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
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.



Nov 102010

Breaking from Bourbon to try a little Rye.

Went out to dinner with my brother at Pizzaiolo here in Oakland for his birthday. Hadn’t visited that place for a while – first time was soon after it was opened and it was crazy crowded and I was overwhelmed by the humanity and didn’t get to appreciate the food or drink. Reviews from friends and newspapers suggested/demanded that I should return, so return I did.

I had been bumping into the recipe for Vieux Carré a few times recently and had been eager to try it, but was waiting for my bourbon stock to drop down a little bit before I bought some rye.

The recipe that I do use is somewhere in between that provided by Gumbo Pages, Spirited Cocktails, Fine Cooking, and the Intoxicologist (unfortunately, her archives are down as of this writing). Erik Ellestad had a little fun with it at the Underhill-Lounge. I stayed with the basics.

1 oz Rye (Redemption Rye)
1 oz Cognac or Brandy (Raynal VSOP)
1 oz Sweet/Italian Vermouth (Martini & Rossi)
1/4 oz Benedictine
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Lemon peel garnish

Stir all the ingredients except the lemon peel in an ice-filled glass. Strain into a cocktail glass or rocks glass. Squeeze lemon peel over glass to release oils, and rub the rim before dropping it in.

Pizzaiolo used Redemption Rye for this, and boy do I like that whiskey! I had made this before with Bulleit Bourbon, which is still a solid option for most drinks, and even neat or on the rockts, but I’m keeping Redemption on hand from now on! It starts with 95% rye mash and is bottled at 92 proof and is delicious.

Some recipes call for a more flavorful vermouth – Punt E Mes or Carpano Antica Formula, but I would rather stay with the tamer Martini & Rossi to keep the complexities of the Redemption from being overwhelmed with floral and spice notes. There’s the Benedictine in there as well for that.

The Trophy Wife even enjoyed a sip of this, and she’s not so big on the browns or the spirit driving cocktails!

Oct 062010

This come from Char No. 4 in Brooklyn. If you want to see an awkward video about it, you can go here or here.

If you just want the recipe, here:

1.5 oz Bourbon (something strong & smokey – like Buffalo Trace)
0.5 oz maple syrup (grade B, for fuller flavor)
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
a little ginger beer or ginger ale

Shake the first three ingredients with ice. Strain into rocks glass with fresh ice in it. Top with ginger beer.

I’ve been using a strong ginger beer – Fever Tree brand – which is quite ginger-y. So go easy on that, maybe 1/4 of an ounce or 1/2 at most.

It’s an interesting balance – the lime bitterness cuts through the maple syrup sweetness, and they neutralize each other’s main aspect, but the citrus and smokiness of the syrup are still there, and they go well with a bourbon that’s aggressive enough to make its presence known.

Surprisingly, the Trophy Wife kinda liked this one, even though she drinks very little of the browns (except for the occasional sidecar).

Ginger ale will make it more of a spritzer for a hot day, but the bourbon/lime/maple syrup flavors should hold up okay.

I’m really liking this for a Bay Area autumn day, when it’s kinda warm, but kinda chilly, and can’t make up its mind.


Sep 172010

This is National Bourbon Heritage month – I think that’s the right title. So I’ve been working my way through some bourbon drinks.

I was thinking of doing a different cocktail for every night of the month, but that’s going to take a bit more planning. Next year.

But I have been running through some standards – Manhattans, Mint Juleps, Old Fashioneds. Here’s the first of a few about some bourbon-based drinks that were new to me.

Seelbach Cocktail

Named after the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, KY, this has a story behind it of a bartender with an overflowing bottle of champagne that poured into a Manhattan, which was then modified. The actual recipe had been tightly controlled until recently when it was published in New Classic Cocktails by Gary and Mardee Haidin Regan. It has found its way onto a few other sites since then. So here’s what I got:

1 oz bourbon
1/2 oz cointreau
7 dashes Angostura bitters
7 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
5 ounces chilled champagne
orange twist for garnish

Build the drink in a champagne flute, stirring before adding the champagne.

It’s a bit intense. Too intense for me, and I loves me the bitter. The Regans specify a feisty, pre-prohibition style bourbon, like Old Forester. I had Bulleit on hand, which is a reasonable hearty whisky, so I don’t think I was too far off with it. But I didn’t taste the bourbon and the bitters were too much.

For the second batch, I doubled the bourbon to 2 oz, and cut the bitters way down to 3 dashes each. That was pretty tasty. A more reasonably balanced drink. Worth a try, if you’ve got some bubbly that needs drinking.

