Bohannon and Swedish Punsch

Recently, I was seated at the bar at the Zig Zag with my dear friend Angela trying to shake off the effects of the work day. After the merest glance at the current menu, I picked some familiar classic that I am sure was wonderful, though I can't say I recall what it was. Angela calmly perused the new options before opting for the Bohannon, a cocktail originally created by Casey Keenan at Deep Ellum in Boston. As I watched Murray put together the three ingredients, I couldn't wait to taste Angela's cocktail. I hate it when that happens. Since then, I have been on a part-time mission to make this drink at home. Usually, at worst, this requires a trip to the liquor store, but one of the ingredients is not readily available in the United States: Swedish punsch. Fortunately, a simple Internet search provided me with a do-it-yourself recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Underhill-Lounge. I love home booze projects, so this was a win-win situation.

So what is Swedish punsch? Swedish punsch came about from efforts to make Batavia Arrack more palatable, and it became a bottled version of a popular drink from the 1700s, namely, Arak punch. And the follow-up question becomes, what is Batavia Arrack and then, what is Arak punch? Babushka nesting dolls anyone? Okay the summary: Batavia Arrack is a type of spirit made in Indonesia that is distilled from sugar cane. What makes it so different from "rum" is that the fermentation of the wash is started with fermented red rice in addition to local yeasts, which combine to impart unique flavors and aromas to the finished product. Arrack was very popular starting in the early eighteenth century when the Dutch East Indies Company introduced it to Europe. Its particular funky, fiery nature induced many to temper it with spices, citrus, or even other spirits--hello punch. It can stand up to pretty much anything, and as a punch ingredient this is ideal. As punch found a greater following, Arrack punch, complete with its signature flavor profile, filled many a flowing bowl. The primary ingredients consisted of Arrack, rum, lime juice, sugar, and water with a garnish of freshly grated nutmeg. As with all punches, though, of course, there was a great deal of leeway with the recipe. Swedish punsch is a variation of this popular libation in bottled form. It was originally created in Sweden in the mid-eighteenth century and is still popular in many Scandinavian countries. Swedish punsch, or caloric punsch, also found its way into several classic cocktail recipes, notably the Diki-Diki and the Biffy, both from Harry Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Book.


2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Underhill punsch
1/2 ounce green chartreuse

Shake in an ice-filled shaker. Garnish with a pinch of black pepper.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Bellringer gin for this one.

Boy, do I love chartreuse! When I took a big whiff of this drink and the green chartreuse wafted up to my nose, I knew I was smiling. Green chartreuse was also what greeted my taste buds, though the botanicals of the gin were present as well and created the backbone of the drink. The black pepper contributed a pleasant warmth aftter each swallow. The drink had a surprisingly rich texture, most likely the result of the punsch, and was very complex considering the staggering amount of the flavors at play. The punsch was most apparent mid-palate, with the arrack and tea flavors shinging brightest. This drink was very much worth the wait and was every bit as good as I remembered.


Adios Amigos

Charles Baker tells us that this cocktail is from the Army-Navy Club in Manila, Philippines. This social club was the go-to hang out spot for Americans in Manila back in the early part of last century. It was notorious during that time not only for not allowing any local Filipinos in unless they were servants--hello American imperialism--but also for drunk's row, a line of bunks situated side by side along the entire length of one veranda, specifically for those who could not handle their liquor. Many American officers, fresh off the boat and far away from the constraints of Prohibition, were escorted (carried) up to this room to sleep off their over-indulgence in freedom, read extreme inebriation. Somehow this seems better than the only modern equivalent I can think of: the good ole drunk tank.

When I first gazed at this recipe, I was puzzled and a bit disheartened. Oh Charlie, what am I going to do with you?

Adios Amigos

2 ponies Bacardi (2 ounces)
1 pony dry vermouth (1 ounce)
1 pony dry gin (1 ounce)
1 pony cognac (1 ounce)
1/2 lemon, juice; or 1 lime, juice (1/2 ounce lemon juice)

"Shake well with lots of cracked ice, pour into a large flat champagne glass, and send for the Marines!"

Notes on ingredients: I used Cruzan white rum in place of the Bacardi. Dolin dry vermouth, Bellringer gin, and Paul Masson brandy in place of cognac.

So I find in my glass numerous spirits, vermouth, and citrus. But, alas, no liqueur, syrup, or other sweetener. Boozy and sour, yes; drinkable . . . my hopes were not high. Could this be a typo? Was something lost in transcription? Please? But as I began my search for other versions, my hopes were dashed with the appearance of the Adios Amigos in Trader Vic's guide (1947) and on cocktaildb.com, both without any mention of a sweetener. The proportions are different and the lemon juice has been dropped in favor of lime. Other than that it is still dry, boozy, and sour. But where Mr. Baker leads we shall follow, if only for one sip. So here is my attempt at having an open mind.

Well hello there, lemon. This drink was fucking sour. The aroma included all things lemon and not much else, big surprise, though I may have talked myself into detecting the rum. That was when I started to rethink my choice of citrus, could lime have been any better? The first sip was as expected dry, sour, and quite boozy in an unimaginative sort of way--the flavors kind of blended together so I only felt the sensation of alcohol, but could not decipher the flavor. It was just too hard to get beyond the sourness. I tried, but after much puckering, I found this concoction unremarkable and quite undrinkable. Oh well. But since I had done my homework on our friend Mr. Baker, I was not surprised that one of his drinks was--well, to be nice--out of touch with modern tastes. So, after scratching my head and poking around in other cocktail resources, I came up with a more modern translation:

Adios Amigos (as adapted)

1 ouce Cruzan
1/2 ounce Dolin dry vermouth
1/2 ounce Bellringer gin
1/2 ounce VSOP brandy (Masson)

1/4 ounce lime juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup

Shake ingredient in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into a cocktail glass.

What a difference a little bit of sugar makes! My first thought was to balance out the citrus. My second thought ran to lime juice. Limes go well with rum; limes go well with gin. Why not? The lemon had already failed miserably. Fortunately for me, after making these two considerably small decisions, I turned to the professionals. What luck that the Adios Amigos was in the Diffordsguide with lime juice balanced by syrup. I had not thought of cutting down the amount of juice, but boy did it work. The citrus was still the most prevalent smell, but the rum and the gin were present as well. On the first sip, the flavor of lime mingled pleasantly with the rum and the herbal notes of the gin. The brandy contributed a nice richness to the overall drink, making it very mellow. The drink still retained its dryness, and on the swallow I tasted the botanicals of the gin and the vanilla notes of the rum. The one fault I found with this drink was that when it warmed up the dry vermouth began peeking out in a not-so-nice way . . . do not tarry with this drink.


