Friday, January 31, 2014

[silver lining]

1 1/4 oz Bols Genever
3/4 oz Aperol
1/2 oz Elderflower Liqueur (St. Elder)
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 Egg White

Shake once without ice and once with ice. Strain into a Collins glass, top with tonic water (~3 oz), and add a straw.
Thursday two weeks ago, I decided to make a drink that I spotted on the Bols Bartending's Traveling Cocktail Book series on Facebook. The recipe was submitted by Matty Clark of the Silver Lining in New York; since it lacked a name, I dubbed it after the bar itself. Once mixed, it offered a floral and herbal aroma. A creamy, carbonated sip shared lemon flavors along with fruit notes from the Aperol and elderflower liqueur. Finally, a bitter herbal swallow from the Genever mixing with the tonic's quinine paired well with St. Elder's floral notes.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

tamboo

1 oz St. George Terroir Gin
1 oz Sutton Cellars Brown Label Vermouth
1 oz Elcano Fino Sherry
1 dash Celery Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe. Garnish with an olive and twist an orange peel over the top.

For my first cocktail at Sarma, I asked bartender Vikram Hedge for the Tamboo. I figured at first that the name was a hybrid of Terroir Gin and the classic aperitify Bamboo Cocktail, but I was curious for I know Vik is a bit craftier than that. I discovered that the tamboo bamboo is a precursor of the steelpan drum invented in the Caribbean, and while it is antiquated, it still gets use in Trinidad at carnival. It was originally created to get around the European colonizers' ban on drumming, and bamboo of different lengths and hence pitches are thumped against the ground to generate the notes.
The Tamboo's orange oils contributed greatly to the nose. A white grape sip shared hints of citrus and savory flavors, and the swallow offered the gin tempered by the savory grape notes. Even with the addition of the gin, the Tamboo still worked perfectly as an aperitif.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

aslan's reviver

1 oz Raki
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
3 oz Yogurt Syrup (*)
3/4 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a Collins glas. Fill with ice, add a straw, and garnish with an orange twist.
(*) 2 parts yogurt, 1 part simple syrup. 6 drops orange blossom water per cup.

Two weeks ago, we ventured down the street to Sarma where we found seats at the bar in front of Vikram Hedge. For a first libation, Andrea requested the Aslan's Reviver. Perhaps she was drawn to the novel ingredients or perhaps the C.S. Lewis reference. Vik described how the recipe was crafted by Maxine Sharkey Giammo, and he passed the drink order on to her to make.
The orange twist's oils brightened the yogurt driven aroma. A creamy yogurt sip led into an herbal and anise finish. Andrea described the Aslan's Reviver aptly as "it's like a grown-up lassi."

Monday, January 27, 2014

libertine

1 1/2 oz Ransom Old Tom Gin
1/2 oz Clement Creole Shrubb
1/2 oz Orgeat
1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass.
For a final drink at the Barrel House in Beverly, I requested the Libertine from bartender John Wierszchalek. The ingredients list reminded me of an Army Navy with extra citrus flavors from an orange liqueur. Once mixed, the Libertine shared a floral, orange, and lemon aroma. A creamy citrus sip gave way to a gin and nutty swallow.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

:: arctic chill ice ball maker review ::

A month or two ago, I was contacted by Rizzi at Arctic Chill to review their muddler. Since I already have way too many muddlers between my own purchases and swag at various events, I offered the suggestion that I review their ice ball maker instead. I was curious what their product could offer for I was a bit frustrated with my current ice ball maker, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) ice tray set (the pink device in the photos below) that I purchased cerca 2009 or 2010. One problem with it is that its hard plastic does not bend so it is hard to eject the ice ball; prying it out with a bar spoon or running how water on the outside to loosen things up seems to work. The hard plastic also makes me worry that it will shatter when separating the halves. The other problem with the MoMA one is due to the inherent nature of water freezing into ice -- namely that ice expands 10% from the water volume during freezing. This expansion leads to the top half of the tray lifting up and forming a ridge of ice around the equator of each ball. This ice has to be trimmed away through percussion with the back of the spoon or with hot water from a faucet. I definitely wanted to see if technology had improved.
Some time after that, she took me up on the suggestion and sent me a four pack for review purposes. Arctic Chill's product is made from BPA-free silicone so it seemed like that would solve the hard plastic issue for mold separation and ball ejection that I experience with MoMA's. But how would it work with water expansion during freezing and how easy would it be to free the ice ball from the mold? To answer this, I made a pair of ice balls using both the MoMA and the Arctic Chill molds. While MoMA requires the bottom tray to be filled up and the top to be lowered over it until all air is expressed, the Arctic Chill ones can be filled from the top hole (submersion in a bowl of water would work too). No leakage was noted during filling of the Arctic Chill. Possibly the Arctic Chill ball's water fill could be calibrated to allow for some expansion during freezing. The MoMA method makes this partial fill a bit more challenging but not impossible to try this out. One commenter to the post suggested "plac[ing] a weight, like an ice pack, on the top prior to freezing" to reduce the lifting up aspect of the MoMA molds, although the only place for the expansion to occur is out the small hole at the top.
After freezing, the MoMA separated more on one side which caused one of the two balls to have a crater on top. The separation also formed a thick ridge that needed a bit of effort to clean up on both balls; it was still evident after a bit of chipping (hard to make out in the last photo due to color contrast, but it is the 1/8-1/4 inch ridge that runs from 11 to 5 o'clock on the left ice ball). When put in a drink, the remnants of the ridge do go away over time. One of the two Arctic Chill balls separated more than the other; the less separated one seemed to have bled the excess out the top instead. Both Arctic Chill ice balls were easy to clean up since there was only a thin ridge at the mold half intersection; however, a nipple from the mold's fill hole remained though. As for removing the balls, the MoMA ones still had the problems associated with hard plastic and required a short time under the hot water tap. The Arctic Chill ones came free with only a minimal degree of effort; they were slightly adhered to the mold but did not require heat or tools to free them.
Overall, the Arctic Chill ball molds were quite nice, and I experienced little frustration with them. They did produce a more attractive and less labor intensive 2 1/2 inch ice sphere than my old set. I do not know how they compare to say Tovolo's model, but I am guessing that they are pretty comparable. On Amazon, a set of four ice ball molds sells for $24.95. Indeed, they will definitely be replacing my old set.

