Who Says Rum Drinks Must Be Sweet? Introducing Mr. Buddle

I like austere drinks. There I said it. I like drinks that are restrained, fine-tuned, almost delicate in their finesse. That doesn't mean that I like cocktails that are boring or plain--creativity with few ingredients is really important. Simple, elegant and yes austere. I like a cocktail that makes sense, but in a way I've never thought of before. It's like creating an outfit that looks effortless because it just hangs right. Is this hard to achieve? I hope so. I certainly have a hard enough time creating and finding this style of cocktail. But when I do finally stumble over one, oh how does it shine! Mr. Buddle is just one of those drinks--well though out, refined and indeed a beautiful intersection flavors that just make sense.

Mr. Buddle (recipe courtesy of Ricardo Hoffman, Zig Zag Cafe)

1 3/4 ounces Banks 5 rum*
3/4 ounce manzanilla sherry
1/2 ounce banana liqueur
1 dash orange bitters

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Note on Ingredients: I used Banks 5 rum, Giffard banane du bresil, La Guita manzanilla sherry, and angostura orange bitters.

*If you do not have access to Banks 5, add a 1/4 ounce batavia arrack to a 1 1/4 ounces of flavorful light rum, such as the El Dorado 3 year.

There are a lot of things I could choose to talk about with Mr. Buddle. There is the intersection of rum and sherry, something that the bar world is still on the edge of exploring. I could write about the creative use of a new product, banana liqueur, which has recently caught fire in bars all over the country. I could write about the rum, which unlike other rums adds a bit of Batavia Arrack to the blend giving it a very unique flavor. All of these facts are interesting. But I felt attaching this drink to a larger movement would do it a disservice. So I will just say this, on an evening where there is a nice breeze in the air, a certain warmth so that a glass can't help but condense, mix yourself up one of these and experience a dry rum martini-style cocktail that would challenge the notion that all rum drinks are sweet.


What's with That Onion?, or the Curious Case of the Missing Bitters

I am a big martini fan. A big part of that is the gin--I do love gin. But I also love vermouth. When I was in France I would often have a glass of dry vermouth to accompany my meals in lieu of wine. So when you put those two ingredients together, it is not surprising that I am going to like it. A smidge of orange bitters and the zing of fresh lemon oils--it is a winning combination. But this simple drink has brought about so much controversy. What is the perfect martini? I don't really believe there is one--I like what I like, you like what you like. For posterity, I like my martinis really wet, or really old-fashioned depending on your definitions, with a gin to dry vermouth ratio of 3 to 1 or even 2 to 1 sometimes. I guess that some might consider this close to the original martini recipes, but to me it's more important that I enjoy it than its pedigree.

And while the martini is perhaps the fussiest of three-element cocktails, I never would have guessed that a gibson could also be controversial. I always just assumed that once you swap out the twist or olive for a cocktail onion, BAM! you had a gibson. I use the martini ratio I enjoy, and that is the end of the story. But this is not so.* The controversy comes from the unlikeliest place--the bitters. When some of the first "dry" gin cocktails were entering the cocktail vernacular in the late 1800s, almost all of them included orange bitters. The first recipe I could find for the gibson, published in Boothby's World's Drinks and How to Mix Them (1908), absolutely prohibits the inclusion of bitters. Nothing is mentioned about the garnish at all. In fact in some recipes coming out the 1910s, a citrus garnish is preferred. Thus, originally a gibson was not a martini differentiated by garnish but instead by the absence of bitters. In a way it makes more sense--change an ingredient, change the cocktail. Garnishes do not count. Food for thought--could it be that the modern extra dry martini should not be called a martini at all, but an extra dry gibson?

So to celebrate this fact, here is one of my preferred "martinis," complete with onion garnish, perfect for a warm summer evening. Hell, it works on a cool summer evening as well. When choosing cocktail onions for a garnish, make sure you find ones that are crisp; many have mushy texture that will not do work in a chilled cocktail.