Amer Picon Fizz

Some Charles Baker drinks are more suspect than others. Some seem completely wrong from the get-go, while others are mere curiosities, things that catch your eye but fail to incite action. But like the Alamagoozlum, just because it looks strange on paper doesn't mean it isn't a tasty libation. Whenever I flip through Jigger, Beaker, and Glass, I inevitably pause on the Amer Picon Fizz, smile and then move on. It is a curiosity, without a doubt. The combination of Amer Picon and grenadine is not novel; they go well together with brandy in the Picon Punch, though the proportions are astoundingly different. But with the fizz the lack of base spirit always gave me pause. Could the grenadine possibly balance out the amaro without the help of the brandy? Also, the drink has an entire ounce of grenadine in it. Would it be overwhelmingly sweet? So even though I adore Amer Picon, there were too many ways the drink could go wrong for me to make it. Until now.

Amer Picon Fizz

1 1/2 ounces amer Boudreau
1 ounce grenadine
1 egg white
1/4 tsp Angostura bitters
Club soda

Dry shake amer, grenadine and the egg white. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled goblet over a lump of ice. Top with club soda, add bitters and stir gently.

Notes on Ingredients/Procedure: I used Jeffrey Morgenthaler's recipe for homemade grenadine. For the club soda, I used about 2 ounces.

What a lovely drink.The combination of the egg white and angostura created a pinkish foam above the dark reddish brown liquid. Using the bitters as an aromatic garnish ensured that cloves and cinnamon wafted from up from the froth. And somehow, the tart smell of pomegranate found its way through as well. This drink had a truly creamy texture, donated by the egg white, but it still had that refreshing zing from the club soda that brightened each sip. But how does it taste? The initial taste was full of the spices of the Angostura coupled with the herbal notes of the amer. Each sip ended with the nice bitter orange flavors of the amer and was much drier than I expected. After a while the taste of the grenadine became more apparent, and I could really appreciate the way the Amer and the grenadine played off each other. The full ounce of grenadine did make the drink overly sweet or add a cloying texture as the bitterness of the amer Boudreau helped to balance it all out. Even though the drink worked and tasted balance, in the future I might cut the amount of grenadine to ensure an even drier drink, just because that's how I roll. Also, I would definitely lose the lump of ice. It really didn't add anything to the drink, and it looked weird sitting in the middle of that luscious foam.


Maximillian Affair

During the Fall brown spirits dominate. Bar menus, blogs and magazine don't lie. Those bright citrus-laden drinks are relegated to warmer climates and distant seasons. The barren trees mean heartier fare and that usually means whiskey. I am no stranger to this trend. When it gets cold, you can usually find me curled up in a whiskey barrel (with a blanket, of course) and asking not to be woken until Spring. But something about this year seems different. Maybe its me, maybe my tastes are changing, and I', turning over a new boozy leaf. Maybe it's just that there are so many more barrel-aged options. And perhaps, just maybe I was wrong when cold weather had to mean whiskey or brown spirits (and maybe this sounds familiar, dear reader). And yet another option might be that I have been listening to the call of the smooth herbal complexity of sweet vermouth and those assorted amari. So, recently when I wanted mezcal, I knew I was having a nervous breakdown. The mezcal I have is not brown, because it is not aged in a barrel. Hesitantly, I checked outsidestill ohmigod cold and damp, hell it was winter of all things. Thank goodness I can blame sweet vermouth and amari to bail me out of this.

Agave spirits play particularly well with sweet vermouth. Both the earthy, floral notes of tequila and the similarly earthy, yet uniquely smoky flavors of mezcal perfectly complement sweet vermouth's assorted botanics. In general, I was drawn to this cocktail because of that pairing. But more specifically, my interest was sparked by the idea of mezcal with Punt e Mes, a variety of sweet vermouth that is somewhere between sweet vermouth and Campari. It is more bitter and flavorful than most sweet vermouths I have tasted, and because of this, it is my go-to sweet vermouth. I just love how it dries out a bourbon in a Manhattan, or how it riffs off gin in a Fin de Siecle or Hoskins. Any recipe that calls for it by name will rank high with me. This cocktail has been on my to-drink list for a while. Misty Kalkofen of Boston's notorious Drink is the creator of this lovely libation and every Kalkofen original that I have been lucky enough to taste has been an absolute stunner.

Maximilian Affair

1 1/4 ounces mezcal
3/4 ounce St. Germain
1/2 ounce Punt e Mes
1/4 ounce lemon juice

Shake all of the ingredients and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

Note on Ingredients: I used the del Maguey Minero mezcal for this drink.

This is one seriously awesome cocktail. The mezcal dominated the aroma with its smokiness and the first sip was heavy with its vegetal, grassy flavors. The St. Germain contributed its mellow fruitiness to the mix, and later even seemed to provide herbal notes as the drink warmed up.  This, in turn, allowed the herbal notes of the Punt E Mes to shine. You might think that this cocktail would be sweet, with the St. Germain at three-quarters of an ounce, but the lemon juice and vermouth balanced it out perfectly. The mezcal was the star of this drink though, and it was unmistakable in every taste. Its lingering smokiness even followed each sip. What a tasty way to end the night.



Halloween is my favorite time of year. Every October Tracy and I indulge in as much spooky fun as we can, and that usually means a full month of horror movies, an annual pumpkin-carving party with friends, and some sort of masquerade event. The month then culminates in an all-night horror movie marathon on Halloween night. This year we also celebrated the bounty of Fall vegetables with butternut squash & pear soup, homemade rolls, and pumpkin bread for dessert. But enough about food. For drinks, I always pick out a topical cocktail that matches our Halloween state of mind. In the past we have had Corpse Reviver No. 2s or Zombies, but this year I couldn't pass up the Alamagoozlum. Even the name evokes Halloweenperhaps it could even be some magician's curse word.

I read about the Alamagoozlum on Sloshed! last year around Halloween. It also can be found among the many gems in Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. As far as I can tell, the original transcriber of this fabulous libation is the one and only Charles Baker. This drink is downright zany, calling for many obscure, powerful ingredients and allowing them to cohabitate in one confined area, but the composition is truly delightful, like pie in a glass. And check out those bitters. If I had remembered this drink this summer it could have fit into my series of posts on bitters! But, no regrets—this drink fits well with my Halloween theme and the flavors also highlight the warm spice flavors of Autumn.


2 ounces genever
2 ounces water
1 1/2 ounces Jamaican rum
1 1/2 ounces yellow or green chartreuse
1 1/2 ounces simple syrup
1/2 ounce orange curacao
1/2 ounce Angostura bitters
1/2 egg white 

Dry shake all ingredients. Add ice and shake long and hard. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Note: this makes 2 large or 3 small cocktails.

