Friday, December 5, 2008

Repeal Day!

It now seems inescapable that this blog has perished. We bid thee, dear blog, a fond farewell. But today is not a day of mourning, for there are a great deal of wonderful cocktail blogs around. No, this is a day of celebration. In fact, I intentionally chose this day to say goodbye to drink-well. You see, today is Repeal Day. That's right. Exactly 75 years ago today, the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah, completing the ratification process, thus ending The Ignoble Experiment, Prohibition.

We cocktailians look back on Prohibition with somewhat mixed feelings. Granted, it gave a strong foothold for organized crime in America, converted Christianity into Moral Deism, nearly ruined California wine for the following several decades, killed countless home distillers and bathtub gin drinkers, and of course, it even tried to take our booze away. But on the other hand, it failed to rid us of our drinking, gave us some interesting history to relive through the modern speakeasy, and it forced the creation of a great deal of mixed drinks. When your gin is made in your next door neighbor's basement, you're probably going to want something to alter the taste a bit.

Anyway, long story short, God took something evil and used it for at least some good, but we're still very glad to have the right to plead the 21st. So raise a glass tonight in honor of that precious Amendment, and perhaps even ponder if it goes far enough. Consider the following, admittedly grabbed from Wikipedia:

The Twenty-first Amendment is also one of only two provisions of the Constitution to prohibit private conduct; the other is the Thirteenth Amendment. As Laurence Tribe points out: "there are two ways, and only two ways, in which an ordinary private citizen ... can violate the United States Constitution. One is to enslave someone, a suitably hellish act. The other is to bring a bottle of beer, wine, or bourbon into a State in violation of its beverage control laws—an act that might have been thought juvenile, and perhaps even lawless, but unconstitutional?"

And this doesn't even address the current Prohibition still severely limiting Alcohol production and consumption such as (insert your favorite three or four modern forms of Alcohol prohibition here). Laws like these, public drinking laws as one group of examples, continue to criminalize drinking, and thereby also further our negative cultural perspective on alcohol. Still, the more obvious current Prohibition comes in something oh-so-creatively named "The War on Drugs," as though it's an enemy to be fought. This, as with all prohibitions, merely furthers organized (and unorganized) crime in this country as well as... Okay, sorry for all the politicizing. You get my point.

Anyway, be sure to find a good Repeal Day party tonight to honor those who fought for your booze. Several bars are holding such parties. And if you can't find one or make it out tonight, hold a celebration of your own. So long and drink well.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Scots Love Their Contests

Okay, I don't actually know whether or not those of Scottish decent have a proclivity for contests, but I did happen to stumble upon a couple of interesting booze related contests both rooted in Scottish products.

The first Scottish booze product, you can probably guess. It's called scotch -- specifically, a brand new 40 year single malt from Highland Park, a Highland island (not Islay) distillery in Orkney (right off the northern coast of Scotland). Anyway, Whisky Magazine is having a contest wherein they're giving away a bottle of the prized 40 year old, which Highland Park claims will be part of the permanent line-up rather than a limited release. The bottle is retailing at £899, which I can only assume is a great sum of cash (a little over $1,600, but who's counting). The cheapest I've found it is at Loch Fyne Whiskies where they're letting it go for a scant £638.30 (you can do the math on this one). The point is, I can't afford it and, most likely, neither can you. So enter the contest already. And if you win, perhaps you could offer a wee dram to your favorite booze blogger. Don't bother clicking it, it's just me.

The other contest, while not as boozy, has an equally boozy source, Hendrick's Gin. Extra points if you somehow saw this as the next obvious Scottish liquor. Their website, The Unusual Times is giving away a fittingly unusual musical instrument, the theremin. If you're not familiar, there's a link to a nice video on the contest website. I personally prefer this video though:

If somebody wins this, I'll also be expecting a wee dram. You heard me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Alaskan Brewing Company

So, it's about time I write a little something about the cruise to Alaska and, of course, the booze involved. While our pub tour in Victoria was canceled, we did still get to thoroughly enjoy our trip to Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau. We were encouraged to grab a sample beer (or our second) so that we could start the tour. I was also pleased that our guide gave an intermission during the tour specifically so we could refill our glasses.

