Saturday, August 31, 2019

rum firewalker

3 oz Overproof Jamaican Rum (2 oz Rum Fire)
1 oz Campari (2/3 oz)
1 oz Cinnamon Syrup (2/3 oz)
1 oz Lime Juice (2/3 oz)

Shake with ice, strain into a Collins glass with ice, and garnish with a mint sprig and edible flower.
Sticking with the trend towards tropical drinks, I reached for Shannon Mustipher's Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails two Saturdays ago. There, I was lured in by the Rum Firewalker by Jason Alexander that was a name based off of Hampden Estate's 126 proof Rum Fire white rum. While the flavor profile seemed delightful, I scaled down the drink by a third given the rum's potency. Once prepared, the Rum Firewalker proffered mint and peppery floral notes from the garnishes over funky rum and cinnamon aromas from the drink below. Next, the lime sip gave way to funky rum melding into bitter orange flavors on the swallow with a cinnamon and rum funk swallow. Overall, the drink showcased a lot of tropical fruit notes from either the high ester rum alone or in combination with the Campari and other ingredients.

Friday, August 30, 2019

smuggler's cove fog cutter

2 oz Blended Lightly Aged Rum (Appleton Select)
1 oz Pisco (Macchu Pisco)
1/2 oz Gin (Beefeater)
1 1/2 oz Orange Juice
1 1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Orgeat

Flash blend with 12 oz crushed ice and pour into a Zombie glass or Fog Cutter mug (whip shake, pour into a Tiki mug, and fill with crushed ice). Float 1/2 oz Oloroso sherry (Lustau) and garnish with a swizzle stick and mint sprig.

When I was writing about the Scorpion Bowl, I thought about how Trader Vic utilized the orange juice, lemon juice, and orgeat combination in other drinks including the Fog Cutter. Since the Fog Cutter recipe on this blog is a local bartender's riff, I considered doing the classic recipe; however, I got distracted by the riff in the Smuggler's Cove book. Here, Martin Cate and friends utilized pisco and a dry sherry for the aged brandy and sweet sherry, respectively, and I was curious to see how it would turn out. According to a 2008 Food & Wine article, Cate utilized a dry sherry (Amontillado) at Forbidden Island, but the change to pisco came later. Once at Smuggler's Cove, Cate utilized pisco in other tropical drinks circa 2011 such as the Lingua Franca and Sexpert, so the Fog Cutter changed around that time as well.
The Smuggler's Cove Fog Cutter welcomed the nose with mint over a nutty sherry aroma. Next, a dry and creamy lemon and orange sip led into rum, gin's juniper, and nutty flavors on the swallow. As the float integrated into the straw sip, the balance became even drier and the flavor profile offered up more nutty and raisin notes.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

kola sour

1 oz Banks 5 Island Rum (Uruapan Charanda Blanco)
1 oz Meletti Amaro
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Orgeat
1 dash Bittercube Vanilla Cherry Bark Bitters (Bittermens Burlesque)
1 Egg White

Shake once without ice and once with ice, strain into a rocks glass with ice (omit ice), and garnish with additional drops of bitters.
Two Thursdays ago after returning home from dinner, it was time for an amaro-laden digestif. Therefore, I reached for Sother Teague's I'm Just Here for the Drinks book, and I selected the Kola Sour featuring Meletti Amaro. Sother described the recipe as "towing the line between an egg sour and a Mai Tai variation." Once prepared, the Kola Sour greeted the senses with caramel and spice aromas. Next, a creamy lemon and caramel sip led into rum, root beer, cola, and nutty flavors with a floral finish. My reaction was that the drink was in "a parallel universe to the Amaretto Sour" -- in a good way, that is.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

smoke in mirrors

1 1/2 oz Manzanilla Sherry (Lustau Fino)
1 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Mezcal (Fidencio)
3/4 oz Rosé Syrup (Equal parts rosé wine (Boyal) & sugar)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe.
Two Wednesdays ago, I opened up Drew Lazor's Session Cocktails book and spotted the Smoke in Mirrors that would utilize an opened bottle of rosé wine in the fridge. The recipe itself was crafted by the editors of Punch Drinks, and I was intrigued at how sherry was the base with mezcal as an accent here. Once prepared, the Smoke in Mirrors met the nose with a smoke and vegetal aroma. Next, lime and wine notes on the sip smoldered into mezcal and savory flavors on the swallow with a fruity wine finish from the rosé.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

mammoth tusk

1 1/2 oz Unaged Agricole Rum (Vale d'Paul Agurdiente Novo)
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
1 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Orgeat
1/2 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
1/2 oz Falernum (Velvet)
3 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Whip shake all but the bitters, pour into a snifter glass, and fill with crushed ice. Top with bitters (I included them in the mix, see below), and garnish with a mint sprig and a paper umbrella.
Two Tuesdays ago, I returned to my new copy of Minimalist Tiki by Matt Pietrek and Carrie Smith, and I selected the Mammoth Tusk by Chad Austin from Lono in Hollywood. While assembling the drink, it said to build in a shaker tin, and at the very end, it said to top with the bitters; by the time I realized that the authors might have meant that the bitters were not included in the shake, it was too late. I added "all but the bitters" (in the instructions above) after the fact to interpret what the authors might have meant. Regardless, the drink will be amazing either way. By the name, the Mammoth Tusk reminded me of the Cobra's Fang, and the two do share overlapping rum, lime, passion fruit, and falernum ingredients. Once assembled, the Mammoth Tusk proffered a mint aroma over funky rum and herbal Chartreuse aromas. Next, a creamy lime and passion fruit sip gave way to funky rum, passion fruit, and Green Chartreuse herbal flavors on the swallow with a nutty and spice-laden finish.