Note on Ingredients: I used the Boomsma Junge genever though the Bols genever has a stronger flavor and works really well in this drink. Also, I chose green chartreuse over the mellow yellow, and Appleton served as my Jamaican rum. I also substituted triple sec for the curacao.

First of all I can't help but remarking on the color—that deep brownish red really lets you know there are a ton of bitters hanging out in your glass. Also, considering that the recipe only called for half an egg white for two drinks, there was still quite a bit of foam. The bitters are partially responsible; both the Trinidad Sour and the Alabazam have quite a bit of foam and neither one includes eggs.  The herbal chartreuse and the cloves and cinnamon of the Angostura were easily detectable in the aroma. And yes, that is exactly when you realize just how thirsty you are. As I descended through the froth, I first tasted the maltiness of the genever mingling with the spiciness of the bitters. This drink had a very rich mouth feel and was a bit sweet, though nowhere near cloying. As the drink warmed up, the chartreuse dominated each sip and lingered long after, and the juniper notes seemed to spring to life. And, though a Zombie might seem more topical, it was the perfect drink to accompany Dawn of the Dead.


Charles Baker and Absinthe

Charles Baker is my hero. Like many other cocktail enthusiasts, I have fallen for his languid prose and bon vivant lifestyle set against the backdrop of exotic locales from the distant past. Ah, what it must have been like, traveling the world in search of the redolent and quaint, throwing back drinks with Ernest Hemingway and other exciting personalities, stumbling through foreign towns discovering and rediscovering the fabulous and the sublime all in the name of experience and adventure. Baker escaped America, and its ever-present Puritanical leanings, at the exactly the right time, Prohibition, to tramp the world in search of excitement, or at least great food and drink. One part cocktail guide, one part travelogue, and one part memoir, The Gentleman's Companion: Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask is perhaps the original blueprint for a cocktail blog: you won't love all the drinks, you might not even try all the drinks, but what will bring you back again and again is his wit and the excellent prose.

This book, like many other cocktail guides of yore, begins with absinthe. Warning: any cocktail with absinthe in the title is going to be full of black licorice-y goodness. Your mouth will be coated in refreshing anise and you will be lucky if you can taste anything else for a while. It is the nature of the beast that is absinthe. So, when undertaking the absinthe-based cocktail challenge, it is crucial to choose an absinthe that you like on its own, say in an absinthe drip. And if absinthe isn't your cup of tea, these drinks may not be for you. Sorry. The truth is that you can use absinthe as a accent, but when it is the base you can only bump up other flavors against it; at the end of the day, nothing will make it budge. For Baker's absinthe cocktail, I chose the Herbsaint Legendre. Granted, this is not an absinthe per se, but I enjoyed its complexity in a Sazerac so much that I thought, why not? Its proof is a little lower and it won't turn pearlescent in the presence of water, but I figured, close enough.

Absinthe Cocktail (as adapted)

1 1/2 jiggers absinthe (2 1/4 ounces!)
1 dash anis, anisette
1/2 jigger water (3/4 ounce)
1 tsp or less simple syrup (1 tsp)
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters
1 tsp egg white (1/4 ounce for two)

Dry shake ingredients. Add cracked ice and shake very hard. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass . Twist a piece of lemon or lime peel over the surface, but do not drop in.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Herbsaint Legendre for the absinthe, Sambuca in the place of anisette, and a richer demerara and turbinado simple syrup of 1.5:1. The orange bitters were Angostura orange.

I can't say that this was the most successful absinthe cocktail I have ever had. Let's start there. It was bright green, as expected, like the Wicked Witch of the West's face. The inclusion of the egg white produced a smidgen of white foam on top. The measly teaspoon of egg white that Baker calls for greatly limits the foaminess. The drink smelled of anise and tasted of anise. The lemon oils, though, were noticeable in the aroma and, to a lesser extent, the first sip. But barring that first sip, I could not detect the presence of anything else, save the slight sweetness that the sugar added. The egg white, though paltry, did contribute its characteristic smooth texture to the drink. Alas, though I tried to push through, and have in fact enjoyed an absinthe cocktail in the past, I couldn't finish this one. I wonder if using a real absinthe would help, but instead of going down that patch, I geared myself up for the absinthe frappe.

Absinthe Frappe (as adapted)

2 ounces absinthe
1/2 tsp anis del mono or French anisette
1 glass of cracked ice (1 cup cracked ice)
(4 mint leaves)

(Muddle mint briefly in anisette in a chilled mixing glass. Remove mint.) Add ingredients and shake hard but briefly. Pour into chilled rocks glass. Garnish with green straw. 

Notes on ingredients: I used Absinthe Verte de Fougerolles and Sambuca in the place of anisette.

This drink was much more successful. I chose to add the muddled mint mostly because of the previous drink's failure. And in the past, I had consumed a wonderful absinthe julep with muddled mint, simple syrup, and absinthe, so why not? The fact is that in spite of my intentions, I couldn't taste the mint. Oh well. But in general I found this tipple extremely tasty and refreshing. I don't know if it was because of the relative simplicity of this drink , or because I used a real absinthe. The cracked ice made sure that the absinthe could evolve through the various stages of dilution, and I could really taste the different notes in the absinthe itself. Regardless, this drink made me almost forget the previous absinthe cocktail and was a nice end to the evening. All's well that ends well, in cocktails at least.


Apple Brandy: Newark Cocktail

When Fall arrives and blankets become a staple of my at-home fashion, my tastes turn toward barrel-aged  spirits, though this is by no means a hard and fast rule. This year we here in Seattle were treated to a strange crispness that served as a delightful interruption from our regularly scheduled Autumn full of all things waterlogged. The dry chill and the orange- and yellow-hued leaves (we even got some red ones this year!) reminded me of the many years I spent growing up and living in the Northeast. Perhaps because of this nostalgic impulse, I have been leaning toward dry crisp drinks of late, instead of hearty, bold libations that revolve around whiskey and the rich flavors of cherry and anise or the soothing warmth of spice. In my search for drinks that would attend to my craving, I found myself leaning toward the much overlooked apple brandy, most notably our domestic apple brandy, applejack.

Applejack is a spirit native to the United States and almost as old. In colonial times, apple-based spirits were made in the frozen Northeast from fermented apple cider that had gone through the process of freeze distillation, which was called "jacking." The process entails freezing a solution, such as hard cider or beer, in order to separate the alcohol from the water by taking advantage of their different freezing points. Early settlers would bury their fermented apple cider in the ground for the winter. About the time of the last freeze, they would dig it up and remove the ice, leaving a liquid that was much richer in alcohol. The idea to further distill this "low wine" version of hard cider into apple brandy was just the natural progression of a good idea.