In addition to all their mainstay brews (and the seasonal Summer Ale), we also were able to taste their coffee brown ale. That's right, a brown ale brewed up with a healthy dose of real coffee. While not a huge coffee fan, I am a brown ale fan. And having been disappointed previously by such travesties as raspberry brown ales, I was a little wary of the concept. I must say, though, that I was very pleasantly surprised, and I hope that this tasty brew will be available outside of Juneau, Alaska shortly. As a fan of mixology and beer, seeing craft breweries creating products like this makes me very happy. It's just sad that, not unlike other quality forms of booze, the demand (while growing) is still rather low. Still, if you're ever in the area, for whatever reason, stop on by the brewery. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Second Greatest Cocktail of All Time -- The Sazerac

The title is, of course, a matter of personal taste. There are, however, many cocktailians and mixologists who agree that the Sazerac is far too often neglected, and must be revived so that we might show others that their drinks need not be laden with Red Bull or sour mix.

The Sazerac is a superb drink, which comes to us from New Orleans. In fact, we can thank one man in particular, a Haitian pharmacist of sorts from the early 1800's named Antoine Amédée Peychaud. Along with the Old-Fashioned (which I personally consider to be the only cocktail superior to the Sazerac) is part of a very small group of the very first cocktails to ever exist (to our knowledge). It is a sad thought that we teeter on the edge of forgetting this wonderful concoction along with the others.

While the Sazerac most likely has taken its name (indirectly) from a particular brand of cognac, the original predominant spirit, it is now made with rye whiskey. In a pinch, another whiskey can be used. But this is not advised. The bitters, however, should not and cannot be substituted. Some have tried to use Angostura in the place of Peychaud's bitters, perhaps due to the difficulty of acquiring any bitters other than Angostura. However, this is no longer the case due to the internet and inexpensive nature of aromatic bitters. You no longer have an excuse. Pick up some Peychaud's wherever you can find it. See? No excuse. In fact, come to think of it, find yourself a nice bottle of rye soon thereafter. It's what the internet was built to do. Not to mention, a surprising amount of these once-hard-to-come-by ingredients are popping up at (gasp) grocery stores. Okay, enough ranting. Onto the recipe...


2 oz rye
1/2 simple syrup
1-2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
1/4 oz absinthe or absinthe substitute*

The serving glass (a rocks glass for the Sazerac) is prepared by first chilling, then coating the inside with absinthe. The chilling can be done with a simple ice bath. That is, while preparing the drink in a mixing glass, fill the serving glass with ice and water. The absinthe should be applied later, although I have seen reputable Sazeracs prepared by adding the absinthe to the ice bath. I personally don't think that this imparts enough of the flavor and aroma. To do an absinthe rinse, merely place a small quantity (roughly 1/4 oz or so) in the glass and swirl it around so that it coats the entirety of the inside of the glass. Those inclined to aspects of flair bartending opt to accomplish this by turning the glass sideways and throwing it up into the air, spinning it vigorously. I'll leave this decision to you and your glassware budget. Robert Hess has an excellent idea which I have not yet tried, but sounds quite nice. Instead of a traditional absinthe rinse, he uses an atomizer to apply a few quick sprays of absinthe mist in order to coat the walls of the glass. Finally, a use for those "vermouth spritzers" which give the dry martini a bad name.

During the ice bath and before the absinthe rinse, one should prepare the bulk of the cocktail in a mixing glass. Combine the rye, simple syrup, and Peychaud's bitters with ice and stir vigorously for several seconds. Quickly, but effectively, apply the absinthe. Then strain the cocktail into the prepared rocks glass. Squeeze a piece of lemon peel over the top of the drink, but (if you're a purist) do not place the peel in the glass. If you do desire the lemon peel to rest in your drink, be certain not to include any of the bitter white pith. You'll notice that this drink, despite being served in a rocks glass, has no ice in the finished product. This will cause the glass to be far from full. Resist the urge to add ice or anything else to your Sazerac. Simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the second greatest cocktail of all time.

*Absinthe was at one point difficult to acquire within the United States (and many other countries). This is slowly changing as more and more countries are realizing that the rumors of absinthe's hallucinatory and highly toxic nature were far from true. If you do happen to have an absinthe substitute like Herbsaint, Pernod, etc. feel free to use it. It will still produce a highly tasty drink. However, as always, there is no complete substitute for the real thing. Perhaps, a Sazerac revival and an absinthe revival could lead each other back to our shelves. Here's hoping.

Back From Hiatus

I apologize for the recent posting dry spell. To make it up to those who drink well, I'm bringing you two consecutive postings. Enjoy.

