May 192017

Hi. Been a while.

So for those who are not keeping up, I’ve left the programming world (mostly) for the world of professional bartending.

This was a rather dramatic change – going from thinking that I knew a fair amount about something to seeing how much there is actually to know. I’ve learned a bit in the last 4 years or so. Lots about spirits and cocktails, and even more about bartending and being in the service industry. I’ll reminisce a bit at some point.

I’m going to try to use this now more for my own continuing education and collecting resources than for sharing. But if you see something you like, let me know. If you see something that needs correction or elaboration, definitely let me know.


 Posted by at 2:55 pm
Nov 282012

San Francisco Winter League for Ultimate Frisbee is back in the swing of things. I am still knocking of the rust from my body and getting in shape, and getting back into the groove of making large batches of cocktails for my team after the games. (The theme for team names this year is Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, and our team is named after an incidental character, Gogrilla Mincefriend.)

Last night, despite forgetting some equipment, I was able to put together some Eastern Sours for us. This is one of the fantastic Bourbon and Lime Juice combinations (besides the Ninth Ward). Both are on the sweet side, but they have the tart lime juice undercutting them.

Eastern Sour

  • 2 oz Bourbon (Bulleit)
  • 1.5 oz Orange Juice
  • 1 oz Lime Juice
  • 0.25 oz Orgeat
  • 0.25 oz Simple Syrup
  • Lime Wedge, for garnish

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wedge.

If this is a little too sweet for you, drop off the simple syrup, as the Orgeat is quite sweet on its own.

Speaking of Orgeat, the Trophy Wife and I were in Paris a few weeks ago, and went into The Experimental Cocktail Club on the recommendation of friends. Paris is not quite a cocktail city – at one place I had to teach the bartender how to make a Martini. There are, however, amazing exceptions, including The Experimental Cocktail Club. They had a cocktail they called “Inna da house”, which we tried despite the name and it was fantastic, in no small part due to the house made Orgeat which was both fresh and super creamy so it gave the drink a foamy head as though they had used an egg white. I’ll be working on recreating that soon.


 Posted by at 10:11 am
Nov 222012

Manhattans always appealed to me as a pre-turkey drink. Got together with the in-laws (Rob and Tane) and their in-laws (David and Maki) and tried out a couple variations. Rob brought along his ingredients for a Red Hook, and I brought makings for a Leaving Manhattan, and we ended up with two bottles of Rittenhouse 100 and two bottles of Punt e Mes. Then the ingredients got different – Rob going with Maraschino Liqueur and a traditional cherry garnish, me adding crème de cacao, a tea syrup, and an orange peel garnish.

Red Hook

  • 2 oz Rye (Rittenhouse 100)
  • 0.5 oz Punt e Mes
  • 0.25 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
  • Cherry garnish (used sweet and delicious Amarena Fabbri cherries)

Stir first three ingredients with ice until well chilled, strain into chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with cherry.

This is a good variation. Punt e Mes can be overly powerful, so I like dropping the vermouth element down to 1/2 oz, and then adding the Maraschino Liqueur, which brings a sophisticated cherry sweetness with a distinctive tang to the party. Rittenhouse is spicy and comes in hot at 100 proof, and either needs to be tamed, or, as in this case, challenged with the right balance of other distinctive flavors. This is a little more dry, but quite tasty.

Then, we tried the Leaving Manhattan that was recently featured by Gary Regan in the SF Chronicle. I made the alterations as described in parentheses.

Leaving Manhattan

  • 2 oz bourbon (I used 1.75 oz Rittenhouse Rye 100)
  • 0.5 oz Punt e Mes
  • 0.25 oz dark crème de cacao
  • 0.25 oz Lapsang smoked tea syrup (described below, but I used Formosa Oolong, as I had no Lapsang Souchon in the house)
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • orange twist as garnish

Stir the liquid ingredients in a mixing glass until well chilled, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with orange twist (removed over the finished drink so that the most oils are caught in the drink).