Laird's is the oldest producer of applejack in the county. They have been producing apple brandy in America since 1698. They make several different apple-based spirits, though here in Washington, only the 80-proof applejack is readily available. I have seen their bonded apple brandy in some local bars and some of the better liquor stores. If you can find it, I would highly recommend it. The non-bonded apple brandy contains 35 percent apple distillate that has been blended with neutral grain spirits. The bonded variety is 100 percent apple brandy and, by law, 100 proof. Therefore, the apple flavor is that much more intense, and the higher proof means that the brandy can stand up to stronger ingredients in a cocktail. The non-bonded applejack is completely acceptable, though, and for years it was the only applejack I used. In many cases, it makes only a slight difference, and I have made very tasty Jack Roses, Jersey Sours, or even variations on the Stone Fence with the non-bonded applejack.  Drinks like the Applejack Old-Fashioned and the Marconi Wireless, which place a greater emphasis on the flavor of the spirit, really do shine brighter with the inclusion of the bonded Laird's. Both of Laird's products are relatively inexpensive, around $20, though the bonded will set you back a couple of dollars more.

To satisfy my applejack craving, I chose the Newark Cocktail, another fabulous cocktail that I found on Chuck Taggert's blog. The drink was created by Jim Meehan, bar manager at PDT in NYC, and an all-around heavy hitter in the bartending world. The Newark cocktail, as you may have already guessed, is another in the long line of Manhattan variations named after real estate in and around NYC that have become ubiquitous on cocktail menus.  I am not complaining--many of them are completely delicious and among my favorite style of drink, spirit-forward.

Newark Cocktail

2 ounces applejack
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
2 barspoons Fernet Branca

Stir ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Strain in a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Laird's Bonded Applejack, Vya sweet vermouth, and Maraska maraschino liqueur.

The aroma was full of apples though the menthol notes of the Fernet shone through. And as expected, the apple brandy was completely recognizable and even acted as a wonderful foundation for all of the strong flavors in the glass. Initially, I noted a pleasant, mild sweetness, presumably from the maraschino and perhaps the vermouth, before the Fernet struck and my mouth was full of herbal complexity. On subsequent tastes, I noted the dry cider-like flavors becoming more prevalent throughout each sip.  This drink had a wonderful rich mouth feel that contrasted the almost astringent menthol taste concluding each sipa side effect of the Fernet. As the drink warmed the interplay between the maraschino and Fernet dominated the flavors, but in a really interesting way.  The finish was dry and kind of nutty with hints of cherry. But long after each sip it was the apple flavors that lingered, calling me back for more.


Ramos Gin Fizz

Several weeks ago Tracy and I had a friend over to indulge in brunch. We love brunch in our house, that celebration of those glorious hours of limbo between morning and afternoon on any given weekenda time for the savory and the sweet, the caffeinated and the alcoholic. A good brunch will almost always lead to a lethargic day filled with absolutely nothing and the need to heartily engage in said nothing, which usually translates to an impromptu nap on the couch. And though our excuse for this occasionthough one never needs an excuse for brunchwas to plan a friend's bachelorette party, the entire event really sprang into being because of a truly magical thing: the Ramos gin fizz.

Say those three little words to a room full of people and watch the effects. Those who have delved into the bubbly creamy froth, you know at once who they are. Their eyes sparkle and this ever-so-small smile forms on their faces. I have seen it happen more than once. Invariably, they will move their chairs closer, lean in and with a conspiratorial tone, take you into memories spotted with minuscule details: the first time they sipped a Ramos gin fizz, the best, the worst, even the heft of the shaker, the ache in the arms, and still even more rare, the imagined ache in the arms. But this excitement is not reserved solely for initiates. Something about the name, familiar and yet unfamiliar, translates that there is something innately special to discover. The Ramos fizz rookies too lower their voices to that familiar hushed whisper reserved for taboos and secret societies, inch their bodies closer, and say, "What is that?" They are hooked even before they have faced down the frothy, frosty glass. It is just one of those drinks.

Fizzes are not new creations. They trace back to the olden times of yore, or at any rate to at least the 1880s, if not before. David Wondrich has traced the print origins to a recipe published in 1883. The New Orleans gin fizz, a special iteration of the silver fizz, was created in the 1880s at Meyer's Restaurant in New Orleans by a certain Henry Charles Ramos. It has been a New Orleans institution ever since. It differs from the classic fizz recipe in its use of cream and orange flower water. But it is those little differences that make this drink such a big deal. Supposedly the combination of the egg white and the cream is what makes the Ramos fizz such a challenging drink to make correctly. Though both elements will foam easily one their own, when they occupy the same shaker they become stubborn. The secret to making a this drink is all about technique, because there is shaking any old drink, and then there is shaking a drink with egg whites and cream. These drinks take staminaespecially if you are making three of them, one at a time, all while waiting for the first pot of coffee to percolate. At one point, Henry Ramos employed 15 lads to shake those fizzes, and they shook those fizzes for up to 15 minutes, each. They formed a line and passed those frosty shakers one to the next. This is as much of a testament to properly mixing a drink as it is to the Ramos gin fizz's popularity.

Ramos Gin Fizz

2 ounces gin
1 ounce heavy cream
1 egg white
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
1 tbsp simple syrup
3 drops orange flower water
1 ounce club soda

Dry shake all ingredients except club soda. Add ice and shake again, at least until your arms are really tired and your hands are frozen. Strain into a highball glass and very slowly drizzle in the club soda.

Note on Ingredients: I have made a Ramos gin fizz with Bombay Dry, Ransom Old Tom, and a 50-50 split between Aviation and Bellringer. They were all wonderful, though my favorite is the Ransom with all of that spice.

When a Ramos gin fizz is placed before you, with those foamy bubbles blossoming over the rim and that sheen of ice forming on the outside, you can't help but feel pretty special. Even if you made the drink yourself, and can already feel the ache building in your muscles from all that shaking. As you descend past that citrus-laden foam, into the effervescent liquid below, you will be downright besotted. Smooth and creamy, herbal and tart in equal measure, with just the right amount of sweetness, how can you go wrong? But don't dally in awe; drinks with egg whites weren't meant to be lingered over like a julep. I give you permission to swig at will. Once a fizz gets warm, it loses a certain amount of its luster. So don't be offended if your guests are sitting before empty glasses before you even sit downit is a compliment, just go with it. If you drink it at the right pace, not too slow not too fast, and if all of the other forces in the universe are aligned, you can almost feel yourself transported to another time. Even if that time is nap time.


