Thursday, January 31, 2019

dorothy gish

2 oz Plantation 3 Star White Rum (Privateer Silver)
1/2 oz Orange Juice
1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
1/4 oz Combier Apricot Liqueur

Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a cherry (orange twist).

Two Thursdays ago, I ventured into Frank Caiafa's The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book and spotted their take on the Dorothy Gish who was a famous actress during the Silent Era along with Mary Pickford. The drink was originally created at Havana's Hotel Sevilla by Eddie Woelke along with his Mary Pickford and El Presidente cocktails. Once commenter on Instagram pointed out the similarities of the Dorothy Gish to the Hotel Nacional; that drink has often been mis-attributed to Woelke but was most likely created by Wil Taylor who actually worked at said hotel.
The Dorothy Gish's juice component of orange and pineapple shined through on the nose. Next, orange and orchard fruit notes on the sip led into a rum, pineapple, and apricot swallow that was a touch on the dry side though without having a crisp backbone like the Hotel Nacional.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

chrysanthemum grog

2 1/4 oz Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
3/4 oz Benedictine
3 dash Absinthe (1/2 bsp Butterfly)
3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice
3/4 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Honey Syrup

Short shake, strain into a glass containing 1 oz soda water and either a Navy Grog ice cone or fill with crushed ice (crushed ice and garnished with grapefruit peel flowers).

Two Wednesdays ago, I got food at Bow Market in Somerville and ended up at Rebel Rebel wine bar. Once home, I was still in a vinous mood even at the cocktail hour, and my mind started turning once I considered the Tiki the Snow Away. Earlier in the week, I mentioned how the dry vermouth-based Chrysanthemum from the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book was a great drink, but no one seemed to ever order it. Moreover, no bartender has suggested one in a while (I do have a recollection of this happening circa 2007-8), but it did inspire me to craft a Madeira variation called the Undercover Angel that garnered a minor cult following (it was requested by name after it left the list at the bar and has been spotted on the web and Instagram since). For a mashup, I thought about swapping the rum in Don the Beachcomber's Navy Grog to generate an aperitif Tiki drink similar to how well it worked when I substituted in the Campari legend to make the Negroni Grog.
The Chrysanthemum Grog greeted the nose with its bouquet of grapefruit, lime, and anise-herbal aromas. Next, a carbonated, grapefruit, honey, and lime sip blossomed into an anise and herbal swallow. Definitely the Chrysanthemum's light absinthe notes helped to tie the combination into the Tiki realm.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

space needle

1 1/2 oz Light Puerto Rican Rum (3/4 oz Don Q Añejo)
1 1/2 oz Dark Jamaican Rum (3/4 oz Coruba)
1 oz Curaçao (1/2 oz Pierre Ferrand)
1 1/2 oz Lemon Juice (3/4 oz)
3/4 oz Orgeat (3/8 oz)

Blend with 1 scoop of ice in an electric drink mixer and pour into a 10 oz glass (short shake with ice, strain into a small Tiki mug, and fill with crushed ice).

After my work shift two Tuesdays ago, I ventured into Trader Vic's 1974 Rum Cookery & Drinkery to find a recipe to make for Tiki the Snow Away. There, I spotted the Space Needle that I had previously skipped over for it just appeared like a Mai Tai with lemon instead of lime, but that night, it called out to me. While the book provided little history, I was able to discover that the drink was probably created and served at Trader Vic's Eye of the Needle restaurant inside Seattle's Space Needle. The establishment opened in 1962 to coincide with the World's Fair held there, and it served other signature drinks that I have made from 1970s-era Trader Vic books such as the Panorama Punch. Without the reference to the landmark building itself, the drink name conjured up other space Tiki drinks that began appearing in the 1960s such as the Saturn, Space Pilot, and Astro Aku Aku.

The Space Needle gave forth an orange and nutty nose that led into a lemon and caramel sip. Next, funky rum notes were joined by orange and nutty flavors on the swallow. Overall, the lemon instead of lime made the drink sharper and less tropical, but that substitution was one that worked well in Trader Vic's Potted Parrot and in my Sherry Mai Tai.

black derby

1 1/2 oz Mezcal El Silencio Espadin
3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/4 oz Honey Syrup (2:1)
1/4 oz Cinnamon Syrup
1/4 oz Lime Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe.

When I was ordering the Black Magic at the Silencio Mezcal launch party at Backbar, bartender Carlo Caroscio commented that the cocktail on the five drink list that was his was the Black Derby. Therefore, I selected that one as my next go to. It was subtitled a "Refreshing, smoky twist on the classic," where the classic was the Brown Derby with Bourbon, grapefruit, and honey that I wrote about after having Jackson Cannon's rum-based Honey Fitz at Tales of the Cocktail 2010. Here, the spirit was mezcal and the classic's citrus and sweetener were bolstered with lime juice and cinnamon syrup.
In the glass, the Black Derby proffered smoky and floral notes from the mezcal and honey, respectively. Next, a crisp lime sip opened the gate to a mezcal, grapefruit, and honey swallow with a cinnamon finish.

Monday, January 28, 2019

black magic

1 1/2 oz Mezcal El Silencio Espadin
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz Amaro Montenegro
1/2 oz Galliano Ristretto Coffee Liqueur

Build in a double old fashioned glass with a large ice cube, stir, and garnish with orange oil from a twist.

Two Mondays ago, Andrea and I were invited to attend the El Silencio launch party at Backbar. El Silencio has had a presence at Tales of the Cocktail for a few years, but their two expressions have just reached the Boston market. The one in the black opaque bottle is their 100% Espadin mark, and the other in the clear bottle, the Joven, is a blend of three agave distillates: Espadin, Tobasiche, and Mexicano. While we got to try both on their own in at a side bar, bartenders Carlo Caroscio and Joseph Habib were mixing a five drink menu with the Espadin at the main bar. For a start, I asked Carlo for the Black Magic that he attributed to bar manager Sam Treadway. The menu described it as "A Negroni shot out of a revolver" where I had to believe that the latter part referred to Jon Santer's Revolver consisting of spirit, coffee liqueur, and orange bitters.
The Black Magic started the trick with an orange aroma from the twist's oil and from the amari that mingled with the mezcal's smoke and the Ristretto's coffee roast notes. Next, the Ristretto's dark roast continued on into the sip, and this was followed by smoky mezcal, orange, and lingering coffee flavors on the swallow. Overall, the balance was rather low on the bitterness for a Campari drink.

