Tuesday, August 31, 2010

chronic iced tea

1 oz Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac
1 oz Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
3-4 oz Bergamot Iced Tea

Shake all but the tea in a pint glass with ice. Take off the shaker tin and top pint glass with ice tea; garnish with a lemon wheel and straw.

Sometime in the middle of my first cocktail, I gained another glass in front of my Blue Skies and Kentucky Breakfast Stout -- a glass of sparkling wine! That Sunday was the eve of Green Street owner Dylan Black's birthday, and it was nearing midnight so the surprise party began with a sabering of a Champagne bottle to open it! This feat was matched by an amazing happy birthday song sung by someone at the bar with a classically trained voice. It felt rather decadent to have three glasses of booze in front of me, but Dylan would approve.
Once my collection of glassware was drained, I ordered my second cocktail off of the small menu -- Chronic Iced Tea -- from bartender Derric Crothers. This tall drink was a B-Side original, perhaps named after the Notorious B.I.G. song that featured Snoop Dogg, and it can be found at a few other B-Side disciple bars like the Highland Kitchen. The drink's nose was strong with an Earl Grey tea aroma that preceded a rather classy drink despite the name (it is a reference to tea brewed with marijuana leaves). The bergamot-flavored black tea was complemented by lemon and hints of honey. Indeed, with a lower proportion of tea in the mix, the Chronic Ice Tea would fall into the category of a classic Punch. Instead, it falls into the category of easy and refreshing drinking.

blue skies

1 oz Laird's Apple Brandy
1 oz Plymouth Gin
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Grenadine

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Two Sundays ago, Andrea and I went down to Green Street for drinks. Bartender Derric Crothers greeted us and gave us a sample of Kentucky Breakfast Stout, a once-a-year offering from Founders. The beer was flavored with coffee and aged in a Bourbon barrel for 12 months, and the bar had scored a small keg of it. It was dry like an Imperial Stout generally is and filled with a well-balanced collection of coffee, barrel-aged vanilla, and roasted malt notes. Indeed, Green Streets' beer program has impressed me greatly as of late.
The first cocktail I ordered was from Green Street's new bartender, John Baker, who they acquired from the Parish Cafe. Off the short cocktail menu, I chose the Blue Skies. This Blue Skies' recipe is unlike any of the others I have seen (for one, it is not even blue), and with the split spirit content balanced by lemon and grenadine, it reminded me of the Three Mile Limit. Here, instead of brandy and white rum, the spirits are apple brandy and gin, and CocktailDB places this recipe closest to variations of a Royal Smile and an Applejack Daisy. The Blue Skies' nose was mainly the pomegranate notes from the grenadine, and the gin coupled with the lemon worked well to dry out the grenadine's sugar content. While the Blue Skies was not all that complex, it was pleasing like most Daisies are.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

royal james punch

1/2 Lime
1/2 tsp Turbinado Sugar
1 oz Dark Rum
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Cherry Heering
2 dash Angostura Bitters

Cut lime half into 4 pieces and muddle with sugar in a rock glass until the sugar is dissolved. Add rest of ingredients and stir to mix. Fill with crushed ice.
For Mixoloseum's Thursday Drink Night a week and a half ago, the theme was "Unclear" such that all the ingredients needed some sort of color or cloudiness to them. For a drink idea, my eyes drifted over to the bottle of Cherry Heering, and this was coupled with the idea of muddling lime quarters and sugar like in a Caipirinha. To stick with the theme, I chose dark rum, sweet vermouth, and Angostura Bitters to increase the color quotient in the drink. Since the drink had rum, vermouth, and bitters like a Pirate Cocktail, I named the drink after a famous pirate ship captained by Ignatius Pell, the Royal James. One of the Mixoloseum guests, Sunny&Rummy, who made the drink commented, "The Royal James is an interesting drink. I quite like dark rum and sweet vermouth together. And the cherry liqueur gives it some depth. [It was] tart on first taste, but my taste buds recalibrated and it's sipping very easy."

fioupe cocktail

The theme for this month's Mixology Monday (MxMo L) was picked by LushLife Productions' Lindsey Johnson who runs the Brown, Bitter and Stirred blog. Lindsey chose the eponymous theme of "Brown, Bitter and Stirred" and decided not to elaborate on the theme much more than by saying it is the first four words out of her mouth when she requests a cocktail at a bar. And now, she is requesting people across the blogosphere to craft a drink to her modus operandi.

I was not specifically searching for a drink to satisfy this Mixology Monday when I spotted one that would work. While looking through the 1940 The How and When for something to drink that night, I spotted the Fioupe Cocktail and made a note to revisit it later in the week for this event. For several days the note sat there until I was in the mood for something more brown, bitter, and stirred than I have been with my drink choices as of late. As I began to hunt out an older source if not the original source of the recipe, I ended up finding one in Robert Vermeire's Cocktails and How to Mix Them from 1922 and decided to stop my searching and to make the damn cocktail already. Vermeire proffered a line of history that read, "Monsieur Fioupe is a familiar figure known all along the Riviera by everybody from prince to cabman." His recipe was as follows:
Fioupe Cocktail
• 1/4 gill Cinzano Sweet Vermouth (1 oz Bonal)
• 1/4 gill Cognac Brandy (1 oz Martell VS)
• 1 tsp Benedictine
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Add a cherry (Luxardo) and twist a lemon peel over the top.
The only difference between this recipe and the one in The How and When is that the former specified Cognac and the latter was a vague brandy. I was originally going to choose a more brown and flavorful Spanish brandy, but once finding the older recipe, I went with the Cognac. In addition, instead of sweet vermouth proper, I went with Bonal which is a sweet vermouth-like aperitif wine embittered with a healthy dose of gentian and quinine.
The Fioupe Cocktail started with an aroma that was a mix of lemon oil and Benedictine. The Cognac notes were the first to hit the palate followed by the Bonal and Benedictine's bitter notes on the swallow. Moreover, the Bonal also contributed a pleasing grape aftertaste. Overall, the Fioupe Cocktail was a stripped down Vieux Carré for it lacked the rye, Peychaud's, and Angostura Bitters. Thus, it was a bit smoother as it lacked the bite from the rye whiskey and some of the herbal complexity of the nonpotable bitters. Still the Fioupe Cocktail was plenty bitter enough not to mention brown and stirred.

Cheers to Lyndsey for hosting and picking this month's theme and to Paul Clarke for being the puppeteer behind the MxMo show!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

parker house punch

1 1/2 oz New England Rum (Thomas Tew)
1/2 oz Brandy (Pedro Domecq Fundador Solera Reserva)
3/4 oz Cold Tea (Oolong)
1 1/2 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Simple Syrup (Gomme)

Shake with ice and strain into a highball glass or punch cup filled with shaved ice. Add a dash of soda water, a slice of orange, a slice of lemon, and a cherry. Our punch cups would be too small for these volumes so we subbed a rocks glass.

Ted Saucier's Bottom's Up captures an old Boston recipe, the Parker House Punch. While the Parker House, which still exists as the Omni Parker near the Granary Burial Ground, developed this punch, the hotel is better known for creating the Boston Cream Pie and coining the word "scrod." In fact, the only other reference I could find for this punch is in the Robert E. Sherwood 1940 book There Shall Be No Night where it gets mentioned a few times. Obviously, the recipe had a big impact on Sherwood and enough of an effect on Saucier to add it to his 1951 book. One problem that separates people from easily making this recipe is that New England Rum (as a style) is no longer made. Adam Mechanic recommended that we try Thomas Tew Rum made by the Newport Storm Brewery and Distillery. Thomas Tew is a pot stilled rum named after a 17th century Rhode Island privateer, and while not claiming to be a New England Rum, it is closer to the style than not. Unfortunately, Thomas Tew cannot be found much outside of Rhode Island, so we were forced to make an unscheduled antiques run down to Warren, RI, and get a bottle (along with a bottle of Everclear for infusions).
The rum contributed barrel aged and light molasses notes to the nose of the Parker House Punch along with the aroma of the tea and lemon. The lemon-sugar sour flavor on the front of the sip was balanced by the tannins and flavor of the tea on the swallow. Moreover, the Thomas Tew Rum added a good amount of richness to the drink (along with the Spanish brandy), and the rum was notable on the aftertaste as a pleasing pungency. Overall, the Parker House Punch was a pretty solid single serving punch that could easily be scaled up to punch bowl quantities. A rich rum like Appleton, Lemon Hart, or Coruba would make an adequate substitution.

old bill

1 oz Oloroso Sherry (Lustau Don Nuño Dry Oloroso)
1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur (Maraska)
1/2 oz Aged Rum (Zacapa 23)
3 dash Orange Bitters (Angostura Orange)

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Two Mondays ago was National Rum Day, and to celebrate, I began flipping through our copy of Left Coast Libations. The drink that caught my eye was one from Neyah White, the Old Bill, that conjured up memories of how well rum and sherry couple. The drink was also attractive for it would allow us a chance to use the Maraska Maraschino Liqueur which we recently found and purchased at Marty's in Newtonville. Maraska is a little sweeter and less complex than Luxardo and is half the price; it seems like it would work in the drinks where you wanted the sweetness without an overbearing Maraschino flavor. The Old Bill greeted us with an orange aroma from the bitters. Sherry and Maraschino flavors were on the front of the sip, and there the ingredients were battling for whether it would be perceived as a sweet or dry balance. The Zacapa rum added a lot of body and kick to the drink, and it along with the bitters added a bit of spice on the swallow. The sherry appeared again on the swallow as a pleasant nuttiness to round out the drink.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

[ben-tiki sour]

1 oz Ron Matusalem 10yr Classico Rum
1 oz Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Pink Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Orgeat
1/2 oz Cinnamon Syrup
1 Egg White

Shake with ice and double strain into a highball glass. Top with soda water and twist a grapefruit peel over the top. Garnish with 3 drops of Tiki Bitters and a straw.
For my second drink at Ben Sandrof's Sunday Salon, I asked Ben if he had any ideas for something like the delightful Pisco Sour that was on the menu. Ben thought for a moment and then came up with a great Tiki-style riff that hit the spot. The Tiki Bitters and grapefruit oil on the surface of the egg white foam provided a great citrus aroma to the drink. The orgeat and cinnamon syrup put the drink on the somewhat sweet side especially since pink grapefruit juice is not as crisp as lemon or lime. Finally, the mix of Cognac and rum appeared more on the swallow where they helped to dry out the sip; the two spirits matched the tropical flavors in the drink rather well.

clt peche

1 1/2 oz Beefeater Gin
3/4 oz Peach Syrup
3/4 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice cubes. Top with soda water. Garnish with an orange twist, a mint sprig, and a straw.