Monday, August 26, 2019

army navy bowl

2 oz London Dry Gin (Beefeater)
1/4 oz Funky Jamaican Overproof Rum (Wray & Nephew)
1 1/2 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Orgeat
2 dash Angostura Bitters

Whip shake, pour into a Tiki mug, fill with crushed ice, and garnish with a flower.

When I saw a mention of the Army & Navy Cocktail, I recalled how ModernTiki riffed on it to make the Army Navy Grog. As I considered the lemon juice and orgeat in the Army & Navy, it reminded me of the Scorpion Bowl, and I wondered if the two could be mashed up. In the hybrid, I kept the spirit gin-forward with a little bit of high ester rum, but dropped the brandy component of the Scorpion Bowl. I did include the orange juice from the Scorpion Bowl and the bitters from the Army & Navy to round out the mix.
The Army Navy Bowl saluted the nose with an orange and nutty bouquet. Next, a creamy orange and lemon sip paraded past a gin and nutty swallow with a funky rum, allspice, and clove finish.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

broken compass

3/4 oz Navy Strength Jamaican Rum (Smith & Cross)
3/4 oz Aquavit (Aalborg)
3/4 oz Manzanilla Sherry (Lustau Fino)
1/2 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
1/4 oz Grenadine
1 dash Almond Extract (5 drop)

Stir with ice, strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube, and garnish with an orange peel cut into the shape of a compass arrow.
For the cocktail hour two Sunday nights ago, I delved into Lou Bustamonte's 2016 The Complete Cocktail Manual. There, I uncovered the Broken Compass by Andreas Pejovic at Denver's Oak at Fourteenth; I skipped over the recipe plenty of times before I started stocking Fino sherry at my home bar. Once prepared, the Broken Compass directed orange aromas from the twist to the nose. Next, the sip pointed white wine and orange notes, and the swallow directed things over with Jamaican rum funk, aquavit's caraway-driven botanicals, berry, and nutty flavors.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

nuku hiva

1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum (Coruba)
1 oz Blanco Tequila (Lunazul)
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Pineapple Syrup
1/2 oz Don's Spices #2 (1/4 oz Vanilla Syrup + 1/4 oz Hamilton's Allspice Dram)
1 dash Angostura Bitters
6 drop Absinthe (St. George)

Whip shake, pour into a Tiki mug, fill with crushed ice, and garnish with mint sprigs.

Two Saturdays ago, I pondered the pineapple syrup in my refrigerator, and I wondered if I could make a more fruit-forward Jet Pilot. Instead of the cinnamon-falernum duo, I opted for the pineapple syrup that I paired with Don's Spices #2 since both vanilla and allspice are complementary to pineapple flavors; moreover, I swapped out half of the rum for tequila with perhaps the Smoking Jet Pilot in mind. For a name, I wanted something Polynesian and space themed, and I soon learned that fringe groups believe that aliens contributed to the culture on the French Polynesian island of Nuku Hiva. I had previously mentioned the island in 2011 via the Mata Va'ha with respect to a modern tale of human sacrifice there.
The Nuku Hiva launched up with mint aromas over pineapple and tequila notes. Next, lime, grapefruit, and the rum's caramel played on the sip, and the swallow chanted out dark funky rum, vegetal tequila, pineapple, vanilla, and allspice flavors.

Friday, August 23, 2019

golden barnacle

1 oz Rhum Agricole Blanc (Clement)
1/2 oz Pot Still Jamaican Rum (Smith & Cross)
1/2 oz Allspice Dram (Hamilton's)
1 oz Don's Mix (2/3 oz Grapefruit Juice + 1/3 oz Cinnamon Syrup)
1/2 oz Lime Juice

Flash blend and pour into a rocks glass (whip shake, pour into a rocks glass, and top with crushed ice). Garnish with a blood orange wheel (nasturtium flowers).
Two Fridays ago, I was feeling a tropical itch, so I opened up Shannon Mustipher's Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails book. The recipe that called out to me was Shannon's Golden Barnacle that reminded me a little of a Jet Pilot with allspice liqueur instead of falernum and hints of Herbsaint and Angostura spice. When garnished with nasturtiums instead of a blood orange slice, the Golden Barnacle greeted the nose with a peppery floral bouquet over cinnamon and allspice aromas. Next, grapefruit and lime played on the sip, and the swallow offered up funky and grassy rum flavors along with cinnamon and allspice notes.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

:: the financial reality of pursuing (and sticking with) your passion ::

This article was first published on the USBG National site in April 2018 and slightly adapted here.