Sunday, January 27, 2019


4 tsp El Dorado 12 Year (1 oz Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva)
4 tsp Pusser's Overproof Rum (1 oz Plantation OFTD)
3 tsp Benedictine (3/4 oz)
3 tsp Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth (3/4 oz)
1/2 tsp Allspice Dram (1 bsp Hamilton's)
1 dash Absinthe (1/2 bsp St. George)

Stir with ice, strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice, and garnish with a lemon twist.
After returning from a brewery taproom mini-tour of north-central Massachusetts followed by dinner, it was time for a nightcap and bed. For a drink, I selected Tom Sandham's 2012 World's Best Cocktails and spotted Michael Mas' Carbu that he crafted at one of the Experimental Cocktail Clubs. With two rums, an aromatized wine, and an herbal liqueur, it reminded me of the Palm Viper, and the Benedictine here conjured up thoughts of the 1919 Cocktail. In the glass, the Carbu met the nose with a lemon, anise-herbal, and dark funky rum aroma. Next, caramel from the two dark rums on the sip continued on as further rum notes on the swallow along with minty, chocolate, and herbal accents.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

the brunching dead

3/4 oz Gold Puerto Rican Rum (Don Q Añejo)
3/4 oz Aged Jamaican Rum (Smith & Cross)
1/2 oz 151 Proof Demerara Rum (Lemon Hart)
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/4 oz Cinnamon Syrup
1/2 oz Falernum (Velvet)
1/4 oz Grenadine
2 dash Angostura Bitters
12 drop Herbsaint or Absinthe (Herbsaint)
2 oz Cream
1 Egg White

Shake once without and once with ice, strain into a chilled 12-14 oz Tiki mug containing 2 oz soda water, add soda to bring to top (an additional 2 oz or less), and garnish with an orange twist and freshly grated cinnamon.

Since the bar at Nahita's speakeasy two Saturdays ago kept me there long enough to miss the train, it was rather late by the time I arrived home by foot. After a rather late dinner, I decided to go to bed without a nightcap. When I awoke on Sunday, I wanted to make up the gap in my once-a-day posting with a brunch drink. Since it was still in the midst of the Tiki the Snow Away event on Instagram I decided to give the 1934 Zombie the New Orleans-style Fizz treatment. Considering that I have had other rum-based drinks turned into Ramos-like numbers such as the 'Ti Punch Fizz, I figured that this would be a win. I ended up halving the rum content to make it a recuperative instead of a disabler. On my Instagram post, I wrote, "A great hair of the dog hangover cure, but warning: Limit 2 per customer!" Since Henry Ramos preferred that his guests only be served one alcoholic drink at brunch, making it half strength and serving two would fit both the Don the Beachcomber and Henry Ramos' lore.
For a name, I dubbed this one the Brunching Dead. I recalled years ago when I worked at Russell House Tavern how the Saturday and Sunday morning brunch guests would be swarming behind the locked door before we opened; I used to refer to them as the brunch zombies especially given how they probably felt before they had caffeine, booze, and food put into them, so the name stuck. Once built, the drink offered up an orange and cinnamon bouquet to the nose. Next, a creamy, carbonated sip presented citrus and caramel notes, and the swallow sent forth funky rum, clove, anise, and cinnamon flavors.

Friday, January 25, 2019


1/2 oz Armagnac (3/4 oz Larressingle Armagnac VSOP)
1/2 oz Benedictine (3/4 oz)
1/2 oz Cynar (3/4 oz)

Stir with ice, strain into a rocks glass, and garnish with a spritz of peated Scotch (Laphroaig 10 Year).

Two Fridays ago after my bar shift at work, I arrived home desperately in need of a nightcap. Therefore, I turned to Sother Teague's I'm Just Here for the Drinks book and honed in on his tribute to a punctuation mark, the Interrobang‽. The interrobang is a lesser known punctuation mark that signifies that a question is being expressed in an exclamatory way; its use often makes the issue almost sound like a rhetorical question in perhaps a scolding way. On Instagram, I inquired about the drink including the proportions, and Sother replied that it was his "favorite punctuation‽ ! Cheers! ... [it was a] typo in the book -- should all be 1 oz. Regardless, equal parts." I found the 1 1/2 oz build to be too small and upped it part way on my own before learning the preferred build. I was definitely interested in this recipe for Cynar and Benedictine work rather well in drinks like the 100 Year Old Cigar and Lighted Lamp, and I have tinkered with the duo in the Chachita and Year of the Dragon.
The Interrobang‽ greeted the nose with an iodine-peat smoke over herbal and vegetal aromas. Next, a caramel sip gave way to brandy, minty, chocolate, and herbal flavors on the swallow.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

death on two legs

2 oz Wild Turkey Rye (Rittenhouse)
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz Amaro Montenegro
1/2 tsp Allspice Dram (Hamilton's)
1/2 tsp Luxardo Maraschino
1/2 tsp Cane Syrup

Stir with ice, strain into a Nick & Nora glass, and garnish with an orange twist.

Two Thursdays ago, a web search landed me upon an article about the menu that was launching at the Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. in Philadelphia in January of 2012. One drink, the Death on Two Legs by Katie Link, caught my eye, but there was no recipe and only the ingredients and that it was named after a Queen song which was a vicious attack on their old manager. Given how well Campari paired with allspice dram such as in the Chester Rapkin, with Maraschino in the Carnivale, and Amaro Montenegro in the Monte Cassino, I was curious about this number. Moreover, the call for Wild Turkey Rye reminded me of drinks from Beta/Rogue Cocktails such as the Arbitrary Nature of Time. Luckily, I was able to find the recipe on a flashcard deck created by a New York City bartender, and I trust that it is correct (the other recipes were spot on).
The Death on Two Legs greeted the nose with orange aromas mingling with rye notes. Next, malt and tangerine on the sip gave way to rye and bitter orange on the swallow with a nutty cherry and allspice finish.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

hawaii kai treasure

2 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Half & Half
1/2 oz Curaçao (Pierre Ferrand)
1/2 oz Orgeat
1/2 oz Honey Syrup
1 1/2 oz Light Puerto Rican Rum (Don Q Añejo)

Blend for 10 seconds with 8 oz crushed ice, pour into a Tiki bowl, and garnish with a gardenia (dried lemon wheel). The "treasure" was a small pearl hidden in the gardenia petals (pearl omitted).
The Tiki the Snow Away event led me to pick up Beachbum Berry's Remixed to find something tropical for the evening two Wednesdays ago. The one that called out to me was the Hawaii Kai Treasure created by Mannie "Black" Andall of New York City's Hawaii Kai Restaurant during the 1960s. Once blended and served, the Hawaii Kai Treasure greeted the nose with a nutty and floral aroma. Next, a creamy grapefruit sip led into a rum, lime, and nutty swallow with a honey-floral finish.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

jazz daiquiri

2 oz Dark Rum (Plantation Original Dark)
3/4 oz Lime Juice
2 tsp Sugar (1/2 oz Simple Syrup)
1/4 oz Dark Crème de Cacao (Tempus Fugit)
7 bean Coffee

Blend all of the ingredients with 10 oz ice (muddle coffee beans, add the rest of the ingredients, shake with ice, and double strain). Serve in a Martini glass.
Two Tuesdays ago, I had read a mention of New Orleans' Manolito in the press, and I was curious if there was a recipe on the web that I could make at home. My search uncovered Nick Detrich's Jazz Daiquiri that found its way into Very Local New Orleans that reminded me of the Coffee DTO with a hint of chocolate. Manolito's menu declares that "this drink was originally made to honor musicians in Cuba" and states that they currently reach for Bacardi 8 Year in this libation. In the glass, the Jazz Daiquiri welcomed the nose with a rich coffee aroma from the muddled coffee beans. Next, lime and caramel mingled on the sip, and the swallow donated dark rum and coffee flavors that were accented by a hint of chocolate.