Sunday almost two weeks ago (Tales of the Cocktail and the posts that followed have made catching up to date rather a challenge), Andrea and I got a message that Ben Sandrof was hosting his Sunday Salon again. When we arrived and sat down at the bar, we noticed a few new drinks on the menu. One of them, the CLT Peche, seemed like a wonderful seasonal one that I ought not let slip by. CLT stands for Claremont, NH, where some members of Ben's family live, and when he was there last, he gathered up a bunch of peaches. Ben made a syrup with some of the peaches to use in this riff on a Tom Collins.
The CLT Peche started with a mint and orange oil nose that led into a pretty refreshing sip. The balance was a touch on the tart and crisp side with just enough peach flavor to match the lemon's. Andrea commented that the CLT Peche was the type of beverage you could drink all night (assuming you had the peach resources to do so).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

bali bali

1 1/2 oz Red Ronrico Rum (Blackbeard Spiced Rum)
1/2 oz Passion Fruit Syrup (Trader Tiki)
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/4 barspoon Sugar (Turbinado)

Stir the sugar in with the lime juice until dissolved. Add rest of ingredients, shake with ice, and strain into a 10 oz Highball glass. Fill with fresh ice (crushed ice would have been more space filling than cubes) and decorate with mint, cherries, and a straw.

For a cocktail on Saturday night a week and a half ago, I was leafing through the pages of the 1940 cocktail book, The How and When, and spotted the small section of Tiki drinks including the Pago Pago that I had at the Franklin's Chartreuse night (apparently, this book has the earliest published recipe for the drink). Next to it was the Bali Bali which would make good use of our newly acquired bottle of Trader Tiki's passion fruit syrup. We were a little confused as to what "Red Ronrico Rum" would be like as it is a defunct part of that distillery's portfolio. Andrea discovered in her search that it was a dark Puerto Rican rum. Since we do not have any regular dark rums from that island (and we were not sure if their rums got much darker than gold), I figured it would be also be a good time to crack open a rum sample that had been sent to us. The Blackbeard Spiced Rum was reasonably dark and was from the correct island; while Red Ronrico was surely not the same, the Blackbeard seemed like a decent substitution for this drink.
The Bali Bali's mint garnish contributed greatly to the drink's nose. The rum's richness coupled rather well with the passion fruit syrup's smoothness. Meanwhile, the rum's sharpness along with the lime juice's bite did a decent job of drying out the passion fruit syrup's sweetness that was supplemented by the sugar. Finally, the Blackbeard contributed a light spice note on the swallow that added a little extra zest that was probably absent in the Red Ronrico version.

indian summer

3 Cardamom Pods
1 1/2 oz Blanco Tequila (Casa Noble)
3/4 oz Pimm's No. 1
1 oz Pineapple Juice
1/4 oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz Simple Syrup (Gomme)

Muddle cardamom and add rest of ingredients. Shake with ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime twist.

Two Fridays ago, it was cocktail time so I opened up our newly acquired Food and Wine: Cocktails 2010 and began to flip through the pages. The Tiki-like tequila drink, the Indian Summer, stood out as quite curious. Jacques Bezuidenhout, the drink's creator, commented that "[he] love[s] the aroma of cardamom, and it works well with the spice in tequila." The Indian Summer reminded me of Joaquin Simo's Bourbon and rum-laden Punky Monkey that we made back in January, and I was curious to see how tequila would fair in a similar mix.
The shaking generated a decent foam from the pineapple juice, and the aroma was lively with young tequila and lime notes. The beginning of the sip was a combination of the pineapple, lime, and cardamom, and this was followed by the tequila in the middle. Lastly, the cardamom appeared again on the swallow as a somewhat bitter and spicy note. Indeed, Jacques was correct -- the cardamom and the blanco tequila's peppery notes complemented each other rather well.

Monday, August 23, 2010

kiwi kollins

2 oz Gin (Bombay Dry)
1 oz Kiwi Shrub (see below)
1 oz Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano (Cocchi)

Build in a Collins glass filled with ice. Stir and top with soda water. Garnish with a kiwi slice and a straw.

After hearing Neyah White talk about shrubs at Tales of the Cocktail last month, I began looking for ideas. I still had a strawberry and a blueberry from last year, and I tried to brainstorm about what other fruits would be delightful in shrub format. When I was at the supermarket, the display of Kiwi fruits looked rather tempting, and then the proverbial light bulb lit up... this would be perfect for the Zespri's Kiwi A-Go-Go Bloggers' Contest!

For a shrub recipe, I used Neyah's non-heat style instead of the simmering one I used last year:
Kiwi Shrub
• 3 large Zespri Kiwi (~1 1/2 cup)
• 1 cup Sugar
• 1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
Peel Kiwi fruit and break apart by squeezing through fingers. Muddle in sugar until dissolved. Let sit 24 hours at room temperature in a bowl covered by Saran Wrap. After a day, add the vinegar and let sit a week. Strain (may take some force) through a tea towel and then bottle. Store in refrigerator.
For a drink, I went with a tall refreshing one. I modeled it after a Collins where the shrub's vinegar and sugar would mimic the standard Collins' lemon juice and simple syrup, respectively. To add back some citrus flavors, I spiked in some Cocchi Americano (substitute Lillet Blanc).
The Kiwi Kollins had a very robust Kiwi aroma from the freshly cut garnish which supplemented the nose of the drink itself. The sip had a pleasant layer of Kiwi and citrus flavors that mingled well with the gin botanicals. Moreover, the vinegar worked rather well to donate the right amount of crispness to make the drink rather clean and refreshing.

Friday, August 20, 2010

hanky panky

1 1/2 oz Plymouth Gin
1 1/2 oz Bonal
1 barspoon Fernet Branca

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Twist an orange peel over the top.

While I was not planning on having a third cocktail at Drink, Kitty Amann showed up and wanted to do a round of Plymouth Gin drinks; therefore, bartender Misty Kalkofen asked what I would like. When I gave some thought to what gin drink I wanted, I remembered spotting a bottle of Bonal, a gentian and quinine-flavored aromatized wine, and thought about what drinks would work well with Bonal substituted for sweet vermouth. Since I had a Martinez recently, my mind jumped to the Hanky Panky. When I announced my drink choice, it made Misty rather happy. Perhaps it was because it used Bonal and Fernet Branca which Misty adores, or perhaps it was because I summoned her LUPEC name (all of the members have aliases named after cocktails). Kitty liked the idea of the Bonal-Plymouth Gin Hanky Panky so much that she ordered one herself!
The Hanky Panky nose was full of orange oil notes. Gin flavors and Bonal's richness filled the sip, and Fernet's menthol and Bonal's gentian stood out on the swallow. The Fernet was meted out with a light touch so that it did not dominate the drink; furthermore, its flavors complemented the Bonal rather well.


2 oz Del Maguey Mezcal Vida
1/2 oz Canela (Mexican Cinnamon) Syrup
1/2 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
2 dash Angostura Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a punch cup or cocktail glass. Twist a lemon peel over the top and discard.

For my second cocktail at Drink last week, I asked bartender Misty Kalkofen what she has been excited about making lately. She replied by asking if I was up for sticking with Mezcal. With my affirmative, she set to work on one of her newest creations, the Zócalo which translates to "parade ground" or "town square."
The Zócalo started with a strong lemon aroma with a lesser cinnamon and Mezcal scent; however, after the first few sips depleted the lemon oil floating on top of the drink, the nose was dominated by the spice and agave spirit. The cinnamon did a good job of bridging the gap between the Mezcal and the dry vermouth, for it paired well with the earthy spiciness of the Mezcal and the botanicals in the vermouth. Everything seemed in harmony as the cinnamon was not overpowering in the syrup, and the Mezcal was tempered by the vermouth. Moreover, the dry vermouth worked against the sugar in the cinnamon syrup without imparting the domineering crispness of citrus.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

tequila mockingbird

2 oz Mezcal Vida
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Agave Nectar
1 Egg White

Shake once without ice and once with. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with 10 drops of Peychaud's Bitters. Draw designs in the bitters drops using a toothpick or thin straw.
On Wednesday last week, Andrea and I traveled over to Drink in Fort Point to celebrate Graham's birthday. For my first cocktail, bartender Bryn Tattan wanted to make me a drink she has been working on, the Tequila Mockingbird. The drink had an attractive design on the egg white foam akin to a barista's latte art. The sip started with a smooth agave flavor coupled with light lime notes; this was followed by a decent smoky signature on the swallow. Overall, the drink was refreshingly light and simple like a Pisco Sour, albeit one with a more flavorful spirit.

balao swizzle

3 oz Dry Oloroso Sherry (Lustau Don Nuño)
1/2 oz Velvet Falernum
1/2 oz Liqueur Amaro (Averna)
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 tsp Toasted Caraway Seeds (*)

Muddle toasted caraway seeds in a Collins glass. Add all liquid ingredients, fill with crushed ice, and swizzle to mix. Float a barspoon of Angostura Bitters over the top for garnish.