A podcast by T. Cole Newton and Steve Yamada a little over a year ago broached the subject of how doing what you love sometimes does not pay the bills. In one instance, they interviewed Nick Jarrett who I have grown to know through his recipes due to his amazing palate. He lamented the fact that craft cocktail bartending makes it a challenge to earn a living, so he currently splits his time between The Cure, the preeminent cocktail destination in New Orleans, and a pair of dive bars there where he makes most of his money to live.

This was a topic that was rather poignant for me at that moment for I had just left a craft cocktail program for a more volume establishment. The bottom line became apparent that making fancy drinks with perfect technique and garniture was not especially scalable, and in fact, it made it impossible to pay my bills for this and other reasons more specific to the establishment, its design, and its location. I traded my Instagram-able drinks with fancy imported glassware for less splendor but an hourly take-home that was literally double what I had been making doing things that I was proud of.
This is not an uncommon story of people opening or joining a high concept bar program only to leave a few months later due to not being able to pay the rent or enjoy luxuries in life like eating a meal out at a restaurant themselves. I remember years ago being surprised when I heard a friend discussing why he left a famous cocktail lounge here in Boston. He described how the $50-70 in tips each night minus the cost of dry cleaning his outfits would not allow him to live in the city. This was in the opening few months of this multi-award winning establishment’s life, but it does frame the cost of being involved in these top-notch programs. There are definitely models that have succeeded with the right location and price points to allow the bartenders to make money by bringing in the clientele looking for that experience. Sometimes this is hit upon right off the bat, or more likely, adapted over time to fix the issues. Some mix their craft drink making with volume moments by being located next to sporting venues or business districts, or they are better known for their high-end food that allows some leeway on having a high quality but low volume cocktail program.

There are definitely some bartenders who stick it out for the training and the hope of where the experience could lead them -- all with the diminished wages being the cost of education and accreditation. Others stick it out with an optimism that things will get better. Either way, savings are often burned or credit card debts rack up.

An issue that lead to this poor profitability can be the amount of time necessary to set up the bar for service. One place in town doing more tropical drinks had the whole bar team show up 3 hours before open to start with their juicing and syrup making program that ranged from preparing standard citrus to more complex fruits like pineapple. Other challenges there included that the drinks were so involved that the bartenders had less time to deal with their guests (and sometimes needing an extra bartender in the tip pool just to handle the labor), and the ones making most of the sales and hence the money were the servers who could move the drinks and the food faster to a greater number of seats. Pricing the time, effort, and expense of these drinks can also out-price them for the market. Guests may show up for a single round before continuing their night at a lower key and less expensive venue. Moreover, if there is a kitchen, they may skip the pricy food or only order an appetizer instead of a full meal. Even with a solid beer and wine program, a place known for its cocktails will have a harder time to get guests to order these easy to prepare options.

Are there ways of getting the best of both worlds? In terms of the dynamics, there are many ways of batching drinks and utilizing draft systems or bottled cocktails to speed up the delivery during service with more of the work being done on the backend before guests arrive. Properly set up stations with bottles, tools, refrigerators, and sinks in close proximity can also make or break the equation. Many of the other options such as less complex garniture and the like come at a cost of the finished product, but it may mean the difference of moving more drinks and having staff that will not be perusing the job boards on the regular. Financially, pooled house situations or higher server tip-outs can help, but often there are some servers who will coldly protest this maneuver. And I have met servers who used to be bartenders, but they saw serving as more money in fewer hours and less work. Campaigning for a better bartender hourly or a prep staff so bartenders spend less time doing things other than facing guests and making drinks are options; however, management often enjoys the thrills of cheap labor and actively resists that. Some of my bartender friends are lucky enough to have wages and sometimes benefits that show that the owners care for their situation, but this is more of a rarity from what I gather.
It can all boil down to whether the management can be reactive enough to look out for their staff instead of solely keeping an eye on the sales and other numbers that look more at how the house itself is doing. Does the management look into whether their bar staff can earn a competitive wage given the program? Does the bar manager ask too much of the team in order to make their own name at the others’ financial expense? Uncompromising vision can lead to high turnover if the numbers do not work out for the staff despite the local media, Yelp, and perhaps international bar associations singing praise and gifting awards all along the way. It can seem like a trade off at times of being proud of your program versus getting paid for your labor.

Many seek out middle of the road quality vs. volume establishments or mix the highs with the lows (in both volume and quality) akin to Nick Jarrett’s decision to work a craft cocktail and a popular dive bar that I mentioned above. Cross-training like this can provide valuable lessons in bartending. Working in a lesser quality bar program will teach both humility and how to get people to like you for you and less so about the fancy drinks or arcane beer knowledge you possess. I have also witnessed some comrades stick it out while trying to work 6 or 7 days a week to make what their peers can do it 3 or 4. Others have done the high quality-low pay route for a time to make a name for themselves before bailing on the profession for more lucrative jobs like sales reps and brand ambassadors.

