Tuesday, December 31, 2013

:: fred's top 10 cocktail moments of 2013 ::

In 2010, I was asked what my favorite drink of the year was and I decided not only to start a list of my favorite drinks I had out on the town and in at the home bar, but I decided to list the top 10 moments of the previous 12 months. The previous ones can be found here: 2010, 2011, and 2012. I feel like I should attempt this somewhat chronologically instead of starting with the most major of the events.

1. Taught a class at Stir
As a sidenote to my publishing Drink & Tell: A Boston Cocktail Book, all of the book signings especially around the holidays and the like, I was invited to teach a class revolving around the book at Barbara Lynch's Stir (the class description can be found here). My co-conspirators were Drink's John Gertsen who made helped me plan the class and coordinated the cocktail assembly and chef Kristen Kish who paired food to the cocktail list. We picked five cocktails to present that began with the Revision and continued on to April in Paris, Tommy Noble, Prospect Park, and Northern Lights. One of the guests that night declared the Tommy Noble one of the best cocktails he has ever tasted. Yeah, Tommy S-G got double love in that list via two different bars' offerings, but he's most certainly worthy of that honor.
2. They got me behind a bar?
Having never bartended professionally before, I was called out for an event in February. For the Blue Room's Spaghetti Western-themed Whiskey and Amari night series, I was paired up with The Hawthorne's Katie Emerson. Katie and I decided on a Women of the Wild West night and came up with nine original drinks to put on the menu. The most adventurous was the choose-your-own-amaro Kitty Leroy named after one of the more infamous promiscuous rascals on the Wild West (and the drink remains on the Blue Room's regular cocktail menu), and my birthday Scaffa tribute to organizer Matt Schrage, the Madame Mustache, surprised me at how well it sold over those four hours. The event was captured in an interview on BostonChefs.

3. Teaching cocktail classes
After getting motivated to pursue bartending professionally, I started looking at BostonChef's job listings and there I spotted an ad for someone to teach a "Manhattan class." Answering that ad has turned into a once-every-three months gig teaching the new recruits of The Welcoming Committee organization how to make classic cocktails. It was great that the host expanded the concept to include gin as well as rye drinks, and each time I assembled a cluster of 10 drinks for them to make. Moreover, by word of mouth, it has spawned some catering gigs at private residences albeit with no or less teaching component.

4. Item crossed off my bucket list
I had always wanted to judge a cocktail competition and 2013 saw me judging two of them. I should definitely be careful with what I ask for. The first was a Licor 43 competition in May; the danger of this one was the number of contestants, the sugar content of a liqueur-sponsored event, and the amount of alcohol consumed. Yes, the finals included tasting the top 3 drinks again. In the end, I was left with a sugar-high, an overload of alcohol, and a bottle of liqueur and a t-shirt as thanks. Luckily, at my dinner afterwards at Estragon, Sahil Mehta was able to suggest a drink that dried out my palate and was low in alcohol to patch me up. The other judging was through the Mutineer Magazine for the Luxardo competition. Unlike the Licor 43 competition, they narrowed down the contestants to three and I had to visit each bartender where they worked. While two were in Boston, the third necessitated an excursion out to Worcester. Luckily, we paired that trip with a beer-themed brunch visit to Armsby Abbey afterwards. Judging this one was tough, but in the end, I realized how important it was to read the instructions for giving a personal reason for creating the drink and relating it to the theme can be the tipping point in an otherwise close contest. Every score-able detail counts, and as a mental note to myself as a competitor, read and re-read the contest instructions.
5. Someone was silly enough to hire me?
2013 found me dropping my search for a day job in my old field and considering a job behind the stick. One of the hurdles was finding someone to hire me. The problem was frustrating, for bar managers found me too knowledgeable (or old) to be a barback and too inexperienced to be a bartender. A few places at least let me stage for the night. Alas, Sam Gabrielli at Russell House Tavern came to the rescue and I answered his Facebook posting about needing a barback ASAP. From a response on a Saturday morning to meeting him at early afternoon to staging that night, my career path was set. I ended up barbacking and learning the ropes in the restaurant world for four weeks from May to June before being bumped up to daytime bartender in June to present. While making cocktails is a part of the job, most of the job just deals with people. And beer. Starting earlier in the year, I regained my passion for beer and began tasting, attending events, and writing about this hopsworthy beverage. In addition, I got interviewed by the OnTheBar app for how that app has helped me as both a bar-goer and a bartender. While it took a few months to feel adjusted to the career change, I am quite happy with my new restaurant family from the fellow bartenders to the servers to the guests. It is rarely a dull or usual day in Harvard Square, and when I told that to Deep Ellum's Max Toste when he was sitting at my bar, he commented that "Harvard Square... it's like the airport."
6. Menu items
No longer was I just creating drinks for the blog, books (see #7), or one-off events, but my creations were finding a home. My Chutes & Ladders was the first to appear in August and is still going strong today, and my Downtown at Dawn has been served on menu as well. Suddenly, the product of various bartenders making my drinks began to become evident on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other.

7. Cocktails and techniques appearing in books
The year found my recipes appearing in Gary Regan's The Negroni book and another accepted in his 101 Best new Cocktails 2013 book. My experiments on glass chilling made it into Kevin Liu's Craft Cocktails at Home, and things I said about shrubs will apparently appear next year in Michael Dietsch's Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times.

8. Visited new Boston bars
New breath has been given to the Boston cocktail scene with the addition of several new bars and I wrote up a post in September about five of them that frequently got referenced by the food sites across town. I have been pleased with the vermouth- and sherry-laden offerings at Belly Wine Bar, the Tiki drinks at Blue Dragon, and the food-friendly libations at Sarma. Craigie on Main's sister, Kirkland Tap and Trotter is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. And nearby to Blue Dragon and Drink is Tavern Road making Fort Point a destination instead of a one-stop spot. I am not sure when Casa B opened, but we have enjoyed sitting at Taso's bar there this year. Harvard Square has gained the Sinclair and Beat Hotel, and I look forward to checking out Alden & Harlow soon. Others have opened like Commonwealth, State Park, Ribelle, and Fairsted Kitchen that I have not yet made it to.

9. Thirst Boston!
As a successor to the Boston Cocktail Summit, this year's event continued on the tradition of making Boston's spot in the drink world better known. I wrote up my highlights, but the focus on the Daiquiri Time Out, strange laybacks including Galliano and Bols Yogurt, and Fernet Branca twister were pretty entertaining. Talks on sherry and rum were educational in addition to me picking up an appreciation for Irish Coffee as a beverage and art form. I am glad that they made it so easy to attend for I was too busy with my new job to make it to Tales of the Cocktail or Portland Cocktail Week this year; perhaps I will find the time next year for those events.
10. Randomness of bartending?
Like previous years, I stalled out at 9. For 10, perhaps it is the randomness that working at a bar has afforded me. I have had customers come from as far away as Michigan bearing gifts of Sazerac lollipops -- guests who read the blog and found out when and where I was working. Luckily, enough people use the OnTheBar app and have followed me (to the point that I surpassed the Century Club goal). I have had the honor of reversing the situation of serving bartenders who for years had been serving me. Various industry professionals from brewers to distillers (such as Maggie from Privateer who took the above photo) have sat at my bar. Being photographed and tweeted about has been great, but I have more frequently played the roll of Boston ambassador for tourists and locals alike by giving bar, restaurant, museum, shopping and entertainment suggestions. And in one instance, saving a pair of female guests from going to places that were put on a list someone gave them -- which included the Pine Street Inn (homeless shelter) and Centerfolds (strip club, although I did not assume that they might not want to go there) that were mixed in with good suggestions. Perhaps Max Toste's comparison to an airport is quite fitting!

Monday, December 30, 2013

emperor's new clothes

3/4 oz Bourbon
3/4 oz Cynar
3/4 oz Bittermens Citron Sauvage
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse

Stir with ice and strain into a coupe glass.
Two Mondays ago, we wandered down to the South End to visit bartender Sahil Mehta at Estragon. For a first cocktail, I had the Emperor's New Clothes since the combination of ingredients seemed like it could do no wrong. The drink began with a minty and Cynar funky herbal aroma. Caramel and malt on the sip led into Bourbon in the swallow and a minty, bitter herbal finish.

Friday, December 27, 2013

little miss

1 1/2 oz North Shore Aquavit (Krogstad)
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
1/4 oz Orgeat (BG Reynolds)
1/4 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass that had be pretreated with the oils from two orange twists. Garnish with an additional orange twist.