Flamed Orange Peel

Imagine yourself in a dimly lit room, a sliver of orange peel precariously balanced between your thumb and forefinger. The faint smell of sulfur from a recently lit match still lingers as you watch the flame throbbing on the end of the wood. With the right amount of pressure and the proper aim, a puff of citrus oils flashes, and those toasted oils land lightly on the surface of an awaiting drink. It is a mark of pure showmanship. Sure, those oils will add flavor to the overall taste of the drink, but they are still the garnish. Perhaps less than one dash of citrus oils are flambeed midair. But as with all other drinks calling for citrus oils, whether they are "cooked" or "raw," they are a necessary and delicious.

For months the elusive flamed orange peel has stumped me. Every time I tried, which to be honest wasn't that often, I ended up with many spent matches, a skinned orange and no orange oils anywhere near my drink. Sometimes I just copped out--twisting the orange peel over the glass and calling it a day. I would say to myself, "What does it really matter? How much can it mean to the drink?" In this case, it was a skill well worth learning.

This past weekend I decided that no longer would I cower before the flamed orange peel. Armed with two oranges, my trusty Y peeler and a box full of sturdy matches, I set about my task. After three or four tries, I was able to get a consistent spurt of oils into an empty glass. When I starting adding the flame, it became that much easier. And after a few more tries, I was able to create that flashy effect pretty much every time. It turns out that I had built up the idea that flaming oranges was this impossible task, but it really isn't. I just needed to break it down and practice.

What I learned is that a fresh orange is the most critical part of the equation. Given that citrus is not yet in season, I was at a disadvantage. And while the Valencia oranges that my local supermarket carries year-round are perfect for juicing, they are not the best for flaming. The peel just has too much give. And once I figure that out, charring those oils became a lot easier. The ultimate test was still ahead of me, it was time to garnish an actual drink and I chose Chuck Taggert's delicious Hoskins cocktail.

So enough about garnishes.  The Hoskins fits well into the category of brown, bitter and stirred, though it doesn't have a brown spirit in it. It achieves its brown color thanks to one of my favorite things: Amer Picon.  A cousin to the Fin de Siecle and the Don't Give Up the Ship, and even perhaps a more distant relative of the Paul's Own Cocktail and the Hanky Panky (though the list goes on), the Hoskins is a cocktail that primarily turns upon the glorious combination of gin and amari. The differences comes with the choice of amari and those other little additions that make each cocktail unique and in this case, very tasty. The Hoskins, though, utilizes more of the amaro and completely removes the sweet vermouth that all of the other cocktails include. This is also what makes it genius.

Hoskins Cocktail

2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce Amer Boudreau
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
1/4 ounce Cointreau
1 dash orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Knock your friends socks off with a flamed orange peel.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Bellringer for the gin, Maraska for the maraschino, and the orange bitters were Fees.

I must say that anything combining gin and an amaro is likely to produce a cocktail I will adore. And this drink fits well with that statement. The maraschino and orange liqueurs were a great addition and provided a lot of depth and balance. The mild sweetness, and I mean mild, that they contributed was just enough to tone down the bold flavors of the amer and gin. The dominant flavors shifted around a bit as the drink warmed up, sometimes highlighting the earthy bitter orange notes so prevalent in the amer, sometimes provoking the funky dry cherry of the maraschino into the spotlight. This worked in the drink's favor as I tend to remember drinks that are complicated better than ones that resound on a single note--unless that one note is sublime. All in all the Hoskins was both bitter and sweet, herbal and complex, and the flamed orange oils added just that little bit of oomph that made this drink complete.



The moment I first tasted a Sazerac something inside clicked and I knew nothing would ever be the same. Even though several years have passed, I know exactly where I was and the circumstances. It is the same for many people. The Sazerac just does that to people.

On a Christmas Eve many years ago, when I was just starting to delve into all things cocktail, Tracy's dad was telling me about a magical drink he had consumed once upon a time in New Orleans. In his tale, a bartender expertly flipped Herbsaint into the air to coat a cocktail glass before adding the brilliant pink-tinged whiskey. Such a presentation certainly influenced him, as I am sure it did many others. The bottle of Herbsaint now residing in his liquor cabinet is a testament to the drink's impression. That is how I first heard of the Sazerac. But there is more—with classic cocktails there is always more.

A myth proclaims the Sazerac the very first cocktail, though this is not true. However, though the Sazerac was popularized sometime in the 1850s in New Orleans, it is actually a variation of the original cocktail, now known as the Old Fashioned, consisting of a spirit, bitters, sugar, and some water (usually as ice). The early Sazerac (cognac, sugar, Peychaud's bitters), notably without the absinthe rinse, firmly fits into this category. The bitters made it unique. Antoine Amedie Peychaud, Sr. brought his secret family recipe for the bitters with him when he fled Haiti. But it was his son, Antoine Amedie Peychaud, Jr., who made them famous. By the late 1830s, Peychaud was producing his bitters just down the street from what would become the Sazerac Coffee House, where the house cocktail was the Sazerac, thus named because it used Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils cognac.

In the 1870s when the phylloxxera epidemic essentially wiped out the vineyards in Europe, cognac became hard to find. Americans' tastes were forced to change to the local, more readily available rye, and so it became the base of a Sazerac. As absinthe became more fashionable, the absinthe rinse was introduced. When absinthe became illegal in 1915, pastis was used as a substitute. But after Prohibition, a new anise-flavored spirit Herbsaint, created and manufactured by New Orleans natives, became a key ingredient.

Of course I knew nothing about the cocktail's long history as I prepared for our next visit to Tracy's parents' house. I came equipped with a recipe and a fresh bottle of Peychaud's bitters and Sazeracs were on the menu (although, I had no plans to toss Herbsaint in the air). If you have no idea what you are doing, Sazeracs are quite complicated. With my cocktail glasses packed with ice, I remember muddling the bitters and sugar with the back of a butter knife. Then I added Bourbon, probably Maker's Mark of all things, and ice. I stirred and strained this into my Herbsaint-rinsed martini glasses and inexpertly broke several lemon twists before plopping them in. I can hear the purists cringing at my beginner's mistakes, which were many. But there is a lesson
here . . . even though I made a barely recognizable Sazerac, it was still the best thing I had ever tasted.

Now, looking back on those early days in home bartending, I have to smile. We all have to start somewhere, and I know that the importance lies on whether what ends up in the glass tastes good. I am no purist. I believe that a recipe can change, that substitutions are sometimes necessary, and that expensive booze isn't always the best way to solve a problem. But there are some things that just taste better the old way, and taste is everything. And the truth is, at least in our house, rye is better than bourbon, syrup is easier than sugar, and if you want more lemon oils in your drink, throw that twist in. And the glass, well if it is clean, use it. But if it's not pretty, don't take a picture.