Not a Gibson (Martini with an Onion)

2 ounces gin
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 dash orange bitters

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into an chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail onion or two.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Halcyon gin, Dolin dry vermouth, Angostura orange bitters, and Sable & Rosenfield's tipsy onions.

* A big thank you to Wendy Miller for inspiring me to research what differentiates a gibson from a martini.


Taming Kummel: Angel's Tears and Army of Shadows

For years Kummel represented one of the larger gaps in my knowledge. On that day when I finally tasted it, I knew that I needed to learn more, but finding one proved difficult. Kummel in general is rare, and those that were available weren't all that impressive. Even here in Seattle, where the Kummel classics the Allies Cocktail and the Epicurean are pretty popular didn't help to solve this problem. Privatization helped the bars gain access to obscure products, while the consumer continues to struggle.

A strange ingredient, Kummel is simultaneously savory and sweet and usually features such complex flavors as anise and caraway. Not all kummels are the same, however. Gilka is more understated and caraway dominant, while the Combier kummel is bursting with cumin. Yes, I said cumin. But it is that cumin that makes it strange and challenging. Caraway and anise are not all that uncommon in the spirit world: Brennivin and all manner of aquavits contain some manner of both. But cumin is another story altogether.

The question quickly changed from where can I get it to how do I use it? Once I bought some, it just sat in my bar cabinet waiting to be opened. The months passed and nothing happened. But I have never let a bottle of booze get the best of me, so I started asking around. And I discovered there is nothing to fear. In some ways, it is best to think of it as yet another savory strongly flavored element that should be used with care, but used nonetheless.

Sweet Vermouth/Quinquina
It seems that sweet vermouth and other quinquinas are a good solution for the problems stronger flavors create. From celery bitters to absinthe, sweet vermouth and its cousins have continued to surprise me with their ability to tame the beasty ingredients. Here is just one example I came across:

Angel's Tears (recipe by Connor O'Brien)

2 ounces rum
1/2 ounce Byrrh
1 tsp Kummel
1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Note on Ingrediets: Connor's recipe calls for Byrrh and El Dorado 15. I was out of Byrrh so I substituted Punt e Mes. I also used Combier Kummel.

Ctirus has always been a perfect vehicle for strong flavors. With just one look at the daquiri, it becomes apparent. Add a dash of celery bitters--refreshing and delicious. Add a dash of absinthe, a delightful variation. Even a dash of savory kummel works just fine. Lime juice has the incredible power to mitigate other strong elements and even more than one at a time. Maybe it's because lime is just so tough to begin with. Ben Perri's Army of Shadows definitely shows how citrus can harness the more extreme side of Kummel and allow it to play nice with others.

Army of Shadows (recipe by Ben Perri)

1 1/2 ounces aquavit
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce Kummel
1/4 ounce orgeat
1/4 ounce Islay scotch

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Note on Ingredients: I used Arbeg scotch, Small Hands Food orgeat, Linie aquavit and Krogstad aquavit, and Combier Kummel.


How About a Little Restraint with Your Bitter: The Bitter Padre

Bitter used to be my middle name. An order of brown, bitter, and stirred would have me rapt, watching the bartender like a hawk. Mere mentions of new amari online, had me scouring the city's back bars in search of a taste. And often this search would just lead to me procuring my own bottle. I experimented with adding bitters, digestive or aromatic, to every classic cocktails I came across, whether it was a daiquiri, the Japanese cocktail or even a Cosmopolitan. My obsession knew no bounds.

But then something happened. My girlfriend is not so into amari (shock and horror!). As I sought to make her cocktails that she liked, I found myself staring blankly at my liquor collection. Where would I even start? How could I make a cocktail without using a bitter ingredient? In trying to please her very developed palate, I had to think outside of my comfort zone. At first it was frustrating but I now believe that this was the best thing to happen to me. I was very far down the path to forgetting what a balanced cocktail tastes like. Just because a drink is strong and bitter, doesn't mean it is balanced.