As I mentioned during the Delores Park Swizzle entry, the drink book handed out by the Secret Sherry Society had some rather delicious looking drinks. The one we made Tuesday last week was one by Boston's own Corey Bunnewith, and like the Delores Park, his drink was also a swizzle. I used Averna for the "Liqueur Amaro" in the recipe; however, I just noticed that DrinkBoston listed it as the more floral Meletti amaro in the posting last December.
The Balao Swizzle started with an aroma of caraway seeds, lime, and Averna. The drink tasted vaguely like coffee for it had a rich and toasted flavor on the sip and a bitter note at the end. Definitely the roasting of the caraway seeds did more than just bring out the typical "rye bread" aroma, but the roasting added a definite toastiness to the drink. After a few sips in, the lime and falernum began to come more prominent on my palate and these two ingredients played rather well with the sherry.

(*) Caraway seeds will pop when they are roasted (not a major deformation like popcorn, but it is audible and they jump a little). I roasted until almost half of seeds had popped. When served, the seeds at the bottom of the drink might be a nuisance when using a straw. Perhaps muddling the seeds in a mixing glass, adding all but the ice and bitters, shaking, and straining through a tea strainer over the Collins glass filled with crushed ice might be a better option.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

[jimmy lane swizzle]

Leaves 2 sprigs Mint
1 1/2 oz Barbancourt 8 Year Rum
3/4 oz Spiced Simple Syrup
3/8 oz Lemon Juice
3/8 oz Lime Juice
1 barspoon Allspice Dram

Muddle mint at the bottom of a highball glass. Add rest of ingredients and crushed ice, swizzle to mix, and top with Angostura, Peychaud's, and housemade citrus bitters. Garnish with mint sprigs and a straw.

For my second drink of the evening at Eastern Standard last Monday, I offered bartender Jim Lane possible directions of a swizzle or an egg white drink. Jim seemed more excited by the swizzle option and went off to create this mint and spice one. With the muddled mint on the bottom and bitters on the top, the drink looked very much like the Italian of Ghanaian flag before the mint garnish was added. That garnish imparted a rather robust mint nose, while the muddled mint added a large quotient of flavor on the sip. The other strong note in the drink was the spice from the flavored simple syrup on the sip and the allspice dram on the swallow.

[carrol ironwood]

2 oz Rittenhouse 100 Rye
1 oz Mirto Liqueur
1/2 oz Cinnamon Syrup

Stir with ice and strain into a coupe glass.

On Monday last week, Andrea and I went over to Eastern Standard for a late night dinner after my DJ set was over. We had to wait a few minutes for seats to open up at the bar, but when they did, bartender Hugh Fiore greeted us and soon began discussing drink options. When I mentioned that I had not had any rye in a while, Mr. Fiore already had a drink idea queued up.
Hugh selected Mirto, a bitter liqueur made from the myrtle berry plant, and a housemade cinnamon syrup to go with the whiskey. I was surprised at how well the Mirto and cinnamon notes not only complemented each other but paired with the spiciness of the rye whiskey. Moreover, I was impressed at how the liqueur and syrup balanced the rye for intensity, as Rittenhouse can often be pretty domineering. The drink had almost no aftertaste at first; however, after a few sips, the cinnamon notes began to build on the swallow.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


1 1/2 oz Reposado Tequila (Lunazul)
1 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Lustau East India Sherry
1/2 oz Grade B Maple Syrup
1/2 oz Egg White (1/2 Egg White)

Dry shake, add ice, and shake again. Double strain into a coupe glass.

Two Sundays ago, we finally got around to making a drink out of the new Left Coast Libations cocktail book that was finally released last month at Tales of the Cocktail. Subtitled "The Art of West Coast Bartending: 100 Original Cocktails," the book does a rather good job portraying the Washington, Oregon, and California craft cocktail scenes through fifty bartenders who each present two recipes. The book is not laden with a lot of hard to find seasonal ingredients like many West Coast recipes are, but includes some of the more modern trends in bitters and spirits with a West Coast flare and a decent respect for the classics.
The drink we started with was the Illuminations by Daniel Shoemaker of Portland, Oregon's Teardrop Lounge. The drink started with a very rich sherry and tequila aroma. The egg white, sherry, and maple syrup donated a richness of flavor to the drink and thus did a decent job in mellowing out the tequila. Moreover, the lemon donated a decent amount of crispness to balance out the sweetness of the sherry and maple syrup and helped to make a delightful and complex Tequila Sour.

Monday, August 16, 2010

[starboard tack]

1 1/2 oz Ragged Mountain Rum
1 oz Lustau Amontillado Sherry
1/2 oz Vanilla Syrup
1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

For my second drink at Lineage, bartender Ryan Lotz wanted me to test out his work in progress. When I heard that it was Berkshire Mountain's rum paired with sherry, I was excited to give it a try. The rest of the drink was a sour mix of fresh lemon juice and vanilla-infused simple syrup.
The orange aroma from the twist worked well with the rum and sherry flavors on the sip. The lemon appeared a little later in the sip followed by a lingering vanilla note and nuttiness of the Amontillado sherry. When I let Andrea have a taste, she commented that it was a "really good dessert cocktail."

honeymoon cocktail

2 oz Calvados
1/2 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz Orange Curaçao
1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

On Friday night a week and a half ago, Andrea and I went down to Coolidge Corner to get dinner at Lineage. At the bar, Ryan Lotz described the two cocktails he had chosen for that weekend's selections from Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. The one that called out to me was the Honeymoon Cocktail which was "a signature cocktail of L.A.'s Bob Cobb's Brown Derby." The Brown Derby was a small chain of Hollywood restaurants that opened in the 1920s, and while they did have a Brown Derby Cocktail, it was not one of the more famous ones made with Bourbon or dark rum.
The Honeymoon Cocktail possessed an apple and Benedictine-laced aroma. I was surprised that the drink was not overly sweet as I first suspected from hearing the proportions; indeed, the lemon juice provided a decent amount of crispness, plus Benedictine while sugarful is not incredibly sweet due to its bitter complexity. Moreover, the Benedictine's spice did a good job complementing the fruit notes in the drink. Ryan was correct in declaring that this recipe was one of the winners of Haigh's book.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

bartender on acid

1/3 Fernet Branca
1/3 Smith & Cross Rum
1/3 Pineapple Juice

Shake without ice and strain into a shot glass or rocks glass using 1/2 oz or 1 oz portions each, respectively. Shaking with ice and either pouring or straining into a rocks glass (1 oz portions for each ingredient) are viable options.

For a late addition to the Thursday Drink Night: Revamped Classics, Gabe of CocktailNerd had been goading me into revamping the not-so-classic Gator Cum, a shooter that the neighborhood bar next to the Mixo House at Tales made for us. Instead, I opted to revamp a shooter that I had already given some consideration. One Sunday night at Drink, a bunch of restaurant industry folk came into the bar and one of them asked Ben Sandrof first for a Zima, then a Surfer on Acid, and lastly something with Bacardi Limon before giving up and letting Ben make a drink for him. When I spoke to John Gertsen about it later, we discussed the role of a bar to serve the drinks requested versus attempting to stick to a drink program concept. John explained that the bar did not have the proper inventory to make any of his three requests (and Zima had been discontinued for a few months at that point); however, I wondered if the bar could have made their best shot at a Surfer on Acid. I thought about the time I went to Drink for a nightcap after attending a networking event at a bar that had frozen drinks; when John heard that I had been at that bar, he brought out one of his vintage ice shavers and asked if I wanted a frozen drink old school style. I guess if that guy had asked for a 19th century version of a Surfer on Acid, Ben or John would have jumped at the opportunity.

For those luckily not in the know, the Surfer on Acid is an equal parts drink of Jägermeister, Malibu or other coconut rum, and pineapple juice. To make the Bartender on Acid, I considered the role of Fernet-Branca as "bartender's handshake" and decided it would be the perfect substitution for the herbal Jägermeister liqueur. While the pineapple juice could stay, the coconut rum had to go. What to substitute it with? The most fetishy rum of the moment: Smith & Cross. Smith & Cross packs a wallop both in proof and in flavor. Very few things can compete with its might.

When we did the BOA shot at Drink Night, Gabe commented that finally there was a drink that could put Smith & Cross in its place. Indeed, Fernet and the rum were equals in the drink and the pineapple juice functioned to add some softer notes to the tussle. The Bartender on Acid was a surprisingly good shooter as well as a decent sipper. Since Smith & Cross is modeled after Jamaican rums prevalent in the 19th century, this recipe solved my riddle from a year or so ago.