Friday, January 24, 2014

cooper

1 1/2 oz Riverboat Rye
3/4 oz Pineau des Charentes
3/4 oz Averna

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass.
For my first drink at the Barrel House in Beverly, I asked bartender John Wierszchalek for the Cooper for I had honed in on the Pineau des Charentes in the ingredients list. There is something about how elegant and floral that this fortified wine is that repeatedly draws me in. That, and how well it paired with Averna in the Marksman at Craigie on Main. Once mixed, the Cooper began with a floral, herbal, and caramel nose that later gave way to a more rye-driven aroma. On the sip, caramel and malt led into rye spice on the swallow and herbal notes from the Averna on the swallow.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

midtown

2 oz Old Fitzgerald Bonded Bourbon
1 oz Lustau East India Solera Sherry
2 barspoon Maple Syrup (1:1)
4 dash Fee's Black Walnut Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass.

Two Sundays ago, we drove up to the North Shore to have dinner at the Barrel House in Beverly, MA. For a first cocktail, Andrea asked bartender John Wierszchalek for the Midtown. I had first heard of this libation created by bar manager Sean Maher when it won the ShakeStir sherry recipe competition back in November. Sean described his entry as, "Created for a guest, this Manhattan variant utilizes the nutty profile of both the sherry, whiskey and bitters, with the tiny bit of maple rounding it off and giving it body. The cocktail has a full rich flavor evoking New England in the fall without being cloying or sweet."
The Midtown proffered a raisiny sherry aroma at first that later became more maple driven. Next, the sherry's grape filled the sip, and the swallow presented the whiskey that was complemented by the interplay of the maple syrup's richness, the sherry's raisin notes, and the bitters' walnut.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

incanto

1 oz Cynar
1 oz St. Germain (St. Elder)
1 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a flute glass. Top with 2 oz cava (Gruet Blanc de Blanc) and garnish with a lemon twist spiral.

Two Saturdays ago, after making the Moxie Highballs for Mixology Monday, I turned to Sanctuaria: The Dive Bar of Cocktail Bars for our next libation. There, I spotted the Incanto which seemed like a delightful sparkling wine cocktail especially given how well elderflower liqueur and Cynar pair such as in the Alto Cucina. Instead of St. Germain, I opted for St. Elder which is produced here in Somerville, MA. We were gifted a bottle by the producers, and I was quite pleased to receive it for we have had good luck with it at work such as in the Battle of Trafalgar. While I would probably be able to identify each liqueur in a blind taste test, the flavor profiles are definitely rather similar and St. Elder has a much more attractive price point.

Once mixed, the Incanto offered a bright lemon oil aroma from the twist. The citrus elements continued on into the sip where they mingled with the crisp sparkling white wine and the St. Elder's pear notes. Finally, the swallow offered floral flavors mixed with earthy bitterness.

chicago typewriter

3/4 oz Bols Genever
3/4 oz Rye Whiskey
3/4 oz Punt e Mes
3/4 oz Aperol
2 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lemon oil.

After the Graduate, I decided to make a recipe that I had spotted on the Bols Bartending Facebook page called the Chicago Typewriter. The drink was created by Brian Summers of the Parish in Los Angeles, and it was named after one of the many nicknames for the Thompson submachine gun. The combination of rye, Punt e Mes, Aperol, and bitters reminded me of the Arthur Avenue that James Miranda crafted at Russell House Tavern over the summer (see below), although that had a more citrus angle to it.
The Chicago Typewriter offered a lemon oil aroma that combined with the Genever's malt and the Aperol's orange-rhubarb notes. The malt continued on into the sip along with the Punt e Mes' grape and the Aperol's orange. Finally, the Genever's botanicals and Punt e Mes' bitter notes mingled on the swallow.
Arthur Avenue
• 1 1/4 oz Old Overholt Rye Whiskey
• 1 1/4 oz Aperol
• 3/4 oz Punt e Mes
• 3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice
• 1 dash Angostura Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist a grapefruit peel over the top.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

the graduate

3/4 oz Campari
3/4 oz Crème de Cassis (G.E. Massenez)
3/4 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a flute glass. Top with sparkling wine (Gruet Blanc de Blanc) and garnish with an orange twist.