I am still trying to figure things out as I strive to pay my way in a city that seems to get more expensive to live in by the year. And it seems that I have more observations than answers here, so please feel free to join in conversation in the comment section below with your thoughts and advice.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

italian heirloom

2 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Blended Scotch (Cutty Sark Prohibition)
1/2 oz Laphroaig 10 Year Scotch
1 pinch Salt
5 swath Lemon Peel

Build in a mixing glass, express the peels into the liquid, stir with ice, strain into a coupe, and garnish with a lemon twist.
Two Wednesdays ago, I returned to the Beta Cocktails book after writing my tribute to that and Rogue Cocktails a month before. In those pages, I was excited by the Italian Heirloom by Maksym Pazuniak that I had somehow passed over before. The Cynar and salt combo mixed with another ingredient reminded me of Beta Cocktails' Search for Delicious as well as the better known Little Giuseppe. Here the other ingredient was not Punt e Mes but Scotch which generally pairs quite well with Cynar such as in the Black Diamond Flip, Lake City Quiet Pill, and Drunk Uncle. Once prepared, the Italian Heirloom welcomed the nose with lemon and peat smoke aromas. Next, lemon and caramel mingled on the sip, and the swallow came through with more smoke notes that were accented by mint and herbal flavors.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


1 pony Dry Gin (1 1/2 oz Beefeater)
1/2 pony French Vermouth (3/4 oz Noilly Prat)
1 Egg White
2 dash Maraschino Liqueur (1/4 oz Luxardo)
1 tsp Syrup (1/4 oz Simple)
1 dash Orange Bitters (Regan's)

Shake once without ice and once with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass.
For the cocktail hour on Tuesday, I reached for W.C. Whitfield's 1939 Just Cocktails where I spotted the Snicker. The Snicker came across like an egg white-laden version of the Silver Cocktail so I was intrigued by the concept. Once prepared, the Snicker proffered a nutty cherry aroma from the Maraschino that led into a creamy sip with a hint of cherry. Next, the gin came through on the swallow along with herbal and cherry notes. Over, no great surprises here other than an egg white drink without the "sour" portion.

Monday, August 19, 2019


1 1/2 oz Aged Rum (Barbancourt 8 Year)
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth (Martini Grand Lusso)
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz Benedictine
1/4 oz Amer Picon (Torani Amer)
1 pinch Salt

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe.

Two Mondays ago, I thought about the Manhattan variation the Creole, and I wondered if I could make it into a Daiquiri if I swapped rum as the base and added lime juice. Given the original recipe, it seemed like the Floridita would make as a great skeleton to manipulate. I originally made this drink with lime, vermouth, citrus, and the two liqueurs; however, it was a touch too bitter, and I remade it with a small pinch of salt which transformed it into a delight.
Instead of calling it the Creole Daiquiri, I dubbed this one the Creolita in line with the Floridita. The Creolita began with a dark orange aroma countered by bright lime notes. Next, lime, caramel, and grape mingled on the sip, and the swallow proffered rum and a slightly bitter orange-herbal flavor.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

maui nui

2 1/2 oz Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz Curaçao (Pierre Ferrand)
1/4 oz Cinnamon Syrup
1/4 oz Don's Spices #2 (1/8 oz Vanilla Syrup + 1/8 oz Hamilton's Allspice Dram)
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Whip shake, pour into a Tiki mug, and fill with crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprigs and freshly grated nutmeg.

After the Plank Owner's Punch, I began to focus in its Don's Spices #2, Don the Beachcomber's secret vanilla and allspice cordial that was featured in a few of his drinks. From that collection, I honed in on the Nui Nui and decided to make a lower proof riff. For the Nui Nui's orange juice, I opted for the Paul McGee preference to remove orange juice from drinks and exchange it for curaçao. To name it, I decided upon the Maui Nui which is the prehistoric Hawaiian island formed from a volcano; between its weight and erosion, it ended up divided into four islands.
The Maui Nui erupted with a mint and cinnamon aroma. Next, lime and orange flavors mingled on the sip, and the swallow donated herbal, cinnamon, allspice, and vanilla flavors. Overall, the balance felt a lot lighter in proof, but the change from amber Virgin Island rum (which is generally not all that flavorful) to French vermouth was not an overwhelming change.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

second rummer up

1 1/2 oz Aged Rum (1 oz Appleton Select + 1/2 oz Smith & Cross)
1 1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
1/2 oz Cinnamon Syrup

Whip shake, pour into a Pearl Diver glass (Tiki mug), and top with crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprigs and a smoking cinnamon stick.

Two Saturdays ago, I returned to the Minimalist Tiki book by Matt Pietrek and Carrie Smith and spotted the Second Rummer Up. The recipe was crafted by Brian Maxwell who I did the "Cocktails in the Colonies" talk with at Tales of the Cocktail in 2017 and who created the Isle of Fawkes drink that I previously enjoyed. Brian currently works at Seaworthy in New Orleans, but the recipe might predate that move.
The Second Rummer up met the nose with an acrid cinnamon smoke over a mint aroma. Next, lime, pineapple, and hints of passion fruit on the sip got beat out by funky rum, passion fruit, and cinnamon flavors on the swallow.