2 ounces quality rye
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2-4 dashes Peychaud's bitters

In a mixing glass, stir rye, syrup and bitters. Rinse a chilled whiskey glass, or rocks glass, with Herbsaint and add rye-syrup-bitters mixture. Express the oils from a strip of lemon peel over the drink and coat the rim. Lose the twist.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Templeton Rye and Herbsaint Legendre.


The Ups and Downs of Champagne

 Half-opened bottles of champagne are a joy and a curse. I am not afraid to say it. It all begins innocently enough. First some cocktail recipe sparks your interest, and the next thing you know you are mentally rearranging your refrigerator to accommodate a bottle of bubbly. For me, it was the Jaguar, a tiki drink created in Seattle in 1955. This drink stands out because it uses so many unusual ingredients and one of them is champagne. Now maybe you are thinking: Is she crazy? Tiki drinks usually include at least three ounces of rum (or other equally potent things), and combining that with a champagne top is madness. And you are right, it is madness. Glorious tasty madness. So, there I am in the middle of the wine/beer aisle at my local PCC, the teardrop bottle enclosed with its festive foil calling to me, and I swear I can hear the pop of the cork in the distance. But alas . . . they don't have any half bottles (or at least not in my price range) and all I need is a champagne top. Could I go to another store, hunt down a half-bottle of sparkly? Sure, but I won't. I leave the store with a 750 of champagne and a skip in my step, my mind full of tiki. All is good.

adapted Jaguar

1 ounce lime juice
2 ounces dark Jamaican rum
2 ounce champagne
1/4 ounce brandy
1/4 ounce orgeat syrup
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1 teaspoon sloe gin
1 teaspoon Cointreau
1 teaspoon creme de cacao
1 teaspoon port
1 teaspoon sweet vermouth

Pour all ingredients, except champagne, into a tall frosted glass packed with crushed ice. Stir to chill. Add champagne. Garnish elaborately in tiki manner. 

But then tiki night has passed. The tiki mugs have been returned to their place in the cabinet The ice crusher is stashed back on the shelf. But the champagne sits forlorn in the refrigerator door jammed in next to vermouths and syrups, a champagne saver strapped to its top and only four ounces missing. I feel guilty every time I need jam or butter, or even water, seeing it there steadily losing flavor, and, well, sparkle. Such a curse is the already opened bottle of champagne!

The race is on, can I use it before it gets flat and loses all flavor. Some people would just drink it. But not in our house. A open bottle of champagne holds endless amounts of possibility—we don't just stock bubbly for rainy days (though considering how many rainy days we do have, that would be wonderful). All week I plot, keeping my fingers crossed that I actually got that top on tight enough, that maybe there will still be some bubbles left. So many options: Morning Glory, French 75, Seelbach, Airmail, Old Cuban, Sazerac Royale. and that is just off the top of my head. 

With plans to go out on Friday, we will have to kill the bottle while we are home on Saturday night. The Seelbach has won out. But there is still half a bottle left after. The race begins again: reseal, refrigerate, cross those fingers. And then I came across this:

adapted Mexican 75

1 ounce tequila (reposado)
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce agave nectar

Shake ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into a chilled champagne flute. Top with 4 ounce of champagne and add a lime twist.

Notes on Ingredients: The original recipe calls for blanco tequila, I used Milagro reposado instead.

I had never had tequila with champagne before. So I commandeered Tracy's cocktail-making night; it seemed the reasonable thing to do.

The smell of agave and lime dominated the aroma. The first taste was dry and though there are four ounces of champagne the tequila's warm earthy spices were able to shine through. As the drink warmed up the lime juice became more apparent and added a nice brightness. The aging of the reposado brought certain caramel notes to the drink that worked really well to make the agave nectar shine. Using a blanco in this drink is like using a blanco in a margarita, it keeps the drink refreshing and light, perfect for summer. But with the addition of the reposado, and its fuller flavor, the drink became more robust and would stand up to even a colder night. The drink was a very nice, simple combination of sour and sweet, dry and herbal, but it will never replace a French 75, which is one of my favorite drinks. This would be a wonderful variation for a someone who doesn't like gin, or who alternatively is kind of wary of tequila. But all in all, it certainly took care of that champagne.


Ode to Bitters: Epilogue

Long before I ever dreamed of plunging into the world of heavily bittered cocktails, and having my mind and taste buds thoroughly challenged to boot, there was the Seelbach. I guess it has been inevitable since that day when Tracy and I sauntered into Vessel shortly after it first opened, now years ago, and I watched as the waitress placed before me a glass of bubbling dark pink goodness. I was hooked, and we have been making Seelbachs ever since. It is a house favorite, as we always have the ingredients on hand, except for the bubbly. Usually Seelbachs get trotted out when there is an open bottle of champagne in the house that needs to be polished off. I also enjoy introducing it to people who like champagne cocktails. Bubbles make everything so festive and fun, but the bitters add a dimension, and albeit a seriousness, that most people don't expect. It can be an eye-opener, and I don't mean in a corpse reviver mode, though it would work that way too.

As with all great classic cocktails, there must be a legend. The drink was named for and created at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky in 1917. According to legend, a bartender was preparing two drinks at once: an Old Fashioned and some champagne. Side note: The substitution of triple sec for the sugar (or simple syrup) in the recipe for a Seelbach leads me to believe he was making a fancy whiskey cocktail, but that is neither here nor there. When the bartender pops the champagne, it simply explodes going everywhere . . . including in the Old Fashioned. Said bartender puts the mess aside and quickly fixes up another Old Fashioned for his customer, probably with any number of good curse words mumbled under his breath. As he starts to clean up, like any curious person, he takes a swig of that ruined Old Fashioned with the champagne and, as they say, the rest is history.

Now Prohibition must enter the story, as it usually does when it comes to anything good that existed before 1920. The Seelbach recipe was lost in those dark times, as were a great many other things, during the Noble Experiment. In 1995 the recipe was rediscovered by the hotel manager and now we all can enjoy it.

adapted Seelbach Cocktail

1 ounce bourbon
1/2 ounce triple sec
7 dashes Angostura bitters
7 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Pour ingredients into a chilled champagne flute. Top with champagne (4 to 5 ounces, to taste) . Give it a little stir. Garnish with a long piece of orange peel (optional).

Notes on ingredients: I used Basil Hayden's Bourbon.

This is a wonderful combination of bitters and champagne with a hint of bourbon and orange. The drink's beautiful pink color, a side effect of the Peychaud's bitters, glints in the sun as the bubbles rise. Overall, it is very dry and refreshing, with just the right amount of sweetness and complexity. This is a perfect drink to enjoy out on the porch before dinner while gazing out as the sun slides behind the mountains to the west. It is also good in the dead of winter when you just want to huddle down under a blanket and forget whatever is going on outside.