Two Thursdays ago, we began the cocktail hour with a recipe I spotted in Imbibe Magazine's online supplement to their current issue called the Graduate. The recipe was attributed to Upstairs on the Square, and since my Harvard Square work-neighbor had just closed their doors that week on New Years Eve, I figured it was the time for a toast. In addition, the combination of crème de cassis, Campari, and citrus reminded me of the Teresa, and the addition of sparkling wine triggered thoughts of how Jackson Cannon modified the original recipe with soda water in the Theresa #4.
The orange twist notes supplemented the dark berry aromas of the cassis. A crisp citrus and wine flavor mixed with the berry-fruit notes in the sip, and the swallow showcased the interplay of the cassis and Campari. Overall, the balance was more tart and complex than bitter.

Monday, January 20, 2014

la mirage

1 3/4 oz Batavia Arrack
3/4 oz Aguardiente Antioqueño (*)
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Simple Syrup
1 dash Fee's Chocolate Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
(*) In a pinch, substitute a white rum with a barspoon of anisette, raki, or absinthe.
Two Tuesdays ago, we braved the cold blustery weather and made our way to Casa B in Union Square, Somerville, to have dinner. For a drink, bartender Taso Papatsoris suggested an off-menu Batavia Arrack cocktail called La Mirage. Once mixed, it offered an orange oil aroma that led into a lemon sip. The Batavia Arrack funky rum flavors then led off the swallow that ended with anise and chocolate notes on the finish.

Friday, January 17, 2014

improved toxic moxie

The theme for this month's Mixology Monday (MxMo LXXXI) was picked by Joel of the Southern Ash blog. The theme he chose was "Highballs" which is perfect for when the winter doldrums get you down, and you have just enough energy for combining a spirit and a mixer. Joel elaborated on the concept by describing, "For this month's theme, I thought we could strip away the complexities of cocktails and relax with a nice highball… Most cocktails are at least three ingredients with the highball relegated to emergency or last resort status, but in those highballs we will seek refuge. The end of the day is sometimes better served by a simple liquor plus mixer combination than an artfully measured Corpse Reviver No. 2 This month, tell us what you'll do with a liquor and a mixer (with maybe a wee bit of garnish) to ease into the new year."

After bouncing around a couple of ideas, I decided to return to a combination that I tried back in 2009 as well as cover a local redux that I overlooked at an event I was at in 2009. That first drink was one I spotted on the Two At the Most blog -- the Fernet Branca and Moxie Original Elixir. While I probably do not need to explain what Fernet Branca is, Moxie is more of a regional treat. Or perhaps an acquired taste, not much unlike Fernet. Although Moxie is often tied to Maine where it became the state's official soft drink back in 2005, it was actually created in Massachusetts back in 1876. A Dr. Augustin Thompson filed a patent for "Moxie Nerve Food," a medicine using a South American plant allegedly discovered by his friend, Lt. Moxie, and this was later changed to a soda formulation similar to what is seen today. That South American plant was none other than gentian; while cocktailians frequently enjoy gentian root flavors such as in Bonal and Salers, much of the general public finds it a bit bizarre.
Fernet Branca and Moxie Original Elixir
• 1 1/2 oz Fernet Branca
• 3 - 6 oz Moxie Original Elixir
Fill a Collins glass with ice cubes. Add Fernet Branca and top with Moxie soda. Gently stir and garnish with an orange slice (I did an orange twist instead).
Once assembled, the orange twist filled the air with a bright aroma that belied the taste to follow. A dark, caramel sip led into a beautiful combination of gentian and menthol herbalness on the swallow. Indeed, the two components worked well to balance the other out.
In searching for this drink recipe, I also turned up a Boston recipe from a Fernet Branca event that I attended at the Franklin Southie in 2009. That night, I had Emma Hollander's Bonita Applebum and had already tried Misty Kalkofen's Villa de Verano earlier that year at Tales of the Cocktail. But it was Joy Richard's Improved Toxic Moxie (in addition to others) that I neglected and returned to for this post.
Improved Toxic Moxie
• 1 1/2 oz Rittenhouse 100 Rye
• 3/4 oz Fernet Branca
• 3 dash Fee's Whiskey Barrel Bitters
• ~4 oz Moxie Original Elixir
Fill a Collins glass with ice cubes. Add ingredients and top with Moxie soda. Gently stir and garnish with an orange twist.
While the recipe has too many ingredients to classify as a two part Highball as per the theme, I had already cracked open a liter bottle of Moxie and decided to go to town and make better use of it. The addition of the Fee's Whiskey Barrel Bitters in this second recipe contributed a cinnamon aroma to that of the citrus oils from the orange twist. Moreover, the rye added a malt component to caramel sip and a whiskey barrel component to the otherwise complex herbal swallow. In addition, the bitters returned by donating a cinnamon finish. Overall, the Improved Toxic Moxie came across as more balanced than Fernet and Moxie alone due to being less herbally driven.