1 oz Pisco
1 oz Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Grenadine
1 dash Orange Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

For Thursday Drink Night a little over a week ago on Mixoloseum's chatroom, the theme was "Revamped Classics." The classic I chose to modify was the non-Chartreuse Scofflaw by switching the spirit and citrus from whiskey and lemon to Pisco and lime. In keeping with the smuggling theme of the original Prohibition era cocktail, I named my version the Contrabandista to add a Spanish twist to match the spirit choice. Tequila almost got the nod as the rye or Bourbon substitute; while Tequila would keep with the story line of Prohibition better, I thought Pisco would make for a more unique drink.
The Contrabandista's citrus and grenadine aromas merged well with the Pisco on the sip. The sip started sweet from the grenadine and got more tart on the swallow from the lime coupled with the vermouth. Moreover, the vermouth added a nice degree of complexity on the swallow to round out the drink.

delores park swizzle

1 oz Amontillado Sherry (Lustau)
1 oz Tequila (Lunazul Reposado)
3/4 oz Ginger Syrup (Homemade)
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz Velvet Falernum

Shake with ice and strain into a Collins or Pilsner glass filled with crushed ice. Swizzle to mix. Top with 4 dashes of aromatic bitters (Fee's Whiskey Barrel) and garnish lavishly with mint. Add a straw.

One of the media lunches at Tales of the Cocktail was hosted by the Secret Sherry Society. At that event, they handed out booklets with the semi-finalist recipes for last fall's Vinos de Jerez (Sherry) Cocktail Competition. Included in the listing were two Boston ones: Misty Kalkofen's Dunaway that Misty made Andrea last year, and Corey Bunnewith's Balao Swizzle which we made a few days ago and will write about soon. On Tuesday a week and a half ago, the Delores Park Swizzle, created by Thomas Waugh of Manhattan's Death & Co., matched our mood that night and got the green light.

The swizzle started with an aroma of sherry paired with mint. Sherry also appeared on the front of the sip along with a sweet lime flavor, and the swallow was a complementary dose of ginger and tequila that rounded out the drink quite nicely. After a few sips, the ginger's spice and the sherry's nuttiness pleasantly began to linger on the tongue, and after several more sips, the cinnamon notes from the floated aromatic bitters began to enter into the equation.

four flush cocktail

1/2 Bacardi Rum (1 oz El Dorado 3 Year)
1/4 Swedish Punsch (1/2 oz Homemade Ellestad Recipe)
1/4 Dry Vermouth (1/2 oz Noilly Prat)
1 dash Grenadine (1 barspoon Mulberry Syrup)

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

On Sunday night (now almost 2 weeks ago), I reached for my new acquisition of Hyman Gale's The How and When from 1938 (well mine is a 1945 reprint). The book was recommended a while back by Ted Haigh in a DrinkBoston post, and I finally spotted it online for cheap on Amazon's used book section. Well, it was a semi-new purchase for it arrived right before we left for Tales of the Cocktail and sat there patiently until we got back.
The drink that called out to me that night was the Four Flush Cocktail which can also be found in the Savoy Cocktail Book amongst other places. The name, while sounding slightly scatological, refers to the poker hand where 4 of the 5 cards are all of the same suit and the player has a little under 20% chance of completing the flush proper. For this drink, we used a slightly more flavorful rum than today's Bacardi, namely El Dorado 3 Year, but one that might not have been as flavorful as the Bacardi of the book's era which was somewhere between a Cuban and a Martinician rum. Moreover, instead of grenadine, I used mulberry syrup which contributed to the drink's aroma besides donating a richer color than most grenadines; perhaps the grenadine's color was meant to symbolize a string of hearts or diamonds cards. The sip was sweet and lightly flavored, while the swallow was full of vermouth and the punsch's Batavia Arrack and spices which dried out the balance considerably. The Four Flush Cocktail seems like it should be more natural of a citrus drink instead of a dry vermouth one, but the vermouth did give it a degree of elegance.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

tony montana

2 oz Pyrat Rum
3/4 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1 barspoon Benedictine
3 dash Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry and an orange twist.

After leaving my second locale on my birthday bar crawl, I headed down Mass Ave and over the bridge into Cambridge. Once in the heart of Central Square, I considered my options. I was not sure if my birthday celebration state was proper for Rendezvous or Craigie on Main once the last of Clio's libations had entered my blood stream. I was tempted to visit Derric at Green Street and order a Peanut Malt Flip in order to get a laugh, but I figured that a small breather would be best. Therefore, I continued my walk from Commonwealth Ave all the way to Inman Square on the way home to Winter Hill. When I was passing by Trina's Starlite Lounge, I peeked in the window to the parlor and spotted Emma Hollander at the stick and a few open seats at the bar. At that point, I knew that I had found my third destination for my crawl, and I gave Andrea a call to invite her to join me (she had been working at the Boston Shaker all day).
The drink I chose was one that I had wanted to try ever since Lauren Clark wrote about it in DrinkBoston, namely the Tony Montana. Lauren wrote about it along side Eastern Standard's Frobisher on the trend of "bad guy"-named cocktails. Here, Al Pacino's character in Scarface is honored by way of a rum Preakness-style cocktail. The Tony Montana's aroma was strong with orange oil and hints of the Pyrat Rum poking through. The sip was an elegant balance of the richness of the rum and the complexity of the Carpano Antica and Benedictine. Indeed, this drink was a fine way to cap off my birthday bar crawl, and many thanks to the bartenders at Eastern Standard, Clio, and Trina's for making it all possible!

the simon

2 oz Rittenhouse 100 Rye
1/2 oz Averna
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Cherry Heering
1 dash Fee's Aztec Chocolate Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass.

Still in the midst of my birthday bar crawl, I was just finishing my first drink at Clio, my second stop, when bartender Todd Maul handed me a coupe glass filled with reddish-brown contents. "The Simon," he explained, "It was named after a bar regular around town." Somewhere about this time, Eastern Standard bartender Nichole Lebedevitch joined me at the bar stool to my left. I am not sure whether free food was being brought out to us because it was my birthday or because Nicole is just that awesome and I happened to be sitting next to her. Unfortunately for me, Clio's food is mainly fish based, and fortunately for Nicole, she was sitting next to a vegetarian. At least, I had a tempting drink to make up for the food I was sliding over.
The Simon started with an aroma that swirled with rye whiskey and spiced cherry aromas. The taste was a lemon crispness that paired well with the Heering and Averna richness, and this was followed by the rye's strength on the swallow. Basically, the Simon was a bittered High Hat; however, it was a little less bright but more earthy than the High Hat.

I was only part way through my Simon when Todd presented me with a Diablo. The name of the drink certainly summed his generous intentions. After the Three to One, the Simon, and now the Diablo were drained, I paid my bill, bid my adieu, and headed out into the early evening summer heat. All I knew was that I did not want to get on the subway and deal with the construction and the shuttle bus, so I headed in the direction of the Mass Ave bridge on foot.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

three to one

1 1/2 oz 110 Proof Old Raj Gin
3/4 oz Rothman and Winter Orchard Apricot
1/2 oz Lime Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass.

As the Red Sox game was drifting into the later innings, I decided to leave Eastern Standard and make my way home or perhaps elsewhere. At that point, I just knew that I needed a change of venues. I also knew that I did not want to get on the subway and have to take the shuttle bus from Park Street to Kendall, so walking in the direction of Central Square seemed like a good idea. Once at the corner of Commonwealth and Mass Ave, I guided myself in the direction of Clio to see if Todd Maul was at the stick. While this move did not get me out of the Kenmore area for when the Red Sox game soon let out, I figured that Clio would not be influenced as much by the efflux.
Todd was indeed there although his new haircut coupled with his glasses threw me for a second; however, Todd's game was not thrown in the slightest, and he already had a drink idea for me the moment I sat down. The Three to One from Ted Haigh's book was what he proposed. I wondered for a second if the drink was the "Three-Two-One" which the recipe almost matches if the apricot liqueur was boosted a notch. Haigh cites the drink's origin as the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar before Prohibition; furthermore, the name refers to a horse having 3:1 odds at the track. Todd was amazed at how overproof gin knocks back the sweetness of the drink. This was something that was discussed at the "At Full Sail: The History and Application of Spirits at Proof, Navy Strength, and Overproof" session at Tales of the Cocktail this year. Haigh described the spirit requirements as, "A powerful gin is needed to stand up to the rich-sweet flavor of apricot liqueur and the acid of the lime."

While Haigh calls for a 100 proof gin, Todd grabbed for the 110 proof Old Raj from Cadenhead. The Three to One greeted me with an apricot aroma accompanying a hint of lime. Perhaps a freshly cut lime wedge as Haigh's recipe calls for would have added this aroma, but generally wedges and wheels serve more as eye candy (or something to fiddle with to negligibly adjust the balance). I was impressed at how well the heat of the gin cut into the apricot and lime flavors. The overproof nature of the gin was not overwhelming after the dilution process during shaking, but the extra punch was definitely noted.

[blood and nog]

1 1/2 oz Kilkerran Scotch
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
1/2 oz Punt e Mes
1/4 oz Simple Syrup
1 dash Fee's Peach Bitters
1 Egg Yolk

Shake with ice and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with grated nutmeg and straws.