Friday, August 16, 2019

indian summer

1 1/2 oz Michter's Bourbon (Old Grand-Dad Bonded)
1/2 oz Cantaloupe Syrup (Sharlyn Melon Syrup)
2 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a rocks glass with ice, and garnish with a lemon twist and a shaved melon slice (omit).
When Andrea brought home a melon, I recalled that there was a recipe in Clair McLafferty's The Classic & Craft Cocktail Recipe Book. That melon number was the Indian Summer by Jared Schubert of Louisville, Kentucky, and those flavors rounded out a Bourbon Old Fashioned. In the glass, the Indian Summer offered floral, lemon, melon, and clove aromas. Next, a malt-driven sip led into Bourbon, floral, melon, clove, and allspice flavors on the swallow.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

marble hill

2 oz Dorothy Parker Gin (Beefeater)
1 oz Byrrh Grand Quinquina
1 oz Orange Juice
2 dash Abbott's Bitters (Jerry Thomas Decanter)

Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with an orange twist.

Two Thursdays ago, I turned to Frank Caiafa's 2016 The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book for the evening's libation. There, I spotted the Marble Hill that came across like a curious Bronx variant. The name itself backed that assumption up, for Marble Hill is a neighborhood in Manhattan north of the Harlem River that is more closely associated with the Bronx. Frank's recipe was a modification of the one in The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book from 1935 that was half Gordon Gin and a quarter each Dubonnet and orange juice.
The Marble Hill greeted the nose with a pine, allspice, and plum bouquet. Next, grape and orange mingled on the sip, and the swallow donated gin flavors that shifted into bitter-herbal orange notes with an allspice and clove finish.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

plank owner's punch

1 1/2 oz Plantation OFTD Overproof Rum
1 1/2 oz Moderately Aged Rum (Plantation Original Dark)
1 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Honey Syrup
1/2 oz Don's Spices (1/4 oz Vanilla Syrup + 1/4 oz Hamilton's Allspice Dram)
1 dash Aromatic Bitters (Jerry Thomas Decanter)
1 dash Absinthe (20 drop St. George)

Whip shake, pour into a Zombie glass, fill with crushed ice, and garnish with a mint sprig.

After placing an order for the Minimalist Tiki book by Matt Pietrek (of CocktailWonk) and Carrie Smith a little over two months ago, my copy finally showed so I was excited to give a recipe a test run. Given my success with Jason Alexander's drinks in the past such as the Golden Shellback and Drunken Helmsman, I started with one of his recipes called the Plank Owner's Punch.
The Plank Owner's Punch inched my nose out to a mint aroma over funky rum notes. Next, a lemon, honey, and caramel sip leapt into rum, allspice, and vanilla flavors on the swallow. As the ice melted a bit, the absinthe's anise became more pronounced.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


1/2 jigger Bourbon (1 1/4 oz Old Grand-Dad Bonded)
1/2 jigger Italian Vermouth (1 1/4 oz Martini Grand Lusso)
1 dash Benedictine (1/4 oz)
1 dash Maraschino (1/4 oz Luxardo)

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

Two Tuesdays ago, I returned to my new copy of W.C. Whitfield's 1939 Just Cocktails and spotted the Creole. This version of the Creole varied from the better known one which has Amer Picon instead of the Maraschino (besides rye as the whiskey); Just Cocktails has no shortage of Amer Picon recipes so it was not due to its availability to the author. Instead, it appeared more like a sweet vermouth version of the Brooklyn (as it appeared in Jack's Manual) crossed with the sweet vermouth version of the Red Hook, the Buffalo (or better stated, a mashup of the cocktails with the bitter elements of Punt e Mes and Picon removed).
This Creole proffered lemon, grape, and nutty cherry aromas. Next, the grape and cherry continued on into the sip, and the swallow dealt out Bourbon and herbal flavors with a sweet cherry finish. Without a bitter element in the mix, it lacked the intrigue and allure of the Picon version.

Monday, August 12, 2019

improved & fancy

3 oz Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
1/4 oz Maraschino (Luxardo)
1 bsp Absinthe (Kübler)
3 dash Orange Bitters
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a Nick & Nora (coupe) glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Two Mondays ago, I was looking for something on the lighter side, so I reached for Drew Lazor's Session Cocktails book. There, I spotted the Improved & Fancy by Naren Young. I was somewhat confused by the name since Fancy refers to the 1860s-style update to the cocktail by adding curaçao and Improved refers to the 1870s-style update by adding dashes of Maraschino and absinthe to the mix. Here, unless the orange bitters are the curaçao part, the Fancy aspect is just the presentation.
The Improved & Fancy welcomed the nose with a lemon and nutty cherry bouquet. Next, white grape and cherry on the sip curtsied to nutty cherry and anise on the swallow.

Sunday, August 11, 2019


1 jigger Cognac (1 1/2 oz Camus VS)
1/2 jigger Applejack (3/4 oz Laird's Bonded)
1/2 jigger Benedictine (3/4 oz)
2 dash Absinthe (1 bsp Kübler)

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.
Two Sundays ago, I returned to W.C. Whitfield's 1939 Just Cocktails for the evening's libation. There, I was lured in by the Catastrophe that seemed like a cross between a Corpse Reviver No. 1 and a De La Louisiane. Once prepared, the Catastrophe reached the nose with a lemon, apple, minty, and anise bouquet. Next, an apple sip crumbled into Cognac, apple, minty, chocolate, and anise flavors on the swallow.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

old painless is waiting

1 1/2 oz Overproof White Rum (Privateer Tres Aromatique)
1 oz Coconut Water
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Pineapple Syrup
1/4 oz Curaçao (Pierre Ferrand Dry)
6 drop Absinthe, Herbsaint, or Pastis (St. George Absinthe)

Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

When I thought about the coconut water and pineapple syrup in my fridge, I considered doing a less opaque Piña Colada-Daiquiri riff. To take it up a notch, I thought about how the Painkiller is an orange juice extension of that drink, and I considered Paul McGee's frequent swapping of curaçao for orange juice in classics like the Fog Cutter and Penang Afrididi #1. With the three alternatives to the Painkiller's coconut cream, pineapple juice, and orange juice in place, I added lime juice to balance the sweetness, and later a hint of absinthe to give it some needed depth. For a name, I went with a reference from the movie Predator for this abstraction of the Painkiller: Blane Cooper called his M134 Mini-Gun "Old Painless." Moments before Cooper's final confrontation with the alien, he declared, "Old Painless is waiting."
The Old Painless is Waiting greeted the nose with rum, woody spice, and orange aromas. Next, lime and coconut water on the sip shot into rum, pineapple, and orange flavors on the swallow. Overall, the result was a lot more ethereal and closer to a Daiquiri than the classic Painkiller.

Friday, August 9, 2019

brave margot

1 oz Campari
3/4 oz Black Strap Rum (Cruzan)
1/4 oz Velvet Falernum
1/2 oz Pineapple Syrup
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1 dash Absinthe (24 drop St. George)

Shake with ice, strain into a Collins glass, and fill with crushed ice. Garnish with a spritz of Fernet Branca (6 drops), a lime wheel (omit), edible flowers, and a cherry (omit).
Two Fridays ago, I happened upon the Brave Margot in Imbibe that was created at Bar Marilou in New Orleans. The recipe was inspired by the Jungle Bird with a bigger emphasis on the Campari and less so on the rum and pineapple; spice elements from falernum and absinthe were also added to the mix. Once prepared, the Brave Margot greeted the nose with peppery-floral and menthol aromas. Next, lime, caramel, and pineapple on the sip gave way to dark rum, bitter orange, and vegetal flavors on the swallow.

Thursday, August 8, 2019


1/2 Dry Gin (1 1/4 oz Beefeater)
1/2 Apple Brandy (1 1/4 oz Boulard VSOP Calvados)
2 dash Grenadine (1/2 oz)
2 dash Absinthe (1/2 bsp Kübler)

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass; I added an orange twist.

Two Thursdays ago, I decided to open my new purchase of W.C. Whitfield's 1939 wood-covered Just Cocktails that would be joining its brethren, Whitfield's 1941 Here's How that I bought back in 2010. The recipe that I started with was the Dempsey that was most certainly named after Jack Dempsey the boxer who reigned as the world heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926 given the drawing of a pugilist. The combination of gin, apple brandy, and grenadine reminded me of the Pink Lady and Blue Skies, so I was intrigued.
The Dempsey left the corner with orange oil aromas over apple and berry notes and herbal undertones on the nose. Next, apple and pomegranate jabbed on the sip, and the swallow swung with gin, apple, and dark berry flavors and an anise finish at the bell.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019


1 1/2 oz Vodka (Barr Hill)
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 tsp Pernod (Herbsaint)
1 tsp Simple Syrup (1/4 oz)

Shake with ice and strain into a hollowed-out cucumber placed into a receptacle to hold it vertical. Drink with a straw and eat the cucumber as you go.

With the second cucumber from my garden, I decided to make a classic Tiki drink that had always caught my eye. The recipe did not call for cucumber juice like the Irma La Douce, cucumber syrup like the White Buddha, or muddled cucumber like in the Hole in Cup, but it utilized the cucumber as the drinking vessel. That drink was the Cou-Cou-Comber created by Joe Scialom of Suffering Bastard fame while at the Caribe Hilton Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, circa 1959. Otherwise, the drink inside was a simple Vodka Gimlet elevated by herbal notes from pastis as laid out in Beachbum Berry's Sippin' Safari.
The cucumber certainly contributed to the nose along with the anise from the Herbsaint and mint and peppery floral aromas from my garnishes. Next, the lime dominated the sip, and the swallow followed along with the aroma (minus the garnishes) with cucumber and anise flavors. I could not help but think that a white rum, gin, or agave spirit would work wonders here, but I kept true to the recipe with the vodka and let the other flavors sing out.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

low down

3/4 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
3/4 oz Campari
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Honey Syrup
1/4 oz Sfumato Rabarbarao

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe.
Two Tuesdays ago, I was in the mood for something lighter, so I turned to Drew Lazor's Session Cocktails and spotted the Low Down by Evan Milliman at Atlanta's Ticonderoga Club. Once shaken and strained, the Low Down welcomed the nose with earthy bitter aromas from the Sfumato along with hints of orange from the Campari. Next, lemon and honey made for an easy sip, and the swallow had floral notes meeting bitter earthy ones with a honey and orange finish.

Monday, August 5, 2019

:: bartender media relations 101 ::

Originally published on the USBG National site in October 2016 and in Boston Cocktails: Drunk & Told in April 2017; slightly adapted version here.