So thank you to Joel of Southern Ash 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!

bitter stripper

30 mL Plymouth Gin (1 1/2 oz Martin Miller)
20 mL Dolin Blanc Vermouth (1 oz)
10 mL Salers Gentian Liqueur (1/2 oz)
5 mL Cointreau (1/4 oz)


Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist. Note: I increased the volumes by 1.5x when converting (30 mL is about the same as an ounce).

After the Duke of Marlborough, I decided to reach for Gary Regan's The Negroni for my next drink. The one that grabbed me, both for the ingredients and the name, was the Bitter Stripper. Dee Allen of 399 in Perth, Australia, created this drink with the idea of making a clear Negroni variation that eschews sweet vermouth and Campari. Of course blanc vermouth for sweet is an obvious swap, and the combination of bitterness from the gentian liqueur and the orange notes from the Cointreau seem to make sense for the Campari. Indeed, the extra orange notes take the 2002 vintage White Negroni a step further. The gin component was left intact, and for a spirit choice, I opted for Martin Miller's gin for earlier that day I had learned of Miller's death. So cheers to Martin for leading such an amazing life!
The Bitter Stripper's orange twist presented bright citrus notes over the bitter, earthy gentian aroma. A sweet citrussy wine sip gave way to a swallow that began with juniper and gentian and ended with an orange finish. Clearly a different set of flavor components save for the gin, but the overall feel of the cocktail was definitely akin to a classic Negroni.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

duke of marlborough

1/2 Sherry (1 oz Lustau Amontillado)
1/2 Sweet Vermouth (1 oz Dolin)
3 dash Raspberry Syrup (1/2 oz Royal Rose)
Juice 1 Lime

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Two Saturdays ago, we began the cocktail hour with a drink from the 1975 edition of Patrick Duffy's The Official Mixer's Manual called the Duke of Marlborough. I was drawn to the drink for it felt like it was the aperitif form of the Quaker Cocktail or perhaps the sherry-fied version of the Davis Cocktail. While I could have used a sweeter sherry and less raspberry syrup, I felt amontillado would work well here, and that also allowed me to use these more standard proportions. In retrospect, perhaps bumping the ounce of sherry and sweet vermouth to an ounce and a half might work even better.
The Duke of Marlborough presented the sherry and vermouth's grape aroma. Next, a crisp lime-berry combination supplemented by the grape on the sip led in to a nutty sherry swallow. Indeed, the raspberry and sherry combination definitely worked rather well here which supported my gut instinct to reach for the amontillado (although I could see other sherries such as Lustau's East India Solera prospering here).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

dessert l'italienne

1 oz Santa Maria al Monte
1 oz Amaro Braulio
1/2 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz Galliano
1/4 oz Espresso Syrup (*)

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass.
(*) Espresso liqueur will sub in a pinch.
For a cocktail at Belly Wine Bar, I requested the Dessert L'Italienne from bartender Ryan Connelly. I assumed, especially from the ingredients list of digestifs, that it was his post-meal answer to the classic Appetizer L'Italienne from William Schmidt's 1891 book The Flowing Bowl. Ryan explained that the Galliano's star anise notes were taking the place of the absinthe's anise in the classic. Interestingly, Ryan's OnTheBar account has an early version of the recipe as:
Dessert L'Italienne (early version)
• 2 oz Santa Maria al Monte
• 1 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
• 2 barspoon Galliano
Stir with ice and strain into a wine glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
When made with the newer, more complex recipe, the Dessert L'Italienne provided a pleasing menthol and camphor herbal aroma that shifted towards a more coffee-driven one over time. The amari's caramel flavors joined that of the espresso's roast notes on the sip, and the swallow was a complex herbal medley that ended with a coffee finish.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

astra

1 1/2 oz Dolin Blanc
1/2 oz Laird's 7 1/2 Year Apple Brandy
1/2 oz CapRock Gin
1/2 oz Cardamaro
1 dash Regan's Orange Bitters

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

After Kirkland Tap & Trotter on New Years Day, I met up with Andrea for dinner near Kendall Square. For a nightcap, we ventured over to Belly Wine Bar where Ryan Connelly was bartending. Ryan greeted us with a half portion each of his Astra, a recipe he created as a low proof option for New Years Eve. He mentioned that the proportions had a similarity to The Messenger that he created a few weeks before. I had heard about the Astra via Facebook or OnTheBar although the name then seemed to be "Per Aspera Ad Astra," a Latin phrase meaning "Through hardships to the stars."
The Astra's lemon oils greeted the nose and prepared the mouth for the apple and grape sip. The swallow showcased a herbal, tea-like flavor with an orange finish; indeed, Andrea likened that flavor to chamomile tea.