Monday, January 21, 2019

cobra's spritz

1/2 oz Suze Gentian Liqueur
1/4 oz China China (1/2 oz Torani Amer)
1/2 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
1 bsp Falernum (Velvet)

Shake with ice, strain into a rocks glass (Fizz glass), top with Prosecco (2-3 oz Willm Blanc de Blancs), and garnish with a mint sprig (orange twist).
Two Mondays ago, I kept with the Tiki mood and made the Cobra's Spritz which was posted on Tales of the Cocktail's social media. The recipe was crafted by bartender Andrew Rhea as a sparkling riff on Don the Beachcomber's 1937 Cobra's Fang; however, it eschews the rums to keep with the lighter proof of most spritzes, and it only keeps the passion fruit syrup and falernum as constants. Once prepared, the Cobra's Fang shared an orange and white wine nose. Next, a crisp white wine and pineapple sip slithered into a gentian, passion fruit, and dark orange swallow that came across as an orange pith flavor.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

hale pele's volcano bowl

2 oz Orange Juice (1 oz)
2 oz Pineapple Juice (1 oz)
2 1/2 oz Lemon Juice (1 1/4 oz)
2 oz Falernum (1 oz Velvet)
2 oz Grenadine (1 oz)
3 1/2 oz Light Rum (1 3/4 oz Privateer Silver)
3 1/2 oz Gold Rum (1 3/4 oz Old Ipswich Tavern Style)
3 dash Angostura Bitters (2 light dash)
18 drop Herbsaint (9 drop)

Blend with 1 cup of crushed ice (whip shake), pour into a Volcano Bowl (Tiki bowl), top with crushed ice, and garnish with fire (empty lemon shell with ignited El Dorado 151 Rum).
Two Sundays ago, I decided to celebrate my night off from work by making Hale Pele's Volcano Bowl. The drink had been mentioned on Reddit, and I was soon able to find the recipe on The Guardian. The recipe was very different from the classic Volcano Bowl with perhaps a slight similarity to Smuggler's Cove's Top Notch Volcano, and it seemed worthy of a try. Once prepared, the Portland creation donated a tropical nose from pineapple and orange aromas. Next, lemon, berry, and pineapple on the sip slid into rum, pomegranate, and orange flavors on the swallow with an anise and clove finish.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

voodoo dreams

8 oz Diplomatico Reserva Rum (2 oz)
8 oz Naked Grouse Scotch (2 oz Famous Grouse)
4 oz Tempus Fugit Banana Liqueur (1 oz Giffard)
4 oz Lemon Juice (1 oz)
4 oz Demerara Syrup (1 oz)
16 dash Mole Bitters (4 dash Bittermens)
4 dash Salt Solution (1 pinch Salt)

Whip shake, pour into a Tiki bowl, fill with crushed ice, and garnish with mint and dried banana leaves (omit).
Two Saturdays ago, I decided to make a punch recipe that I had spotted in a recent Forbes article on seasonal large format drink ideas that would be perfect for Tiki the Snow Away. The recipe was the Voodoo Dreams by Keel Sutherland of Death & Co. in Denver. Without the mint garnish, the Voodoo Dreams provided a caramel and banana bouquet to the nose. Next, the rum's caramel continued on into the sip where it was balanced by the lemon notes, and the swallow shared rum, Scotch, and banana flavors with a chocolate-tinged finish.

Friday, January 18, 2019

bird is the word

1 1/2 oz Gin (Tanqueray)
1/2 oz Blackstrap Rum (Cruzan)
2 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo)

Whip shake, pour into a Tiki mug, fill with crushed ice, and garnish with freshly grated cinnamon and a few pineapple leaves (or perhaps rosemary sprigs) if available.

In continuing on with the celebration of Tiki the Snow Away January on Instagram, I made a mashup that I thought up for the event in mid-December. The concept was to combine elements of the Jungle Bird and the Last Word in the former's Tiki format. I dropped out the Jungle Bird's Campari in favor of the Last Word's two liqueurs; since both liqueurs interact well with pineapple juice such as in the Chartreuse Swizzle and Mary Pickford, I figured that the results ought to be pretty decent. Initially, I was going to leave out the dark rum, but I felt that the caramel-molasses elements of blackstrap rum would add some depth to the mix.
For a name, I went with Bird is the Word despite it not being the most original (as determined by a web search) due to the popularity of the 1963 Trashmen song "Surfin' Bird." Once prepared, the garnish contributed a delightful cinnamon aroma. Next, pineapple, lime, and caramel mingled on the sip, and the swallow shared gin's pine, dark rum, herbal and Green Chartreuse flavors with a nutty cherry finish.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


1 oz Rittenhouse Rye
1 oz Angostura Bitters
1 oz Pineapple Juice (*)
1/4 oz Cinnamon Syrup

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
(*) Increasing the volume of pineapple juice can improve the flavor here. Perhaps 1 3/4 oz to make the build an even 4 oz.

Two Thursdays ago, two of my long time out-of-town regulars visited me at Nahita. The topic of conversation eventually wandered over to Angostura-heavy recipes such as the Magic Julep, and they asked me if I had ever tried the Daywalker. The recipe was crafted by Adam McGee at Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan, and my guest was the first person to publish the recipe online back in 2010. To rectify the situation, I made one as soon as I got home from my shift.
The Daywalker began with an allspice and clove aroma that led into pineapple and cherry wood notes on the sip. Next, rye whiskey joined clove, cinnamon, gentian, and woody flavors on the swallow. One of the comments to my guest's initial post was that the balance improved with additional pineapple juice, and when I added a touch more to the drink, I would have to agree.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

:: bartend as if you were the guest ::

First published on the USBG National blog in March 2017, and slightly modified for publication here. Photos are from my adventures during Portland Cocktail Week 2012.