Balance is the key factor in creating a successful cocktail. A great bartender can create a drink that is sweet and still balanced, tart and balanced, strong and balanced. Granted being able to make a drink to suit your audience is also important and should provoke creative individuals to think outside of their comfort zone. The hard part of this comes from the fact that your senses crave what you actually put in your mouth. Say you eat a lot of chocolate. You will then crave chocolate. If you eat bitter chocolate, you will crave bitterness. Too little awareness of this can create a palate that is hopelessly out of whack.

As I started thinking about this fact, it became a lot easier to make cocktails that were adjusted to my girlfriend's taste. The more I challenged myself to look beyond of the brown, bitter, and stirred category, the more I found that I liked different things. New flavor combinations came to mind easier. But most important, I regained my knowledge of where balance is.

Don't get me wrong, I still l love a big flavorful, and yes bitter, cocktail. It just has to ring with the right balance. Many go too far, and perhaps solely for bragging rights. The following drink may look like that on paper but it's not. Full of big flavor? Hell yes. But it is tempered, restrained. And it is in that restraint that success comes. Might it still make my girlfriend scrunch her face? Well yes, but even she agrees that it is balanced. And there is one secret ingredient that makes it all work: salt.

Bitter Padre (created by Nikki Worley, Witness)

3/4 ounce mezcal
3/4 ounce Cynar
3/4 ounce Campari
3/4 ounce Fernet Branca
pinch of salt

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist. 

Notes on Ingredients: I did not have Campari, so substituted Luxardo Bitter. I also used Fidencio mezcal. The original calls for del Maguey's vida.


A Madeira Link? Baker's Creole Contentment and the Creole Lady

It is always difficult to write about a Charles Baker cocktail that is actually tasty. While many more of his drinks come under the heading of barely palateable experiments from the past, the good ones have already been uncovered. Even if you've never heard of it, entering the cocktail name into a search engine will fill your screen up with links. But of course it makes complete sense--these are old recipes after all. The Gentleman's Companion has been in print for over 80 years. There are no secrets. So what is there to say about a cocktail that has already make the rounds. It sure is tasty, especially when you follow Baker's advice--but just this once.

Creole Contentment

1 1/2 ounce cognac
1 ounce Madeira
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
1 dash orange bitters

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry if you must, though, as Baker says, this drink needs no adornment

Notes on Ingredients: I used Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac, Broadbent Madeira, Angostura orange bitters and Maraska maraschino liqueur. 

Sometimes the most interesting part of the story comes where we aren't looking. For me this was the case with the Creole Contentment. Baker states that this tipple was birthed in the Big Easy. As any diligent cocktail nerd, I quickly took to the books in hopes of uncovering some hidden reference that would fill out this cocktail's lineage. I turned to Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Make 'Em by Stanley Arthur. As is my habit, I also grabbed a couple of other tomes as well. To sum up an afternoon, I didn't find any secret provenance for the Creole Contentment, but I did find something interesting--another "Creole" drink that is almost a mirror image of Baker's Contentment, the Creole Lady.

Creole Lady

1 ounce Bourbon
1 ounce Madeira
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with 2 brandied cherries. I also added a dash of Angostura bitters. 

I found the Creole Lady while flipping through the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book. Sadly I could not find a true correlation between these two drinks. They look like they are related. They have similar names. But perhaps this just comes from the fact that New Orleans was an important port during Madeiras heydey. Perhaps it is because a lot of Creole cooking has stayed true to the traditional recipes, many of which included Madeira. Or maybe it is because of the many Portuguese immigrants who ended up in the New Orleans region in the years leading up to the Civil War, when Madeira was incredibly popular. Regardless, both cocktails are delicious.