After the Stranger Than Paradise, I opened up the Sanctuaria: The Dive Bar of Cocktail Bars and spotted the Little Miss. Matt Seiter, the book's author, described how he had just finished his first batch of orgeat and then he reached for a bottle of Green Chartreuse since he knew how well those two play together. Moreover, the savory notes of the aquavit seemed to fit perfectly in place here.
The Little Miss greeted the nose with an orange, star anise, and herbal bouquet. A white wine sip with hints of citrus and orgeat richness gave way to an herbal and floral swallow. As the drink warmed up, the flavor profile gained more caraway and anise notes from the aquavit.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

stranger than paradise

2 oz Atlantico Rum (Caliche)
3/4 oz Amaro Montenegro
3/4 oz Passion Fruit Syrup (BG Reynolds)
3/4 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and carefully strain into a Hurricane mug with a 1/2 oz ruby port (Taylor Fladgate) at the bottom and filled with crushed ice. The port will float up over time.

Two Sundays ago, I made a drink that I had spotted in the ShakeStir website's recipe database called Stranger Than Paradise. The drink was created by Jade Brown Godfrey of Manhattan's Pouring Ribbons, and like her First Rodeo, this one had a bit of layering to it. Jade was, "inspired by a recent trip to Miami (where I was very much out of my element) and all of the Miami vices I had. Part tiki, part delicious."
The Stranger Than Paradise began with a rum bouquet accented by tropical fruit aromas from the passion fruit which generated an almost pineapple sensation when combined with the lemon notes. That pineapple-like note continued on into the sip along with orange flavors, and the swallow showcased the rum followed by herbal guava-like elements on the finish. As the drink progressed, the flavors became more identifiable as containing Amaro Montenegro perhaps due to the ice melt, and later, rich grape notes entered as the port layer rose to the top of the drink.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

windsor knot

1 oz Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac
1 oz George Dickel Rye (Sazerac 6 Year)
1/2 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Cynar
1 tsp Benedictine

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass containing a large ice cube. Garnish with an orange twist.

After the Act of Faith, I decided to make a recipe posted by Gary Regan in his 101 Best Drinks of 2013 series. That libation was the Windor Knot created by Richard Yarnall of Orange County's Bartender's Cabinet. The combination of ingredients reminded me of a Vieux Carré where the Cynar and dry vermouth took the place of the classic's sweet vermouth and bitters.
The Windor Knot showcased an orange oil nose over an otherwise herbal aroma. Caramel and malt on the sip gave way to rye and Cognac on the swallow and bitter herbal and vanilla-like notes on the swallow. Overall, the Windsor Know was not as grape driven as the Vieux Carré but equally as good as a sipper.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

act of faith

1 1/2 oz Jamaican Rum (Appleton Reserve)
1/2 oz Pedro Ximénez Sherry (Lustau)
1/2 oz Blackstrap Rum (Cruzan)
1/4 oz Angostura Bitters

Build in a rocks glass with a large ice cube. Stir to chill and garnish with an orange twist.

Two Fridays ago, we began the evening with the Act of Faith that appeared in a recent New York Times article. The recipe was crafted by Dan Greenbaum of Manhattan's The Beagle and Attaboy, and the combination of rums, Pedro Ximénez sherry, and spice seemed rather appealing.
The orange twist's aroma brightened that of the rum's blackstrap molasses and sherry's dark grape notes. The aroma prepared the mouth for the sip which offered raisiny grape, caramel, and molasses notes; next, the swallow shared a sharp and dry medley of rum, grape, and Angostura's spice. Interestingly, most of the sherry and molasses notes were pushed into the sip by the hefty slug of bitters instead of residing in the swallow where they most often can be found.

Monday, December 23, 2013

more scotch than sincerity

2 oz Cutty Sark Blended Scotch
3/4 oz Cinnamon Syrup
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
2 dash Angostura Bitters

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

A few Sundays ago, I ventured down to Stoddard's for a drink since bar manager Jamie Walsh had mentioned that the cocktail list was going to be updated soon. Unfortunately, I was a day or two early to catch the new list, but bartender Tony Iamunno knew what the changes were going to be. After listing a few of the possibilities, he mentioned that one of his favorite new recipes did not make the cut this time around. That drink's name, More Scotch Than Sincerity, was rather curious; Tony explained that a mutual friend Whitney penned the phrase in her LiveJournal, and he borrowed it for this libation.
The cocktail's lemon twist contributed bright citrus notes to the cherry aroma. A lemon and malt sip gave way to Scotch on the swallow followed by cinnamon, cherry, and spice on the finish.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

absinthe drip

The theme for this month's Mixology Monday (MxMo LXXX) was picked by Nick of The Straight Up blog. The theme he chose was "Anise," and he elaborated on the theme with his description of, "While I had a few ideas I've been kicking around for this months theme, ...I ultimately decided on one of my favorite flavors: anise. Although great any time of year, there is something about colder weather and the holidays that really sets my anise fetish into overdrive. While past MxMos have seen a few specific sources of anise, such as pastis and absinthe, I wanted to open things up to anything anise flavored, the more unique the better. Most folks have something with anise notes laying around, whether it's absinthe or pastis, ouzo, Genepe, even Green Chartreuse, Peychaud's, Raki, etc. Maybe get creative and make something tasty with some star anise, like a syrup, infusion or tincture. Show us that riff on a Sazerac or Improved Holland Gin Cocktail that you love, or create something entirely new."

I originally wanted to do a drink that used Peychaud's Bitters as a base spirit, but there were few save for the Gunshop Fizz that came to mind that I had not tried yet. And I did think of recreating a Sazerac in Tom & Jerry format, but I recalled that I had already written about the Sazerac Toddy. Next, my mind drifted over to the bottle of Butterfly Absinthe that had been sent to me and I considered doing an Absinthe Suissese, but I got bogged down over picking the right recipe as to whether it had crème de menthe, orgeat, cream, egg white, orange blossom water, or other. The earliest recipe I found was in Maloney's 1900 The Twentieth-Century Cocktail Guide for Mixing Fancy Drinks but it was just absinthe, orgeat, and egg white. With such a minimalist recipe, I decided to take a step further back and go with an Absinthe Drip.
Over the course of a few events through the last 14 months or so that have included a pre-Boston Cocktail Summit Origin Spirits tasting event, Whiskey Live, and Boston Thirst, I have had the honor of meeting the people behind Butterfly Absinthe. The spirit is a recreation of 1902 Boston recipe that benefits today from the elegance of modern day Swiss absinthe producers. The ingredients list are historically the same with wormwood, hyssop, melissa, peppermint, anise, star anise, fennel, and citrus, but no sample of the original of the early 20th century product has turned up to confirm the flavor profile. I was quite pleased when they decided to send me a sample of the absinthe for review and delighted when they also included a pair of absinthe glasses as well (one pictured above). The glasses have a mark for an ounce and a half pour of absinthe and I was able to determine where the 4:1 and 5:1 dilution marks would lay. While we do not own a fancy absinthe fountain, Andrea did purchase a rather mesmerizing absinthe balancier years ago -- a similar one tick-tocking away can be seen here in action on Youtube. Since most modern quality absinthes do not require any sweetener, I skipped the sugar cube and instead filled the balancier with crushed ice. I added ice water until the desired 4:1 dilution was reached in the glass.
Absinthe Drip
• 1 1/2 oz Absinthe (Butterfly)
• 6 - 7 1/2 oz Ice-chilled Water (6 oz)
Slowly add ice water to the absinthe in a glass.
With the 4:1 dilution, the 130 proof spirit was decreased to 13% ABV, the approximate strength of many wines, and it gained a beautiful louche. Our tasting notes included anise, fennel, licorice, mint, lemon, and wormwood, and the low proof and clean spirit was definitely gentle enough to drink even without sugar added. With the sugar, the drip would be the simplest of classic cocktails for the spirit, bitters, and water are already in the mix.

Thanks to Nick for hosting this month's spiced event, and cheers to all the rest of the Mixology Mondayers for keeping the lifeblood flowing!

Friday, December 20, 2013

razor ramon

1 3/4 oz Siete Leguas Reposado Tequila
3/4 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Coffee Syrup
1/2 oz Campari
1 dash Mole Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Flame an orange twist over the top.