The first is to introduce an original of mine. Let's call it the "Gimdom Cuke", paying homage to it's resemblance to a gimlet laced with a healthy dose of the fantastically herbal Bénédictine, and rounded out with the currently ever-so-trendy (yet still worthwhile) inclusion of cucumber. The dom, of course, is a reference to the initials D.O.M. which grace the bottle, and which stand for "Deo Optimo Maximo" roughly translated as "To God, most good, most great". Sorry, I needed to get something out of my classics degree. I hope I made my professors proud. Poor Latin translations aside, it is quite a tasty and well balanced drink.

Gimdom Cuke

1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz Bénédictine
3-4 heaping tablespoons cucumber (don't use the skin though)

Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.

For a more gimmicky gimdom cuke, feel free to exaggerate the cuke-ness by substituting for the cocktail glass, a vessel carved from the cucumber itself. Simply slice off one tip, close enough to the end that there will be no seeded portions for the drink to slowly drip through. This will be the base of the glass, which will end up shaped vaguely like a Collins glass. If you wish to make a cucumber stemmed glass, no such slice is needed. Merely, take the cucumber and very carefully stab the bottom with a plastic (or glass) stem. The next step is to decide how tall you would like your glass. At this point, slice off the rest of the cucumber. Use a knife or spoon to carefully hollow out an appropriately sized section of the cucumber. The flesh that you've scooped out should be more than sufficient for the cucumber which will be used as an ingredient. Be sure to not puncture, even in the slightest, through the bottom of the glass. This is a surprisingly easy mistake to make during your first time creating this glass.

Whether you use the gimmicky glass outlined here, a standard cocktail glass, or even throw the libation into a rocks glass, be sure to thoroughly enjoy it -- and to thank God for giving us those nice monks who make our booze. Amen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Last Word

On a recent shopping trip, I picked up (among other fun booze purchases) a bottle of green Chartreuse and some Luxardo. Finally, I have the proper ingredients to make the Last Word. It is a fantastic drink for three reasons.

Firstly, it is another great way to get a non-gin drinker to drink (and more importantly, enjoy) their neglected bottles of gin. Secondly, it also helps introduce a whole new generation to the beauties of Chartreuse, something so wonderful that it's "the only liqueur to have a color named after it." That remarkable achievement alone (quoted directly from the bottle itself) should be more than enough to persuade us all into tying this cocktail. Ironically enough, Chartreuse comes in two colors, the traditional green and the softer yellow. Finally, the ingredients all have the same measure. This means you can make your drinks as big or small as you want without ever having to struggle through the mathematical impossibility of multiplying four different fractions having just downed your third cocktail of the evening. Also, there's really no need for a measuring jigger. Don't read this incorrectly. It is still important to measure. But with the Last Word, you can use whatever liquid bearing vessel your pretty little heart desires. So grab your mini dixie cups and start filling to the third blue flower.

1 part gin
1 part green Chartreuse (try yellow for a milder version)
1 part maraschino liqueur (Luxardo if you've got it)
1 part fresh squeezed lime juice

Shake with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sparkly Drinks

I'm a huge fan of drinks using champagne (and other sparkling wines). Today, I bring you two new original concoctions of yours truly. The first is presented (partially) as a joke. A friend of mine is a pretty big fan of the oh-so-classy, alcopop combination of energy drink and booze called Sparks. Now, I support this habit solely because he also has a high appreciation for booze items that actually are classy. Through my quality-booze evangelism, his second favorite alcohol item is probably an Old Fashioned (made properly, of course, with NO soda water whatsoever). Anyway, he and I recently picked up a new place (I'll post pictures once the bar is set up), and I felt that a proper way to celebrate would be to combine my mixology with his elixir of choice. It's very, very basic, but it's quite tasty and, to my knowledge, the only mixed drink using Sparks. If anybody is aware of any more, let me know. I'd love to try them out. Anyway, if you hadn't already guessed from the post title, this special drink consists of topping up with champagne a flute already containing an ounce or so of Sparks. To add a bit of complexity, top it off with a dash of Angostura bitters. I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes mixology calls for a little something crazy -- but only sometimes.