One of the ways I learn to be a better bartender has been sitting at various bar stools and restaurant tables and observing how it feels to be a guest. I am not just talking about the good moments that you should figure out how to deliver to your own guests, but also the bad moments that you should figure out how to avoid. In a nutshell, I strive to bartend how I like to be treated as a patron.

Things I have thought about are: "How does it feel to be strong-armed into another round?" And, "How does it feel to be interrupted?"

For the former, I can recall a bartender that I knew socially who helped to rejuvenate an old establishment’s program. I was one of his few guests that night and about two-thirds of the way through my first cocktail, he was already asking me if he could start on the next. When that happened as well on my next round that I was rushed to get, I just asked for my check. I finished my drink, paid, and left never to return thinking, “Dude, I’m not your cash-cow.” On busy nights, there is definitely a need to turn over seats, but on slower nights, shortening your guests’ visits makes the bar look more desolate and might impact their desire to return. Part of buying a drink is being able to rent the stool for your own third space needs, whether it is to catch up on your phone or with your friend. A guest being rushed out (who is done ordering) when there is a line behind them will hopefully understand the reasons, but when there is not a line and in fact empty seats, it might seem like that bar stool has too high of a cost associated with it. All too often, I have seen bartenders ask (or perhaps almost demand) if they can get a guest anything else – one in no appearance of being in a rush – and then hand them their bill; the bill is promptly paid and the guest abruptly leaves. This seems to fly in the face of hospitality and how I would want to be treated, especially when I am visiting on a slow weekday night. In a way, it sort of delineates the difference between a guest and a customer.

For the latter in terms of interruptions, there are brunches and nights where I am catching up with my wife after not having spoken to her for several days due to differing schedules. How does it make me feel when a server or bartender interrupts me mid-sentence for something trivial? And how does it feel when I realize that I have lost my train of thought? How does this translate to two guests that meet up at your bar and need a moment to catch up? There is a point perhaps where you need to save them from themselves and refocus them on the fact that they met for food and drink, but understand that the drinking and dining part might be secondary in their evening’s plans.

Some of these concepts even trickle down to drink service. When going out for beer, how does it feel getting an expensive brew with 2-3 inches or more of head? Or what about receiving an IPA with no head at all? Or in cocktail service, what does it feel like when a you receive a drink that has a sea of ice shards, a poorly presented garnish (if any), etc. at an otherwise respected cocktail joint? What is it like to be served by a drunk bartender or a bartender who is more interested in his friends or co-workers than you? In essence, serve drinks like you want to be served. Treat each request from mocktail to “make me something special, not too sweet… and with vodka” with the same respect as you would want your or your date’s drink order taken.

Often, it is hard for a well-known bartender to get the same treatment as the commoner in many establishments. For example, there is one establishment in town that I like to go, but I recommend it with caution on lists of places to go for my guests; I explain that I get treated well there and the drinks are good, but I have often observed them treating guests rudely. However, there are always places and bartenders that do not know you in town who can give you their average handling, and if not, there are plenty of opportunities when traveling. On one trip, I went with my drinking buddy to three places after we broke off from the main group. The first was a recommended cocktail establishment, the second a whiskey bar, and the third a true dive bar. At the first, the three bartenders in suspenders were talking to their friends and I observed no drinks being made. After being ignored for a while at their dirty bar, we left. At the whiskey bar, we were given average treatment; after a Facebook photo that I posted, a friend contacted the owner who texted the bartender to give us a pour of something special. At the third place, Jack, the 70ish year old white-haired bartender, was the sweetest bartender I met all while still maintaining the room. He provided such warmth that I would return again if I were in that city (just as my drinking buddy did this time); drink-wise, all he had to offer us were cheap pours of Old Granddad Bonded. My friend commented that the second establishment’s bartender was so great to us; I replied yes-and-no: unlike the second, the third was great because he did not need to be told by his boss to treat us special – he just did.

Unfortunately, a lot of this comes at odds to bars and restaurants being a business, especially with interactions with the owners and management. And it also comes down to our tips. True, pouring a gigantic beer head means that beer costs go down, but is that what you truly want to give to a guest or receive yourself? When I worked a lot of lunch shifts at a previous job, we were taught a long term view of doing everything we could to get guests to return instead of thinking in the short term of how to maximize every encounter. There are definitely ways of enthusiastically selling to guests to increase their experience without seeming too aggressive. Whether it be dropping hints that there is a special down-cellar bottle or giving them a taste of another IPA to get them thinking about another round, there are ways of making the business side of things happy without stressing out your guests. In the end, try to be the guest’s advocate and sense out what sort of experience and budget they are seeking; your read on their needs can help to ensure that your bar seats are more filled in the future.

So the next time you go out, don’t just think about what to drink, but use the opportunity to take notes on how to improve yourself in the trade. There are definitely some bartenders who I go visit partly just to watch how they interact with their guests to make them feel special all without necessarily sending out free food or drink.

fifth avenue

1/2 Brandy (2 oz Camus VS Cognac)
1/4 Italian Vermouth (1 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino)
1 dash Maraschino (1/4 oz Luxardo)
1 dash Curaçao (1/4 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry)
1 dash Pineapple (1/2 oz)
(1 dash Angostura Bitters recommended, see notes)

The recipe provided no mixing instructions, so I shook with ice and strained into a cocktail coupe. Stirring would be appropriate too.

Two Wednesdays ago, I ventured into Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933 and spotted the Fifth Avenue. Give the prestigious and historic roadway cutting through Manhattan, there are plenty of unrelated drinks under that name including one that I made in my pre-blog adventures. It may have been the overuse of the name or more likely the unbalanced appearance of the recipe that I caused me to pass it over multiple times. The Pioneers book does have several Manhattan-style (spirit + vermouth) with pineapple that have worked well like the Radio Call and the Martinique, so I set about to adapt the recipe. When I posted the drink on Instagram, a follower asked if a dash of pineapple was enough to be detected. My reply was, "If you truly did a dash, it would be useless. A lot of that book needs to be reinterpreted to be interesting and tasty. I view it as a drink skeleton to exercise your personal balance sensibilities. This is coming from making perhaps a hundred recipes from that book."
At first pass (before I added bitters), the Fifth Avenue shared a pineapple aroma accented with nutty cherry notes. Next, the pineapple continued on into the sip where it mingled with the vermouth's grape, and the swallow gave forth Cognac, nutty cherry, and slightly bitter orange flavors. However, the combination felt a bit disjointed, so I added in a dash of Angostura to the mix. Instantly, the bitters helped solved this problem by tying together the disparate flavors and allowing them to provide depth as the elements were glued together.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

zombie nation

2 oz Gosling's Black Seal Rum
3/4 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Cinnamon Syrup
1/2 oz Orgeat