For my second drink at Eastern Standard a week and a half ago (part of my birthday bar crawl), I challenged bartender Hugh Fiore to come up with a drink that paired Scotch with egg yolk. The idea came from a soundbite I overheard at Tales of the Cocktail about how umami can influence the flavor of Scotch; however, I did not hear the rest of how that Scotch-yolk pairing would work, so I decided to try it first hand. While egg yolk drinks are more traditionally associated with the winter, my curiosity knows no season.
Hugh described how one of Chicago's Violet Hour's drinks influenced him; that drink, the Golden Age, was a combination of rum, egg yolk, lemon juice, Cherry Heering, and lemon bitters. Hugh's drink lacked the citrus component of the Golden Age and instead seemed to have a Blood and Sand directionality to it. The drink started with a nutmeg-spiced nose. A light cherry flavor on the sip played with the complex Punt e Mes notes, while the Scotch came out the most on the swallow. The egg yolk contributed greatly and mellowed out the drink with a bounty of creamy notes. As the ice melted, the Scotch became rather prominent in the flavor profile.

Midway through my drink, bar manager Jackson Cannon came by to talk. When he asked what I was drinking, Jackson responded to my mention that Hugh's drink was "a Blood and Sand all nogged out" by commenting on how the egg yolk and orange juice would be playing similar roles here and in the Blood and Sand, respectively. Orange juice, unlike most citrus, is good for taming rougher flavors. A good example would be during Prohibition when rather horrid bathtub gin was common, and bartenders of the day developed drinks like the Orange Blossom (the original Gin'n'Juice) or called upon pre-Prohibition ones like the Bronx to mitigate the poor quality of the spirit. Of course, to one up the orange juice's effect in the Bronx, there is the orange juice and egg yolk-containing Bronx Golden that Green Street proudly keeps on their A-to-Z cocktail menu.

I am not sure what the punchline to the Scotch and egg yolk soundbite was, but perhaps it did not matter. Overall, I was quite pleased by the drink, although I would probably recommend a try more in the colder months to come. For my last drink at Eastern Standard that afternoon, I asked Hugh Fiore if they had Old Tom Gin at the bar and then requested his best Martinez to round out this portion of my afternoon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

[amor fati]

3/4 oz. J. Wray and Nephew rum
3/4 oz. Rothman and Winter Orchard Apricot
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. ratafia des noyaux (housemade)

Shake with ice in a Parisian shaker, strain into a cocktail glass, letting the finer ice shards out so they form a slush on top of the drink.

My notes state that I tasted the cherry and apricot flavors at the same time, followed by the tartness of the lime, then finished with the distinctive J. Wray funkiness (aww, yeah). I quite enjoyed this extempore creation by Scott, which paired well with my dessert of cherry-rhubarb crostada.

I had barely been back for 48 hours from Tales of the Cocktail, and the rums were still calling out to me. Fred had emailed me earlier in the day, saying he was off to a cognac seminar in Westborough that evening to chase down some creme de noyau - noyau being one of the recurrent themes during our trip to Tales this year. This gave me a rare evening to myself to indulge in my favorite culinary (etc.) vices.

My boss, Adam, had headed over to Green Street to enjoy some dinner with his wife, and he'd invited me to catch up with him there after I closed up the Shaker. By the time I arrived, I'd managed to miss him, but I sat happily at the bar and ordered some tacos (one yucca, one duck) and the lobster gnocchi. On the opposite side of the taco menu was a selection of tequila cocktails, so I deferred my rum craving in favor of a Taxco (one of my favorite drinks). Though the bar was rather full, I felt comfortably anonymous. One straight week of being "on" is pretty rough for an introvert like me. That's why I like being surrounded by New Englanders, who know how to respect one's mental space. I tried to catch up on facebook and LJ on my iPhone as I ate, and soon my glass and plates were empty. Time for my other vices, rum being one of them. Funky rums were a sub-theme for my trip to Tales this year. French spirits and cocktails were the the other sub-theme. I wanted a cocktail to honor my extraordinary experiences at Tales (more on that below). So, where to indulge my fancy? As if there were any question.

Rendezvous' bar wasn't as full as Green Street's, but the few remaining seats were taken shortly after I arrived. Scott welcomed me back and poured me a glass of water. As usual, he waited for me to settle in a bit before asking me what I wanted to drink, though in this case I knew the instant I spotted the J. Wray. I had forgotten he had it, though of course it was the base spirit for the ratafia des noyaux. I patiently waited my turn and then gave my order. "You've got this?" I asked. As if there were any question.

The first day of Tales, I had still been bright-eyed and outgoing. A couple of tastings in, I spotted Wayne Curtis and Jeff Berry talking with another gentleman on the mezzanine at the conference hotel. I walked right over and introduced myself, saying to Wayne and Jeff that their books continued to sell very well at the Boston Shaker. I also told them about my dream that someday we would once again have authentic Old Medford rum on the market. Their eyes collectively widened - the third gentleman turned out to be famed rum collector Steve Remsberg. He asked me if I'd ever tasted a New England rum, and I sadly shook my head. And then he oh so casually mentioned that he might be having a tasting at his house at the end of Tales, and maybe an old New England rum would be on the docket. I walked away from that conversation with Steve's phone number and a small amount of amazement that I had the nerve to introduce myself in the first place. Over the next few days, we ran into Wayne several times, and he was careful to impress upon me the honor I had been accorded in being invited to Steve's tasting. But still I hesitated to call as my ingrained shyness took over. By the last day of Tales, my ability to socialize had dwindled to almost nothing, and I had gotten maybe 7 hours of sleep total over the past 2 nights. I wanted nothing more than to relax by the pool. Still, I knew it would be the height of foolishness to let this opportunity pass. So after settling into the hotel on our last night, I begged Fred to make the fateful phonecall for me. Steve was perfectly gracious and gave us his address and directions. I took a shower, put on my new favorite skirt, and headed down to the lobby to fetch a taxi. We were the first Tales stragglers to arrive, and Steve and his wife Cheryl made us feel right at home with a serving of the house rum punch. Soon Jeff, Wayne and his wife Louise, and a couple of others arrived. The relaxed atmosphere was the perfect way to unwind after a hectic week. Delicious food, good company. I noted the little plaque on the family room wall, about 3 or so feet from the floor, which indicated the water-line in the house from Katrina.

We all gathered around the bar as Steve brought out a bottle of Austin, Nichols & Co. Old New England Rum, distilled in Everett, MA and then aged 17 years in wood. I blushed crimson as Steve announced to the room that this would be the first rum we would be tasting, in honor of my presence, and in hopes that the style would someday soon be revived. I raised my glass to those assembled and sipped. I gave my first few impressions to Steve - almost like a combination of rum and whiskey. The first sip smelled and tasted very like bourbon. This rum had been bottled in bond and its heat left a waxy feeling on my lips. It was much drier than I had anticipated, with almost a sour cherry flavor. Wayne said it had probably been aged in whiskey barrels. As the rest of the crowd compared notes, I backed off to the side to savor and record. Dry, almost metallic, little to no caramel, stone fruit, ferric, like overcooked molasses. I frantically tried to capture in writing what I was tasting. I hadn't tasted anything quite like it, and Steve told me that this particular rum was characteristic of all the New England rums he's ever tasted. Other rums (pre-revolution Cuban, old London dock-aged Jamaican) were offered up for tasting, and out of politeness (and a sense of awe) I sampled a couple. But I hoarded the flavor of the old New England on my tongue, on the remote possibility that I might one day taste a modern version. I didn't want any other flavor memories to overwrite this experience before I had a chance to completely internalize it. As the evening wore down and folks began to gather to leave. Steve pulled me aside in the kitchen. He pulled out a little nip bottle, still sealed, and handed it to me with a twinkle in his eye: "For the cause." The label said Caldwell's Old Newburyport rum.

When I walked up to Wayne, Jeff, and Steve that first day, I had no idea how the idea of reviving the style would become reality. The evening of the tasting, Wayne said he had gotten an email that some Matt guy was working on it - already had a lead on a space for lease in Boston, currently wading through the permits. A web search the day after I got home revealed nothing about who this person might be. As I began to relax back into normal post-Tales life, I thought it was all some crazy dream. Then a couple of days ago, two guys walked into the Boston Shaker and asked to speak to Adam about making bitters. One of the guys mentioned wanting to know about some drink slut guy in Boston who was making bitters, and Adam pointed me out. He stuck out his hand and introduced himself as Matt. Old New England rum had once again found me.

Friday, August 6, 2010


1 oz Bols Genever
1 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1 oz VEP Yellow Chartreuse
1/2 dash Fee's Whiskey Barrel Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist a lemon peel over the top and discard.