This second drink is a little more conventional. I call it the French Appleflower. In addition to be a really girly sounding name, it also serves the purpose of highlighting the ingredients used. The "French" refers to the champagne (a la French 75). The "Apple" refers to (drumroll...) applejuice. And the "flower" refers to the elderflower liquer, specifically, St. Germain. It's difficult to overstate the greatness of this liqueur. Just to give a brief idea, at this year's San Francisco World Spirits Competition, it won a Double-Gold in it's category as well as a Double-Gold for it's packaging, so not only is it a fantastic herbal/botanical liqueur to mix with, it's also quite pretty. But you could probably tell that from the picture. Just pick up a bottle if you haven't already and make a light, refreshing Appleflower for your nearest reason to celebrate.

3/4 oz. St. Germain
1 oz. 100% apple juice
Serve fluted and topped with bubbly and a float of Peychaud's bitters (1-2 dashes)

For more of a cidery drink, feel free to bump up the juice content, just be warned that it's already a pretty sweet tasting drink. Much more appleness and you may need to switch the bitters to Angostura. Enjoy, and always drink well.

Monday, June 30, 2008

A Day in the Life

Today was a good day. Specifically, it was a good booze day. First, I spent a couple hours reading about booze. Then I spent a couple of hours mixing and drinking booze. After that, a couple hours looking at and buying booze. A couple more hours of drinking booze. Now a couple hours writing about booze. That's my kind of day.

Some of the reading time was, as always, spent reading, analyzing and sometimes mocking and correcting drink recipes under my breath. Most of the reading time, however, was spent with a fantastic little book by Ron Givens entitled Bourbon at its Best: The Lore and Allure of America's Finest Spirits. While it's certainly not perfect (for example, the author (or editor) seems to have difficulty with "(variable)teenth" century nomenclature), it is by far, one of the best books about booze I've ever run across. I suspect that it may even be the best book ever written on bourbon. Basically, it's something to check out if you get the opportunity.

The mixing and drinking involved tinkering with a delightful beverage, The White Lady. For those of you not in the know, that would be concoction of gin, lemon juice, and triple sec (I used Cointreau). Yet another way to enlighten those who "don't like anything with gin." Shake and strain into a cocktail glass: 1.5 oz gin, 1.0 oz Cointreau, 0.5 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice. For those who are already big fans of gin, feel free to bump up the gin -- a little. Anything more than 2 ounces and the orange and lemon become little more than additional botanicals for the gin.

The shopping was quite fruitful, more so than usual. I actually ended up buying three bottles. I picked up a cava, an asti, and a California cuvee. Okay, so it's not the most diverse bag of booze bottles to bring home, but as far as sparkling wines go, there's a significant amount of variation. Most of the liquors and liqueurs I want are on my birthday wishlist (July 2; send nice booze), and my inventory of beer has nowhere to grow, so I guess it was inevitable that I would end up bringing home some kind of wine. I'd also recently run out of sparkling wine, as I'm currently working on developing a bubbly way of guzzling St. Germain with delicious appleness. With my new stock of sparkling wines, it should be perfected shortly, so keep your eyes open.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mixology Monday: The Miss May No More

I know that it's not Monday, but I wanted to contribute a bourbon based drink to the blogosphere, especially seeing all the work that others had put into it. This drink is special to me because I created it as a wedding gift for a friend, hence the name. It's largely a variation on my favorite classic cocktail, The Old Fashioned.

The Miss May No More:

1 1/2 bourbon (Elijah Craig 12 year if available)
1/2 oz. Cherry Heering
1 or 2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Build in rocks glass with ice. Stir. Enjoy.

This drink works very well as an intermediary to The Old Fashioned for those who "don't like strong drinks". The bourbon obviously serves in a prominent role, but the sweetness of the bourbon is brought out (and contributed to significantly) by the Heering. The Heering also brings an amount of complexity to the table, so there's no need to go crazy on the bitters.

I'm eager to try some other cherry liqueurs to see how they hold up. I've got my eye on some Luxardo.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Drinking Styles

Happy Fathers' Day to the gentlemen blessed and cursed with offspring. This Fathers' Day has me thinking about the drinking styles of different people. Due to my huge interest in mixology, I wanted to give my father a nice bottle of liquor or a liqueur. While he's somewhat interested in mixed drinks and is always willing to help me test out new and old recipes, I knew that he would be a litte bit more grateful for a bottle of scotch than St. Germain. While I don't have much money to be throwing around right now, I was able to pick up a 10-year-old Speyburn scotch to honor him this year for having fathered me. For such a young and reasonably priced single malt, it was quite tasty, and I'll likely add a bottle to my own collection shortly.