To make the tea syrup – add 4 oz (1/2 cup) sugar to 4 oz (1/2 cup) strong, hot, fresh-brewed tea.

Since the rye was going to be tighter and dryer than a bourbon, and hotter as well, I dropped it down 1/4 ounce. I want to try it with the smoky Lapsang tea, but I’m probably going to cut that with a less aggressive tea. But a little smoke here would be really nice. The flavors of the tea and the crème de cacao marry together really well. This is a fine beverage – don’t be intimidated at all by the tea syrup, as it is super easy to make. This had a sweeter mouth feel to it and really set the mouth mood for a delicious turkey dinner, which just so happened to be awaiting us.

Okay – I got this out. Time to give in to the food coma. Might do some more testing tomorrow as we host our second t-day.


 Posted by at 11:18 pm
Nov 282011

Okay, I said I was going to write about grenadine, and I will. Someday. Also about tonic, but I’m still learning some of the finer points on that.

What I have in front of me now, however, is too tasty to wait.

I went up to Portland, OR for Turkey Day to visit my mother’s side of the family – my wonderful Aunt Jocelyn and Uncle Tom (yes, “Uncle Tom”) and my wonderful cousins Joanne and Sherri, and their undeserving husbands, Gordon and Jeff. (And I know from undeserving husbands, as I’m the president of that club.)

So I craftily manipulated the family plans, and guided the “adult night out” (myself, my cousins, and our spouses) to Clyde Common, to see PDX’s highest profile bartender, Jeffrey Morgenthaler. It ended up being worth the visit, several times over. More on this later.

Star, my Trophy Wife, saw a drink with Bourbon and lemon juice and stopped reading the Clyde Common cocktail menu. That was the Bourbon Renewal. I was chatting with Mr. Morgenthaler about Rye Whiskeys, and he made a tasty “West Coast” Old Fashioned for me out of Jefferson’s Straight Rye Whiskey 10 yr., and I did not complain.

But this is about the Bourbon Renewal. Here’s his recipe, what he published on his blog way back in ‘aught-4:

Bourbon Renewal

  • 2 oz Bourbon (Morgenthaler recommends Woodford Reserve. I’ll not gainsay him, but I had Bulleit on hand)
  • 1 oz lemon juice (Morgenthaler specifies “fresh” – I don’t recognize any other kind)
  • 0.5 oz Crème de Cassis
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup (1 to 1)
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters (or similar aromatic)

It’s got lemon juice, so you should shake, but you might get away with stirring all the ingredients before pouring over (cracked) ice with a lemon slice garnish.

My Crème de Cassis has been languishing in the back of my liquor cabinet in between rounds of Kir Royale, but it’s painfully obvious (now) how well the currant liqueur goes with Bourbon and lemon juice. Fruity berry flavors, the sharp citrus and the sugar balancing, and the smoky sweetness of the Bourbon. Lovely.



 Posted by at 4:07 am
Sep 292011

Having recently invested in a bottle of Barenjager (sorry I don’t know how to put the little dots over the letters) NMD commander Ben linked me to Barenjager’s recent cocktail competition. A beautiful warm evening in the garden ensured that I would try the winner.

Grand prize winner, Kyle Ford, mixed up the SS Europa a perfectly balanced cocktail that according to the judges “highlighted Barenjager beautifully and created an instant classic.”

SS Europa
1 part Barenjager Honey Liqueur
2 parts Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
3 dashes St. George absinthe
Method: Stir for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

I lacked St. George’s absinthe (which is excellent) but some dashes of Tabu absinthe made a fine stand-in.  Very refreshing and light, slightly sweet, almost as if there were a kids drink called honey juice. Will definitely make again.

 Posted by at 11:01 pm
Sep 142011

Once again my wife, Miranda, had the urge to spend $60 on booze to make one cocktail she had just read about… but life is to be enjoyed, right? My brother happened to stop by at just the right time (to borrow a pipe wrench) and ended up with a cocktail in the garden as well. Credit goes to Bon Appetit and creator Eyal Raziel.