My birthday was on Saturday; however, Andrea was working at the Boston Shaker store all day. To bide my time until she got off, I decided that going to Eastern Standard was the perfect way to celebrate with an early afternoon cocktail. Andrea was smart and checked the Red Sox schedule and alerted me that there was a game that started around 4pm, so I held off on making the trip. My timing was decent as I arrived when the game was in the second inning and the bar staff at Eastern Standard had gotten a small breather from the pre-game rush. This window between the first and eighth or ninth inning of a home game is truly a sweet spot for visiting Eastern Standard. Although witnessing the transition when the game lets out and craft cocktail orders get overtaken by vodka soda ones is rather stunning.
I found a seat at the corner end of the long marble bar near bartender Josh Taylor's station. Josh had an idea for my first drink based on something Brandon had recently served him at No. 9 Park. This drink was a variation of a Bijou which swapped the original's gin and green Chartreuse for Genever and yellow Chartreuse. The drink started with a grand aroma that was full of malt, lemon oil, and yellow Chartreuse notes. The Genever's maltiness came across strongly on the slightly sweet sip and was chased by the Chartreuse botanicals on the swallow. Meanwhile, the sweet vermouth added an element of richness and color to the drink and served to bridge the gap between the spirit and the liqueur. The light cinnamon notes from the bitters began to build up and linger more with each successive sip; moreover, this mixed rather well with the Bols Genever wormwood-like note and the hint of chocolate from the Carpano Antica vermouth.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

:: cognac blending seminar ::

After landing in Boston Monday night, within two hours we were already at another spirited event. Emily Stanley was hosting a Bols Genever night at the Highland Kitchen a few blocks away, and the dare to keep up the pace for one more night was strong. After sharing some stories with Bostonites who did not make the pilgrimage to New Orleans, I spotted Corey Bunnewith who had taken the same 6:50 am shuttle to the airport that morning! The topic of Crème de Noyau came up, and as I mentioned in one of the summary posts, getting a taste of the commercially produced stuff was unsuccessful this year at Tales (I did get to try an amazing homemade version though). When I mentioned that the Noyau de Poissy product was distributed by Preiss Imports, Corey replied that he was meeting his friend Gregory Fitch in a few minutes who worked for them. No more than five or ten minutes later, I met Greg and asked where I could buy the product. He stated that it unfortunately was not for sale in the area yet, but he thought that he should be able to get me a bottle.

A day and a half later on Wednesday afternoon, Greg sent me an email inviting me out to Westborough that evening to meet the distiller of Noyau de Poissy. The distiller was in the area doing a "Forgotten Cask" Cognac blending seminar where he would blend spirits from the 1890 to 1910. It sounded like an interesting proposition, and the rush hour drive to central Massachusetts was worth the chance of scoring a bottle of Noyau de Poissy. I had no clue what I was in store for.

The distiller was Alain Royer who I had just heard talk a few days before at the Armagnac seminar at Tales of the Cocktail. This blending class was not as open to the public as the Tales of the Cocktail one was, but it was an invite-only event for the Loch and K(e)y Society at Julio's Liquors. Usually, this private group is highly focused on whisk(e)y including trips to Kentucky to taste and chose Bourbon barrels for purchase and the like. This time, it was to have the honor of Alain Royer crafting a Cognac to their communal tastes, and two dozen participants enthusiastically showed up to participate.

The concept was that a barn full of forgotten casks of Cognacs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries had turned up. The Cognacs were from all across the region, and there was not enough of each vintage to put into big blends for the mass market. This is where Alain was brought into the project to use his superior skill in blending to allow the casks' contents to find their way into glasses somehow or other. Alain described his first moments in that barn as walking into a museum. He immediately began picking up demijohns and making an inventory.
An experience cellar master can taste the spirits and determine the general direction of a blend. About 70-80% of the formula is standardized and the rest is adaptation upon successive rounds of tasting. Some components are better for smelling and others for tasting. The concept of the base was then brought up; the base serves to tame these aromatic and flavor components into something more drinkable. While the these aroma and flavor Cognacs are often too potent to enjoy them on their own, the base is often too flat to be of much interest. Combined in the right formula, a synergy could be born.

For our blending exercise, there were three Cognacs -- one base and two aromatic or flavorful ones -- and we set about tasting them individually. This particular base was from 1902 after spending 35-40 years in a barrel, although it had been topped up over time until the late 1950s. When tasted straight, it was rather polished and not much of a conversation breaker. The second Cognac was from 1898. The tasting notes were that it was a warm, velvety spirit typical of turn of the century Cognacs and was filled with tangerine, plum, and Madeira touches. A little sure went a long way on the tongue. Indeed, it was too spicy to drink straight and was deemed a booster to add flavor to a blend. The third and final Cognac was from 1908 with an unknown number of years in oak casks; when a glass was swirled, the legs or tears fell down slowly which indicated a lot of concentration from aging. It was definitely the most funky of the three with descriptors of dampness, mushroom, fungal, caramel, and orange being mentioned. To the mouth, it was very spicy and acidic suggesting that the tannins were not in balance; however, it was seductive to the nose like a good Pinot Noir.

Royer began by filling his one liter graduated cylinder half way with the base. Since we already had a taste of this Cognac straight, he immediately added 200 mL of the second Cognac. After mixing the contents, the room was given a taste. Here, the nose gave most of the information and the mouth confirmed the flavor and the balance. With the addition, the blend went above the base and was given a push with the added richness of flavor. In fact, it had become better than either of the initial ingredients alone. The third pour was from the last Cognac. That 100 mL addition then donated flavors that resulted in a dark chocolate note with hints of mushroom and with less spice than the blend taste before.

What direction to take the last fifth of the batch? This is where Royer philosophized about the concept of contradiction and harmony. Blending was an art akin to balancing a teeter totter. To tame the blend, the room agreed with Alain that more base needed to be added which would cut down the proof and the concentration of harder spices on the mouth. The Cognac began to take a more plum and leathery taste to me. The consensus of the room was to add some more of the third spirit to bring back more of the aroma that was drowned out by the addition of more base. This brought the profile closer to where it was before. The aroma became a bit more floral and elegant with honeysuckle notes popping out at this stage.

With each successive addition of Cognac, we had a taste and the room was then voting on what the next 25 mL or 10 mL would be. The goal was to chase away the negative and bring back the positive in order to achieve the golden ratio. Somewhere around this point, I began to get skeptical and thought of it as an exercise of control in the creation of the final product more than a major change in it. A 10 mL addition was merely a percent of the total. This would seem like a lot if it was a novel constituent, but there was already well over a hundred milliliters of each component in there. I, however, was alone in this thought at my table, and perhaps the Society members had more refined noses and palates than I. It finally came down to the last 5 mL and the room could not come to a consensus. At this point, Alain divided up the blend in two bottles and added a bit more of the third Cognac (half or 2.5 mL was added) to one of them. After a four week maturation, the Society would have a chance to see which decision for this last step was the right one. Would a mere half percent difference in the contents of the final mix be discernible? Only time would tell.

Having been invited to the event without really understanding the big picture, I had to ask a few questions later about what was going on. In late August, there would be a taste of the mellowed blends, and the Society members would get to choose which one Alain should scale up and produce. This exclusive blend would yield around 36 bottles of Cognac, which after a month of aging would be ready for Christmas. The estimated cost for each bottle of "Forgotten Cask" was around $160.

Alas, there was no Crème de Noyau at the end of the rainbow, but the experience of watching a master blender at work was definitely an acceptable bait and switch.

start & finish

1 1/2 oz Averna
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
1/2 oz Obsello Absinthe
1/2 oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
2 dash Regan's Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist.

One of Andrea's projects at Tales of the Cocktail this year was to learn about old New England rum. Our interest stems from where we live in Somerville, MA, right next to the Medford border. A short distance from our house was a mighty rum distillery in Somerville and a rather famous one in Medford that were churning out a good amount of liquor before Prohibition. I know that Andrea has a keen interest in seeing rum being made again in the area, but she had no clue what the style actually tasted like. Eventually, she was referred to Steve Remsberg who invited us out to a private tasting of some vintage New England and other old styles of rum on Sunday evening. After a brief rest following the egg seminar, we headed out to grab a taxi.

Since Steve only lives a mile away from the Cure, after the tasting, we decided to walk over to the bar and meet up with the last of the Boston folk who had not departed New Orleans already. In the middle of draining a complimentary cup of punch, I decided on Rhannon Enlil's Start & Finish cocktail off of the cocktail menu and asked bartender Nick to make me one.
The Start & Finish possessed a robust orange oil nose. On the sip, the Averna donated a richness at the beginning of the sip which paired nicely with hints of orange flavor, while on the swallow, the absinthe's anise notes captivated the senses. The drink was really mellow considering that there was a half ounce of absinthe; this speaks either to the Averna rounding out the drink or to Obsello being a softer style of absinthe.

After the Cure, we caught a cab with Devin to go to the Monteleone's carousel bar for a few last revolutions. I ended up spending a good part of the night talking to Paul Clarke over a Vieux Carré and reflecting on how this Tales of the Cocktail had panned out. Soon, the carousel had stopped turning and we realized it was 2am. Our airport shuttle was departing at 6:50am and the realization that life was going to return back to normal all too suddenly and harshly had dawned upon me.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

:: notes about eggs ::

On Sunday, after the New Amsterdam Next GINeration Cocktail Challenge, Andrea and I caught our last seminar at Tales of the Cocktail 2010, "The Eggpire Strikes Back," hosted by Timo Janse, Andrew Nicholls, and Henrik Hammer. The presentation covered everything from the historical and philosophical aspects of eggs to the practical ones suited to the bar. Eggs have been used in beverages and frozen desserts since 3000 B.C. and only recently have come under attack. Perhaps some of the fear of eggs has always existed, but these issues have become more to apparent in recent history. The presenters even spoke of the chemical egg white substitute called Mr. Frothy -- a few drops gave a foam, but when tasted neat, it had a horrible bitter flavor and an unattractive aroma. Before jumping into the more practical aspects, I need to pass on their recommendation to read On Food & Cooking by Harold McGee. My copy is coming via Amazon, so for now, I take their recommendation without question.