Becoming more famous in your trade can come from word of mouth around town or winning big competitions, but there are some easier ways -- namely, getting the press involved. Sometimes, the press will find you on their own but more likely the first contacts will be aided by your bar or restaurant’s PR firm; however, getting contacted is not enough especially if you hesitate. Here are some pointers on how to improve your chances.

First, have a bio and photo prepared. Find a friend or co-worker with photography skills or hire a photographer to take a good headshot of you as well as a photo of you making a drink behind the bar. Low resolution will work well for web publicity but it will not do so well in magazines, so the more pixels the better! Whether it is an article, a bartender site like ShakeStir, or a competition, most want a photo to go along with the name, so have one or a few on hand. The bio can be simple with what your job position is, what sort of establishment you work at, and what sort of drinks you focus on, but some history of how you got there and your other accomplishments might help as well.

Second, utilize social media to establish a brand, and people including the press will be able to find you and follow you. Moreover, in a way, you are creating your own press. Instagram is rather popular for drink photos, recipes, and bartending action shots, but do not neglect the old standbys of Facebook and Twitter. Video and podcasts are another way to get your voice out there, and the written word through blogging and article writing has been the pathway for several now famous bartenders out there. Get the message out there of what recipes you are creating, what your bar program is building, and what special events or theme nights you are scheming. If you have something to teach, consider starting an educational Youtube series (or see if there is an adult education class series that needs an instructor). Writers like to latch on to trends and promote events that happen. Consider tagging websites, magazines, and writers on social media to get their attention, or to start dialogues by assisting them in their searches (many writers will ask for help on stories on

There are also writers who ask their followers directly for content. I have had recipes and responses published by Gary Regan (newsletter and books), Tales of the Cocktail, Eater, and other outlets by just answering their calls for answers to their questions. So take some time to add key social media accounts and blogs to your feeds, and make sure you keep an eye out for the requests.

If your bar or restaurant has an HR firm, get to know them so that they feel comfortable contacting you about stories that come their way. Utilize them to for assistance in writing your bio if possible, and make sure that they have both your bio and photo(s) on hand so that they can easily disseminate these essentials without waiting for you to get back to them or their contacts. Often HR firms only deal with the bar manager or lead bartender, but getting to know them might sway them to include you if this is not the case.

When media does contact you, it is essential for you to be prompt -- meaning a couple of hours if possible. I remember one writer who contacted me about a recipe and I said that I could create something. When they replied that they needed a yes or no that night, instead of writing back immediately (I was out and away from my home bar), I got home, created the drink with a photo attached, and wrote back a little before 11:30pm. To me that was “that night” but to that writer, they wrote someone else and went to bed, and I missed that opportunity. Writers do not have the same sleep schedules as bartenders, so keep that in mind. Deadlines are often short, and waiting 24 hours or so can miss getting your quote or recipe included in an article. Sometimes, the contact happens during your shift, and depending on your work place’s policy, it might not be possible to write back (or even receive the message), but do try to write at the end of the shift even if it is to say that you will write them back the next day.
When dealing with the media, the more professional you are and the easier you are to work with, the more likely you are to be contacted again. Writers have a job to do, and if you are dependable and difficulty-free, they will remember that and utilize you more often. In addition, be as thorough as possible in your communications. Do not assume that the writers and editors have any bartending expertise, so make things obvious especially in recipe directions.

Competitions are indeed a great way to get press, although it can take a lot of both stage presence and recipe development to start to win these events. Some competitions do a good job of promoting all of the contestants whether with photos or recipe lists, while many only do the winner or the top two or three. There are also other ways besides competitions to get brands and their PR firms to work with you especially if you can team up with them to develop their marketing whether for print or offsite events.

Finally, remember to be patient. Getting good at your craft takes years as can getting notice from the media. There are definitely ways to speed up both processes through educating yourself and creating your own press without the traditional media. Getting your voice out there through social media will help as will trying to meet and interact with writers at events, on Twitter, and through other sites. Getting press and fame is not the be-all and end-all; try to find satisfaction and inner peace with the job you have chosen. Find the joy that will allow you to be in it for the long haul for it can be a while before the press catches on. Or if at all, for some of my favorite bartenders never get mentioned in articles at all. Their path to success was in making a warm, welcoming bar that guests return over and over to. There is no reason not to try to have both, but do not forget that our first obligation is to the guests and our establishments.

moonkist twist

3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Honey Syrup
1/2 oz Falernum (Velvet)
2 oz Coconut Water
1 1/2 oz Light Puerto Rican Rum (Treat Oak White Rum)
1 oz Barbados Rum (Plantation 5 Year)
2 dash Angostura Bitters

Whip shake, pour into a coconut Tiki mug, and fill with crushed ice. The image included a mint sprig garnish, so I followed suit.

Recently, Instagrammer El Nova posted the Moonkist Twist as his take on the Moonkist Coconut from the Mai Kai in Florida. After I made it myself, El Nova inquired how I enjoyed it and pointed me towards the reason why he modified things. The AtomicGrog blog posted about the Moonkist Coconut that they described as "a bolder and spicier option to the Piña Colada" and how the drink is better during the brief soft-shelled young coconut season when it can be crafted into a mug. Moreover, they continued on to provide a recipe that came across as rather sweet. El Nova converted the coconut milk and cream in that recipe into coconut water, and otherwise balanced the drink to be less decadent and sugary.
The Moonkist Twist welcomed the nose with mint over clove spice notes. Next, lime and coconut water on the sip fled into rum, honey, and clove flavors on the swallow. Without the coconut milk and cream, the drink allowed the honey and falernum duo to shine as they have in the Daiquiri-like Don Beach's Island of the Martinique and Eastern Standard's Chappaquiddick but lightened by the briny coconut water.