5 tablespoons rye whiskey
3 tablespoons honey liqueur (such as Bärenjäger)
1/4 teaspoon orange bitters
Ginger ale
2 orange twists

Fill 2 Old Fashioned glasses with ice. Divide rye, honey liqueur, and bitters between glasses. Stir for 5 seconds. Top with a splash of ginger ale. Garnish with orange twists.

I used Redemtion Rye, Bärenjäger (which comes in a very silly bottle), Regans’ orange bitters, and Fentimans ginger beer.

Sweet without being overly cloying, tasty, and packs a punch.  I’d like to do it again with much less interesting Canada Dry ginger ale to allow more of the Rye and honey flavors through. The strong ginger of the Fentimans (while good) was too dominant in a recipe without the word ginger in the title.



 Posted by at 9:55 pm
Aug 082011

The Sazerac is a classic New Orleans drink. There are a number of stories about its creation and the history of the name. I’m not going to recount them here.

This is a drink best served neat, in a chilled rocks or similar small glass. I prefer glasses that have curved sides. Just a personal aesthetic thing.

Here’s the ingredients the way I like them:

  • 2 oz Rye Whiskey (Redemption, Templeton, Michters, and Rittenhouse all please me, but I haven’t tasted everything on the market, yet. I will say that I find Jim Beam’s (ri)1 a little overrated, and am saddened not to like Bulleit’s Rye more).
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Absinthe or Absinthe substitute (Herbsaint, Absente, Pernod, Ricard)

Start by chilling your glass. If you haven’t been keeping the glass in the freezer, fill with crushed ice and a little water and set aside. Mix Rye, syrup, and bitters with ice in a mixing glass for about a minute. Nice and cold. Dump the ice from your chilled glass (if you used it) and put a couple drops of Absinthe in and swirl the glass until it is coated. Dump the excess. (I’ve recommissioned an empty bitters shaker to hold Absinthe, just for this purpose…) Strain your mixed ingredients into the glass and add a strip of lemon peel.

The herbal balance of this is delicious. I’ve tried leaving out the Angostura and changing the amount of Peychaud’s, but 3 and 2 is what makes my mouth the happiest.

This is, if you didn’t notice, a spirit driven drink, so pace yourself with this. I tend to enjoy this unaccompanied by food – either sipping it while I prepare a meal (driving the grill on the deck) or while the dinner settles in my stomach. Give it a try.


 Posted by at 7:46 pm
Jul 122011

This is a winner.

I’ve broken it out at a few events, and got instant responses – one person said “I’ve found my drink” after only a couple sips. If you are partial to browns and like your citrus, step on over to this. Even if you don’t, and one of my sisters-in-law does not like Bourbon at all, had one after tasting her husband’s.

Scofflaw Cocktail
1.5 oz Bourbon (Bulleit)
1 oz dry vermouth (Dolin)
.5 oz grenadine (homemade – that will be my next post)
.5 oz lemon juice
2 dashes orange bitters (Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6)

Shake with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass or rocks glass, garnish with lemon peel.

It’s got the core of a whiskey sour, but added herbal elements from the vermouth and more fruit sweetness from the grenadine.

This recipe is closest to Imbibe‘s, but I dropped down the grenadine and lemon juice and switched from rye to bourbon. Gary Regan published this calling for 2 oz of bourbon, but dropped the lemon juice to 1/2 oz and grenadine to 1/4 oz and has orange bitters, but I thought that was a tad too bitter and too boozy. Erik Ellestad followed Harry Craddock’s recipe strictly – that equalizes the whisky (not the lack of an ‘e’ – Canadian Whisky) and vermouth and keeps bitters in.

So I like it at this level, but if you want it a bit stronger, take the Bourbon up to 2 ounces and the lemon juice and grenadine up to 3/4 of an ounce for each.

The Trophy Wife likes to corrupt everything with a sweet Maraschino Cherry, so I’m going to have to order the Amarena Fabbri again, but I’m going to work on making our own cherries, more on the next post.