Do's and Don't Concerning Creamy Heads on Drinks:

• Fresh eggs work best.
• Refrigerate your eggs. Eggs age four times faster without refrigeration.
• Use only as needed and do not batch in advance.
• The more water, the more foam.
• Too much water, the less foam.
• The presence of acid increases the foam amount.
• It needs to be absolutely free of detergents.
• Pre-shaking with just the egg white helps to set up the foaming capabilities.
• Adding a balled up Hawthorne strainer coil can help to foam up the egg white in this pre-shake. Remove the coil before adding rest of ingredients and ice.

There was a bit about egg physiology and biochemistry that was quite interesting to me (I am a classically trained biologist), but to spare the details and get to the nitty-gritty of how this will effect your drinks, here are the pointers:

• Egg white serves to bind ingredients together, provides texture, donates an attractive layer of foam.
• Protein is bound up in knots in the egg white. Movement unwinds these knots and causes them to branch out. In this branching out process, one peptide chain will grab onto another and cause them to stick together. In this process, air can get trapped.
• It is possible to over do this "movement" step by over-agitating/over-shaking.
• Eggs can absorb flavors in the refrigerator. As an egg ages, it generates sulfur compounds, but the more complained about off-flavors are absorbed, especially those that come across as "wet dog" aromas.
• Use the egg's absorption of odors to your advantage. Store eggs in a sealed container with white or black truffles, lemon oil-soaked cloth, or other aromatics to give them a more pleasant smell instead.
• Store your eggs so that there is less movement. Fridge door (the traditional place refrigerator manufacturers put the egg drawer) are the worst since the constant opening and closing weakens the egg white.
• Egg white is filled with umami (the 5th taste after salty, sour, bitter, and sweet) and acts as a flavor enhancer.
• Different species of fowl provide different flavors. The diet of the bird will affect the flavor of the egg greatly. Yes, ostrich egg will work.
• To re-create historic egg yolk-containing pousse-cafés, like the Knickebein, quail egg is probably the most accurate today to replicate the chicken eggs of yore.

In terms of the health fears, it has been covered elsewhere in depth, but here are the highlights:

• Salmonella, if present, is exclusively on the outer shell.
• Frequency is one egg in every 20- to 40-thousand, or one egg per person every 84 years.
• It takes 3-5 weeks for this bacteria to develop so use fresh eggs.
• There is more risk if eggs are cracked and sit around before being used. This gives the bacteria time to grow in numbers (especially since the bacteria from the outside of the shell would come into contact with the energy-rich inside of the egg at this point). The danger is in the improper handling of food, not in the use of eggs per se.
• Salmonella targets the sick, pregnant, very elderly, and very young which are four groups who should not be drinking egg cocktails in the first place.
• Eggs have a lower incidence of Salmonella than lettuce (unsure if he meant bacteria in general or Salmonella specifically).
• 17.5% alcohol by volume kills Salmonella.

bowery sour

2 oz New Amsterdam Gin
2 Strawberries
1/2 oz Lime Juice
2 barspoon Sugar (3/8 oz Simple Syrup)
2 leaf Basil
1 pinch Curry Powder (pea-sized pinch)

Muddle fruit, juice, sugar, and curry. Add gin and ice, shake, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a strawberry and a basil leaf.
On Sunday morning after the Bartenders' Breakfast followed by a 4 hour breakdown of the Mixo House bar, I got a little sleep and somehow made it to breakfast and then the New Amsterdam Next GINeration Cocktail Challenge at 10:30am on Sunday morning. I was working on 3 hours of sleep (about 10 hours over the last three nights) so I started downing coffee to mentally wake up for the event. By the middle of my third mug, I was good and rambling (I know there is video of this and I sure hope it never airs...). I had some pre-gaming strategy with Jackson Cannon the week before Tales who gave the helpful hint that New Amsterdam pairs rather well with berries. Once I surveyed the ingredients table, this tip was quite helpful. There was nothing to play with other than fruits, herbs, spices, juices, and sweeteners; the only spirit was the gin so all of my ideas with vermouth and the like were out. When the contest started, we had 10 minutes to make up our drink. The logistical nightmare of 16 contestants all running toward the ingredients table (pushed against the wall to block one side of entry) would have been horrific had I not known what I had wanted and was able to grab it over people's shoulders. With 5 minutes left, I had everything ready, including garnish, except for the ice and shaking (no sense in doing this until the last minute) and a name. I walked over to Andrea and asked for help. I knew I wanted the word "Sour" in the title but my mind had blanked. Brand Ambassador Alex Ott's talking about the Manhattan-New Amsterdam connection triggered the name "Bowery Sour" which seemed to have a good ring to it.
The Bowery Sour was slightly tart which would have made it a great pre-prandial drink; upping the sugar to 3 barspoons or using a 1/2 oz of simple syrup would have made for a better balance but I did not have the time to adjust the sweetness. The strawberry flavors paired rather well with the gin as well as the basil, and the hint of curry added some accents that accentuated the gin's botanicals. Keeping the ingredients list simple was my goal, and the simplicity allowed each flavor to shine through without getting muddled. Overall, the judges apparently liked my drink and were impressed that I had garnished both the main cocktail glass and the tasting glasses. In retrospect, my drink would have done better had I stuck to a New Orleans theme and called it something like the "Decatur Street Sour." Sleep deprivation made me focus more on the flavor than satisfying everything about the contest. My neighbor, Payman Bahmani from Umamimart, won the judges nod and the grand prize; however, I did not leave empty handed for I received a glorious Yarai mixing glass for my efforts.

:: notes about shrubs ::

During Paul Clarke and Neyah White's seminar on the "Art of the Aperitif," the topic drifted off to shrubs. It started with Neyah being asked what the appropriate serving size of sherry should be in a bar or restaurant setting (3-5 oz), and Neyah mentioned that he enjoyed serving 2-3 oz of sherry mixed with a 1/2 oz of shrub as an aperitif at his old bar. After having made a pair of shrubs last year using some of Neyah's online guidance (although I followed other people's boiling-based protocols), I figured that some of his Tales of the Cocktail secrets should be shared:

• Shrub is a fruit syrup fortified with vinegar. It represents the season's best, preserved and stored without the need for refrigeration.
• Neyah used the shrub at his restaurant to share what was good the day it was made. When the last bottle was running low, it was mixed with the next batch of shrub (whatever fruit/flavor it was) in a solera system that lasted for the 4 years of his tenure.
• Vinegar is great as an appetite exciter. Think pickles and olives. Which is why he spoke at length about it at the aperitif seminar.
• The secret for a good shrub is keeping the sugar and vinegar in balance (akin to lemon and sugar in a Sour, with both the lemon's citric acid and the vinegar's acetic acid giving a similar zesty bite to the drink).
• Neyah prefers that shrubs not be cooked. While cooking is quicker, the end result will be less bright. At that point, Neyah proposes that you might as well buy fresh juice instead of starting with fresh fruit.
• For a baseline recipe, use 1/3 fruit, 1/3 sugar, 1/3 vinegar.
• A sugar maceration (squeezing fruit flesh through the fingers is acceptable) stage should occur first, followed by hitting it with vinegar afterward. Neyah did not specify a time frame but the two links below suggest 5 hour (Neyah-derived recipe) to 24-48 hours.
• When a shrub ages, it is like an ecosystem. The ambient yeast (yeast on the fruit itself and yeast from the air) turns the sugar into alcohol, and the acetobacter (the bacteria in unpasteurized vinegar) turns the alcohol into more vinegar. Eventually this will stabilize and not turn the whole shrub into fruit vinegar since the bacteria-induced pH change will stall out the yeast's fermentation process (and thus the bacteria's acetic acid-producing pathway).
• Treat a shrub like a jar of pickles. Keep it cool, and let it sit for a while to even out.

Camper English at Alcademics has a good adaptation of one of Neyah's shrub recipes and the Stirred Not Shaken blog has some other recipe ideas and pointers on shrubs that are aligned and/or influenced by Neyah's philosophies.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

sherry cobbler

2 oz Lustau Pedro Ximénez "San Emilio" Sherry
1 barspoon Demerara Syrup
17 drop Bittermens Mole Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a highball filled with fresh ice. Garnish with berries of the season.

Friday was spent learning more about French spirits. Our education at Tales started with Wednesday's "Bariana: The Golden Age of French Cocktails" and continued on with Friday's "Armagnac, France's First Brandy" and "How French Products Contribute to Cocktails." After these two sessions, we made our way over to the St. Charles Streetcar to go to the Bittermens Launch Party at the Cure. Well, launch of their Tiki and Boston Bittahs and relaunch of their Mole and Grapefruit Bitters since shifting production from Germany to stateside in Somerville, MA.
Although the Cure did not have a special menu for the event, the bartenders were up for making drinks with any of the four bitters. For my first drink, I asked what bartender Turk Dietrich what he could do with sherry and the mole bitters. While I was expecting the sherry to be used more as an accent, Turk surprised me by making sherry the major spirit and going old school with a Cobbler. I was also impressed at the attention to detail given in "ornament[ing] with berries in season" a la Jerry Thomas' recipe. The Pedro Ximénez sherry provided a very refreshing sweet fruit flavor and nuttiness to the Cobbler, and Andrea thought that it tasted "like liquid figs." I was rather impressed with how the fruit and nutty notes worked with the chocolate and spice in the bitters, as was Avery Glasser who quite enjoyed the pairing from the sip he had.

d-day rum sazerac

2 oz Smith & Cross Rum
1/4 oz Steen's Cane Syrup
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass pre-rinsed with Legendre Herbsaint Absinthe. Garnish with a lemon twist.