monkey bush

1 1/2 oz Monkey Shoulder Scotch
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Demerara Syrup

Shake with ice. Add ~1/4 oz Massenez Crème de Mure to the bottom of a rocks glass, fill with crushed ice, and gently strain in the drink. Top with 2 dash Peychaud's Bitters and add straws.
After the Pinky Ring, I asked bartender Tyler Wang for the Monkey Bush appearing on the cocktail menu. Tyler described it as Bramble-like, except that the liqueur was not drizzled over the top but placed on the bottom à la a Sunrise from the start. Once assembled, the garnish of Peychaud's Bitters offered up an anise-laden nose. The sip was either citrus and malt forward or blackberry with crisp citrus depending on the height of the straw. Finally, the drink ended with a smoky swallow.

Monday, January 13, 2014

pinky ring

1 1/2 oz Pineau des Charentes
1 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse
1 dash Regan's Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe.

After working a tough New Years Day brunch shift, I sought refuge at Kirkland Tap & Trotter on the way home. There, Kenny Belanger and Tyler Wang were tending bar, and I ended up getting a drink made by both of them. For a light starter, I started with Kenny's Pinky Ring which reminded him of the Chrysanthemum. With Pineau des Chartentes in the mix, I was definitely interested.
The Pinky Ring shared a white grape and floral bouquet. A grape and honey sip led into a herbal swallow with a minty finish. Overall, the Pinky Ring had a delightfully light and elegant feel to it.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

arrack and a hard place

3/4 oz Batavia Arrack
3/4 oz Smith & Cross Rum
3/4 oz Combier Orange Liqueur
3/4 oz Amaretto
3/4 oz Lime Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with 2 dashes Fee's Whiskey Barrel Bitters and add straws.

Two Mondays ago, I wandered down to Brick & Mortar after work to get one more night out before New Years Eve craziness followed by New Years Day closures across town (except for Russell House Tavern since I had to work both days). For a cocktail, bar manager Matthew Schrage suggested that I ask Cristal for the cocktail that she created for the Central Kitchen menu called the Arrack & A Hard Place.
Cristal was more than happy to oblige, and the drink began with a wave of cinnamon aromas from the bitters garnish. The orange and lime citrus notes in the sip were joined by amaretto's almond flavor. Finally, the swallow offered Batavia Arrack and Smith & Cross's funky rum notes that met the amaretto's nuttiness and the lime's crispness on the finish. Given the nuttiness of the amaretto, the recipe did share a resemblance to a Mai Tai although one with a different range of flavors.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

window to the flor

1 1/2 oz Lustau Don Nuño Oloroso Sherry
1 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc (Cocchi Americano)
1/4 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
2 dash Regan's Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

After the Bird's Eye View, I decided to make a drink that I had spotted in the collection of most recent Vinos de Jerez cocktail competition finalists. That one was the Windows to the Flor by Kevin Diedrich of Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen in San Francisco. Its resemblance to the classic Bamboo Cocktail lured me in besides having enjoyed Kevin's In 2 Deep from Left Coast Libations in the past.
The oloroso sherry added a nice raisiny aroma to the caramel and orange nose. The sherry also donated a grape note to the brandied citrus sip and a nutty raisin flavor to the orange peel-laden swallow. Definitely a different beast from the Bamboo, but just as light and delightful.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

bird's eye view

1 1/2 oz Eagle Rare Bourbon (Bulleit)
3/4 oz Ramazzotti Amaro
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth (Dolin)
1/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse

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

Two Saturdays ago, we began the cocktail hour with a drink I spotted on Gary Regan's 101 Best New Cocktails of 2013 list called the Bird's Eye View. The drink was created by Steve Shur of the Boston College Club; since it is a private club only open to the public during restaurant week, I decided to make this one at home instead of having it made at the creator's bar.
The Bird's Eye View began with lemon oil notes that accented the Bourbon aroma. A combination of malt, grape, and caramel dotted the sip, and the swallow began with the whiskey and ended with herbal orange flavors. Overall, it was not as orangey as I thought it would be given the quarter portion of Ramazzotti, and it made for an excellent Manhattan variation.

dare i say?