After the Negroni variation, there was another Campari recipe that Ryan Connelly wanted to make for me at Belly. The drink was the Razor Ramon which he named after one of his favorite professional wrestlers. Ryan was inspired to create this drink after attending the coffee-cocktail seminar at Thirst Boston taught by Tyler Wang of Kirkland Tap & Trotter and Jake Robinson of Counter Culture; there, he learned how well French press espresso coffee pairs with Campari, and for this drink he utilized a coffee syrup instead. Back in June, I documented one of the coffee-cocktail events that was part class and part competition which was a precursor to the Thirst Boston talk.
The Razor Ramon began with agave aromas along with a dark herbal note. The coffee's roast paired with the Punt e Mes' grape on the sip. Finally, the tequila began the swallow that ended with the coffee and Campari combination that was complemented by the Punt e Mes' bitter notes and the chocolate bitters.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

[little camillo]

1 1/4 oz Pimm's #1
1 oz La Garracha Fino Sherry
3/4 oz Campari

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a grapefruit twist, add a pinch of salt over the ice, and add straws.

After West Bridge, I headed across the 1 Kendall Square complex to Belly where Ryan Connelly was tending bar. Ryan mentioned that the cocktail part of the menu had not change much since the last time I was there, but he had a bunch of new ideas that he wanted to showcase. The one that sounded the best was a sherry-fied Negroni variation that utilized Pimm's. The inspiration for Pimm's was how well it matched Campari given its bitter orange notes; moreover, Pimm's #1 is a gin-based liqueur that would symbolize the regular gin in the Negroni. I dubbed the drink the Little Camillo (although I was thinking the Little Count) after Count Camillo Negroni with a nod to the Little Giuseppe given the salt over the ice aspect.
The grapefruit twist provided much of the drink's aroma. A fruit sip shared much of the sherry's white grape notes. The Pimm's berry flavors bled into the swallow where it balanced the Campari rather well. Indeed, as the salt slowly worked its way into the drink, Campari's bitterness level dropped.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

hedy lamarr

1 1/2 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
3/4 oz Meletti Amaro
1/2 oz Punt e Mes
1/4 oz Lavender Honey Syrup (1:1)
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass.

For my second drink at West Bridge, I asked bartender Byron Lepine for the Hedy Lamarr from the cocktail menu. Bar manager Josh Taylor later explained that the recipe was created by fellow West Bridge bartender Mike Fleming, but it was Mike's girlfriend who named it. The strength of the barreled in bond spirit versus the lighter ingredients conjured a Samson and Delilah type of thing, and that made her think of Hedy Lamarr who portrayed Delilah in Cecil B. DeMille's 1949 movie Samson and Delilah. Josh initially thought it was a riff on a Marconi Wireless due to Hedy's contributions to wireless communication.
The apple brandy's aroma mingled with floral notes from the Meletti and honey. A fruity grape, caramel, and honey sip gave way to apple, bitter, floral, and spice elements on the swallow. Moreover, as the drink warmed up it gained an interesting bubble gum note.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

the exporter

1 oz Bols Genever
3/4 oz Drambuie
1/2 oz Becherovka
1/4 oz Falernum
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1 dash Fee's Whiskey Barrel Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Twist a lemon peel over the top.

Two Wednesdays ago, I wandered down to Westbridge after work where Josh Taylor and Byron Lepine were tending bar. For a first drink, I requested the Exporter, and Josh explained how it was Alex Howell's initial idea for a menu item for a Drambuie dinner and how he helped Alex tweak it. Although the libation did not make it on to the Drambuie event menu, it did make it on to the restaurant's regular cocktail menu.
The Exporter presented lemon oil over the Genever's malty aroma. Lemon, honey, and malt in the sip led into Genever, clove, and spice on the swallow. Overall, the combination of Becherovka and falernum combined well to offer a bounty of winter spice notes.

Monday, December 16, 2013

hit & run

2 oz Four Roses Bourbon
3/4 oz Maple Syrup
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
3 dash Regan's Orange Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
After Brick & Mortar, I made my way down the Red Line to downtown to get dinner at Silvertone. Later that evening was a charity night for injured bartender Alex Homans who was hit while bicycling to work at Fairsted Kitchen. The featured cocktail was John Child's creation, the Hit & Run, to raise money for Alex's recovery and loss of wages. Once mixed, the Hit & Run proffered an orange oil nose that later became more maple driven. The maple paired up with the citrus notes on the sip, and the swallow showcased the whiskey with a citrus finish. Despite the different base spirits, the Hit & Run reminded me a bit of the Apple Jack Rabbit.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

swinney park

2 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1/2 oz Cinnamon Syrup
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
3 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass.

A few Tuesdays ago, I ventured down to Brick & Mortar where Lea Madda and Crystal were bartending. For a first drink, I asked Lea for the Swinney Park. Lea described how Nic Mansur created the drink and Matt Schrage came up with the name; moreover, the name refers to the park in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where Johnny Appleseed is memorialized despite his grave being elsewhere in town. With apple brandy, cinnamon syrup, and lemon juice, the drink seemed like a win; the extra flavor from Peychaud's could not hurt even if Lea insisted that it was there "mostly for the color." Actually, the Peychaud's reminded me of Jackson Cannon's preferred touch to the Jack Rose cocktail.
Indeed, the Peychaud's did donate a pinkish hue to the drink that was reminiscent of apple skins, and the aroma was apple and herbal-spiced from the anise and cinnamon elements. Next, a lemon sip was much more dry than tart and led into an apple, cinnamon, and spice swallow.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

packard twins

1 1/2 oz Rye Whiskey (Ryan & Wood)
3/4 oz Sherry (Lustau East India Solera)
2 dash Maraschino (1/4 oz Luxardo)
2 dash Angostura Bitters
2 dash Orange Bitters (Regan's)

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

A few Wednesdays ago, I opened up the Big Bartender's Book and spotted the Packard Twins that had been adapted from a cocktail found in the Angostura Recipes book from 1934. The text provides the history that it was created at the Hotel Barclay, and I assume that it was the one in Manhattan. The name most likely refers to the Packard Twin Six line of American luxury cars that were being produced between 1916 and 1923. The car was so stunning that it also spawned other drinks including the Twin Six from Hugo Ensslin's 1917 Recipes for Mixed Drinks.
The Packard Twins presented the sherry's grape, the Maraschino's nuttiness, and the bitters' spice to the nose. A grape, cherry, and malt sip led into the rye on the swallow followed by a spiced, nutty finish. In a way, the Packard Twins reminded me of a funkier and less bitter Red Hook or a more complex Buffalo Cocktail.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


1 1/2 oz Lustau Dry Amontillado
3/4 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
3/4 oz Averna
1/2 oz Honey Syrup
1/4 oz Lemon Juice

Stir with ice and strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with 2 oz soda and float 2 dash Angostura Bitters. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and a lemon twist; add a straw.

A few Mondays ago, we stopped into the Citizen after my DJ gig. For a drink, bartender Sean Frederick wanted to make the recipe for the 2013 winner of the Vino de Jerez competition, the Ciclope. The Ciclope was created by Eric Simpkins of The Lawrence in Atlanta, GA, and it definitely seemed like a worthy victor since apple brandy and sherry have paired so well together in the past.
The Ciclope delivered a lemon oil, allspice, and nutmeg aroma. A carbonated honey, caramel, and grape sip gave way to a raisiny and nutty swallow with hints of apple and herbalness.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


2 oz Bols Genever
1 1/2 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Benedictine
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Regan's Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

For my second drink at Trina's Starlite Lounge, I focused in on another drink from the "Tasty Drinks from Good People" section of their menu that I had spotted when I had Tony Iamunno's Chasing Fireflies last time. That drink was the Zander from Isaac Sussman of the Independent; I was not sure if he named it after the European river fish, The Simpsons character, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, or other. The combination of grain spirit, Punt e Mes, and Benedictine made me think of Green Street's Creole (their substitution in this Amer Picon-light world), but it was closer to Green Street's William of Orange that Emily Stanley crafted for the Bartenders on the Rise event back in 2010.
The Zander presented a malty and lemon oil aroma over that of the Punt e Mes' dark grape. The sip's caramelly grape flavors possessed a full mouthfeel from the Genever's malt, and the swallow showed off the rest of the Genever notes with a bitter, herbal, and spice finish. I believe that Andrea summed up the drink with the three words "black cherry toast," for they ended up in quotation marks at the end of my tasting notes.

Monday, December 9, 2013


2 oz Zaya 12 Year Rum
3/4 oz Contrabandista Amontillado Sherry
1/2 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
4 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a coupe glass.