Maraschino Liqueur--To Have or Have Not

The Hemingway Daiquiri, or as is it more simply known, the Daiquiri No. 3, was created by Constante Ribalaiga Vert at the infamous El Floridita in Havana in the early years of the twentieth century. If you haven't been acquainted--and if you haven't, rectify this as soon as possible--this concoction is very closely related to the more traditional daiquiri (rum, lime, and sugar) except a bit of grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur are added to the mix. As with every other cocktail that has been around for multiple decades, the exact recipe will change depending on the drinker. The original recipe calls for but a teaspoon of both the grapefruit and maraschino, with the lime and simple syrup decreased accordingly. More contemporary recipes increase the portion of grapefruit to as much as a 1/2 ounce, while the maraschino, itself contributing intense, often overpowering flavors, is usually capped at around 1/4 ounce. An old school Hemingway is bright and nuanced; more contemporary variations burst with flavor.

Legend has this daiquiri was introduced to Hemingway on a chance encounter--he had ducked into the bar in search of a restroom and on his way out, the illustrious barman was lining the bar with frothy, refreshing house daiquiris. A curious man, Heminway opted to try one and the rest is well, assumption and interpretation. While the famed author and drinker opted to have his daiquiris made without sugar and with a double pour of rum--a variation known as the Papa Doble--most people are happy enough with the original version.

Hemingway Daiquiri (Randall house variation)

1 1/2 ounces white rum
1/4 ounce lime juice
1 ounce grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur

Shake ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, or into a chilled rocks glass

Notes on Ingredients: I used Chairman's Reserve silver rum and Maraska maraschino liqueur. 

I have always loved this cocktail. A big part of it is the grapefruit juice--in the summer I am drawn to its floral, brightness. But I also love the interplay of th citrus with the unique floral, woody notes of the maraschino. Those flavors create the depth that signals that a drink has been well-crafted--that little bit of restrained flair that keeps you coming back. But then again, I have always enjoyed what maraschino liqueur brings to a cocktail. But not everyone appreciates what maraschino brings to the glass.

Maraschino liqueur's flavor is not the easiest to pin down. Originally created from the tiny sour cherries that grow along the Dalmation coast in Eastern Europe, the first maraschino liqueurs were supposedly created as a sort of "maraschino rosolio." Rosolios are often homemade rose-flavored liqueurs consumed as tonics, often sipped  after dinner. While simple rose-flavored liqueurs were made, more often other flavors were added to create complex liqueurs. In the same way that a mirepoix creates a base for many soups and sauces, the rosolio becomes a foundation for the more principal flavors. 

But the complexity of this liqueur only begins there. The pits and stems of the maraska cherries are separated, fermented and distilled, creating a sort of grappa. The cherries themselves are distilled as well, creating an eau de vie.  Then the two distillates are reblended and aged in ash barrels for two years. When the aging process is complete, the spirit is then diluted and sweetened, often with a blend of honey or cane sugar--the precise sweetener often varies depending on the house's style. The slightly almond-like notes that maraschino is known for comes from the inclusion of the cherry pits in the process. Those characteristic floral elements come mostly from the distilled fruit, though perhaps some of the original "rosolio" has made its way in as well. Naturally, most distilleries do not disclose all of their secrets.

Maraschino liqueur has long been a major element in mixed drinks. It's presence can be traced back to many of the early punches that were widely consumed in the nineteenth century. As the more efficient cocktail overtook the flowing bowl, maraschino played its role as an alternative sweetener that brought big flavor. It is not surprising to find that it had made its way into daiquiris.

For those who do not appreciate the flavors of maraschino liqueur, another cocktail exists that highlights the wonderful intersection of grapefruit and lime. Made with rum, lime, grapefruit juice, simple syrup and angostura bitters, the Nevada Cocktail is just as lovely as a Hemingway. The Nevada first appeared in print in Judge Jr.'s compilation Here's How, published in 1927. Instead of the funky yet floral notes of the Hemingway, the Nevada's recipe instead relies on the spicyness of aromatic bitters to flush out the fullness. Because the Nevada reverses the proportions of the citrus juices, any floral notes instead are contributed by the grapefruit.