Sipping our glasses of scotch after dinner reminded me of how differently people drink their booze. As a mere 22-year-old, I'm used to seeing most of my peers filling a shot glass or holding a can of Red Bull. While this isn't my favorite method of consumption, it is not below me to join in on occassion. Of course, I also try to spread the gospel of quality drinks in the meantime, and the same people I drink fizzy yellow beers with one night, may halfway jokingly refer to me as an alcohol snob the next night. I generally don't get upset about this.

One thing that does occassionally get on my nerves is having to justify making myself a champagne cocktail for brunch to binge drinking friends, who may even have a hangover from the night before. So, in honor of different drinking styles, and to calm the minds of my loved ones: No, I am not an alcoholic. The fifty bottles of booze I own do not make me a problem drinker, nor does the fact that I semi-regularly have a drink or two in the afternoon or (perish the thought) the morning.

I am a much bigger fan of constantly consuming small amounts of quality booze than consuming large amounts of cheap alcohol during short periods of time. This does not, however, make me a booze snob either. I have been known to even play a game or two of beer pong, and I generally don't fill those iconic red plastic cups with Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale or a home-brewed hefe. Red plastic cups should contain the light varieties of Bud or Coors. I know it's a scandalous concept for many, but I hold that it's perfectly fine to enjoy these beers in their proper context, as long as you realize that there are other things to drink out there, which are brewed, fermented, cellared, distilled, and/or mixed with much greater care for quality of ingredients and richness of taste than for dollars to be garnered (although that can be an added bonus).

You don't need to eat filet mignon every evening. Even McDonald's is fine to have on occassion. I know that not everbody agrees with me on this point, and my opinion may change, but until then, this is how I drink, in many different ways, at many different times, and with many different people. While I'm not a fan of either drunkenness or addictions, every other way to drink, I'm more than happy to encourage and join in on, though still some more than others. It also seems that people need little if any encouragement to drink cheap beer and fake martinis. The endangered and extinct styles of drinking are the ones which need a little bit more press and it is with that in mind that I encourage you all to try something new to you (classic or modern), and as always, whatever you drink, to drink it well.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Fresh Eggs vs. Egg White Cartons and The Whiskey Sour

When it comes to cocktails, I am a firm believer that everything should be as fresh as possible. However, every rule has its exceptions. Firstly, the obvious exception to every cocktail rule: Personal tastes reign supreme. If you prefer the taste of Rose's "lime juice" to actual freshly squeezed lime juice in your daiquiris, go for it. Be sure to make mine with the real stuff though, or at least warn me before I accidently ingest a Rose's product. Another exception (perhaps a more interesting exception) comes in the form of egg whites. Egg white create a unique mouthfeel and an pleasant visual effect as well. The most famous use of egg white may come in the Pisco Sour, but I like to use it in other sours as well, especially Whiskey Sours. But that's for later discussion.

In order to determine which source for egg white was better, I decided to do a bit of an experiment, so I went to the store and picked up some fresh eggs and a carton of pasteurized egg white. I really thought that the fresh eggs would prove a better choice for cocktails, especially after reading on the carton that those egg whites were not recommended for meringues and the like because of the pasteurization. But I was pleasantly surprised by the results. When shaken alone, the fresh egg whites didn't have quite as much foam, although I would say that they both fell within the small range desired. Also, this discrepancy all but disappeared when shaken with the other ingredients. I decided also to taste for differences just between the shaken whites so that they would stand out more. The fresh egg whites had slightly less of the eggy taste, but when I say slightly, I mean slightly. This discrepancy was also more than masked by mixing with the other ingredients. While I didn't want to get enough of a swallow to accurately judge mouthfeel with the egg whites alone, I was, of course, more than willing to do so for the finished product. For the most part, I couldn't detect any difference at all, and on a couple of sips and gulps, I actually preferred the texture of the carton whites.

The non-mixology related characteristics weren't much more helpful in declaring a winner. In terms of price, depending on random sales and the quantity purchased, there's little difference. For the home bar enthusiast, who only occassionally uses egg white, I would suggest the pasteurized variety, simply because they last much longer before becoming unusable in cocktails. But on the other hand, fresh eggs come with the additional yolks, which can be used in a few different cocktails, or even scrambled up for something to nibble on while sipping down your sours. The fresh eggs do also pose the hassle and (for some) difficulty of separating the whites. Simply stated, the differences are minor, and the winner is slight. While others are more than welcome to disagree, I forsee my egg white stock will come already separated and pasteurized in a handy little carton.