A few Wednesdays ago, Andrea and I ventured over to Trina's Starlite Lounge for post-dinner dessert and drinks. For a first cocktail, I asked bartender Beau Sturm for the night's super-secret drink, the Smuggler, that they had tweeted about earlier in the day. Beau explained that Trina's-alum Dan Beretsky had thought of the idea, but it was Beau who eventually put proportions to the ingredients.
The Smuggler presented a dark rum nose with hints of orange peel and grape. A caramel sip with grape notes gave way to the rich dark rum swallow. The rum then blended into the Curaçao's orange peel and sherry's nutty flavors and finished with Angostura's spice.

hotel homans

1 oz Partida Tequila
1/2 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
7 dash Angostura Bitters
7 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a flute glass. Top with Kenwood sparkling wine and garnish with an orange twist.

A few Mondays ago, we headed over to Backbar for one of the guest bartender nights to raise money for Alex Homans to aid in his recovery after being hit by a car as he biked to work at Fairsted Kitchen. That night, the guest bartender was Sam Gabrielli of Russell House Tavern, and he presided with resident bartenders Sam Treadway and Kyle Powell. Gabrielli did this to honor his friend who helped mentor him at Temple Bar and Russell House Tavern, and Sam attributed Alex's guidance as what helped him become the great bar manager that he is today. While I got the blue Daiquiri Time Out in respect for Alex's love of all things blue Curaçao, Andrea opted for the non-blue Hotel Homans for she is quite the Seelbach fan. Kyle, who made the drink for her that night, described how this tequila variation had to veer from their preferred ratio as the agave flavors were dominating the flavor profile.
The orange twist brightened the agave aroma of the Hotel Homans. The sip offered a carbonated, citrussy, and sparkling wine medley that led into tequila swallow that shared more wine flavors as well as spice and bitter complexity from the hefty doses of Angustura and Peychaud's.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

sherry duval

1 oz Lustau Oloroso Sherry
1 oz Bols Genever
3/4 oz Cynar
1/4 oz Maple Syrup
1 dash Fee's Black Walnut Bitters (omitted)

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

After the Swedish Sweet Tart, we were in the mood for a nightcap. I perused my list of drinks to make and spotted one from Timothy Miner of the Long Island Bar in Brooklyn. Tim created entered the recipe in one of ShakeStir's flash cocktail competitions with the description, "This is a great stirred drink for Autumn. It is rich, and nutty with a long finish. It would do well by a fireplace in New England." Well, we had neither a fireplace nor walnut bitters, but we decided to give this one a go.
The Sherry Duval began with a nutty sherry nose that shared malty notes of the Genever. The Cynar's caramel and the sherry's grape paired with the maple syrup's richness on the sip; next, the sherry's raisin provided the structure of the swallow that was modified by the sharper herbal elements of the Genever and the earthier bitter elements of the Cynar on the finish. Overall, the maple syrup really tied the drink together especially the sherry and Cynar as it has with the Farmhouse Flip and the Mortal Sunset, respectively.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

swedish sweet tart

1 oz North Shore Aquavit (North Shore Private Reserve)
3/4 oz Swedish Punsch (Kronan)
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Marie Brizard Crème de Cacao

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange twist (not flamed, discarded).
A few Saturdays ago, we began the evening by turning to Sanctuaria: The Dive Bar of Cocktail Bars for inspiration. There, I spotted a drink that paired Swedish Punsch with aquavit called the Swedish Sweet Tart. Despite the name, I was quite curious and was lured in. Once mixed, the drink proffered an orange oil aroma over chocolate notes from the crème de cacao and sweet notes from the Swedish punsch. Next, a lemony sip led into a rum, cacao, and herbal swallow with a lingering caraway finish. Overall, the drink was not very caraway driven, like many aquavit recipes have a tendency of being, save for a pleasant aftertaste that grew throughout the drink.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

winter cobbler

1 1/2 oz Scotch
1 oz Honey Ginger Syrup
1/2 oz Palo Cortado Sherry
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
2 dash House Aromatic Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a Julep cup (or Highball glass). Pack with crushed ice, garnish with mint, and add a straw. Perhaps this was built in the Julep cup though, sans shake/strain step, since my notes do not specify.

A few Wednesdays ago, we ventured down to Deep Ellum for dinner. For a first drink, I asked bartender Jennifer Salucci for the Winter Cobbler that just appeared on the menu. I am always pleased when bars take old non-cocktail, non-highball styles like the Cobbler, Fix, and Zoom and give new life to them. Here, Deep Ellum made a seasonal Cobbler that read like a riff on the Penicillin Cocktail; this was not their first riff on the neo-classic for they had the agave-based Little Branch Cocktail on the menu three years ago.
The Winter Cobbler began with a mint aroma over a Scotch and sherry nose. Honey flavors sweetened the lemon and grape sip, and the swallow offered Scotch and raisiny notes with a growing ginger signature after successive gulps. Overall, I was quite impressed at how well Palo Cortado sherry paired here with Scotch and how much depth it added to the Penicillin Cocktail-like base.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

kojo cocktail

1 oz Greenhat Gin (Martin Miller Westbourne)
1 oz Oloroso (Lustau)
1/2 oz Falernum (Velvet)
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Simple Syrup
1 dash Decanter Bitters (Angostura)

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

A few Thursdays ago, I decided to make the Kojo Cocktail that I had spotted on Derek Brown's Twitter feed. After hearing Derek speak about sherry at Thirst Boston, I was excited to try one of his sherry creations. I suspect that this drink is named after Kojo Nnamdi who hosts a public radio talk show on WAMU 88.5 in Washington, DC, where Derek has been a guest.
The Kojo Cocktail began with a grapefruit oil, nutty oxidized grape, and clove aroma. The lemon flavors were greater than the grape on the sip; next, the swallow began with the nutty sherry notes and ended with clove, juniper, allspice, and a lemon tartness.

Monday, December 2, 2013

1818 cocktail

1 oz El Maestro Oloroso Sherry
1 oz Old Monk Rum
3/4 oz Punt e Mes
1/4 oz Benedictine
1 dash Mole Bitters

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

A few Tuesdays ago, I ventured over to Spoke Wine Bar where Lena Webb was bartending. For a drink idea, I asked this fortified wine enthusiast to sherry-fy a cocktail for me. Her chosen starting point was Drink's 1919 Cocktail, and she subbed the rye for sherry and switched around some of the proportions. When she made it for me, instead of the Punt e Mes listed above, Lena reached for Dolin Sweet Vermouth. While we agreed that the libation was good that way, it would perhaps be better with Punt e Mes or a more robust vermouth like Carpano Antica. Therefore, I made it the next day at work as written above save for using Lustau Amontillado Sherry but leaving out the mole bitters. Served this way with added bitter notes, the drink truly did shine. Finally, a coin toss was in order to name the variation the 1818 or the 1819.
With the Punt e Mes recipe, the aged rum added a funkiness to the grape aroma. A rich, complex grape sip shared caramel flavors from the rum. The rum then continued on into the swallow where it mingled with the Punt e Mes bitter and the Benedictine herbal notes.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

etched in time

1 1/2 oz Ron Abuelo Rum
1/2 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1/2 oz Luxardo Amaretto
1/4 oz Luxardo Amaro Abano
1/4 oz Angostura Bitters
1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Stir with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a dried rosebud.
After the Edgar Allen Poe, I searched through bartender Sahil Mehta's cocktail recipe notebook and spotted the Etched in Time. The drink was one of Sahil's creations for the Angostura competition. Since the drink was rather amber, Sahil wanted something to be trapped in there, so he garnished with the dried rosebud. Once mixed for me, the Etched in Time greeted the nose with a cherry and amaretto aroma. The lemon sip shared a vague fruitiness, and the swallow began with rum followed by dark herbal notes, nuttiness, and Angostura Bitters' dryness and spice.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

edgar allen poe

1 1/2 oz Laird's Applejack
1/2 oz Alvear Amontillado Sherry
1/2 oz Frangelico
1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
3/4 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Float a dash of allspice dram and garnish with a fennel frond if available.