I haven’t had great luck with champagne cocktails in general, ‘cept Mimosas, of course, and the occasional Kir Royale. That might just be me. I’ll keep on trying though!


Aug 172010

I was visiting Vancouver, BC, and headed out to dinner with the Trophy Wife(tm). I’m not sure what got it in my head, but I was craving cherries, and I mentioned this to her.

When we got to our restaurant, Boneta, and saw their version of Blood and Sand on the menu, well, just had to try it. It had enough cherry in it for me. The staff was kind enough to let me take home the drink menu, as they had some interesting tweaks on some interesting drinks. I promptly lost that piece of paper, but I do remember at least one of the tweaks they made to the Blood and Sand cocktail.

The story is that it was created for, and named after, a Rudolf Valentino flick called, wait for it, Blood and Sand. It’s a simple recipe – the four main ingredients are mixed in straight proportions.

3/4 oz Scotch (Boneta used cherry-infused Irish Whiskey)
3/4 oz sweet (Italian) vermouth
3/4 oz cherry brandy (I have kirsch, which makes it a bit less sweet)
3/4 oz orange juice
dash bitters (orange or Peychaud’s – Ben’s touch)

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I performed a very simple infusion – dropped a bunch of sweet cherries into a bottle of Tullamore Dew and let it sit for a few days. The balance is really nice, but I likes me the bitters, so I tried it with a few options. Angostura didn’t work so well for me here. Orange bitters were good, but you had enough orange in there from the juice. I thought that the Peychaud’s added the right complexity on top of the beverage.

So for the cherry brandy – I’m not an afficionado, I just happened to have Kirsch on hand. Wikipedia tells me that Kirsch (a.k.a. Kirschwasser) is made from the whole fermented cherry, including the pit. So it has a little bitterness to it, and a hint of almond. I’ll try this again sweeter, when I get some cherry brandy.

I’d also try this with a heartier Scotch whisky, to see what that does. I have some 10 year old Talisker that might do the trick…


Jun 292010

Okay, I got intrigued about the Aviation Cocktail. And I like the thought of floral notes on top of the floral/herbal notes of gin, so I got me some crème de violette tried a few recipes out.

Aviation Cocktail, from the SF Chronicle (also in Chron.com from Houston):
1.5 oz gin (Gordon’s London Dry)
0.5 oz maraschino liqueur (Luxardo)
0.5 oz crème de violette (Rothman & Winter)
0.5 oz lemon juice (Meyer lemons)

Shake with ice (you’ve got 1/2 oz of juice in there!), and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Not bad. Flowery, of course, but pretty well balanced. Very nice on a relaxed summer day – not something you want more than one of, but with a light cheese and cracker appetizer, or green grapes – quite refreshing. I’d even consider popping a green grape in the glass as a garnish.

Aviatrix Cocktail from Food52.com, by way of Cooking4theWeek (to which I intend to return again and again…):
2 oz gin
1 oz Lillet Blanc
1 teaspoon crème de violette
2 dashes citrus bitters (Regan’s orange)
lemon twist as garnish

Stir over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add the garnish.

This one just brought out too many floral notes, and tasted like perfume. Food52.com’s recipe called for lemon bitters, but I don’t think that would have saved the drink for me.


The Attention Cocktail from SpiritsAndCocktails:
2 oz gin
0.25 oz absinthe (Lucid)
0.25 oz dry vermouth (Noilly-Prat)
0.25 oz crème de violette
2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters

Not bad, not bad. The anise is prominent, of course, but there’s a lot going on in this drink, so it’s not totally dominating. But this is about crème de violette, not absinthe. A one-off drink (not one you’d have more than one of), but should be enjoyed only before a strong flavored meal – roast beef with horseradish or goose maybe.

Aside: I’m still looking for an absinthe cocktail I can really enjoy. I loves me a nice Sazerac, but that only rinses the glass in absinthe (or absinthe substitute). I tried Death in the Afternoon – a good shot of absinthe under a couple ounces of champagne, but that didn’t thrill me either. Papa Hemingway did stipulate drinking 3 to 5 of those, so maybe I just didn’t go far enough.

Okay, Mr. Regan – you got something for me?

The Moonlight Cocktail
1.5 oz gin (he says “Beefeater, Plymouth, or Tanqueray”, but I had Gordon’s. So there.)
0.5 oz cointreau
0.5 oz crème de violette
0.5 oz fresh lime juice

Shake over ice for 15 seconds, then into a chilled champagne flute. I used a martini cocktail glass. Seemed to work okay.

This has been my favorite so far. The double floral hit of gin and violets is balanced by the citrus in the lime juice and the cointreau. The tongue gets most of the citrus, but the upper palate feels the floral tones. I’ll be back again for this.