 Posted by at 12:19 am
Jan 082011

This is a prohibition era cocktail that is making a very deserved comeback. It came out of Harry Craddock’s guide, and was rediscovered and repopularized by Ted Haigh.

The recipe is quite simple, as it’s the same quantity of each of the four main ingredients – gin, Lillet blanc, triple sec, and lemon juice.  Plus a little absinthe or absinthe substitute and an optional garnish. This also makes it very easy to scale up for batches, which I did earlier for my ultimate frisbee winter league team. Got some good reception there.

The Recipe:

  • 3/4 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz Lillet blanc
  • 3/4 oz triple sec or Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • a few drops of Absinthe or Absinthe substitute (I rinsed the glass with Herbsaint)

The cocktail has been covered by a few – Cocktail Enthusiast, Chuck Taggart, Serious Eats, and others. They all recommend a cherry as a garnish, but each of their pictures shows a commercial maraschino cherry. I’m not a big fan of those. But the cherries that I make are soaked in either brandy, Maraschino liqueur, or bourbon. (More on those in a future post…) I might make a batch soaked in kirsch or something light some day, but until then, I’ll save the cherries for manhattans and old fashioneds.

Kaiser Penguin dedicated some time (and liver) to trying out a few different recipes, and is to be commended. He seems to have more of a taste for the herbs than I do, and I prefer the floral notes, so would keep the Absinthe to a minimum. Married with Dinner suggested a dried cherry that had been revived in a pastis like Pernod. A creative idea, but I think that if and when I garnish this, I’m going to go with an orange peel to pick up the citrus a bit – I’m in good company on this with Randy from SummitSips and Imbibe Magazine (who have a video for this).


 Posted by at 6:37 am
Nov 172010

About time, dammit. Close to a year after the first Manhattan Project. This one was scheduled for National Martini Day 2010.

The last one was variations in bitters and vermouth. This one was some change up in the base liquor (a couple bourbons and a rye), aromatic bitters, and cherries.

The cast is was a little bigger this time – myself, Duke, Ben T. Smith, Adam Nelson, and Gabriel Kra. So each round saw five variations on the recipe. Stayed with 2 parts base liquor, 1 part vermouth, 2 dashes bitters, and a cherry.

First we tried an array of bourbons – Bulleit, Maker’s 46, Woodford Reserve, and Redemption Rye. Vermouths were either Martini & Rossi or Punt e Mes. Stayed with Angostura bitters and bing cherries that had been cured in sugar and brandy.

Only the fifth manhattan used Punt e Mes – I had suspected before that the vermouth would be to aggressive and flavorful and would overpower the liquor (as I mused previously). That was the consensus among the tasters – Punt e Mes is delicious, but not in this drink at this proportion. Maybe cut in half…

So among the first round drinks – I didn’t get Gabriel’s vote here, but three of us (myself, Ben S, and Adam) all preferred the Redemption Rye. Duke liked the Woodford Reserve, but Redemption was a close second for him.

That result skewed the second round a bit. Went with Maker’s 46 for two manhattans and Redemption Rye for 3, each with Martini & Rossi, but this time with some house made aromatic bitters (I’ll see if Adam will divulge the recipe) except for one that stayed with Angostura, and the cherries were either sugared and brandied, or brined and brandied.

The easiest to record is the cherry – everyone preferred the saltiness of the brined cherries. If I am recalling correctly, I added the whole fruits (pits and stem and all) into nearly boiling heavily salted water. After soaking them overnight, I removed them and cured them in a spiced brandy mix (cinnamon, allspice, citrus rind) for several months.

Duke and Gabriel both preferred the Maker’s 46 manhattan by a little bit, while Adam and team Ben all went for the Redemption manhattan. The choice was pretty clear between the Angostura bitters and Adam’s “60 First Street” bitters as well – Adam’s balanced things out the best.

Thanksgiving dinner will be preceded by Redemption manhattans with brined cherries and Adam’s bitters. Looking forward to that.