A few Mondays ago, we made our way over to Estragon in the South End for dinner. For a first drink, bartender Sahil Mehta suggested one of the recipes he created for Estragon's Dead Poet Halloween dinner party. The one that called out to me was the Edgar Allen Poe that was subtitled with verse on the menu as, "From a proud tower in the town, Death looks gigantically down." While that quote was from The City in the Sea, he did pay tribute to the more famous The Cask of Amontillado with the wine in the mix; that night he used Lustau's Amontillado instead of Alvear's. Moreover, since the libation was paired with a fennel-pork dish, Sahil garnished this one with a fennel frond.
The Edgar Allen Poe began with a nutty, apple, and lemon aroma that became more grape driven later on. The lemon and grape sip gave way to an apple swallow that led into nutty flavors and an allspice finish. Indeed, I was impressed at how well the Maraschino, Frangelico, and nutty oxidized sherry worked as a trio on the swallow with such complementary flavors.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

autumn sunset

1 1/2 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon (Four Roses)
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth (Cocchi)
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
1/4 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/4 oz Benedictine

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Flame an orange twist (skipped the flaming part) and discard.
After Steel & Rye, Andrea and I decided to have a nightcap. For a cocktail idea, I turned to Sanctuaria: The Dive Bar of Cocktail Bars book. There, I spotted the Autumn Sunset that appeared like a Perfect Manhattan with allspice dram and Benedictine added to the mix. Once prepared, the orange oils complemented the herbal aroma. Malt and grape on the sip led into a Bourbon swallow followed by herbal notes with a robust allspice finish. Overall, the drink looked and smelled like Autumn and was a great end to fall evening.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

rye rising

1 oz Old Overholt Rye
1 oz Galliano Ristretto Espresso Liqueur
1/2 oz Boston Bual Madeira
1/2 oz Demerara Syrup
1 dash Mole Bitters
1 Egg

Shake once without ice and once with. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with grated coffee bean.

For a dessert cocktail at Steel & Rye, I asked bartender Ted Gallagher for the Rye Rising. When I inquired about the name, Ted mentioned that he was stuck thinking of something to call it since Coffee Cocktail had been taken a mere 150 years before. Luckily, Ted's wife came to the rescue at 1:30am the night before this brunch drink was due to be printed on the menu. With whiskey, Madeira, and egg, it did remind me a bit of a Boston Flip, although the coffee angle put it in the realm of his previous Bramble and Arabica, Ted Kilpatrick's Orinoco, and Sam Gabrielli's Don't Flip Out.
The grated coffee bean garnish contributed a fresh dark roast coffee aroma to the nose. The dark roast continued on into the sip where it joined the rich, caramel sip. The coffee theme carried on into the swallow along with the rye and hints of the Madeira at the end. I suggested dropping the espresso liqueur amount and raising the Madeira both to 3/4 oz to bring out the beauty of the Madeira a touch more in the drink.

Monday, November 25, 2013


1 1/2 oz Domaine Dupont Calvados
1/2 oz Rittenhouse 100 Rye
1 barspoon Maple Syrup
1 dash St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube. Twist a lemon peel over the top.

For a first drink at Steel & Rye, Andrea requested the Lionheart. Bartender Ted Gallagher explained that the Lionheart was not named after one of Jean-Claude Van Damme's films as one server at the restaurant thought, and I was misguided in thinking about the Lion's Tail due to the whiskey and allspice dram in the mix. For the recipe was named after the Duke of Normandy in tribute to the Calvados in the drink.
The Lionheart shared bright lemon oil notes over the apple aroma. The rye's maltiness mingled with a vague fruitiness on the sip, and the swallow showcased the apple, maple, and allspice flavors.

josephine's bath

1 1/4 oz Rhum JM Blanc
1 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
3/4 oz Gran Classico

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass containing a large ice cube. Twist a grapefruit peel over the top.

A few Sundays ago, Andrea and I ventured down to Milton to dine at Steel & Rye where bartenders Ted Gallagher and Derric Crothers were manning the bar that night. For a first drink, I requested the Josephine's Bath which seemed like an interesting rhum agricole Negroni variation. Ted explained how he spent his honeymoon in Martinique, and there, he stood with his bride in a historic section of water off of the shore. The fame came from Napoléon Bonaparte's first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais from Martinique, and she used to bathe in that sandbar off the island's coast.
The grapefruit oil greeted the nose and preceded a grassy wine sip. The swallow then offered the grassy and mineral flavors of the rhum followed by the herbal notes of the Gran Classico and vermouth. Overall, the Gran Classico worked rather well here with the rhum agricole, and the Josephine's Bath came across as more delicate than other rhum agricole Negroni variations including the Pirate Slave and the Defensio.

Friday, November 22, 2013

:: drink[craft]beer fall to winter fest ::

Last Friday, I went to session 1 of Drink[Craft]Beer's Fall to Winter Fest. I returned to their event after enjoying their Summerfest for the moderately sized event felt rather intimate; not only was it easy to visit every booth and not just visit mostly the familiar, it was not overly crowded such that you could not spend time talking to brewers and the brewery staff as well as sample multiple tastings from the booths. Each brewery and cidery had to have at least one fall- or winter-themed offering; while some had seasonal offerings in already in their lineups, others seemed to have brewed beers and ciders for the event for I was unable to find any information online about the products. Moreover, I was quite surprised and pleased to see that apples were playing a bigger role in the event than pumpkins.
As for my favorite apple products and one pumpkin one:
Nightshift (MA) @NightShiftBeer - Fallen Apple. This golden ale brewed with fresh local cider was amazing especially tasty with the undertones from the rum and brandy barrels used for aging. The sour apple notes were complemented by the spice finish.
Bantam Cider (MA) @BantamCider - Persian Spice. While at Thirst Boston, I enjoyed their Le Grande aged in Bourbon barrels, this time my favorite new-to-me product was spiced with a bounty of Middle Eastern botanicals with cardamom and cinnamon being the most identifiable all with a floral finish. See the spices in the second picture.
Urban Farm Fermentory (ME) @Fermentory - Chai Sour Cidah. The Untappd beer app seemed to suggest that this was a new offering, and it was a hybrid of their kombucha and their cider. Indeed, the sour and tea tannin notes of the fermented tea worked well on the finish of the apple.
Downeast Cider House (ME) @DowneastCider - Barrel Project #2. I love their regular unfiltered cider that we sell at work, and the unfiltered nature here came across as very yeasty. The Bourbon barrel notes a definite richness to the apple.
Blacksmiths Winery (ME) - Fatty Bampkins. While a little on the sweet side, it had a great honest apple flavor.
Cape Ann Brewing (MA) @CapeAnnBrewing - Imperial Pumpkin Stout. I do not generally hunt out pumpkin beers, but I am not averse to trying them. When I saw that Cape Ann was offering an imperial pumpkin, it reminded me of Southern Tier's that we had on cask. Likewise, it was very pumpkin but with a decent dark caramel malt and no bothering with pumpkin pie spices.
For favorite dark beers:
RiverWalk Brewing Co. (MA) @RiverwalkBeer - Rye Stout. Another offering that was first entered into Untappd that night so I have to assume it was made for this event. While the coffee malt notes clouded a lot of the rye spice, the hops from the Kent Golding did shine through quite well.
Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project (MA) @PrettyBeer - Babayaga. Technically not new to me, but new to me utilizing the Untappd beer app, this rustic stout with great smoky notes from rosemary-smoked malts was all around delightful.
Nightshift (MA) @NightShiftBeer - Taza Stout. My tasting notes read, "Chocolate blending into coffee from chicory. Ginger builds over time."
High Horse Brewing (MA) @HighHorseBrew - The Business. High Horse Brew Pub was out of this offering when we visited them a few months ago in Amherst. Luckily, I had a chance to try this imperial stout that was black as night and full of coffee roast flavors.
Tap Brewing Company (MA) @TapBrewingCo - Joshua Norton Imperial Stout. Quite delightful with chocolate and caramel notes on the sip and a smoky coffee finish.
And my favorite non-fruit and non-dark brews:
Idle Hands (MA) @IdleHandsBeer - First Pitch. No wonder I could not find this Belgian rye pale ale on shelves for it is keg-only right now. My tasting notes read, "Caramel balanced by rye spice and Belgian notes. Tart apple." Also notable was Lucia's Bounty, their pale weizenbock, which showcased caramel notes and a rosemary-like bite.
Nightshift (MA) @NightShiftBeer - Chinooknation. A Belgian-style double brewed with a single type of hops that offered resiny, lemon, pine, clove, and cinnamon-like spice.
Smuttynose Brewing Company (NH) @SmuttynoseBeer - Winter Ale. Unlike many of the winter offerings, I obviously enjoyed this one's angle for I wrote, "Good to see a winter beer go Trappist style instead of spiced. Fig/date notes."
Notch Brewing (MA) @NotchBrewing - LP IPL. This was certainly not their fall or winter offering, but it was great to see others besides Jack's Abby doing India Pale Lagers. LP IPL had nice pineapple, pine, and citrus notes.
Wormtown Brewery (MA) @WormtownBrewery - Wintah Ale. Perhaps this should be in the dark beer section, but it was a touch lighter as a brown ale. Elegant nutty brown, chocolate, and earthy flavors.

broken crown

1 1/2 oz El Tesoro Tequila
1/2 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1/2 oz Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 barspoon Grenadine
1 dash Celery Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass.