Now, for the good stuff:

The Whiskey Sour

1 1/2 - 2 oz. Whiskey
1 oz. simple syrup
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Up to 1 whole egg white (or 3 tbsp. from the carton)

Shake ingredients vigorously without ice. Add ice and shake again. Strain into chilled sour glass. Garnish with a cherry and/or lemon wedge.

This yields a rather sweet whiskey sour, so I encourage you to alter the proportions to your tastes. I like my sours quite sweet. It's also quite fun to experiment with different whisk(e)ys. The experiment was done with Jack Daniel's, but I'm quite fond of using bourbons. I've got a couple more bourbons to try out, then perhaps some scotch. Bushmill's makes for quite the tasty treat. Of course, there's no need to limit yourself to whiskey alone. Pisco is quite fun, or perhaps just a Brandy Sour. Try out your favorite liquor (or liqueur for that matter). Some will require slightly different ratios of sweet to sour, especially liqueurs. Experiment, have fun, and drink well.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

An Afternoon With Some Arrogant Bastards

So, technically, Stone Brewery has little to do with the cocktail world. But the appreciation of a quality brew over some tasteless, mass-marketed "beer" is analogous to what the mixology world desires. People should know that they have the option to drink something other than that slushy "margarita" made with 51% agave tequila and a treacherous product known as "sweet and sour mix" (and sometimes even "margarita/daiquiri mix").

But back to the brewery. I don't consider myself to be a beer expert, but I have tasted a few here and there. In fact, I'm quite proud of the fact that I have my own plaque on display at 99 Bottles of Beer, a fantastic restaurant/pub up in Santa Cruz, California. I'm on somewhat of a quest to sample as many brown ales as possible, so on this trip, I didn't actually order any Stone brews. Instead, I opted for the Rubicon Maggie Brown and the Bear Republic Pete Brown Tribute Ale. The Maggie Brown was a little bit aggressive for my palate, but the Tribute Ale was near perfection. I'll definitely have to sample another... and another... If you're a fan of Newcastle (or any other brown ale), you should absolutely check this one out. If you're interested in more brown ales which are quite delicious -- and highly available -- you should drink deeply of Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale and Nectar Ales' Humboldt Hemp Ale (the hemp is NOT just a marketing ploy). I thank you for indulging me in allowing this non-cocktail post. And as always, I pray that whatever you drink, you drink well.

A couple of the bourbon barrels used for Stone's semi-new Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale. Above are some hops talked about on the tour.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Old Fashioned

There are a number of good reasons to begin discussion of cocktails with the Old Fashioned, not the least of which being that it just happens to be my favorite drink. While many are not familiar with this drink, they may be familiar with the short glass renamed after it. Let's get right into the recipe.

The Old Fashioned

1/4-1/2 oz. simple syrup*
1-3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz. whiskey

Stir all three ingredients well and pour into an Old Fashioned glass filled with large ice cubes. Garnish as desired with nearly any combination of orange slice/peel, lemon peel, and/or a cherry. Please be cautious with over-garnishing your Old Fashioned. If you believe yours requires a fruit salad to be added, serve it in a separate bowl with a fork or find another drink entirely.

The whiskey selected, by tradition, should be a bourbon or a rye. I generally use bourbon, although I have been known to experiment slightly. For a while, I was crazy about Irish Old Fashioneds, made with Bushmill's. Truly, though, one can use any liquor desired, even tequila.

And depending on the size of your glass, there may be a great deal of empty space remaining. I implore you, however, not to "top off" with soda water. This heinous practice seems to have stemmed from imprecise measures of water being recommended to help muddle sugar instead of using simple syrup. This, of course, leads us to our discussion of simple syrup.

*Simple syrup (sometimes called sugar syrup or bar syrup) is nothing more than sugar dissolved in water. This serves many purposes. Most obviously, there is no need to muddle a sugar cube and teaspoon or so of water together for 45 minutes per drink to avoid the grainy texture of undissolved sugar. Secondly, depending on muddling time and technique, much of the sugar content is likely to remain at the bottom of the glass until the final sip, creating an unbalanced drink during some, if not most, of the drinking experience. Thirdly, making your own simple syrup makes you feel like a real mixologist, even though all you did was mix sugar and water ahead of time.