1 oz Rye (Rittenhouse 100)
1/2 oz Fernet Branca
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth (Cocchi)
1/2 oz Aperol
2 dash Rhubarb or Peychaud's Bitters (Peychaud's)

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

On Christmas Eve, we stayed in to cook and have cocktails. For a first drink, I opened up the January/February issue of Imbibe Magazine and spotted the Dare I Say? The drink was crafted by Karah Carmack of the Cured in San Antonio and seemed like an interesting Manhattan variation for post-prandial consumption. While we did not have rhubarb bitters which would have complemented the Aperol rather well, the recipe recommended using Peychaud's in a pinch.
The Dare I Say? began with a sweet menthol herbalness on the nose. A sweet grape and orange sip gave way to rye, Fernet Branca's bitter herbal flavors, and a fruity finish on the swallow. Overall, the drink was perfect for helping to digest our large Christmas eve dinner.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

black douglas

1 1/2 oz Johnnie Walker Red Blended Scotch
3/4 oz Lustau East India Solera Sherry
1/2 oz Licor 43
2 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

A few Mondays ago, after my DJ gig, we headed over to Eastern Standard for dinner. For a drink, I asked bartender Kevin not-Martin for the Black Douglas; he explained how the cocktail name was a reference to James Douglas. Douglas besides mounting a guerilla war against the English in the 14th century also fought the Moors in Spain. The drink structure reminded me of their rum-based Ponce de Léon from their early 2009 menu.
The sherry and Licor 43 combined to provide a grape and sweet spice aroma. Similarly, the sip offered a sweet grape flavor, and the swallow began with Scotch notes and ended with vanilla, raisin, and smoke elements.

Monday, January 6, 2014

my leathers so soft

3/4 oz St. George Agricole Rum
3/4 oz Bigallet Viriana China China
3/4 oz Cinnamon Syrup
3/4 oz Pineapple Juice
3/4 oz Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a wine glass. Top with ice, garnish with mint sprigs and a lemon twist, and add straws.

At Sichuan Garden II, one of the drinks Ran Duan made for Andrea was the My Leathers So Soft off of the current cocktail menu. I was quite curious to see how the dark orange peel and quinine notes of the Bigalett China-China would play with the agricole rum and pineapple in the mix.
The lemon twist and mint sprig garnishes contributed greatly to the drink's nose. A fruity lemon and pineapple sip led into a more complex swallow that began with grassy rum flavors and ended with a dark orange, cinnamon, and bitter herbal finish. Even with all of the flavors, the My Leathers So Soft proved to be an easy drinking Tiki libation.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

no stone unturned

1 1/2 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz Lustau Pedro Ximénez Sherry
1/2 oz Fernet Branca
1/2 oz St. George's Absinthe

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass containing a large ice cube. Garnish the ice cube with a pinch of salt.

A few Thursdays ago, we made the pilgrimage to Woburn to have dinner at Sichuan Garden II. Behind the bar that night were bartenders Vannaluck Hongthong and Joel Atlas who were later joined by Ran Duan. For a first drink, I asked Vannaluck for the No Stone Unturned for it reminded me of their Royal Flush with a raisiny sherry in place of that one's crème de cacao. Moreover, this one had the addition of a pinch of salt to sooth the intensity of the bitter herbal notes.
The No Stone Unturned presented a robust grape note that was accented by the absinthe's anise and the Fernet Branca's menthol aromas. A caramel and grape sip gave way to a raisiny swallow, an anise finish, and a lingering menthol flavor. Over time, as the salt melted the ice cube and dripped into the drink, the Fernet Branca diminished in strength while the absinthe seemed less changed.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

dwarf leopard

2 oz Ron Abuela Rum
1 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Velvet Falernum
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
1 dash Allspice Dram
1 Egg White

Shake once without and once with ice. Strain into a rocks glass.

Before the year end wrap-ups, I was describing the Emperor's New Clothes that I had at Estragon. That night, one of the guests a few seats down the bar was John Drew of Blue Dragon, and he and I began discussing the White Witch from Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide. Since that got me in a Tiki frame of mind, I asked bartender Sahil Mehta for the Dwarf Leopard that I had spotted earlier in his recipe notebook. I was a little confused by the name until I figured out that the rum he used was Panamanian, and the Dwarf Leopard is another name for the ocelot relative that lives there.
The Dwarf Leopard offered a minty, herbal, and spiced aroma that led into a creamy and crisp lime sip. The rich aged rum began the swallow that contained herbal, lime, clove, and allspice notes. Just as I figured, with the collection of ingredients such as this, it could do no wrong.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

:: fred's picks for the top cocktails of 2013 (in) ::

I will complete my fourth annual trilogy of year end wrap up posts by picking out the best recipes we tried at our home bar this year. While I did create a few recipes this year both at home and at work, I will tack a few of my favorite ones at the end and keep this list solely to recipes created by bartenders, living, deceased, and unknown, from around the world.


January: It was easier to pick the top 3 drinks of the month than to sort out the order. In the end, I gave the nod to the tempered Fernet Branca La Yapa crafted by Jamal Hassan from the Ox Restaurant and Whey Bar in Portland, Oregon. For runners up, the Hemingway Daiquiri and Creole Contentment-like Throw The Horns from Jeff Baumann of the beer Mecca the Prohibition Pig in Waterbury, Vermont, and the seasonal Tiki-inspired Winter Daiquiri by Mindy Kucan of Hale Pele in Portland, Oregon, get the mention.