Whip shake, pour into a Tiki mug, fill with crushed ice, and float 1/2 oz (1/4 oz) Herbstura (equal parts Herbsaint and Angostura Bitters). I found a 1/2 oz to be too overpowering for my palate, so I made it with half as much as denoted in paratheses here. I also tended to add the straw before adding the float so that the first sip would be pure of Herbsaint and Angostura spice notes (not done here for the photo's sake). While we had Herbstura pre-batched with a speed pourer on it, making it to order, stirring, and floating it will work well.
For January's Tiki the Snow Away event on Instagram, I decided to make one of my favorite drinks from the River Bar menu in Somerville. The drink was the Zombie Nation created by manager Geoffrey "Trader Geo" Thompson originally for the Tiki Tuesday menu, and it later drifted onto the summer 2017 menu. Somewhat true to the 1934 Zombie by Don the Beachcomber, this contained most of the same ingredients save for rum complexity, falernum, and grenadine; it also added orgeat to the mix and shifted proportions around quite a bit in some aspects. Once prepared, the Zombie Nation greeted the nose with clove and anise aromas. Next, grapefruit and lime mingled with the dark rum's caramel on the sip, and the rum continued on into the swallow where it was accented by almond and cinnamon flavors. Overall, the drink reminded me of a grapefruit-containing Cuban Anole with a simpler rum profile. Later though, as the float entered the equation, the balance got a bit drier with anise, allspice, and clove elements taking charge.

Monday, January 14, 2019


1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum (Coruba)
1 oz Cognac (Camus VS)
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
1/2 oz Orgeat
2 dash Angostura Bitters

Whip shake, pour into a Tiki mug, fill with crushed ice, and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and an inverted paper umbrella.

On New Year's Eve, I was thinking about what drink to make for myself when I got home from working the Holiday shift. At midnight, it would be January and that meant that it was the beginning of the 2019 #TikiTheSnowAway event on Instagram; last year I also did a just-after-midnight post to leap into the event with the Negroni Grog. On the way to work, I was inspired by the 1940 Pat O'Brien's Hurricane as a starting point (and not the current bastardization they serve now), and somehow it entered my mind that I could cross it with the Japanese Cocktail from Jerry Thomas' 1862 book. For a name, I opted for the Japanese term for the storm: Harikēn.
The Harikēn cast about a woody spice that accented the orgeat's nutty notes on the nose. Next, lemon, caramel, and hints of passion fruit on the sip shifted into funky rum, Cognac, nutty, and passion fruit flavors on the swallow with a clove and allspice finish. Despite ending up similar to my Mai Tai riff the Manuia, the lemon and brandy elements took the basic idea in a different flavor direction.

Sunday, January 13, 2019


2 oz White Rum (Uruapan Charanda Blanco)
3/4 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Giffard Banane du Bresil
1/2 oz Pineapple Juice

Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
Two Sundays ago, I decided to make the Parasol that recently appeared in Imbibe Magazine by Shannon Mustipher of Glady's in Brooklyn. The recipe was part of a preview of his forthcoming book Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails due out in March (and available for pre-order now), and the structure reminded me of another drink from a previous issue of Imbibe called the I Love Lamp with rum and tequila as the base spirits. In the glass, the Parasol cast a nutty spice accent to banana melding into aromatic rum on the nose. Next, lime and pineapple on the sip opened up to funky rum, banana, and pineapple flavors on the swallow. While not too many surprises here, it definitely made for a tasty Daiquiri riff.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


2/3 Haig & Haig Scotch (1 1/2 oz Famous Grouse)
2 dash French Vermouth (1 oz Dolin Blanc)
1 dash Lemon Juice (1/2 oz)
(1/4 oz Simple Syrup)
1 dash Orange Bitters (Regan's)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Two Saturdays ago, I sought out a means to treat myself at the end of my work day with something from Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933. The one that called out to me was the Skidmore that was a Whisky Sour with French vermouth. I decided to balance the citrus element with blanc vermouth and a touch of simple syrup instead of opting for the more obvious dry vermouth alone which would have left this rather on the tart side. As prepared, the Skidmore showcased a floral and lemon bouquet that led into a white grape and lemon sip. Next, Scotch, herbal, floral and white grape flavors filled the sip that ended with a rather clean finish. Even with a different base spirit and spirit-to-vermouth ratio, the Skidmore reminded me of Nick Detrich's A Thousand Blue Eyes and Robert Vermeire's X.Y.Z. in feel.

Friday, January 11, 2019

noblesse oblige

1 1/2 oz Grosperrin VSOP Cognac (Courvoisier VS)
1/2 oz Mezcal (Fidencio)
1/3 oz Pedro Ximenez Sherry (Oxford 1970)
1/3 oz Byrrh Quinquina
1 dash Chocolate Bitters (Bittermens Mole)

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with orange oil from a twist.
For a nightcap two Fridays ago, I selected Tom Sander's 2012 World's Best Cocktails book in search of inspiration, and I landed on the Noblesse Oblige. This Cognac over mezcal number was created by Nicolas de Soto at the Experimental Cocktail Club in London's Chinatown, and the format reminded me of the Chancellor and quinquina-containing riffs like the Administrator. Once prepared, the Noblesse Oblige called forth orange, raisin, and smoke elements to the nose. Next, a rich grape sip bowed to Cognac, smoky agave, and dried fruit flavors on the swallow with a quinine and chocolate finish.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


1 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1 oz Bourbon (Four Roses)
1 oz Sweet Vermouth (Cocchi)
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with 3 cherries (1 cherry).

After my work shift two Thursdays ago, I ventured into my collection of Food & Wine: Cocktails volumes. In the 2008 edition, I spotted a lesser-known Sam Ross recipe called the Grandfather that he crafted at Sona in Los Angeles called the Grandfather. While the combination of whiskey, apple brandy, and vermouth dates back to before Prohibition in drinks like the Caldwell (and the whiskey, brandy, and vermouth formula to 1862 with the Saratoga), I was still up for trying Sam Ross' take on it. Moreover, I thought about using Old Grand-Dad in this recipe; however, the only mark that I currently have is the 114 proof which would probably dominate the balanced here. Therefore, I took the opposite slant and went with a softer one -- Four Roses Yellow Label -- to allow the apple flavors to take center stage.
The Grandfather entered with apple, whiskey, and clove aromas that gave way to a grape and malt sip. Next, the Bourbon and apple flavors entered the swallow along with complementary clove, allspice, and anise accents.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

burdick's cocktail

1 oz Mezcal (Fidencio)
1 oz Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
1 oz Quinquina (Byrrh)
1/4 oz Crème de Cacao (Tempus Fugit)
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