Tequila and Fernet in the Same Glass

Earlier this summer I started exploring the realm of tequila cocktails that include nontraditional ingredients. Since then I have started seeking out other cocktails that push the boundaries of what tequila can do in the glass. Fortunately for my taste buds, many bartenders have been pushing these boundaries as well, giving me a lot to be excited about. But there are only so many cocktails a girl can put away in one night, so this is the first one I have really been able to try since my earlier tequila escapades.

Guadalahara (as adapted)

2 ounces tequila (reposado)
1/2 ounce Fernet Branca
1/2 ounce agave syrup
2 dashes Bitter Truth Xocolatl bitters

Stir the ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a bit of grapefruit over the drink, releasing the oils. Dispose of the spent peel.

Notes on ingredients: I used Milagro tequila, and a 1:1 agave syrup. A chilled double old-fashioned glass would also work well as it is a sort of an amped up tequila old fashioned variation.

When I first saw this recipe the first thing I thought was: Tequila and Fernet . . . in the same glass . . . no fucking way! With my nose hovering over the glass, the smell of agave and the menthol notes of the fernet wafted up to meet me. Though I could see the citrus oils on the top of the liquid, only the faintest hint of grapefruit came through. Perhaps next time—and there will be one—I will use either a bigger peel or some grapefruit bitters. The tequila came through first on the sip, followed by slightly bitter herbal notes of the fernet. The drink was nicely balanced between the two heavy hitters, and the agave syrup provided a mellow sweetness to the drink overall. The bitters were more apparent at the end of the sip, providing a spicy warmth to the other flavors. As the drink warmed up and my mouth became more accustomed to the fernet, the drink took on a rich honey-like cactus flavor.

This crazy combination is the brainchild of Misty Kalkofen, bartender extraordinaire, of the legendary bar Drink in the Fort Point area of Boston. On our recent trip back East, we were fortunate enough to visit Drink and we had an amazing time. And just to note, they do live up to the hype.


Ode to Bitters: Stormy Mai-Tai

I have emptied three bottles of Angostura bitters during this summer alone! We once had a bottle of Angostura last us a couple of years when we lived in NYC. Now that we drink so many classic cocktails, we definitely go through Angostura faster, but it can still take a year to get through a bottle. Partially that is due to the sheer number of bitters that we own—so many options. On Saturday night, as I was collecting ingredients, I noticed that my bitters bottle was only half full. So, off I went on an impromptu jaunt to the local market for bitters. Tracy didn't even think a little market would have them. But there they were next to the Rose's Lime and bottled margarita mix.I think I am the only person who brings a photo ID to buy bitters. But since Angostura has a higher proof than most vodkas, you never know. Of course most people don't realize this.  Alas, the cashier didn't either and I didn't get carded.

Stormy Mai-Tai

1 1/2 ounce Angostura bitters
3/4 ounce orgeat syrup
1/4 ounce curacao
1 ounce lime juice

Preshake. Pour in to a double rocks glass and top with crushed ice. Swizzle lightly. Float light rum. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Notes on Ingredients: Plan ahead: if you are making two drinks you will use 3/4 of a bottle of Angostura. I used a 1/2-ounce float of Cruzan white rum. As we had no mint, I skipped it. Also I  substituted triple sec for the curacao.

Of all the ingredients, the rum is the most readily detectable when nosing this embittered tipple. This makes sense since it was right under my nose, being a float after all. It makes a very subtle clear rim that contrasts with the bright rusty redness underneath, though you can't tell in the picture. The smell of bitters was also apparent. But then again, I would be surprised if they weren't detectable. When sipping I first tasted the light rum, the nice lightness before falling through the citrus into the depths of cinnamon, allspice, cloves. Each sip began with the brightness of citrus coupled with a hint of almond. The end was equally the same: the complex, spicy bitters, with their unique dryness, though here for the first time, a sort of sharpness that wasn't at all unpleasant. The complexity definitely meant that this was a drink to be sipped. Weighing in at around 89 proof, the Angostura worked well as a base spirit over crushed ice. The higher proof means that Angostura can stand up to the dilution better than a lower proof spirit would. And true to form, this drink retained its strong flavor and depth even as the night wore on and the ice melted. (I am sure that the extreme flavor of the bitters contributed to this as much as the proof.) All in all this drink was very refreshing and complex with a lot of substance in each sip. It completely highlights what a heavily bittered cocktail is all about.

Now that we are at the end of our tribute to bitters, we must have a recap. What have we learned, besides the fact that heavily bittered cocktails are yummy? One thing we noticed was that heavily bittered cocktails have a unique texture. They are smoother and thicker than most cocktails but in a totally new way. Egg whites or jam when added to a cocktail also create a smooth, thick texture, but the mouth feel of a heavily bittered cocktail is quite different. These cocktails are not velvety smooth, and luscious, but instead they start off smooth and thick, and then, because of the bitters, they immediately become dry and astringent, like when you drink a wine that has a lot of tannins. These cocktails are very complex and the flavors are layered. By using such a hefty amount in an environment tempered with water, citrus, and a sweetener, the full taste of the bitters can really be appreciated. We also noted that all of these cocktails were quite foamy, as if half of an egg white had been added. Conclusions aside, what fun we have had pushing our expectations and boundaries and tasting something new and different. For me, at least, that is part of the joy of drinking cocktails.


Kraken and the Cable Car

I am not usually a fan of spiced rum. Let's get that out of the way. It took me almost three years to get rid of a bottle of Captain Morgan's that I bought because it was an ingredient in the Pearanha from The Art of the Bar (a great cocktail, btw). Surprise, I didn't replace it. I also have a bottle of Rogue Hazelnut Spiced Rum, which is actually quite brilliant, but very underappreciated, both in general and in my own house. The problem I have with spiced rum is that there aren't a lot of cocktail recipes that call for it. Wait, let me rephrase—there aren't a lot of recipes that call for it that I would actually want to drink. And because of this, it sits in my liquor cabinet gathering dust.

Last week a friend of mine presented me with half a bottle of Kraken Black Spiced Rum. I'll admit to being dubious given my hit or miss history with spiced rums. Of course, I accepted the bottle. But the more pressing issue became, well, what do I do with it? I figured I could put it in a highball with ginger beer and a bit of lime. And it might be okay in a Corn 'n' Oil, which doesn't really call for spiced rum. But then I remembered the Cable Car. The Cable Car was created in 1996 by Tony Abou-Ganim when he was at the Starlight Room atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. Now that is one wonderful drink that specifically calls for spiced rum. It is a Sidecar variation with the addition of a cinnamon-sugar rim.

Cable Car

1 1/2 ounces spiced rum (Kraken)
3/4 ounce cointreau
1 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Add ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass with a cinnamon-sugar rim. Garnish with an orange twist.