Yale Cocktail – back to Cooking4TheWeek
2oz gin
1/3 oz dry vermouth
1/3 oz crème de violette
dash bitters (aromatic – went with the local (as in made by a friend down the street) 60 First Street bitters)

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Puts you in the mind of a flowery martini. The recipe crafter (Haus Alpenz credited) balances the floral with the bitters. Not bad. I would try this one again.

Jupiter Cocktail from SFBartending.com (a different balance found at 1001Cocktails)
0.75 oz gin
0.5 oz dry vermouth
2 tsp crème de violette
2 tsp orange juice

Shake over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Not awful, but kind of a Martinez on its way to a Martini, but jumped in the parking lot by a screwdriver (and beaten badly). Juice was store bought, I admit, but this was not what I wanted. Not as bad as the Aviatrix, but taste was reminiscent of fancy soap.

Soooo, after all of these (and frequently more than one), I still have 7/8 of a bottle of Rothman & Winter staring at me.

Nothing really grabbed me here, but enough pleasant options that could be served as entertaining, if not novelty, drinks. And all except the Jupiter, which came out grey, were quite pretty purple/lavender hues. I’d be happy, and confident, serving up an Aviation or a Moonlight Cocktail to you, next time you’re over.


May 292010

This is a drink that we are ‘liberating’ from Somerset, one of our favorite local restaurants on College Avenue. We’ve been going there for the delicious food for a while, but in the last, oh, 18 months or so they seem to have put some more energy into their cocktail menu with excellent results.

They invented a drink there they call the ‘Mi Flor’. We’re going from the description on the menu and trying to reverse engineer the drink. We think we’re getting pretty close.

1.5 oz light rum (Somerset uses 3 kinds of rum, and we happened to have 3 on hand – Flor de Cana (from Nicaragua), Mount Gay (Barbados), and Rhum Barbancourt (Haiti). So 0.5 oz each)
0.5 oz ginger liqueur (we used our homemade, which is just ginger infused vodka. I add a 1/2 teaspoon of honey as most of the commercial liqueurs have some)
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
1 tsp. sugar
mint sprig (garnish)

Shake the liquids and the sugar with ice, then pour into a small snifter filled with crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprig.

Sip through a cocktail straw.

This is also an excellent afternoon refresher if you put it in a collins glass and add a couple ounces of club soda.


 Posted by at 10:52 am  Tagged with:
May 242010

What? This thing is still on?

Sorry about the radio silence for a while. Rest assured, I have been drinking, just not logging all of it. Thanks for stepping up there, Duke.

I have a small backlog of drinks to enter over the next week, so warm up your livers.

First is a Kentucky Sidecar. The classic sidecar, a delicious drink on its own, is 1.5oz brandy, .75 oz lemon juice, and .75 oz triple sec/cointreau shaken over ice, then poured into a sugar rimmed martini glass. If you’re not familiar with it yet, make a batch to get a baseline before you have one of these.

There, ready now?

Kentucky Sidecar
1.5 oz Bourbon (Rye is nice too)
1 oz fresh Tangerine Juice
0.5 oz fresh Lemon Juice
0.75 oz Triple Sec/Cointreau
Tangerine twist

Moisten the rim of your chilled martini glass with tangerine juice, then dip in sugar.
Shake all the liquid ingredients over ice, then pour into prepared glass.
Garnish with twist of tangerine peel.

I found this at White On Rice Couple’s website – they do drinks, food, gardening, and photography:

Tangerines are a little out of season here (late spring in Oakland, CA), but still available as juice. I tried muddling the whole fruit, but that’s not so efficient (or easy to pour).

The last time I mixed a drink with tangerine juice, the original recipe was for orange juice (and dark rum and grenadine and something else I forget…), and I just subbed out the oj for tangerine juice. That didn’t quite work, and I silently vowed that the next cocktail I would pair it with gin – the sweetness of the tangerine juice mixed with the floral notes of juniper and herbs – and I’m still excited for that. But the balance of the lemon juice, tangerine juice, and triple sec is just right.

Feb 072010

This is an original recipe from the author of my bartender’s guide. Tasty, light, refreshing and not too alcoholic. Perfect for a summer day, even though we had it on a cold February evening.

1 1/2 oz gin
2 oz guava nectar
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz pomegranate syrup
3 to 4 oz chilled club soda
Lime wheel for garnish

Shake the gin, guava nectar, lime juice and pomegranate syrup vigorously with ice. Strain into an ice filled highball glass, top with club soda. Garnish with lime wheel. Also called for an orange blossom garnish, but seriously, get over yourself.

 Posted by at 12:53 pm