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

One night at the Fenix Speakeasy at work, one of my regulars asked for a lighter style of drink, and I made a riff on the Marliave's Cocktail from 1906 Louis' Mixed Drinks utilizing L.N. Mattei's Cap Corse Quinquina Rouge and sweet vermouth (sweet vermouth appears in a similar drink in that book called the Aime). A few days later, I was still thinking about that combination, and I decided to play with it using some flavors in the quinquina-based Ask the Dust that I crafted at Russell House Tavern in 2014. To the Marliave's Cocktail's gin, Maraschino, and orange bitters, I swapped in mezcal, crème de cacao, and Peychaud's Bitters, and for a quinquina, I opted for the Byrrh that worked well in my 2014 creation. I could see Bonal and the new Dubonnet formulation working great here too. The crux of the idea is how well chocolate, quinine, and agave work together.
For a name, I wanted to pay tribute to another Boston locale (the Marliave was a legitimate speakeasy during Prohibition, and the restaurant is still around today), so I was inspired by the chocolate element to call this the Burdick's Cocktail after the Harvard Square chocolatier institution. In the glass, the Burdick's Cocktail proffered lemon and smoke to the nose. Next, a semi-dry grape sip sallied into a smoky agave and chocolate-quinine herbal swallow.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


1 1/2 oz Foro Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
1 1/2 oz Cocchi Barolo Chinato or Bonal Quinquina (Bonal)
1 dash Absinthe (1 scant bsp Butterfly)
2 dash Regan's Orange Bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Two Tuesdays ago, I began thumbing through Frank Caiafa's The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book and spotted the Brut that seemed like a delightfully light aperitif. The recipe was the bar's modern take of the one published in their 1935 bar book that called for Calisaya as the quinquina; while Calisaya has become available again, it is still harder to find than the two proposed quinquinas. The 1935 book in the pre-Prohibition cocktails section offered the history of, "An extremely 'dry' cocktail. 'Brut' (French) means 'raw.' Many customers pronounce it 'Brute,' and so thought it."
The Brut put forth a lemon and anise bouquet to the nose that preceded a semi-dry grape sip. Next, grape, anise, orange, and quinine flavors rounded out the swallow to make for a delightful aperitif or, in this case, a great low proof nightcap.

Monday, January 7, 2019

distrito federal

2 oz Añejo Tequila (Cimarron Reposado)
3/4 oz Cocchi Sweet Vermouth
1 bsp Espadin Mezcal (Fidencio)
2 dash Bittermens Mole Bitters
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube, and garnish with a grapefruit twist.
On Christmas Eve, I selected Nico Martini's Texas Cocktails for something to round out the evening. There, I spotted the Agave Manhattan called the Distrito Federal crafted by Houston Eaves at El Mirador in San Antonio in 2016. While the combination reminded me of a less complex Morningside Heights, its simplicity spoke well to the moment. Once prepared, the Distrito Federal greeted the senses with fresh grapefruit oil aromas that mingled with the vegetal agave notes. Next, a grape-driven sip led into agave with a hint of smoke on the swallow with a chocolate, clove, and allspice finish.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

barnaby jones

1 1/2 oz Famous Grouse Blended Scotch
1/2 oz Cynar Amaro
1/2 oz Dark Maple Syrup
1/2 oz Heavy Cream
1 Whole Egg
12 Coffee Beans

Shake once without and once with ice, double strain into a cocktail coupe (single old fashioned glass), and garnish with freshly grated cinnamon.

Two Sundays ago, I reached for the Cocktail Codex book and uncovered an Egg Nog variation called the Barnaby Jones by Maura McGuigan circa 2013. With Scotch, Cynar, and egg in the mix, I immediately thought of the delightful Black Diamond Flip, and the Scotch-amaro Nog idea reminded me of A Drunk in the Midnight Choir. Finally, the duo of Cynar and maple is one that has showed great promise in drinks like the Sherry Duval and the Mortal Sunset in the past, so I was game to mix this one up.
Just as impressive as the ingredients list was the fact that Maura named this drink after an almost forgotten television detective series from the 1970s. Once prepared, the Barnaby Jones gave forth a dark roast coffee and cinnamon nose. Next, a creamy and sweet sip slid into a Scotch and maple swallow that also showcased the Cynar elegantly merging with the coffee flavors.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

the legend of the five suns

1 1/2 oz Mezcal (Fidencio)
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz Swedish Punsch (Kronan)
1/2 oz Apricot Liqueur (Combier)
2 dash Chocolate Bitters (Bittermens Mole)

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

While perusing the Haus Alpenz site on Swedish punsch, I had spotted the recipe for my 2013 Chutes & Ladders drink that was based off the citrus-less 1937 Metexa. Thus, I was reminded of how well agave spirits pair with Swedish punsch which was something that I exploited a few years later in the Tainted Love; that drink was based off of the gin classic the Havana Cocktail that taught me that Swedish punsch and apricot were friends. I was also reminded of how well Campari joins with apricot in my Boulevardier-meets-Slope Intercept and with Swedish punch in my old co-worker's Poppin' Tags. With a little molé bitters to round things out, I had a drink idea to test out.
For a name, I dubbed this after the Aztec creation story, the Legend of the Five Suns, where they believed that the current world was preceded by four previous rounds of creation and destruction. With rebirth being a good new year's theme, I set to work on making the libation. In the glass, it shared a smoke, orange, and grapefruit aroma. Next, orange and orchard fruit notes on the sip transitioned into agave, smoke, and tea flavors on the swallow with a chocolate-orange finish.

Friday, January 4, 2019

:: the art of the return guest ::

First published on the USBG National blog in February 2018; slightly adapted version here.

At my first bartending job, I worked a lot of lunch shifts before I began adding in a dinner swing shift and full night shifts. During one of the morning pre-meal talks, our general manager discussed how it was more important to get people to return during the daytime shifts than to upsell the experience which was more key at night. For lunch, time can be limited and getting the guest what they need and out the door in their time frame was crucial; if you violated some aspect of the lunch hour, it was unlikely that the guests would ever return.

The more I bartended, I discovered that these concepts on getting a return guest held true even after the sun had set. Sometimes people are in a rush to get to a movie or concert, and you need to deliver their experience of food and beverage in that time window, but other times it is quite the opposite. Sometimes the guests want to linger and experience their friend’s company as well as the warmth of the establishment. At moments when bar seats are scarce such as peak Friday and Saturday nights, it is not wrong to pressure people to order to extract the most sales per seat which promotes speeding up the departure of people who are done ordering. Hopefully, everyone will understand that others are piling up to sit at the bar and begin their evening, and that the sated guests should close out and go. But on slower times, should you let people linger?