Simple syrup is made by heating (but not boiling) one part water and slowly stirring in an equal part of sugar until dissolved. For a rich simple syrup (what I prefer), merely double the amount of sugar used. I use a pan on the stove top, but anything that heats water will work. Once everything is dissolved, pour the syrup into an air-tight bottle (a cleaned out liquor bottle works fine) and place in the fridge or cabinet. To lengthen the time before it starts to crystallize, simply add a splash of vodka. If you'd like to experiment, a myriad of different flavors can be used.

As for the bitters, don't bother making this drink if you don't have bitters. Go out and buy some. They're dirt cheap and they're available at BevMo, some liquor stores, and several grocery stores. If you've got them, it's also quite fun to experiment with using orange bitters and/or Peychaud bitters in this drink instead of (or in addition to) the Angostura. Whatever you do, don't leave them out entirely. This cocktail illustrates the perfect balance: Whiskey to make it strong, water to make it weak, Angostura to make it bitter, and sugar to make it sweet. Along with this comes the personal balance. Everybody likes their drinks a little bit different, so I encourage you to play around a little with the measurements until you find the perfect Old Fashioned for your tastes.

If you'd like more information on the Old Fashioned, Robert Hess does an excellent job in his look at the recipe and in his in-depth look at its history. If you'd prefer to watch a video with a charming old man (who makes a fantastic cocktail), Chris McMillian should do the job nicely.

Drink Well.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Drinks at the Doheny

The drinks at the Doheny were, of course, of a rather high caliber. Upon entering, my friend and I were greeted with a couple of Jalisco Flowers (found below in the Partido section). I scrounged up a slightly more detailed recipe as well:


1/2 oz reposado tequila
3/4 oz St. Germain
1 oz ruby grapefruit juice
2 - 2 1/2 oz champagne or prosecco

Combine the tequila, St. Germain and grapefruit juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne.

The tequila (possibly because it was reposado) was very well blended (no sharp agave, nor overly woody tastes). I must have been crazy though, because I could have sworn that the juice was at least partially pineapple. I guess I'll have to try more grapefruit/bubbly combinations. I've been wanting to try champagne with more varied juices in general, but now I'm intrigued about the grapefruit. The St. Germain seems to be a favorite of Vincenzo's (note its use in many of the other cocktails). He also seems to be quite enamored with ginger. But as long as he uses them well and stays with the freshly squeezed juices and promotion of the resurgence of bitters, I'm a big fan.

The event was a lecture on the history and basic concepts behind true cocktails and other alcoholic beverages. During the lecture, he created for each of those interested, a Pisco Sour and a Manhattan. The sour was mostly enjoyable to me simply because I had never tasted a Pisco before. The Manhattan, on the other hand, was quite tasty. In fact, it might just inspire me to soak my own cherries. The Doheny's were a little tastier than the store-bought jar I've been using. We'll see if this inspiration can help me overcome my laziness though.

After the lecture I also wanted to order a drink from the special menu prepared for the festivities. I went with the 10 Tangos (Rhum, Green Chartreuse, St Germain, orange bitters, egg white, and ginger beer). Quite a tasty treat. Perhaps even light enough for a laid back brunch. Regardless, an excellent variation on the sour.

For those interested, here's the entire drink menu made up for the week:



CORPSE REVIVER # 2 (Classic)
Plymouth Gin - fresh lemon juice - lillet bland - Cointreau

Plymouth - Carpano Antica - Fernet Branca

POSITANO (Vincenzo’s original)
Strawberry – Plymouth - Campari - fresh lemon juice - champagne

SPRING COLLINS (Vincenzo’s original)
Blackberries, mint leaves – Plymouth - Massanez Crème the Mure -fresh lemon juice - Pomegranate syrup - Bundaberg Ginger beer


Partida Reposado -fresh lime - agave nectar

EL DIABLO (Classic)
Partida Blanco - Massanez Crème de cassis - limejuice - Ginger Ale

JALISCO FLOWER (Vincenzo’s original)
Partida reposado - St Germain - fresh grapefruit juice - champagne

PANCIO VILLA (Vincenzo’s original)
Partida Anejo - Campari - Aperol - orange bitter


Sagatiba - lime - sugar

Sagatiba - fresh lemon juice - whole passion fruit

GISELLE (Vincenzo’s original)
Blackberries - mint - Sagatiba - Massenez Crème de Cassis - fresh lemon juice - homemade agave ginger syrup - Champagne