A few Wednesdays ago after one of my dinner shifts at Russell House Tavern, I headed over to Kirkland Tap & Trotter for a shift drink on the route home. Bar manager Tyler Wang spoke to me about the new libations on the cocktail menu before he had to leave for the night; he described the Broken Crown as a tequila 20th Century (otherwise known as the Jim Meehan's 21st Century) crossed with a Jack Rose. Out of the new drinks, the Broken Crown seemed like the winner, so I asked bartender Andrew Keefe to make me one.
The Broken Crown greeted the nose with a tequila aroma. A fruity sip from the lime, apple brandy, and pomegranate syrup was chased by a tequila swallow that shared muted chocolate notes on the finish.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


1 1/2 oz Old Overholt Rye
3/4 oz Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Amaro Montenegro
1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

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

A few Tuesdays ago, I headed over to Silvertone to have dinner at the bar. For a cocktail, I asked bartender Josh Childs for the Bargellino that appeared on the OnTheBar app after I checked in for my visit. When I inquired about the name, Josh replied that it refers to a hotel in Italy; however, he explained that he found this recipe in his old notes and was not entirely sure if he was the one who created it. Regardless, the Bargellino reminded me of a Man About Town crossed with a Brooklyn and seemed like it would be an excellent tipple.
The twist's orange oils joined the aroma of the amaro's caramel and the whiskey's malt on the nose. The malt continued into the sip to mingle with the dry vermouth's wine flavors, and the swallow began with the rye and ended with an herbal finish that showcased the amaro's mandarine orange peel and the Maraschino's nutty cherry notes.

:: martini gran lusso tasting ::

Last night, I was invited to a vermouth tasting event at the Hawthorne hosted by Jackson Cannon and Colin Asare-Appiah, alumni of London's LAB bar and now with Bacardi. The night began with a discussion of the classical and modern roles of vermouth as a stand alone and as a cocktail ingredient and moved on to a tasting of 10 vermouths similar to the Demystifying Vermouth seminar at Portland Cocktail Week. The tasting ended with vermouth #10, Martini Gran Lusso, Martini & Rossi's 150th anniversary vermouth. Instead of using solely white Trebbiano wine as they do for all their other vermouths, they added in red Barbera wine to give rich flavors and a red instead of brown hue to the vermouth (the brown hue is often associated with caramel coloring). Part of the botanical mix comes from a blend developed in 1904 that undergoes a long rest in wood before an 8 year mellowing in glass demijohns. Gentian, African aloe, and dittany (related to oregano) were three of the botanicals that were revealed. Clearly, the process is time intensive and most likely not very sustainable, so this release is rather limited at 150,000 bottles. DrinkUpNY has the product priced around $30.

The concept of vermouth as a cocktail modifier alone was questioned. When a customer asks for a Manhattan, instead of asking "rye or Bourbon?" and "Up, down, or on the rocks?", perhaps asking what vermouth they would like to have used. As was demonstrated from the tasting, vermouths of each type vary widely and the balance of the drink needs to be altered accordingly. For example, Carpano Antica is a beast of a vermouth and needs to be used more sparingly that Cinzano or Martini & Rossi, whereas the more delicate Dolin Rouge needs to be used in more abundance. Since vermouths need to be kept fresh, having too many open bottles of vermouth at a bar can be an issue. Placing open dates, not marrying bottles of different vintages, and tasting old bottles will keep the product within healthy guidelines. However, figuring out ways to increase vermouth use will help keep the rate of opening fresh bottles frequent. One way is to have plenty of drinks on the menu that utilize vermouths. Another is to drink it straight, and Jackson brought up the point that the barbacks at Eastern Standard were often required to drink the remainders of vermouth bottles as part of their shift drink. Personally, the art of the aperitif is my favorite way, and the Half Sinner-Half Saint favored by Rendezvous' Scott Holliday is my preferred go-to at home or for guests at the bar. Moreover, vermouths are not just for aperitifs. While the bitter notes from the botanicals are great for getting the gastric juices flowing to prepare the digestive track for food, many of them also help to settle the stomach.

Without further ado, here are my tasting notes:
1: Martini & Rossi Dry. Trebbiano wine, artemisia (wormwood), oregano thyme, dittany. Despite being called dry, it is not all that dry. Jackson referred to this one as a fully-balanced bottled cocktail.
2: Noilly Extra Dry. Straw color all from aging for over 1 year in barrels. Smell is floral with honeysuckle notes, apple, unripened strawberries, and carrot. Taste is very vegetal and reminiscent of oysters due to the salinity. The aging also donates some oxidative notes. Produced near the fishing port of Marseillan, this vermouth is often paired with oysters.
3: Dolin Dry. Based on an 1827 recipe. The clear-colored vermouth has granny smith apple, lemon, nut oils, and white peach aromas, while the taste has great acidity and low wormwood. It is evident that a lot of love went into the wine. Jackson pointed out that the aromatics here can be lost in cocktails and a 2:1 ratio might be necessary. It is a restrained style that was meant to be drunk alone and has less of history with cocktails.
4: Martini & Rossi Bianco. Developed in the early 1900s and created for women once they were allowed to drink in public. The smell is vanilla cream, cinnamon, angel food cake, oregano, thyme, and dittany. The style has a rather high sugar content.
5: Eastern Standard Rose. Made on a stove in a kitchen instead of more traditional ways. Ripe fruit forward due to the Spanish grenache wine base and the strawberry maceration. The vermouth contains wormwood in a very traditional style and the bitterness can really help to balance the rather fruit forwardness of the ingredients.
History of Eastern Standard's vermouth program: It began when Mayur Subbarao, now of Amor & Amargo, drove up to Boston and cooked up vermouths in an informal vermouth class held in an apartment's kitchen in Somerville, MA. He made and taught recipes for replicas of Carpano Antica and Noilly Prat Amber, two vermouths that were not available at the time in the United States. Some of these techniques were discussed at the Vermouth Tasting and Making Class held by Tom Schlessinger-Guidelli at Craigie on Main in early 2009. Jackson was interesting in duplicating Martini & Rossi's Rose which was also not imported at the time. With Mayur's help, they were able to replicate the product; while not an exact match, it is rather delightful on its own or in cocktails like the Frobisher.
6: Martini & Rossi Sweet. White wine is still the base here with caramel color added. The caramel is not added for sweetness; instead the sweetness comes from cane sugar. The tasting notes are reminiscent of pizza with oregano and thyme. Kola nut, unsweetened chocolate, cherry, bitter honey, and overly ripe plum were also mentioned.
7: Noilly Prat Rouge. Noilly's answer to Martini & Rossi's sweet vermouth; created in the early 1900s. Drier finish than the Martini & Rossi.
8: Dolin Rouge. Smell has sarsaparilla, root beer, thyme, fig, and wintergreen; similar to Martini & Rossi but more raw. The taste has grapefruit, orange, and apple notes with not a lot of bitter notes and a somewhat port-like feel.
9: Carpano Antica. Nose shares Coca Cola, vanilla, Necco wafer, Bubble Yum gum aromas. Taste has tea flavors such as rooibos and mint tea, orange, lemon peel, clove, cinnamon, gentian. Very bitter sweet.
10: Martini Gran Lusso. Color is ruby red from the Barbera grapes. The nose displays pineapple, rosemary, star anise, and menthol. The tasting notes were rosemary, thyme, juniper, woodsy pine, hibiscus, lavender, and grassy-wet leaf.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

[shepherd's secret]

1 1/2 oz Sheep Dip Blended Scotch
3/4 oz Luxardo Amaro Abano
3/4 oz Punt e Mes
1 barspoon Green Chartreuse

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

After going to Drink a few Mondays ago, I stayed in Fort Point and visited Blue Dragon a few blocks away. There, I was greeted by bar manager John Drew who offered up a small taste of a great apple-sweet potato milk punch that perfectly captured Autumn in a glass. For a drink, he suggested a Scotch cocktail he created that rather appealed to me for it contained Amaro Abano; indeed, the Scotch and Abano combination worked rather well in Les Kostinas' Blacksmith at Russell House Tavern.
The cocktail began with a bright orange oil aroma that balanced the darker notes from the Abano and Punt e Mes on the nose. A caramel and grape sip led into a Scotch swallow with a complex bitter herbal finish.