The aroma is full of the orange and cinnamon. The initial taste is dominated by the cinnamon-sugar rim, followed closely by the lemon flavors. On a second taste, it is apparent that the citrus is adding a nice brightness against the sweetness of the orange liqueur. The warm vanilla and cinnamon spices of the rum fill out the rest of the drink with the bold molasses notes of the dark rum acting as the foundation. I also detected hints of cinnamon that  lingered pleasantly between sips.

I think that the Kraken is successful here because its deep molasses flavor really stands out against the citrus. When I made this drink with Captain Morgan's, although I could detect the spices, I could barely taste the rum. Tracy and I decided that even though the Kraken makes a very yummy Cable Car, the Hazelnut Spiced Rum from Rogue Spirits is still our favorite. But, because of its good showing here, a Corn 'n' Oil with Kraken seems imminent—especially once my homemade falernum is finished.


Grand Street

Recently, Tracy and I were on vacation in NYC and we went to Death and Company. It was a night to remember, and one of the fabulous cocktails I had was called a Grand Street. I knew as soon as I saw it on the menu that I had to order it. Gin, Punt e Mes, Cynar and maraschino—a whole lot of my favorite things all in one glass. But as the night wore on, and more drinks were ordered and relished, I forgot to ask about proportions. This is especially sad because after all, I was sitting at the bar, chatting with the bartender, and she was really nice. So now weeks later, I am home, wishing I could have a Grand Street. And the search begins.

Well, let me tell you, dear reader, the recipe is not on the Internet—I checked. I could throw my hands up and say, oh well and move onto something that would be reminiscent, like a Hoskins or a Fin de Siecle. So I thought to myself, I have all of the ingredients, why not try to figure it out . . . it might even be fun. Staring at the ingredient list, I began looking for any similarities with the classic cocktails I am familiar with. A lot of contemporary cocktails start as riffs on classics. And lo and behold a lightbulb went off, I saw spirit, vermouth, amaro, and liqueur. You see, my favorite cocktail is the Brooklyn: rye, dry vermouth, amer picon, maraschino. I at least had a place to start.

Brooklyn Cocktail (adapted) 

2 ounces rye
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 Amer Boudreau
1/4 ounce maraschino

Stir ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

So here is what I came up with for my interpretation of the Grand Street:

Drink Inspired by the Grand Street

2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce Punt e Mes
1/4 ounce Cynar
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur

Stir ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.

Notes on ingredients/method: I used Bellringer gin, though any London dry would work.  Plymouth would also work well. I used the Maraska maraschino as that is what I had on hand.

The grapefruit was very strong in the aroma, as it should be with all of those oils glittering on the surface. Underneath, I could just make out the bittersweet fragrance of the Cynar and the Punt e Mes.  With the grapefruit still lingering in my nose, I dove in to find, in addition to the grapefruit, the dry juniper flavors of the gin mingling with the richness of the Cynar and Punt e Mes. There were definitely a lot of herbal elements floating around in there. The strength of the other ingredients tempered the funky cherry sweetness of the maraschino and rounded out the flavors. The bittersweet flavors of the herbs and the dryness of the gin lingered long after each swallow. In combination, the slightly bitter sweet vermouth, the slight sweet amaro, the dry gin and sweet maraschino all seemed to balance one another in a very complex way. The grapefruit twist provides just enough brightness, to the eye, nose and mouth,  to make drink really sing. 

Now, I am not quite sure that I have re-created the Grand Street as it is at Death and Company. But I am happy to have created something very nice that was inspired by something equally very nice.


Ode to Bitters: Don's Little Bitter

Since we began our ode I have found that is nigh impossible to gather up the courage to indulge oneself in more than one heavily bittered drink in a weekend. This lack of fortitude has led a July full of heavily bittered drinks, tiki drinks--which I only make during the summer, though for the life of me I can't remember why--and any odds and ends that happen to strike my fancy, usually consisting primarily of rum or tequila, or mezcal, or cachaca, or pisco, or gin, or rye--though much less gin or rye than in the winter. I can't say this is a bad thing. But that has meant that this little series of posts that might have occurred over one or two weekends has spanned the entire month. I am not really complaining. We certainly don't get bored.

Don's Little Bitter was created by Don Lee, formerly of PDT (Please Don't Tell), who now works his magic at Momofuku Ssam Bar also in NYC. This drink is a curious little bitter monster with three types of cocktail bitters weighing in at over a quarter ounce, and the addition of the ultimate digestive bitter, Fernet Branca. I first read about this drink in a comment to drinkboston's blogpost about the Trinidad Sour, and then on cocktailvirgin's blog. It would be easy to say that this drink has definitely made the Boston cocktail scene circuit. The simplicity of the drink, despite all the bitters, is what really makes it shine. It is basically a rum sour with a hefty (and I mean fat) dose of bitters. But the taste is not even on the same planet as simple.

Don's Little Bitter

1/4 ounce Peychaud's bitters
1/4 ounce Angostura orange bitters
1/2 ounce Angostura bitters
1/2 ounce Fernet Branca
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce Barbancourt 8-year

Shake ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Stare in wonder as it doesn't eat through the glass, though you were worried for a half-second.

Notes on ingredients/method: I do not have any Barbancourt rum at my house at the moment, so I subbed the Matusalem Clasico, as it also has vanilla and oak flavors. Also, the simple syrup in my refridgerator is about 3:2 (sugar to water ratio).

This color of this drink is darker than the two previous heavily bittered concoctions. I imagine that the addition of the Fernet is responsible. It still retains the same opacity and foam. The smell of bitter oranges, cherry and cloves are present in the aroma, as well as the hint of the other bitter elements, though I couldn't pinpoint one over another. When I first tasted this drink instead of analyzing it, I found myself just sitting back in my chair and savoring the complexity. I had no idea where to start, there were so many different flavors bumping around in my mouth. First of all, the drink is very balanced and complex, though also challenging. The clove and cinnamon spices came across first, followed by the menthol notes of the Fernet, which was then followed by the lemony sweet-sour taste of the sour. The spices and herbs of the bitters return at the end, each fighting for recognition. But this understates the complexity of this drink: no sip was exactly the same. Different flavors came through as I drank. Tracy detected a woodsy flavor, like that of bark, and I quite agreed--a possible note of the aromatic Angostura. As the drink warmed up, it changed again. The sweet-sour flavors started to dominate more and the bitters receded a bit, acting like an accompaniment. I believe that this is because as my mouth became more and more accustomed to the bitters, the citrus flavors started to become more apparent. Throughout the experience, the flavors of the Angostura and the Fernet lingered after each sip. This drink was another heavily bittered home run.