RIO (Vincenzo’s original)
Basil leaves – Sagatiba - Carpano Antica formula - limejuice -homemade agave-ginger syrup - pineapple juice


RATTLESNAKE (from Patrick Gavin Duffy 1940)
Makers Mark - fresh lemon juice - egg white - Pernod

Maker’s Mark - fresh limejuice - Carpano Formula Antica

DOWNTOWN SOUR (Vincenzo’s original)
Maker’s Mark - Marie Brizard Apry – homemade vanilla syrup - fresh lemon juice - egg white - Taylor 20 yrs Port

DIVA (Vincenzo’s original)
Maker’s Mark - Mozart Black Chocolate liqueur – Campari - orange bitter


PISCO SOUR (Classic)
Barsol Pisco - fresh lime – homemade simple syrup - egg white

BarSol Pisco - fresh lemon juice - Organic pineapple juice -soda

PERUVIAN PASO (Vincenzo’s original)
Barsol Pisco -St Germain - lemon juice - homemade agave-ginger syrup - egg white - organic Acai juice - Bundaberg Ginger beer

BELLA NICOLE (Vincenzo’s original)
Black seedless grape - basil leaves - Barsol Pisco - Marie brizar Apry - fresh lemon juice - home made Honey syrup


BEACHCOMBER (from Patrick Gavin Duffy 1940)
Depaz – Cointreau - fresh lime - Maraschino liqueur

SANTIAGO (Savoy cocktail book 1930)
Depaz - fresh lime - homemade grenadine

MARTINIQUE ROSE (Vincenzo’s original)
Depaz - Amaretto DiSaronno - fresh limejuice - almond syrup - fresh ruby grapefruit

10 TANGOS (Vincenzo’s original)
Depaz - Green Chartreuse - St Germain - orange bitter - egg white - Bundaberg Ginger beer


Thanks to the Museum of the American Cocktail for the above reproduction of the menu (I forgot to snag one on my way out -- with permission of course). Anyway, I've got a lot of new ingredients and recipes to try out and play around with. I trust that we all do.

Drink Well.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Christening

In honor of the holiday yesterday I decided to finally create this blog as well as give myself a special cocktail treat. More on that, shortly, but first... For those of you who are unaware of the holiday in question, May 13 is commemorated every year by mixologists and cocktail enthusiasts all around the world as it marks the date just over two hundred years ago when the word "cocktail" was first defined (or at least the first definition not lost to the sands of time). That fateful day the world learned that a cocktail is composed of four ingredients: any spirit, water, sugar, and bitters. While the word has since then garnered a much broader semantic range, purists will not refer to any beverage without all four as a cocktail. The vast majority of what is today referred to as a cocktail, while possessing the first three, do not (and should not) contain bitters. There are many types of bitters available for purchase at a variety of stores and websites. The most common is Angostura bitters, which can be found quite easily, even at major grocery stores. It is a necessary ingredient in a proper Martini, Manhattan, and (my personal favorite) the Old-fashioned.

Now that we've discussed the importance of the holiday, let's get to my special treat. Living in L.A., I'm often unable to walk in to a bar and receive a drink worth the $10 I handed the "bartender" waiting to hit it big in acting/writing/(insert some other job that will never happen). I apologize. I have a bit of a distaste for the adulteration of our trade by those who don't want to be practicing it to begin with, but I digress. There are a rare few fantastic watering holes in the area, one in particular which makes mouths water. I'm talking about the ultra-premium, the highly exclusive, The Doheny. That's right, last night, the elite members-only club was graced with the presence of yours truly. To honor the holiday, Vincenzo, the head mixologist gave a short lecture complete with some fantastic drinks, and luckily I was in the intimate crowd of two dozen or so. Any other night, The Doheny would be closed to the likes of me. In fact, to become a member, one has to drop north of two grand for the initiation fee as well as an annual fee, also north of the two grand mark. In short, if you're planning on walking in that door for the first time, you'd better bring $4950 in addition to what you plan on spending on drinks. Did I mention that the drinks generally run in the $20 range? There even exists a house rule declaring the inappropriateness of ordering anything using Red Bull. The rules may seem a little over-the-top, but they serve a certain purpose, and they serve it well. This is one classy joint. Oh, the Doheny also sells drinks. More on that later.

Drink Well.