentic naturally grown swizzle stick from Martinique in the tools bucket. The tool was one that Adam from The Boston Shaker had mentioned to me that Drink bartender John Gertsen had in his possession (Note: Adam is still looking for a source for these authentic swizzle sticks for his store. Any leads would be greatly appreciated by him and the Boston cocktail community as a whole).

When I mentioned the stick to Misty, she stated that she had two chartreuse swizzles that she greatly enjoyed making: one with green and one with yellow Chartreuse. While I was more interested in the green since I have had a several yellow Chartreuse cocktails recently, the yellow one's recipe was more appealing. Misty started my drink like mighty Thor, except with her hammer's target being an ice bag filled with a large chunk of Gloucester lake ice. I did not ask for the specific volumes on this one as I was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of ingredients. Next, I got to see the swizzle stick in action as Misty twirled it until the drink was well mixed. To top off the drink, Misty added some more ice and added some Peychaud's bitters for an immediate aromatic nose to the drink.

In terms of tasting notes, the fresh citrus and the Chartreuse worked to intensify the other in the drink. Yellow Chartreuse can sometimes get lost in a complex drink; however, this was not the case in this swizzle. Andrea commented that she could definitely taste the funkiness of the rhum agricole, and how the sweetness of the drink was a good balance to that. The bergamot (a citrus fruit which is one of the flavors in Earl Grey tea) also added a distinctive note to the drink. We asked and got a taster glass of the bergamot syrup to appreciate it separate from the rest of the ingredients -- delightful!