After the Diageo Happy Hour, Andrea and I strolled over to the Green Goddess to see if we could make a reservation for Friday night. When they replied that they do not take reservations, I asked if we could get a table for that night. Within 20 minutes, we had a table inside surrounded by various cocktail luminaries who also knew of the restaurant's wonders. While I do not like posting about drinks without exact proportion recipes, standard Sazerac proportions should yield a similar experience (see 2nd recipe in the link below). Moreover, this drink was too bad-assed not to write about it.
The inception of this Sazerac came about when the bar could not get any Tuthilltown rye and the bartender began thinking about the creation of the Hurricane during World War II when whiskey was in short supply but there was an abundance of rum. What would the bar do in 1943 to recreate the Sazerac? "We invented this to imagine New Orleans captured by German U-boats, leaving us without any rye whiskey to make our hometown Sazeracs."

The Smith & Cross Rum donated a funky aroma that coupled well with the Herbsaint and lemon oil. The rum's bold taste was accented by the Peychaud's bitters and Herbsaint notes; moreover, the spirit's overproof nature increased the effect of these spice notes. Unlike the Sazerac I had last year in New Orleans at a non-Tales of the Cocktail event, this one was a slow sipper instead of an easy drinking heavily-sugared beverage. Not for beginners, but remember -- it simulates the austerity of wartime conditions!


3/4 oz Don Julio Reposado Tequila
3/4 oz Cherry Heering
3/4 oz Aperol
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
3 spritz Sombra Mezcal

Shake all but Mezcal with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Top drink with 3 sprays of Mezcal.

Skipping ahead to the 1980-1990 section of the Diageo Happy Hour at Tales of the Cocktail was Leo Robitschek's Eclipse. The Eclipse currently appears on the cocktail menu at Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan where Leo works. Unlike say the next table's Don Johnson which was described as a modern variation of the 1980's classic the Cosmopolitan, the Eclipse had no historical explanation provided. The drink did remind me of Coppa's Riccardo, a Mezcal-based Blood and Sand. The Eclipse started with a rather smokey nose from the Mezcal floated on top of the drink. The sip had a delightful soft tequila flavor on the front of the sip that was followed by a sour cherry note on the swallow.

the day bell

1 1/2 oz Bulleit Bourbon
1/2 oz Campari
1/4 oz Ramazzotti Amaro
1/4 oz Grand Marnier
1 oz Moet Imperial
1 pinch Salt

Stir all ingredients but Champagne with ice. Strain into a coupe glass, top with Champagne, and garnish with an orange twist.

Skipping ahead a decade at the Diageo Happy Hour, I had an interesting drink served to me by Joaquin Simo (pictured below) of Death & Co. in New York City and Josh Habiger of the Patterson House in Nashville. The Day Bell was their "modern take on the Seelbach cocktail, created in 1917 at the Seelback Hotel in Louisville, KY."
Substituting for the Seelbach's Cointreau was a combination of a Grand Marnier and an orange-flavored amaro, Ramazzotti. The Ramazzotti along with the Campari served a smilar function to the Seelbach's seven dashes each of Angostura and Peychaud's Bitters. The Day Bell had a very orange nose and lingering bitter notes from the Campari. The swapping of potable bitters for the Seelbach's nonpotable ones seemed to have a similar effect on the palate, although the decreased amount of sparkling wine did bring the Bourbon flavors more to the forefront of the drink.

honey fitz

1 1/2 oz Zacapa 23 Year Rum
3/4 oz Honey Syrup
3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice
2 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Yes, I traveled all the way down to New Orleans to have Jackson Cannon of Eastern Standard make me drinks. The Honey Fitz was the first one at the Diageo Happy Hour and the second was two nights later at the Bartenders' Breakfast. While I did not get the recipe for Jackson's second cocktail, I do have this keepsake photo to remember it by:
The Honey Fitz was the perfect cocktail for Jackson to present as it highlights his family's pedigree as political historians. The drink "was created in honor of John Francis 'Honey Fitz' Fitzgerald, an Irish-American politician and the namesake and maternal grandfather of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. In 1906, Fitzgerald was elected Mayor of Boston, becoming the first American-born Irish-Catholic to be elected to that office."

I could not find a record of the Honey Fitz in the cocktail tapestries, so I assume that Jackson created this drink to honor an event that fell within the 1900-1910 decade. The drink is a rum variation of the De Rigueur and Brown Derby Cocktails with the addition of Peychaud's Bitters. Zacapa is dark and spicy enough of a spirit to make a decent substitution for those drinks' Bourbon and rye whiskey. In the drink, the grapefruit flavors and rum's richness played on the sip along with the honey's sweetness. These flavors were chased by Peychaud's Bitters and Zacapa's spice notes on the swallow. In terms of Boston political cocktails, the Honey Fitz is a good step ahead of the Ward Eight in my book.

Monday, August 2, 2010

the boothby

1 oz Bulleit Bourbon
1 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
2 dash Angostura Bitters
1 oz Moet Imperial Champagne

Stir all ingredients with ice save for the Champagne. Strain into a flute glass, top with Champagne, and garnish with a Luxardo Maraschino Cherry.

After the Amaro session on Thursday at Tales of the Cocktail, we headed over to the Cabildo Museum for the Diageo Happy Hour. What took a little getting used to was that the event was held in the sister museum to last year's event. The previous year was at the Presbytere Museum which has practically the same layout as the Cabildo. People were asking where all of the rooms filled with fun old Mardi Gras memorabilia were. Instead, we were two doors down and downing drinks while viewing displays about leprosy and other dark moments of Louisiana history.

The theme this year was "Cocktails through the Decades," and spread out across the three floors were eleven areas representing the decades from 1900 to 2010. Each section had celebrity bartenders making both traditional and modern interpretations of that decade's drinks. Even the decades during Prohibition were well represented, and the more modern decades on the third floor toyed with today's trends such as molecular mixology and the like. Out of the forty drinks being served, I picked my top four from the ones I tasted to showcase here.

The first one was the Boothby presented by San Francisco bartenders Neyah White and Erik Castro. The caption read, "This cocktail was created in 1908 in honor of William Boothby, one of San Francisco's most famous bartenders." Neyah explained that Boothby was quite good at assessing his clientele to determine if they had extra coins that they should be parted from. One of the Boothby's add-ons was to prepare the drink requested and to top it off with Champagne. The imbiber rarely complained until they saw the extra surcharge on the bill for something they never requested in the first place.

The Boothby was essentially a Manhattan; however, the Champagne lightened up the darker flavors in the drink considerably. The brut sparkling wine cut into the sweetness of the vermouth and generated a much drier and crisper result. Overall, it reminded me of a less orange and easier to drink Seelbach Cocktail.

averna pineapple shrub

1 1/2 oz Averna
1 1/4 oz Pineapple Purée
1/3 oz Simple Syrup
1/4 oz White Vinegar
1 dash Bitter Truth's Aromatic Bitters

Shake with ice and double strain into a cocktail glass.

For our third session on Thursday at Tales of the Cocktail, Andrea and I barely made it into the "A Shot of Black Stuff: Amazing Amaros and Brilliant Bitters" with our media credentials. While many sessions had sold out, this was the first one where everyone with a ticket showed up. Well, not everyone since three or four seats in the back were empty, and two of these luckily had our names on it (albeit, we were not sitting together). The session covered two thousand years of herbal liqueur history. Jacob Briars and Sebastian Reaburn presented the history as partly a shady past of quackery, lies, fraud, marketing, spin, and advertising, and partly as a glorious history of small villages producing successful medicinal beverages for their own uses. While the former situation was often sold by transitory salesmen, the latter was produced and consumed by tight-knit populations.

Medical purposes aside, herbs were added to improve the quality of poor wine and to fortify and protect it during shipping. Over time, the successful recipes were the ones that tasted well and/or had solid health claims. Bitters eventually made their way into cocktails as the spirits made the medicine more potable especially since they did not have access to purified extracts (only the infusions which were often bitter). Intriguingly, the cocktail was to make the bitters taste better not the bitters to make the cocktail taste better. One salient point about recreating historical bitters was that in a flavor and medical sense, they could have been utter failures. Stoughton Bitters was an example they gave; the term "Stoughton Bottle" became a slang term for someone or something that was ineffectual but always around. And after having made batches of historical ones, like Farmer's and German Bitters, I would tack those on the list as well. Worse yet were the medicines that did more harm than good.

At the session, beside tasting a half dozen amaros and a few bitter extracts, there were a pair of cocktails that were served. The Averna Pineapple Shrub was definitely my favorite. Unlike other shrubs which are pickled fruit purées or juices prepared in advance for storage purposes, this one used vinegar as a way to generate a sweet-sour balance only (as the preservative qualities were unnecessary since the drink was quaffed shortly after mixing). A similar effect could have been derived with lemon juice, although acetic and citric acids do have different flavor contributions as Darcy O'Neil can describe better than I can.