Monday, November 18, 2013

:: rethinking vermouth - the renaissance of fortified wine ::

Another talk I went to at Thirst Boston was entitled "Rethinking Vermouth: The Renaissance of Fortified Wine." For a good refresher, see the "Demystifying Vermouth" talk write-up from Portland Cocktail Week 2012. Overlapping in speakership in both talks was Imbue Vermouth's Neil Kopplin, and this talk also had Carl Sutton of Sutton Cellars and Adam Ford of Atsby Vermouth.

The basics of vermouth is that it is a wine aromatized (or flavored) with botanicals and fortified by a brandy; in fact, vermouth can be fortified by any fruit brandy but mostly it is a grape-based one. The concept of aromatized wine has been around for almost as long as people making wine. These flavorants were often added for medicinal purposes such as wormwood that first appeared in print in a 1500 BC Indian text on medicine. Eventually, people learned that the addition of a high proof spirit could not only stop fermentation but stabilize the product. While the Carpano family has been attributed to creating vermouth proper cerca 1786, lots of wine and spirits have had wormwood in it. For a great primer on the subject, the speakers recommended Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages by Patrick E. McGovern.

Domestically, America has a fantastic history with vermouth. Vermouth first hits our shores in the 1830s, but it is not until it makes its way to New York City in the 1860s that it truly embeds itself. What solidified its place was not in the old world aperitif but in the cocktail, and vermouth made the cocktail so much more than the basic spirits, bitters, sugar, and water. While the Europeans method of enjoying vermouth had a lot of tradition, the American way had a lot of creativity. Indeed, the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, for example, has over 174 vermouth recipes alone. And not all vermouth was coming from Europe, for in pre-Prohibition American, there were over 200 wineries making vermouth domestically.

Sutton Vermouth: Carl Sutton formed the company four years ago in November of 2009, and he sought to craft a vermouth that mixed well but was drinkable on its own. Carl later explained, "it has to taste good on its own... you cannot make a living a half ounce at a time." One of the company's earliest successes was to get on tap #10 at the Alembic in San Francisco, and he found it great that it was being served on tap like it often is in Barcelona. While most European vermouth is herbal and bitter, Sutton's Brown Label is fruit, floral, and herbal such as from the dried orange peel, rosemary, and chamomile in the mix.

Imbue Vermouth: Neil Kopplin spoke about the terroir being the key word to his vermouths. The Imbue Bittersweet, for example, is made from Oregon Pinot Gris wine made 60 miles away and Pinot Gris brandy distilled at nearby Clear Creek. The Bittersweet has around 50 grams sugar per liter added (in addition to natural grape sugars) putting it at the high end of dry vermouth but closer to bianco vermouth. Neil explained that no one knows what dry tastes like; people talk dry but drink sweet. Botanically speaking, the Bittersweet has orange peel, elderflower, chamomile, clove, and sage -- many of these ingredients were selected for their ability to complement the lemon and Granny Smith apple notes in the wine base. Overall, the product is rather Lillet-like in feel. The Imbue Petal & Thorn is Kopplin's other product with an aggressively sweet and bitter formulation. Gentian works well here but is quite different from traditional vermouth bittering agents. Eucalyptus, Egyptian chamomile, and cinnamon were some of the other botanicals mentioned that add a slightly feminine nature to this somewhat aggressive product.

Atsby Vermouth: Adam Ford wanted to make New York-style vermouth and named his company after a mid-19th century Manhattan center of entertainment, Assembly Theaters on Broadway. Atsby's Amber Thorn has a steel tank New York Chardonnay as a base and apple brandy as the fortifier. Nigella seed from Indian cooking and damiana from Mexican flavor this aromatized wine sweetened with raw summer honey. The 21 botanicals in the mix have a familiar flavor; Adam explained that many people declare, "it reminded me of something... positive, but I cannot identify it." To him, vermouth should stimulate the mind as well as the palate; it should trigger a memory. The other product Adam spoke about was Atsby's Armadillo Cake which has a completely different flavor profile. One of the curious botanicals is shiitake mushrooms for he grew up as a macrobiotic eating a lot of that mushroom with seaweed. Instead of honey, this vermouth is sweetened with dark Indian muscavado sugar caramel to add additional depth to the wine. As for a classification, it is neither a sweet nor a dry, so the vermouth really needs a new style name.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

private shandy

The theme for this month's Mixology Monday (MxMo LXXIX) was picked by Christa and Shaun of the BoozeNerds blog. The theme they chose was "Resin" which seems quite seasonally appropriate with Christmas trees being primed for decoration. The BoozeNerds elaborated on the concept by describing, "We thought hard about a theme that would work well for this time of year, and after contemplating the food, booze, and decor we like for the holidays, we settled on 'Resin.' From savory rosemary in a stuffing, to a delicious juniper-y gin in a martini, to a fragrant fir ornament or garnish, our friends the evergreens have a lot to offer... The challenge: come up with an ingenious creation using the resin-y ingredient of your choice. Zirbenz, retsina, hoppy IPA, pine-nut puree, even? Sure! Spirit, garnish, aroma, all are fair game. Whatever resin means to you, we want to hear it."

Given the excitement of the ThirstBoston events last weekend and my jam-packed work schedule before and after to make up for my time off, I did not have much time to search recipe books for the perfect resiny answer to this Mixology Monday riddle. However, I had been staring at the perfect recipe during these many shifts over the last two weeks, namely the Private Shandy created by Russell House Tavern's bar manager Sam Gabrielli here in Cambridge, MA. The Private Shandy pairs the elegant juniper note of Privateer Rum's gin with the resiny hoppiness of Blatant's IPA and perfectly fits the theme.
Private Shandy
• 1 1/2 oz Privateer Gin
• 3/4 oz Cinnamon Syrup
• 1/2 oz Housemade Pamplemousse Cordial (*)
• 1/2 oz Lemon Juice
Shake with ice and pour into a beer glass (~14 oz) containing 3 oz of Blatant (or other West Coast-style) IPA. Top with ice, garnish with a wide grapefruit swath, and add a straw.
(*) A commercial grapefruit liqueur like Combier would work well here as would making your own cordial using this recipe from Craigie on Main.
The wonder of the drink is how well the IPA beer's flavors match the other ingredients. The hops' pine and resin flavors complement the juniper and other botanicals in the gin, and the hops' citrus and grapefruit notes work elegantly with the grapefruit cordial and lemon juice. Finally, the cinnamon syrup ties together the drink with spice elements that go splendidly with the grapefruit, hops, and gin notes.
So thank you to Christa and Shaun of the BoozeNerds for picking the theme and running this month's show, and thanks to the rest of the Mixology Monday participants for keeping the spirit of the event alive!


2 oz Lillet Blanc
1 oz Savory & James Amontillado Sherry
3/4 oz Montelobos Mezcal (*)
1 dash Angostura Orange Bitters
1 pinch Salt

Stir to dissolve salt. Add ice, stir, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
(*) With a feistier mezcal like Vida, use 1/2 oz.

On Monday at Thirst during the lunch break, I stopped into the Genesis Tasting Suite. There, M.S. Walker was hosting the American Boutique Spirits Bar where a pair of bartenders were taking turns mixing up drinks every hour. Had I realized the line up, I would have tried to run up there more often between the talks. Luckily, I did get to catch the excellent Sean Frederick in action, and I requested the Flintlock, a smoky aperitif he created and served here with Montelobos Mezcal. Sean mentioned that when he developed the drink with Del Maguey Mezcal Vida, he used a half ounce, but the softer style of Montelobos allowed for a slightly larger pour to get the same degree of smokiness.
The Flintlock proffered a smoke aroma that was brightened by the twist's orange oil. The sherry and Lillet combined on the sip to conjure a lemony grape note. Finally, the swallow showcased a raisiny mezcal flavor, and the salt helped to cleanly close off the finish.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

:: rum - the world's most versatile spirit ::

On Monday at Thirst Boston, my first talk was Rum: The World's Most Versatile Spirit hosted by Bacardi's Jacob Briars and Heath Davis and Drink-alum Will Thompson. The main concept of the talk was how no spirit has the same adaptability and range as rum. Given the great number of styles and price points, they sought to give some order to the chaos. Produced in over 50 countries, some of which have rather relaxed laws, rum is definitely not as structured as say tequila or Scotch. And part of the affordability of rum as compared to other spirits has to do with that chaos as well as some historical conceptions of what rum is.