February: For a winner, I opted for the beer cocktail version of his Michigander, namely Jason Schiffer's Detroiter from 320 Main in Seal Beach, California. For a runner up, I narrowed it down to one, the Kirkwood by Miles Macquarrie of Leon's Full Service in Decatur, Georgia; the recipe triggers thoughts of Evan Harrison's Peralta and Stephen Schellenberger's Alto Cucina.
March: Making me think of Gilda and Underneath the Volcano, Chris Lane's Broken Flower at Lolinda in San Francisco acquires March's slot. For bronze and silver (in no particular order) are Colin Shearn's equal parts number Sideways in Reverse that he concocted at Philadelphia's Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co., and Yao Lu's Campari-driven Swizzle, the Witchy Woman at Houston's Anvil Bar & Refuge.

April: Chris Hannah's amaro riff on the Martinez, the Amertinez, from Arnaud's French 75 in New Orleans captivated me with both Cynar and Averna variations. Also worth mentioning are Donato Alvarez's mezcal-cucumber Going Back to Mezcali from the Sixth Engine in Washington, D.C., and the lesser known Brown Derby from Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933.

May: For a pick of the month, I selected Joaquín Simó's Mutiny Suppressor from Manhattan's Pouring Ribbons; a great complexity was generated with lesser used Galliano and Amaro Nardini ingredients. For runners up, both came from Gary Regan's The Negroni book, namely Joseph Boley of Paris' Red House's variation on Sam Ross' Left Hand called the Southpaw and Kevin Burke of Denver's Colt & Gray's salt-tempered amaro Bottecchia.
June: For the win, I picked Bobby Heugel's Cortez Julep, a tequila and sherry Julep he invented at the Anvil in Houston. For place and show (in no particular order) are the rum and Madeira Fix, the White House, from Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933, and the Fernet-containing Champagne cocktail the Imperial Delight from 1940's The How and When.

July: The quirky sherry-containing Pimm's Cup, the Moretta Cocktail, from The Mutineer Magazine's event at Tales of the Cocktail soothed the discomfort of not being in New Orleans for the event. For second honors, the refreshing aperitif, the Queen Elizabeth Cocktail, from The How and When, and the Scotch-Madeira 91st Division from Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933 got selected.

August: For a pick, I went with Jacob Grier's Cognac, smoky tea, and spice Lion's Share at Metrovino. For support, there are the Honeymoon- and Scofflaw-esque Argentina from 1934 Boothby's World Drinks And How To Mix Them and the Genever-amaro-maple Western Front by Adam Robinson of Portland's Rum Club.

September: Another beer cocktail grabbed me, namely the End of Days from Saison in Richmond, Virginia, that I spotted in Beer Advocate. The Hurricane-like Wicked Wahine from Brice Ginardi of Okolemaluna Tiki Lounge in Hawaii and the soft Irish whiskey-honey-citrus-vermouth Copywriter from Steven Weiss of Craftbar in New York City share the supportive honors.
October: The Lindsey's Whimsy got the slot for the October; this light sherry and herbal liqueur recipe was created by Lindsey Baird at San Francisco's Comstock Saloon and published in The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level. Also worth mentioning is Leo Robitschek's Daiquiri variation, the Heart of Stone, from Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan.

November: I guess this month was more of a go out for cocktails and stay home for beer type of month which might have had something to do with Thirst Boston occuring during this time period. The winner is the autumnal Manhattan variation, the Autumn Sunset, from Sanctuaria: The Dive Bar of Cocktail Bars.

December: Timothy Miner of the Long Island Bar in Manhattan's Sherry Duval caught my eye on the ShakeStir website with the sherry, Cynar, and maple elements. Another one from ShakeStir gets honorable mention -- the Tiki Stranger than Paradise by Jade Brown Godfrey of Manhattan's Pouring Ribbons. In addition, there was the rum-sherry-bitters Act of Faith by Dan Greenbaum of Manhattan's The Beagle and Attaboy.
My favorite creations of 2013: I narrow it down to six drinks which was tough, but I did it in pairs. Two from the "Women of the Wild West" night at the Blue Room were the pisco-Campari-cacao Stagecoach Mary that I later competed with in the Bols Around the World competition and the quirky nondiluted room temperature cocktail, the Madame Mustache. Two that I created at home for no menu in particular were the Sherry Mai Tai and a Vieux Carré variation for Mixology Monday: Flip Flop, the Cocktail à la Salle, which took it in a tequila-sherry direction. And the two that I invented at Russell House Tavern were my menu items, the tequila-Swedish Punsch Chutes & Ladders as a riff of a drink from the Café Royal Cocktail Book, and the mezcal-apple brandy herbal Downtown at Dawn (which was a progression from my Blue Room Pearl de Vere).

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

:: fred's picks for the top cocktails of 2013 (out) ::

In December 2010, someone asked me the difficult question of what was my favorite cocktail of the year, and I was a little lost for words for there were so many. In working out a post for this, I decided to sort it out by dividing the list down by month and also by whether I had them out at a bar or in at home. My choices were influenced by two factors -- tastiness and uniqueness; it had to be both memorable and worth repeating. The drinks were organized by when the drink post appeared and not when they were had. Since this list was very popular the past three years, here is the fourth yearly installment. Without further ado, here is the monthly breakdown for drinks I had out on the town for 2013 with a runner up or two listed. If I had to pick recurrent themes, Tiki and sherry pop out with amaro and grappa being new and old trends, respectively. Oh, and mezcal, plenty of mezcal.