I had a coworker at one bar that would forcefully ask guests if they wanted another round, and when they replied no, he slammed down their check. This occurred even if they were the only people at the bar, and it could leave the bar empty after those guests paid and left. From a new guest’s perspective, what is the perception of walking into an establishment and seeing an empty or sparsely seated bar? Compare that to seeing one where it is over half or mostly full and you spy enough seats for you and your friends? Bodies attract bodies since there must be something right with the hospitality experience there, and people seek out comfortable and communal experiences. Scientists might hint at this being a sign of group learning.

Even at night, the service still needs to be timely but not necessarily rushed if the guests do not want it that way. If you do not need the bar seats back, consider inquiring how the guests are doing instead of giving them more of an ultimatum as to whether they want another drink or not. If the seats are not needed back, why not let the guests linger, enjoy the scene and each other’s company, and establish a fond connection to your place? Keep refilling their water glasses, adding to their conversation with bar banter when appropriate, and showing your appreciation that they chose your establishment.

I remember at one place, I had two guests who got a round of wine and were locked in conversation even after their glasses were empty. One owner-manager came up to the bar pass to push me to get them to order something else; I tried to explain that I could not get their attention without interrupting brusquely. When this was followed by the second owner-manager voicing the same adamant concern, I decided to give it a go -- I politely yet forcibly interrupted their conversation to ask if they would like another round. They did indeed order another round and an appetizer. Was this a success? Yes, in the short run. However, I never saw either of them back at our bar again. Perhaps it was coincidence, but their body language as they were facing each other suggested that they were not planning on ordering more, so it was not surprising that this push tactic yielded a one-time windfall.

Bars are businesses, and getting transactions to happen is key. However, getting guests to return and speak fondly of your establishment and acquiring new guests that enter to sense the comfortable environment of happy patrons will help generate business on the slower nights. Even at the end of a busy night and everyone left is done or slowing down in their drinking whether by choice or last call, can you let people linger as you start wiping down the bottles? At a certain point, either by law or by house policy, they need to leave. However, some of the places I have worked at would locked the door early when the last guest leaves -- even if it is before last call, so there have been debates over the tone to set when no new orders are coming in.

Part of the return guest idea is keeping within their comfort zone. Over-extracting guests with limited funds might suggest that your place is out of their budget’s regular rotation list. Try to adjust to the guests’ rhythm and pace to deliver a positive experience for them, and sense what they are looking for at that moment. That can also factor in how they are getting home as well as what important things they have the next morning such as work. It is possible and decently effective to have the call for a next round voiced as wondering if they have everything they want. It is not so wrong to ask directly if they would like another beer if it comes across as more of a thoughtful act of service than a push. Judging the guests’ path and thirst allows me to chose which tactic I ought to take.

A lot of this came to mind when I was part of a new establishment’s opening bar team, and we were trying to drum up regulars who can keep us afloat. But this sort of thinking has also occurred even in more mature places that I have worked. Pushing drinks will help the sales, but how will a few rather drunk patrons affect the experiences of the other guests that you are trying to welcome in or to convince to come back? There’s a fine line between service and over-service especially when it comes to the bar’s decorum. And that level can depend on what night of the week, what hour of the night, and the mood of the room. And that level can vary from guest to guest in the same moment. A business meeting is different from a first date, and both are different from a group of friends celebrating a birthday. But all of those groups present opportunities to make your establishment one that they want to return to.


2 oz Bulleit Bourbon
1/2 oz Tia Maria Coffee Liqueur (Kahlua)
2 dash Orange Bitters (Regan's)

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a flamed orange twist (unflamed twist).

There are two neo-classics on the menu at Nahita where I work with one being the Trader Vic's 1946 El Diablo served as the Pobre Diabla in a Dark'n'Stormy presentation with the ginger beer layer on the bottom. The other is Jon Santer's Revolver that he created at Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco circa 2003; our version splits the Bourbon into equal parts Rittenhouse Bonded Rye and Old Grand-Dad 80° Bourbon, utilizes Galliano Ristretto as the coffee element, and serves the drink on the the rocks instead of up. Surprisingly, I had never had this drink despite knowing about it for quite some time. Therefore, I turned to Paul Clarke's The Cocktail Chronicles for the recipe and to the web for additional reading. The structure reminds me of Bourbon numbers like the Fancy Free from Crosby Gaige's 1941 Cocktail Guide and Ladies' Companion, and this Old Fashioned riff style can be seen in early drinks such as Jerry Thomas' 1862 Japanese Cocktail. With coffee to bring out the toasted and char notes in Bourbon from the barrel, this recipe was a win from the start.
The Fancy Free began with an orange and coffee bouquet that led into malt and roast notes on the sip. Next, the Bourbon danced with the dark coffee flavors on the swallow to round out the drink. With such simple elegance, its no wonder that Paul Clarke featured it in his book a few years ago (see my interview with Paul about his book for more information about his concept).

Thursday, January 3, 2019

maximum wage

2 oz Elijah Craig 12 Year (Old Grand-Dad 114°)
3/8 oz Byrrh Grand Quinquina
3/8 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
2 dash Angostura Bitters

Build in a double old fashioned glass, stir with ice, and garnish with an orange twist.
Two Thursdays, I returned home from work in need of a nightcap. For a recipe source, I reached for Amanda Schuster's New York Cocktails where I spotted the Maximum Wage. The drink was crafted by Lucinda Sterling and the combination reminded me in feel of a less bitter Dragon's Mouth that I had at Portland's Beaker & Flask. Once prepared, the Maximum Wage donated orange and Bourbon aromas to the nose that led into a malt and grape-driven sip. Next, the whiskey was accented by slightly bitter orange flavors with allspice, chocolate, quinine, and clove notes on the finish.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

walter mondale

1 1/2 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1 oz Amontillado Sherry (Lustau)
2/3 oz Curaçao (Pierre Ferrand Dry)
1/8 oz Mathilde Pear Liqueur (1/4 oz Rothman & Winter)
1/8 oz Demerara Syrup (omit)

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.
After work two Wednesdays ago, I was in the mood for a straight spirits drink, so I looked to my to-make drinks list and spotted the Walter Mondale that was published in Imbibe Magazine a few months ago. The drink was crafted by bartender Adam Gorski at Minneapolis' Young Joni as a variation on El Presidente taken in a Midwestern direction in honor of the former Minnesota senator and Vice President. Once stirred and strained, the Walter Mondale cocktail greeted the nose with a lemon, apple, and orange bouquet. Next, orchard fruit danced with grape on the sip, and the swallow began with apple, nutty, and orange flavors and ended with apple, pear, and barrel-aged notes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019