As a commonality, rum comes from sugar cane which is one of the world's biggest crops by acreage. Originally, this grass grew in Papua New Guinea, and it was taken around the world rather quickly in order to satiate people's search for energy. Products from fermented sugar cane have an 8000 year history where little changed, but 400 years ago, things changed forever. One of the biggest changes occurred in the middle of the 16th century with the Reformation. Honey had been the main source of energy to keep up with the beeswax candles made at monasteries; however, the Reformation did away with that. Around that same time, the world got addicted to coffee and tea and it needed a new energy source. Previously, sugar came as loaf sugar and the grinding was rather inconvenient to free the sweetness from this resinous brick. Once technology advanced through boiling, rectifying, and crystalizing, pure sugar crystals that did not require any grinding step and the demand took off. What was left after the purification was molasses, the major waste product of the sugar cane industry. While the first sugar cane distillates were cachaças in the early 1600s in Brazil, 1648 was the first time rum was reported to have been made with molasses. To make sense of rum, the speakers divided it up into three different styles: the English, the French, and the Spanish (or modern) styles.
English: The history of the English style took off with Britain finding Barbados, an island that was off of the major chain of islands and therefore had not been discovered or claimed by France or Spain. On Barbados, the English invented factory or modern production styles. One truism to this style is that the distillation methodology is unimportant with stills ranging from wooded ones to very formal and recognizable ones. What is important is the dunder; the mash is left in the fermenter and more molasses is added in. This style produces a resinous, rich style full of esters that allows it age well, be transported, and left on docks for storage. In Jamaica, they often take this to an extreme where they keep fermenting until the molasses mash stops bubbling, take some of it off for distillation, replenish the volume, and sometimes they never clean out the fermentation tank. The age statement on English rums is the minimum age.

French: French people are French. Since France based its purified sugar economy on sugar beets, they disallowed the import of sugar cane. Therefore, the whole cane is juiced and fermented fresh. Moreover, this cane juice product is fermented like an eau de vie. While the ashy volcanic soil is often attributed to what makes rhum agricoles have a certain flavor, it was pointed out that St. George makes a similar rum in California on different soils. While an A.O.C. tightly regulates the style in Martinique, often they are producing the product on patchwork stills, Mad Max style.

Spanish: The history of Spanish rum can be traced back to Columbus bringing over sugar cane seeds over on his second voyage in 1493; while this batch of seeds did not succeed, 7 years later, sugar cane was growing in Hispaniola. The 1620s saw the first rum distilleries in Cuba as compared to the 1650s when rum production became an industry in Boston. The continuous still made for a cleaner rum style. Controlled fermentation, proprietary yeast, filtration, and purposeful aging and blending all aid in defining the style and regulating its purity today. Unlike the English style of age statements, the number is either the maximum age of the rum contained or solely having the style of that age. For example, Zacapa 23 Year is made mostly of 4-6 year rums but it tastes much older.

The breakfast of champions...
Of the three styles we tasted examples of, the Smith & Cross (English style) was most like rye whiskey, the rhum agricole (French style) like pisco, and the Bacardi (Spanish style) like gin with a crisp, light, and mixable feel. Overall, Cuban-style rum needs something to make it elevated for it is not a sipper; mixology is necessary to unpack its features. Jenning Cox helped this aspect by creating (or at least naming and being documented) the Daiquiri in the late 1800s. The next big advancement was the Tiki craze which was a perfect way to elevate rum; especially with the preconceptions after the 1930s when rum is what people drank if they had nothing else.

Finally, it was pointed out that most rum these days is made with molasses not produced on that island. Most of this molasses is imported from Venezuela and Brazil. What defines the island is the style of what they do with the molasses after they import it. Clearly, the exception is French-styled rums given the A.O.C. rules on Martinique.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

:: pirates, partisans, & grandmothers - the legacy and use of sherry ::

One of the other talks I went to at Thirst Boston on Sunday was Pirates, Partisans, & Grandmothers: The Legacy and Use of Sherry given by Jackson Cannon and Derek Brown. Jackson Cannon is well known here in Boston as the leader of the Kenmore bar trilogy -- Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and Hawthorne -- as well as recently the second runner up in the 2012 Vinos de Jerez sherry cocktail competition. Washington D.C.'s Derek Brown opened up the Passenger and Columbia Room in 2009 and 6 months ago launched Mockingbird Hill that features 90 sherries. Derek explained that the focus for the talk was "How to unfuck sherry?", for many people believe that only old people drink sherry. He thought that it would be cool if they actually did, but it is not the case anymore. 

Sherry's history goes back to ancient times with 3000 years of history. The Phoenicians took vines throughout the ancient world, and the wines that came about were quite different but had some similarities especially with the modern sweeter styles of sherry. The Moors advanced sherry making by taking the new advancements of science, namely distillation, from North Africa into Spain. The fortification of wine proved to be advantageous especially during the Age of Exploration for regular wines would go bad on a ship's voyage while wines with additional proof would be stable for longer. Although Columbus took sherry on his voyages to the New World, it was Magellan who set the record by spending more money on sherry than on food and workers. Later, sherry solidified its place in Spanish viticulture by becoming the country's first Denominación de Origen.

Three main grape types predominate sherry production. The Palamino grape grows well on chalky soils similar to those found in Champagne and Cognac in France. The Palamino is technically three different and accounts for 97% of all plantings in Jerez. The other two are Pedro Ximénez and Muscatel which grow better on clay-based soils. PX is often raisinated, except for the dry sherry versions, from sun maturation before fermentation. Meanwhile, the Muscatel is not as sun-concentrated and displays earthy fruit notes; this grape produces wines closer to the ancient Phoenician style.

Derek broke down sherry into 3 'F' words. First, fortify. Sherry starts out as a still table wine that is fortified to around 15% ABV. Second, flor. The flor is a thick, white cap of yeast that protects the wine from being oxidized. Finally, fractionalized blending. Sherry often utilizes a solera system where a third of each barrel is taken away and replaced with newer wines. Statistically, some old sherry is still present in the solera.

There are four major styles of dry sherries. The Fino made from Palamino grapes maintains that protective layer of flor and keeps a non-oxidized flavor. The Manzanilla is more localized for it is a Fino produced in Sanlúcar. When the flor is not allowed to develop such as by killing it in the fortification step or by getting rid of it, it will oxidize and become an Oloroso. The Amontillado is another oxidized sherry that has the nose of an Oloroso and the finish of a Fino. A fifth dry sherry is the Palo Cortado that tastes like an Amontillado and an Oloroso, but it is a designation assigned by a committee as judged for the wine's flavor characteristics.

As for sweet sherries, the two major ones are Pedro Ximénez and Muscatel with both using sun-drenched raisinated processes and different fortification methods than the dry sherries. Cream is a mix of Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez sherries with Lustau's East India Solera being one of the more famous. Pale Cream, on the other hand, is grape syrup mixed with a Fino -- a style that erupted in the 1970s with Harveys Bristol Cream. A Medium designation was recently added, but Derek would love to see that one go away.

The popularity of sherry boomed with the Cobbler that was first mentioned by Washington Irving in 1809. While it is a simple drink, it requires crushed ice and its success rapidly followed Frederic Tudor's first ice shipments starting in 1806. Its success went hand-in-hand with the spread of ice appreciation in drinks. Back then, the Cobbler was mostly made with oxidized sherries that were slightly sweet. Derek mentioned that his favorite use of sherry was in the Adonis which is basically a Sherry Manhattan with sweet vermouth, orange and aromatic bitters.

Since sherry is exceedingly complex with over 300 volatile elements, it often pairs very well with food. Some classic combinations in Spain are Fino and ham, Manzanilla and oysters, and Amontillado and egg. Sherry has also recently worked well the bone and oyster luges phenomenon (pouring the wine over where the bone marrow or mollusk once was).

When asked if they could only have three bottles of sherry, Derek began by listing a Manzanilla from either La Gitana or La Cigarrera, an Amontillado such as Lustau's Los Arcos, and a Cream for sweetness such as Lustau East India Solera. Jackson commented that Lustau's E.I.S. has proven to be an indispensable cocktail ingredient and definitely agreed with Derek's list. He rounded out his list with an Oloroso such as from Alvear and a Palo Cortado such as Hidalgo's 30 Year Wellington.