Nevada Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces white rum
1/3 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce grapefruit juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup (1:1)
1 dash angostura bitters

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

Notes on Ingredients: I used Chairman's Reserve white rum and Angostura bitters.


A Sour for Every Pisco: Mixing with Aromatic Pisco

Almost two years ago I was lucky enough to visit Peru. And while I spent most of the trip in Lima, I did travel to Ica and Lunahuana to further my pisco education. The trip was enlightening on many levels, and I made sure there were a few bottles of pisco in my luggage on the way home. Pisco is still primarily an undiscovered commodity here. While many bartenders are experimenting with its unique flavors, their efforts are limited by availability as only a small amount of the pisco that is produced actually reaches the border. During my time in Peru, I tasted as many kinds of pisco as I could get my hands on--all in the name of research--and learned that there is more to pisco than I knew. More than a handful of the new piscos that have entered the U.S. market in recent years are acholados, or blended piscos. Pisco puro, pisco that is made from only one grape variety, or even mosto verde, pisco that has been distilled with some of the sugar still remaining, seldom cross the border. I was lucky enough to try both of these more obscure styles.

Pisco by law can be made from eight different grape varieties: muscatel, abillia, italia, torontel, uvina, quebranta, mollar, negra criolla. These are then categorized according to their relative aromatic qualities--the first four comprising the more aromatic, floral grapes, and the last four the non-aromatic. Many pisco distillers use the qualities of both non-aromatic and aromatic grapes to create a signature flavor profile. These acholados are usually very mixable and the go-to spirit for pisco sours. In recent years, however, many bartenders have turned to pisco puro made from quenbranta grapes to form the foundation of the pisco sour. The more delicate aroma of the quebranta grape makes it very mixable. Aromatic grapes create piscos that has a strong floral, almost perfumey aroma that make them that much harder to use in cocktails.

I have been trying for two years to figure out the best way to use the bottle of pisco that I brought back from the Rivadeneyra bodega. This pisco puro is made from Italia grapes. I tried it in a pisco sour, but the flavors didn't quite work. Then one day the solution came to me when I remembered the delightful pisco sours I drank in Ica. Of all the pisco sours I drank on that trip, they were the most memorable. I don't know if they actually added Peruvian bitters to the mixture, but they all seemed to be laced with cinnamon. Then I started thinking more about how the floral notes of the cinnamon might work with the more perfume-y flavors of the Italia grapes. It seemed worth a shot, but it turned into a delicious experiment.

Canela Sour

2 ounces pisco
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce cinnamon-honey syrup*
1 egg white

Shake the ingredients once without ice. Add ice and shake again and strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass. Garnish with several drops of Peruvian bitters swirled in the foam. 

Notes on Ingredients: I used Rivadeneyra pisco.

*To make cinnamon-honey syrup, heat 2 ounces of water with 2 ounces of honey. Once combined, take off the heat and add three cinnamon sticks that have been broken into smaller piece. Cover and let cool. Strain and refrigerate. Makes about 4 ounces.   

Looking Inside the Cooler: Charles Baker's Colonial Cooler

Our friend Charles Baker certainly knew how to get into a couple of scrapes. He outlines many of them in his tales, but perhaps none is so memorable as the time when his boat ran out of gas and left him stranded on his way to Sandakan in North Borneo. And while considering that his stories are often fabulous and detailed, being rescued by a man in a g-string and headdress has made this tale infamous. The drink associated with the tale, the Colonial Cooler,  is often overlooked. Fortunately, the Charles Baker scholar, St. John Frizell, has resurrected it. Of course perhaps resurrection is the wrong word since he has hardly changed it. It certainly is tasty as written.