January: For the best drink out, I am going to pick Backbar's Confederation Bridge which was their drink-of-the-week riff on the Prince Edward that was the combined work of a few of the bartenders. For the runner up position, the Blue Room's Nebbia di Garda; Matthew Schrage pairing of floral and herbal alpine amari that were softened by the citrus made for a wonderful libation; here, the modern flare of the amaro melded well with the classic feel of the cocktail's base.

February: Misty Kalkofen's Mistaken For Strangers at Brick & Mortar won with a grappa cocktail that had the feel of the Silent Order and Green Ghost. For a runner up, the simple elegance of Stoddard's Jack Frost crafted by Eric Cross  gets the nod at fit perfectly with the season.
March: This one I pondered over for a bit longer than others, but Ryan McGrale's Fishnets and Fangs at Tavern Road was pretty stunning with how well a large amount of Peychaud's Bitters was integrated into the drink. The beauty of Katie Emerson's Scotch-based Noble Order at the Hawthorne and Ran Duan's Appetizer l'Italienne-like Royal Flush at Sichuan Garden II share the runner up status for March.

April: Despite now working at Russell House Tavern now, Vic Pelegrin created his A Man About Town and I tasted the drink before that career move; a great riff on a Boulevardier. For runners up, No. 9 Park's riff on the Fog Cutter, the Bleeding Fog Swizzle, by Ted Kilpatrick, and Belly Wine Bar's sherry-laden Daley Fix definitely deserve mention.

May: For the nod, I opted for Stoddard's Mai Tai variation called I'm On A Boat; the Pegu Club-like phantom grapefruit combination of lime, orange liqueur, and Angostura Bitters was bolstered by actual grapefruit juice. Myers & Chang's blackstrap rum, Cynar, lime, and Coca Cola Fizz, the Black Snake, and John Nugent's rye Maximilian Affair-like Home Wrecker at Silvertone were the runners up for May.
June: The chocolate and herbal notes of Cory Buono's Bonatti & The Jets at Brick & Mortar get the win position for the month; they seem to have such a great touch with grappa there. For place and show, it seemed to be a cucumber toss up. In no order, there was Ran Duan's rum-Chartruese-coconut Lost in Laos at Sichuan Garden II and Sahil Mehta's mezcal-and-spice Garden of Good and Evil at Estragon. The wild card for the month is Will Thompson's Sherry Jungle Bird at Drink.

July: There certainly was a whole lot of sherry going around in July and all three picks contain one. Another tough decision, but Matt Whitney's Love in an Elevator had a delightfully rich complexity when it was served to me at Local 149. With a parallel style is Citizen Public House's Backyard Bitter; the other runner up is Katie Emmerson's Company Swizzle at the Hawthorne pictured below.
August: The month's winner was for a restaurant that had not even opened yet. Matt Schrage at Brick & Mortar had showcased the From the Hip that he was developing for the Ribelle cocktail menu and I was quite impressed. Deserving honorable mention are Sahil Mehta's room temperature Scaffa, the Coral Triangle, at Estragon and Franklin Café's Tiki number, Water Wings.

September: September was mezcal month. Katie Emmerson's Under the Volcano utilized it to an elegant equal parts style with sherry and amaro at the Hawthorne, and for a runner up, Ethan's 1940's era Zombie riff, the Oaxacan Dead at Deep Ellum was rather delicious.

October: I flagged more drinks of interest in October than any other month on the calendar especially with so many new programs visited. For a winner, I am picking Vik Hedge's Xocula at Sarma, a Negroni variation of sorts. For runners up, new comer Kirkland Tap & Trotter offered up the A Tale of Two Kitties via Tyler Wang; and relative old comer Backbar with a delightful nutty riff on the Bamboo, the Bamboozled, via Sam Treadway and Melinda Maddox.
November: Instead of picking a winner and two runners up, here are joint winners for the month. Josh Child's Bargellino at Silvertone reminded me of a Brooklyn cross with April's winner, A Man About Town. And Ryan Connelly's Upturn Flip at Belly Wine Bar had an alluring balance in spite of its inverse proportions.

December: Three drinks stood out for the month and I vacillated on which should get the tip of the hat. In the end, Mike Flemming's Hedy Lamarr with its fruity, floral, and herbal notes at West Bridge gets picked. For runners up, Deep Ellum's Penicillin-like Winter Cobbler and Lena Webb's 1919 sherry variation, the 1818 Cocktail, at Spoke Wine Bar definitely deserve mention.

So there are my 32 plus a wild card best drinks of 2013 that I had out spread out over 23 establishments across town. There were certainly ones that got edged out that I wish I could mention, but the scope of this post was kept tight. Although that is relatively tight for it is certainly a lot looser than picking a single drink or three for the year. Cheers!