2 oz Cana Brava White Rum or JM Agricole Blanc (Uruapan Charanda Blanco)
1 oz Pineapple Juice
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz Grenadine (1/4 oz Grenadine + 1/4 oz Simple Syrup)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a long dash of Peychaud's Bitters.
Two Tuesdays ago after getting home from work, I reached for Frank Caiafa's The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book and spotted their take on the Flamingo. The Flamingo was first published in Ted Saucier's 1954 Bottoms Up by way of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas as follows (assuming no modification from my 1962 reprint):
Flamingo (first published recipe)
• 1 oz Cuban Rum
• 1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
• 1 dash Grenadine
• Juice 1/2 Lime
Blend with fine ice, pour into a Champagne saucer, and serve with short straws.
The recipe reminded me of a falernum-less Port au Prince, so it was worth a try at this new take (albeit a rather faithful one) on a classic. Once prepared, the Flamingo offered up funky rum aromas from the Mexican agricole and cherry-anise ones from the Peychaud's Bitters garnish. Next, pineapple and lime mingled on the sip, and the swallow displayed rum and berry flavors with a pineapple finish.

:: fred's picks for the top cocktails of 2018 ::

At the end of 2010, I was challenged to declare my favorite drink of the year, and I was overwhelmed for there were so many good options to chose from. My choices were influenced by two factors -- tastiness and uniqueness; it had to be both memorable and worth repeating. In the past 8 years, I did one post for drinks that I had out at bars and one post for drinks that I had at home; however, life has changed gears, and I find myself out on the town a lot less (although more so towards the end of 2018). So for the first time, I combined the two. Each month here was selected for when the drink post appeared and not when it was enjoyed. Without further ado, here is the ninth annual installment of my best drinks for the year with a runner up or two listed.
January: This month coincided with the Instagram event "Tiki the Snow Away," so many of my drinks were heavily influenced by that theme. For the month's pick, I chose Chad Austin's King Slayer that added Don's Spices #2 to the classic Jungle Bird. As runners up, Martin Cate's The Undead Gentleman, and the Liquid Lab's Freaky Tiki that replaced a lot of the Campari in the Jungle Bird with Tiki staples grenadine, orgeat, and bitters.

February: While February still had bleed over of posts from the Ig-Tiki event, it was two non-Tiki recipes that captured my heart. Tied for the month are Maks Pazuniak minty, smoky, and nutty Alligator Monday at Brooklyn's Jupiter Disco and Luc Thier's Fallout-inspired, grassy, and herbal Super Mutant that he served at a guest shift at Backbar in Somerville.

March: The month seemed to have a lot of riffs on Negronis for some reason despite it not being Negroni Month. Perhaps the best of the month was The Departed by Toronto bartender Sandy de Almeida with two base spirits and two amari. Secondary nods go to the coffee-tequila-Campari Lonnie Desoto by New York City bartender Rafa Garcia Febles and for a not-a-Negroni-in-the-slightest, Nick Detrich's A Thousand Blue Eyes for its beautiful simplicity of flavor that reminded me of a Robert Vermeire classic.
April: One of the new additions to the home bar was Byrrh Grand Quinquina that I was inspired to add due to it being at the new bar I was working at as well as my collecting a lot of recipes that call for it throughout the last century or so. Top honor goes to Chris Elford at Amor y Amargo with the Casualty where he brings Scotch, Montenegro, and chocolate together (along with Byrrh). For a secondary nod, the Byrrh recipe The Italian Job with Smith & Cross from Parisian bartender Joseph Akhavan and a flavorful Daiquiri Time Out (but non-Byrrh drink), the Public Mutiny, were tasty.

May: One drink that impressed me was the Who Dares Win by Scotsman Mike Aikman that came across like an Army & Navy crossed with the Silver Bullet. Also worthy to mention were Dan Braganca's riff on Trader Vic's Tortuga that he called the Langosta that I discovered on OnTheBar (sadly, that app died off this summer -- RIP) and made at home, and Donny Clutterbuck's Rum Little Italy of sorts, the Desk Job.
June: With my mint patch in full production mode, I was glad to get to utilize some of it to garnish the Passion Grove Swizzle by Matt Pietrek of CocktailWonk. Two other cool recipes for June were the Wildflower by Richard Boccato that reminded me of a Boukman Daiquiri, Volcano Bowl, and a Too Soon?, and the elegant Tropical Champagne (when made with a funky rum) from Charles Schumann's 1991 American Bar book.

July: A great name and a simple yet complex mix won out here with Agnes and the Merman from Maria Polise that utilized Punt e Mes and grapefruit in a Mezcal Sour. For honorable mention, I could not trim it down to two, so here are three: the Genever-rhum agricole Doppelganger from Vandaag, Ezra Star's Elements of the Stars from Drinking Like Ladies, and Joe Donahue's Planet Earth with apple brandy, Cynar, and orgeat from Amanda Schuster's Duran Duran drink tribute.

August: A great name and a Malört Mai Tai riff? Sign me up! Lightning Swords of Death from Chicago's Whistler! A tip of the hat to classic Tiki from Trader Vic with the Jamaica Snifter from his 1972 book, and Backbar's Pisco Sour variation, the Frightened Tiger.
September: This month's picks were all from Boston! Moe Isaza's 2018 Bacardi Legacy drink is worthy of the hype: the Poderoso with coffee, pineapple, and Montenegro. Two runners up in this close month called for Batavia Arrack with Russell House Tavern's Becky's Battles and John Gertsen/Cali Gold's Smoking Jet Pilot.

October: Paul McGee's Rum River Mystic falls into delightful nightcap land with a split spirit base that reminded me of a 1919. A tip of the hat to two drinks I had in one night out: the complexly layered Blackspot at Kirkland Tap & Trotter and the summer refreshment of Sahil Mehta's Las Pozas -- while it was Autumn, it was a cucumber-y drink of the day in July.

November: I am splitting the gold medal with two amaro-laden tropical drinks. In no order, Sother Teague's Jagermeister-cachaça Rough Seas from his I'm Just Here for the Drinks and Jason Alexander's maple-Meletti Drunken Helmsman from the Tacoma Cabana.
December: An elegant winner for the final month of the year was the Hawthorne's Alaska From a Parallel Universe that they crafted for the Hendrick's Orbium Gin launch party -- just a touch of sherry sent the drink in a different zone. For runners up, one old and one new with the Baldwin Bar's Navigator pictured above and an Amer Picon-tinged Daiquiri, the Minstrel from Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933.

Alas, the year is done and there were my top 35 drinks as mementos of my trip around the sun. Many were made at home; while it may not have the great hospitality of the bars around Boston, it does have the latest last call, great drinking buddies (my wife and/or my cats), and cheap prices! Some were had out and about when time and finances allowed it. Good luck to all of your imbibings in 2019!