Sunday, August 4, 2019


1 1/4 oz Lime Juice
1 1/4 oz Papaya Nectar (Goya)
1/2 oz Peach Nectar (Goya)
3/4 oz Honey Syrup
1 1/2 oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado 5 Year)
1 oz Lemon Hart 151 (Plantation OFTD)
3/4 oz Gold Puerto Rican Rum (Diplomatico Añejo)

Blend with 4 oz crushed ice for 5 seconds and pour into a Headhunter-style Tiki mug with ice (whip shake, pour, and fill with crushed ice). Garnish with a pineapple finger speared to a red and a green cocktail cherries (mint sprigs).
For the final part of my juice trio, I returned to the papaya nectar that was christened in the Astro Aku Aku and opened up peach nectar for this one: the Headhunter. The recipe was crafted by Mannie "Blackie" Andal of Manhattan's Hawaii Kai Restaurant during the 1960's, and it was provided by Beachbum Berry in his Remixed book. The drink also seemed like the perfect time to take my new mug from the Boston Shaker Store for a test rum. Once prepared, the Headhunter donated mint notes over papaya and peach aromas. Next, lime, honey, and peach on the sip snuck up on a burly rum and papaya flavored swallow.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

astro aku aku

1 1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Papaya Nectar (Goya)
1/2 oz Apricot Nectar (Goya)
1/2 oz Falernum (Velvet)
1 1/2 oz Gold Puerto Rican Rum (Don Q Añejo)
1 oz Lemon Hart 151 Proof Rum
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Blend 10 seconds with 4 oz crushed ice, pour into a large Easter Island Tiki mug, and fill with ice.

The next of the fruit juice trio was the Astro Aku Aku that utilized the apricot nectar I purchased for the Krakatoa along with papaya nectar that I got another use with the third part of the trio. In Remixed, Beachbum Berry described how the Polynesian restaurant craze overlapped in the 1960s with the pinnacle of the space age intrigue, and such wonders as the Saturn and Trader Vic's Space Needle were invented. The Astro Aku Aku was Jeff Berry's tribute to this era, and he based his creation off of the Hawaii Kai's Suffering Bastard (no relation to Joe Scialom's better known recipe).

In the mug, the Astro Aku Aku launched into a lime, tropical fruit, and rum bouquet to the nose. Next, lime and papaya notes orbited on the sip, and the swallow followed through with rum, apricot, and clove flavors.

Friday, August 2, 2019


1 1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
1 oz Apricot Nectar (Goya)
1/2 oz Falernum (Velvet)
1 tsp Coffee Liqueur (1/4 oz Kahlua)
1 1/2 oz Gold Puerto Rican Rum (Don Q Añejo)
1 1/2 oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado 5 Year)
1 dash Angostura Bitters
2 oz Kona Coffee, cooled as a float (Ethiopian)

Blend all but the coffee with 8 oz crushed ice for 10 seconds. Pour into a 36 oz snifter (16 oz glass) with ice cubes, and float the chilled coffee.

Two Fridays ago, I purchased a few fruit juices to make a trio of drinks in Beachbum Berry's Remixed. The first one was the Krakatoa that called for apricot nectar; this one was not the flaming Krakatoa but one inspired by a drink at Ft. Lauderdale's Mai Kai called the Mutiny. Beachbum Berry and friends modified the Hawaii Kai Swizzle to have coffee flavors since they could not pry the Mutiny recipe away from the Mai Kai bartenders.
The Krakatoa erupted with coffee aromas from the float along with hints of citrus from underneath. Next, crisp lime and other citrus notes on the sip flowed into rum, apricot, and spice flavors on the swallow along with a coffee finish. As the float integrated into the straw sip, the flavor profile got a lot darker, roastier, and drier.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

brandy no. 1

2/3 Brandy (1 3/4 oz Camus VS Cognac)
2 dash Italian Vermouth (3/4 oz Martini Grand Lusso)
1 dash Apricot Liqueur (1/4 oz Combier)
1 dash Picon Bitters (1/4 oz Torani Amer)

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a cherry (orange twist).
Two Thursdays ago, I returned home late from working an event downtown; between the advanced hour and the unseasonably cool evening's air, I was in the mood for something in nightcap territory instead of something more tropical. Therefore, I selected Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933 and rediscovered the Brandy No. 1 that I had passed over a few times probably due to its uninspiring name. Essentially, it was a Brandy Manhattan with accents from apricot liqueur and Amer Picon, and this book featured other drinks with this cordial duo including the Brooklyn-like Montana and the Scotch-based Magician. Once stirred and strained, the Brandy No. 1 donated orange oil over apricot and grape aromas. Next, the vermouth's grape mingled with an orchard fruit note on the sip, and the swallow began with the Cognac and ended with a delightful bitter orange-apricot flavor that complemented the French spirit elegantly.