When I first pondered this cocktail, I was immediately taken by the combination of gin, sweet vermouth, an amaro, bitters, and a sweetener. As I had been playing with amari in the Martinez, I was easily led astray, thinking that the club soda was a mistake. What I missed in understanding this cocktail had much to do with the overlooking the nature of a cooler. Coolers were defined by their inclusion of ginger beer and citrus. While the Colonial Cooler doesn't really look like a by-definition cooler, looking at the recipe through that lens made more sense. In fact as soon as I saw that Frizell decided to add cucumber, I saw how much the Colonial Cooler resembled the Pimm's Cup, another very notable Cooler.

Colonial Cooler (adapted from St. John Frizell's recipe)

1 1/2 ounces gin
1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
1 tsp Cointreau
1 dash Angostura bitters
1/4 ounce Amer Picon*
1 sprig of mint
1 ounce of club soda

Shake ingredients, except club soda, and double strain into a high ball or Collins glass filled with ice. Top with soda and garnish with a sprig of mint, slice of pineapple, or slice of cucumber. 

Notes on Ingredients: I used Beefeater gin, Cocchi di Torino sweet vermouth, and Bigallet for the Amer Picon.

*Frizell omits this part of the original cooler, but I added it back in.Also of note, Frizell calls for splitting the sweet vermouth between Cinzano and Carpano Antica. Also, he adds a sprig of mint to the shaking tin in addition to garnish. Cucumbers are also listed as an optional ingredient.


A Non-Dairy Aged Egg Nog Featuring Almond Milk: Part 1

I absolutely love egg nog. The holidays just aren't the same without it. In fact, the entire winter season would not be the same. I can easily recall my first taste of fresh egg nog, not that vile imitation sold by the cartonful in grocery stores. It was happenstance, an impromptu attendance at a holiday party, and the punchbowl was filled to the brim, dusted with nutmeg. In recent years, a new style of egg nog has gained prominence--aged. And while it is a different animal entirely, aged egg nog is also delicious. Many may be wary of aging something with raw eggs in it, but it is safe enough considering the amount of alcohol.

For many, the eggs are the least concern. Most egg nog calls for cream, milk, or both. Thus, not everyone can appreciate its wondrous flavor, and this sadly includes my girlfriend. But for a time a solution eluded me. How to create a situation that would allow her to share the lovely taste with me? The answer came from a friend of mine who thought of almond milk as a viable substitute. But as most egg nog recipes call for a combination of milk and cream, this potential solution hit the wall. Almond cream does not exist. The eureka moment came when my friend, a staunch cocktail enthusiast in her own right, decided to take the matter in her own hands. As with many obscure cocktail ingredients, we have found that if you can't find it, make it. So with an ingenious idea of thickening almond milk into almond cream with almond paste, or marzipan, we set out to replicate an aged egg nog to mark the season. And what a lovely creation it was. After only six weeks, the flavors had developed and mellowed leaving a beautiful almond-flavored nog. Most egg nogs that are aged with dairy require about three months to age to achieve the same levels of depth and mellowness.

Almond Milk Egg Nog (Stage 1) (recipe printed with permission of twosheetsinthewind)

2 ounces + 8 ounces almond milk
2 tbsp marzipan (almond paste)
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 ounces rum
4 ounces bourbon
4 ounces brandy

In a clean glass container that can be sealed, combine rum, bourbon and brandy.

In a small saucepan combine 2 ounces almond milk and marzipan. Cutting up the almond paste ahead of time will speed up the process. Stir constantly over low heat until most of marzipan is absorbed.

Beat the eggs and sugar with a hand blender in another bowl until well combined.

Add the "almond cream" to the egg-sugar mixture, followed by the almond milk. Stir to combine.

Empty the contents of the bowl into the glass jar. Stir or swirl to combine. Cover and keep in the fridge for at least 6 weeks. Shake about once a week.